So, here are the good things we noticed and experienced on the cruise:
1. The room attendant was friendly and consistently left our cabin spotless.
2. The food at both the dining room and Windjammer were excellent every single time. We didn't have any bad food. The portions, selection, cleanliness of the buffet, and in general the quality of the food were great. We actually tried the Chops filet mignon (there's no Chops restaurant onboard) with a huge filet plus choice of potato and choice of veggies for $14.95 and both of our plates were outstanding. It was well-worth the extra money. The kids' choices are always the same in the dining room, but they were good (as evidenced by our daughter's clean plate) and if she wanted something off the adult menu, it was ok. I should mention that she has a nut and peanut allergy and we were accomodated (waiter telling us about nuts, kitchen making nut-free desserts in advance) in the dining room. At the Windjammer, we were just very careful and simply avoided anything remotely suspicious that might contain nuts.
3. The wait staff at the dining room were excellent. The head waiter and his assistant called us by name, brought us our preferred drinks without reminding them, and the service (pulling out the chair, napkin on lap, cutting meat and seafood shells) were great. At the Windjammer, everyone was friendly, the supervisors kept a good eye on things, and most of the table waiters (for drinks) were on the ball. Again, no complaints. The place was clean, as were the dishes and silverware.
4. We loved being able to book excursions and check our SeaPass balance on the tv. Very user-friendly and pretty fast. The only hitch was that not all the possible excursions were listed on the tv, so we had to stand in that long, interminable line (one clerk, at least 10 people, on any given day) to book the excursion we actually wanted.
5. The RCL-organized tours (we did a total of 6) were interesting and fun, as well as being fairly reasonably priced, except one (read on.)
Here are some things that we noticed that were irritating, if not downright unacceptable, and which we brought to the attention of Guest Relations.
1. In general, it was the first larger ship we were on. The plus is that there is ample space at the pool, in the bars, and for the shows; the minus is that you are a number, in terms of customer service, and that you must wait in line for many things.
2. We found the ship to be dirty. The pool deck had black stuff on it and left your feet black. We never saw anyone cleaning it, unlike the smaller ships where there were mates swabbing the deck in the mornings. The railings on the pool deck seemed rusty, as did many places, and where there was carpeting (some bars, the casino area, inside the elevators, the cabin hallways) it was visibly dirty (lint, papers, lots of dirty dishes in the hallways that were never cleared, stains, etc.) The only part of the Windjammer that was gross was the bench seats by the buffet (and I mean all of them, at every table): the cushions were stained all over and looked gross to sit on, but sit we did as they were the most comfortable in that dining area. Finally, every toilet on board, every deck, even in our stateroom, smelled strongly of urine at all times. Very off-putting.
3. We had several billing problems. We did the $25 a bag laundry service and tried to apply the Platinum save $5 coupon, and it took 3 times waiting in line and speaking to Guest Services for it to actually take. Yes, 3 times. That was when my husband threw a fit and added that the ship was dirty and the enrichment was unacceptable (read on), and the only follow up to his complaints was a call, several days later, saying that all would be fixed and thanks for the info. We were not comped, even though we asked to be.
4. Another billing problem: I had to use the doctor for an unexpected bout with bronchitis. Yes, it costs an arm and a leg (total bill for 2 times seeing someone and meds: $368), but they billed us twice for the same meds and got everything generally mixed up, so that they had to redo the bills, so that was more time explaining, waiting, coming back to pick up the new bills, etc. They are open at very limited times, too, which adds to the stress. The medical service was good and welcome, but the billing process sucked.
5. We loved all our excursions but one. In Dominica, there was a river tubing and emerald pool excursion (code R015)organized by RCL, that listed the minimum age as 6. Our daughter is 7, but really slim at 45 pounds. When we arrived at the site, we saw that our idea of gently meandering down a lazy river on a tube would actually be a white-water rafting-type adventure, and we judged on the spot that she would not be able. We voiced our concerns to the tour guide and rafting guys, but they only asked her age and said she'd be ok. I asked if she could sit on either me or my husband, but no. They finally offered to babysit my daughter on the bus while we went down: um, no way I'll leave her with strangers, duh! So I went myself, and my daughter and husband stayed on the bus. Everyone in our party saw what had happened, and let me say that everyone, to a man, told us at the end that there was NO WAY she could have done that tour. When we got back to the ship, we stood in line at GR and told our tale, and the answer was that they will note our complaint and thank you for the info. I would seriously like them to raise the age limit on that particular tour.
6. There was a serious lack of supervision of children (young to teen) and I don't mean parental supervision, I mean ship security-like supervision. The kids were everywhere (there were over 700 out of 3,000 guests) and in general, unmannered and unruly. We have a 7-year-old and certainly don't allow her to be alone and unsupervised, use her card to buy things, run and get underfoot, monopolize and dirty the buffet, and just bug the adults. By the end of 14 days, we wanted to kill every kid we saw. Even the teens were surly, charged the elevators before others could get off, running, laying down in the halls and stairways (and giving attitude and mouthing back when adults asked them to move), running amok in the unsupervised arcade, and running in packs to take over the jacuzzis and pool areas. Let me repeat: no RCL supervision was noticed. Finally, on New Years, we saw what appeared to be 12 year olds scoring glasses of the free champagne being passed by the waiters off of trays. There was a fight in the crowd that night, although I don't know if it was teens.
7. There was a stunning lack of variety in the enrichment. I hope I never see trivia being listed again on the daily schedule. I truthfully submit that there was trivia mornings, afternoons, evenings, and either before or after supper. So, if someone really likes that, great, but that was the bulk of the 'enrichment' offered. If you don't like trivia, or don't want that much, tough. Every afternoon, guess what: line dancing by the pool. Once in awhile, a game of baggo. Period. There were few things to do, in general, and what there was, was repeated ad nauseum. In short: BORING. Even the nightly show was substandard when you see that it was geared to a much-older crowd. If there were 700+ kids, then their parents were there, too. There were many more 30s/40s than 70s passengers, something RCL knows (they have our information, don't they?) and should have taken into account when booking acts. But no, there were at least 3 acts that were 'crooners'; now, I like crooners, but not so many times. In general, the flavor of the entertainment was old, rather than up to date. And none of them was really kid-friendly or interesting or appropriate for kids. Again, a boo boo on RCL's part. When it was brought up at GR, the answer given was that RCL was 'surprised' at the ages of the passengers, and that by the time it was noticed, it was too late to change the acts before they sailed. No, I don't buy it.
8. As far as the port of Bayonne, New Jersey, it was badly unorganized and seemed amateur, compared with Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, which we have also experienced. Problems include a one-lane road in and out, which causes a massive lineup of taxis (hundreds, literally) in and out. There doesn't seem to be anyone in charge, to tell people where to go, to get on the ship, or to get a ride out of the port. We experienced long waits (hours) and much uncertainty and stress both getting on and leaving our cruise. This port needs to get its act together because it leaves much to be desired.