Let me start this review with the caveat that this was our first Royal Caribbean cruise after previously sailing on Princess and Carnival. I had been told by multiple friends and family that RCL and the RCL cruise experience would "blow me away" and I would never want to cruise on any other line again. So maybe my expectations were higher than they should have been.
We sailed from Port Canaveral on Dec. 5th to Coco Cay, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Our cabin was on deck 8, just off the elevators and very conveniently located. The room was roomy, well laid out and the bathroom shower was divine! Our cabin steward introduced himself and our cabin was always very clean. What I was slightly disappointed in was the lack of extra touches. The bathroom had no shampoo, lotion, and there was no robe in the closet. Our previous cruise on the Carnival Dream in January had nice, thick terry robes in the closet and shampoos, a razor and other extras in the bath. So after checking out our room we headed to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch and to explore the ship.
The ship was amazing. We loved the Royal Promenade and the attention to detail with all the decor. It was very tastefully decorated and very very clean. We never saw old room service trays and dishes outside in the hallways like we did on Carnival. The Windjammer Cafe had a huge selection of food and what ever I ate tasted good. The tables and chairs however in the Windjammer were not made for large people. My husband is a very large man (6'2" and approx 375 lbs) He could not sit in the chairs in the cafe. The arms of the chair dug into his side and were very uncomfortable. This made finding a seat difficult as there were very few booths.
The H2O zone was filled with kids so we usually went to the adults only or other pool. We could usually find a lounge chair to lay on either by the pool or up on deck 12. One problem I noticed though was even though there were signs all over the place about "no reserving chairs" and that after 30 minutes towels would be removed, they never were. One afternoon, a lounge chair in prime sun location had a towel on it and nobody ever came to use the chair while I was there for over 3 hours.
The fitness center was the largest and best equipped I have ever seen on a ship. I took the spinning classes every day they were offered and the instructors were knowledgeable and the class a great workout.
Our evening meals were the big disappointment. We had requested Any Time dining and when we did anytime dining on Princess and Carnival we were able to sit with other anytime diners or by ourselves each night. The Maitre' d would seat us appropriately each night. The choice was ours. This was what I was expecting. Prior to the cruise I had made our preference of dining with other passengers noted online but this was never taken into consideration. My husband and I sat at the same table every night, just the 2 of us. For 7 nights we dined alone. I asked repeatedly to be seated with other Anytime diners but was told that other anytime diners did not want to sit with other people so we were stuck. I would not recommend Anytime dining on RCL until they revamp or revise their policy on it. All this said, our waiter and asst. waiter were very attentive and the service excellent. Wish I could say the food was as excellent but it wasn't. It was good but not great. The deserts were also disappointing. On other cruises I have had difficulty selecting what I wanted because there was always more than one entree that appealed to me. On Freedom, some of the nights it was a stretch to find something I wanted. The second formal night however had lobster and it was excellent.
For the ports, we could not tender to CoCo Cay because of rough seas. We got into St. Thomas a little early and thoroughly enjoyed shopping in port. I got tired of the constant selling of the Cruise Shopping Expert but that's her job so I just tuned her out after a while. St. Maartin was also fun. We had booked a catamaran/snorkeling excursion but it was cancelled the night before port because of supposedly rough seas.
The entertainment was top notch. We thoroughly enjoyed the musicals and magic shows. The cruise director was a little crazy but that's his job! My favorite activity on the ship was the wine tasting session given in the Vineyard lounge. The wine steward was very knowledgeable and the wines excellent.
So all in all, I would say this was a successful and enjoyable cruise. We will cruise with RCL again, but we will not do Anytime dining.