We booked this cruise as a 'last minute' decision because 1) we needed a getaway and 2) price (we must have hit upon it on one of their price drop days). We have only sailed one other cruise, on Princess, so I am trying to give this an honest stand-alone review without totally comparing the two.
Check in was flawless. Being able to pre-check in was one of the easiest and having it 'done' was great. We arrived a little earlier than our 'appointment time', but still was on the ship within 10 minutes of arrival.
The ship was immaculate, very pretty and very easy to navigate. They have an interactive ship guide on every floor at the elevators and on promenade deck. It also displayed the time, which I found very helpful on several occasions as I don't wear a watch.
I am a true believer in you make your cruise experience as great or not as great as you are willing. We are easy to please, go with the flow kind of people, especially on vacation. For the most part, we were happy and content with the cruise, however ,there were a few things I wish RCCL had taken into account. 1) We are not smokers, and having to walk through the smoker's gauntlet to get a pool towel or walk completely around the other side of the ship through the solariam to escape the bulk of the smoke was a poor layout (in our opinion). Even coming through the solarium, the stations were downwind from the smoking area. I could usually hold my breath long enough to make it through, but one day was particularly so bad that it actually set my throat on fire to the point I was getting throat lozenges from the infirmary the next day to help alleviate the irritation. 2). Aside from the outdoor decks, there seemed to be no areas to relax and 'people watch' or sit casually in the Promenade area, other than in a bar area. Music was alvailable nightly in all the bars, but seating was non-exsistent within ear shot to simply enjoy the music without being in the bar. These were our 'disappointment's' with the ship itself. We adjusted and just stayed either on ouside deck 4 (upwind from smokers) or just skipped the evening crowds.
We ate in the Windjammer for all meals. For the most part, we thought the food was good, sometimes really good, sometimes mediocre. For the most part, we always found something we liked, or tried something new. There were some times I would have liked to of gone to the dining room, but my husband didn't care for a structured dinner, so the Windjammer it was. If you get to sit in Section 6 in the evening and have a waiter named Mayvon, you are in for some of the best service on the ship. Always smiling, always. And never missed a beat with drink refills or anything else he could do for us. Delightful young man.
Our room assistant was Jose Pierre. Another remarkable young man and an asset to RCCL. We asked for ice when we first arrived and he had a fresh bucket for us morning and evening every day for the rest of the ship. We never had to ask for it. He was in and out and did an excellent job each day. If we had a question or request he was on top of it.
Labadee - We didn't go ashore because my husband had a pinched nerve in his neck we were trying to get the pain reduced by massage and acupuncture - which semi-helped that day only. :(
San Juan - LOVED San Juan. We did not take an excursion because the ship docks right in Old Jan Juan town. We walked up and toured the fort and then walked around town. Stopped and got a drink and free wi-fi before going back to the ship.
St. Maarten - What a beautiful piece of land. We took the Double-Decker Tour and our driver, Victor, was a hoot. Had a great time. We had the morning tour, and the temperature was about 80, so wasn't unpleasant on the upper deck. We did not go to the French side because of the hurricane damage, and felt like the the cost of the tour should have been reduced accordingly. That did however free us up to spend a little longer at the stops. There are no traffic lights or storp signs so traffic is a 'honk' I'm coming through or get out of my way and a narrow two lane road accomodates all traffic. Side roads are even more narrow, but they make it work. I personally wouldn't drive because I'd have a nervous breakdown before I got anywhere. My one regret is the photo opportunity we did not get of the overlook of the two bays, which is an iconic picture of St Maarten. We stopped and heard the story of the peak, but that was all. The Rhum tasting was fun and delicious and a bottle of the Banana Rhum found its way back home with us. :) Once the tour was completed, we had time to walk back through Phillipsburg, but the hubby's neck and shoulder were hurting him, so it was a casual afternoon on the ship.
Disembarkation - We chose to self-assist and were able to leave the ship with minimal waiting. Through customs and on to our car in a matter of minutes.
Our cabin was very nice. Had a sofa, which made it nice not to have to sit on the bed for everything. Storage was abundant. Shelves in the closet, drawers and cabinets surrounded the vanity. Bathroom had ample space, shower is tight, but showerhead is great with good water pressure and hot water. The refrigerator didn't get as cold as we would have liked, but by the end of the trip the drinks were better than room temperature. LOL