This is our 16Th family cruise; our first with Royal Caribbean. We booked this cruise by recommendation of cruise line, itinerary, and size of ship. It was not an expensive cruise ($700 per person total including the full tips). We got what we paid for.
The Ship: Nice layout. Easy to get around. Nice upper deck for walking / running. Great central areas and nice solarium. The center of the ship inside had a lovely large central areas for gathering and entertainment. The few lounges and bars were not intimate or interesting; rather seemed an afterthought. No cozy area to hang out, or enchanting bar area to have a nighttime blast. Spa / Gym: Unimpressive and an afterthought at best. RC charged for Yoga and other classes, and constantly changed the times so you just could not keep up. The Spa was dated. No steam baths other other luxury treatment.
The overall condition of the ship - sparse, very old, and dated. While we were told the ship is going to be renovated soon, that did not make me happy while sitting with a 1980's TV in our cabin. Other cruise line ships built in the 1990's (we cruise often) had / have so much more to offer. Not sure why RC ship seems so lackluster.
The cabin was very dated. Shower curtain was so old and shower leaked all over the place. Curtain came down from the ceiling (the entire bar holding the curtain that separates the inside bed came crashing down).
The cabin while small, did offer lots of storage. Very annoying, RC used a large part of the small desk area as a mini bar. There was nowhere else to put this and we did not want this expensive water, soda, and boxes of high priced cookies taking up so much space on our small desk area. We asked that this be removed however were told no. With so much free food on board, and room service, who would buy cookies at $4.00 a box? If I needed cookies, room service offered cookies 24/7.
The deck (3) had a very foul smell. Seems to be an engineering issue. RC seems to want to keep this tub afloat and given the about of activity in the casino, I am guessing this boat is fully depreciated and making money from the booze and gambling. For an overall cruise experience, RC did not leave a good impression.
The ports were very enjoyable. One port I would skip in the future was Key West. It has changed and looks industrial. Boats must leave by 2:30 pm so the locals can see the sunset. You have almost no time to enjoy the beaches, and much of what made Key West special seems lost in the wind. I doubt Hemingway would find any inspiration in Key West today.
The food was barely adequate. Not that we need more food but hot dogs and cold slaw for snacks, seriously? Princess, offers gourmet pizza cooked to order all day and has for years. The buffet was the worst I have ever had on any cruise ship. Poor layout. Poor selection of food. No service. The only wonderful thing to mention is the view from the buffet area; lovely place to sit and have coffee or iced tea and watch the sea.
The dining in My Fair Lady was unimpressive. The food was OK and quality varied considerably. Our last Holland cruise left us with high expectations. Carnival, Princess, Disney, MSC had a much more gourmet quality to their food. RC just is not focused on food. No late night food either. Not that we need to eat all of the time, however isn't this a cruise standard?
The staff were very nice, and hard working. We did meet rude bar staff who told our 15 yr old son (pre paid soda card) that he had to wait until "all paying customers were served first" and he waited and waited while all booze buyers came up behind him and ordered. I suppose pre paid means no tips, so why serve a kid?
There was a clear lack of consistency in the manners and training of the staff. On other cruises, the staff that serviced the customers were very consistent in manners, how they spoke, how they interacted with customers, etc.
The entertainment was OK. The cruise director did a great job. The guests seemed to offer more comedy and entertainment than the ship. The few headliner shows were geared toward the 60 and over crowd, short, boring.
The most positive note was that my 15 yr old did meet up with a few kids his own age, and had a good time. RC started the kids club with an hour our of free arcade and introduced them to the computer games. Other cruise lines seemed to lack in this area (Holland). I would not trade a much higher class cruise if my kid is going to sit bored in the cabin, so RC gets a 5 star rating in this area.
Overall, we did have a good time although my expectations were not met, the weather was good and it was nice to leave cold weather for the Bahamas. Not sure we will sail again with RC. I have heard to much hype about this cruise line, and it just did not meet my expectations.