Embarcation was smooth and fast. The ship is huge and very wide, but somehow it always felt manageable. There are easy to use touch screen maps prominently displayed. Our cabin was very near the back of the boat, but it was just over 100 paces to the elevator, an easy walk as the elevators are at the front and back third rather than midship. The cabin bed and bedding were extremely comfortable. We slept well almost every night, better than at home. There was ample storage and closet space; the bathroom was fine.
DINING: We had fixed late seating. We found the meals in the Main Dining Room to be very enjoyable. We particularly liked the hot and cold soup selections and the Caesar salad. Desserts were generally OK but not their strong point.
The Windjammer, as has been noted in other reviews, was disappointing. The tables were too crowded; the food selection was generally unappealing. We only went there after boarding for lunch and another time for breakfast when we were running late for an excursion. On the other hand, the Solarium Bistro was outstanding. They had a delicious selection of healthy foods - vegetables, wraps, salads, fish, flavored waters. We wish that we could eat that way all the time. The Central Park Cafe also had a really nice lunch selection including salads assembled for you, a varied selection of sandwiches, and probably the best roast beef sandwich on the high seas. We also enjoyed breakfast in the MDR.
Our children treated us to dinner at 150 Central Park for our anniversary. This turned out to be one of the best meals we ever had. The 7 course degustation menu was superb, as was our service from Natalia. There was a bowl with 6 different salts to try, and yes, one tasted like egg salad. The cucumber martini, a signature cocktail of theirs, lived up to the hype. Just remember you can ask for free tap water rather than the bottled water they offered. At $40 a person, this meal was a steal.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment on this ship was top notch. We had seen Chicago on Broadway but enjoyed this production more, especially since we arrived at the theater in time to get front row seats. OceanAria was exciting and unique, most notably the high divers and the trampoline artists. The Ice Show, Monopoly, was fun as always. Blue Planet was technically noteworthy. The comedians were very good. The headliner show - the Tribute to the Temptations - was thoroughly entertaining. The Cruise Director, Alan Brooks, had a great sense of humor. This was especially evident at the Love & Marriage show. We booked all but one of the shows in advance at home online. The one we couldn't book online we booked right when we got on the ship, no problem. At first I was adverse to planning ahead what I was going to do, whether I would feel like a particular show at a particular time, but it worked out and it was a pleasure to be able to walk right in when they scanned our card.
ACTIVITIES: We really needed a rest before getting on this boat. So most of our activities consisted of relaxing at the Solarium, moving occasionally to different spots, turning a page in our books, or going for flavored water. This was the best Solarium we've ever had. It was spacious with different seating groups rather than rows of tightly packed lounge chairs. There were different types of chairs. The glass windbreakers allowed it to be bright and airy. If you looked up and could see the sun through the windbreaker glass, you were OK as far as being protected from the sun's harmful rays. It was very hot our week and the Solarium pool was very crowded. We wished either that the pool was bigger or that there had been a second pool instead of the numerous hot tubs. I was going to try the zip line but was so relaxed I never made it.
PORTS & SHORE EXCURSIONS: Our first port was Labadee and we have to say we were somewhat disappointed. We have been there twice before, when we had to tender. It was a pain to tender, but there were several swimming areas to choose from. The further one went the more secluded and less crowded it became. Now there is a pier, so no tendering is needed. However, the pier goes to the former furthest beach where we used to go, Dragon's Breath, which is no more. The next beach is only for gold card holders. So if you want to swim you pretty much go to Columbus Cove. The beach was nice but a lot of people go there. It became very crowded as people came by bus and water taxi. But when we tried to leave, there was a long wait for the tram and the water taxi was not running. When the tram finally came we were pretty close to the front of the line. But then people ran from the back of the line into the tram and we got the last two seats. This was very disconcerting and frustrating. Unfortunately, some of the guests that Royal Caribbean attracts are, how shall I say this, rude pigs. I suggest that Royal Caribbean make sure that there are sufficient trams, and also resume the water taxi after lunch to take passengers back to the ship. Do they also need security guards at the lines? I hope not.
The second port was Falmouth, Jamaica. The new pier area is nicely done. It was hot and we have been to nearby Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, so we decided to just walk around town. It is a poor town with some interesting things to see. We were given a map but there are few street signs. We gave up after a bit because it was so hot, and just went back to the ship. However, as always the Jamaican people were polite, friendly and charming.
Last was Cozumel. We usually go to the free beach, Mr. Sanchos. But at the urging of our son we did the Dolphin Encounter at Chankanaab National Park. We used the ship's excursion, which went very well with a nice guide, Diego. We loved swimming with a dolphin, with her baby also there. The sea lion show also was enjoyable. We did think that the park would have a good swimming beach as it was on the same strip as Mr. Sanchos', but it was more a snorkeling beach, however.
SERVICE: Every employee we dealt with was friendly, courteous and efficient.
DISEMBARCATION: We had an early flight; this was the first time we did self-checkout. From leaving our room to having our bags checked in at Fort Lauderdale Airport took a whopping 23 minutes. Terrific.
SUMMARY: My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this cruise for the good food, varied entertainment, spacious solarium, comfortable room and choice of activities. We would highly recommend it.