We booked this cruise about a year and a half in advance, so as to get the best price. When we found about three weeks before the sail date that the price had dropped over $500 from what we paid, we contacted Royal Caribbean, but all they said was "too bad, so sad, our policy (of price guarantee) changed in 2010. So we ended up paying more than a thousand dollars more than we needed to. Needless to say, that left a bad taste in our mouths from the get-go.
Also, we have had 100 shares of RC stock for years, but they no longer allow the $100 onboard credit if you have received any other onboard credits. "Not valid with other offers?" Please. As if that's an "offer." If they had wanted to allow it, they could have. So it appears RC is less these days about "delivering the wow" and more about "delivering the moolah." We will adjust our behavior accordingly.
The ship itself, and the crew, did not disappoint us, fortunately. So much to do, so little time! Try as we might, we were unable to check off everything on our list. The thing that came to our mind often as we wandered the ship was "attention to detail." We never saw any indication of cutting corners. From the flow riders to the helipad, everything was spic and span, in good working order and with no evidence of wear.
Service has always been a hallmark on Royal Caribbean ships. Our cabin steward, Amos, was as good as any we've ever had, and our waiters in the dining room (early seating) were excellent: Dwight and Igede. I'm serious. Excellent service! The food was okay, not the best I've ever had, but still far surpassing your average chain restaurant.
Navigation around the ship was surprisingly easy, and the interactive boards worked really well. I wasn't able to get internet access until Wednesday due to network issues, but after that it worked fine. The in-room TV was slow and clunky, and horrible channel selection. I guess RC knows if you're in your cabin you're not spending money!
High points: Central Park, the Boardwalk, the Aqua Theatre, Solarium, Hairspray and the Headliners show -- I'm not usually an ABBA fan, but this group was great! The ice skating show was not as good as others I've seen, but I do have to single out the artist who told a story with a sandbox; I have never seen anything like that, it was amazing and very poignant!
The last day of the cruise we did the All Access tour that began at the Aqua Theatre, then took us to the galley, storage areas on I-95, crew quarters, the helipad, and finished on the bridge. Everyone was friendly and open to questions and we got some VERY interesting answers! We've done this tour on other ships and found it worthwhile. This one cost more than the others, but given that this is the largest ship afloat I guess that was okay. The swag was a little skimpy, though; what am I going to do with a kitchen apron?
Embarkation was a breeze, but debarking was a different story; we were not able to get off the ship until around 10:30 and due to a snafu with Customs stood in a huge line of thousands to get through security. There was one particularly brusque woman who was accusing people of not staying in line, but there had been no one off the gangplanks to tell us that there WAS a line, so it was just one big mob pouring off the ship.
Overall, Royal Caribbean built a great ship, and they maintain it and the crew is excellent. If their counterparts onshore hadn't been so money-grubbing, we'd have given the experience five stars, but it just sticks in my craw when they just keep saying to Crown & Anchor members how much they value our loyalty, but their actions indicate otherwise.