Summary: Had a wonderful time getting away. Ship was beautiful. Service was mostly good. Food was terrible (except for Giovanni's). Cabin was great. Would probably book with RCI again, but for different ports of call.
My husband and I are first time cruisers and came with a large group of Texans. We had high expectations and were not disappointed with the ship. One thing that made our experience unique to most others, is I was about 4 months pregnant at the time, so we did not do a lot, but just nap and relax by the pool. It was wonderful. I read just about EVERY review on this site, so I will chime in with what to really expect, and what some reviews overdramatized issues (although I know everyone's experience is different).
Embarkation: We pre-paid parking online with a coupon code with EZCruise Parking (got $15 off - came to $54.12 total). We were nervous about leaving our truck in a parking lot, but it was great! The lot is fully barb-wired fenced with security. Not covered, but you can get a car cover, if you want. Quick shuttle trip to the port (the guys load your luggage for you). Only problem is they dropped us off kind of far away, and their last cart was fully loaded, so we had to haul our luggage ourselves to the front. Not a big deal normally, but was a strain being pregnant or if you are elderly / handicapped. Arrived at our designated time. Took only about 45 minutes to get on the ship. Lots of people complain about lines and line jumpers, etc., but don't be concerned. It's just like going through airport security. Not a big deal.
Once on the ship, we explored and had lunch at the buffet, the Windjammer, while waiting for our room to be ready (room was ready at 1:00 p.m. - luggage came at about 4 - 5 p.m., so give them extra time for that). We booked our excursions in the super short line at the guest services, also got all our restaurant reservations and drink package booked. Go to Level 5, The Promenade, to book all of that right away, because the lines do get long later on in the day. Also, be sure if you want to change your dining options at night, to do it either before you leave online, or right away. We messed up and waited until about 6 p.m. the first day to change it to MyTimeDining (which they say you can do on the first day), but were told it was too late and they were sold out. Huh? Oh well. We never did do the main dining room at night because of that. We got the basic drink package (soda, coffee, juice, non-alcoholic cocktails and bottled water). I felt like this was a very nickel and dime thing to do, but did it anyways. I had to have water bottles (preggers), and I felt like this should be provided regardless. It was expensive ($350 for 2), but we had to do it. It was also a pain to get your pre-paid drinks (long lines, could only get one at a time). RCI can surely do better than this, like have some kind of drink machine that takes your SeaPass card.
Dining: This is where most of the reviews were right on. There are little bars everywhere and a Starbucks. Most service was great, esp. at the Windjammer bar. That bartender is awesome and knew my name after the 2nd day. The Starbucks personnel are TERRIBLE. Horrible service. They get visibly upset when you don't add an extra tip, never mind that the drink package includes a 30% TIP. A fellow cruiser and I were yelled at for not having the line go a certain way. What? There's no rope or anything. My suggestion is they remove the staff and put them in a back kitchen somewhere. Seriously. There's a little café next to the Starbucks and they have OKAY food. It's good for little snacks like turkey croissants (a little bland and stale) and bananas and apples and some bite-sized desserts.
Windjammer. Let's just say it sucks. Half of the food is weird international food that NOBODY touches. The other half is exceptionally bland American food that people are forced to eat. The buffet never changes. Nothing is hot. And nothing is cold. EVERYTHING is lukewarm. I have never wanted a microwave in my entire life. Avoid breakfast. It's crazy. BTW: You can order room service breakfast for free. We did that most days.
We did lunch at the main dining one day. It was terrible and we never went back. Food was nasty, cold and service was slow. It took them 30 minutes to get me a bottled water. So, we mostly ate at the specialty restaurants which were pretty good, and honestly, that's something that should be provided cost-free. Chops Steakhouse: Great service, atmosphere is romantic, good steak, but it was overcooked. Sides were delicious. But not worth the extra $35/person. Giovanni's Italian: Ate here twice because it was just that good. BEST filet mignon I've had in a long time, and I'm from Texas! Don't go to Chops for a steak, go here. The service was out of this world. It was $20/person, but we tipped an extra $20 each time bc it was just that good. Definitely recommend this place. Sabor Mexican: Overall, it was okay, but we do live in San Antonio, so we know good Mexican. The side guacamole service was cool, but the guacamole was not good. I would go at least once, if you're craving Mexican. Johnny Rockets: Ate here multiple times. Only $5.95/per person, all you can eat. Well worth it. Service was outstanding (except one time when our server left us for 30 minutes, but they quickly corrected the problem). Two thumbs up - best hamburgers for sure.
Miscellaneous: Didn't go to any of the shows because we were pretty tired at the end of each day, plus we had private shows to see (from our group). Enjoyed the casino - my husband did win about $350 on the slots - woohoo! Wish they had a regular Texas Hold Em table, but the casino director didn't know when they would have it, and she seemed very scatterbrained about it. Be sure to wait to shop because they do sales and specials near the end of the trip. Also, I did a spa day the first day. Had a great facial. The pedicure I got was terrible. Worst ever. The girl didn't even rub the lotion in my skin. She just slapped it on, and I was on my own. Ladies, trust me, for the price, do your pedicure before you go. Husband got a haircut and he said it was the best one he's ever gotten! Word of advice - don't fall for their trap of booking right away. I wish I would've waited on the facial because later in the week, they have MULTIPLE daily specials, and they slash their prices. Bummer. We spend most of our days at sea by the lovely adult pool, Solarium. Despite what some of the reviews said, it was very quiet and peaceful. Plenty of sun. Get there early if you want two loungers. They also have plenty of poolside towels, and there is even a bar with some servers that will walk around to get you drinks. Very nice.
All in all, it was a lovely, relaxing trip. We met a lot of new and interesting people. There were no kids running around like wild monkeys (Hooray! And kudos to the parents, the kids there were VERY well behaved), and a lot of elderly people (be patient with them). Plan to spend a little extra money on food and beverage packages. Don't expect every RCI person to kiss your butt and say hello (although most do) - the reviews blasting RCI for this are simply ridiculous. We would definitely go again!
The room was PERFECT. Whoever said don't spend the money on a balcony is an idiot. We spent a LOT of time relaxing and reading on the balcony, enjoying the views at sea and at port. It comes with two chairs and a table. I can't imagine having a room without one. There was plenty of space to unpack and put suitcases under the bed. Bathroom is plenty big enough, with great water pressure and hot water. However, the bed was EXTREMELY uncomfortable for this pregnant lady (very hard mattress), but our steward put some soft foam mattress pads on and all was well (ask for this right away - like call housekeeping as soon as you get in your room because they do run out of these things). We brought our own pillows, so that wasn't a problem. One negative - the TV situation. Yes, we are TV addicts, so this was kinda a big deal. It's a great flat screen, but there are hardly any channels! There are 40 channels (ok, that's good) - BUT, about half are devoted to the ship and shopping (think QVC type channels solely for shops on the ship). Ten are devoted to Spanish and kids channels. So then you're left with about 2 news and 2 ESPN channels (we lived on those), and TBS. There was a Food network channel, but they looped the same episode over and over and over again. Sooooo.....bring lots of reading material or download movies to your tablet or phone before you leave. Speaking of that, know that they charge an outrageous price for WIFI (like $300 for the week). We ended up not getting it, thank goodness, because we heard it was spotty and you can't even stream Netflix, etc., much less download an email in less than 30 minutes. At that price, you should be getting the fastest WIFI around.Couple of random review tips that I read that worked great for us: Bring magnets for your itineraries (walls are metal), so they don't take up valuable space in your cabin. Bring an EXTRA long extension cord for your phone chargers, etc. There's only ONE plug in the whole cable, including the bathroom, and it's kinda far from the bed. Bring a small, soft throw blanket for sitting out on the balcony. Pack plenty of $1 bills for the random tips you give out each day (room service, etc.) - our steward got a couple bucks each time he brought ice, etc. We brought about $200 in one dollar bills and spent about $150 (and we're big tippers). Tip your steward an awesome amount the first time you see him, and he'll do just about anything for you the whole rest of the trip. It shouldn't work this way, but it does make a huge difference in service. Don't bring a travel water container (you get those for free when you get the beverage package). For the guys, pack a couple pairs of pants because they are very strict with the no shorts dress code at dinner - why RCI does this to people is beyond me. Formal nights are a big deal too, but we always ate at a specialty restaurant, or Johnny Rockets on those nights to avoid the silliness. Don't bring beach towels for excursions, you can get some from RCI when you leave the ship. Ladies, go to one of the shops on the first day and get one of those cute necklaces for your SeaPass card. They're only $12 and you'll be thanking me later.
Didn't book 7-mile beach bc I read bad reviews, but now I wish we had! We only heard good things about it later from other cruisers. We decided to make it a shopping day and walked around the port. Very nice shops, got some great souvenirs. Ate at Margaritaville - it was a fun experience on the balcony, people watching.
Our captain re-routed us to Montego Bay because of high winds in Falmouth, which worked out perfect for us. We only planned to walk around the Falmouth port bc we read horrible reviews on the beach excursions. In Montego Bay, we did the Irie Mon beach break. It was chaotic to get booked and on our bus. Pros: The beach was beautiful. Sand was clean and pretty. Even my husband got in the water, which he NEVER does. very relaxing day. CONS: The food was terrible. It was also about $200 all inclusive. I couldn't drink (preggers) and my husband doesn't drink. They ONLY had little bittie cups for iced cocktails. I had to pay EXTRA for a frozen non-alcoholic drink. HUH?!?! The ladies at the craft booths were ridiculously hostile and pushy. Avoid them at all costs.View All 167 Beach Reviews
This was another beach break (Playa Mia) that we booked through the ship for a ridiculous $200/person all inclusive (once again, can't drink bc I'm pregnant). I REALLY wish RCI would provide some non-all inclusive options. When we got off the ship, we were told it was too windy to get in the water (60 mile/hour winds), but we could still enjoy the beach. We were like, for $200 to sit on a windy beach, NOT drink the "free" alcohol or get in the water, I don't think so. So we cancelled our excursion (bonus for booking through the ship - REFUNDS!) and took a short 3 mile taxi trip to downtown to shop and walk around. Ate at Senior Frogs - was okay. The vendors are pretty pushy here too - don't engage if you aren't really interested in something.View All 696 Beach Reviews