We flew Southwest to Fort Lauderdale one day prior to embarkation via Southwest, and stayed overnight. We prefer this when possible to allow for a more leisurely morning. My husband and I, and our adult children, the "kids" are in their 20's.
We had sailed on the Oasis in May, 2010, so our expectations were high.
We had a Boardwalk view balcony cabin. It had a phenomenal view of the Aqua Theater, and we ended up just watching the shows from our balcony. We also got to hear all the kid based activities and the noise from the Boardwalk. We were told there were over a thousand children on the ship, more than were usual, probably because of the Dreamworks tie in? Although we did like the concept, next time we will do a Central Park balcony, which we have been told were more quiet.
The spa was, as usual, lovely. The new specialty restaurants were worth the added expense, particularly the Chef's Table. Although pricey for RCCL at $75/pp, it was well worth the experience, and we will definitely do this again.
The Samba Grille was a fun experience, and the big meat eaters in our group were challenged to try everything. The Carnival dancer was alot of fun.
Giovanni's Table was excellent as well. I am going to spend time trying to recreate the signature Martini, definitely try it! Rita's Cantina was a big hit as well for lunch, although we were not able to get tickets for the Margarita party. 150 Park was also nice, although I did not like the menu as much as on the Oasis. They did split the week into 2 menus, and if we had known that they did that (Oasis only had 1 menu) we probably would have tried both. Our only real complaint about the specialty restaurants was that the menus are limited. We also ate in the Dining room, but were disappointed by the placement of our table (near a group of several small children, noisy and poorly behaved, although that was obviously not our server's fault) and the crowdedness of the dining room. The tables seemed closer together than in other ships. It was not possible to get any reservations for dinner other than the ones we made prior to sailing, so definitely plan ahead. We tried the dining room, Windjammer, and Johnny Rockets for breakfast, and enjoyed all 3 places, although my husband liked the Asian breakfasts at the Windjammer. Johnny Rockets for lunch was as good as ever. One problem I think we had was the RCTV reservations only let you reserve for how many people are in your room, not for your whole party, so once we figured that out we realized why we were having trouble getting additional reservations in places that seemed to have open tables.
The entertainment was the best part of the new experience. Chicago was on par with the Broadway version we'd seen before. The Blue planet was spectacular, and the Aqua shows amazing. We were not able to book tickets for the ice show. Some shows are clearly for kids and families, so make sure you book the one you actually want. Comedy club has adult showings, kids enjoyed those as well. Pool area was comfortable, although as usual the empty deck chairs were on top. Never at a loss for things to do.
The Spa and Fitness center is first class. No problems booking our spa treatments. (Although my (adult) kids know the drill and head there to book as soon as we get on the ship!) My husband booked extra services throughout the week, and had no issues. They have enough staff that my daughter and I could get a manicure together, instead of one after the other. The Thermal suite was also a real treat, if you have muscle or back issues, it is probably worth the cost to relax on the heated chaises.
The shopping is actually more limited than we expected. The jewelry store on the ship was very high end (like all diamond jewelry, thousands of dollars), which was a problem for my daughter who was used to being able to get a nice souvenir in the jewelry shop. They seem to have eliminated the mid range category for everything, The shops all carried either "kitch" or very expensive, not much in between. I'm not sure if that is usual, or just due to the fact we were a holiday cruise.
Really liked the 5th floor walking/jogging track. They included little "Burma Shave" type encouraging sayings that you had to keep walking to read. On at sea days, there is a small area at the back of the ship off the walking track that has deck chairs, and is quite pleasant to sit with a book and coffee.
The excursions were excellent.(see my port reviews) On Labadee, RCCL's private island in Haiti, 4 of us did the Jet Skis, and thought it well worth the price, and we also enjoyed just exploring the island. The marketplace is something to miss. Booth after booth of the exact same items, most overpriced. If you do go, take cash (small bills) as the vendors do not take sea-pass or credit cards. Our recommendation is to get a nice tropical drink and catch a hammock!
The Holiday touches were fun. We work up one morning with the ship decorated for Christmas. On Christmas day, "Santa" and his elves rode the Wave rider, the zip line, and climbed the rock wall. Surreal. The holiday dinner menu gave a nod to all the winter holidays, and would have been excellent if we had not been comparing it to the Chef's Table.
Casino is all electronic and takes only paper bills (USD) or seapass. No more quarters for the slot machine. There is a new 3% charge to get cash on your seapass card in the Casino. Lots of dancing, very good music for all types ballroom, salsa, etc.