We chose this cruise because it matched our kids' Spring Break and went out of Texas, which makes flights more affordable from California than Florida cruises.
We absolutely loved their buffet, Windjammer Cafe. It almost turned us off on day one when there was no seating, but we learned that if you ask staff there for help, they will find you something. Staff overall (aside from a grumpy lady at the rock wall) were extremely friendly and helpful.
Entertainment was good and we looked forward to all of the main shows and smaller, interactive ones throughout the ship. It was worth splurging on the FlowRider extra -- my husband and kids spent a lot of time there. Waterslides were also fun, but we all seemed to have issues getting stuck part-way through the ride and had to push ourselves free (we're all average sized, from kids to adults).
Our rooms were small, as anticipated, but always kept very clean. We booked rooms next to each other for us and the kids, since it was a ridiculous extra fee to get a room with a door between the rooms. It worked fine. Instead of knocking on a middle door, we went next door or called. We all slept great.
Now, to the issues:
1. Royal Caribbean doesn't seem very big on tweens and teens cruising with them, at least outside their special rooms. Within our first 24 hours on the ship, our almost 13-year-old daughter was kicked out of the hot tub in the kids area by RC staffer, even though my husband was with her. There is nothing in that area saying a minimum age and when I pulled it up on my app, it says kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Well, decided to try again next day and the hot tub was completely overtaken by free range (no parents) preschoolers/under 8 set! (This seemed to be common among the travelers from Mexico ... parents in one area, kids off doing their own thing.) It was so bad I got out, not wanting to be responsible for their safety. The remainder of the trip, we observed tons of very little kids in the hot tubs not being hassled by staff.
Our 16-year-old son, who is 5'11" and clearly an older teen, went into the 16+ pool with my husband and was asked his age. No big deal, he said he's 16 and my husband confirmed. They didn't believe them! Asked for the room number to confirm. Sheesh. He wasn't doing cannonballs or disrupting anyone.
Our athletic daughter tried to use the gym but was told to leave because she's not yet 13 (minus 5 weeks). Rules are rules, but she struggled running on the running track that was overrun with slothy travelers and doing her workouts in her tiny room didn't go well. We went again and asked a staffer if she could at least use the workout floor to do her workouts and they said "maybe," so we let her do that. No one bothered her, although she got a couple stares.
2. SMOKE! Oh, the smoke. We live in California, where smoking hasn't been a thing in maybe 30 years. We had to traverse the ship on the 4th floor to get to our 3rd floor room and that meant going through the stinky casino. Had to plug my nose every time I went through there. And the biggest smoking zone? The kiddie pools! Not kidding, swarmed with parents smoking. It was the most bizarre thing.
3. Lack of RC communication. We received zero information from them pre-cruise about formal nights, Caribbean attire nights, ship processes, etc. Just tons of emails begging us to upgrade and buy extras. We booked directly with RC, so this didn't sit well.
4. Disembarkation. It started with them giving our family with a teen and a 2:30 pm flight a 6 am disembarkation time! We got that moved to 7 am. Thank goodness we still were set early. It took 2 1/2 hours to get off! We went to our meeting spot when they called our letter to find the dining room completely backed up into the hall. We finally got into the dining room and it stalled. We sat there with our luggage for 2 hours with no explanation from (non-existent) staff. Finally got to customs and someone there told us it was due to our newly poor relations with Honduras and that delaying things. We didn't find a delay, though, once we reached the counter. They just wanted to know what we bought in Honduras and we were finally on our way. WAY smoother disembarkation with Norwegian. We also preferred their Freestyle Dining.
Overall, none of the issues ruined our cruise, but we did finally understand why people pay a fortune for a Disney cruise, so the under-18 travelers aren't hassled. I wouldn't rule out traveling RC, but definitely prefer Norwegian. It was a more communicative cruise line and was a more positive experience overall. We even had ship envy when Breakaway pulled up next to our ship in port -- their kid zone on top of the ship looked amazing!
Great room! Saw plenty with a window, didn't need a balcony. Location is right near the dining room, but around a corner and quiet.
Loved this excursion, despite the heat and humidity! Had a great, funny tour guide. We weren't sure what to expect in the monkey zone, but it was so much fun! Our kids had huge smiles as the monkeys would leap from the trees onto shoulders and then on to other people. Great way to learn more about the island and ecology.View All 191 Gumbalina Park Reviews
This was overall our favorite excursion as a family. It started off disappointing ... I couldn't go on the slides because I have to wear glasses to see (I'm blind without them and going down slides without vision is just scary, not scary fun). I had my Chums bands on to hold them on, but a no go with the park. So, I did the lazy river the entire day, over and over, while family members took turns with me. They all liked the slides, although they all got bumps and bruises from the slides.
If you have a fear of heights, you may do ok. I looked up at the slides with my fear of heights and the stairs are NOT open. So, it's not obvious how high you're going as you climb up.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This one was a bit disappointing because it ended up being more of a zoo than we expected. There were no shows going on during the day, which we had looked forward to.
Also, be forewarned that the lazy river at the beginning isn't a lazy river. You will be swimming in your life vest for 45 minutes. I'm hypoglycemic and didn't eat the huge breakfast I would have needed for that, so about half way through I started going "uh-oh" as the shakes started and I started feeling sick. I managed to swim to the end, but almost passed out getting out of the water. You will also getting water dumped on your head early on, so may not be ideal for grandma and others who may not think that's fun. I saw a lot of fully made up women going into the water at the beginning who probably regretting the makeup and done hair.
We did love the sea turtles and pretty location. Be prepared to pay a bundle for lunch. The buffet was $30/person! We certainly didn't eat that much food, but it's vacation and we wrote it off as one of the unexpected expenses.View All undefined undefined Reviews