This was our first cruise, with two girls (9 and 12) and my inlaws. We picked the ship/cruise based on timing, ports of call, and activities the kids would enjoy. My inlaws have been on probably 20 cruises, but this was their first on a ... Read More
This was our first cruise, with two girls (9 and 12) and my inlaws. We picked the ship/cruise based on timing, ports of call, and activities the kids would enjoy. My inlaws have been on probably 20 cruises, but this was their first on a ship of this size, and they were a little nervous.
Overall, everything is incredibly efficient- embarkation and debarkation especially (it was faster than getting off the plane!!)
We purchased the seabands, and I would highly recommend them, especially for kids, and if you plan to use the pools a lot-- far easier than keeping track of the card.
We ate all but one dinner in the MDR. Food was very good, but very heavy in my opinion. Not a lot of vegetarian or veggie options, which I missed. I felt the menus tended toward the "classic" side-- beef with potatoes, pastas, lobster tail, etc-- nothing in the way of modern/fusion/ethnic cuisine. However, the staff was amazing, and after 2 days knew exactly what drinks everyone likes, which bread/rolls were the first to go, that my daughter likes a side of ranch, and who likes peppermint tea with dessert.
We did not have a dining package, but tried most (if not all) of the other dining options. Park Cafe on 8 was great for breakfast and lunch, and of course we tried the Royal Kummelweck. Everyone in the family loved the pizza from Sorrento's. Mini Bites was another favorite for breakfast and lunch and snacks. We ate lunch twice in American Icon (MDR on 3) and that mini buffet and dessert spread was awesome-- we did not discover til midweek, and wish we had sooner! Kids loved the ice cream and toppings there. The Windjammer is massive, with tons of options, but I can't say that anything really stood there. We ate breakfast once at Johnny Rockets and the service was terribly slow and the food was just ok-- not sure I would bother again.
The Rising Tide bar is a fun experience, and my daughter LOVED the bionic bar and getting a shirley temple "made by a robot!". She would have loved to go every night, but at $7 for sprite with grenadine.... We did not have any kind of a drink package, but I think every drink we had was $13, except a gin and tonic, which might have been $8 or $9.
LOVED LOVED LOVED the entertainment. Would pick the ship again based on this alone. Fine Line in the Aqua Theater is not to be missed, and we really wish we could have seen it more than once!! We enjoyed Grease, it was a tad long at and hour and 30 with no intermission. It's all music, so it helps if you know the story. We also loved Columbus, it's silly but also a ton of fun (kids loved the modern music) and the ship is an marvel in itself. Hideaway Heist in the aqua theater was also great, we just saw it on a night with rough seas, so they didn't dive, which was a bit of a bummer, but totally understandable. The ice skating itself was amazing, but the actually storyline of 1887 is pretty thin, and confused most everyone we heard talking about it. We also enjoyed the kid friendly comedy show on the last night. My inlaws saw the headliner and enjoyed it.
We ziplined (quick but fun), played mini golf, and rode the Abyss-- all fun experiences. We tried all the water slides, and 2 of the group tried the flow rider (body board)
My main comment would be RCI could provide a bit more info in the rooms-- for instance, you have to be wearing shorts or pants to ride the Abyss slide (I had a long skirt and they would not let me)-- so we had to go change. Zipline-- your shoulders have to be covered-- my daughter had to go and change her shirt. We did not need our sea band or sea pass to do any of these activities except the flow rider-- that required it, and of course, my daughter had left hers in the room because we hadn't needed it and she was afraid it would fall off. And the clear slide (only) will not allow you to wear any glasses or jewelry, so you have to leave it at the top and climb back up to reclaim. Again, none are deal breakers, but a bit frustrating and feel like that could have been avoided with more information up front (say, when you sign all the waivers.)
The pools were CROWDED. Did not spend much time at all in them because they were packed. The hots tubs by the pools were packed, but the ones of the side overlooking the ocean were always available, so we tended to hang out there. Lounge chairs were sparse-- luckily we only need one to set our stuff on, so after a bit of looking we were always able to locate one or two.
Ports-- we arranged our own excursion to Pinel Island in St.Maarten and LOVED it; would definitely do again. The shopping area at the Port is also fun, and the rum sampled and sold there is delicious! My girls enjoyed collecting their free charms.
San Juan-- it's an easy walk to El Morro and Old San Juan for shopping, no need to book anything there. We ate at Tio Danny's on a recommendation from staff at the fort and the empanadillas were amazing (as was the sangria!). Only wish we had more time there-- having to be back on the boat by 1:30 makes for a short day.
Labadee was lovely beach, my girls were super excited to have their hair braided (starts at $20 and goes up to $100, FYI). We only went to the shops in the main building, we were told that the ones in the stalls behind were very aggressive, so I didn't walk back there, but we were able to purchase souvenirs everyone was happy with--there was a stall with items sewn by a local cooperative of women, that was our favorite. The food was just ok in my opinion. We did not try any of the add on excursions.
We went to the ladies pamper party (basically just a sales pitch, but fun if you are into that sort of thing), the jewelry and shopping talk (if you like jewelry, there was some good information, and they did give away a fair amount of stuff), the towel folding demo (super short, but they handed out an instruction book my daughter LOVED and immediately started practicing), the central park garden talk (very interesting on what it takes to keep all those plants alive), and the captain's talk (really a Q&A) which was awesome and would absolutely do again. The kids also enjoyed the carousel. I think they might have liked the arcade, but it seemed pretty pricey at $2-$3 a game.
-They will not punch a hole in your sea pass card, so be sure to bring a plastic id holder if you plan on using a lanyard
- There is a tshirt sale on the last day (2 for $20), which is PACKED, but we did buy a couple of baseball hats, and a long sleeve shirt that was 75% off.
-We enjoyed watching the cruise directors tv show in the rooms-- we got a kick out of his jokes, and there was some good information about activities there.
- using a Costco or other similar card for the lights was a great tip
-the crown and anchor app is still pretty hit or miss, we could never get the texting to really work, but figured out we were able to use imessage to communicate.
-"ship time" confused a lot of people. Ship Time - Eastern Standard Time. When you are in St Maarten and San Juan, they are on Atlantic Time, which is one hour ahead.
-We parked at Park n Go and were able to pay and reserve online and that worked perfectly as well. Read Less