This was my second cruise, and my husband's first. I was on the Epic last Sept, and while I enjoyed my cruise, I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be.
This time...WOW! From getting on the ship - maybe 5 minutes, we got on around 2:00 pm, so it was later in the day...but every window was open, the agents were waiting for you. So refreshing!
You enter on directly to the Royal Promenade. We were hungry, so went upstairs to the Windjammer, the buffet restaurant. The elevators at the front of the ship are all clear glass for most floors, so you get a birds eye view of it all. There are 8 elevators in the front, and 8 in the rear. We only had to wait more than 5 minutes once during our entire stay, and that was just as embarkation from Cozumel was finishing - otherwise no wait at all.
The Windjammer is busy, and there does not really seem to be enough seating...we went several times during the trip, and always had to really hunt down a table during prime time. We started finding a table, then getting our meal. Food was standard, though they had some great Indian food that we really liked. Everything very fresh, and the waiters were extremely helpful.
We had a superior ocean balcony room on deck 7, on the port side towards the front of the ship. It was handy to the elevators, but very quiet. The bed was towards the closet, and there was a big sofa and nice makeup/desk set up near the sliding glass doors. Lots of little nooks for storage. The bathroom was a good size, and having been on the Epic(the bathroom/shower in a rather open concept) it was nice to have privacy.
We took time to explore the ship - incredible. The neighborhoods(Royal Promenade, Central Park, Boardwalk) were so different...you hardly felt you were on the same ship. The open decks on 15 and 16 were very easy to walk through. Our favorite favorite spot came to be the Solarium...16 and over only. It was quiet, had sun, shade, lovely wicker furniture, a great bar, and a "more healthy" buffet. We probably spent the majority of our "lying around" time there.
The shows were...amazing. Again, after the entertainment on Epic, I was not expecting too much. Was I wrong! Anything we saw, from the Dreamworks parade to the headliner show to OceanAria to Chicago was excellent. The Comedians were funny, it was all spectacular. I felt I was in a mini Vegas. We did gamble, and yes, while only one side was smoking, the smoke did drift over...but we expected that.
The food...again, I have to think Epic...I booked 2 specialty restaurants on the ship, but we enjoyed the Main dining room so much, I canceled one of them. I had the duck one night...it was crispy on the outside, moist on the inside...the way duck is supposed to be but not regularly served that way. I had lamb twice, both delicious. My husband raved about the steak, and one lady at our table ate the Indian specialty every night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The starters were great...I had hot soup most nights, then discovered the cold soup...so started ordering both. We booked the wine package...with 25% off, it was worth it, and anything undrank they would open it and you could bring it back to your cabin. The desserts were all excellent. We enjoyed both formal nights - when do you ever get dressed up nowadays? Though the tuxedos and some of the long dresses were...way too much for us...but to each their own.
We did go the the Brazilian restaurant, Samba - you really had to be a carnivore to enjoy it, too much meat for me but extremely tasty. Don't think I would do it again, though.
We stopped at Labaddee, be very careful when you go by the peddlars, they are kept to one side by the ship's people, but if they get your arm, they hold on to it very tight. Their initial "suggestions" for price are downright ridiculous.
Labaddee still needs some final touches, but I am sure it will be a lovely spot someday. Falmouth is still way way under construction. I would recommend booking a excursion in Jamaica, we didn't but did take the free shuttle to the Rose Hall shops, and were glad to get out of Falmouth. Again, it will be lovely someday...though I think it will actually become disneyified, if they are not careful.
Our only bad experience of the entire cruise was with our excursion to Cozumel. I really had hoped to do some shopping,and we booked a tour that would let us off at the shops at noon. When we went down to leave the ship at 8:30, they were not yet docked, and told us to return at 9:00. I think they finished docking at 8:45 or so, but we waited until 9:00, and thus missed our excursion. RCL immediately booked us with another excursion, so we ended up going to the Mexican miniature park and the water park, and were only finished at 2:00 and by that time too hot and tired. So it wasn't really a bad experience, just not what we wanted.
Our room attendant was excellent...I ran out of ice and just went down to get some, he was so upset..."no no, you call me, that is what I do for you" - very kind and helpful.
I did find the ship announcements by the Captain to be very hard to hear, no matter where you were.
The clubs and venues to find a drink were great, we loved the little English pub style club on the Royal Promenade. It was funny because often there was no one at some of the bars before midnight.
The children all seemed to enjoy themselves(other people's, not mine...she was home writing exams), so I would think it would be a good place for kids.
Disembarkation was a breeze, perhaps 10 minutes, and that was being out by 8:15 am.
I am now RCL's for life, cannot wait to go back. We will try a smaller ship next time, as the pace is hectic(you make it hectic, because there is so much to do and see), and we could have done with a little more R and R.