This is our 7th Royal Caribbean cruise and our second time on this particular ship. We chose this itinerary because we love the Southern Caribbean and find that flying in and out of Puerto Rico is rather easy for us. I was initially worried about getting in and out of Puerto Rico after the hurricane, but it went very smoothly aside from a change in our flight time leaving much later than originally planned. We decided to purchase RC transportation about a week before our travel because we did not know if Taxi's were running etc. This was much more of a hassle than it was worth. Very disorganized trying to get to the ship, long lines with really no direction and it was confusing about who was doing what. Our luggage did not travel with us, it was placed on a separate truck to be delivered to the ship. As we departed on the bus our luggage appeared to be sitting there with all the rest of the bags that belonged to folks on our bus, but no one seemed to be with them. I could be mistaken but it was a little unnerving. Our luggage did get to our cabin by the promised time so in the end there were no issues. Leaving the ship was also quite chaotic. Long lines at customs, we finally decided to grab a porter that brought us to a separate line, we tipped him ten bucks and it saved us at least 2 hours standing there. Again we got on a bus to take us to the airport, and our luggage went in a separate truck. We waited at the airport in another long line with no real direction. We all lined up along the sidewalk, while the luggage trucks pulled up and the employees lined up the luggage and then you were able to approach the area in a type of free for all to get your bags so you could go through the airport and check in. The worst part was that they left the trucks running, so we were all standing there for at least a half hour breathing in the fumes of the trucks. For a place that is struggling right now with supplies and fuel, I was shocked at the waste of gas.
The cruise itself was good, we decided to go on a few excursions from the ship this time. Lots of waiting in lines again. Between the ship transportation and the excursions, we have decided to pretty much go off on our own for our future cruises and take Taxi's from the airport and back.
Islands: We did not get off the ship for St. Kitts, we went to the spa ( I won one of the spa raffles) and we had a wonderful couples hot stone massage for 75 minutes. Of course it was followed by the selling of products but we politely declined and then sat by the pool in the Solarium. Antigua we did the Beach Extravaganza to Frye Beach that included chairs, umbrella and a great lunch. We have done this one before and it is very clean and relaxing. There is a small restaurant with public bathrooms and changing facilities. There were some ladies trying to sell hand made items but they were pleasant and did not seem to harass the patrons. St Lucia was a big disappointment. We chose the Marigot Bay on Your Own excursion that was a combination of swimming and shopping, but the description was very vague. Our tour guide was very good but she warned us that there would be folks trying to sell us items. That was an understatement. First, the area was very pretty,and there was a short boat ride across the lagoon, but the $14 we paid for beach chairs did not include an umbrella. Many folks, including us, were looking for one and it was a scramble to try and find the few they had. This area was a cove where people park their yachts etc and it abutted a resort, which signs said we could not go to but the tour guide said we could so that was confusing. The second we got there the badgering started with when did we want our rum punch, and here are the items we want you to buy. It was relentless. We understand this is how many folks make a living, but we spent good money to take a vacation away from our busy work lives to relax and this wasn't cutting it. We did not put our bathing suits prior to going,so while a very nice older male was trying to makeshift a broken umbrella into a functioning one by tying it to a palm tree for another $5, one of the pushy "helpers" walked my husband to a shabby changing area. He told him that he would hold the broken door closed for a dollar while he changed, all the while two other "helper" men were hanging out smoking weed. My husband returned back to our chair area and said we were leaving. These "helper" men kept surrounding us as well as the other folks on our excursion. I had our tour guide call us a Taxi and we were out of there within 20 minutes of arriving. We lost money on the excursion and then the $30 to take the Taxi back to the ship. It was very uncomfortable having these guys constantly come up behind you. While we were waiting for the boat to take us to the other side to get the Taxi, two of the men were having a disagreement and one called the other the F word and a racist slang word, just awful experience. We complained at the Shore Excursion desk and they took our cabin # but we did not see a refund and quite frankly they did not have much to say about it. Barbados we went on a rum distillery tour. Lots of fun and did some taste testing. After that we went on a small tour of the island. After a day of sailing we went to St Thomas which was a replacement stop for St. Martin. The port shopping area was ready for visitors, clean, no damage and they had power. One of the shop owners told us that only 25% of the island had power. We could see some of the damaged buildings from the ship but we did not venture far this stop other than the port shops so we didn't get a first glance at the damage.
Our cabin was clean, food was good, Windjammer food was better than past cruises. Casino was super smokey. People seemed to be using it as an excuse to be able to smoke indoors. The smoke spread to other areas including the Schooner Bar which was behind it. I hate smoke so it bothered me that I could smell it in other areas inside the ship. I personally would like to see cruise lines go totally smoke free. We tried Giovanni's Table for a specialty restaurant, it was excellent and we highly recommend trying it. We did not go to any shows this time.
Staff for our cabin and in the dining room were great and bartenders worked hard and were very pleasant. Solarium pool is really small and was crowded most of the time. The ship just had a refurbishment which was very noticeable in some areas while some areas still looked tired and needed a little TLC, but overall it was a very clean ship. We went to NextCruise staff to book our next trip back to the Southern Caribbean on the Freedom in 2019. (The Freedom is our favorite ship of all). It does seem that the cruise industry is nickel and diming more and more, while some of the perks that used to be the driving force for keeping customers is starting to fade. We will continue to cruise as we find it an easy vacation and can make it as busy or as relaxed as we want it to be.
Very clean, great cabin attendant.
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