We booked our cruise exactly a year before we sailed, getting us $200 onboard credit as advertised (or so we thought). We got connecting balcony cabins (we traveled with two kids and two adults) on the eighth floor and requested the 8:30 dining and a table for 4 at the time of booking. We also bought beverage package for ourselves.
Online check-in gave us a hard time because we had two separate reservations (you cannot book two cabins at the same time and you have to call to link the reservations). Overall, anything besides the homepage on RCCL's website looks outdated.
I got a text from RCCL four days before sailing:
Important Notice Regarding Your Upcoming Royal Caribbean International Sailing
Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International with important information regarding your upcoming cruise. The CDC has issued a travel alert regarding the Zika virus for certain countries, which may be included in your cruise itinerary. To learn more about the Zika virus, please visit the CDC's website. For travel-related concerns, please visit http://www.royalcaribbean.com/contentPage.do?pagename=royal_caribbean_security_guide or contact us or your travel agent.
It was not at all helpful that they sent this to us four days before sailing, even though we already had enough information on this topic.
RCI uses Pan-American Pier in San Juan. This port is only used for embarkation and has no amenities.
As soon as we arrived at the pier, we were rushed out of our taxi and onto the sidewalk. Embarkation was very disorganized. First, you have to wait in one line to drop your checked bags off. You give them your bags and they literally throw them in the back of a truck. After you drop off your bags, you have to go all the way back to the start and wait on line to get inside the embarkation building.
We were traveling with an elderly person who had a hard time walking, so we requested a wheelchair. THEY HAD NONE LEFT! However, we were allowed to use the expedited line. Once we got inside the building, things moved faster and we were able to get on the ship easily.
We did NOT have a good first impression of this cabin. Both of our sinks would not drain. The desk and other areas were banged up and the safe looked like something exploded on the outside of it because half of the numbers were burnt off and didn't work. The safe did not function properly and the front desk disregarded us. The air conditioner didn't work properly either. On a side note, the balconies are metal, not glass. Overall, the cabin looked very worn out.
They fixed our sink after us waiting hours because the plumbers were working on a 200+ toilet jam. The air conditioner was also fixed easily.
Our cabin stewardess was nice, but unprofessional. We walked off the ship without even knowing her name because she never wore a name tag. She came in our room while our air conditioner and left towels for us. She never serviced our room that night.
We visited our dining room (Strauss, Deck 4) to check the table we had been given (decks 3 and 4 are set dining, deck five is MyTime dining). It was a table for eight, and that is what they said we requested. I was furious because this was a very special cruise and we requested a table for four a year ago. Thankfully, we recieved a letter later that night informing us that they switched us to a table for four. Our table was in between two bussing stations and my chair got hit every night by a food cart. The food portions were very small and the food quality was subpar. The menu lacked options and the chefs gave us a hard time about anything (our waiter was very nice, though). A few real examples:
"Can I get a bigger soup?" "Uh, that would be hard for the chefs. I can order you two if you want."
"Can I get this as an appetizer, possibly in a smaller portion?" "No, you would have to order that as a dinner."
Their desserts weren't good either. Their idea of Baked Alaska was ice cream in a dish covered with baked egg whites. I got Ben and Jerry's almost every night I felt like having dessert.
Windjammer was AWFUL (Island Grill included). Everything tasted so terrible that my breakfast and lunch every day ended up being bread. I even tried the omelette station, but the eggs were so runny that I thought it was American cheese. Nope. I tried breakfast in the main dining room, but it matched the quality of the Windjammer food, yet it had better service. My only good regular lunch was in the main dining room. Sadly, they only had it on sea days and there was only one sea day. Johnny Rockets and Giovanni's Table were spectacular compared to the other venues. No suprise they both carry a cover charge.
The bartenders were rude and ignored anyone they didn't feel like serving, which included me and my whole party. Our beverage package advertised Evian water and Perrier sparkling water, but we instead got brands we never heard of. Guest Services agreed with the bartenders. Speaking of Guest Services, they decided to give us $100 less than the onboard credit we were offered and basically told us it was our fault. I was furious.
We only went to one show, a comedy hypnosis show. It was great, and the only reason I am giving this category less than it deserves is because they showed movies in the theater a few nights instead of a show, even though there is a dedicated screening room and a movie screen at the pool.
The only enrichment activities were trivias, and I wasn't that impressed with them because you could barely understand the host.
Rock climbing and ice skating were great, and so was mini-golf and other sports activites. The rock wall was hot, though.
We did not do shore excursions. Port times were good.
St. Thomas- Good shopping and great beaches.
St. Croix- Beaches and shopping were the worst out of all the islands. Unpopular island.
Antigua- Nice beaches and average shopping, but taxi drivers harass you.
St. Lucia- Best beaches and best shopping.
Grenada- Subpar shopping and average beaches (overpriced), although much better than St. Croix.
Disembarkation was the worst. We had to wait an "unknown amount of time" in line to get off the ship because customs were full. It ended up being about a half hour. Customs moved like lightning and so did obtaining our bags, so I don't know what the hold up was for.
Overall, this was overpriced (we had better experiences for less on Carnival). If you are looking at a Freedom Class ship of RCCL, go with Norwegian (Jewel class+) if you want basically the same activities (no ice skating, but they have bowling) and a great overall cruise experience. The downside is that their cabins are tiny, so if you want bigger cabins and great food, go with Celebrity.
Note: this is a connecting cabin.
We did NOT have a good first impression of this cabin. Both of our sinks would not drain. The desk and other areas were banged up and the safe looked like something exploded on the outside of it because half of the numbers were burnt off and didn't work. The safe did not function properly and the front desk disregarded us. The air conditioner didn't work properly either. On a side note, the balconies are metal, not glass. Overall, the cabin looked very worn out. Book another cabin if you can.
Average shopping, great beaches, but the taxi drivers harass you.
Horrible beaches, worst shopping.
Good shopping, great beaches.
No amenities an mostly outdoors (Pan-Am Pier).
Best beaches and best shopping. Be warned: there are two ports across from each other. One has shopping, one does not. We docked at the shopping port.