We'd sailed Princess and Norwegian before, but this was our first Royal cruise.
The food and service was better on Princess (I still dream of how the most simple dishes like fettucine alfredo were somehow mind-blowing!), ... Read More
We'd sailed Princess and Norwegian before, but this was our first Royal cruise.
The food and service was better on Princess (I still dream of how the most simple dishes like fettucine alfredo were somehow mind-blowing!), but Royal's main dining room food was decent enough we'd sail with them again. The Windjammers Buffet was especially ample and fresh -- and we are not typically "Buffet people." (With kids, you make concessions!) The service was a little slow in the main dining areas for breakfast and lunch, though the wait staff was very friendly, professional, and accommodating at all times. Waits were not very long, but if you plan on making reservations while on board, you can run into a few snags -- you'll never get through to customer service by phone, many reservations are all booked up, and the app system does not always work if you need to make/break a reservations. Dining highlights included the mushroom soup, hashbrowns, baklava, mussels, and lobster tail night. I'd read negative reviews of Sorrento's pizza, but we ate there soooo many times. We're from Buffalo, land of amazing pizza, and it was good enough for us. Compared to other cruise lines, the specialty dining is a bit nickel-and-dimey. The drink package was well worth it, though I didn't use it for the "specialty coffee" as much as I thought I would, since the coffee lines were super long and apparently, a caramel macchiato is conveniently considered "food." The ability to use the dining/drink package on Coco Cay was incredible and generous -- what a perk! Other cruise lines would be wise to follow suit.
Sadly, we missed the "We Will Rock You" show (AND its rescheduled time) due to wild rocking waves on the way back home. "Spectra's Cabaret" was interesting and had a few decent numbers. The plot for "The Gift" was confusing at times, but overall it was tantalizing with moving sets, Broadway caliber music/dance numbers, and cool BMX tricks. The arcade area was lacking, with not much for the little ones to do and a lot of the machines out of order. Bumper cars are for people 42 inches tall AND at least five years of age... that was not immediately clear to us... our 4-year-old wall tall enough but not old enough, which was quite a melt-down of disappointment for him! Karaoke did not have great song selection and booked solid within the first 10 minutes. Many of the adult entertainment options were at an extra charge, so we didn't have much to do after dropping the kids off at the Kids Club. We had really looked forward to the on-board library for kids' bedtime story books... but there was literally nothing for children and the adult selections were little to be desired as well. There were a few puzzles and a chess set there if you're so inclined. We did like the Two70 Club and visited the upper balcony for movies, watching "Abominable" and "Maleficient 2" there. We liked the music playing around the ship -- the kids called the main concourse "the dance party." We went to the official "family dance party" -- the kids liked the glow sticks, but there was hardly room to dance in the tiny Two70 (they should've had it at Sea Plex!) and the music was horrrrrrible (like YMCA/disco/wedding DJ horrible); the entertainment was fresher aboard Norwegian.
In Florida, we rode the airboats and went to a wild animal preserve. I can't recommend this excursion enough! We saw so many gators! We'd taken a similar excursion with Norwegian nine years ago and saw zero gators on the tour. The hosts were super friendly and informative. You feel like you're flying on board the airboat. It's a birdwatcher's dream with roseatte spoonbills, herons, egrets, and other large feathered creatures. You'll even spot cows grazing in the marshes.
If you're considering Nassau's Blue Lagoon Island DON'T DO IT. This excursion was a nightmare. Perhaps if you're booking the dolphin or sea lion or ray encounter, it would be worthwhile, but we booked the "Deluxe Beach Break" for a peaceful ocean day with the kids. As soon as we got off the ferry, we stepped into disorganized chaos with no signs or personnel to tell us where our "reserved hammock and beach chairs" were located. Spoiler alert - there IS no hammock, and beach chairs are first come, first served! We eventually hiked across the whole island and managed to find the last one available (in full sun). According to the bartender, there were 5,000 people on this tiny island. FIVE THOUSAND! We had come here for the dolphin tour nine years ago and it was simply the dolphin/sea lion preserve with a small hotdog stand. Now it's all built up, but lacks proper planning to provide a decent experience. I waited 45 minutes for a beer at the bar. People were ordering fancy blender drinks and a-la-carte food ahead of me. The staff waited for the food to be made and brought out before processing the next drink order -- unreal! I finally abandoned the line without a beer and went to another bar, where I waited "just 20 minutes." At least there - people weren't ordering food! We waited until a bit later to eat because the place was completely swarmed upon disembarkation.Good luck if you arrive hungry. The buffet was mediocre at best and left me feeling like I'd just paid $95 for a lukewarm burger and dry rice. My husband suspects the chicken gave him food poisoning. So now, frustration is in full swing, I wanted time in the ocean. You have to walk out pretty far into the crowded zone near the inflatable aquatic park to find water waist-deep. You might see one or two fish, but there isn't much to see. The kids enjoyed looking for shells, but I wouldn't say it's a good beach for shelling by any stretch of the imagination. The description implied the aquatic park was included in the deluxe ticket -- IT'S NOT. You also need to pay $20 per person for the mandatory life preserver! The kids were super disappointed, but who wants to pay another $80 for us to go over there after paying $360 for a ferry and a lousy lunch? We took the first jam-packed double-decker ferry back to the ship as soon as we could. It was the worst vacation day I'd ever had!
Coco Cay, on the other hand, was a well-managed, first-rate experience. The perfect day we had from start to finish made up for all the hassle of traveling with two young children. We didn't pay for any of the excursions, instead "winging it" with the free attractions. Music performances greet you off the boat and there are signs and staff members there to direct you wherever you want to go. We walked everywhere easily, but there are trams if you want a ride as well. The kids played on the pirate ship right off the dock and the neighboring water playground for about a half hour. Then we headed to Chill Island to spend the day in sand and surf. Everyone was nice, pointing us to an open umbrella chair. We saw so many crabs, iguanas, and fish swimming near the rocks -- it was cool! The buffet was streamlined for efficiency with no waits. You could choose burgers, hot dogs, chicken, salads, or tacos. It was all fresh and stocked. We found a table with ease and watched the local chickens run around. We didn't eat at Captain Jack's, but we heard the wings and fries were really good. The bar lines were short and the mixed drinks were very tasty even if you're not a mixed drink sort of person.
Next time perhaps we'll take a spring sailing instead. The sea days were cold, rainy, blustery in February. We had one day where we could enjoy the outdoor pool and splash pad area. The kids loved it! The big TV was cool, but it's hard to find a spot to sit and watch a movie on such a huge ship.
We didn't do much shopping on board. However, I will say this - if you are a lady in need of feminine hygiene products, you are doomed! You'll find the most rudimentary Tampax and paper-thin light liners.
We got to know the staff of the Princess ship better, but the staff on Royal was dedicated. It's nice having the same waiters in the main dining room. We didn't see our room steward much, but he was busy keeping the room clean while we were away, so that was good. They delighted the kids with towel and napkin animals. If you need any service by phone, forget about it. If you manage to get through by phone at all, expect a long wait and no solution to your issues, whether it's the internet not working or trying to book a reservation. The guest services lines were pretty much always long too. Read Less