We really enjoyed this cruise! We were not sure what to expect given the size of the ship and the first few hours on board were less than re-assuring, but once we straightened out some issues and learned our way around it turned out very good. The ship is amazing with no lack of things to do. It was perfectly suited for our family of 4 with teenage kids and active adults. The ship caters to a wide variety of ages. You will get quite some exercise just from the walking it takes to get from one part of the ship to the next. The young child facilities are also extensive but I can not comment on them in detail since we did not make use of them. We would definitely consider this ship again taking into account the lessons learned below.
Lessons learned for the next time:
1. Request to be seated in one of the 2 annexes to the dining room. The main dining room was very, very noisy. We were moved to the back corner on Deck 3 and this was also acceptable. We did have to spend some time working with the dining room staff to find an acceptable location. This is where I would spend my time after first boarding to assure an acceptable dining experience.
2. Forget about the Royal Connect Iphones. We stood in line for 2 hours and the phones only worked sporadically. Don't waste your time or money on this!
3. Make sure you are booked for all the shows. They are all great! Don't miss some of the less advertised shows such as "Splish-Splash" (sounds like a kids show, but its not).
4. Our cabin was on the 14th floor ocean view, just below the pool deck. Nice view, but we did get some noise as items were moved on deck. I would target a lower floor.
Amazing ship with more to do and see than can be accomplished during a 7 night cruise.
Our basic ocean view balcony state room was of adequate size with adequate storage for 2 adults. The beds were very comfortable and the bathroom was also a good size.
All the staff we came in contact with were friendly, helpful, and tried their best to exceed our expectations and many of them did.
The shows are great with very professional casts.
The food in the main dining room was very good, also for lunch.
The specialty restaurants we tried (Chops Grille, Giovanni's Table) were excellent.
Fun to try the each of the many dining and drinking locales.
Even with a packed ship it did not "feel" overcrowded as long as some key areas were avoided during peak times (i.e. the Windjammer for a late breakfast). Even in areas like Central Park, the Boardwalk and the pool deck did not seem overcrowded. On sea days we sometimes questioned where all the people had gone.
Info available on ship screens and in-room TV regarding status of restaurant occupancy was very helpful.
Recreational facilities (Flowriders, Climbing Walls, etc) never had a long wait.
We never had an issue getting good seats at the shows (we did have reservations for all and showed up about 20 min before the start).
Getting on and off the ship was very quick and easy at every port.
Overall the ship was clean and staff was constantly working on keeping it this way.
Main dining room was very noisy. Outer corners were better and annexes were relatively quiet (best place in my opinion).
At peak times, the Windjammer was very busy and so was the Solarium dining. There are enough other dining options so this can be avoided.
Royal Connect Iphone distribution is a disaster and the phones aren't reliable.
Lack of privacy of the interior balcony staterooms. Our children had one of these and they would have been just as happy with just a window.
Being on the 14th floor, we did sometimes want to take an elevator. This could be an annoying experience since quite often it would stop at every floor. A cabin on a more central floor would probably have been a better choice for us.
We did not like the walking/running track. It is on deck 5 and quite long, but most of it is behind the life boats so view of the ocean is very limited. We much preferred the waking facilities on other ships that were more open or on one of the top decks.
I felt that our cabin was not cool enough at times. It seemed that our children's cabin was colder. I don't know if this had to do with their cabin facing Central Park and ours facing the ocean or if ours just had a bit of an issue.
Prices for photos are too high and I don't understand why they bother to print stacks of 8x10's with today's digital technology. They should consider not wasting all this paper and ink and using the savings to reduce the pricing. Overall they would come out ahead. We did like the filing system very much where all your fotos are in a folder. No more hunting for my ugly mug on walls and walls of photos.
Food in the Windjammer and Solarium was OK.
The "Highly Acclaimed" Roast Beef Sandwiches at the Central Park Cafe are OK.
We had reservations at the Central Park Restaurant but the menu seemed very eclectic without much of a choice so we cancelled these and went to Giovanni's Table instead.
Charges for extras (Alcohol, pictures, etc) are always high with Royal Caribbean. We had a pretty sizable on-board credit which made this seem less annoying.
Labadee: Much improved from 3 years ago. The ship now docks instead of tender. We did the Zip-line which was fun but seemed significantly overpriced. Food was brought over from the ship for lunch. We're not much for hanging out at the beach (but it is a nice beach) so we went back to the ship and took advantage of short lines at the Flowrider and climbing wall.
Falmouth: Most tours head West past Montego Bay and we did not feel like sitting in a bus for 1+ hours so we just hung around the shops on the dock for a while and then again enjoyed an empty ship. Prices for jewelry and watches seemed very good (with some haggeling). We had done some whitewater rafting on a previous cruise that docked in Montego Bay and that was very exciting and highly recommended.
Cozumel: We have been here a few times so we decided to do the Royal Dolphin Swim at Chaakanaab. For some reason they were running behind and after our 30min orientation we had to wait another 45min for anything to start. Since people were starting to get annoyed, they took us to swim with the Manatees (not really part of our program) before swimming with the Dolphins. From that point on the experience was exciting and fun and we would recommend it. I booked this over the internet and received a 25% discount.
I would definitely say that this is not a ship for everyone and for us the goal was more to focus on what the ship had to offer vs. what the destinations had to offer. We are also familiar with Royal Caribbean and were prepared for the typical extra charges and did not mind spending a bit extra for the specialty restaurants. With this approach and our family being very active and not looking for peace and quiet (which we could find on our balcony) this ship suited us well.