We just got back from a 7 day cruise. Overall it was a good cruise, although I'm not sure that I'd want to go on this ship again. I went with my husband and 3 year old son as well as my parents, in-laws, and aunt and uncle. My 3 year old son is autistic (high functioning) so that did affect our experience as he is on a special diet and affected our willingness to leave him at the children's center.
Here are the positives:
* Embarkation - Embarkation was the fastest and most efficient of any cruise I've ever been on. It took us less than 20 minutes to get on board.
* The aqua show was amazing. My son, who generally never makes it through a show, watched it twice.
* The ship had a lot for my son to do. He loved the splash area and the carousel.
* With so many passengers on board, I expected everything to feel really crowded. Other than having difficulty getting elevators on occasion and finding a seat during peak breakfast times at the Windjammer, we rarely had a problem with the crowds.
* We thought the food was really good, even at the buffet.
* There were several pools and hot tubs and they were well laid out. This is the first cruise I've been on where we were always able to find a lounge chair, even during the busiest parts of the day.
* My son is on a gluten free diet and cannot drink regular milk. I wound up bringing his almond milk on board with me and I was glad I did. It was a source of constant frustration for us as they had very few kid-friendly gluten free options and it took quite some time to get anything made for him. He wound up eating peanut butter on gluten free bread for more of his meals than I felt comfortable with. We had notified our travel agent, filled out their on-line form, and I called RCL before we left. We also informed the waitstaff but there was never a coherent system. We were told that the only gluten free fries were at Johnny Rockets (which there is a charge for lunch). The morning of debarkation we went to the dining room. We were informed there was NO milk alternative (like soy, rice, etc) that morning. We ordered him gluten free French toast which we had done before and was told it would take 15 minutes (not a problem). 20 minutes later we were informed that they could not do it and that the only option for him was a scrambled egg. When we complained, they did make it for him. It was clear to us that they just didn't want to take the time to do it for him. I talked to another family whose son has a gluten allergy and found out that he had been getting fries, dairy free "ice cream" and other foods all week long because they knew who to talk to. I wish that we had known this because it would have saved us a lot of frustration.
* We did not feel comfortable leaving our son in the kid's club. On one day that we visited, we noticed that there were 2 staff people to 25 3-5 year olds, and one of the staff was involved helping a child who had just had a potty accident. We felt like for this age group it was just too many kids to staff ratio.
* The deck surface around the pools are extremely slippery, way more than the average pool surface. My son continually fell. At one point my son fell and was crying and while my husband was comforting him a staff person walked by and said "no running" (he wasn't). Definitely not helpful at that moment!
* Disembarkation took a really long time (almost 1.5 hours from when we started leaving the ship) although I don't think that was necessarily RCL's fault. Customs was very backed up as there weren't enough agents to handle the crowd.
Couple of tips -
* We found out by accident that you have to specifically order your luggage tags on-line, I think 30 days before the trip. Most cruise lines simply mail them to you.
* If you have someone in your party on a special diet, definitely make sure you speak to the maitre d' and pre-order your meals.
* Most people avoided the "splash zone" for the aqua show, but we didn't get wet on the last bench at all and had a close-up view of the show.
Overall it was a really nice cruise, and we enjoyed the experience. Although to be honest I don't feel the need to do it again.