My family of 9 went. My husband and I (28 y.o no kids). My Brother and his wife (30 y.o with 3 kids) and my Parents (67 Y.o). So we can give you a broad overview of each family type. I wrote a lot, so I headlined everything so you jump to ... Read More
My family of 9 went. My husband and I (28 y.o no kids). My Brother and his wife (30 y.o with 3 kids) and my Parents (67 Y.o). So we can give you a broad overview of each family type. I wrote a lot, so I headlined everything so you jump to the part that is relevant to you.
LARGE GROUP REVIEW
We choose this cruise line 1.5 years ahead of time to celebrate my father retirement. We scheduled 1 big family excursion which was to swim with the Dolphins since my two younger nephews were limited with what they could do. In addition, we chose the Royal Caribbean because they had DreamWorks associated with it. With less than 6 months to go, they canceled both. So we all ended up doing something different in Saint Maarten. My mother took the younger kids for an excursion and my husband, brother, and sister in law did something different. Day of port they canceled the one with my mom and the kids again!!! This time because there was a protest going on near the French side of the island. They did not cancel ours, we talked to our tour guide who said they canceled over 100 peoples tours for no reason. She said the tour companies even told Royal Caribbean that the demonstrations were done a week ago. Overall, not a lot of tours for 5-12-year-olds. Dinner times sucked. It was 5:30 which tended to be literally right when you got back from the port or 8 which is way too late for people with children There needs to be a 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm time slot like Carnival or Norwegian has.
This cruises entertainment sucked. The shows we extremely below par. The fine line was an aqua show where everyone was out of synch. Reminded me of the Shark during the Superbowl. It was as if a bunch of HS hip hop kids wanted to do Cirque de Solie but had only a week of practice. It was like they were using actors from other shows as background dancers. For example, the divers from the water show were performing in the musicals. Some of these performers never took dancing classes and it showed. There was limited comedy clubs with no variety of performers. The only good show was the headliner (juggler) and the ice skaters. Also, they had reservations for shows which kind of worked like fast passes. This was stupid so I ended up signing us up for all of them and not showing up to some of them. Because who wants to plan everything out on a cruise. The adult pools were 16 and up but was never enforced. Do not expect this to be the place for 20- 30-year-olds with no kids.
Also for you, drinkers, DO NOT BUY THE BEVERAGE PACKAGE!! To make it worth it, you have to drink close to the max amount of drinkers per day (13) including excursion days. It appears to be worth it because they charge 18 for a drink. Here is my tip. Go on the website and send your room alcohol through Royal Caribbean. It comes with mixers such as sprite and coke. My mom had the refreshment package ( nonalcoholic mocktails since she likes pop and she would get us virgin pina coladas, which we made nonvirgin, with the rum we ordered to the room) We saved $500 and never ran out of booze. You also get to bring one bottle of wine per adult. We ended up taking 3 bottles of wine home (they were gifted to my brother's room complimentary and he doesn't drink). You think you are a drinker and its worth it, I am telling you my husband is a drinker (he makes his own beer since he drinks that much). In other words, I just can not see the drink package being worth it for anyone. Even if you don't get the refreshment package you can make screwdrivers with the free orange juice in the morning.
ADULTS WITH SMALL CHILDREN
My brother and his wife have a 3, 7, and 10 years old. This boat is for you if you have kids. It was very teenage-centric at night and kid-centric during the day. It had a carousel which I took the 3-year-old on many many many times. The 7 year old loved the kid play zone and went there almost every day. However, the play zone center did lose 3-year-olds clothes somehow. The credited my brother account for this. My brother said he would have rathered gone on the Disney cruise and thought the boat was not kid-centric however, I strongly disagree. His standards might be too high for cruises and kid stuff. Maybe he thought this because the plays were very adult orientated and the kid ones were more for the 3-year-old rather than the 7 and 10-year-olds. The sports activities were meant for teenagers so maybe the age 5-13 is not well represented. The tours for this age bracket was also very limited.
My father is very limited in his ability to move. There were very few activities he could do. Most cruise ships do tons of trivia for the older crowd. There was little to no trivia options compared to other ships. There were some, but most ships I have been on have them every other hour not just once every other day Also, my dad needed a scooter which they required to put in his room. However, how they designed the room made it extremely difficult to get it in. The bed was close to the door and there was very little space between the bed and the wall. As a result, they had to put it in the space between the bed and the bathroom which blocked the entire entrance and made it difficult to get up and go to the bathroom at night (especially for someone who needs a cane to walk).
1) Excursion: St. Maarten (RHINO RIDER)
After all the cancellation we did a Rhino Rider (Small JetSki Like Boats). We were to ride to the French part of the island and go to a beach called Happy Beach which is named that because its a nudist beach. My husband and I did this one buy our self. The jetski ride was cool, you get to see all the capsized boats from the hurricane and even saw a boat in the middle of the road near the coast. We had to follow the instructor to avoid all the sunken boats until we got to the other side. This was pretty cool, as some of the boats looked like they would be perfect for a horror film. We rode to the beach area where we were supposed to swim to the shore and have some time on the beach. I wanted to half participate (topless) in the Happy Beach but not like near people I had to ride back with. So we walked about 5 minutes from the boats down the shore. My husband stood on some rocks and say every one getting on the boats. We had only been there for 15 minutes top. We had to run back and get on the boats and go back. This was way too short!!! 15 minutes on the beach is not enough time even if you are just snorkeling. I have done other excursion where you get an hour or two on the beach. That is what I get for trying to replicate the Carnival experience I had the last cruise. The worst part was, there was no reason the excursion to be that short. We had plenty of time before the ship left (>3 hours). The reason they have it so short, was because the next tour was waiting to use our jetskis. Wow.... all about the money. When we got back to the boat company they had taken some photos that I wanted to check out and see if we wanted to buy. The bus driver was yelling at everyone to get on the bus before the photos even came out. AGAIN there was no reason for this as the ship did not leave for another 3 hours and it was a 20-minute bus ride back. I am not kidding on the rush I am 28 y.o and very healthy it was not like I was dicking around. The photos had not even been developed yet digitally. Overally, extremely rushed.
2) Hati (Luxurious Sail Yacht)
We were supposed to take a Yacht ride to a private beach for a swim but it was too windy so they just cruised around. The rum punch was unlimited so that was cool. It was pretty windy so I get why they diverted.
1) ST Maarteen
Typical Cruise Port Feel. Tons of Jewelry stores and souvenir shops. We did not mind this as it was the first port. We bought some local Rum that was confiscated and returned at the end of the cruise ( normal for cruises).
2) Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is its best port because it's the only non-cruise port location and has tons of history such as the building architect, town church, and forts. However, you only get to be at this port from 7 am 1:00 pm to see the town. I assume they do this because they don't own the city and money spent there, is not money in their pocket. Do not do the excursions, they are a waste of money. I knew this ahead of time because I have visited San Juan once before. The walking tours are a rip-off. My brother bought a walking tour since he has small kids (7&10) at first, but we convinced him to cancel it and we walked the city with him. In the end, he said something along the lines "They were charging $60/person for something you could do in 3 hours with two kids just by going to the information stand". Remember PR speaks English, your phone works 100% ( just like it would if you were in another state) and San Juan can be walked in less than 3 hours even with kids. You can google anything you need, just like you would if you were in a foreign city like NY, Chicago or San Fran. My biggest issue is that the time spent there is way short and they know it. I just filled out the survey for the Royal Caribbean and they asked about the amount spent at each port except the one in San Juan. I wonder why they don't care about the one, $$$$$.
This was the port we were most excited for since it was the only location we had not been to. They advertise this as Hati, but it really is just a peninsula of Hatti that they have rocked off from the rest of the land and commercialized. You were not allowed to leave their resort area. You are at a private resort where you can use your room card to buy everything because they own everything. They should not be allowed to call this Hati. The couple's cabanas were $100 for a small little umbrella-like structure and $500 for the bed like structure. I guess my bother did not know that you had to pay to use it, and accidentally used one during the day. So you could always try that. Do not rent the rafts they are of horrible quality for the price. I saw people try to use them and give up after an hour or so. The food was good though.
SPA & FITNESS
The three girls ( mom, sister in law and I) did the spa message with the seaweed treatment. Overpriced which is typical in cruises. We all 3 bought the products they pushed. However, I returned it because it was so overpriced and probably not worth it. My sister in law and mother followed shortly after. In other word do not feel like once you purchased something you are stuck with it.
In addition, on the first day, we received a free consultation for feet arches. My sister and law and I did it where they fitted us. They then said the inserts were $200, so I passed. My dad ended up doing it on day 3, and he paid 99 for the consultation and 99 for the inserts. Yeah, so that "free consultation" was not free but built into the cost of the shoes that my dad got for $99
CABIN, SHIP & DINNING
These are the only things I liked about the cruise. The cabin was huge compared to other cruise lines even for the budget option. Food was very good in the dining and the service was of course very good. Very friendly staff. The pizza was served till 3 in the morning which was nice. The Ship was very well designed, I liked Central Park as it had a big garden that was pretty. Read Less