(INTRO - AIRPORT)
This was our first cruise for my wife and I, so besides the great reviews I had read here on Cruise-Critic, we didn't know what to expect. We flew in from La Guardia New York to Fort Lauderdale Florida the same day ... Read More
(INTRO - AIRPORT)
This was our first cruise for my wife and I, so besides the great reviews I had read here on Cruise-Critic, we didn't know what to expect. We flew in from La Guardia New York to Fort Lauderdale Florida the same day we were sailing. We arrived approximately 12:30, found a cab really quick outside at the taxi stand and told the guy TO THE SHIPS, and they knew where we were going. A fast, erratic, crazy cab ride had us to the port in literally 10minutes about 1:00. It cost about $20 with tip and all. (TIP: KEEP YOUR ID ON YOU AS YOU NEED TO SHOW ID TO GET INTO THE SHIP PORT) I have been warned that bad weather, flight delays, or whatever type of delay are dangerous for missing your cruise, but we got there with plenty of time and were glad we didn't go down the night before.
When we got to the ship we were absolutely amazed by the size and beauty of it. There were tons of Caribbean men at the drop off point all looking to take your bags and "ensure" your bag gets to your room, but they only want your money. I tipped as the guy practically asked for one which was rude, but realized it does nothing to expedite delivery. We didn't get our luggage till 5pm, so make sure you have whatever you want in your hands before you turn your luggage over. Oh and not to mention when it is finally delivered, it is left outside your door in the hallway.
Going through the initial screening for ID and weapons made me feel like I was back in the military inside some huge hanger with roped off walkways directing the way. It was fairly painless as the excitement of going on the cruise outweighs it all, and there were many workers to direct you where to go and what to do.
When you have completed your check in, you are given a Sea Pass which is a charge card for all spending that you do on the ship. I.E, alcohol, shopping, alcohol, getting on and off the ship, alcohol....
We went to our room first thing and were quite pleased. No bigger or smaller than your average hotel room and the balcony was definitely a nice benefit. The bed was actually pretty big with both twins connected, the bathroom was small with a stand up shower, but served its purpose. The toilets were a bit slow to work before we left and a little bit after, but when they do flush be prepared for the suction. There is a huge vanity for the women, and most of the same things you will find in a hotel. After we were relaxed in the room and valuables were put in the safe, we went exploring.
Our stateroom attendant always was very nice and did a great job straightening up our room. Towel animals were always awaiting us on our bed when we returned to the room at night. Our keepsake alcohol cup was washed, our stuff was straightened, bathing suits hung up, among other nice little things I didn't expect them to do.
15min on the ship, we were just blown away by the detail to the beauty and luxury on the ship so we felt compelled to take pictures immediately. I was doing the long arm self picture thing with my wife when a nice older couple offered to take our picture so we could get a nice one. This was common all over the ship throughout the cruise. The nice man took my camera, took the picture, and in trying to give it back to me dropped it and broke it. $200 digital camera gone just like that and all I got was a sorry. So of course my first stop was to the camera/picture store on-board as I could not go without a camera the whole cruise, but it was closed until we left US waters. (Duty free pricing)
The ship was an hour late to leave the port for some reason that rumors said they lost someone's luggage in the water while loading it. Not confirmed but it's a valid reason we didn't leave on time.
6:00pm came around and we attended our first dinner. We were upset to know that it wasn't acceptable to go into the main dining room in shorts and a t-shirt which was a problem since we only brought one pair of jeans. Other people did go dressed like that but we didn't want to be the odd balls so we wore our long pants. Dinner was very nice along with the people seated at our table (8 others) as well as the wait staff. You will find that most of all the employees are very nice and all from a different country with a great story to tell. The food wasn't amazing but it was the equivalent to an Applebee's quality dinner. Never many choices on the list but you could get as much as you wanted. (I got 3 lobster tail entrees on seafood night) Main dining or Second seating doesn't really prohibit you from doing activities as most shows and events have two time slots to accommodate both dinners.
The Windjammer was a buffet restaurant on the 11th floor that had a great view off the back of the ship. It had tons of food, desert, and seats. This was our lunch choice everyday and always seemed to have what we were feeling like eating. They are also open for breakfast and dinner.
We didn't see the need to pay $25 for Chops Grill or Pontifino but it looked nice.
We did go to Johnny Rockets, a 70's cheeseburger joint that had good food and great service. It was only about $15 total for the two of us.
Every evening your stateroom attendant will deliver a "Cruise Compass" which was a list of the daily activities for the next day and always was very helpful in planning our fun. Almost every day we went exploring as there was so much to see all over. We went to the Ice Show on the first night and absolutely loved it. A small ice rink, but that did not stop them from doing amazing tricks and jumps. Its definitely a show you cannot miss if you go on a ship with a rink.
Casino - Was small but pretty fun. It is only open when the ship is out to sea. There were tons of slot machines and few tables. We set some money aside before we got to the ship solely for gambling which all smart gamblers' should do. (TIP: BRING CASH) You can use your Sea Pass, but there is a 3% charge. We lost a bit, won a little, lost a bit more, and finished a bit down as to be expected after we finished our third night in the casino.
Art Auction - Park West, one of the largest art galleries in the world has a contract with Royal Caribbean to hold art auctions on the ships. I had a great time the first night as I bought 2 pieces which I had to carry off and that turned out to be kind of inconvenient. I was given 5 pieces of FREE ART for random things such as answering a trivia question or applying for the RC Visa Card. They say each one is worth $650 but in reality the prints are only selling on ebay for $25. Those are sent to your house , but the selection to choose from isn't large or nice. Even if you don't like art or think your not going buy anything you should go because as long as you sign up you get FREE CHAMPAIGN. Because I bought some art I had a FREE bottle delivered to our room as well. A nice VIP feeling.
The Dungeon - A nice dance club near the casino. Small dance floor but nice seating accommodations and two bars. We had a good time dancing but the rocking ship and sometimes bad music didn't make it too conducive for dancing.
Bingo - Everyone knows how to play bingo so there isn't much to say about it except it seems that everyone who won had the electronic card machine. I think it just takes away from the fun to pay and just watch a screen. The last jackpot game was for $5700 which would have been great to win especially since its only $30 to buy in. One couple won it, not ten, not five, but one couple.
QUEST - Cannot tell you who, what, when, where, why or how, but I can say GO and WATCH and LAUGH YOUR BUTT OFF. Do not volunteer to be the representative of your team or you will regret it LOL. IT WAS HILARIOUS THOUGH.
Love and Marriage Game show - Funny, not a must see but definitely worth it.
Fair Well Show - A good entertainment for the evening.
Trivia Games - Fun and random, something to fill the time in the afternoon.
Shopping Onboard - The Royal Caribbean shop was expensive, but there are other things to browse through. Buy everything the last day when all the sales are going on.
Midnight Snack - The 24 hour Cafe Promenade was a nice stop to fill those late night hunger feelings with a bite of complementary cheesecake, pizza, coffee, or small sandwichs.
(PORTS OF CALL)
Our first stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. The weather all the way from Florida was horrible and it wasn't much different in Mexico. We were planning on doing the Tulum Ruins tour on our own as my wife speaks fluent Spanish, I mapped out the complete details, and it would have been a lot cheaper that the ships excursion. Due to the rain and fear of missing the ship because the ruins are a few hours away we decided just to stay on the Cozumel strip. We took a 10min cab ride to the main shop strip which cost about $5 per person. It was neat to see and actually be in another country but we quickly got the feeling of being in a huge tourist trap. It was the same store and shop every 50 feet. Diamond International, Tanzanite International, Mexican Silver, among other things. We did buy a Mexican blanket and a picture frame but that was all we wanted to buy because no offense I don't care how much Royal Caribbean guarantees your Diamond purchases, I am not buying my wife a $1000 Diamond from Pedro in Mexico. We walked a bit and decided to have some lunch so we stopped at a nice out-door place named Las Palmeras. Great food and not expensive. I exchanged some money into pesos back in New York before we came to get a true Mexican experience but wished I had not. Everything has an American Price on it and is seems the Mexicans there didn't know how to calculate their own money. After lunch we walked all the way back to the ship (4miles) and were kinda bored and tired of the rain so we spent the rest of the day on the ship. We heard the beaches were amazing and it did seem that the water was nice and blue, but the rain ruined it all.
Our second stop was Belize City, Belize and we wish the ship had just sailed on by. There is no port so the cruise ships park 15min out and are tendered by small 100 person ferry boats. We got off the ferry and walked around for about 10min and went right back to the ship. All the same things as Cozumel in the stores but these just said Belize. We couldn't believe how crappy and poor the area was and how many Jamaican/ Caribbean men were all over the place trying to get you to do an excursion. We had an excursion planned through Royal Caribbean to do the snorkeling caye adventure, but it was cancelled due to mechanical issues. I would have cancelled because of the crappy weather anyways. IF YOU GO TO BELIZE, PLAN AN EXCURSION AND HOPE FOR GOOD WEATHER, BECAUSE THAT PLACE IS HORRIBLE.
Alcohol - Beers were about $5, Daiquiri's and Frozen drinks were about $9, and all other mixed drinks ranged from $7-$10. Don't expect to get hammered every night unless you have deep pockets.
The Royal Promenade - Was very nice and always had something going on. Made us feel like we were in a mall back home.
The Service - Everyone was always very nice and helpful if you could get passed the language and accent barrier.
Weather/Sea Sick - The weather was absolutely horrible the whole cruise and really impeded our plans so make sure you keep an eye on those forecasts. On the way back the weather was so bad that our ship was an hour late because of the waves. Let me tell you, don't let anyone say to you that you won't feel the ship moving. People were practically staggering like they were drunk that last night because of the rocking ship. We took some Dramamine that night to fight back the nausea. Other than that though it did seem like a smooth ride.
Pool/Hot Tubs - They were very nice although we only went into the hot tubs at night when they weren't crowded. The pools were fairly cold to the touch. It was nice to have an adult side that kids couldn't bother you in.
1St Day Emergency Drill - About as annoying, inconvenient, and troublesome as you could imagine wearing big bright orange life vests and standing with a bunch of people you don't know. Yea for our safety but not a great way to welcome us aboard.
(DEBARKATION) - Simple and easy for the people who signed up for the Expedited Departure. We carried our own stuff off, took 5min in customs, and were in a taxi heading for the post office to mail back my art. Although it does take up to an hour for customs to clear the ship, so make those flight plans for after 12. We had to change ours from 1045 because of the delay and customs clearance. Overall we enjoyed ourselves because of the many things to do on the ship. The weather would have made it the best time of our lives if it was warm and sunny but I guess you deal with what you get. We are already planning our next trip. Read Less