Took this cruise with my best friend who was my cabin mate, and my husband and young adult daughter who were cabin mates. We chose the cruise because we wanted to sail on one of the larger ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet and Bayonne is just a bit over three hours drive for us.
We had expedited arrival and embarkation was quick and smooth. From parking the car to being on the ship was about 10 minutes!
THE SHIP ~ the ship is really nice, but I was disappointed in the Royal Esplanade and this was a personal thing. I was comparing to the Royal Promenade on the Voyager class ships which in my opinion has a much bigger WOW factor. That being said, it was the hub of activity and the variety of shops and venues was nice. We especially liked the Music Hall.
CABIN ~ we had two balcony cabins; one forward and one aft which made for a lot of good exercise walking the corridor. Our aft cabin steward, Imade, was absolutely fabulous. Our two simple requests of ice each day, and extra bath towels were met and he was always friendly. Hubby's cabin steward was efficient as well, but just not as friendly.
DINING ~ We enjoyed breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer Buffet on most days and there was a nice variety of items to choose from. Everything was very tasty, but all cruise lines need to do something about rolls for burgers and dogs ~ they always seem so dry! Maybe steamers would be a good solution for that. A personal favorite is the Coconut Ranger Cookies ~ they are so addictive.
We had my-time dining and ate in the dining room six of the seven nights. The food there was also very tasty. I did have issue one night with a steak not being done to my liking, and my husband thought the turkey/stuffing/gravy was better at the Windjammer. After our first night, we requested Karim as our waiter. He and his assistant were very friendly and provided great service. One downside was the head waiter coming by the last night and asking that we give top ratings because it is beneficial to "our wait staff." Our party had nothing bad to say about our service, but this should not be something that is pushed. Another issue we hate is having the photographers come while we are eating dinner. We will just decline.
Sorrento's Pizza is the bomb! Especially the Caribbean Pizza.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES ~ We enjoyed bumper cars, iFly, and North Star. iFly is such a cool experience but I can tell you for sure that I will NEVER skydive after that experience!!!
The Solarium area was really beautiful and a nice place for the adults.
Karaoke is not for us either by participation or listening, but to each his own. There was a BonJovi cover band who were spot on. We did really enjoy The Royal Swedes Band and went to see them numerous times throughout our trip. The final night they were joined by some of the members of the We Will Rock You ensemble and let's just say that Zak was too "over the top" and really didn't do the band any justice.
"The Gift" was a different type of show than we are used to seeing on cruise ships, but the music selections pulled the story line together nicely and the ensemble was terrific.
"We Will Rock You" did exactly that!!! The plot of the show was fun and the ensemble was just FABULOUS! Such talented singers and dancers throughout.
"Spectra's Cabaret" ~ well, all we can say is WT????? Absolutely confusing and NOT entertaining at all. Wouldn't be surprised if that show doesn't last long.
My husband and I spent a tiny bit of time in the casino ~ it is just too smoky. Another thing cruise ships need to work on. We are non-smokers and spend a decent amount of time in our local NON-SMOKING casino. Having a non-smoking section is just totally useless when there is absolutely NO separation between the two areas. In our opinion, it's just like it used to be in restaurants before smoking was banned. Really, if people want to gamble they will do it whether they can smoke or not, the same as when they go out to eat and have to go outside to a designated area to smoke. I don't need to get sick because of your addiction. Yes, I know we have a choice and so we choose to extremely limit our time ~ it's the cruise line's loss.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS ~ Our itinerary was changed twice due to weather issues. We didn't let that bother us because mother nature is the culprit. We figure we are not cooking and cleaning, but are having great meals and entertainment and activities, and our cabins is being taken care of so we still had a great time.
We enjoyed our beach day at Coco Cay. All adults so we didn't do the water park. The barbeque lunch was good and plentiful, as were the island drinks. The CocoLoco is YUM!!!
SERVICE ~ I saved this for last because this was the NOT SO ROYAL part of our trip.
Due to the fact that we were docked in Bayonne for 2.5 days and the fact that we have unlimited service on our phones, the VOOM package that our daughter purchased was not necessary for those days. She requested that those days be refunded and was flat out refused.
On top of that, the internet was very sketchy for the entire cruise and there were many times when she did not have service. Nothing like paying for a service and it doesn't work most of the time.
The biggest fiasco, however, was the "ship's IT services" which seemed to always be down. We had to visit guest services 5+ times to get things credited properly when they weren't being applied to the proper person in our cabins, for when our daughter got charged three times for one drink when the bionic bar malfunctioned, and when they credited our NASA port excursion incorrectly. AND, they still aren't correct when reviewing our final statements!!!!! We don't understand how difficult it is when you have names and credit card numbers for each cabin. If they could just get this right from the beginning they would probably have 75% less people standing in line at guest services.
They can build a $30 million dollar technologically outfitted show area ~ Two70 ~ but they can't properly charge a cabin account.
One thing that frustrated MANY including us was all of the confusion for Sunday football and where the games would be shown. Come on people, we've watched football on every cruise we've ever been on. They started the game late in the Music Hall and we had to watch without sound on the upper level, because we were being tortured by karaoke on the lower level. Sorry, but that's just poor planning!!!!!
Cabin category was actually 8D balcony. We had twin beds which are situated by the balcony door, with a sofa, desk area, and tons of storage. Love that the showers have glass doors rather than shower curtains.
We have been to Bayonne before and the set up was different this time but very efficient with parking and a short walk into the terminal.
This was not day three due to the weather delay but we had a wonderful beach day. The waters are spectacular. We did not go to the water park, but we did get some good views and it looks like a great place for a family with children to spend their day.
The barbeque on the island was really good and the food plentiful.
Only downside is the people who think it's okay to smoke or use smoking devices on the beach area rather than in the designated areas, and throw their cigarette butts in the sand where people are walking, or blowing the smoke which is worse than from an actual cigarette which just floats right up your nose.
Oh, and the pigs who throw their drink cups and food plates all over the ground on the beach area should just be banned. Scares me to think they act like that at home.