This was my 9th overall cruise, 4th on Royal. Went with my wife and daughter for spring break. We normally cruise out of Tampa but the cruise we wanted there was booked up nearly a year out so we ended up driving to Ft. Lauderdale for a trip on Liberty of the Seas. As such, there was no air travel or hotel stays involved. Leaving Tampa at 8AM, we arrived at Port Everglades around noon. Traffic to the port wasn't too bad but there were 4 ships leaving that day (including the Oasis) so the port itself was somewhat crowded. Port Everglades is also an odd port compared to all the other cruise ports I've left from (Tampa, Miami, Canaveral) as it really is a cargo port that then decided to have cruise ships. As such, if you drive there, you have to dodge container transports getting to the terminal. Our terminal this day was 25 and signage directing you to it wasn't the best. When we eventually found it, there was no clear signs about where to unload. Eventually, though, we figured out you actually have to drive PAST the terminal to drop off the bags. Self-park is then back on the other side of the terminal on the opposite side of the road. I did NOT see any valet attendants. After about 20 minutes to park and walk back to other side of the terminal again, we began the check-in process. Of my 9 cruises, this was BY FAR the longest check in process I have ever experienced. Our paperwork (and even a phone call from Royal the week prior to our cruise) advised us NOT to arrive at the port before 12PM. Well, the lines at 12PM were already wrapped around the building! We had a suite and were advised by our travel agent that we had priority boarding so we weren't that concerned. However, we still had to file around the building for 20 minutes to get to the separate priority line. Once in that line, it turned out to be just a shorter cue for security but still took 25 minutes to go through. And let me tell you...Terminal 25 looks like it is simply a converted cargo warehouse with no frills or ambiance whatsoever. Once through security, we were able to check in pretty quick and then board the ship. So from drop off to boarding was 75 minutes.
Once on board at 1:15PM, we figured we'd head to our room since we were told it would be ready at 1PM. Unfortunately, there was apparently a delay in the previous cruise being cleared by the Coast Guard so we were told the rooms were not ready and we needed to wait another 30 minutes. Having experienced Windjammer's on embarkation day before, we immediately looked for any other venue to grab a bite and a drink and found the pizza place - Sorrento's on the Promenade. It was surprisingly quiet, had it's own bar, and the pizza wasn't too bad. We even ran into some friends from Tampa!
As for the ship itself, it is by far the biggest ship we have ever sailed on, but other than during embarkation and the occasional elevator log jam during dinner, it really didn't seem that crowded. Overall, it is a very clean ship with only some signs of wear.
We had previously been in a Grand Suite on other Royal ships but this time we splurged with the thought that our other daughter would join us but that didn't happen so it was just the 3 of us. Overall a very nice room. We were 1 door away from the aft elevator/stair bank but it was very quiet. We were also under nothing so no chairs scraping on the pool deck! The room was very spacious and the balcony was huge with 2 doors to access it. The furniture had more signs of wear than I have seen on other ships and there was a funky black ring at the water line in the toilet. Otherwise, it was still quite clean. Lots of cabinets and storage. Nice to have separate dining table in room. Bathroom has toilet and bidet. Also has jet tub and separate stand-up shower. There was no alarm clock/radio.
Extra benefits with room: access to concierge lounge and concierge services; access to private seating in theater and pool deck; special tendering access; room service off MDR menu;
Embarkation: poor signage; self-parking is far away; long lines; slow security; "terminal" is really a converted cargo warehouse.
Debarkation: outdoors; slow customs; no benefit to using porter