I travel with my husband, all our children, grandchildren and brother, and sometimes his children- so anywhere from 2 to 21 people at a time. This time there were 8, from 11 to 75. This was our second cruise on Royal Caribbean, our first ... Read More
I travel with my husband, all our children, grandchildren and brother, and sometimes his children- so anywhere from 2 to 21 people at a time. This time there were 8, from 11 to 75. This was our second cruise on Royal Caribbean, our first was a wedding cruise (not ours) on the Allure. I have 15 cruises with Carnival, and two with Norwegian, and we were trying things out.
I had read every Cruise Critic comment about this ship and was prepared for the best and the worst., luckily, for the most part, we got the best.
We departed Miami, which is always a disaster, but at least we weren't under the dreaded white tent. The biggest frustration is that you are given a "boarding time" with your on-line check in. But, to do the on-line check in, you have to already have your transportation arranged. There aren't that many planes from Atlanta to Miami which will get you to the port on time. Our plane arrived at 10:45---yet our "boarding time was 2:30. Not having it, went on to the port. Took about 70 minutes to board, start to finish.
Went to the cabin to drop off carry-on bags, because we've seen the big pile-up on the pool deck and the buffet restaurants. Nope-- passageway doors were secures and we were not allowed to access them until 2:30. Minor annoyance. Also not enough places for people to sit and eat while they were waiting for the doors to open. Minor annoyance that ties in-- the pool deck restaurant didn't flow out to the pool deck. You couldn't conveniently carry your tray to the poolside tables, and there was no outdoor grill or restaurant.
Okay, got inside. Muster drill, preferred Norwegian, where we sit civilized in chairs in the lounges, but whatever...its required.
Our staterooms were more than adequate, clean, well maintained. Couldn't adjust the temperature, and the refrigerator isn't really a fridge. Its a "chiller," but doesn't really chill, either. So you have to have ice. Our cabin attendant 3 times forgot to bring back our ice chest. Had to ask several times for our water and cokes for the chiller. Our room was very quiet. About 10 doors down from the front elevators. Convenient to everything except the MDR.
The MDRs were great, food was delicious, we were well attended. Ate in CHOPS for my birthday-- takes something off the specialness when you enter through the same hallway as the buffet restaurant...but the food was indeed special! Also ate at Sabor, great Mexican fusion. When they say spicy guacamole, they mean it.
Lots and lots of things to do on ship--it was fun just sitting and lounging and watching the flo-riders. Also a rock climbing wall, ice skating, and the usual poolside activities. The Library was nicely arranged with tables and chairs over-looking the Atrium, so you didn't feel locked away. Good music almost everywhere you go. Some starange combinations- like why have the LGBT Meet-up at the same time in the same place as the "Sherry Tasting?" Also, my husband and son complained that there were not enough blackjack tables for the number of passengers who wanted to play, and crammed 7 people at tables intended for 5. I really loved the walking track on the Allure, felt semi-private, and you could just walk along and see the ocean from 3 sides, there were loungers on the fantail. On the Navigator it was over the pool-deck and a different atmosphere.
There were great children's activities. The 11 year old granddaughter would not partake. But I saw other children having fun. Other grandchildren/great-neices/nephews enjoyed the activites on the previous ship. Just no this grandchild.
Having been to all these ports except Bonaire, I did not use ships excursions, Labadee, great, fun, perfect first stop. Curacao, getting a little bit tires (this was our 4th time) hired a TUK-TUK city tour. Petrified half the time, climbing over the big Queen Juliana bridge in a three seat- moped equivalent. Still did get us close to the historic sites.
In Aruba, I arranged for Wind-sailing classes for my son and son-in-law. We went along to watch and play in the water. Our cab got us there an hour before the guys!! But it was fun and beautiful. Very brisk for beginner windsailers. :oved watching the 10 or so kite-surfers there. Worth every penny- and it wasn't that much. Then dinner on the beach and back to the ship.
When I last saw Bonaire 30 years ago, there were two dive shacks and some food. Now the waterline is packed. over 5,500 divers a year. We got a Eco-Tuk-Tuk (last minute, ordered on line from the ship, not a ship's excursion) and our driver , Martin, and the manager, Hanna, were great. Excellent tour in a tuk-tuk for 8, saw the White Slave Huts, the salt pans, the old salt pans,the walk-in beach dive spots. Martin is a dive iinstructor and Dive Master, who does these tours each morning. Came to Bonaire 5 years ago for 6 months of diving. Still there. Lovely area just off the pier in the downtown shopping area-- have all Bonaire made items. Big signs "Not made in China." Had a great lunch of fresh seafood, the the guys dived for a while.
Debarcation was a minor nightmare. Everyone had arranged transportation based on the statement that the ship usually started debarcation at 7:30. Then, the last night, on the overhead and in the newsletter, the Cruise Director announced that the USA would go on Daylight Savings Time at 2am, but please don't change your watches until after you disembarked. Panic City, as people believed that the 8am we disembarked was going to be 9am Miami time, and lots of transportation issues. didn't happen quite that badly, howeve a lot of people decided to go self-express. Now the escalator down, can only handle a certain weight, and all these idiots balancing a big bag, and a small bag, and a carry-on bag past the sign that said "1 bag only," caused the escalator to break. Frequently.
Just a note- there was a medical emergency within 4 hours of leaving. Captain announced the emergency and asked Oneg blood donors to consider going to the Sick Bay. My son went and said over 50 people were in line to help. Very professionally don. Don't know the problem, but it was an older woman, and her husband was taking names to write thank you notes. Continued through the evening, and around 6am, the ship turned back to meet up with a Coast Guard Medivac Helicopter. They shuttered the windows and cleared the decks so we couldn't watch; and we went through a major storm 3 times- going, coming back through and going again, to get the ship close enough. I didn't hear any complaints about missed time, possibly missing ports. It was just a professional job well done (I used to run medivac units, so I know) Read Less