My daughter had been bugging me about going on a summer trip, bringing a friend, and having her own room. I don't like having to pay for a second room when we vacation, so we looked into a cruise. We both scuba and I ... Read More
My daughter had been bugging me about going on a summer trip, bringing a friend, and having her own room. I don't like having to pay for a second room when we vacation, so we looked into a cruise. We both scuba and I found a RCCL cruise out of Galveston that goes to both Roatan and Cozumel, both being big scuba destinations.
We opted to go with a travel agent at: cruiseone.com. They have ship walkthru videos on YouTube and guaranteed the lowest possible price after we booked the cruise. We were happy with this agent. We saved hundreds of dollars with the travel agent over going direct to RCCL.
Note that cruises are charged by person, not by cabin. You can book mutiple cabins for the same price. If your kid brings a friend on the cruise, you need 3 notarized letters from the parents: one letter to allow the child to travel in/out of the country, one for medical care, and the last one to allow you to give the child permission to participate in the ship's activities, such as the rock wall and Flowrider.
After the cruise is booked, go to the RCCL site and buy drink, food, and internet packages ahead of time. You will save money over buying on the ship.
The internet package is worth it if you want to use your phone on the ship. Apple iMessage and FaceTime worked great with my teen. We checked the ship's location at cruisemapper.com. We used email to setup last-minute excursions. My teen said the video streaming was good.
The water package is hugely overpriced and the ship's water is perfectly safe. Water dispensers can be found at the bars, the coffee shop, and Sorento’s. Bring an aluminum Yeti/R-Tic cup onboard for both hot and cold drinks.
Some handy items include 2 bottles of wine, wine opener, binoculars, sunscreen and bug spray (for excursions). For arrival day, pack anything in a take-on bag that you will need before 10pm. Baggage delivery is erratic.
Bring plenty of cash. I didn’t realize that our Cozumel scuba excursion was cash-only, because it starts in a boat harbor. Another place for cash is the casino. There is an ATM on the ship, but it is a $6-7 fee, along with what your bank charges you. Note that Guest Services can break your large bills into smaller bills for excursion tips, etc.
The best option is to buy parking early and print your receipt. RCCL and the cruise terminal advise you to arrive after 11am, but we arrived around 10:30 and did not have to wait long.
For Texas residents, use the self-carry luggage option while disembarking. We were at home in Katy by 10:30am.
We loved the staff in the main dining room. Pedro and Yogesh were incredible. If you don't have young kids, sign-up for later dining. Early shows are easier to get into. We started with the "My Way Dining", because we didn't know what time we needed. After dining the first night, we decided to stay with our servers at the 7:45pm time slot and reserved the table through the end of the week. Note that MWD cruisers check-in on deck 3.
Food choices on the dining room menus were very good, including fish, duck, escargot, steak and lobster. The main dining room breakfast options could be better, but I did enjoy the Salmon Eggs Benedict. My wife thought the regular Eggs Benedict needed more hollandaise sauce.
Formal night attire is suggested for dining on the two assigned formal nights. Jeans are ok for the other dining nights. We packed business casual and were ok for both formal nights and our first night in Chops.
Buy the "First Night Done Right" dining prior to your trip and pack some business casual clothes in your take-on bag. The reservation will randomly be made at one of the 3 premium restaurants. When you get on the ship, immediately go to Chops Grille and change your reservation for CG and possibly a better time. My family is from Texas and we didn't see a reason to pay a premium at a high-end Mexican restaurant (Sabor).
We were completely fine with the regular, high-quality, dining room options the rest of the trip.
Awesome breakfast choices in Windjammer (such as the omelette bar). The food options are similar to what you will find in a premium Hilton or Marriott breakfast buffet. We could not find sandwiches (other than burgers) in WJ for lunch. One night after a tiring excursion day, we attended WJ and had some fresh Mongolian Barbecue. Take advantage of the on-order grill area.
With all of the rich food and dessert options, I made it a challenge to not use the elevator on “at-sea” days. This, along with spin classes, helped to limit weight gain from the cruise.
The coffee house (Café Promenade) always has good dessert snack options, such as cookies, macaroons, and cakes. They also offer sandwiches. Sorento's is a good afternoon and late night snack option, but the pizza tasted like it had fake cheese. Sorrento's does have other options such as mussels. My kid liked having a hamburger meal at Johnny Rockets.
I purchased the premium coffee card ahead of the cruise date. The coffee card is well worth the money. We used all 15 card punches with my family. Both hot and cold cappuccino bevarages are included. You will easily save half over individual drink pricing.
It's common that workers on cruise ships are not paid very much and hugely overworked. They depend on tips, but RCCL distributes automated tips to all of the workers on the ship. You can go to Guest Services and complete a form to directly allocate your tips to specific RCCL personnel, such as your room attendant, server and assistant server.
The ship looks worn in places, such as carpet needing to be replaced. Overall, the ship is kept very clean and the staff works hard in the wee hours of the morning to prepare the pool area for the next day.
The towel service is very handy. Leave your beach towels at home. RCCL will scan your SeaPass account and give you as many towels as you need. This is nice feature when you leave the boat on port days. Towel distribution is available for the ship pools on deck 11. Note that you will be charged to unreturned towels and I did see quite a few stray towels on the ship.
Lines were too long to enjoy onboard activities, such as rock climbing and the surf pool. Spin classes in the gym were very good. Sign-up for gym classes at the fitness center immediately when you get on the ship. If you like spin classes, bring your SPD cleats with you. My wife had a foot massage at the spa, but was heavily cross-sold on other spa services afterwards...an instant put-off. Movies did not have enough flexible show times. Activity variety overall could be better, but I did like the variety of wine and liquor tastings.
The casino was small, but did have a good variety of games and beginner classes. I would have liked to learn Caribbean Poker...it was not an option. The craps table only has even odds on the betting…not even close to Vegas odds. Some casino table games are actually twice the minimum bet (e.g. Ultimate Texas Holdem). Check the compass for "Low Limit Table Games" on at-sea days. I never saw an open craps table on low-limit days, but did play single deck BJ and Ultimate Texas Holdem for $5.
Quality was good. We liked the "2 for $20" RCCL T-Shirt special. I could not find quality tequila in the onboard shop for a cruise that had two stops in Mexico. We liked the free raffles.
The first and last days of the cruise have the best shows. The ice show was geared towards small kids. The comedians were good, but there were too many comedy shows. There is a Mystery Dinner Theater option that looks interesting, but it costs $75 a person. Must see: Saturday Night Fever musical. Arrive early.
Roatan is mostly a poor island, but has beautiful beaches, incredible scuba diving, and nice people. Not overly commercialized like Cozumel. Many Americans are living there. Look for the passport stamper kiosk in the port shopping center to get a Roatan stamp added to your passport. Recommended excursion: Coconut Tree Divers for scuba.
Fairly new port. Shopping area has a swim area, but overly-expensive Mexican food (e.g. $18 for a half-order of quesadillas). Recommended excursion: Chacchoben Ruins. Local company Native Choice is recommended for excursions.
We enjoyed the port shopping talks on the ship, but were not warned about being scammed on prices at the shopping centers that Royal Caribbean recommends. I paid way too much for tequila that is cheaper in the states, but could not do the appropriate research at the time of sale. TripAdvisor also has the bad tequila store on a "recommended shopping" list.
The harbor where we left for our scuba excursion was a 2-minute drive from the cruise dock. Always ask the rate before getting into a cab. The ride out to the harbor was $10, and the return ride was $8.
The Cozumel port shopping center has a Senor Frogs bar that has been popular for years.
Recommended excursion: Cozumel H2O for scuba.
Following online advice, we opted to book our excursions outside RCCL. I followed TripAdvisor user rankings and was not disappointed.
Tip: Check your photos on the last cruise day. It's sad that photos are not available once you depart the ship. RCCL needs to change this dated policy and have photos available for online purchase.
Daily schedules are posted on a 4-page sheet that is delivered to your cabin nightly. Past compasses can be viewed on royalcaribbeanblog.com. The compass is only available in an electronic version on kiosks by the elevators and the RCCL phone app is usable on specific cruises (not LOS). Use your phone to take pictures of the daily schedule for handy viewing.
RCCL is still living in the dark ages. True, the high speed internet works great, there are large, touch-screen monitors near the elevators, and you can use your SeaPass card to charge purchases, but that's about it. If you have ever used the DisneyWorld app, there is so much more this cruise line can do. RCCL is in dire need of electronic appointments, personal schedules, photos, alerts, messaging and activity wait times. Best of all, this app should be FREE to use.
The only other cruise ships we have been on were Disney, which has better shows and pool activities. LOS has a casino, possibly larger cabins, cheaper overall cost and better schedule from Galveston. Both companies cater well to families. I would take this cruise again, but next time to Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Read Less