We LOVED this ship & are all sad to be back home!
First impressions were bad because we'd booked the first time slot to board but ended up sitting in traffic for 1 hour at the port! Check in was easy and well organised, I had done the online checkin and printed our set sail passes already so this helped, although they did ask a few questions that I had already answered online, but never mind. Also once onboard they had advised everybody to go up to the Windjammer for food and drinks so we headed up there as the rooms weren't ready yet, but of course everybody went up there and as big as that restaurant is, it doesn't seat 4,500 people! It felt very claustrophobic and we couldn't get a table. We had to wait about half an hour.
Anyway that was the worst part of our trip, from then on it was amazing. The ship is beautiful, attention to detail with the decor is fantastic, it was all spotlessly clean, and the staff were amazing and friendly. We loved our cabin and had an interconnecting room with my parents which was great for us all. We kept the door open most of the time which meant the kids could go back and forth between rooms but we could also close it if we wanted privacy. They also took the balcony screen down in between so that we could share balconies with my parents.
The room itself was lovely. It was clean, nicely decorated and had everything we needed. The bathroom is what you would expect on a ship, small, but it was so nice and had all the toiletries you could need. Our stateroom attendant was really nice and made up the sofa bed every day for our girls. He didn't make towel animals every day but he did do it every other day.
The whole thing was really well organised. Every evening the Cruise Compass (the daily itinerary) was left on our bed for the following day. It listed all of the restaurant opening times, and all if the activities for the day. Plus any offers that day in the shops, beauty salon etc. There definitely plenty of activities. We did not run out of things to do. We spent the first day just exploring the ship and making a mental note of everything we wanted to do.
The children loved the giraffe on the top deck. They also loved the pools. The indoor pool was perfect because the roof was all glass and so even when it was cold outside it was warm enough to sit in there in a swimsuit and watch the children in the pool. There was also 2 hot tubs in there too. It never got overcrowded in this pool even when the outdoor pool was closed due to rough weather. When the weather got warmer as we travelled south we did use the outdoor pool a couple of times. It was a great pool and there were a lot of sun beds, but we could never get a free sunbed out here on a sunny day. There was an ice cream station out here too which you could help yourself to. That was a great perk! We had as many towels as we needed, they never seemed to run out.
We are mostly in the Windjammer marketplace because it was always consistently good. The food in there was plentiful and it was always amazing. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was always very good. The staff in there were always happy, friendly, and made an effort with the children. We did eat in other places. We ate in The Grande on the first night, which I had pre-booked months before for 6:30pm. Unfortunately we still had to queue and wait for about 20 minutes which was disappointing. We were also disappointed that they weren't strict on their dress code. It clearly says 'smart' everywhere, even on the itinerary and that jackets were required for men. We were looking forward to dressing up for this occasion especially as we were there for my mum's 60th. But we saw so many people walking in wearing jeans, t-shirts, i even saw a woman wearin a velour tracksuit! The food was good in here, and the service was brilliant. However instead of just 1 waiter introducing himself to us and saying he would be our waiter for the evening, about 6 waiters did it, which of course meant we forgot their names, and didn't know which one to tip! We can't afford to tip all of them! And we felt that was the reason they were all introducing themselves, to get tips.
We also are in Jamie's Italian. I had also pre booked & paid for this. Initially I was annoyed when I booked it as they charged me 6 X £19.50 but that included 2 children, and it clearly states on the website that children under 5 eat free and children aged 6-12 eat for less. When I emailed them about this they didn't known what I was talking about and asked where I had seen this! I emailed them a screenshot of the details and they said I would have to sort it out directly with guest relations when I got on board (bearing in mind I had booked this restaurant 6 months in advance!). I did eventually sort this out onboard after an hours wait at guest relations but that will be mentioned below. Once we got to Jamie's it was very good. Service was fantastic, food was very good. They were good with the children. And when we didn't have dessert because the children were so tired and asking to go to bed, they told us we could go back another day and have dessert for free.
My husband and I also ate in Silk, the Asian restaurant, which was a complimentary restaurant and was very good. Again service was great and the food was good.
We had lunch in Sorrento's one day too, which did do very good pizza.
One thing I loved about the ship was the cleanliness. They had hand sanitizer stations outside every single restaurant, shop, bar, room that you go into. They asked you to wash your hands before entering the windjammer, and they played a cute little song about washing your hands on the to which the children loved and would sing along to!
We did roller skating one day, which was fun. We tried to go on the bumper cars too, but they wouldn't let my 4 year old on as you have to be over 5. I personally think she would have been fine on them, especially as she wouldn't have been driving and she would have been with me, an adult. My other daughter (6) went on with her dad and had a great time. My youngest was very upset at missing out and I felt bad for her.
The fitness centre and the running track were brilliant, and always well used. The Flowrider was fun to watch, as was the ripcord. I would have liked to go on the North Star, but I didn't book this in advance, and when I tried to book this onboard it was all fully booked, so we missed out on this but that was our fault.
We didn't do any of the Roal Caribbean excursions for the only reason that I thought they were overpriced. If they had been cheaper we would have done some. As it happened we got off the boat in Puerto Rico and just had a wander around the city for a couple of hours and then returned to the boat. In St Thomas we got a taxi to Magen's Bay, which I was hugely disappointed with. Apparently this is one of the top 10 beaches in the world, but I have spleen to much better. Plus, there were 3 other cruise ships in that day and I think they were all taken to Magen's Bay! Which you had to pay $5 per person to get into! It was packed! The sea was nice, the beach was ok. But after an hour or so it absolutely poured with rain and we git drenched, had to leave the beach & just wanted to get back on board. Unfortunately it took some time to go through the passport check and get back on the ship, we were all freezing and wet and the air con on the ship as we got back on did not help things! But one we had showered and changed we were fine. We also went to St Kitts. We didn't go with the first taxi we saw this time, and instead found a driver we trusted, and went to a different beach to everyone else. This beach wasn't beautiful but it had everything we needed. We did a little shopping in St Kitts before getting back onboard. Our final stop was St Maarten, which was our favourite. We went to Little Bay, which was lovely (& not so little). It was perfect for us. We did some shopping on the way back, and there were much better shops here. With good prices too.
The shows onboard were spectacular. We saw We Will Rock You which was amazing. We saw Mo5aic an accapella group, who were brilliant singers and fun too. My Mum went to see The Gift which she said was amazing. We would have gone too but it wasn't on at a convenient time for us. Also Spectre's Cabaret we didn't get to watch as it wasn't on until 10:30pm and that was too late for us.
We were also kept very entertained in our room by the tv! Not from watching any programmes, but because the first channel showed the Cruise Director every morning reading information about each day's itinerary plus reading shout outs from the guests, he was very funny! Also the cruise itinerary channel was great, it apshowed a map of the journey, with information such as outside temperature, sea depth, wind speeds etc. It also changed between the journey map and live webcams around the outside of the boat. Other channels showed talks about the port destinations, shopping, future cruises etc. It was very informative.
The only issue I have was with the whole issue of tipping. When we booked our cruise we were given the option to pre-book our gratuities. If we chose not to do this we automatically have them charged to our room each day. This really annoyed me because it should be our choice whether to tip or not based on the service we receive at the time. This means we have to tip whether we get good service or not, which I think is very wrong. Plus, these pre paid gratuities do not go to all members of staff, so you still have to tip onboard anyway! They don't make this clear enough from the start. We would have tipped anyway as we did receive great service from everybody but we hated that the choice was taken out of our hands - in advance. I just thought this was rude and very wrong.
One more issue I've just remembered was guest services. I needed to go to guest services on the second day to sort out getting a refund for the Jamie's Italian issue, but also to ask why we didn't have water in our fridge. First of all I queued for AN HOUR! They should have had more staff on the desks. When I got there, the man I was dealing with couldn't answer any of my questions and had to phone 2 different crew members! It took over half an hour to sort out, but we got there in the end!
Can't comment on the kids clubs as we didn't use them. We did enrol our children to use them, but we had so much to do as a family onboard that in the end we didn't need to use the clubs! But they looked good and seemed well managed with loads of things to do.
Disembarking was very easy too. We could choose a time slot to leave and you could leave suitcases out the night before and collect them from the arrivals hall on land the next morning, or you could do what we did, and take your luggage off yourself, then you have to leave between 6:30am and 7:30am. It all went smoothly.
To summarise, we loved 99% of everything about this cruise, we were very sad to be leaving, and we all miss being on it. I would love to do it all over again.
Absolutely stunning. Clean, nicely decorated.
Too much traffic
Not very clean place. Just took a walk around the city. Good security checks on re-boarding the ship.
Took a taxi to the beach, recommended by taxi driver - big mistake as had to pay to go to the beach and it was overcrowded.
Took a taxi to the beach, did a little shopping. Got pestered by all the taxi drivers and people with monkeys. Nice taxi driver though - Destiny.
Great little shopping area, great beach (little bay). Cheap taxi.