As far as great value and a great cruise experience - You can't beat Royal Caribbean. We have sailed many times with them and enjoy the friendliness and genuine desire of the staff to be helpful and solve any issues you may have. We will be sailing again with them soon. We also love the Celebrity and Azamara lines of the Royal Caribbean Fleet.
This time, we were part of a Group of 64 travelers who are residents of an Active Adult Resort Style Community in North Texas. We arrived by bus on Sunday, January 15th. Check-in lines were very long, but moved rather quickly through the process and we were on-board having lunch in less than 30 minutes. The rooms were not available until after 1:00 on the 7th deck. I understand that other decks were open earlier. Although I had requested an extension cord and distilled water with a "Special needs form", neither were delivered to the room. (We learned to pack an extension cord several trips ago-just in case). We told the room attendant - the 2nd day -that she could just cancel the request. Easier than trying to ask several times. She was friendly and accommodating without trying to be our best friend.
Dinner was on the 5th deck with "My Time" dining. We had booked reservations online for all 7 nts at 6:30. Our reservations were to be linked with another couple. This did not happen, so we had to go to the My Time desk and get the 2 reservations linked. Evidently, it does no good to set your reservations online - so be SURE to go to the My Time desk the first day and get your reservations documented. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
At 6:25, the lines were about 30 ft long for people trying to get seated. We were able to get into a much shorter line since we had reservations. Dinner service was very poor for us, the first night. Food was great, but it took over 2 1/2 hours to get out of the dining room and we were too late to go to the show. We requested another table and from then on, we had excellent service.
The meals were good and there were always several food choices. The food choices were fairly unimaginative, but with 3500 guests to serve, it was understandable.
The first 2 days were sea days and the activities onboard were varied and kept us entertained. The 3rd day was Roatan, Honduras. We took an island tour with Victor Bodden Tours. There wasn't much to see except the trees and the shoreline. We were told that Gumbalimba park was nice, but we did not see it. We did see the monkeys and iguanas. There is a mountain zip-line that looked great, but we did not do it. We felt safe on the island and everyone was very friendly. The prices/value of the tours they offer were very good. I would recommend Victor Bodden tours.
Belize city was the next stop. We took the Calypso train tour this time. Wished we had taken a van tour so we could have stopped at some of the places that we just drove past. The train was cheap & we wanted an overview. The swing bridge is only operated twice a day & we did not see it being opened. Back on the ship for a late lunch & quiet afternoon.
We have been to Cozumel several times, so we just did the shopping plaza and went back to the ship for the remainder of the day. Nothing much happens on the ship when you are in port & we found very little activity on board. We did the martini tasting with Elmer and thoroughly enjoyed the information AND the martinis. Elmer does a good job. We were going to attend the wine tasting, but it was $29. (plus tip) per person for the upscale? wines. Decided to pass & spend the $66 dollars on our own choice of bottles.
Final day was a sea day with lots going on. We enjoyed the "Art at Sea" and learned the basics of art collecting. There was no pressure to buy anything, so we just browsed and asked questions - and had a glass of champagne.
On Sunday morning, we were kept offshore by the heavy fog. The Galveston port was closed. We had to sit and wait for the fog to lift & that delayed the arrival in Galveston until 12:00. This was a 6 hour delay. When you imagine 3500 passengers milling around with nothing to do & all wanting to get off the ship, you begin to understand what it was like. They opened the Windjammer at 11:00 to feed everyone lunch. So we ate the lunch that was intended for the new passengers. To use the word chaos is not enough.
We finally got clearance to disembark at 12:30. There were lines of people everywhere. We had 3500 people trying to leave and another 3500 waiting to get on-board for the next departure. Their entry was postponed until after 4:00. Luggage was everywhere.
We were at the front of the departure line and arrived at the bus at 1:00 for our trip home. Unfortunately, several of the other passengers were enmeshed in the chaos and they did not get outside to the bus until 4:00. The 6 hour delay was frustrating, but unavoidable. I know that the crew had a rough time - trying to get the rooms cleaned and get registration changed over.
In retrospect, the cruise was fun and we had a good time with our group. We would do this trip again in a heartbeat. The cruise adage is "even a bad day at sea is better than a good day stuck at home"...
Words of advice: The promenade rooms were tiny and cramped for space. It is noisy when they do the disco night & the parade for about an hour. If you just want a cheap room and great food & a chance to "get away"- it would qualify as adequate. We won't do it again though. It's worth the price (for us) to get a larger room.
The reservations desk personnel were always friendly and helpful. They are well trained. The bar service personnel were excellent and friendly and wanted to be helpful. The windjammer waiters need more help and better training so they get the beverages to your table quicker. If you want a drink - it's probably faster to just go get it yourself. Windjammer was ALWAYS crowded.
The ship was clean but showing some age and needs an update. She is going in for dry dock in March. Probably much better after that. The elevator service was poor. Always waiting for elevators during the meal times. The up side of that was that we met several people waiting and had some great conversations while we waited.
Captain Per was less enthusiastic this time. He may need a break to regain his enthusiasm. I missed his humor in his briefings. The past 2 cruises with him were much more lively in the morning and evening updates. I'm sure the Costa disaster was weighing on the entire staff. I know that it was the topic of many conversations for the passengers. We were glad that we sailed with Royal rather than Carnival.