This was our fifth cruise with Royal Caribbean but the longest,10 days, and was absolutely wonderful. Fortunately we flew from PA. to Florida on 3/15 and missed the terrible snow storm that hit the Northeast on Fri.3/16 which caused many people to miss the ship and/ or luggage. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and were shuttled to the Marriott Courtyard Hotel on Miami Beach which was lovely.It afforded us a chance to relax after the usual craziness of preparing for vacation and flying. Our shuttle to the port was on time Friday and check-in was easy and efficient. Our stateroom had a balcony,was a good size and had plenty of storage.We always appreciate having a sofa since we usually do room service breakfast and coffee on the balcony is always a wonderful treat.Having a small refrigerator is great. We'll order fruit and cheese plates for a quick snack and don't have to wait for room service. Our stateroom attendant was friendly and met our every request. We ended up switching to 8 PM dinner by the third day. I either had forgotten or wasn't told Main seating was now 5:30 PM which was much too early.We felt very rushed getting ready for that time slot. The dining room staff was very accommodating with our request . We enjoyed a more leisurely pace by the change , late afternoon snacks or even a nap !
All of our side trips were booked through the ship.We had decided before leaving home what we wanted,filled out our form shortly after boarding and got all of our selections.We don't like to book anything other than through the cruise line.We feel they will offer the best and safest choices even if it is a little more expensive.The piece of mind is worth every cent. After two glorious days at sea we reached Aruba where we took a snorkeling trip which was alot of fun even though the waters were a bit rough to swim in.The shopping was great,Having the maps and info on the stores ahead of time was helpful.My husband won a diamond heart necklace at Diamonds International. We've dealt with this company on previous cruises and are always pleased with the quality of their jewelry and the appraisals prove to be even higher back home. After another day at sea we went through the Gatun Lock of the Panama Canal.This experience was awesome.We didn't book any side trips,traversing the canal was enough for us.The port of Cristobal was great.The flea market had so many interesting items for sale from the locals.I had been told about the handmade wooden pieces and bought several teak bowls. Having priced some online I knew I was getting a great deal. The local female Indians were topless but the gorgeous necklaces they wore made it nonoffensive. The next morning we arrived in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. The port itself is not the best.We were anchored next to a commercial box car facility,not much of a view to say the least.Our side trip took us by bus to a banana plantation which was really interesting.I'll never eat a banana again without thinking of it's origins.We then went by boat through a section of the Tortuguero Canals. It was another great experience.The tour guide was excellent and got as excited as the rest of us seeing the monkeys,sloths ,crocs,birds etc. This really gave us the real feeling of a tropical rain forest. The port offered a small flea market with local artisans. We didn't have the time or desire to venture into the town on our own.It felt unsafe.
Another day at sea and on to George Town,Grand Cayman, a beautiful island ! We were tendered here but the boats to shore ran frequently so not much time was wasted.This was our side trip highlight !! Swimming with the stingrays was a life time experience.Anyone who has a daring spirit needs to do this. The sandbar is about a half hour from port and has pretty shallow water. We purchased the video taken on our trip.It was delivered to the ship as promised and is of good quality and a blast to watch.The stores offered high end to inexpensive souvenir shops. Again having a map and info from the ship was helpful.The VIP slips given at the info meeting really did get discounts and weren't just a come on to get you into the store. After another wonderful day we headed out to sea for our last full day before arriving back in Miami. We really enjoyed our cruising days.We had more than any other trip.All of our meals were excellent no matter where we ate. Our dinner in Chops was 5 star plus and worth the extra $20/person.The Mississippi Mud Pie was to die for !!!The solarium pool was gorgeous. The casino was larger than some other ships.Entertainment was enjoyable. We were at the Ft.Lauderdale airport by 10:30AM.Our flight home wasn't until 5:20PM.We'd never do that again! We'd stay the extra day in the port city if we'd have a late flight.Sitting in an airport 8 hrs. was no fun.Missing our connecting flight even worse.But atleast it was on the way home and not on our way to the ship and we did have a lovely room at the Crown Plaza in Pittsburgh paid by US Air.Now we're planning another cruise to Bermuda from Philadelphia .An hour drive to the port beats flying to one.