Prior to sailing we knew it was an 'older boat', and read the reviews that complained about decor, food, and other various things. But our overall impression after we got off the boat was very positive - almost everything was ... Read More
Prior to sailing we knew it was an 'older boat', and read the reviews that complained about decor, food, and other various things. But our overall impression after we got off the boat was very positive - almost everything was much better than we expected. These are just some random notes we made, and hopefully they'll be applicable after the boat comes back in May.
Much better than we though. On day 1 we headed to the Windjammer with everyone else, and weren't that impressed. After that meal every one we had was surprisingly good. Dining room menu has a range of options, from simple things like pasta all the way to salmon / lobster. Windjammer seems to be very popular for breakfast in the morning and I *strongly* recommend standing in line for an omelet, my wife and I felt it was one of the best things we had all week. Food at the Cafe Promenade was good, the dessert items are better than the cold sandwiches. The pizza there is also good, not great. That was really the theme - there was nothing 'other-worldly', yet we were very happy every time we were finished eating.
RC kind of tricks you into thinking that there's a lot of dining options on-board, when there's really not. For breakfast it's either the dining room or Windjammer. Lunch is Windjammer or Johnny Rockets. Dinner is Portofino, Dining Room, or Windjammer. On other ships we felt like there were 1 or 2 other places to check-out, and if we had taken the 9-night cruise I think it would've gotten tiring going to the same places. That said - there are a ton of bars. More on this later.
Lack of Staff
Unlike other cruises we've been on, it felt like there just weren't a lot of RC people around. On the pool deck, an attendant would walk by maybe once every 2 hours. No cocktail waiters walking around the pool (didn't matter to us). In the casino, while playing, it was extremely difficult to get a waiter - sometimes there was 1 person, most of the time it was no one (to the point where the dealers were apologizing).
As soon as you enter the casino, the musty smell hits and it's apparent the casino has that saturated smell. It didn't bother me but my wife avoided it. I spent all 5 nights in the casino, and just like anywhere else sometimes I was next to a smoker, other times i'd go 2 hours and not notice it.
We had a balcony on deck 8, almost middle of the ship. The RC booking agent recommended it and we were very happy with it. The balcony has two chairs, a small table, and made our room 'feel' larger. When facing west it was a great way to watch the sunset. The price difference was well worth it - an interior at the time of booking was $420/person for 5 nights and we paid right around $500 for a balcony, with a $200 on board credit.
This was the complaint we probably saw the most on Cruise Critic about this boat. There's some older art, some older carpets, and some strange color schemes. But who cares?! Seriously - isn't the food you're eating much more important that some statue that you think is not aesthetically pleasing? This seems to bother the older crowd, but we just thought it absolutely didn't matter in terms of enjoying the cruise. Feed us, throw out some decent entertainment, and add some consistently good service. That's what you're paying for.
My Time Dining
We thought also, before going, that it was odd when people would mention staff by name in their review. As in, shout out to so-and-so. We did MTD and on our first night we got a table for 2, with 2 servers who were absolutely fantastic. I'm not going to mention their names, but we requested that table for the remainder of the cruise and each night they were terrific. Fast, efficient, very friendly. Each dinner took no longer than 40 minutes. We told them on the last night how we had heard of dinners taking 2 hours, and they said that because they did a MTD section, the goal is to get people-in-and-out. All 4 of our meals were very good, although in hindsight I'd pay the 16 for the Filet upgrade.
Mixed bag here. The production shows are geared for the 55+ crowd, we were bored and left early a few times. But some of the late night entertainment was great; we had a terrific time at The Quest and the Love and Marriage show. Didn't go to ice skating because our slot time was 4pm on the At Sea day - didn't feel like leaving the sun for an ice show. The mini golf is nice, along with the other sports deck stuff. Be warned - the daytime entertainment schedule was really lacking, unless you like 45 minute seminars on buying Tanzanite. During the day we found almost nothing we wanted to go to.
This was a strange issue we had - bathrooms are on each deck, but they're in a different place each time. Signage is not good, and sometimes we'd wander from corner to corner trying to find where the bathroom door was hidden. There's bathrooms in the casino I didn't know about until the last day - because there were no signs saying "oh there's a bathroom around the corner"
4 levels of coffee. 1st level - room service coffee. If you order it, you get a full pitcher of coffee and some mugs. Maybe the worst coffee i've ever had. Something you'd expect to find in a tire store. 2nd level - coffee in the dining room. They've got large machines, it was always hot, and drinkable. 3rd level - Cafe Prominade features Seattle's Best, 24/7. Very, very good. They have mugs and to-go cups. *Tip*- bring your own travel mug on board, best way to grab coffee to go. 4th level - Starbucks. Also in Cafe Prominade is a fake-Starbucks, with about half the menu. Coffee was around $4, but it was incredibly good. The beans are ground right after you place your order. RC nailed this - you have choices depending on how particular you are.
We spent 2 mornings in the gym, getting there around 7:30. By 9am it was crowded and hard to find a machine. The room is facing foward, which in some cases means 'east', which means you are running into the sun. It's nice but would've been better to have some kind of shade to put down. They provide towels and wipes which was good. Also another good thing to bring a water bottle for.
Fees for Activities
Want to do yoga? That's a charge. Spin class? Charge. Johnny Rockets? $6 to get in, then $5 for any milkshake you want. Sports simulator? $40/hour. This isn't a complaint, just an observation - we saw additional fees more than expected.
Getting Off the Ship
Total mess. Self-assist is an all-morning disaster with confusing lines of everyone rolling their luggage through narrow spaces. 2000 people all wanting off at the same time. Very, very few RC staff around to direct which way a line is going and where it starts. Winding through the casino... through the palace.. everyone's angry and people blatantly cutting in line. Poor way to end a nice experience. We knew what to expect and it was still aggravating to watch un-managed chaos.
On the last night we bar-hopped and each bartender was very friendly (and poured very, very heavy). They want tips, and they want you to keep coming back to their bar. I ordered a vodka tonic and for $9 it was filled with Grey Goose then a splash of tonic. If you happen to have a balcony, we'd recommend being there for departure time in one of the ports - you can watch the 'Run-Of-Shame', people clearly late for the boat being cheered and booed for not having a watch. The promenade itself is good, but there needs to be more places to get food than bars to drink at. Who goes to an art auction on a cruise ship? On day 1 the elevators were very, very slow and after that we had no issue.
Had a terrible experience with Royal Caribbean's 'shopping' person in Cozumel. We were trying to negotiate some jewelry, and she intervenes to tell us that if we buy somewhere else it will be 'cartel jewelry' and we should pay full price for the item - actively working against us in this situation. I ignored her and the shop came down on their price, with no help from her.