Prior to cruise: We flew into Orlando and rented a car from budget (35.00) and drove to port Canaveral to the radisson hotel. the hotel and budget are approx a 10 minute walk apart, very convenient and gas station across the road for fill up. extremely easy. The Radisson was a lovely hotel, pool area very nice, hot tub secluded. Breakfast in the morning was good, but the Saturday night buffet left a lot to be desired and was not worth the money. We were going to return the car in the evening as you could walk back and take the free shuttle radisson has to the port, however when we got to the hotel the line and amount of people was chaos even though you are to register and get a time to go. later we overheard the employee getting guests on the shuttle complaining to other guests at the front of the hotel about the shuttles and guests etc, we chose to take the car back in the morning and budget also takes you over for no charge (other than tip for your driver)which was not chaotic and we went right over, very easy and staff friendly and professional.
embarkation: from line up to ship was just under an hour. we were there at 10:30 and on the ship before 11:30am. Everything went very smoothly. No direction once you got on the ship. we decided since no bars etc were open we would go up to the buffet (main dining room closed also). we stood in line for over 1/2 hour and found out there was a surprise inspection which they passed, it would have been nice to know though. luggage seemed to take quite a long time to come to room, well after the muster drill.
Room: we decided on a promenade room on deck eight mid. it is a beautiful room, nice size, lots of storage, most comfortable bed i have slept on anywhere. bathroom nice with actual shower doors. sofa in front of window and we could sit and watch what was happening, no noise really, little bit if you were by the window when they had something big going one, that only lasted 30 to 45 minutes. nice dressing table and coffee table. room steward was Ingrid and she was very nice, gave us information, asked for anything special we would like etc.
Meals: we ate all but one dinner in the main dining room at 1st sitting. Ashley and Leon looked after us and were great. they knew what we wanted before we did, our drinks were always waiting for us. the food was fantastic. prime rib, lobster, turkey, great soups, salads. deserts offerings sometimes a little shy. one night we went to the buffet and it was great also. roast beef, chicken breast, salads and of course stand bys like hamburgers and hot dogs. we ate breakfast in the main dining room the 1st morning, but the waitress was not pleasant and it made for a bad start to the day, so we went to the buffet for the rest of the week which was great. we did not try any pay restaurants as we found no reason to. In the buffet area, one staff member has a smile which would light up a room, it just made you smile, look him up, his name is James Dany Layove, if royal Caribbean reads this, he is amazing.
Facilities/pool: the pool area is the best i have seen on a ship, kids area, then family, then adult only. we stayed pretty much in adult area, decent size pool, 4 to 7 feet deep, lovely hot tubs, we never had an issue getting a lounger or a table if we wanted and the ship was at capacity we were told. the flowrider was great to watch, and the other couple we went with, he tried it twice, said it was fun. we did not have time to play golf but it looked great. the spa was very nice and the staff friendly. the gym was very modern and great also.
Entertainment: this was the only area we were disappointed on. the ice show was good and a show once upon a time was great, the arriaal artists were fantastic, but other than that? There did not seem to be much happening around the ship, which of course left us with time to enjoy ourselves doing something, but we found ncl had shows, entertainment, info centres, comedy, bands going all day around the ship. the Crypt bar was really neat but there was hardly ever anything going on there.
excursions: we did our own things, the private island was too cold to rent a seadoo or anything. on st thomas we walked around and went up to look out point, amber museum etc. in st maarten we took a private tour the 4 of us with joyce prince, she is great and we highly recommend her. it was 55.00 each for the 4 of us and she took us all around the island, answered questions, gave lots of info and we got to stay longer at things we were interested in plus she brought a cooler of water, pop, rum and beer. she has a website.
disembarking: Very easy, off the ship in less than an hour, over to budget on their shuttle and on the road. 30.24 return rental price. we had a late flight so we went to downtown disney to do some shopping and have lunch etc.
royal caribbean vs ncl : no doubt about it, the rooms, food and staff are superior on royal. the staff truly seems happy, the meals were great and our room was a nice size and the shower area etc. the adult area is nice also. lacking was entertainment and bar service. ncl has the freestyle dining which my husband and i still enjoy more, on the dawn and pearl the pool areas are nice and the bar staff is great on ncl. you never had to go to get your own beer/drink. they always had music playing out by the pools and around the ship. Rooms are on the smaller size but not bad, staff in other areas of the ship were border line rude at times. When it comes down to it. price would dictate who we cruise with next year. a 200 to 300 price diff we would go royal again, but 500 and more diff we would go ncl, (not the epic, or small ship, the sky was awful)
hope this was helpful