We flew in a day early on Southwest(off topic, but I swear they are the BEST airline - always at last 10 minutes early anywhere) and stayed a night at the Doubletree on Cocoa Beach. We have stayed before on Cocoa Beach and previously always stayed at the Hilton. We should have again because the Doubletree is a bit of a disappointment. Note that all of the beachfront hotels in Cocoa Beach are somewhat run-down, the only passable one really is the Hilton. We used Cocoa Beach Shuttle service and would NOT use them again, they are EXTREMELY disorganized/late and even graced us with a story about how their driver had rolled one of their towncars on a job a few days earlier (yikes) Yes, they are cheap, but I'd never use them again.
On to the cruise :-) We got to the terminal at around 11:00 am and got on board within 30 minutes. Check in was very fast and easy, they had padded chairs waiting for us to sit in to wait to board, smoothest I'd ever been through - Royal Caribbean was already making a good impression. Once on board we didn't go to the Windjammer because EVERYONE was, so we sat down at Sorrentos and had pizza, it was nearly empty and tasted great. Also, to back track a bit when I saw the promenade for the first time I was Floored by how beautiful it was!! Royal Caribbean does not cut corners and their designs and crowd control methods are impeccable!
Right on time at 1:00 our room was ready, we had a D1 balcony, somewhat aft and it smelled clean and looks awesome when we arrived. Our cabin steward Gregory was amazing and left us towel animals every night (even a hilarious, very advanced one with many props one night). He was a wonderful highlight of the trip. Room was big with lots of storage, showers are powerful and awesome with real doors! The walls seemed thin (thank God we had quiet neighbors) and I did hear a lot of creaking at night from various sources, it was minor, but more noticable than other cruises. Overall we LOVED our room and roomy balcony.
I've read many complaints about the food but personally it's what I expected. I liked everything I tried and thought there was much variety. Was it a 5 star restaurant - no, but I thought everything was well prepared and most important served quickly and accurately. In the Windjammer there was always a table, no lines, no wait. We sailed with Princess on a much smaller ship and they were awful, no proper crowd flow - completely disorganized but not Royal, they KNEW exactly what they were doing and executed in perfectly. I was UBER impressed.
The entertainment was much better than anything I'd experienced previously on a cruise. The "Once upon a time" show is not to be missed. The Ice Show is something I would have paid money to see on my own outside of a cruise enviornment - absolutely awesome! Graham Seymour is funny and sings Snow Patrols "Chasing Cars" in the finale (made me cry). We saw all shows except one. They were all goo but the 3 mentioned above we not to be missed!!
Honestly, when we cruise, we do so to see many places for a good value and to be out on the open seas. On my previous cruises the whole "cruise enviornment" really wasn't my things but RCCL has changed my mind. I loved the feel on board and will be VERY reluctant to try any other cruiseline ever again (except maybe Celebrity with is owned by RCCL). I just have to say it again, if you've had a bad experience with other lines, try Royal - they are different and have cruising down to a science.
As far as ports, it's all relative.
CocoCay was beautiful, clear water, pretty, not great for swimming but fun because you can walk out like 1/4 mile and still be in knee deep water + plenty of chairs. Lunch was good there too.
St. Thomas I was not impressed, would avoid it in the future. City is dirty and not much to do. Although, Magens Bay was nice and the PERFECT place to swim, clear and the ocean bottom was like walking on carpet - NICE.
St. Maarten was awesome, could stay here a week. We went to Maho beach to see the planes and not only were the planes breathtaking and a complete blast, but they land over beautiful crystal bright blue water. Every ounce of water in St. Maarten was gorgeous!! City was clean and beautiful also.
Disembarkation was such a breeze. My jaw dropped at how I just waltzed right off the ship with No crowds, no pushing, no problems whatsoever. Our last cruise with Princess was a joke at disembarkation, people were literally fighting each other. Once again RCCL knows what they are doing and how to do it, they operate much like Disney as far as superior crowd control and quality.