We had an aft cabin on deck 7. We were really looking forward to this since we had never booked an aft balcony. I couldn't find much information before we left about the aft balcony. We wanted it because we knew it was a bigger balcony and we could enjoy seeing where we've been. On our second day (a day at sea) we noticed black ashes on our towels on the lounge chairs as well as on our table (between the chairs). I initially thought that people on the top deck were smoking on the rear of the ship and their ashes were being dropped on our balcony. As the day went on though, we had more and more ashes. We finally figured out that it was coming from the smoke stack on the ship. We reported it to the Purser's and the agent looked at us like we were crazy. She said that no one else on the aft ship had reported anything (which is entirely possible, since it seemed that we were the only ones who actually used our balcony) and she had no idea what it could be. She said she could send someone out to look at it. They had scheduled someone, but they never showed up. On the 5th day, someone actually showed up and she said that they had never had this problem before, however, as my husband continued to question her she finally admitted that it "could" be coming from the smoke stack. What really aggravated us was the fact that everyone tried to deny that they had ever had this issue come up before. It was clear that it was the smoke stack because on the days that the wind blew in a different direction we had no ashes. On our last day, someone from customer care called and said that she had left a previous message for us (although we didn't have any messages). She had indicated that they hadn't had this problem before but was willing to give us a credit on a future cruise. Since we didn't know when we would be sailing again she offered us a $100 discount for this cruise. What annoyed us more than anything was the denial by all staff. If they would have just told us that this was a drawback to an aft cabin, we would have accepted that, but the fact that everyone acted like this had NEVER happened before really irritated us. It was not our objective to receive any compensation, just an acknowledgement that this occasionally occurred and explanation of why.
On a positive note, we LOVED our stateroom attendant and wait staff. Every time we ran into any crew members, they were always very pleasant.
The food in the Windjammer cafe was almost always the same. That was a disappointment. The menu in the dinning room was the same everyday, except for a different flavored "pancake of the day." This was fine for us because we LOVED the french toast and omelettes. The food in the dinning room for dinner was good and offered a good variety.
We felt VERY rushed to get off the ship on the last day. We got to port at 0530 (30 minutes early) and it was a very loud. The ship vibrated strongly as it felt that we came in and turned ourselves completely around. If the arrival hadn't woken us up, the numerous announcements made over the intercom definitely would have. We had asked previously if we could take our time getting off the ship, as we had no immediate plans for the day, and we were told that we had to pay to stay later than our departure time (which was assigned at 7am -- the first assigned departure). So, we left at our assigned time. Thankfully our local hotel checked us into our room at 0830 - that would never happen stateside.
So, overall we had a great vacation and enjoyed our ports of call. We were a little disappointed with Royal Caribbean (we had sailed with them before with no issues). We were happy to learn that the ship was going to dry dock after our cruise, a little updating would help spruce it up. We liked the fact that it was a smaller ship and we were able to recognize crew members and get familiar with them, however, a larger ship does offer more amenities and more to do. Again, we couldn't have asked for better stateroom attendants and waitstaff.