This was our First RC Cruise, but we have taken 3 cruises previously on Disney so most of the comparisons that I have are from sailing with Disney.
We arrived at Orlando Airport and were promptly escorted to a bus and were in route to the cruise port. Embarking was fairly easy. The wait was about 10-15 minutes and the check in person was helpful. Once on the ship we had to wait until 1 PM for our room to be ready, which it was ready on time. The ship is beautiful. I was impressed with the size and space that it has for it's guests. One of the things that I liked most was the pool area. They had 3 large hot tubs and 2 small hot tubs in the kids area for use for kids and adults. Disney had one hot tub in the Adults Only area. Disney's pools are incredibly small. I had talked to someone on the staff at Disney about that and it is due to people's kids constantly going to the bathroom in the pools ( which is true, it happened to us three times in one day which was really gross ). Since RC is geared more to older kids ( I felt ) and they impose a 6 month age on kids using the pool areas, I felt that was controlled MUCH better. The pools were clean and large enough for my family to play in. This was one of our first stops on the cruise when we got on the boat was the pool area. I will also mention that the fitness area was great. Disneys gym as small and did not have sa selection of equiment that was good. This gym was large and clean and I really liked it.
The next stop was the food -- the Windjammer is the primary buffet area on the ship. I have mixed feelings about the food on this boat. As I mentioned, I sailed with Disney before and the food was SUPERB. I have to say that I was honestly not that impressed with the food on RC. Granted, there was a large selection of food but most of it was not impressive. The eggs always had that powdered eggs look and feel to them, the food was very bland and tasteless. I tried to look at the positive in that I was avoiding gaining weight on the boat! Lol We had MyTime Dining reservations. I have to say that the wait staff was AWESOME. We had Allan and Albert as our waiters and Albert did magic tricks for my daughter which she really enjoyed. The food however was less memorable. The first night I got there I had the steak which was so thin and overcooked I did not eat there for nights 2 and 3 ( keeping in mind for MyTime Dining you have to prepay your dining gratuities that we were now not using due to the sub par food ). On nights 2 and 3 we went to Johney Rockets which has a $4.95 per person fee for dinner which was not too bad but that segways to my next topic.
Nickel and Diming. That really doesn't usually grate on my nerves but on this boat there was SO much of it compared to Disney it was not what I had expected which I think caused the aggravation. On Disney, they have soda / water machines all over the boat and you can help yourself. On Royal Caribbean they wanted $4.95 a day for kids and $6.95 a day for adults to access the soda machines! Are you kidding me? You already have my $3000 + for a cruise and you are trying to rake in another $23.80 a day or $166 for a week for soda and water?? It is common knowledge that soda costs about 0.08 cents per gallon so would it really hurt to give your guests free beverages?? And, I would argue that they are not really "free" to give out since we have paid for the cruise! It went on for the entire cruise like that. We spent $12 for a floating mat at Haiti ( $6 on Disney ). I have too many examples to really list but it was pretty annoying to be shelling out $5 to ride a rollercoaster ( once ) at Haiti, $4 for a locker rental while you ride the $5 roller coaster at Haiti ,etc. The best one was the $25 fee they charge you per unreturned towel. Yes, you have to check your towels in and out on your vacation. If you need clean towels, you have to wait in the line as they keep track of how many towels you use and heaven forbid if you lose one or someone picks one up off your chair by accident, $25 is charged to your stateroom. Also, the Starbucks downstairs charges $4 for a medium coffee. They had a cupcake decorating class ( kids get to decorate ONE cupcake ) which was $15. It was really just too much. Also they have fitness classes - for $35 ( plus automatic 15% tip ) I did a half hour boot camp class which was fun, but not worth $35 for certain and most other cruises we have been on have free fitness classes.
As for the ports: Haiti was beautiful. I was a bit concerned at first about it being Haiti but it is a private Island and when I say "private island" it is HUGE. Disney's private Island I can walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. This place needed a trolley to take people around. We did the aqua park that is there ( $29 per person for an hour ) which was nice but I felt expensive for what we got. The water was nice and warm though at about 75 degrees. We also did the Dragons Breath Roller coaster. That was fun. It is a smaller coaster that holds 2 people. But again, it was $5 a ride or $49 PER PERSON for a day pass. For a rollercoaster. Better yet was that if you have a camera or anything you don't want to get stolen you have to rent a locker for $4 for the time you are on the coaster. Again, I don't think it would kill them to offer free locker rentals for usage while you are PAYING to ride their coaster. Overall the beaches though were beautiful and we loved the port. The other thing to mention is that the water park, where we were stationed most of the day, has people selling stuff in the area. Every time we went to the bathroom or get lunch or just walking around, someone was yelling "Madam, or Sir, we want to show you something, come here!" I lost count at about 15 times of hearing this. I was surprised that RC does not regulate this better. They were really harassing people -- I get that at work, I really don't need it on vacation!
The next port was Jamaica. Yuk Yuk and double Yuk is all I can really come up with for this. I am at a loss as to why this is a stop on the cruise. The island is really dirty ( burned out cars on the side of the road, boarded up windows, graffiti, wild animals running around the roads ). It really is a third world country and doesn't ring "tourist stop," on our meter. We would have been happy to stay on the boat in retrospect. We did the Dunns River Falls tour and the Dolphin Cove Tour. The Dunns River falls is nice. Again, bring money for water shoes ( $7 per person ) a locker ( $8 ) a guide ( $10 per person customary ) and to tip your driver and Dolphin Cove tour guide as well. The Falls are lovely. What I will say is that I felt it was misleading ( as a lot of the other parents I spoke with said ) in that it really is an activity for adults in good health, not elderly people or kids. I saw two older people fall and get nasty cuts on their legs as well as my having to spend the entire trip worried that my daughter might fall. Essentially you make a human chain up the falls which are slippery and I do feel that there is a good chance you could get hurt. It was very crowded the day that we went so it took us almost two hours to climb the area. Additionally, there are a lot of con artists in the part. For example, they would offer "free" beads to your child and when your child takes them and you walk away they follow you and start asking you why you can't "help a Jamaican man out." Most people get embarrassed and give them a few dollars. Another tactic was they would ask your name. When you respond they start carving it into a piece of wood so you feel obligated to buy it. It was just annoying and they were very loud and combative. Our next stop was Dolphin Cove, which is right across the street. One of the reasons that I say that Jamaica is not a tourist stop is this place. Compared to the other stops we had this was really not very nice. There were signs slintered off and broken, leaves matted all the paths, it was dirty and the staff was most unhelpful. We were told that we were getting a "delicious" buffet at Dolphin Cove and the food was Gross. And I mean gross. The hot dogs were some sort of bright red colored meat that was questionable and the hamburgers were grey and cold. The beverages consisted of a plastic cup with lukewarm soda. I was not impressed at all. After that we had a hour bus ride back to port where we bid Jamaica a final farewell.
The next day was the Cayman Islands. I really cannot say enough positive things about this place. It was clean, very tourist friendly and we had a great time. We did the Turtle Farm which was amazing. As others mentioned it is smaller but it is clean and a lot of fun for the kids. The pool area was very nice and well kept and I felt we could have spent much more time there than we did. The staff was very helpful as well. We bought tickets online and when we got to port we were just told that the free transportation they provide had left so they put us on one of the other busses for free to get us there. When we were leaving, a nice man helped us find a "bus" ( essentially their public transportation ) for $2.50 per person to take us back to the cruise port. From there we did the Reef and Wreck Snorkel through RC. This was an AMAZING time. It was only $29 per person and we got to snorkel two points, a wreck that sank in the 1800's and Cheeseburger reef. The reef was amazing. Some of the best snorkeling we have been on. The staff was all very nice and helpful and the boat was also a glass bottomed boat. It was a lot of fun here and a great stop on our itenary.
The next and final stop was Cozumel. We did the Xel-Ha excursion. Part of my frustration with this stop had to do with RC. We were only in port from 10-6:30, which sounds like a lot of time but instead of having the 500+ people who were on land excursions with them travel in groups, they decided it would be much wise to coral 500 people through the gangway at once. We were told to arrive at 9:45 at the Theater as a meeting point. Instead of having people arrive at 9:30 / 9:15 , etc and stagger getting them oriented and off the boat they instead had a massive inflow of people trying to exit the boat at one time. As a result we did not get off the boat until about 10:20. Then we had to take a ferry to the shore. We got on the ferry at 10:30 where we sat until 11:10 AM waiting for the stragglers!! Then it was 45 minutes on the ferry to the main land. From there we catch a bus to Xel --Ha ( now it is 12:15 when we arrive ) and we have until 4:30 to spend there!! This was our most expensive excursion and we thought the 10-6 time would actually be spent at the park ( crazy right? ) instead of waiting to get off the boat, waiting on the ferry, etc. Several other people on the tour complained about this as well. As for the park. WOW! It is amazing. If you get the chance to visit I would defiantly go ( and not book through Royal Caribean unless you like sitting for hours and waiting ). The park was BEAUTIFUL. It is big, about 3 miles long so there is a lot of space for people to walk around. The buffet and food was wonderful and I liked that it was all inclusive, which meant no fees for towels, snorkeling equipment, food, lockers, etc. It was a great value ( though expensive ) for what we got. The staff was all very nice, it was very clean and the kids area was amazing. They have a playground that is HUGE and an obstacle course for the kids. We enjoyed the zipline very much and all the other attractions. This is really a must see while in Cozumel!!
Our last day was at sea which was nice. We did attend some of the entertainment which was good, but not phenomenal. We liked the illusionist very much and the comedian was funny. The last comment I will make was about disembarking the ship. This was CHAOS. I think my basis of comparision comes from Disney but when we were with Disney, you have them your luggage and then when you get off the ship it is in nice numbered groups and you pick it up and go. Our flight was at 11 AM so I thought leaving at 8 would not be an issue. TIP: they did not tell us this but the way they work is with a numbered system. We were number 12. That means that our luggage would clear at 8:45. # 13 clears at 9 AM, and so on! I was in full fledged panic mode as I had no idea this was the system. I called down in the morning and they said there was nothing they could do to help. Furthermore, when you get downstairs to the luggage, it is all together on a conveyer belt like at the airport. It is not seperated into your number so you have luggage from group 12 mixed with group 2! What a mess! We finally found our luggage and got on the bus to the airport where we waited for 25 minutes before taking off. This got much worse when I got to the airport and the driver said that they had to unload all the luggage before we could get off the bus. Are you kidding me?? My flight was leaving in an hour and change and we have to wait for a full bus load of luggage to be unloaded by one person? We waited for 25 minutes on the bus before deciding to try to get off the bus to get help and found we were locked in the bus! Yes, the attendant was talking with another person and we had to sit on the bus steps for another 5 minutes before she let us out! When I told her that was unacceptable she said it was "policy" so we don't get hit by another bus pulling it. Huh?? We just barely made our flight and it added unnecessary stress. Had I known about this "policy" I would have taken a taxi.
Overall this was a nice cruise. Our stateroom attendant was very nice and we liked the cabin space as well. We would sail RC again but I think I would be better prepared in that my expectation of fees, etc was not consistent with what we expected. I think if you know that going in you may have a better experience.