We sailed March 14-19, 2015 out of Port Everglades. Our kids are DD7, DS13, DS15, DS18 so I will try to include their perspectives for potential other families. I've (dad, 45 yrs old) sailed 3 different lines, and this was my third on ... Read More
We sailed March 14-19, 2015 out of Port Everglades. Our kids are DD7, DS13, DS15, DS18 so I will try to include their perspectives for potential other families. I've (dad, 45 yrs old) sailed 3 different lines, and this was my third on Royal, biggest ship I've sailed yet. A couple of my kids have been on a cruise, but a couple were on their first cruise.
EMBARK: I managed their expectations towards 2 hours, based on what I've read here. We arrived a little before 11am by taxi and it was very congested traffic-wise. 10 minute wait in traffic, then dropped by entrance and walked into security screen where we waited only 5 minutes. Then to check in and that wait was only 5-10 minutes as well. Then sat in line for about 30 minutes and boarded. I'd say it was approximately 1 hour from arrival to being up on deck by the pool...much faster than expected! Kiddos were very happy about this.
FAMILY ACTIVITIES: We wanted to spend time as a family, not go multiple directions so the kid's clubs were not of interest to my kids as they would have been split up. This is an area I think Royal does a poor job. There were activities for one age group or another (dreamworks parade, Teen flowrider, etc) but nothing like a family scavenger hunt, or family shuffleboard tournament or family anything. So we made our own activities and had a couple hours family time each day, and then split into subgroups and had some "free time" each day and the kids seemed to enjoy that balance. I made up my own photo scavenger hunt for our family and that was a bunch of fun (email me Ted at psCultureMatters . com if you want a copy for your family).
SHIP ACTIVITIES: We did rock climbing a couple times and it had 30 minute lines each time, fun both times. We did Flowrider on our Belize day since we were back on board at 3pm and it was a reasonable line, maybe 15 minutes so we took 4 turns, very fun! Basketball court was fairly busy but you could always get in and shoot or play a game if you wanted. Ice Skating: Open skates were at weird times like 7-8, 8-9, 9-10pm and they give a limited number of "tickets" so my wife and daughter got one but they were out of them for me so I took pictures and they enjoyed it but for a 7 year old staying up late past 9 or 10 is not ideal (see note in entertainment!). I wish they would have had afternoon skates open like they did on Navigator. Pools...my kids are mostly past the splash zone age, but my two youngers did enjoy the current pool a bit. One of the two regular pools was heated and very comfortable the rest of the pools were a bit chilly to swim at night but during the heat of the afternoon (most crowded part of the day too) they felt good. Mini-golf we did twice, had lines but went fairly fast and it was a decent little fun family time type course. Shuffleboard was fun, even though most of us had never played, FUN FAMILY TIME and the equipment is all right there in a metal locker next to each court. HINT: Behind the "hump" of the dining room on Deck 4 there is what's essentially a hidden shuffle board court with great ocean views and a peaceful environment, we LOVED this area for our family shuffle board, like a private court just for us!!
ENTERTAINMENT: Pretty good overall. But mostly really late, like starting at 9pm or how about this...on night 3 Dru, the cruise director opens the Love and Marriage show (my wife were watching on tv) with "Folks, some of this show might go past PG, so there is a reason it's at 10:30pm at night okay, we hope the kids are in bed" and I'm like REALLY DRU? You scheduled the dreamworks parade at 10 Friggin 30pm, and that's FOR the kids. Why Royal schedules stuff so late? Now the R rated comedian (who was very funny, and even more funny in the early show at 7pm) was scheduled for 11pm, That makes sense. But lots of stuff like Karaoke and other activities that would be fun to watch and appropriate for most all ages would start at 9pm, or 10pm. What about ice skating in the heat of the day, esp on a sea day where there was no ice show scheduled? Nope, it was in the cool of the night or not even offered. Maybe this is all for crowd control? Don't know. As far as quality, overall pretty good. Day one Magician/Comedian at welcome aboard show was GREAT! Up in the air...very good for my wife and I, kids got bored after the first 15 minutes saying it was pretty much the same stuff over and over after that. Comedian on night 3 was FANTASTIC, going to be on Fallon sometime soon, he was super funny and I'm a tough critic...was one of my kids' favorite things on the cruise (the 7pm PG show). Saturday Night Fever: Younger kids and I skipped, my musically inclined 18 year old son and wife went, said it was pretty good but they left half way as felt it was beginning to drag quite a bit. Ice Show for us was 4pm, we had reservations but they checked nobody so I guess if you show up in line 30 minutes early (like we did) and don't have a reservation you still walk in. We had good seats and yet the line was still 20 people in front of us when we got there at 3:30 for the 4pm show. Those who got in the line after about 25 till, had to sit on the sides of the theater studio B rather than on the end that faced the show directly. It was a very good show, wife and I liked it a lot, kids were bored after about 30 minutes but it only lasted till about 4:40 so it was plenty bearable, lots of scene and costume changes to keep it interesting.
DINING: We ate in WindJammer or Cafe Promenade all but two meals. Room Service for breakfast each day, and it was on time (tip good!) and only wrong the first day which they promptly corrected (tough to bring an order for 6!). WindJammer, I am not picky and could always find plenty to eat, and something that tasted good to great. However my kids are picky and they complained that it was hard to find something good, especially at lunch as it was the same over and over. ReFills on soda package in Jammer were non-existant and getting one at all was not easy rendering me to wonder why I bought 6 soda packages?! Dinner they found more stuff they liked it seemed and the food changed a bit during the cruise. I will say this, even though I'm not picky, I felt this food in WJ was the worst of my cruises. Almost as if they are trying to motivate you towards the pay venues. Cafe Promenade had the same stuff every time but we did eat there a few times and I love, love LOVED the mediterranean sandwich they had there and the cheesecake lollipops were a hit with everyone. Great for snacks which we needed. Windjammer closed at 3:30pm and opened again at 6:30pm...another FAILURE for families who like to eat around 5:30 or 6pm!!!
Johnny Rockets (extra $) was fantastic! Our server Alexander did an excellent job with our kids and the food was great. I tipped him 40% for his over the top service and informed guest services of our great experience there. On the last sea day, we went to go again for lunch, PACKED, 40 minute wait, beware! Ben and Jerrys (also extra $) was also pretty good. We ate there three times. The SPRINKLES ice cream machine was open mostly during the noon-4pm time and we got cones there for free a few times, everyone thought they were good.
MDR: Had My Time Dining reservation on nights 4 and 5 because they opened at 5:30. Server Gabriel was fantastic, however they could not accommodate a request to be by a window for sailaway from Cozumel because I didn't "note it in my reservation" so beware if you want a certain location to "note it" somehow. Food in MDR was much better than Jammer however it took SOooooooo long to have the meal. Nice and relaxing for adults, but 1.5 hours to dine for kids is just tooooooo long (hence why I avoided MDR to begin with). Lobster night was the last night, and we all ordered two lobsters on one plate out of the gate, and they were VERY GOOD! I expected tough lobster or frozen level quality, but these were tender and great. My kids love seafood and really enjoyed getting two (at Red Lobster they only get one!!). Overall quality and service in MDR was really good to fantastic. Just took too long around 1.5 hours each night and we were one of the first few in the line to get in both times.
Kids Tips: Laynards for sea pass cards, I took them and they were invaluable. I also took a hole punch for the sea pass cards because my older kids didn't want to carry the plastic pouch for the sea pass, that's not cool, so I punched the card in a place it wouldn't interfere with swiping for room entry or anything else, and they tucked it in their pockets and left the lanyard hang out, that's apparently cool and what all HS kids do with their car keys these days. They have hooks right inside the doors to the staterooms and we hung the sea pass lanyards there upon every entry to not lose them. Meclizine/Bonnine one each morning, then one each late afternoon, and a couple times took Dramamine just before bed for a couple who were getting a bit queasy. Nothing for 7 year old daughter all cruise long and she felt no sea sickness at all, at that age they are doing cart wheels and playing on swings or in gym class like every day so the motion doesn't seem to affect them. The rest of us, needed the medication on this cruise.
Shopping on ship: NOTHING clothing wise for a 7 year old girl. Unbelievable, when I asked the 2 for $20 tee shirt sale person why they only had kids size XS and XL and only two types of boyish shirts and only about 5 each so 10 shirts in two sizes both boyish she replied that they just don't get them in. I told here there were entire university majors dedicated to inventory management and forecasting and companies much larger than Royal and with far more inventory to manage (think Disney) had it down to a science. She agreed and said they complain to "management" all the time because what does management push them on right? Sell sell sell, get numbers up etc. Big FAIL here. Neither in tee shirt sales or in the logo shop did they have anything other than dreamworks stuff (which we can buy on land) for our daughter. Otherwise we bought a couple inch of gold chains that were nice keepsakes, and tee shirts for everyone else were plentiful to remind us of Liberty of the Seas or Belize/Cozumel. Daughter did love her stuffed sea horse we got, but again, it wasn't a RCL logo souviner.
GUEST SERVICES: Mostly very helpful as long as you presented your concerns or compliments in a professional way and gave them solutions instead of just your problems, they listened took notes and tried to solve anything of concern. They sometimes blamed their systems (ex. photo shop system and guest services system were not talking and processing my discount and they told me, the customer to go wait in line at each place and waste my precious family and vacation time to solve their problem with their system, had about 5-6 more examples of that this cruise) and I again would point out to them that they (nor any company) should EVER say "our system won't xyz", or "that's another department" as your system is not within my control...I'm simply the paying customer, don't ever make your system problems my problem, just solve it. IT's not this dept, or that dept to the customer, it's ALL ROYAL CARIBBEAN TO THE CUSTOMER. Someone in upper management desperately needs to get that message. It wasted so much of my time that I'm going to try another line next cruise, it was that frustrating. I got it all worked out, but again, it was the consumption of my time to fix things like their prepaid tipping system not working, photo purhasing not working, their system not recognizing the 6 soda packages I purchased, no communication from reservations on our ice show reschedule when they didn't have it on sea day #1 as indicated in my cruise reservcations pre-cruise, couldn't get a spare key for my kid's room at check in, couldn't authorize my kids to charge at check in, etc. Let me be clear, when I did wait in line over and over, they were helpful and for the most part got things worked out, it's just that I can't get back that 2 hours of time away from family and the caribbean sun. I didn't pay to stand in line for things that should never have been an issue...maybe it's equally bad on other lines and I guess I'll find that out.
There were a college few spring breakers on board but really nothing out of control. All age groups were there and seemed to be having a great time. The ship did not feel overly crowded, you have to expect a line here and there for rock climbing or Flowrider or ice skating, but overall we never felt Disney line level of crowding. Normal bad behavior of chair hogging mostly by the 30-65 year old crowd, the younger group sleeps in too late to put a book and towl on a chair at 7:30am. If I wanted to I would have just watched a chair for 45 minutes and then removed their stuff myself, what are they going to say "hey, that's against the rules!!!" LOL. The kids on board seemed very well behaved for the most part and almost everybody I talked to said they were having a great cruise. One guy felt staff was not attentive or happy but I really didn't experience that myself.
System issues and time wasting and lack of family oriented activities aside, the cruise was overall a ton of fun and the get away from winter we needed. We had great weather, great ports, and where RCL lacked, we simply made our own solutions for a fantastic family spring break. Ship was in great shape, very nice, very similar to Navigator of the Seas, just a tad bigger. Let me know if you have any questions!!! Read Less