Departing from NJ was great. No fuss, no muss. We got there early and waited about an hour and before we knew it, we were onboard, in the Windjammer having lunch and waiting for friends.
10 years previous we had voyaged with Royal Caribbean to the Western Med, seeing everything from Barcelona to the Ruins of Pompeii. It was fabulous and we had zero complaints.
Our balcony stateroom on Deck 6 was smallish but very comfortable, decent storage and our bags arrived by 1PM. Packed WAY too much as it turned out. We unpacked and began exploring this beautiful ship. Striking decor everywhere and very easy to get around. It never seemed crowded and we never waited in lines for anything. We heard from crew everything from "it's near capacity" to "it's only about 2/3 full", so not sure if we just picked a good time to go or what.
Basics: Beds were firm but OK. (Yes, we're spoiled with pillowtops and the like). Bathroom small but fine. Hairdryer, soap and shampoo/conditioner provided. Wonderful small balcony to watch sunsets, have morning coffee, etc. No long waits for elevators, casino slots or games, service of any kind.
Food: The Windjammer, the ship's casual, eat-anytime buffet was usually good. If you can't find something you like here, hmmm... I enjoyed salads and fruits every day and you can get omelets or whatever made, sandwiches at lunch or tons of choices. We didn't try Portofino's but tried Johnny Rocket's one afternoon which was great!
Every night we dined at the late 8PM seating (there are 3 floors of main dining - you can choose early, late or anytime dining). Our head waiter was efficient but seemed anxious and was a bit too hasty. It seemed most of the other tables had waiters with more personality but it didn't deter our good time. The food ranged from very good to fair, but to be fair, feeding over 3,000 people must be tough! My pasta dish one night needed garlic or something - rather tasteless and how difficult is it to do a basic sauce? And chicken picatta, don't you add lemon to that? One of our tablemate's pasta had to be sent back because it wasn't cooked enough. The soups, steaks and most dishes were excellent. NOTE: if you don't like your dish - they will replace it before you can finish your complaining, so let them know! You can order several apps, entrees or desserts - they don't care, they just want you happy. We loved our cocktail server Latoya.
Room Service: Any time! We had coffee and pastries almost every morning and a couple times had apps and snacks for our before-dinner cocktail hour.
Drinks: Expensive. So give your liver a break or just expect to cough up some dough. The bars are all fun, well-staffed with great bartenders and servers. Great Mojitos, Margaritas, Manhattens and the like. Limited but adequate wine list. One little annoyance: our waiter announced first night that our pre-ordered wine package couldn't be honored due to the basic wines not arriving in port or something. He was kind of vague. Other parties at the table were told they couldn't purchase wine packages either. On day 3, suddenly we were able to get our wine package (it saves you about 25% I think) but the others weren't able to. Annoying, but may all our problems be this tragic.
We stayed busy the next 2 days at sea, gambling, reading, eating, drinking, eating and eating. You can hit the gym, walk or jog the track, enjoy the hot tubs or, as it gets warmer as you enter better weather, jump in the pool.
Labadee, our first stop was very nice. Basic beach areas, food and drink aplenty. Didn't have much luck snorkeling but we probably should have tried other area of the beach.
Sammana, our next port was even nicer. Did a boat trip to Cayo Levantado. Had some of the best fried fish and fresh coconut drinks and snorkeled right off the beach. Very nice.
Stop 3 was St. Thomas and our first real excursion - we did the BOSS Underwater Adventure - AWESOME! The dive boat picks you up right were you get off the ship in St. Thomas - You have your own underwater motor scooter, no diving experience necessary. Snorkel gear is included also. It's $115 pp but worth every dime. That afternoon we cabbed into the main part of Charlotte Amalie and had lunch at Gladys's, recommended by the NY Times and Foder's Port Guide. Very good local fare.
Sat. was St. Kitt's - we cabbed it to Carabelle's Batik factory. Beautiful island (free) tour from the cabbie, and gorgeous grounds at Romney Manor Gardens where Carabelle's shop is. Small demonstration area and nice shop, t-shirts, shirts, dresses, flipflops etc. Great place to purchase island made, quality gifts for family and for yourself. Our cabbie waited and then took us to the other end of the island to the beach for fun and sun.
Next port was St. John's Antigua where we walked into town to explore and then cabbed it to the closest beach. For better snorkeling, probably best to do a boat excursion, but all the beaches we visited were awesome.
St. Martin, our favorite island was our last stop. We cabbed it to the French capitol, Marigot, walked the open market buying spices and souvenirs and then cabbed it to Grand Case for lunch. Our old favorite restaurant had changed hands but what a wonderful meal, right on the water - Restaurant Du Soleil. Probably the best pizza we've had since Naples. We still had plenty of time to cab back to Phillipsburg for more shopping, gambling and beach right in the hustle of Front St. near the ship.
We found all the staff at excursion or customer service to be friendly and helpful with any questions.
Entertainment: We didn't see the ice show but did catch a comedy show one night and a very good "Frankie Vallie" show. RC has a good rep when it comes to entertainment compared to many ships.
Before we knew it we were headed back to the states - one fairly decent day weather-wise and then winter eased us back to reality. Disembarking was a breeze - we asked for early-off due to our long drive back home and waited for approx. 30 minutes in one of the dining rooms. Customs was quick and a short walk to parking.
We would do RC again in a heartbeat.