For our vacation this year, my husband and I went on a double-date vacation with our 2 best friends, another married couple. This was our first time on a cruise, and overall, we had a great time. We had a room with a window, which was cool because we could wake up and see the ocean every morning. We slept great every night -- I'm not sure if it was the huge, comfy bed, or the gentle rocking of the ocean that lulled us to sleep each night. Our friends had an interior room that overlooked the Promenade. The view was cool, but they said they could hear music late into the night, which was kind of annoying. The crowd on this cruise was mostly older, retired people (we are in our late 20s), but we didn't mind, since we are not the crazy, partying type anyway.
The first couple days leaving New Orleans, the weather was too chilly to be outside, so we got a little stir-crazy on the ship. The on-board activities that we most enjoyed were the ice skating show (even the men loved this -- it was very impressive!), the multiple hot tubs (the one inside the spa on deck 11 is free, big, and usually not crowded), and when the weather was good, the rock climbing wall and shuffleboard. One thing we did not discover until the last night was the "Jack and Kate" look-out spot at the front of the ship. You get to this spot from deck 4, by taking the stairs at the front. Check this out if you want some cool photos from the front of the ship!
There are a couple things that were not communicated clearly but are very important. One is that pool towels must be checked in by 7 p.m. the last night of your cruise, or else you will get charged $25 per towel. Another is if you are carrying out your own luggage, there is no need to go to one of the assigned check-out locations -- you just walk off the boat with your bags. We left at 8:30, which apparently was late for a self-check-out, so I would suggest leaving by 8:00 so that you beat the rush of people who are congregating for assisted check-out.
The food was pretty good for the most part. Not everything in Windjammer was fantastic, but I think that is to be expected of a buffet. Loved the fresh fruit, but the coffee was terrible! Espresso drinks on the promenade were good, so I am not sure why the drip coffee was so gross. Lunch and dinner in the main dining room were pretty consistently good, and the presentation was fabulous.
Of the three stops, the Grand Cayman was by far my favorite. We stopped at Jamaica first, and that was pretty scary. The vendors on the street were very aggressive and followed us around, hounding us to buy things. We were not prepared for this, and had not booked an excursion for Jamaica so that we could save some money. We ended up getting in a taxi with a somewhat sketchy driver who took us to Montego Bay, where we had to pay $5 each to go to the beach. The beach itself was nice and there was a small bar where we bought drinks, but I would recommend booking an excursion to avoid the hassle of finding things to do in Jamaica. Actually, I probably would recommend staying on the ship and having the pools all to yourself during the Jamaica stop. We spent $30 a person on the taxi ride and then the driver haggled with us at the end for more money so we really didn't save that much money after all.
The second stop, Grand Cayman, was like Heaven after coming from Jamaica. The ferry ride from the boat was pretty quick and we had booked the Shipwreck and Snorkel excursion. This was our first time snorkeling, and it was fantastic. The fish were so close, and the water was so clear. My husband had purchased an underwater camera (Nikon Coolpix, I think) that shot video, too, and we were glad we had this. After we snorkeled, we walked around a bit and ate at on the balcony of a restaurant and had a wonderful time walking down the main street. Wish we could have spent more time here. We will probably go back!
The last stop was Cozumel, which was also beautiful. We had booked the Mayan Jungle Horseback excursion, which was a lot of fun. The "jungle" turned out to really be a trail through a private ranch, but there definitely were Mayan ruins along the way, which were very cool. There are iguanas everywhere -- they are like the USA's squirrels. The horses didn't go fast, but our tour guide was great and we had a fun time. We walked around Cozumel afterwards, and got a snack at Cafe Cafe. The food was great, and we got to practice our Spanish skills with the gracious waitress.
Overall, we had a great time with Royal Caribbean and we probably will cruise again!