This was my first time cruising with Royal Caribbean and it was a spur of the moment booking due to a GREAT Deal! I don't want to compare the rooms since I stayed on the 2nd floor on this ship and my rooms with Carnival have been balcony rooms. I'm glad I did have a lower floor since I heard of a few 8th floor balcony travelers experiencing problems such as leaks, not being able to flush toilets and lights flickering. I experienced the flickering lights when visiting the travel desk located on the 8th floor. When first getting on to the ship I was a bit nervous that the majority of passengers were going to be Seniors but the split was pretty even. Since we were traveling to San Juan there were many Spanish speaking passengers but everyone seemed to communicate just fine and everyone I met on board was friendly and well behaved (to a point of course... we were on vacation - lol). The clientele travelling seemed to be experienced travellers and a very nice class of people to spend a week with. We sailed out of Tampa, Florida and the view was horrible. Oil Refineries and Trash Dumps were seen for miles. Not the way I would have preferred to start the trip. Of course, being on the ship the drinks were flowing, the band was playing and you could ignore the area you're leaving! The port made check in very easy and pleasant. I felt that the late seating dinner was a bit late at 8:30 pm. I believe my dining time on Carnival was at 8:00 pm and that 1/2 hour made a big difference. We switched to the earlier seating but that is sometimes difficult when going on excursions. We did book the "My Time Dining" which is nice if traveling with a couple but I was traveling with a friend and that did not allow us to meet new people. I also felt as if I was steered to the "My Time Dining" when trying to switch when a couple we met, also switching, was changed just moments after we were told the early seating was not available. The purser's desk finally did switch us after I went to complain the next day. It appears they may try to match people at the tables since the couple switched was placed with 2 other couples of similar age. We were seated with 2 very nice couples (one young couple & their parents) who spoke Spanish and very little English. We got a long great but the conversations were difficult. I was disappointed with the food and food selection on Royal Caribbean. Carnival is definitely superior when it comes to food. Our chef was from Ireland and every meal included mashed potatoes - lol. There was a generic brown sauce used for most of the dishes... some nights it was for beef, some nights it was for chicken and one night is was called Marsala Sauce. Don't get me wrong... the food was good but Carnival made dining unforgettable. Royal Caribbean made dining more elegant than Carnival with live music being performed either on the piano or by a fabulous string duet. The service was wonderful and the Head Waiter was always visible at each table each night to make sure of it. I did miss the fun nights of dining with Carnival when the travellers were encourage to join in a show with the wait staff. The entertainment on this ship was definitely superior. The shows and headliner acts were fabulous and the variety was perfect. This is the first time I travelled that I made sure to get to the majority of the shows. I really enjoyed the Motown Group they had on the 2nd night called Horizon and the Singer / Impressionist / Comedian they had on the 6th night. The options around the ship were equally enjoyable and included a band called "Take Four" from the Philippines. There were a few times when nothing was going and it would have been nice to have those gaps filled in. The cruise staff was good with a few duds. The girl who was performing trivia put a few of us to sleep and this was at one of the times when not much else was going on. This same person co-hosted one of the karaoke nights and did not do much better there.
We did an excursion to Passion Island which was a beautiful beach but a boring excursion. We were shuttled over on a two-story boat, dropped off on the island in a spot were we had to walk a distance through a photo-op, the shops, meet at the eating area for instructions and then pointed to the beach. It was a long walk in deep sand that was tiring for those who were fit and very difficult for those who were not. I noticed a few of the people who had a hard time with the journey. There was an open bar that had large horse flies (or bees?) swarming around it. The drinks were fruity but did not seem to have much rum in them. You had an option of a margarita or fruit punch on ice. After trying the margarita, I stuck with the beer. There was also a cash bar available. Although there were not many people as compared to what the island was prepared for, they ran out of food a few times and what they had was not that good. I was very happy to have papaya and nachos with fresh guacamole and salsa! It would have been nice to have some type of music on the beach. The only music that could be heard was from the radio behind the cash bar which was for the enjoyment of the bartender only. Carnival Glory was also in port with us. Their travellers showed up on 360 boats which looked like a blast! We didn't have that option. If we did... this trip would have been worth the $$$.
We boarded a catamaran for snorkeling first and then headed over to the Dunns River Falls. It was AWESOME and anyone who has not climbed the falls needs to try it. It was challenging but a real accomplishment and not as bad as it looked from the bottom. The crew of the excursion was very nice. The only thing that would have made this trip better was to have a little time to shop after our climb and to have the sails up on the catamaran at some point.
Our 3rd port was Samana in the Dominican Republic which was not listed in the ports on this site. We took a boat over to a private island that was beautiful! There were a couple options for this trip... We took the $39 boat ride which did not include anything. For $20 more you can get non-motorized water sports, snorkel gear and rafts which were also available for rental if you did not take this option. The snorkeling on this island was great and when you went out deep there were HUGE starfish and some people saw large sea horses as well. There was food to buy on the island but it was not good. Cocktails were also available at reasonable prices. Make sure to try one of the cocktails in a coconut or pineapple shell! At points during your visit you can have your picture taken with a parrot, a spider monkey and/or a sea lion. It's definitely an experience to be kissed by a sea lion but that fish breath is not as pleasant - lol. No fear... you can dive right back in the water afterwards.