We chose the cruise strictly because of timing. Was looking to depart on the 19th, and this is the cruise and itinerary that fit the bill. Wasn't necessarily looking for the current largest cruise ship in the world, but that's just the way it worked out. First time cruise on Royal Caribbean, as I've done Costa, Princess, Carnival, and Norwegian in the past.
We traveled as family of four with me, my wife, and 8yr old boy and girl twins. We got two rooms, an ocean balcony and an inside room across the hall for extra space. Incredibly, the price was cheaper to do it this way rather than jam the four of us in the balcony room.
My review below will encompass my first impressions, what was very good, what was so so, and what was very bad.
First impression when driving up to the ship is that there’s no denying the beauty of this ship. It’s got sharp lines, looks ultra-modern, and is a total monstrosity.
All staff when getting on board are incredibly friendly. You will have no shortage of help and there are tons and tons of people around to help you get settled.
The very good:
Neighborhood design very innovative. Central Park on a ship? Beautiful, although the area is littered with mostly specialty restaurants, with the exception of the Park Café, which is a great stop for a small bite to eat or a cup of coffee. Boardwalk is lots of fun, even stashed with a carousel.
Ultimate Abyss is a great experience. Scariest part of it is the departure platform, once you’re in the tube, you lose perspective of how high you are.
Water slides were a lot of fun. The toilet bowl slide was a lot more fun than the traditional slides.
Meal staff very, very friendly
Ship very stable, hardly felt any motion
Plenty of whirlpools
Easy to find deck chairs, even during crowded conditions
Fine Line water show is a necessary show to watch.
Room steward was great, always made sure the room was clean and responded to special requests very quickly.
The so so:
Excursions can be expensive, but you don’t necessarily need to buy one in every port. Labadee has a great little beach spots w/ no charge for deck chairs, which are plentiful if you get off the ship early enough. Recommend Nellie’s beach. In Cozumel, forget buying any excurisions from the ship, and just walk onto the pier. There are dozens of people around providing entertainment from fishing trips, beach trips, snorkeling, catamaran’s, etc, you name it. Everything is negotiable when you deal with the locals. What is not negotiable is buying the excursion through the ship. I would not recommend dealing w/ the locals in Jamaica, although I’ve never heard of anything happening to tourists in Jamaica in a while. Tourism is their life’s blood.
Felt like being at a mall on the main promenade deck 5.
Balcony room a bit small compared to other ships I’ve been on.
Main dining room and buffet food is good, but not great. My hypothesis is that the larger the ship, the more the quality of the food suffers. When you must feed more people, it’s hard to maintain good quality on food. There is a push from senior staff to get you to eat at the specialty restaurants. We tried one…. the Wonderland. Food at Wonderland was very good, but I’d stop short of calling it great. Did not dine in any other specialty restaurant. I actually have a problem with these restaurants, as it’s just another way of fishing into my pockets. I already paid thousands of dollars to be on the cruise, why do I need to keep paying?
At sea days creates more crowds on the pool decks, but not as terrible as on other cruise ships.
The Solarium is a beautiful spot to go relax without any children younger than 15. However, no pool, only a spa. In addition, even though there are what appears to be shade over the area this is actually just a mesh cover that still allows the sun through, so the area is devoid of true shade, unless you go sit in a normal chair at the Solarium café. It can also get hot in the Solarium.
You must read your daily pamphlet every night to get an understanding of the hours of certain amenities. What was open at a certain time the day before may not be open at that time the following day. That can get frustrating, so be aware.
Staff at the amenities goes through very frequent shift changes, which can cause delays if you’re waiting in line for something, like the slides.
Drink package not worth it unless you’re going to drink 6-7 drinks a day. I’m not a heavy drinker, probably should have skipped the package. If you’re a big drinker, then it’s worth it.
Watched Grease the musical, it was fun, but not the world’s greatest production.
The very bad:
Staff manning the amenities, such as slides, rock wall, always changing and there’s no consistency. Also, god forbid you forgot to read the rules prior to showing up, you’ll get chewed out. Don’t even THINK about wearing any jewelry or sunglasses when you go to the water slides. Plus, the rock wall and Ultimate Abyss have specific clothing requirements. Be aware before you go.
Casino slot payouts are nonexistent
Service at bars can be slow – bartenders tend to wait staff first, flag one of them down for faster service. I waited 15 mins for a drink one time, because the bartender had no concept of who had been waiting and who just walked up to the bar.
Keep an eye on your pool towel, not that they are being stolen, but if you forget to return one, it’s $25 a pop at the end of the cruise.
Unless you get there when it opens or at an off time, the Windjammer buffet gets VERY crowded and chances are, you will not find a seat, unless you get lucky and walk by somebody who is getting up.
Kid’s club staff not consistent, and this was most important to us. Kids crave consistency, especially when going to a strange place with strange people and strange kids.
Fake ports, such as Falmouth, which is nothing more than more of the same that is on the cruise ship. Nothing genuine. For goodness sakes, do I really need to go to a Margaritaville in Falmouth and Cozumel?? Where’s the authenticity of the actual port we’re in? No, I don’t need to buy diamonds from Diamonds International, Tanzanite, or Hublot watches.
Not two seconds after being on board, I’m already being sold on my “next” cruise. Let me enjoy this one first.
Elevators very crowded during peak times. Sometimes a 10-minute wait wasn’t out of the question. Eventually, if you’re going up, you’ll just get on one going down so you know that eventually, you’re on the elevator.
Hard to find a decent time for dinner reservations (couldn’t make reservation early prior to the cruise date, was told to make them on ship, then no decent times available.)
Carousel on boardwalk was broken for the first three days, then, when it was fixed, we were going to go on it. However, there was a sign on it that said the carousel needed to be sanitized. I’m not kidding when I say that a single worker took approximately 30-40 minutes to clean the entire carousel and surrounding bannister with a cleaning solution. Kids were waiting and getting anxious. You also had to coat your hands with purell before even THINKING about getting close to the carousel. I thought that was a little much, and I’m very protective of my kids when it comes to germs. They certainly don’t sanitize like that at Disney World, but then again, Disney never had a norovirus problem.
Decking area near pool and up on the waterslide platform can get VERY HOT and cook your feet. There’s very little shade. Forget about wear water shoes, since they aren’t allowed on the water slides. Staff attempts to remedy this by pouring water over the area, but sometimes, they don’t. Kids suffer the most here.
I get the whole thing around safety, but at the slightest HINT of bad weather, outdoor activities are too quick to close. One day, the rock wall closed because they though a storm was coming. Then a few minutes went by, and the sun came out. Rock wall remained closed and didn’t open until the following set of open hours in the evening.
All in all, the trip was still amazing. It was a week on the high seas, and my family and especially my children had a good time. I know I called out quite a few things, and this was MY experience with the cruise. Your mileage will vary and you may have a totally different experience than I did. My intention is to give you one person's perspective on what they experienced and what my thought process was, right or wrong.
I probably would not cruise on this ship again, but not because I don't like the ship, but rather for the fact that there are so many other ships I want to try, but I would recommend this ship to others, as fun times, even with a few bumps in the road, we're had by all.
First impression was that room was small compared to other cruise ships I've been on. I expect a bit more space being on the world's largest cruise ship, but I guess if you're going to boast that you can carry the most passengers, you've got to pack them in somehow. I'm glad we got an inside room across the hall, because four people in the room would have been cramped. With just two people, the room is doable, and having the balcony is a must. It's a little oasis out there. Our room had a king bed, and the couch could be converted into a bed as well. Shower was surprisingly large and spacious, and the bathroom was well, a bathroom on a cruise ship. You get what you get.
Cozumel is probably the most exciting stop. Wanted to visit the ruins, but that was an 8 hour excursion and it was 100 degrees that day. Four hours of travel time was not appealing, especially with small children. Lots of places to walk to in port. Don't be scared to venture outside the port area. Locals will try to get you to come into their shops. Just remember the words "no gracias" and you'll be fine, unless you see something you want to buy or do.
Nothing really to see in the port besides the artificial "port" built by Royal Caribbean. Skip it and enjoy the amenities on the ship. The other thing to do hear is to go on an excursion to the falls.