We booked a fly/cruise package in which Royal Caribbean put us up for a night in a Newark hotel - most welcome as we were able fully to catch up on sleep.
This was out fourth cruise with Royal Caribbean (usually we sail on other cruise lines), the second on this particular cruise on this ship. My overall impression is that many aspects are less good than previously.
The New York weather was cold with a penetrating wind. I had jokingly suggested to my wife we bring the jackets we were given on an Antarctic cruise.... a pity that was only a joke.
Boarding - passengers seemed left to find their own way to their cabins. We not only knew the way but directed several other lost looking passengers.
The ship was as before but a year older, in places somewhat grubbier than I remembered and the seams and joints on our balcony sere rustier. The cabin itself was excellent for its size and our steward was splendid. Outside temperatures steadily rose as the ship headed south and by day three we were in shorts and thoroughly gloating at news reports from back home of motorways closed by snow. Our cabin was sited immediately above a point where a wave spreads out from the ship, and we could sit on our balcony with our eyes closed listening to the woosh-woosh of the ship pitching gently into the swell. Just like sitting on a beach in the Pacific listening to the breakers.
Three of the four islands on this cruise we have visited several times before. At Magans Bay on St Thomas swimming is good and the beach has areas of shade, At Haiti we took a 'schooner' ride to an offshore sandbar for more swimming, an excursion we thoroughly recommend.
Meals - we were scheduled to second sitting in the main dining room but only attended three times. The food (reduced to three courses now) did not impress. For our wedding anniversary we ate in the Italian restaurant - excellent, and for the two 'penguin' (formal) nights and four others we ate in the Windjammer buffet where one can select whatever takes ones fancy. Lunches we skipped, breakfasts we ate in a main restaurant.
Entertainment disappointed us.
The production shows were basically only 'prance and sing' each with a single set, and seemed not as good as previously. In the main theatre on other evenings there were single or double person acts of which none were bad but neither were they splendid.
We found trivia quizzes great fun.
We avoided the many promotional talks, art auctions, bingos, the casino.
In-cabin television was dire with, on many days, Fox as the only news source. (Cable News Network functioned on some days)
Overall: good in parts although far from perfect, but if you want to get away from a northern hemisphere winter for ten days or so to an active and fairly high class 'full board' hotel which has the added advantage of floating down to some delightful Caribbean islands, this holiday is competitively priced.