We chose this cruise because many of our cruising friends wanting to be on her first "return" sailing out of Port Canaveral after being gone for over 10 years. We also decided to have a first "Back to Back" experience, ... Read More
We chose this cruise because many of our cruising friends wanting to be on her first "return" sailing out of Port Canaveral after being gone for over 10 years. We also decided to have a first "Back to Back" experience, and so, also sailed on the May 10th sailing.
Pre Cruise Stay
We stayed, as usual, at Radisson Resort at the Port. For this first time, we elected to take their shuttle to the port; not sure why we never did this before, as, it was efficiently run and not overly crowded. We took the 9:30 shuttle, and were at the port and going through security well before 10.
Very efficient, at least for us (others in our group ended up waiting in long lines to get through security). We were approached by employees who scanned our Set Sail passess, checked us in, took our pictures, and sent us through the line for suites (we were in a junior suite). That was it! We then went to the departure lounge and waited roughly 15 minutes before they becan boarding (first Pinnacle and Suites, then, I believe The Key, then Diamond Plus, etc.) In any case, we were on the ship by 10:30. The only bad part, and this was not Royal Caribbean's fault at all, was the ship was being swarmed by love bugs. We had to walk all the way down Deck 4 to get scanned onto the ship, fighting the bugs the entire way. Gross. Later, we sat in The Schooner Bar were we had a good view of all the folks getting on the ship, shooing the bugs as they did so.
This was the first time (other than when we were on Anthem) where they did not give us our Sea Pass cards before we boarded, rather, they were in an envelop outside our staterooms. Although the Set Sail Passes work to order drinks, etc., some in our group were told they could go to their rooms prior to 1:00 to get the cards. We were not told this, and, I was somewhat surprised this was allowed, as they typically do not want PAX wandering around the hallways while they are trying to get the rooms finished up.
The ship has been totally "amped" up. She is pretty, with a lot of interesting art work. The dining room was just lovely. Of course, this is the way of most Royal Caribbean ships.
Other than the decor in the staterooms being a bit dated (still the "old" pink/green drapes, carpets, etc.), the ship was fresh looking. The Promenade is a bit shorter/smaller than Freedom Class, so, was missing a few things (e.g., Sorrento's). They'd swapped out Vintages for The Tiki Room. We were sorry to see Vintages go, however, our one foray to The Tiki Room was nice enough; interesting drinks and decor; although most of the time, it seemed there was a sign there saying "Closed for Private Function".
The pool area was always packed, including The Solarium. There did seem to be more lounge chairs/seating available than what I recalled being on Explorer (sister ship). Everytthing was BRIGHT!!!!!
There is a Dog House now on the pool deck, too.
Other places we found ourselves frequenting were the pub (on Deck 5), Schooner Bark (Deck 4; good place to meet up with our group), and Ellington's (Deck 14), due mostly to The Diamond Lounge (also on Deck 14) being so crowded, they overflowed us to Ellington's.
The only minor issue we had with the ship in general was the elevators. Many, many times, they elevators would go flying by our deck without stopping (even if there was no one in them). It was really weird.
We ate dinner each night in the main dining room. There was a group of 7 of us, and we had the same table for both parts of our cruise (different wait staff team, though). Generally speaking, the food was just ok. I do think the quality and variety is slipping, though. For example, one night a bunch ordered the grilled tiger shrimp, and no one could get the shells peeled off. I order chicken cordon bleu and it was partially raw. Someone else ordered the extra cost filet from Chops and it was tough as shoe leather.
And, everything comes with mashed potatoes! I like mashed potatoes as much as the next person, but not with every single entree I order. By far the best category of food in the MDR are the appetizers, soups, and salads. I think from now on, I'm just going to load up on these, and not even order an entree some nights. The desserts are ok too, they had special 50th anniversary cakes on the last night of the cruise that were pretty tasty.
We also ate in the MDR for lunch one day and breakfast another. For whatever reason, the meals these times were much better, especially the lunch.
We only ordered room service for coffee and continental breakfast (anything else has a charge); the coffee is HORRIBLE, but, we use this as a sort of wake up call. Better coffee is to be had in either The Diamond Lounge or The Promenade Cafe (there is also a Starbucks, but of course, there is a charge for this).
We had a few breakfasts in The Windjammer (The People Jammer); it was ok. Buffets are not my thing.
We had the alcoholic beverage package; got a good deal on it during last year's Black Friday sale. It was MUCH more expensive on board, but, they were having a BOGO 1/2 off sale (no surprise given the make up of the majority of the PAX on this cruise and the one following, party animals!) Anyway, between the drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, etc., it is worth it for us.
Crew and Service
We hardly ever run into any issues with any of the crew or the service. This time, all of the folks that took care of us (stateroom attendant, dining room team, bar tenders, etc., were just great. Even the headwaiter on this cruise was personable and came around several times (and found us our own pepper mill to keep at our table each night!)
Cruise Director Ricky and team were good. I like the silly shows they do on the Promenade (70s, 80s, etc.) We also watched a magician/comedian (can't remember his name) who was good with the magic but that was about it. The performer in the pub was good (even if he sang the same songs every night) as was the guy in Schooner. As of now, we're just not huge show people, and, we've already "been there done that" so many times with The Quest, Majority Rules, etc.
We don't gamble and it was always WAY TOO smoky in there.
See cabin review section
See port review section
I think a lot of first time cruisers this go around, and, a lot of huge groups traveling together for weddings (I think we saw at least three weddings) and family reunions. A good amount of children, too, which somewhat surprised me being it was a Monday-Friday cruise in early May. Most seemed friendly and having a good time (if a bit clueless). Some of the upper tier PAX (Diamond, Diamond Plus, Pinnacle) were downright snotty.
As we were on a B2B, we did not do the usual disembarkation process. Also, since we did not change staterooms, we did not have to pack up. Rather, we met in lounge (maybe 20 of us total) and they checked us out/in there. After all the other PAX were off, they walked us off, took us through customs, had us sit in the departure lounge for a few minutes, and then walked us back on.
Final note. This and the following cruise were pretty expensive for four nights/three nights, meaning, each leg was close to what we've paid for 7 night cruises in the past. I think some of this is Royal's strategy to entice younger professionals and/or families who can only get away for shorter periods of time, but, are willing to pay to do so. My guess is we won't run into this on longer cruises and/or shorter cruises on some of the older, smaller, less "amped" ships. As much as we like Royal (and are now Diamond Plus), we'll probably move toward the more sedate sister company Celebrity. Read Less