Background Information: We are a middle-aged childless couple, and we like to go on a cruise at least once a year. Having not yet been to the Caribbean, the RCI 7-night Eastern Caribbean seemed right up our alley. Plus we could check out one of the largest cruise ships in the world.
Hotel and Embarkation: We stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66 a couple days before the cruise. Very nice because it is very close to Port Everglades. Embarkation was the best we had experienced. I can't believe how quickly they got 6000+ travelers on the boat with short lines and little waiting.
The ship in general: It's ginormous! A huge plaza on the 5th floor called the Royal Promenade housed many shops, restaurants, and bars. The 8th floor had a beautiful outdoor courtyard with more restaurants, shops, and an awesome wine and tapas bar, Vintages. The 6th floor had an outside area with shops and restaurants primarily oriented for kids.
Stateroom: We had one of the port side balcony staterooms on the 12th floor, #12156. The room was very nice, with a flat screen TV and a very comfortable bed. The balcony was spacious, definitely the best we have had on a cruise. The AC outlets are under the vanity/desk; so bring an extension cord to make access a little easier. The shower was a tad small, but the water was plentiful and the temp didn't fluctuate like it has on other ships. The closet was very close to the bed, which made access somewhat cumbersome. However, the stateroom, overall, was very nice.
Main Dining Room: The food in the main dining room was terrible. It was mediocre at best and sometimes even unpalatable. We were VERY disappointed with the main dining room. Gravy on prime rib!? Are you kidding me?! Beef "stroganoff" with sticky rice instead of noodles...and dill pickle slices (they called them "cucumbers", which is technically true, I guess)?! Okay, where's the hidden camera, because we must be on a gag TV show!
The buffet: This is another free dining option, but it seemed smaller than those on other cruises. It was severely packed during dining hours unless you got there right when they opened. The quality of the food was actually pretty decent.
The donut shop: Just horrible "donuts". Dry, not sweet, hardly the definition of a donut. No wonder they were complimentary.
For Fee Dining: I'm pretty sure RCI intentionally made the food in the complimentary dining options miserable to encourage everyone to pay extra at the specialty restaurants. The good news is the restaurants we went to were excellent. We had an excellent porterhouse and filet mignon at Chops Grill ($30 per person cover). Johnny Rockets had a $4 cover, where you could get a decent burger (way better than the buffet) and a shake. The sushi restaurant, Izumi, was excellent, and well worth the cost.
Service: Service was top notch everywhere on the ship.
Bars: We spent A LOT of time (and money) at the wine/tapas bar, Vintages. The wine selection was stupendous, and the tapas were good, too. Excellent electronica lounge music playing quietly in the background, which we loved. You can sit on the couches inside, or at a table outside in the Courtyard. We played quite a bit of cribbage there. Champagne is a bar on the Royal Promenade that had a great sparkling wine selection, along with a fun little caviar buffet. The pub, The Globe and Atlas, in the Royal Promenade had a decent beer selection for a cruise ship. There is an outdoor cigar bar on the 17th floor, which had all sorts of fun single malts and a decent cigar selection. The bartender up there, Julian, was a class act, and I became a very frequent customer of his :).
Pools: On sea days and in the evenings at port, they were jam packed. Decent seating was impossible to find, and each pool and hot tub was crowded with people. Because of this, we avoided the pools and hot tubs for the duration of the cruise.
Fitness: The gym was bigger and the equipment was in better condition than I've seen on other cruises. It gets packed though in the morning. Get in there around 2:30 PM on a sea day, and you'll have the gym to yourself. There's a smoothie bar in front of the gym and spa that I never tried, but they had great complimentary chicken wraps and sandwiches. The track was very large and separate from other activities; so you didn't have to deal with people crossing everywhere.
Activities and Entertainment: With RCI in cahoots with Dreamworks, there was an over-abundance of kid-oriented activities. Definitely not our thing. We should have seen that as a red flag before booking this cruise. Adult activities were few in comparison to other cruises. The comedy club was alright, but the headliner was not nearly as funny as the host or the opener. There was a bagpiper on board, which was a welcome surprise for us. However he had absolutely no showmanship. The water show at the theater was very entertaining. NO HIGH TEA? HOW CAN YOU HAVE A CRUISE WITH NO HIGH TEA!?!?!
Port & Shore Excursions: We learned quickly that the Eastern Caribbean ports are pretty dirty, similar to Baja ports. Atlantis in Nassau was fun to tour around a bit. We went snorkeling in St. Thomas with the shore excursion, "Caribbean Sail to Christmas & Honeymoon Coves - ST63". It was a blast and we highly recommend it! St. Maarten was anticlimactic.
Debarkation: Similar to embarkation, it was very easy. We sat in our designated lounge, and waited for our numbers to be called.