Hello. This is my first review on this site. It is quite long so apologies for that.
My wife and I are from Scotland. We have only cruised twice before this trip, once on the Carnival Victory in 2009 and once on the Oasis in Jan 2010. This trip was a repeat of our second cruise and was to celebrate my 50th birthday. We flew directly from the UK to Fort Lauderdale prior to boarding the ship. Here is my summary of our holiday split down into various categories.
Embarkation - I had one small problem that left a bad taste right at the start. I purchased some duty free vodka on the flight over. Knowing that the cruise line don't allow you to carry on alcohol I showed my duty free bag to a Royal Caribbean employee immediately upon arrival at the terminal and asked what I should do with it. He said that everything had to go through the X ray machine so I put the duty free bag on to the conveyor belt along with my small flight bag and then proceeded through the metal detector. Immediately a security officer approached me and asked if I had alcohol in the bag. When I said yes he asked me to accompany him to a desk. He asked me to empty out the contents of the bag and when I did he then thanked me and said I was free to carry on to the registration desk. I asked him how I went about getting my vodka back at the end of the cruise and he said " Oh no sir you don't. It's been confiscated. We don't allow any carry on alcohol ". I tried to explain that I wasn't trying to carry it on board and that his colleague had only just told me to put in on the conveyor belt. However this fell on deaf ears. I refuse to believe that this guy seriously thought I was trying to sneak this vodka on board cos if I was, having 2 bottles in a duty free bag and putting them into the X Ray machine was clearly not a clever way to smuggle them on. However at this point my wife told me to forget it and just get on board ship. Literally five minutes later we were on board so apart from this hiccup the embarkation was a breeze but it did dampen my initial excitement about coming on board.
Stateroom - We had a balcony stateroom 6218 midship on Deck 6. We have been on board Oasis before so knew exactly what to expect. The shower is a bit on the small side but not really a problem. The room was very close to all entertainment and the main dining room on decks 5 and 4. So I would recommend this deck unless you want to be closer to the pools a bit higher up.
The Ship itself - What can I say- It's magnificent, spotlessly clean with plenty of activities
Dining - We chose Mytime dining and it worked great for us. We also ate in 3 speciality restaurants - Chops, Giovannis and the Solarium Bistro. All were very good meals but it felt a bit strange in the Solarium Bistro as the night we visited, there were only four parties in and we were all crammed together in one corner of the restaurant. Not quite the intimate experience I was looking for. If I wanted to be rubbing elbows with a fellow cruiser I would have gone to the Windjammer. In addition, we paid for these meals on line months prior to boarding and this already included a gratuity. So I found it a bit irritating not to be able to leave at the end of the meal until I had been presented with a bill for $0.00 which included a request for an additional gratuity. This really amounts to emotional blackmail and I believe RC should stop this practice.
Entertainment- Top notch and the Cruise Director Richard Spacey is brilliant. I am a bit of a trivia quiz buff and it was strange to see some quizzes being repeated after only two days. When this happened I just put my pencil down but it was amazing to see so many cruisers suddenly getting 100%. What some people will do for a key chain.
Excursions - Didn't do any I'm afraid. However at St Thomas we spent $10 each on a small ferry over to Honeymoon Beach on Water Island. RC do this as an excursion and charge an awful lot more.
Fellow cruisers - With 6,000 people on board you are bound to notice some quirks. We laughed it off but for the sake of a review I would like to offer some tips to my fellow travelers.
1 / Elevators - Please don't rush and try to cram into the first one that arrives. There are 24 of them after all. And it is a good idea to let people off before you go in. It is much more courteous and common sense tells you that there will be more room. We saw people who failed to get off at their chosen floor because of this which was amusing to us but not to them. Also please remember that some of the lifts have glass backs so better to wait until you are safely back in your stateroom before scratching your bum. And if you have kids, don't let them near the buttons as they tend to press them all.
2 / Restaurants and other public areas - Please keep your voices down to a reasonable level. When I am dining with my wife I don't really want to hear about your colonoscopy treatment or your investments, especially when you are away over at the other end of the restaurant.
3 / Please don't hog the loungers by the pool or the seats in the Solarium by leaving a towel on. It's not very nice as there are 6,000 of us. If you are leaving the seat alone for any time, do the decent thing and give it up. We saw many people aimlessly drifting around the pool or solarium unable to sit down despite there being many empty loungers and chairs, albeit with a towel on.
4/ Alcohol - Don't bring any at the start of the cruise. Buy it in port and make sure to hand it to RC employees for safe keeping when re-boarding. You will get it delivered to your stateroom on the last night before disembarking
Sorry about the length of this review. However it is a very big ship. I just hope some of it is useful.