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(I am a writer at heart, so this may be long!) I sailed with my sister and 75-year-old mother on the Freedom of the Seas Western Caribbean itinerary. My mother and sister are big-time cruisers (they hold status on several cruise lines) - I am definitely not, so this cruise review is written from the following perspective... I had four previous sailing on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign Class ships, but this was my first in a few years and first time on one of the larger ships. I have not cruised on any other line. I was concerned about being able to find my way about a larger ship, but the layout was fairly easy to learn and with the exception of Studio B (the ice show/rink), everything was really easy to navigate to/from. TERMINAL The newer terminal where we embarked at Port Canaveral was very nice - very large. Interestingly, even though there are signs everywhere as you enter the customs area telling you, NO PHOTOS, people kept pulling out cell phones to take pictures of their group, etc. I saw an officer stop people and force them to delete the photos on their device, so be forewarned that they mean no pictures! EMBARKATION/STATEROOM We were on board by 1pm (planned to miss the large crowds - we were pretty successful at that), and were able to go directly to our room. I had only ever stayed in interior rooms previously, so our junior suite was a HUGE upgrade for me! The stateroom itself was so big!!! A large, walk-in closet, a large bathroom with granite countertop and a TUB/shower combo! We had the beds configured as two twins and my sister got the pull out sofa (hey, she's younger!) In addition to the sofa, there was also an easy chair with an ottoman, and a very large desk/vanity area. The storage in this room was amazing... three women, and we had no problem unpacking all our belongings and still had room to spare! (If you need extra room and can afford it, I would definitely recommend splurging on a junior suite.) There was a large balcony that, in addition to the standard sliding doors, had an additional floor to ceiling window panel to one side. There were two chairs, a table, and one lounger on the balcony, and we spent some nice time enjoying having a balcony (my first one!). Our cabin steward, Ron, had been my sister's steward on a previous cruise, so she had a nice time reconnecting with him and his service was top notch! He really took good care of the room, including putting up extra decorations (we had brought some with us) for our mother's birthday, which was the reason we were cruising. He really made the trip special with this unexpected touch of service. (We tipped him above our prepaid gratuities - yes, he was that good!) DINING We ate in the Windjammer for breakfast most mornings. It was actually better than I was anticipating, as most people seem to complain about it. But I never had to wait long for an omelet, or I would have the fried eggs (I detest powdered scrambled eggs). One complaint is that where you sat in the Windjammer, seemed to determine how clean the tables would be and how often they were cleared. If you sat in the very back where the best views are found, we found tables cleaned quickly and often, and coffee or water offered to us by the wait staff working in the area. The areas closer to the front of the Windjammer seemed to stay dirty longer, and not once, while seated in this area, did anyone offer to get us coffee or water. I know you can get these yourself, but it was nice to have someone offer to get it for you. We ate in the main dining room for all but two dinners, because we were coming back from port activities. We had the 5:30pm seating and were in the 3rd deck dining room (sorry-forget it's name). We ate at a large table, and were glad to meet people from other places. It was nice to compare notes each evening and talk about what we had done each day. We were seated next to the "captain's table" although it wasn't used every night, and on some nights, a different senior officer would host various guests (Pinnacle Club members, etc.). The captain did dine there on the second formal night at the 5:30 seating, and it was cool because he stopped by our table after dinner to say "Hi" to a Pinnacle Club member at our table and said hello to the rest of us as well. :-) The food in the Main Dining Room was somewhat hit or miss. However, most all appetizers and desserts were very good. The main dishes were OK, but any fish dishes seemed to be dried out, probably something that is hard to avoid when you are cooking for hundreds of people at a time, but it was noticeable. I would equate the main dining room with a three diamonds dining experience - one that struggles to hold onto that rating though, by sheer force of will of the service personnel. Our waiter and assistant waiter were good. John, the waiter was quieter, but very efficient. Our assistant waiter, Anil, was a real character. He always seemed to be in a good mood, and definitely made the evenings fun! On the nights that the captain's table was in use, they also had to service that table, but they had more assistance brought on for that, so service on the nights that the VIPs were in the dining room was especially well paced. On the other nights, there was sometimes a noticeable lag between courses (especially dessert), but it wasn't too bad (since they had to have us out of the way before they could prepare for the late dinner seating!). We did not try any of the specialty restaurants on the ship. I did have the Royal Replenish package, so I would get specialty coffees at the Promenade Cafe each morning. We also had the small sandwiches and desserts from both the Promenade Cafe and Sorrento's on different occasions and they were OK. The pizza was nothing special, but did the job on the one occasion we tried it. SHOWS/ENTERTAINMENT We only saw part of one show in the auditorium, the Broadway review. It was good, but finding seating in the shows was so difficult. I wish they would have some type of ticketing system. The saving of seats is entirely out of hand, and I didn't feel like arguing with someone in order to get seats for us. We tried to go to a comedy show but seating was impossible. When we wanted to see the ice show, we made sure we were a good 40 minutes early in order to have seats. They say to be sure to dress warmly for the ice show - listen to that - I was warm enough, but my mother and sister were pretty well frozen by the end of the show! And finding Studio B was the only part of navigating the ship that felt like I could get lost. It was over, down a deck, back up a deck again, through a bar... a little confusing, but the ice show was very good, so definitely worthwhile. We aren't really bar or drinking people, but we did go to the Schooner Bar to see the piano player one evening. On our evening, he was doing a Jimmy Buffet tribute. It was OK. I felt bad for him at one point because a drunk woman tried to sit on the piano bench with him and start singing and he had to actually stop singing mid-song and get rid of her. Not sure why they don't have his area blocked off better to keep this kind of bad behavior from happening. POOLS/POOL DECK BAR We didn't really hang out on the pool deck or swim on the ship. We were on the ship during what is apparently Canada's big school spring break, and there were lots of kids on the cruise. We don't swim on the ship in general, so it really wasn't an issue for us. We did use the pool bar nearest the Windjammer though, and when I was getting water or virgin frozen drinks (comes with the Royal Replenish package), the bartenders were very accommodating. I know some people with soda packages have found the bartenders to be less than friendly when they get a soda refill, but I did not experience anything like that at any of the bars that I used while on board. (And I used many, because I was always getting bottles of water!) PORTS/EXCURSIONS 1 of 4: LABADEE, HAITI Labadee is NOT an island. It surprises me how many reviews I read where people refer to Labadee as "one of Royal Caribbean's private islands." Labadee is on the island of Haiti. It is a "private beach resort" of Royal Caribbean. I almost hesitate to say that I visited Haiti on this trip, because Labadee is such a sanitized, packaged experience, that unless you take one of the cultural tours, you really aren't visiting Haiti. I understand the security measures they have in place, but they also aren't perfect. (More on that in a moment). My sister and I signed up for the Dragon's Tail Coaster all-day pass. It is only $10 more than the one ride excursion price, so I really recommend it. If you do this once, you will want to do it again! The views from the top are so wonderful, and the ride itself is fun. The nice part is you get to control your speed. If, like me, you are going to take it slowly, you can tell the operator before you go up the hill and they will hold back the person behind you a bit so that there won't be any danger of them wrecking into you from behind - that was nice of them to do that... send your group's most adventurous (ie: risk-taking fast riders) first! :-) It was quite a walk to the Adventure Beach area, but once we got there, there were many workers offering to pull up beach chairs for us. There is no charge, but be sure to bring some small bills so you can tip these folks. We also had a guy offer to bring us one of the blue clam-shell beach protectors for our three beach chairs - we asked how much, and he said no charge (which surprised me - Royal Caribbean usually looks for every possible way to generate revenue), but we did tip him generously after he set it up for us. The beach is nice and sandy, but the underwater area is NOT. I was glad we had read to be sure to bring surf shoes, because they were necessary. Even with those, however, the underwater surface is so uneven that our mother gave up and went back to sit on her chair and enjoyed watching the people riding the zip line above us. My sister and I tried to snorkel, but when we got out far enough to have room to snorkel, she saw a large rock that was almost as tall as the depth of water we were in and she was worried about bumping up against that kind of stuff and getting cut, so we gave that up to and went back to our chairs. We rode the coaster a total of four times each... it got better each time! The line never looks long, but it is a bit of a wait each time because only one person/sled at a time can go up the hill. But it is sooooo worth it!!! On my last ride, which was about an hour before we needed to be back on the ship, as I was starting up the hill, about 40 feet up, three men in civilian clothes and carrying bags, appeared out of the wooded hillside to the right of the track. I was a bit surprised, because it was obvious they did not work for Royal Caribbean. They could not have gotten to where I was on the track, and they said "Hi" so I said "Hi" back, but was concerned. After that ride, I shared the information with my sister and asked her if she though I should let the security know. Her opinion was that they might be locals that come in to scour the place after everyone leaves to see if they can find anything of value left behind and thought they might even be there with permission, so we let it go, but later, I really thought I should have mentioned it to security, and I would do that if it were to happen again. (If they were there with permission, why in the woods and not on a path?) We did not do the shops - mostly because every review I have read has complained about the almost aggressive nature of those selling in the shopping area. I needed nothing, so didn't want to deal with that. Labadee was nice, but I don't know that I would need to do this port again. Definitely falls on the nice, but not necessary scale of ports. 2 of 4: FALMOUTH, JAMAICA This port was created as a joint venture between Royal Caribbean and Jamaica. The port area is also a sanitized packaged version of Jamaica, so you should leave the port if you want to see some of the real country. My sister had arranged for us to spend the day at the Hilton Rose Hall resort. (Not a ship's excursion). Our driver met us outside the port and he picked up us and another family that was going someplace else. He was a very safe driver (I think his name was Bradford) and delivered us first to our stop (which was only fair, since the other family made us wait for 45 minutes before they joined us for the ride!) The grounds of the Hilton Rose Hall were beautiful. Because of the time difference, we missed breakfast at the resort and had to wait until almost 1pm our time before we were able to get something to eat (it was all-inclusive) - if you were a drinker though, the alcohol was certainly plentiful and easy to find! The beach was beautiful, but it was a very windy day. We watched someone take out a Hobie-cat from the resort and have the wind blow them over - the staff had to take a boat out to rescue him and bring him and the craft back to shore. We tried to snorkel here as well, but the bottom was very sandy and roped off, so we couldn't snorkel out to where we could have clear water (and probably wouldn't have wanted to, since it was a bit rough this day: high wind = choppy waters). We had lunch, but it was terrible. If I were paying that kind of money to stay at this place, I would be so disappointed in a "cheesesteak" that was some kind of beef chunks on a hot dog bun covered with two slices of semi-melted Kraft American cheese! To be fair, the french fries were good though and service was friendly and efficient. MANY kids running about, again, because of the spring break thing. The lazy river area was nice, but we couldn't find any seating nearby, so we only spent a little time here. Mom and my sister tried the slides, but Mom got dumped out of her tube at the bottom, so only gave that one try. My sister did it a couple of times though and enjoyed it. We had mock-tails with our lunch, and the only drink I had there was a red stripe beer (hey, I was in Jamaica! Had to try one!). There were waiters moving up and down the beach and they would bring the drinks directly to you at your chair, so that was nice. We were able to find chairs beneath a thatched roof sunshade and that is where we spent the majority of the day. We made sure to be back to the ship with 90 minutes to spare (I wore a wristwatch at all ports that was set to ship's time to be sure we wouldn't be late). The ride back was nice, because we were the only ones in the van, and Bradford talked to us about his family and their life in Jamaica on the way back, and had a running commentary on things as we would pass by on the road. ("Yah mon!") Before getting back on the ship, we did stop in the port area to buy some Blue Mountain coffee, but that was it for shopping. 3 of 4: GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN This was my most favorite stop on the entire trip. I had, for years, wanted to go to the Cayman Islands, and this was great!! This was the only port where we had to tender. Tender operations went very smoothly. There is no overdeveloped "port town" like Falmouth here. You pretty much walk off the dock and go right into town. I loved the chickens roaming free about the island. We visited the small church across from the port as we walked along doing some shopping. Picked up a few souvenirs as we shopped. Mom was ready to go back to the ship after shopping, so we went back with her, and then my sister and I got into our swimsuits and packed only our snorkeling gear in our bags, then got back on the tender again. When we got to the pier, we went to the right as we left the dock. I had read online before the cruise that there was a great snorkel area right next to the dock. It is called Eden Rock/Devil's Grotto, but we didn't make it quite that far. We reached a restaurant with a lime green metal roof that had steps that lead down to the water. Others were going in with snorkeling gear, so we did too. We left our shoes and towels right on the rocks - we weren't worried because the only thing of value we brought was a waterproof camera and we were taking that in the water with us. We got into the water and only snorkeled near that area, mostly because there were only the two of us nearby at this time, and I didn't trust if I was up to snorkeling all the way out to the edge of the reef due to recent surgery. The edge of the reef is actually Eden Rock and Devil's Grotto is a scuba diving area. Further down the road are a couple of dive centers that will take you out there on an excursion, but this was fine for us. There were quite a few really large tarpon in the water - four feet long - but don't worry, they steer clear of you! We saw lots of beautiful tropical fish and took many pictures! If you just want a taste of snorkeling, you will definitely get it here. The water was about 5 or 6 feet deep in this area, and if you stay close, you have to stay aware of your location, as the current will tend to push you up against the rocks. As long as you keep aware of this you will be pretty safe. We snorkeled for about 30 minutes total, and by then, a nice chop was developing, so it was probably good we hadn't gone out as far as Eden Rock. We had fins and vests, but still didn't want to push it. Just a safety note - if you have never done open water snorkeling on your own, please be safe and bring a vest - even if you are a strong swimmer. Water conditions can change quickly, and even strong swimmers tire when fighting waves/currents - a vest is a good backup to have and you can inflate or not as needed... better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it! 4 of 4 COZUMEL, MEXICO This was my second favorite port on this trip. We did not snorkel at all on this port call, but the water looked really rough this day, so I'm glad we didn't. My sister arranged for a driver that she and her husband had used on another trip. We paid him $25 an hour for 3 hours around the island for us in his taxi. We stopped at one of the Regalo Del Dios tequila facilities for an informative talk about tequila production, a tasting, and my sister and I each made a purchase. Be sure to specify and check that what you ask them for is what you get and what you pay for, especially if the bottles are already wrapped to go in checked luggage. They messed up my sister's and my order and we didn't catch it until we got the bottles back the last day of the cruise. Also, they check you out in Pesos, so be aware that the US $ amount they write on your receipt may not match what comes up on your bank statement, either due to changes in currency, bank fees, or the salesgirl only estimating the current exchange rate. We don't think there was any ill-intent there - just be aware. Then we went into town and visited a small chocolate production facility. Again, we did a tasting, and I found out that I liked dark chocolate that only had a couple of ingredients and purchased some! After that, we went to the "other side" (Eastern) of the island to a restaurant, Senor Iguana's. It's a small place right on the beach. The open seating area was covered, but still allowed the breeze to blow on us from the ocean. While we were eating, they set up tables for a group of about 12 people who we found out later from our driver, included the out-going Mayor of Cozumel! If the locals like a place, you KNOW it is good! We enjoyed an authentic Mexican lunch - NOT spicy at all, but they bring you bottles of Habanero sauces if you want to spice yours up - everything was DELICIOUS!!! We also had a HUGE margarita that left me feeling a bit tipsy on the ride back to the ship! The rides from place to place were good, as our driver told us about Cozumel and we saw the beautiful wild side of the eastern shore. One thing that surprised and alarmed me - I saw many entire families riding about on small motorcycles. One had the father driving with a 2 or 3-year-old child sitting on the gas tank, the mother riding behind, and in her arms, a young baby!!! Very sad that some folks have no choice but to use this as their transportation, because only a small accident and one or both children would be sure to be seriously injured or killed. I mention this because if you rent a vehicle of any kind and drive on Cozumel, you need to be aware of this, and that if you cause an accident, the police there will hold you in custody until you can arrange to pay for the lost wages of anyone you may injure in the accident. And no, the insurance you buy there will not cover this! (Research it - I did!) So be aware and drive safely if you must - or hire a driver - safer bet overall! SEA DAYS We didn't participate in the rock wall, flowrider, ice-skating, or swimming, although all of these seemed to be very popular on the sea days. Mostly, we roamed the ship, enjoyed our balcony, spent some time in the casino, listened to the senior officers' Q and A session, and just enjoyed being "away from it all." On the last sea day, we did pack up our bags early so we could enjoy the evening without worrying about getting back to the room to pack up before the 11pm deadline to have bags in the hallways. DISEMBARKATION One relatively newer service, which my sister and I REALLY liked, was an airport luggage valet service (limited to specific participating airlines, and I don't think available for international travel - consult onboard information). We had to decide by Thursday night (for a Sunday disembarkation) if we wanted to participate. For $20 per person, they would check you into your flight, give you airline luggage tags for your suitcases. Then, the bags that you put out by 11pm the night before? Well you wouldn't see them again until you were picking them up at your home airport!! You had to abide by your airlines baggage rules - most make you pay baggage fees - BUT overweight fees would not apply if you used this service! My sister and I both signed up to use it and send everything except our essentials ahead of us to the airport and home! And yes, when we arrived home, the bags were there waiting for us, so it absolutely worked! (And yes, our tequila arrived home intact, cushioned in our dirty clothes suitcase.) On the last morning, we skipped breakfast and made our way down to the Promenade Cafe, which was our disembarkation waiting point. We had 7:30 disembarkation. It went pretty smoothly, and we had our Mom's luggage and were through customs by 8:00am. We walked over to Grills Restaurant, which is only a 5-minute walk from the ship, where we met our family for a reunion breakfast. My sister and I had a flight out of Orlando that afternoon, so we spent some time with Mom and family before they took us to the airport to return home. It was, overall, a very enjoyable cruise experience! I hope you found this lengthy review useful. :-)

Overall, a pretty good experience!

Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by TahitiDreaming

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Trip Details
(I am a writer at heart, so this may be long!) I sailed with my sister and 75-year-old mother on the Freedom of the Seas Western Caribbean itinerary. My mother and sister are big-time cruisers (they hold status on several cruise lines) - I am definitely not, so this cruise review is written from the following perspective... I had four previous sailing on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign Class ships, but this was my first in a few years and first time on one of the larger ships. I have not cruised on any other line. I was concerned about being able to find my way about a larger ship, but the layout was fairly easy to learn and with the exception of Studio B (the ice show/rink), everything was really easy to navigate to/from.

TERMINAL

The newer terminal where we embarked at Port Canaveral was very nice - very large. Interestingly, even though there are signs everywhere as you enter the customs area telling you, NO PHOTOS, people kept pulling out cell phones to take pictures of their group, etc. I saw an officer stop people and force them to delete the photos on their device, so be forewarned that they mean no pictures!

EMBARKATION/STATEROOM

We were on board by 1pm (planned to miss the large crowds - we were pretty successful at that), and were able to go directly to our room. I had only ever stayed in interior rooms previously, so our junior suite was a HUGE upgrade for me! The stateroom itself was so big!!! A large, walk-in closet, a large bathroom with granite countertop and a TUB/shower combo! We had the beds configured as two twins and my sister got the pull out sofa (hey, she's younger!) In addition to the sofa, there was also an easy chair with an ottoman, and a very large desk/vanity area. The storage in this room was amazing... three women, and we had no problem unpacking all our belongings and still had room to spare! (If you need extra room and can afford it, I would definitely recommend splurging on a junior suite.) There was a large balcony that, in addition to the standard sliding doors, had an additional floor to ceiling window panel to one side. There were two chairs, a table, and one lounger on the balcony, and we spent some nice time enjoying having a balcony (my first one!).

Our cabin steward, Ron, had been my sister's steward on a previous cruise, so she had a nice time reconnecting with him and his service was top notch! He really took good care of the room, including putting up extra decorations (we had brought some with us) for our mother's birthday, which was the reason we were cruising. He really made the trip special with this unexpected touch of service. (We tipped him above our prepaid gratuities - yes, he was that good!)

DINING

We ate in the Windjammer for breakfast most mornings. It was actually better than I was anticipating, as most people seem to complain about it. But I never had to wait long for an omelet, or I would have the fried eggs (I detest powdered scrambled eggs). One complaint is that where you sat in the Windjammer, seemed to determine how clean the tables would be and how often they were cleared. If you sat in the very back where the best views are found, we found tables cleaned quickly and often, and coffee or water offered to us by the wait staff working in the area. The areas closer to the front of the Windjammer seemed to stay dirty longer, and not once, while seated in this area, did anyone offer to get us coffee or water. I know you can get these yourself, but it was nice to have someone offer to get it for you.

We ate in the main dining room for all but two dinners, because we were coming back from port activities. We had the 5:30pm seating and were in the 3rd deck dining room (sorry-forget it's name). We ate at a large table, and were glad to meet people from other places. It was nice to compare notes each evening and talk about what we had done each day. We were seated next to the "captain's table" although it wasn't used every night, and on some nights, a different senior officer would host various guests (Pinnacle Club members, etc.). The captain did dine there on the second formal night at the 5:30 seating, and it was cool because he stopped by our table after dinner to say "Hi" to a Pinnacle Club member at our table and said hello to the rest of us as well. :-)

The food in the Main Dining Room was somewhat hit or miss. However, most all appetizers and desserts were very good. The main dishes were OK, but any fish dishes seemed to be dried out, probably something that is hard to avoid when you are cooking for hundreds of people at a time, but it was noticeable. I would equate the main dining room with a three diamonds dining experience - one that struggles to hold onto that rating though, by sheer force of will of the service personnel. Our waiter and assistant waiter were good. John, the waiter was quieter, but very efficient. Our assistant waiter, Anil, was a real character. He always seemed to be in a good mood, and definitely made the evenings fun! On the nights that the captain's table was in use, they also had to service that table, but they had more assistance brought on for that, so service on the nights that the VIPs were in the dining room was especially well paced. On the other nights, there was sometimes a noticeable lag between courses (especially dessert), but it wasn't too bad (since they had to have us out of the way before they could prepare for the late dinner seating!).

We did not try any of the specialty restaurants on the ship. I did have the Royal Replenish package, so I would get specialty coffees at the Promenade Cafe each morning. We also had the small sandwiches and desserts from both the Promenade Cafe and Sorrento's on different occasions and they were OK. The pizza was nothing special, but did the job on the one occasion we tried it.

SHOWS/ENTERTAINMENT

We only saw part of one show in the auditorium, the Broadway review. It was good, but finding seating in the shows was so difficult. I wish they would have some type of ticketing system. The saving of seats is entirely out of hand, and I didn't feel like arguing with someone in order to get seats for us. We tried to go to a comedy show but seating was impossible. When we wanted to see the ice show, we made sure we were a good 40 minutes early in order to have seats. They say to be sure to dress warmly for the ice show - listen to that - I was warm enough, but my mother and sister were pretty well frozen by the end of the show! And finding Studio B was the only part of navigating the ship that felt like I could get lost. It was over, down a deck, back up a deck again, through a bar... a little confusing, but the ice show was very good, so definitely worthwhile.

We aren't really bar or drinking people, but we did go to the Schooner Bar to see the piano player one evening. On our evening, he was doing a Jimmy Buffet tribute. It was OK. I felt bad for him at one point because a drunk woman tried to sit on the piano bench with him and start singing and he had to actually stop singing mid-song and get rid of her. Not sure why they don't have his area blocked off better to keep this kind of bad behavior from happening.

POOLS/POOL DECK BAR

We didn't really hang out on the pool deck or swim on the ship. We were on the ship during what is apparently Canada's big school spring break, and there were lots of kids on the cruise. We don't swim on the ship in general, so it really wasn't an issue for us. We did use the pool bar nearest the Windjammer though, and when I was getting water or virgin frozen drinks (comes with the Royal Replenish package), the bartenders were very accommodating. I know some people with soda packages have found the bartenders to be less than friendly when they get a soda refill, but I did not experience anything like that at any of the bars that I used while on board. (And I used many, because I was always getting bottles of water!)

PORTS/EXCURSIONS

1 of 4: LABADEE, HAITI

Labadee is NOT an island. It surprises me how many reviews I read where people refer to Labadee as "one of Royal Caribbean's private islands." Labadee is on the island of Haiti. It is a "private beach resort" of Royal Caribbean. I almost hesitate to say that I visited Haiti on this trip, because Labadee is such a sanitized, packaged experience, that unless you take one of the cultural tours, you really aren't visiting Haiti. I understand the security measures they have in place, but they also aren't perfect. (More on that in a moment).

My sister and I signed up for the Dragon's Tail Coaster all-day pass. It is only $10 more than the one ride excursion price, so I really recommend it. If you do this once, you will want to do it again! The views from the top are so wonderful, and the ride itself is fun. The nice part is you get to control your speed. If, like me, you are going to take it slowly, you can tell the operator before you go up the hill and they will hold back the person behind you a bit so that there won't be any danger of them wrecking into you from behind - that was nice of them to do that... send your group's most adventurous (ie: risk-taking fast riders) first! :-)

It was quite a walk to the Adventure Beach area, but once we got there, there were many workers offering to pull up beach chairs for us. There is no charge, but be sure to bring some small bills so you can tip these folks. We also had a guy offer to bring us one of the blue clam-shell beach protectors for our three beach chairs - we asked how much, and he said no charge (which surprised me - Royal Caribbean usually looks for every possible way to generate revenue), but we did tip him generously after he set it up for us.

The beach is nice and sandy, but the underwater area is NOT. I was glad we had read to be sure to bring surf shoes, because they were necessary. Even with those, however, the underwater surface is so uneven that our mother gave up and went back to sit on her chair and enjoyed watching the people riding the zip line above us. My sister and I tried to snorkel, but when we got out far enough to have room to snorkel, she saw a large rock that was almost as tall as the depth of water we were in and she was worried about bumping up against that kind of stuff and getting cut, so we gave that up to and went back to our chairs.

We rode the coaster a total of four times each... it got better each time! The line never looks long, but it is a bit of a wait each time because only one person/sled at a time can go up the hill. But it is sooooo worth it!!! On my last ride, which was about an hour before we needed to be back on the ship, as I was starting up the hill, about 40 feet up, three men in civilian clothes and carrying bags, appeared out of the wooded hillside to the right of the track. I was a bit surprised, because it was obvious they did not work for Royal Caribbean. They could not have gotten to where I was on the track, and they said "Hi" so I said "Hi" back, but was concerned. After that ride, I shared the information with my sister and asked her if she though I should let the security know. Her opinion was that they might be locals that come in to scour the place after everyone leaves to see if they can find anything of value left behind and thought they might even be there with permission, so we let it go, but later, I really thought I should have mentioned it to security, and I would do that if it were to happen again. (If they were there with permission, why in the woods and not on a path?)

We did not do the shops - mostly because every review I have read has complained about the almost aggressive nature of those selling in the shopping area. I needed nothing, so didn't want to deal with that.

Labadee was nice, but I don't know that I would need to do this port again. Definitely falls on the nice, but not necessary scale of ports.

2 of 4: FALMOUTH, JAMAICA

This port was created as a joint venture between Royal Caribbean and Jamaica. The port area is also a sanitized packaged version of Jamaica, so you should leave the port if you want to see some of the real country. My sister had arranged for us to spend the day at the Hilton Rose Hall resort. (Not a ship's excursion). Our driver met us outside the port and he picked up us and another family that was going someplace else. He was a very safe driver (I think his name was Bradford) and delivered us first to our stop (which was only fair, since the other family made us wait for 45 minutes before they joined us for the ride!) The grounds of the Hilton Rose Hall were beautiful. Because of the time difference, we missed breakfast at the resort and had to wait until almost 1pm our time before we were able to get something to eat (it was all-inclusive) - if you were a drinker though, the alcohol was certainly plentiful and easy to find! The beach was beautiful, but it was a very windy day. We watched someone take out a Hobie-cat from the resort and have the wind blow them over - the staff had to take a boat out to rescue him and bring him and the craft back to shore. We tried to snorkel here as well, but the bottom was very sandy and roped off, so we couldn't snorkel out to where we could have clear water (and probably wouldn't have wanted to, since it was a bit rough this day: high wind = choppy waters).

We had lunch, but it was terrible. If I were paying that kind of money to stay at this place, I would be so disappointed in a "cheesesteak" that was some kind of beef chunks on a hot dog bun covered with two slices of semi-melted Kraft American cheese! To be fair, the french fries were good though and service was friendly and efficient.

MANY kids running about, again, because of the spring break thing. The lazy river area was nice, but we couldn't find any seating nearby, so we only spent a little time here. Mom and my sister tried the slides, but Mom got dumped out of her tube at the bottom, so only gave that one try. My sister did it a couple of times though and enjoyed it.

We had mock-tails with our lunch, and the only drink I had there was a red stripe beer (hey, I was in Jamaica! Had to try one!). There were waiters moving up and down the beach and they would bring the drinks directly to you at your chair, so that was nice. We were able to find chairs beneath a thatched roof sunshade and that is where we spent the majority of the day.

We made sure to be back to the ship with 90 minutes to spare (I wore a wristwatch at all ports that was set to ship's time to be sure we wouldn't be late). The ride back was nice, because we were the only ones in the van, and Bradford talked to us about his family and their life in Jamaica on the way back, and had a running commentary on things as we would pass by on the road. ("Yah mon!") Before getting back on the ship, we did stop in the port area to buy some Blue Mountain coffee, but that was it for shopping.

3 of 4: GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN

This was my most favorite stop on the entire trip. I had, for years, wanted to go to the Cayman Islands, and this was great!! This was the only port where we had to tender. Tender operations went very smoothly. There is no overdeveloped "port town" like Falmouth here. You pretty much walk off the dock and go right into town. I loved the chickens roaming free about the island. We visited the small church across from the port as we walked along doing some shopping. Picked up a few souvenirs as we shopped. Mom was ready to go back to the ship after shopping, so we went back with her, and then my sister and I got into our swimsuits and packed only our snorkeling gear in our bags, then got back on the tender again.

When we got to the pier, we went to the right as we left the dock. I had read online before the cruise that there was a great snorkel area right next to the dock. It is called Eden Rock/Devil's Grotto, but we didn't make it quite that far. We reached a restaurant with a lime green metal roof that had steps that lead down to the water. Others were going in with snorkeling gear, so we did too. We left our shoes and towels right on the rocks - we weren't worried because the only thing of value we brought was a waterproof camera and we were taking that in the water with us.

We got into the water and only snorkeled near that area, mostly because there were only the two of us nearby at this time, and I didn't trust if I was up to snorkeling all the way out to the edge of the reef due to recent surgery. The edge of the reef is actually Eden Rock and Devil's Grotto is a scuba diving area. Further down the road are a couple of dive centers that will take you out there on an excursion, but this was fine for us. There were quite a few really large tarpon in the water - four feet long - but don't worry, they steer clear of you! We saw lots of beautiful tropical fish and took many pictures! If you just want a taste of snorkeling, you will definitely get it here. The water was about 5 or 6 feet deep in this area, and if you stay close, you have to stay aware of your location, as the current will tend to push you up against the rocks. As long as you keep aware of this you will be pretty safe. We snorkeled for about 30 minutes total, and by then, a nice chop was developing, so it was probably good we hadn't gone out as far as Eden Rock. We had fins and vests, but still didn't want to push it. Just a safety note - if you have never done open water snorkeling on your own, please be safe and bring a vest - even if you are a strong swimmer. Water conditions can change quickly, and even strong swimmers tire when fighting waves/currents - a vest is a good backup to have and you can inflate or not as needed... better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!

4 of 4 COZUMEL, MEXICO

This was my second favorite port on this trip. We did not snorkel at all on this port call, but the water looked really rough this day, so I'm glad we didn't. My sister arranged for a driver that she and her husband had used on another trip. We paid him $25 an hour for 3 hours around the island for us in his taxi. We stopped at one of the Regalo Del Dios tequila facilities for an informative talk about tequila production, a tasting, and my sister and I each made a purchase. Be sure to specify and check that what you ask them for is what you get and what you pay for, especially if the bottles are already wrapped to go in checked luggage. They messed up my sister's and my order and we didn't catch it until we got the bottles back the last day of the cruise. Also, they check you out in Pesos, so be aware that the US $ amount they write on your receipt may not match what comes up on your bank statement, either due to changes in currency, bank fees, or the salesgirl only estimating the current exchange rate. We don't think there was any ill-intent there - just be aware. Then we went into town and visited a small chocolate production facility. Again, we did a tasting, and I found out that I liked dark chocolate that only had a couple of ingredients and purchased some!

After that, we went to the "other side" (Eastern) of the island to a restaurant, Senor Iguana's. It's a small place right on the beach. The open seating area was covered, but still allowed the breeze to blow on us from the ocean. While we were eating, they set up tables for a group of about 12 people who we found out later from our driver, included the out-going Mayor of Cozumel! If the locals like a place, you KNOW it is good! We enjoyed an authentic Mexican lunch - NOT spicy at all, but they bring you bottles of Habanero sauces if you want to spice yours up - everything was DELICIOUS!!! We also had a HUGE margarita that left me feeling a bit tipsy on the ride back to the ship! The rides from place to place were good, as our driver told us about Cozumel and we saw the beautiful wild side of the eastern shore.

One thing that surprised and alarmed me - I saw many entire families riding about on small motorcycles. One had the father driving with a 2 or 3-year-old child sitting on the gas tank, the mother riding behind, and in her arms, a young baby!!! Very sad that some folks have no choice but to use this as their transportation, because only a small accident and one or both children would be sure to be seriously injured or killed. I mention this because if you rent a vehicle of any kind and drive on Cozumel, you need to be aware of this, and that if you cause an accident, the police there will hold you in custody until you can arrange to pay for the lost wages of anyone you may injure in the accident. And no, the insurance you buy there will not cover this! (Research it - I did!) So be aware and drive safely if you must - or hire a driver - safer bet overall!

SEA DAYS

We didn't participate in the rock wall, flowrider, ice-skating, or swimming, although all of these seemed to be very popular on the sea days. Mostly, we roamed the ship, enjoyed our balcony, spent some time in the casino, listened to the senior officers' Q and A session, and just enjoyed being "away from it all." On the last sea day, we did pack up our bags early so we could enjoy the evening without worrying about getting back to the room to pack up before the 11pm deadline to have bags in the hallways.

DISEMBARKATION

One relatively newer service, which my sister and I REALLY liked, was an airport luggage valet service (limited to specific participating airlines, and I don't think available for international travel - consult onboard information). We had to decide by Thursday night (for a Sunday disembarkation) if we wanted to participate. For $20 per person, they would check you into your flight, give you airline luggage tags for your suitcases. Then, the bags that you put out by 11pm the night before? Well you wouldn't see them again until you were picking them up at your home airport!! You had to abide by your airlines baggage rules - most make you pay baggage fees - BUT overweight fees would not apply if you used this service! My sister and I both signed up to use it and send everything except our essentials ahead of us to the airport and home! And yes, when we arrived home, the bags were there waiting for us, so it absolutely worked! (And yes, our tequila arrived home intact, cushioned in our dirty clothes suitcase.)

On the last morning, we skipped breakfast and made our way down to the Promenade Cafe, which was our disembarkation waiting point. We had 7:30 disembarkation. It went pretty smoothly, and we had our Mom's luggage and were through customs by 8:00am. We walked over to Grills Restaurant, which is only a 5-minute walk from the ship, where we met our family for a reunion breakfast. My sister and I had a flight out of Orlando that afternoon, so we spent some time with Mom and family before they took us to the airport to return home.

It was, overall, a very enjoyable cruise experience! I hope you found this lengthy review useful. :-)
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Cabin Review

Cabin 1602
It might be the fact that I had only ever had inside staterooms, but I LOVED this stateroom! It was located close to the rear elevators, so a good location, and only one flight of stairs up to the Windjammer/Pool Deck, so less elevator waiting. The room had a walk-in closet; a large granite countertop in the bathroom; soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion; a bathtub/shower combination; very large vanity/desk area; full size couch; easy chair and ottoman; balcony with two chairs, a table, and a lounge chair; and an additional floor to ceiling window at the balcony. There is really nothing to complain about this room except one thing - the AC worked TOO well. Even when we had it turned all the way back to almost off, it pumped out lots of cold air. I thought it was too cold at night, but since my mother and sister didn't complain, I didn't mention it to our stateroom attendant, although I'm sure if I had, he would have taken care of it right away, as he was very good! I can never figure out how people can complain about a room this nice and BIG, unless there was something functional that wasn't working properly. This room was fantastic! Would I pay this much again? Probably not, but it was for a special occasion, so it was worth it to make our mom feel special, and having three women together in one room, we appreciated all the extra storage space.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Best of Cozumel
    Had a great time with a private driver visiting the tequila tour and tasting, chocolate tour and tasting, and Senor Iguana's on the Eastern side of the island. If you have time and want an authentic and delicious Mexican lunch (NOT spicy, but you can add habanero sauce if you want spice), stop at Senor Iguana's. I want to come back one day just to eat at this restaurant that sits right on the ocean again. Breeze blowing by and drinking a deliciously strong margarita... very very nice!
    View All 108 Best of Cozumel Reviews
  • Tequila Tasting
    Not much of a tour (was a Regalo del Dios facility, right at the southern end of the main drag in town), but the tasting was wonderful! Such an education for the palate as well... definitely a do for first time visits at Cozumel.
    View All 116 Tequila Tasting Reviews
  • Hilton Rose Hall
    While the facilities were lovely and you could drink yourself silly if so inclined, the food was disappointing as was the potential for snorkeling. Perhaps there was a good place to snorkel, but we couldn't find it. The beach was wonderful and the service personnel were top notch. The food really kept me from giving it a rating of four.
    View All 12 Hilton Rose Hall Reviews
  • Grand Cayman
    Nice shopping areas, felt very safe at this port. And loved, loved, LOVED the free snorkeling area about a 15 minute walk to the right as you leave the port. Eden Rock area - snorkel all the way out to the edge of the reef or stay close by... your choice. Just be aware you are in open water and snorkel within your and your group's limitations. Amazing fish! We saw Dory but we did not find Nemo. :-) Many large tarpon in the area, but they don't bother you - don't be worried about them. Enjoy but keep aware of your location... if you do this, there isn't a guide telling you what to do and watching out for you. Be sure someone in your group will take this responsibility.
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  • Dragon's Tail Coaster
    IF you do this, I highly recommend buying the all day pass. It is only $10 more and you will definitely enjoy multiple rides on this attraction. It is great that you can control your own speed. I think this is a very safe alternative if the zip line makes you nervous!
    View All 12,409 Dragon's Tail Coaster Reviews
  • Port Canaveral (Orlando)
    The newer cruise terminal is spacious and airy and they seem to move people through quickly. Really enjoyed breakfast at Grills restaurant, a five minute walk to the left as you are facing the ship.
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