I booked the EOTS before reading the reviews on Cruise Critic. After reading the reviews, I was nervous and almost dreading the trip because I thought I would be disappointed based on so many negative reports. Boy was I wrong! We had a very nice cruise and will likely sail RCI/EOTS next year.
Cruising out of Bayonne was convenient. We did get stuck for about an hour on the road into the terminal. It was frustrating but once we got through the car traffic it was smooth. We boarded the ship about a half hour after parking our car.
We had an aft balcony cabin. Love the location as the hall was quiet and looking out at the ship's wake was peaceful. Upon entering the room, we were struck by how clean and (relatively) spacious it was. There was plenty of storage and the oversized aft balcony was impressive. Note that deck 10 balconies have a roof over them so they're not for sunbathing but they do have much more privacy than the aft cabins on other decks. Our girls found the foldout couch to be hard and uncomfortable so do plan on that. You sleep on the cushions themselves so they're quite firm.
Our room steward was very good at cleaning. He wasn't the friendliest initially but he warmed up to us before the end of the cruise. It was hard not to when our 2 y/o was greeting him with big smiles and "Bye! I love you"'s. :) I think we got gypped on the towel animals but he took the time to arrange our girl's many stuffed animals and blankets into cute arrangements on their bed.
While I'm talking about employees, let me give a big thumbs up to the staff in general. The EOTS does seem to be the friendliest ship, especially for those traveling with kids. The ones we encountered a few times greeted the girls by name and tried to make them smile.
We liked deck 10 because it offered us a quick walk up the stairs to the Windjammer buffet and the pool decks. The elevators are slow and crowded so it was nice to avoid them in general. It would have been easier to avoid the elevators if we didn't have stair-hating kids in tow. :)
Yes, the ship has signs of wear. Most noticeable was the hallway carpet on the port side of deck 10 had a water stain that went the whole length of the hall. Did it effect our cruise? Nah! I still felt it was clean and maintained well.
The food was pleasantly surprising! We ate breakfast in Windjammer every morning and I was impressed with the selection and quality of the food. Way better than our typical buffet boredom. We learned quickly to bypass the first food station as there are less crowded duplicate stations toward the back of the buffet. Also at the back of the buffet was the marvelous omelet station. Worth the wait! The Windjammer staff was prompt in clearing plates and almost all of them greeted my girls and entertained them.
The main dining room did not disappoint. While I wasn't wowed by the friendliness of the waiters, they all adequately and efficiently took care of us. We had My Time dining so we had a different waiter each night. I think we would have been treated a bit better had we opted for a larger table or traditional dining. They did their job which to me is more important than pretending to be our new best friends. The entrees we tried were delicious and we splurged on a Chops filet which was wonderful. They were not stingy with the portion sizes. I was feeling a bit under the weather one day and wanted only sorbet for dessert. The waiter kept offering me additional choices but I declined. When dessert arrived, he brought a berry crostini with my sorbet anyway (he was right- I guess I did want it after all!).
An impressive customer service note to add... we opted to avoid the MDR for a few nights in a row for variety and to accommodate our daughter's schedules. We tried Johnny Rockets (good for 1 meal) and the buffet for a couple more nights. The main dining room called us to make sure we weren't avoiding dining there because of a problem with the service of the food. I was impressed that they cared and got the impression that they would have acted upon negative feedback if we had any (which we didn't).
It was a bit long having 3 full sea days in a row. The first 2 days were still cold so outside entertainment wasn't appealing. We did take the girls to the arcade, explore the promenade, and go ice skating One we were in warmer weather, the outside activities kicked up and it was much more fun. Loved the men's sexiest leg contest and the belly flop competition.
We didn't see more of the shows as it seemed they were geared to a much older crowd. The comedian we saw was a hack from the 70's, filled with drawn out impersonations of Tom Jones, Rod Steward, and Columbo(?!?!?). We would have walked out had we been closer to the back. I found Chris Northey adequate in his job as cruise director. He has a dry wit which I think is lost on some people.
The Ice Show was amazing and it redeemed the entertainment score for me. Don't miss it!
The Promenade shops were good for killing time. We didn't by much other than some trinkets for the girls but it was good to browse each day's selections. We really liked the cafe for a quick snack or for cookies and hot chocolate.
Drinks with alcohol were on the pricey side (especially frozen drinks) but were made strong. Oh how I miss those Lava Flows and Labadoozies! We opted for soda cards which was convenient.
The kids club was good. Our 5 y/o enjoyed it and wanted to keep going back. One thing I will say is to not expect the same activities as the ones listed in the Kid's Compass. While they followed the theme, they did different activities. Just a warning for parents with younger kids who many get disappointed if you tell them there will be face painting but the plans change from the schedule.
We didn't book any on-ship excursions. We opted for an ATV tour in Samana (through Tour Samana with Terry). I highly recommend booking an excursion on the island as there isn't much to see when you get off the boat. It's an impoverished area and I hope the cruise visits help it prosper. We also rented jet skis in Labadee. Do know that when they say "high speed jet ski tour", they mean it! It was loads of fun for my husband and I but some older cruisers were scared to go so fast. Wear your sunglasses to avoid salt water spray in your eyes. Labadee is a great stop with beautiful (albeit rocky) beaches, a spray park for kids, lots of sun loungers in the sand, and cool drinks.
Departing the EOTS was pretty quick. We had to wait in our designated area for about 45 minutes but then walked right off the ship. We found a porter easily for our luggage and we were back to our car within a half hour.
Since it had snowed while we were cruising and the parking lot in Cape Liberty is uncovered, we were expecting to find our car buried in the snow. Somehow this was not the case! I'm not sure if they plowed and brushed off the cars but every one of them was cleared off with easy access. Our mirrors were folded in so I do believe they shoveled out the cars. A pleasant surprise and almost worth the $19/day it cost us. Bring a snow shovel just in case.
So, to sum up my long review, we enjoyed the EOTS and would not hesitate to sail again. Yes, things could have been better but we still had a great time! I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this cruise to others.