We arrived in Tampa after an on-time flight from a cold Minnesota looking forward to a nice warm break. The weather in Tampa was warm but not quite hot and that was ok with us. A fairly quick taxi ride to the port is a flat-rate $25. Upon arrival we learned that departure would be delayed to 3:00 am but that we would still arrive in our one port of call, Cozumel, on time. At first I wondered if this was to do with the Norovirus outbreak on a previous cruise but it turned out to be from some routine maintenence. This gave us some unexpected time to look around Tampa and we took advantage of it by riding the streetcar to Ybor City, then to the downtown area and then back to the ship. This is a great bargain as an all you can ride ticket costs only $5.00 and there is a stop right ouside the port entrance.
We had checked in prior to our little shore excursion with no delays or problems so when we reboarded all we had to do was explore the ship and have a snack. We awoke the next morning at sea and as we sailed south the weather gradually warmed up. This was a sea day and we enjoyed some challenging trival pursuit conducted by the very pleasant cruise director himself,Dan Whitney. We didn't win but did win at a subsequent game, so we didn't leave the ship without at least one win.
The ship is beautiful and very well maintained. The Colony Club has warm wood paneling and is designed to be like an English private club. This was one of our favorite spots and was the location of receptions and music performances.
The Windjammer buffet was one of the most pleasant buffets we have encountered in or many cruises and the Seaview Cafe was also a good spot for burgers, hot dogs, reubens etc. Both dining areas have outdoor seating sections adjacent which was really nice when the weather warmed. Our only port of call on this short four night cruise was Cozumel. We have been there many times so we decided to try walking into town to get some much needed exercise, and then just look around all of the familiar places there. RCI now docks almost as far out of town as Carnival corps. ships do so this is a pretty long hike and I would not suggest doing it unless you are looking for the exercise. Even then you might want to catch a ride back to the ship. But the weather was perfect on this day, sunny and in the mid-seventies, cooler than when we have usually been there. There are sidewalks the whole way (in various states of repair) and in one spot on the land side of the street there was a whole block where there were numerous Iguanas sunning themselves. There are also several outdoor pubs if you want to take a break and ponder whether this walking notion was such a bright idea after all. No worries about that-there are plenty of taxis cruising this main street looking for a fare.
The next day was another sea day and a chance to relax and talk a bit with our fellow cruisers. This cruise departed six days after the changes in the Crown and Anchor Society took effect. There was much confusion among the members about how past cruises would be credited. Those who had taken many short three day cruises were ecstatic because the they were credited for seven days for each of those short cruises. Those who had taken longer, more expensive ten and eleven night cruises were extremely upset to find that they had only been credited for the eqivalent of a shorter one week cruise. I must say that I was disappointed when I went to the onboard Crown and Anchor loyalty representatives to get the exact information about these changes. Unlike Celebrity where these people are there to help past cruisers, on RCI they were there mostly to sell future cruises and were not very atuned to spending time dealing with providing help to memebers. Even when I spoke to Ms. Yao, the C&A manager at the Platinum and up reception (the only time I could find her free and not selling cruises, which by the way you have to sign up for an appointment in advace to do) she seemed anxious to get away and do something else, rather than discuss the fact that we had not received one of the new benefits described on the information sheet that listed the new changes.
Having said that, the staff on the ship were uniformly excellent. Our waiter and his assistant were very good. As others have mentioned about this ship, there were an unusally large amount of staff specifically asking (more or less) for you to give them excellent ratings on the survey. It is good that the cruiseline is focusing on great service but perhaps they got a little carried away with the survey itself.
We enjoyed this ship and our cruise very much. The talk by Capt.Andersen was one of the highlights. We look forward to our next RCI cruise, but like others we hope they will address some of the oversights in the new C&A points system. We also hope that the upcoming remodeling scheduled for the ship will not eliminate any of the things we particularly enjoyed, such as the outside seating areas on the back of the ship, near the dining areas.