We are repeat cruisers (eight RCCLs so far, have done all three Freedom class) in our early 50s with two boys 18 and 20. We had an Ocean Balcony and our boys had a Boardwalk Balcony all on deck 10. Boys were seven balconies in from the stern. The ship was at capacity with 1700 under 18 cruisers. About 1/3 of the passengers seem to speak English. Lots of Asians and Brazilians onboard.
We flew to FLL the night before and stayed at the Hyatt Airport North (thank you to those who recommended it). Publix was across the road where we purchased Diet Pepsi caffeine free and Diet Seven Up, which we put in a carry on sized wheelie and checked at the pier. No problems getting to our stateroom.
The ship is INCREDIBLE! Freedom Class on steriods! Thanks sooo much to everyone who has posted tips and tricks, they were extremely helpful.
We were the first Platinum group to board at 11:30 a.m. We went straight to Park Cafe for the infamous roast beef. It lived up to the hype! Then we checked out the ship. We went to sign up for ziplining, but was told that was no longer necessary, just show up when you wanted to do it. I kept repeating to myself all week while onboard, "I am on a ship!?" The ship is just under a 1/4 mile long and we logged in many miles onboard. At 1 p.m. people were heading to their staterooms, and away we went. Our luggage showed up shortly afterward, with everything intact. We did sailaway above the Bridge -- what a great place to sail away from!
We had main seating in the dining room and I had requested a window side table for four ahead of time and that's exactly what we got.
I also made all of our show reservations as soon as I could online (just before final payment). The first night we had reservations for the two comedians, who my husband and I thought were mediocre. The next night we had Hairspray reservations, but my guys wouldn't go, so I thought I could see it later in the week, but there was no other show after then. The Aqua Shows were THE BEST. Come Fly With Me was GREAT! The ice show was excellent, as was the magical sand artist lady!! "I am on a ship!?".... The headliner show was a History of the Temptations group, which were good, but they didn't have all that acrobatic flash that the other shows had.
We had been to all the ports before, and the weather was on the cool side (high of 68 in Cozumel), but we had a great time in each port going to the beach (Costa Maya), or just hanging around the port (Cozumel).
Santa was ziplining on Labadee on Christmas Day! We made some purchases from the craft booths near the back, since they had less traffic, and gave them a nice additional Christmas bonus.
Our stateroom attendant was excellent, and our waitstaff was okay (and that's a first for us). The assistant waiter's first day was the first day of our cruise, and he didn't understand English. The waiter was proficient, but we really didn't feel we could have a conversation with him in English. We addressed our concerns about the assistant waiter with the head waiter and he made sure that things were better from there on out. I think the assistant waiter really aimed to please, but lacked enough training by management before he was put into the dining room.
We all thought that the food in the main dining room was excellent and the other venues also. We did end up going to the Windjammer for breakfast most days after trying Johnny Rockets and not being really impressed by what was offered there. We are used to the Windjammer's variety and really didn't have much of a problem with crowds, since one of us would get a table while the others were getting food.
We did ziplining and Flow Riders. Although we did the waivers online, getting the wristband the first day was an exercise in patience. My tip would be to get it as early in the day as you can, since most people had not done the waivers and that really, really held up the lines (and they didn't have enough help to deal with it).
My boys hit the clubs at night and had great times. They didn't return to their staterooms until 3 or 4 a.m.
It was nice having both staterooms (although pricey....) as we could have the tranquility of the ocean from ours, and we could see what was happening in the Aqua Theatre area. We also enjoyed going to the public aft balconies on 11, 12 and 14. Always empty, although one day someone had reserved chairs but were not there.....
The BEST thing about the ship (okay, well one of them) WAS THAT YOU COULD ALWAYS FIND A CHAIR ON SEA DAYS. That has always rubbed us the wrong way on prior cruises. We would head up to the sports deck around 10:30 a.m. and would have our choice of loungers. When we walked by the other pools, there were always available loungers and chairs there too (even in the sun). GREAT JOB WITH THE AMOUNT OF CHAIRS RCCL!! (Now could you add some more to the other ships????)
We never saw the bagpiper, but we did hear him once.
My husband and I loved the cantilevered hot tubs after our show of the evening. Not many people in them, and FOOTBALL showing on the tvs above them every night (nice touch RCCL).
Did the luggage valet when we left and that was great. Didn't see our bags until we got home.
Booked another cruise on the Freedom next Christmas, since the Oasis is even more pricey next year at that time, and that's the only time we can all go.