We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before and stayed at the Hyatt Place Airport South which was a nice, if pricey, hotel. Unfortunately Delta destroyed two pieces of our luggage and so we bought new luggage at the mall down the street that night.
We took the hotel shuttle to the cruiseport at 10AM for $14 each as I recall. Boarding was very smooth and quick. Doors to the room hallways were closed until 1PM and our luggage was already there. Nice job RCI!
The ship has half the rooms facing the water, and the other half (interior) have balconies overlooking Boardwalk or Central Park. I go cruising to see water so our exterior balcony room was great, but I don't think that the interior rooms would be my cup of tea. I would think that the rooms overlooking Boardwalk would be quite noisy and with a view only of other rooms and all the activity on the sports courts, aqua theater, etc. If you're not spending much time in your room I suppose that might work for you.
For having so many people on the ship, most of the time you wouldn't know it. It was generally no more crowded than a much smaller ship. The only time there was an issue was trying to get into an elevator at dinner time or disembarking at port when you often had to wait 5 or more minutes. Sometimes taking the steps was quicker. As a side note, and obviously no fault of the ship's management, but the elevator issue exposes the inconsiderate nature of many people, cutting in front of others who were already waiting, uncontrolled kids, etc.
We went to several shows and there were more than an adequate number of seats available for the shows that we went to. Having preferred seating for Diamond members/suite guests was nice, and they opened up these reserved seats to the general public before the shows began. The Frozen in Time Ice Show was awesome, the Abbacadabra show did a great job with ABBA music (entertaining even if that isn't your type of music), and my wife enjoyed Hairspray.
The casino is HUGE. Lots of machines, blackjack tables, roulette, craps, etc. My folks about broke even which is all you can expect at any casino.
The food in the dining room is the same as on every other RCI voyage. Exactly the same. Same meals on the same nights, etc. It was good, and there was a variety to select from, but you'd think that they could change up their menus a bit more often. Of the 6 or so main entree selections, 2-3 would be vegetarian, which is cool for you if that's you're bag but almost seemed over-accommodating to that crowd...give me meat! A nice option was you could order a steak from Chops to be served in the main dining room. On the flip side, this ship has a LOT of alternatives to the main dining rooms. We at at Chops one night (outstanding), at 150 Central one night (very good), had lunch at the Seafood Shack (good), Johnny Rockets (exactly the same as all the other ships, and mediocre/more for picky-eating kids IMO)and Sorrentos once. Sorrentos was disappointing, you'd get better pizza from Dominoes. Windjammer (buffet) was, well, Windjammer, just OK food with lots and lots of people. A nice option at Windjammer is a more private seating area on the port side for Diamond and higher members. The Solarium had a restaurant serving healthy breakfast, if you're into cereal and tofu, have at it. A key discovery for us was the Concierge Lounge served breakfast made to order, if you have a suite I'd head there instead.
Speaking of the concierge lounge, it is just awesome. Very large and spacious with a nice view over Boardwalk and out the back of the ship with free drinks and hor devourers. The ship had some really nice perks for frequent cruisers, like a separate sunning area and bar on level 16, separate beach area on Labadee, etc.
We took advantage of the free clothes pressing on the first night and the discounted wash & fold laundry service on Wednesday, but be advised that you will not see those clothes again for three days.
Bad weather caused an aborted docking at Costa Maya on Wednesday, depriving us of one of only three port stops on this cruise. It was totally understandable for safety reasons. It was however somewhat weird to only have three scheduled stops when we have had four on all past Western Caribbean trips. The good news is that they will no longer be going to Costa Maya (this was to be their last stop there), instead going to a new port in Jamaica. They had a champagne reception on the helipad for diamond+ members when docking at Costa Maya.
On this ship, getting to your photographs was much easier with computerized selection and ordering. You can buy the whole batch on CD, which was good in concept but pricey at $299 USD.
One thing that really stood out was the high quality of service. It appears that they have selected "the cream of the crop" for all of the service employees on this ship. Just outstandingly friendly, helpful, and thorough from the waiters to stateroom attendant to concierge. Top notch.
Disembarkation for the trip home was very smooth and quick.
The airport in Fort Lauderdale was very crowded with many thousands of cruisers from five ships heading home; they seemed nearly overwhelmed. They do not allow you to check in until two hours before your flight so we ended up sitting around for four hours, then checking in and going through security, and then setting at the gate for two hours. If we do it again through FLL I will spend that last day in a hotel and fly out the next morning to miss that big wave of travellers. Both the Miami and Orlando airports for cruises through Miami and Port Canaveral seemed to handle the traffic better.
All in all it was a great cruise on a beautiful ship with outstanding service and great amenities for the Diamond+ frequent cruisers.