First off you have to say that this ship is amazing..you will be instantly wowed by the sheer beauty of the ships interior spaces, artwork etc. She sails with a capacity of around 5,000 passengers. Our boarding was so seamless we thought we were dreaming. From the time we hit Port Everglades and dropped off our bags to entering the ship was maybe 20 mins or less. The service at the port was wonderful. Once we entered the ship we waited in the Bow & Stern pub for the remainder of our party and were warmly greeted by the bar staff there. My hub went over to the Pizza restaurant and got a couple of slices while we waited, delicioso. Perfect entry.
For a ship with 5,000 passengers I have to say that we never felt overcrowded. There are so many venues that the passengers are spread out all over the ship. When in port the shows, The Boardwalk, Central Park, and the Promenade and the pool and sports areas all hold hundreds of people. All of the shows were unbelievably good. Don't miss the Aqua Show! The Ice Show was good but I didn't quite get the juxtaposition of sea creatures and Monopoly but figured they had the costumes and figured they needed to use them. Also, Blue Planet really (again) amazing. We could not get tickets to Chicago or the Comedy shows and didn't know that the show rarely fill and we probably could have gotten in. The headliner show was Earl Turner and we loved that show also. If you are lucky, he'll be there for you. Make your show reservation ahead if you can (we could never get into the website to do it). They fill up fast and there are multiple opportunities for each show. The 70's show in Royal Promenade is also a don't miss whether young or old, everyone had a blast.
Getting on and off ship in ports was also a breeze. I've had more trouble getting on/off on much smaller ships. We didn't depart in Nassau since we've been there 5 times in the last few years and took that time to explore the ship. In St. Thomas we did the KonTiki tour which I liked and my hub hated. A rather annoying calypso band....band okay, singer annoying. I can't recommend it, but they are just restarting and may get better with time. There were few passengers on this tour, possibly 30. In St. Maarten we did the America's Cup sail and I have to say that this for us was the most amazing thing we have EVER done in our 10 plus cruise. You are given a crew position and participate in a 3 boat America's Cup style sailboat race. One minute you are standing up looking straight down at the water and the next you are on your back mere inches from the water. We always felt safe, and life jackets are avail for those who may be nervous. There are small motorized boats that follow. No one on our boat used a jacket. The captains are very experienced and we learned a lot, won the race - cool. You should be in reasonably good condition, hub and I are 64 and 62 and had only minimal problems going from the transport to the sailboat, after that a breeze.
The food at the dining room was very good, no excellent, but very good Cruise fare. RCL has the same menu on every ship and we are ready for a change here. 7 cruises in the last couple of years and I can tell you what's on the menu without looking. Anyway - we went to the Samba grill one night - Brazillian steak house and protein heavy. All the meats seemed to have the same seasoning but everything was good and we were entertained by a beautiful Samba dancer with a huge headdress - don't know how she danced with that on her head. She got several people from our table to dance with her - myself included. Our waiter that night Juan Carlos, had been our asst. waiter on the Jewel and we were so pleased to see him again. What a sweetie. We were little disappointed in Chops. It was okay but had better service on other ships. The creme brulee which arrived aflame was a hit.
Lunch fare was pretty typical at all the venues. Burgers, Salads etc. We ate at Rita's Cantina one time (lunch) and with a couple of margaritas the bill was over $55!!! Beware the prices aren't on the menu for drinks and it would be easy to do a $50 lunch. Okay let's talk drinks - Beer prices were no higher that most restaurant, mixed drinks about $6.25, wine prices depend on the brand. I didn't think it was terrible, except for the $9.00 regular size Margaritas at Rita's. We also did Johnny Rockets once, not worth it. About $13 with gratuity.
Now for Breakfast - oy! the worst. Rarely was anything we ate in the dining room or Windjammer hot, or even warm. We retreated to Central Park to the Deli a couple of days and it was better, but not great. How can anyone screw up a bagel. They also serve pannini type sandwiches, again not really hot. Your best bet is actually room service. At least the coffee always arrived hot, it was almost never hot anywhere else.
Leaving the ship was also a breeze. When they called our luggage numbers at about 7:50 - we were in our car at the Park and Cruise and on our way by 8:30 and that's no joke. Unbelievably fast right? Again seamless reentry into our little Florida world. Can't say enough about how effortless the Port was to embark and disembark. And we were worried.....
We had a lovely balcony room overlooking The Boardwalk. We could see the Aqua Theater shows from our room, and also The Boardwalk activities. If you are a high energy person and love commotion and noise during the day - this is a great spot to be so as to not miss anything happening...Sexiest man, Belly flop etc. I found it way to noisy (until about midnight some evenings, late Aqua Theater shows, and would probably take an Oceanside cabin if I go again. We had a view of the ocean but the noise level during the day was high and made it unenjoyable. Lots of screaming on the zip line and very, very loud music from the children's activities. We generally used the back deckchairs to read or relax. You could even hear the day music in the library on our floor (11).
One more thing before I sign off. We were amazed at the fact that there were more foreigners on the ship than American's. That is not usually the case and I'm not talking crew. People from South America, Germany, Russia, Asia, France to name but a few. We learned not to try and make pleasant conversation in elevators since most of the time they didn't speak English although many more spoke English than we spoke their language. Also better than 900 passengers under the age of 18. There were loads of activities on sea days for children.
The ship gets an over 4 out of 5 from me. We had a great time and would go again. That said I think I like the Freedom Class a little better, same venues on a slightly smaller scale and not quite as noisy. Also, the America's cup sail was such a highlight I'll talk about it for years.