Hubby booked a 12-day honeymoon cruise to the southern Caribbean for us through Royal Caribbean, a first cruise experience for me and his 13th. I have to say our time at sea and in each of the ports was far superior to anything I would have expected, and I'm ready to sail again via Royal Caribbean - without hesitation! I am sure I will leave out some of the important details while writing this review but will do my best to highlight what stood out for me.
It is incredible to see how quickly Royal Caribbean turns a ship and how efficiently they release 3500 passengers and then board new faces. The crew was attentive during this process, as we witnessed LOTS of friendly dispositions (I'm a "people watcher"). It's clear to see associates know the routine and that a "team" approach works well for this process. Although hubby said our port of embarkation (Bayonne, NJ) left something to be desired in comparison to other ports he'd sailed from over the years I was still impressed with the efficiency of how so many people were processed through in a short period of time.
We traveled to "Dizzy's Lounge" as the ship was leaving port so we could experience the excitement of "departure" the view of the New York/New Jersey harbor was beautiful. We met several CruiseCritic members who shared a seat at our table as we hit the high seas, so it was nice to put a CC screen name and face together where we could. Our lounge server was friendly, our drinks were delicious, and that brief experience set the stage for an experience I will always remember.
Although we ran into some motion a couple of nights because of rough seas the majority of the cruise was smooth. Our rear aft cabin was beautiful and roomy, and our big balcony allowed a view across the rear and the side of the ship, which was an incredible experience for me as we entered ad departed ports. The extra space on the balcony was great too, as was the experience of spending time outside while we were at sea. The ship, although dated in age (launched in 2000), still sparkles and shines with more grandeur than I had ever expected!
Our room attendant was friendly, over-efficient, and she provided our daily material in a timely manner. One of our more memorable moments was when I saw the first "towel animal" that was left on our bed with a chocolate bar and our daily planner - the associated story will be with hubby and I forevermore because I pretended to "bark" at the elephant that I thought looked like a dog (you would have had to have been there :-)
The cruise line did an excellent job of matching like-minded couples for our evening dinner experience, as we had a great time of fellowship with the other 3 couples. Our waiter and assistant waiter were incredible, as they treated us like royalty, and the food (except for one night's beef/steak experience) was excellent. The food in the Windjammer Restaurant buffet was also very good, and we even partook of a yummy burger/fries experience one evening at the Johnny Rockets Restaurant & found our server there to also be delightful. Even the drink servers on the pool deck had big smiles and wonderful attitudes - and they know how to dance too, as did our drinks server on Labadee, even though we had a soaking rain coming down at the time he was sharing his talents with us during lunch :-)
We did have an issue with the chemicals in one of the jacuzzi pools we frequented that caused my new bathing suit and hubby's trunks to wash out/fade. When we spoke with Guest Services about the issue and explained what happened they comped us a $200 credit on our account to offset the cost of the clothing. Thi whole process was handled at the time/point of contact so we didn't have to wait for compensation, nor did we have to worry about communicating with Royal Caribbean after the cruise was completed. I consider that whole experience a great show of First-Class Customer Service, not because we were comped the full credit of our bathing suits; rather, because associates took great care to make sure we were happy/satisfied with the outcome.
Our excursions were incredible (we snorkeled with stingrays and took in breathtaking views of the beach at Magens Bay and Orient Beach), and our portside shopping experience was extra special too (hubby blessed me with a beautiful faceted Ammolite pendant.) We toured a fascinating landmark at El Morro Fort in San Juan, and we experienced different cultures in each of our excursions. Even though we had a little rainy weather along the way, all in all the port experiences were exciting and memorable.
If we had a disappointment it was with some of the charges we had to incur over & above the cost of the cruise. A cover charge for Johnny Rockets and Portofino seemed unnecessary, and I would not purchase the soft drinks package again on future cruises because it requires you to carry around a special thermal container that identifies you as a participant in this program (I didn't like having to carry the container everywhere I went.)
I can't say enough to express my overall satisfaction with this first cruise experience. I am shopping now for another romance excursion for the two of us for 2012 and will definitely consider Royal Caribbean's line of ships in that process!!!