We drove to Port Canaveral the day before and stayed at the Country Inn & Suites where we were able to leave our car during the cruise and take their free shuttle to the port. We had a slight problem with check-in at the pier because I wanted to put my Grandson and his friend on my credit card. I'm sure I'm not the first to do this, but he acted as if it would destroy his entire process and tried to talk my daughter and son-in-law into putting my Grandson on their credit card. He wasted about 15 minutes lecturing us on how we were bogging down his process...????...After leaving him, we walked straight onto the ship.
We had 2 balcony cabins (my daughter and SIL in one; my other daughter and me in another; my 17-yr old Grandson and a friend in a Promenade cabin). We went to the WJ and had lunch..a tradition we can't skip, then checked out our dining location. We chose early dinner to give eveyone the opportunity to do their own thing after dinner. The guys were told they only had to have dinner with us and they quickly excused themselves after dinner each evening.
Anyone under 18 is not allowed to leave the ship without an adult, so they were again forced to depend on us to leave the ship. This is a great safety measure as far as we are concerned. They don't have to have the adult to return to the ship, which is also nice to know.
Our first day was a day at sea. We used the day to sun out by the pool and to hit the shops. Deck 12 overlooks the pool and has the BEST breezes so we were always cool, never crowded and bar service was fabulous. Hold onto your hats because the breeze will snap it right off your head. My daughters and I always have lunch in the MDR on sea days because of the Tutti Salad..another tradition (LOL). It's just too good to be called a salad!!!
We had previously been to all the islands, but we had a first-time cruiser with us. My Grandson's friend had never been on a cruise before so he wanted to see everything. Our first stop was Labadee. It had been several years since we had visited Labadee and it was everything and more than we remembered. We took a mid-morning exit to the island and found it to be as beautiful as ever. We strolled to the Dragon's Breath and took some gorgeous photos. We used the beach and we let the golf carts/trolleys pick us up and drop us off several times during the day. We bought a few trinkets from the vendors. The vendors were polite and didn't bother us and Haiti has faced so much, we couldn't bring ourselves to haggle over any of the prices. Lunch was the typical BBQ, but we were surprised to see there were no long lines and plenty of room to sit and eat. We couldn't leave without having a Labadoozie drink..another tradition we can't skip. I love watching the stragglers heading back to the ship. It was surprising how many people didn't even head to the ship until they were late and had to be herded off the island by the crew.
Falmouth was our next stop. Jamaica has never been a favorite, but Falmouth was a definite improvement. Strolling past the vendors it was shocking not to have anyone grabbing your arms, or pulling you to their stands and stalls. It's a long way from being complete, but construction is coming along and it was a nice relief. We didn't want to take the long trek on a bus to get to Dunns River Falls and since the teens didn't want to get up for an early trip, we opted out of any set plans. I do think it's a drawback to have to travel 45-60 minutes to get to anything other than a beach, and 20 minutes to a nice resort/beach.
Cozumel was hot and the vendors, after experiencing Falmouth were annoying so we bought less than we probably would have if we hadn't been hot and tired of being harrassed. We saw tons of people with a long list of prescription names buying up antibiotics, Retin A, etc. This seems to have become a very popular "souvenior" for this island. Grand Caymen, as always, is clean, fun and one of our favorites in spite of having to tender to arrive.
The ship was in great condition and we didn't experience any problems. Out of 10 RCCL cruises, our waiters were probably our favorite of any cruise so far. They were a perfect balance, in spite of the obstacles some guests presented. They maintained a smile, their patience and a wonderful attitude. The people at the table behind us had put all their children collective children at a separate table, which seems to be a new family tradition. They were oblivious to their small children wandering the dining room, even leaving and returning to the dining room and the chaos they played with the courses the waiters so patiently accomodated. I excused myself to go to the restroom one evening and saw 3 of the little boys rolling down the staircase over each other while 2 others were racing around the columns and knocking into people. A maintenance worker was almost knocked over and he asked them to please stop rolling down the stairs. Never once did I see the parents even acknowledge that they had left the table or that they were misbehaving.
Our food was good and we were able to get all of our favorites at some point during the week. We made a nightly "contribution" in the casino and actually broke even by the end of the week, which we consider WINNING.
We saw one show (the magician), the ice show (fabulous) and the Quest (hilarious). This was our final cruise before achieving Diamond C&A status, but we didn't attend any of the events. The coupon book was pretty slim, although we still appreciated getting the 2 for 1 milkshake coupons for Johnny Rockets and the 2 for 1 wine or beer coupons. We bought a few things at the Logo shop, but because they were considered on sale, the 25% off coupon couldn't be used, which I think is a little petty but it wasn't a deal breaker. The biggest crowd we saw on the entire cruise was the night they had the sale on the watches. You would have thought they were giving them away so we were able to avoid that and find a quiet spot to have a snack at the Promenade Cafe during the frenzy.
We honestly didn't encounter any long lines during the entire week. We were always able to find a table in the WJ. The waiters were always asking about drinks or taking away dirty plates. Service was fabulous all over the ship. Our cabin steward kept the cabin perfectly spotless. It was actually easy to find loungers (shocking, I know), and even the elevators didn't present a problem. The FlowRider was great to watch and everyone looked like they were having a blast. Even though there was a short line at the FlowRider and Rock Climbing wall, it wasn't long and moved quickly.
I can't imagine anyone not being happy on this cruise or this ship, even though I've seen reviews that said otherwise. We had an amazing, relaxing, fun-filled week. Our first-timer on the cruise is determined to cruise again and said it was the best vacation he's ever had in his life.
We booked a cruise to the E Med while on board and we are already busy planning next summer's cruise on Navigator of the Seas!!!