We arrived the day before departure at the Raddison at the Port hotel. The negative for Florida would be the toll roads. My word, they were everywhere and more being built! We drove for 10 hours, so encountering these at the end of our drive added to the frustration. The Radisson was very clean. The front hides the true size of the hotel. It's quite large. We were on the second floor overlooking the pool. Our room number was 8039, and we were on the second floor??? The pool area was lovely. There was a coy pond, waterfall over the pool, an outdoor bar, and a very tropical theme throughout. Our friends had a hot tub and sitting area in their suite and it was very nice. We purchased the port shuttle, allowing us to park at the hotel while on the cruise. Our friends flew into Orlando, and it was an easy, 40 minute or so trip, to pick them up. Numerous stores and restaurants were around the hotel. We shopped at Publix , ate at Beef O Bradys, and got pedicures at Diva Nails, all in the same shopping center. The morning of the shuttle was very organized. There was help with luggage, and a very friendly staff. We were given a receipt in yellow for our departing shuttle and a pink one for our return.
Boardin at the port was amazingly fast. We had our SetSailPass completed, which helped. From the time we arrived at the port until the time we set foot in our stateroom was approximately one hour. The FOTS is a huge ship, and there were over 4,000 guests. I consider one hour pretty amazing. The Wind Jammer was open and we went up for a bite and enjoyed being seated at the window 'people watching'. Once we launched, the entertainment began. There was Shrek, and all the cast dancing poolside. The huge television stayed on the main characters, so viewing was clear to everyone.
That evening we went to the main dining room for dinner. We were scheduled for the 6:00 seating. This is the second cruise for us on RCCL. Both times I have been seated next to a bus station. There were four in our party. A large group of children were seated at the table by the window. The room as a whole was quite loud with conversation. Being seated next to children playing "I Spy" to pass the time, didn't help the matter. The wait staff were very professional, and accommodating. The first night of food was not very good. We decided it was Day 1, and we agreed to not judge to soon.
Our room with a balcony was very nice. Keep in mind it was just the two of us, no children. We had our friends in the room next to us and the stateroom attendant removed the balcony divider between us. Even if the divider had not been opened, the size of the balcony was very nice. This was my first time to have a balcony, and I would definitely recommend it. The bathroom facilities, as with all ships, were tight. In particular, the shower is in the shape of a tube. You almost feel like 'beam me up, Scotty'. The doors are curved and open sliding left and right to let you enter. However, time in the shower is limited, so it is 'do-able.'
Coco Cay - This is the RCCL owned island in the Bahamas. For your enjoyment you could rent a jet ski, a floating mat, souvenir shop (only accepting cash), buy a massage, buy drinks, rent snorkel gear, etc. The lunch was included and the chairs and towels. Though there was suppose to be a nature walk, we never saw it. However, we were rained out on the island. Having said that, there was very limited cover providing protection. People were crowded around the bars trying to duck for cover. It was windy and pouring rain. Totally out of the control of RCCL, but the result was very long lines for the tender returning us to the ship. It could have been enjoyable, with doing nothing more than laying in the sun and enjoying lunch, had it not been rained out.
St Thomas - We chose Godfrey Tours. Having used them before, we felt confident in using them again. At the port ,there was a bit of confusion. We had trouble finding our guide. He was obviously perturbed. He seated us in a van, later sending someone to get us and change vans for the tour. The first stop was shopping. We enjoyed that for about an hour and then went to the pick up spot, waiting for the van to return. After some time, a young lady approached asking if we were waiting for Godfrey Tours. She informed us that they were running about 30 minutes late, which was not enough time for us to do much more than wait there for them to return. Once they arrived, they got an ear full from our fellow passengers. They were wanting to go to Magens Bay and had to return to the ship by a specific time for their son's activities. For my husband and I, though frustrated, the end result was a privately conducted tour for the two of us after dropping off the family to swim. It was quite enjoyable. We returned to Magen's Bay in time to get the others, and then went back to the ship. (The child made it in time)
St Maarten - We chose the Magical Highlight Tour through RCCL. It was a last-minute decision, but a good one. The morning started with a catamaran ride around the island, with explanation from the captain of what we were seeing. It was beautiful. Not a lot of people on board, gorgeous morning, nice breeze, and, if you were so inclined, the ever-famous rum punch was available. (At 8:30am!) For us, it was the perfect start to the day. Once back at the pier, an air conditioned van waited to give us the island tour. Again, very knowledgeable driver, and he allowed plenty of 'Kodak moments' for all. Shopping was available on both the Dutch and French side of the island, which was fun for me. I have souvenirs from both, now. We shopped the Havensight Mall briefly before paying for a water taxi to return us to the ship. ($4 pp)
Days At Sea - There is plenty to do, as with all cruise ships. However, given the size of FOTS, there's even more. Do not miss the ice skating show. Truly unbelievable . The rink is small, but the talent is huge. The difficulty level was high, without taking into account that they were on a moving ship. Our cruise director was Graham Seymour. If you ever see that he's the director for your cruise....book it. Hilarious morning shows, good stand- up comedian, and in general a funny man. Though the pool area was always full, there were plenty of places to find your own sunbathing area or escape. There was never a lack of food, of course, but there was also never a lack of something to do. Dancing, seminars, movies, scavenger hunts, cooking courses, napkin folding, towel animals, golf simulators, rock climbing wall, ice skating, Flo-Rider, basketball, adult dodge ball, soccer, ping pong, shuffle board, you name it.
Dining - Extra dollars were required for the specialty restaurants, though well worth it. Initially I was unsure of spending extra when we could eat in the main dining room with no additional charge. However, I found the food in the main dining room to be a 7 out of 10. Given the size of the ship, I personally feel there was a loss of quality for the quantity being fed. Also, there was the noise level, as I mentioned previously. Not true in the Portofino or Chops Grille. Five star service, impeccable presentation, great choices, fabulous food, and a quiet atmosphere. Were you to dine at a similar restaurant in your home town you would pay triple the price charged by these restaurants.
Disembarkation - again, surprisingly fast. We were on the Royal Promenade waiting for our number to be called at 8:15 and at 9:40 we had arrived via shuttle to our hotel, were in our car, and driving off the lot of the Raddison. Kudos to the staff of RCCL for having a remarkably organized system. There were people already standing, waiting to board, when we were on the Royal Promenade. Unbelievable.
Summary - No cruise is a bad cruise, in my opinion. They just all differ. Our experience on the FOTS was fabulous. However, for my personal taste, I would prefer a ship not quite so large. The noise level, and number of people could become bothersome. Having a balcony, allowed the escape from it all. So, all-in-all a perfect cruise. Excellent stateroom service, and a very friendly and accommodating staff. The disappointment is returning home and having to make your own bed again! I would definitely recommend FOTS to anyone considering this ship.