We went on this cruise as a family of 6, four of us along with my parents.
Embarkation was as expected for the most part, the big slow downs were due to passengers who wouldn't listen to security when they were told to remove all ... Read More
We went on this cruise as a family of 6, four of us along with my parents.
Embarkation was as expected for the most part, the big slow downs were due to passengers who wouldn't listen to security when they were told to remove all metal including cell phones and belts from their person, so the detectors went off constantly. My mother who had polio as a child walks with a cane and requested a wheelchair. She was told to wait until the line died down a bit and they would get one for her. About 20 minutes later, when there was still no wheelchair and scores of people made their way through, we asked again and the exact same person told her to walk to a designated area, pass through security...THEN she could have a wheelchair.
Check-in was fine. A nice touch is that there were some real funny characters that told my son he wasn't smiling enough so he had to stay home and they would take his place. Royal Caribbean allows two bottles of your own wine to be brought on board with NO corkage fee which is a big plus, since nearly all other lines charge you. However, they didn't tell us HOW to bring the wine on board, so we put it in our luggage that we checked through. Apparently we were supposed to bring it in hand with us. Our bag was confiscated, inspected, ultimately passed through to our stateroom by the end of the first evening. All other checked luggage arrived to our cabin within an hour of check-in. Good form.
The Centrum Area of the ship is pretty, but it is obvious the ship is old..21 years old to be exact and in need of TLC. Lots of banged up corners, furniture and scratches here, there, everywhere on the ship. It was going in to Dry Dock for three weeks after this sailing.
Many of the major doors to the outer decks are touch activated, just need a knuckle or back of your hand. Really nice, eco-friendly idea RC. Instead of automatically opening when someone passes by a sensor, or for those of us concerned about spreading lots of germs and having to grab a door handle manually, this was nice.
But then all the photos----printed out individually and trashed if unpurchased. So wasteful. Even if they are recycled. How are they not digitally displaying photos by now? Scan room card when a photo is taken, scan it to view it. Get with the times, RC.
Dining in The Great Gatsby---Petra the hostess was efficient, but also very friendly with us. We were served by Dexter and Panwar and they were fantastic. Knew us by name and by drink type within two days. Very friendly, great attitudes. The food in the main dining was quite good to excellent with some odd misses along the way. A Sky High Lemon Meringue Pie that was a diminutive three bites and tasted like it was from a box; Chicken Marsala that was very spicy---so spicy it made my wife and mother so nauseous they didn't eat the rest of the night and retired early for the evening. (But I think they may have just gotten a bad mix? Didn't hear any other complaints)
Every soup we had there was great, though the chilled fruit soups often tasted of a slight carbonation, as if Sprite had been added to spritz them. Most of the appetizers were very fine as were the desserts, but Banana's Foster was underwhelming. Lamb Shank was great, Brie Quiche, Lobster Tails as entrees were nice, too.
The Windjammer Cafe however was quite a different story altogether. We had to request bussing staff to clear tables and dishes multiple times because they mostly were not attentive. Most foods even under the warming lamps did not stay warm for long, everything was cold by the time we sat to eat. Scrambled eggs were watery and tasteless. Opted for the omelet station whenever possible. That was good and those chefs were great. Otherwise we stuck to standards like sandwiches, pizza, burgers, fires. They were fine and in abundance.
One morning the cafe offered "Grilled Sausage and Peppers"--upon taste and closer inspection, the sausages were cut up leftover hot dogs. Not okay. The desserts at the Windjammer were flat out unacceptable. Dried out cookies, bland cake slices. They tried to feature specific cuisines and those were generally good, though "Fried Plantains" in bulk, under lukewarm lamps was a recipe for rubbery disappointment. The coffee was somehow a bitter roast yet also watered down, not sure how they managed both---so we opted for the Coffee Beverage Package which was a 15 specialty coffee punch card. The savings wasn't a huge difference from buying them outright, but it was definitely worth it to us to have decent coffee. Suraj, Nenad(?), Cheryl(?) I think were their names---they were super friendly at the Cafe Lattetudes bar. Kudos. Soft serve ice cream outside the Windjammer was just fine. Fruit juices were constantly watered down. Not just cut with water to extend the life of the juices.
Speaking of watered down...the cocktails were ridiculous. Buying the drink of the day in a larger collectible glass...SHOULD mean more alcohol in them. But no, you pay a few dollars more per drink for more fruit juice and the fancy travel mug or hurricane glass. Whether they serve you a 12 oz cocktail or 20 oz...you're only getting one shot of rum. Unless of course you pre-tip a bartender and then they are more generous with the steady pour and will remember you for next time, too. But that shouldn't be required...because they are already charging the tip in the price. For each $10 each cocktail (So it's either expensive fruit juice mixer, or a very expensive single shot of alcohol) there was PLUS tax, PLUS an automatic 18% gratuity. So if you want Rum Punch, Daquiris, Pina Coladas, all the fancy umbrella drinks you would come to expect on a tropical cruise...you're paying $13-$14 for each of them and only 1oz of booze in it. Speaking of Daquiris and Coladas, how in the world did the pool bar run out of these pre-mixes 3 different days before NOON on this cruise?
Beers were $6.50 each, plus tax, plus tip=appx. $8 each. They offered a beverage package, $65 a day for cocktails I think. Which means if you drink more than 5-6 a day per person I guess it is worth it.
About halfway through the cruise they offered a punch card for cocktails. 10 of them for $90. So a slight discount. They also offered a single day "all you can drink" for any drink under a certain price card. My parents snagged that up. BUT---you can only buy one drink at a time according to almost every bartender, and you needed to "space out your order, every ten minutes minimum", we were told. No, we don't. We paid for a service and a product, you deliver the service and the goods. Don't put conditions on it post-payment.
The pool cocktail servers were nowhere to be found the first two days. Most cruises we have been on with other lines, they won't let the sound of the ice rattle in the glass before they come by to ply you with more. The Pool bartenders were generally in decent moods but not especially outgoing. Head nods are about all we got. The Schooner Bartenders ignored me the first two times we went there. One other customer, who already had her drink. Bartender was cashing her out, I'm standing in front of him, for an awkwardly long period of time, once he finished the transaction and he never looked up to acknowledge me to even say, "Just a moment, sir." So I left. Twice that happened.
The On board entertainment....there was an island music quartet covering all the Reggae bases and they were fine and friendly chaps. There was another quartet, half comprised of a father/daughter team and they were exceptionally talented. Sadly, they were often turned up too loud on their amps to really enjoy. I'm 39 years old and I love all kinds of music, especially heavy metal...and I'm saying this band was too loud. We would sit two decks up to listen.
Trivia Games--were fun but inconsistent. Some sessions were appropriately challenging, others were infuriatingly difficult and the crowd let the Trivia Staff know their disappointment. Also the winners of each session would get... A pen? Seriously? A pen? Not even a free, albeit watered down drink voucher? Sheesh. OH! There were key chains, too. I forgot.
Movies-Several good ones. Nice options. We watched at least thee. Some in the pretty Palladium Theater, some on the Pool deck, some in South Pacific Lounge.
Viking Crown Lounge---DO NOT MISS OUT on this hidden gem! It sits high above everything, housing one of the premier restaurants as well, but our whole family and many other passengers we met were under the impression that this was a restricted area available only to higher-tiered RC cruise loyalty members. Not so. It was secluded and refreshingly quiet, the big sofas in front were super cozy and had a great view of the outdoor movie screen and all of the pool deck action.
Casino-A few dealers were very outgoing. The cashier cage was rarely ever staffed by more than one person which was often creating a bottleneck. They allow smoking in the Casino, just like many others. As a non-smoker it was tough to sit and play for very long. Rasa(?) was very cool, props to her.
The Youth Program. Super friendly staff. Very nice. They all have funny nicknames like Igloo and Clumsy and our kids loved them. Unfortunately, the space is cramped because the ship is small by comparison. Our 13 year old liked the Gagaball and Wii game tournaments, but said it was crowded. Our 11 year old spent more time there, but it is misleading because it is advertised as separated 3-5,6-8,9-11 year old groups. But EVERY time our 11 year old daughter went to the kid's club the 6-8 year olds were grouped with 9-11 also. So it was super crowded and a lot of the time catered to the younger kids. It was a poor layout, the very capable and sweet staff there need more space. So do the kids.
The Fitness Center was...you guessed it, small. Cramped. A morning workout meant risking tripping someone or getting knocked out by a free weight swinging nearby.
The Rock wall was fine. Sign in process a little convoluted, but the staff were cordial and helpful. You get two climb attempts before they shuffle you away for someone else to try. They also only ever run three ropes at once, which is due to safety concerns, I'm certain.
The Pool---there are two, an indoor for 16 year olds and up and the main pool. The main pool was not well cleaned, straws, wrappers, clumps of dust, hair and such all about the deck chairs. Since it is the only kid's pool...it was crowded. The large outdoor movie screen was nice. Cool to watch from any angle and at any time of day. The hot tubs were nice, too. Four of them, two adult, two kid. RC has enlisted members of their crew to serve on "Pool Watch Duty" each day for a two hour shift. They basically stop what their regular duties are at that point, and throw on a "Pool Watch" vest and carry a walkie-talkie. They are taking steps toward monitoring the pool for safety issues which have been a problem, according to their staff, but the Pool Watch workers told me they didn't feel well equipped to deal with any real emergencies.
The Ports---Nothing wrong with stopping at Port Canaveral...but the arrival was nearly 11 am and you needed to be back on the ship by 8pm. Getting on and off the boat usually takes about 15 minutes each way. They of course offer excursions into Orlando which takes an hour each way to transport people to Sea World, Universal Studios, Disney...so anyone who has ever been to those Park knows that if you arrive late and have to leave early, with only 5.5 hours of time, you're going to miss a lot and you'll have spent a lot of money to do it, especially during a busy Holiday break. The other offers in Canaveral were mostly lackluster. Cocoa Beach, Airboat, etc. Going to Kennedy Space Station was the only thing of interest to us, but the up charge for transportation, the poor timing, just didn't seem cost effective to us.
Nassau-Very few options there due to again odd arrival time of nearly 1pm so we decided on Pearl Island Beach Break with Snorkel and Lunch because of it. So we figured we should at least get a meal out of it. The staff were all friendly, but the first thing they told us is that the reef-side water was too rough for snorkeling. Huge letdown to my kids, but we muscled through. They refunded us the cost of the snorkeling. A 30 min. boat ferry to Pearl Island, which is a small enough island to walk from one end to the other in under three minutes...but it was pretty. They had done their best to lay out the beach chair arrangement to accommodate and it worked fine. You get a free photo and a free drink. The food was very, very good. Early on arrival, an Island staff member asked us if we wanted to snorkel...so we told him we were informed we couldn't...he said "It's a bit rough along the reef but you could try it, only $25 per person." We explained we paid for that in our package. He went to speak to his manager. He disappeared for over an hour. He came back saying he couldn't find his manager but that we still got our refund and he would give us the snorkel equipment for free, but only on the non-reef side. So there was less to see, but still fun for the kids to try. There's a floating mat too, in a roped off area of the water, along with a paddle board or kayak option. We opted to just play and splash about.
Upon returning to the ship, it was now after 6pm and most of the shops in Nassau were closed, save one or two souvenir shops and restaurants, so again, really odd and plain-old bad RC itinerary timing to arrive in the port to effectively enjoy. We then departed 11:30pm.
Coco Kay-8:00am arrival. RC's private island. They had almost 1,500 passengers and crew off ship by 11am through a tender ride ticket system....you go up to deck 6 and get a tender ticket for each person in your party. Then they call tender groups by number to avoid everyone rushing and waiting in line. They leave the engines idling on the tenders while boarding which drives me nuts----the fumes are awful to breathe in and seems so very wasteful. After docking, we passed by vendors first. Straight ahead and just left was the grille, two bars within shouting distance and a few small inlets of cool, choppy, but pretty water with large beach chair spots. To the right after a few minute walk you would discover kayak rentals, daybeds, cabanas, the floating mini Aqua Park and the giant Water slide. We did none of these, too expensive. The water was much more calm over there and was nice to walk knee deep in and look for ocean friends, such as starfish. We made our own fun and the kids had a blast. The grille lunch was good, too. Suckling Pig Roast, burgers, standard fare with some local cuisine mixed in.
This cruise was more about spending the week traveling someplace warm with our extended family during the Holiday break and it fit the bill. It was good in some spots, severely lacking in others, but the many friendly and capable staff members including others not named in this review that we did encounter made up for several of the deficits. Read Less