What a vacation! We are timeshare travelers, and love driving to a location and unloading for the week. We often take a day trip and stay overnight in another location. While we will still take an annual trip or two on land, I think Cruising is definitely for us...which is what this cruise was for! Find out if we liked sailing and if our bodies could handle the rolling seas. The answer is definitely YES!
If you have never been on a cruise, choose a short cruise, but at least 5 days so you can really get a feel for it. Believe all the tips that say bring fewer clothes and more money though! While almost everything on our Royal Caribbean Cruise was paid on our Sea pass, we had been told that the casino also used your Sea pass, which was not true. I am sure we might have lost more money if we had brought more, but it would have been nice to have a little bit more. We didn't get to the point of checking ATM fees, but we did set money aside for cab fare and tips when we returned to San Diego.
We had a terrible dinner table location, but we had such a wonderful couple to dine with, we decided NOT to move. We started out with 9 at our table, but one couple and their son were supposed to be with their group at another table. There was a Mom and her 17 year old daughter who joined us the first night and one other night. But the other couple was a delight, and have traveled and cruised a great deal, so we had a great time learning from them. Service was on the slow side, but we were not in a big hurry, so we didn't really care. The Grand Romance package was a special treat (can't believe we got tired of chocolate covered strawberries), but skip the Couples massage. VERY overpriced for what you get.
We did the pre-paid gratuity, which we obviously did NOT understand. Somehow we thought that our gratuity covered everything, only to learn that EVERY bar tab has 15% added to their already high costs ($4.50 for a Miller Lite???) and that we SHOULD have tipped room service since that is on a tip per service. Boy did we feel badly! We had breakfast in our room 4 days! Also missed that we should have tipped at the massage, but we did not feel bad after spending $289 on that.
Skip the "Chain by the Inch" where they don't bother to tell you that besides your 7 inch bracelet costing $31.50, they add another $5.00 for the clasp, which they do not give you an option on the kind. Then if you buy enough you also get a "FREE" bracelet, but they make that a 6 inch of the $2.00 or less chain, and then charge you $5 for the clasp.
We caught part of the opening night stage show, which focused WAY too much on couples who were either just married, or had been married 30+ years. So of course if you are not allowed to get married, your 15 years doesn't mean much! Seems there could be more focus on PEOPLE instead of couples! We didn't make it to any of the other shows, choosing instead to go to the casino after dinner, or walk around the ship, or enjoy a cocktail together on our balcony. For a couple who doesn't really care about shows, the swimming pools, the activities aboard ship, or fine dining, we were amazed at how our time FLEW on this cruise. We thought the food was super (although someone at our finally dining room breakfast said it was the worst food they had experienced on a cruise). If you couldn't find something you liked to eat, then you just were not hungry! We bought the overpriced water package and had 8 large bottles of Evian for the trip. That was just enough. You can buy bottled water for $1 a bottle in Ensenada, and we saw people bringing shopping bags full of water back on board, but other people said they did not recommend buying bottled water in Mexico. Our eight bottles provided well for us aboard ship as well as in our two ports. You really have to decide for yourself if that is the route you want to take. With gratuity, we paid $3.50 per litre of water. The lemonade was great, iced tea okay. Can't see getting the soda package, but it certainly seemed to be popular. It means you have to carry your cup around with you. Wine at dinner was pricey with one bottle $28, but it lasted two meals. Watch out for the "fun" drinks that they carry around at dinner. You might get the glass, but at $10 a drink, you should skip those unless you MUST have the glass!
The "new" system for Royal Caribbean is to let you stay in your cabin until meeting at a debarkation lounge you are assigned to. We were wandering around the ship and my partner asked me to take her to our lounge so she could sit and wait. As we got there, about a half an hour early, everyone was following a guide and we were told our group had been cleared for debarkation. We joined the end of the line and were off the ship in less than 10 minutes! I think you could wander around the ship longer if you wanted, enjoy the breakfast longer. I could definitely see hanging around for longer since we were back home and not in a big hurry to go anywhere.
One last comment. Take advantage of the pictures on board. They can be annoying at first, but we found some really nice pictures and although they are overpriced, they are great keepsakes and the photography is professional.
We would definitely recommend this cruise! Our next cruise will be Alaska for my retirement!
Cabin 9206 is AWESOME!! It was amazingly quiet, and the balcony has a totally unobstructed view! It is also located towards the center of the ship, and is so easy to find because the carpet is plain in front of the door so you can find it easily. We did accidentally leave our door open one time when we left the room (pull it shut, make sure it clicks, try to open it). And another time we had opened it to hear an announcement and didn't shut it tight. Can't imagine what people heard as they were walking by. The bathroom door was open, so we couldn't see that the door was open. OOPS! The balcony is big enough that on two mornings we took the extra table out from in front of the sofa and used it for breakfast. There are two chairs and a round table on the balcony with ample room. The cabin was much bigger than we had imagined it would be. Lots of closet space, lots of storage under the bed. A flat screen TV would be nice, but the one it has pulls out and swivels. It is hard to lock into place and came flying out in the middle of one night when the shipped rocked hard.
If you have never been to Ensenada, take a land excursion, but truly, except visiting Pappas and Beer-where we took the bar tending class-there is not a whole lot to see or do in Ensenada. Maybe that attitude comes from living my whole life in San Diego and the reputation that Tijuana and Ensenada have. If you find a land excursion that sounds like fun, definitely go for it. We shopped a little after our class which was VERY fun if you can handle 3 shots of Tequila at 10AM! We headed back to the ship on our tour bus and had lunch on board where we knew the food was safe.
Here again...it is Mexico. We did the swim with Dolphins that was outstanding! Be aware that pictures taken on land excursions do NOT magically appear back on board. We both missed the sign that said photos could be viewed and purchased. Our tour guide did not mention it, and yet the entire experience is pretty much a photo opportunity with dolphins. We heard from others on our ship that pictures were very expensive and something like $250 for a CD with all of your pictures. As it ended up, we went online when we got home and located our pictures and paid $20 PER photo to have them emailed to us. They give you a big 20% discount, but still, $16 per image is ridiculous. But we found eight that we liked, and are glad to have a great memory of the experience. We uploaded them to Snapfish and created a collage of our pictures and will have a wonderful print of them to frame and display.
Unless you are REALLY into jewelry, DO NOT bother with the Shopping Show (Evan from Heaven on Radiance). We were sold two discount books for Cabo, that ended up only having about 10 pages for Cabo, and all the rest expire Dec 31, 2009. For $25 you get a few "free" trinkets. You also get a coupon for a sapphire that is touted to be worth $100! We went to the store to get it and were told we had to go to their other store. We wandered around Cabo looking for it and when we FINALLY found it we were told that it was at their other store. I told the guy we were told that HIS store had them and he just dismissed us and said no, go to the other store. It was truly a waste of time and a rip off!
Okay...I am extremely biased, but with the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park Museums, Sea World, the harbor, the beaches, etc. etc. This is really a great place to visit since so many cruises begin and end here. There is so much to see and do, you might want to spend a few days before AND after your cruise in San Diego.