Ease of Embarking & Disembarking
It has been said over and over via the reviews - but the ease of these procedures was truly amazing.
We decided to get adjourning rooms with my 2 teenage children (17 and 19). I am so happy we did. We found the rooms to be a little small (we had a balcony). However, they layout was very efficient and I found the "cubbies" in the panels and desk area to be very useful. Yes, the plugs were a little awkward, as has been mentioned in other reviews.
Trust me I know doing "pre-planning" before you get on the ship seems to be too much to handle with everything else we do prior to vacation, but I am so glad we did our "pre-crusing" planning. We booked shows, bought our bev. packages, signed our sports (flow rider) waivers, etc.. What a relief. We didn't see all the shows we signed up for (we missed 2) but it was well worth the effort. Because I had signed my son's waiver form for the flow rider before we left, he was "flow riding" the moment we left the dock. We also did our excursions, which we typically do and I always find it useful to have the tickets waiting in the cabin. Remember to bring the print out of the show reservations. There was a mess-up at one shows where they didn't show one of our friends pre-registered. It got resolved, but having the print-out would have been helpful.
I was amazed at the service and the friendly staff members. It is hard to imagine they could be so friendly and accommodating week after week. Especially with the demanding people that are on board (trust me we saw the same clowns everywhere). A special shout-out to our room steward - Dickinson - YOU ROCK. Mitch at Giovanni's was the best. We had an amazing time at Giovanni's.
Ok - if any of you want to have outstanding food throughout the cruise at all venues you are on the wrong cruise line. With that being said the food was never "awful" and there was plenty of variety. I found that we are creatures of habit so we tend to stay in the same areas (e.g,. Windjammers) but once we went out to the Park Cafe, the cafe near Guest Services on Dec 5 (main deck) or Boardwalk we found nothing was overly crowded and the food was decent and in some cases very good.
St.Thomas - loved the "Bones" St.Thomas/Honeymoon/Christmas Cove Tour. I have been on many of these snorkeling tours and they are all the same. Although, when I said that on the tour they weren't pleased. What was different was they were very friendly and the food was awesome. OK the "painkillers" weren't bad either or the fact there wasn't 50 people all snorkeling over each other.
St. Maarten - We took a cab to Sunset Beach (40 mins) to see the planes take off and land. It was the one thing we all wanted to see as my family and I had been to the island previously. I will only say that between the Royal Oasis, Tourist Information (when you get off the ship on port) and the taxi drivers - no one told us that the trip back could take 2.5 hrs!! Everyone said 40 mins there and 1 to 1.5hrs back. We timed it to give us 2hrs back..again, you don't want to be late for a shipping boarding call! I won't go into the story, but we were in a cab for 2.5hrs & technically MISSED the ship - we got to Port 15 mins late. It was frightening and beyond scary. The taxi drivers scam you by telling you after waiting at the traffic signals they can take you to the ship on time for another $5 pp. Unfortunately, we found that out after we got back onto the ship and after our taxi driver didn't plan the "scam" soon enough to actually get us back in time.
Bahamas - Don't do the Atlantis Beach Day - rip off.
We all found the pools to be disappointing. Too small and broken up. The pool/water area was so small that my friends and I tried not to go in them OR we immediately showered afterwards. Trust me, we saw people in the water for hours..Just saying.
IPhone rental. We were all excited to each get a phone so we could communicate and tell everyone where we were without walking and trying to find 1 person out of 6000 guests. If you are interested here are some tips to consider. 1) do it immediately on boarding as the line gets long; 2) don't expect it to work like a regular phone. They say it does, but our group had 10+ and trust us they don't. It is spotty in getting the call or text through at the time you submit it. However, with that being said there are positives. You can contact someone and they answer - imagine being able to call someone in your party and say come to the Opal Theatre or meet us for dinner, etc.. worth it! You can use the GPS in the phone to show where the person carrying the phone is located on this huge ship. I would find my family and others in a location at the pool and I would just head up there and not have to circle the decks. You can call their stateroom from the IPhone - no more hunting down the courtesy phone and finally there is a Cruise Compass that shows you all the activities - we used it to go from activity to activity. It is $30 a week so keep that in mind. For a mother of teenagers it was worth knowing where they were on the ship.
Finally on being crowded and facing the same clowns
None of us really found this to be a problem. There are a lot of places to go and do to avoid that irritation. Viking Lounge was wonderful for the views and peace and quiet it offered. My mother-in-law liked to sit up there and read better than the Library. Want to do the Flow rider or Zip Line? Do it the first 3 days as by the end of the third day everyone wants to do it. Everyone tends to workout, eat breakfast and get on elevators at the same time and the same location. We found by changing our routine (go somewhere other than Windjammer at 10am), walk up or down 2 flights of stairs if you can after/before a show, workout very early or late during the day you can avoid the irritations of crowds.
Overall we had a great time. As with any cruise there are pros and cons, but this was worth doing - at least once!