We are a group of seasoned cruisers with experiences ranging from 12 to 35 cruises. We had booked this cruise 18 months in advance and were looking forward to cruising on the "world's largest cruise ship". We booked 2 back-to-back cruises for the Western/Eastern Caribbean.
We liked the idea that you had to pre-book your show entertainment as it made our time/activity planning a lot easier. We also decided to try the "free style" dining as our preferred 2nd seating didn't start until 8:30 and after our dinner and socializing, we wouldn't get out of the dining room until 11:00 and would miss the late performances.
This is where the cruise started to go down hill. We book our table for 8 pm and were planning on getting out of the dining room on "show nights" by 10 pm. Well, we were seated at 8:30 and it was 9:00 before the waiter even started attending to us and asked if we wanted wine. We all had pre-booked wine packages, but he took our orders one at a time, returned with the wine and went on to the next couple. The slow service resulted in our missing our show, and we could not re-book as it was "sold out" for the remainder of the week.
2nd night we asked to be moved to a different table, and the service here was only slightly better. While we remainded at this table for the duration of the week, we changed to 2nd seating for the 2nd week.
Week 2's dining was more organized but the service didn't improve. Several times we had to pour our own wine, serve ourselves with the peppermill, and had to ask for steak knives for the beef dishes. We also had to send appetizers back as they were cold, and a few times the appy's didn't arrive. Some of the meals were poorly cooked. Thank goodness there are so specialty restaurants onboard because we ate at all but one of them.
We highly recommend the specialty retaurants, well worth the extra $20/$25 for the high end ones. Be advised: you have to pay for water & coffee in 151 Park Avenue, it's not included with your meal and the wait staff said "we don't have tap water". We still haven't figured out how they cook food and wash their hands without tap water??
Our group normally goes for Martini's at 7 pm prior to our meal. So off to the Champagne/Martini bar. Guess what, poor service. Next night off to Bolero's...had to return 3 drinks as the bartender didn't have a clue. 3rd night into Schooners where we met the waiter/bartender of our dreams. If you sail on this ship, seek out Rueben and tell him the Martini Club sent you. You will have the best experience. He arranged seating and service for 8 of us the first week and 14-21 of us the 2nd week.
During lunch, a few of us trotted off to Sabatini's for beer and pizza. Got the pizza (it was OK), but the bartender couldn't serve us beer because "we're out of glasses". "OK", I said, "go get some." "They're in the dishwasher". "Go get your supervisor", I requested. "Oh, maybe I can find some glasses". We never saw him again. After 10 minutes (finishing our pizza), we left and went across the Promenade to the Bow & Stern pub and had a great beer on tap from their variety of selections. (Another highlight).
Like crappy food? Visit the Windjammer Cafe. Not only was the food below par, there's no place to sit half the time. Personally, we like to sit outdoors for breakfast and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Hey, no outdoor seating. Just a crowded noisy environment for your dining pleasure. But wait, we discovered the perfect place for breakfast and lunch. The Sambro Grille, forward on deck 14. You great a great "healthy" meal and you can sit in the Solarium and enjoy the ambience. Another great place for food is the Promenade Cafe on Deck 5. Light snacks and good coffee. This ship serves Seattle Best coffee. I don't know what they were doing to it elsewhere on the ship, but it was usually horrid everywhere else. Another great find was the "deli" in Central Park.
While I don't expect much from the cabin steward (except towel animals), but is it too hard to vacumm the cabin once in a while? Pretty bad when you have to leave a note asking that it be done. How about a large bucket of ice for our Champagne? Nope...cram it into the little one you get refilled everyday, and give up asking after 3 days.
Highlight - entertainment. A week isn't long enough to see all the shows. But put Chicago, Blue Planet, the AquaTheatre, the Comedy Club on your list. Don't miss the "Dreamworks" parades on deck 5. Check out the 3D Dreamworks theatre. Ride the Zip Line over Boardwalk, climb a wall, play on the Flowrider and 9 holes of mini-golf.
We had to pre-pay our gratuities which I usually don't mind doing, but nobody deserved them this trip. If I could have gotten them re-imbursed I would have. Also after the poor performance during week one, we would have all left before week two if we could have. While we will all be back on RCCL, we will not be returning to this class.
The public areas never felt crowded even with the ship sailing full, and there's lots to do. Unfortunately, the public areas are way too noisy. Not from the people, but the music within the space. At one point the waitress came to take our order and she couldn't hear us over the music. When asked if she could turn it down, she said no, "it's locked". We refused to shout our orders to her, besides it was easier to get up and leave rather than shout at your neighbour to have a conversation during a meal.
If you have to sail on this class of ship, go ahead. But if you're looking for more personal service as a veteran cruiser, I'd pass.