Background: We traveled the day after Christmas as a family: parents, myself and two brothers (26, 22, 20), my sister (28) and her husband. We had two balcony cabins and one inside cabin. We have all cruised before on a variety of lines (Carnival, NCL), but this was all of our first time on RCL.
Embarkation: Very quick and easy. We never encountered the lines that other people have complained of, which make me think it's hit or miss. We basically walked onto the ship and I would say the whole check in process took about 20 minutes.
DEcor: The ship is gorgeous and by far the nicest ship that any of us had been on. No gaudy dEcor (or at least it was quite minimal). The pool decks were nice, and we spent the majority of our poolside time in the adult's only area. There were no problems with kids being there and the hot tubs were fantastic! Quite large and the overhanging feature was pretty cool and made for a nice view. Plenty of seats, which seemed to eliminate the feeling of being over-crowded on sea days. Only problem with the pool decks was that there were no water stations except for in the Windjammer, which closed from about 4 to 6pm. So if you were sitting at the pool during those times and felt like a drink you either needed to buy something at the bar or go to the 5th floor, which was a little annoying.
Staterooms: Much more spacious than what I've had on other cruises (and we had three people inside our cabin!). The room had a sofa, coffee table, desk/dresser, two twin beds and a bunk bed (which was put away during the daytime). Bathroom was the usual, but no lotion/conditioner etc was provided. So remember to bring your own! One complaint was that this is the only ship any of us had ever been on that did not have a laundry room for guests to use. This posed a problem for some dresses and shirts had become wrinkled while being packed. On every other ship we would just make a quick stop at the laundry room and iron; however we had to pay for these services here. To get three dress shirts pressed cost $10, which was irritating. To their credit, the service was very quick and done well. As you can't bring your own iron onboard, I guess this is just a cost you might get stuck with. Beds were comfortable, the rooms had individual temperature controls and our room steward was very good.
Other common areas: The theaters were large enough so that we never had any problems finding seats, however there are some obstructed views in the top level. The Promenade was fantastic! It was hard to believe we were on a cruise ship while there. Good duty free shops in the promenade (the cosmetics and alcohol were particularly good deals). The sports deck was great! I tried the rock climbing and had a good time, all of my siblings tried the flowrider (prepare for some bruises and ladies, hold onto your bathing suits!), and we also tried the mini putt and went ice skating. The gym was large and well equipped and most of us made it there most days. The first day at sea the gym was packed and I had to wait for a treadmill, however it seemed as though many people just wanted to "try it out" and were off within minutes so the wait was quick. All cardio equipment at the gym had their own TVs, however towels ran out quickly. The internet cafe had lots of computers that were temperamental at best and it would definitely have been nice to have an RCL employee there to help out and answer any questions.
Food: The food in the dining room ranged from good to excellent, with plenty of options. I'll agree that the desserts may not have been the best I've ever had on a cruise, but many of the main courses were so it evens out. Plenty of choices were available, including lobster on one night, surf and turf, steaks and vegetarian dishes. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent but we had a few problems with the head waiter. There was a little confusion as there had clearly been a mistake and too many people were seated at our table starting mid-way through the cruise. We're a family of seven and had requested a table for 8 and that we preferred to be alone (family time, didn't really want an extra individual). On the Wednesday, for whatever reason, a couple was seated at our table. Although they were very nice, the table designed for 8 people now had nine and it was a little uncomfortable due to the lack of space and due to the fact that my family dominated the table. We spoke to the head waiter about the issue after dinner and although he said that he'd seat the couple elsewhere, the next evening he hadn't done that. Eventually it was all sorted out, but his lack of service was disappointing. We ate in the dining room each morning for breakfast and didn't miss the hustle of the buffet.
The Windjammer was okay, nothing special. We missed having a deli (a real one - they have an area called "deli" but it's just a bunch of unlabeled cold cuts on a plate), but aside from that the food was acceptable. We never went hungry and could always find things to eat (I'm a rather picky eater and was fine). Sorrento's pizza was okay, nothing amazing and we rarely ate at the coffee shop/sandwich shop due to lack of selection. We never ate at any of the specialty restaurants - Ben and Jerry's (although it smelled great!), Chops, Johnny Rockets etc. We also never ordered room service.
Entertainment: This is really where the ship sets itself apart from others that we had been on. The nightly shows ranged from average to great - the opening night show was the usual song and dance, we missed the Once Upon a Time show because it started so late (10:45!) and the Broadway Medley had amazing costumes and was quite fun to watch. There were a few comedians that were okay, and some aerialists which were fun because it's not something we'd seen on a cruise ship before. We went to the circus parade which was pretty strange (just the cruise workers in costumes walking back and forth down the promenade). The ice show was amazing! We had pretty low expectations for the ice show (none of us are particularly big figure skating fans) but we were all just blown away! I would recommend.
We all enjoyed the piano player Kory Simon - again, we had pretty low expectations for a cruise ship pianist but he was fantastic! Very talented (if you know anything about playing the piano I would recommend getting a seat close to where you can watch his hands. I sat right next to him and was just blown away) and very charismatic (I'm pretty sure every woman in the room had a little crush on the man!). He's interactive and a lot of fun to watch. He was standing room only every night though, so get there at least a little bit early. We also all went to trivia a few times and had a blast - obviously this would be cruise specific but we had a really good crowd that we would see at trivia each time. It was a lot of fun, even if we weren't the ultimate winners.
Dress code: On past cruises there has been a mix of casual, semi-formal and formal nights. This ship had two formal nights and the rest were all casual. Lots of jeans and polos in the dining room, which was unexpected. Formal nights saw a range of dress, from tuxedos to suits and ties to khakis, cocktail dresses and ball gowns. Overall, it was a pretty casual ship.
Disembarkation: We went for breakfast in the dining room that morning to enjoy one last cruise meal and then walked off the ship. Our luggage was waiting and our cruise was (sadly) over!