EMBARKATION: I stayed at a Hilton the night before the cruise and took the hotel shuttle to the cruise port in Bayonne. We arrived at the port around 10:45 to sit in a 45 minute line, 3 lanes wide. When the bus finally find a place to park, we had to sit another 30 minutes until enough port staff was available to unload the baggage. Once all the luggage was unloaded onto carts, we were allowed to leave the bus, and were told to now FIND our luggage on the numerous carts and check to see that they were properly tagged. This seemed very strange. If a bag was not tagged properly, why wasn't it set aside during the unloading process? It was onerous to try and find your luggage under mounds of other bags, and many had to have the luggage handlers pull bags off the cart in order to see if their tags were still on, since they were turned around and hidden from view. Finally, we were allowed to enter the hall for security. This was another enormous line (unless you had one of the suites, which had a much smaller line). There were no allowances for emerald or diamond members to get in a shorter line. Once through security, there were numerous, and confusing lines in order to check in which was required, even if you checked in on line. Finally nearly an hour later, you boarded the ship. The rooms would not be ready until 1, which was no problem since there was so much time spent during the check in process. The Windjammer Cafe on 14 is very crowded, and there are crowds at the elevator, so it is better to go to Two70 on Deck 5 and get something to eat, and look at the view from the large windows on the aft of the ship.
CABIN: My cabin was 7278. Do NOT book this cabin. Move higher. When I booked the cruise, I was assured that this was an "unobstructed" view cabin on the 7th floor. I like being closer to water in order to sit on my deck and view and listen to the waves as the ship cruises. I knew that the lifeboats were on deck 6, but I was NOT told that they jutted out, over the deck of 6, so that when you are sitting on Deck 7 all you can see beneath your balcony rail is a giant orange lifeboat, and to your right, and huge metal post blocking your view and ruining sail away pictures. Any and all pictures must be taken above the deck railing, and/or be able to crop out anything below and to the side of the deck railing view. No views of the running water along the side of the ship...everything is ruined by the giant orange blob within your deck view.
This room is an "ocean view balcony", 7 D, and is small. There are 2 slivers of an end table on either side of the bed, a small couch, and no table near the couch to put your drink.
The mattress on the bed is rock hard. I mean, NO bounce. After 9 days, my lower back is killing me. One person I met own the cruise, who actually had a nice large suite, said her bed was so hard, she took the cushion off the lounge chair and placed it under her sheets, with little relief. Unfortunately, there are no lounge chair cushions on the regular balcony rooms. There are 2 small cupboards to hang clothes. I was traveling solo, so I was able to use both cupboards. There would be real clothing space issues for the 2 adults this room was supposed to hold.
The welcoming "gift" for an Emerald/(now Diamond) member was a few cookies. No fruit, no champagne,.....
The cabin stewards are lovely; always smiling, always friendly. A robe was not provided, but you can ask for one from the steward. Ice is not provided either unless you ask for it. There is a generic shampoo in the tiny shower, but no lotions or conditioners provided.
DINING: I chose My Time Dining. Never ever again. I had reservations for 6 pm. I arrived at 5 45, to find myself in a huge line...all the way back to the elevator. There are 4 lines. The right side is for those with "reservations", and the left side for those who just want to go into dinner. It didn't matter. There was chaos...people with reservations were lumped with those making reservations, or without reservations, and even when you were finally through the line, you had to "wait" to be escorted to your table, which could take over 10 minutes (after waiting 30 to get through the long line). By the end of the cruise, at least there was less chaos, but the lines were still enormous, and there was still the wait time after you made it past the checkpoint. The first day is the worst. As one passenger complained "this may be OUR first day here, so we are in chaos, but this is not Anthem's first day dealing with this.". There should have been more staff to guide the passengers through that first day. I didn't go back to My Time Dining until the last day.
Wonderland: Wonderland is a uncharge restaurant, of $45 with 18% gratuity. The food is delicious. The staff is wonderful. My waiter, Iljer, was amazing. But the place was nearly empty. If RC would lower the price to match "Chops", and perhaps add some plants, or interesting decor, instead of the dark purple shears on the walls, they might get more interest. I can't imagine how it will survive.
Solarium Bistro on 14 is a lovely little restaurant, no fees, but you need to make reservations. It specializes in Middle eastern cuisine, but that should not scare anyone. You can get steak, or fish, or lobster, and the appetizers are wonderful.
The Windjammer on 14 is typical of other ships...the food is lukewarm, to cold. Staff is very nice, but it seemed short staffed, especially for those who wanted a glass of wine. Each passenger has to go through a "washy washy" process before entering, but really, I wondered if that "washy" sink room was EVER washed itself. I think the use of hand sanitizers probably would be better at germ prevention.
Lines were everywhere.Lines to get off the ship, lines to get to dinner, lines to get an elevator, lines for activities.... There are 4800 people on this ship. It is a city. Some ships, like the Oasis or Allure have just as many, but for some reason, there seemed to be less lines and claustrophobia on those ships. Waiting for the elevators was a constant line. It is better to get your exercise and walk up the 7 or 8 flights when necessary.
Service was the staff was always friendly however this is the first cruise I've had on Royal Caribbean where I heard so much grumbling from so many people. Many times I heard people say "I'll never come on this ship again" or worse: "I'll never cruise with Royal Caribbean again". It seems as if the Cruise Line has tried to cut corners on just about everything on the ship.
EXCURSIONS. I usually love taking excursions and my memories from previous New England Excursions were of informative trips, that usually included amazing lobster meals. Not so this time. It seems as if Royal Caribbean has upped the charges for excursions, but downgraded the experiences. For Bar Harbor I chose a bus tour that included a lunch at a seafood restaurant. I'd had lobster at this restaurant before (Gaylans) and it was delicious on my last cruise. However, with this cruise we were limited to a couple choices; haddock or a lobster roll. I should have chosen the haddock. For the Boston port, I chose the Cape Cod trip. I've seen Boston on other cruises, and have never experienced Cape Cod. The excursion advertised that the trip included a cruise around the Bay of Cape Cod, as well as 2 stops in quaint towns: Sandwich and Chatham. It was an 8 hour tour (which lasted 10 hours--more later...). This excursion is a complete rip off. You do NOT see Cape Cod. Not in the least. You are herded off the bus after 3 1/2 hours with a 10 minute pit stop in "scenic Sandwich" --which allowed you to see the scenic public bathroom and that is ALL! No pictures, no shops, no touring...just get off the bus and back on as fast as possible. By the time we arrived in Cape Cod, we were all hungry. It was 11 am. We left at 8 am. No snacks or water provided. We we put on the "cruise" around the harbor...which included a short drive into the center of the harbor (about 5 minutes) where we stopped for 30 minutes to "look" at the various "houses" along the coast--that looked like ants. If you had a binocular, you can perhaps see windows, and the color of the houses...otherwise, they were dots on the landscape. We turned around, "cruised" back to the bus, and were loaded on. no lunch, no shops, and no idea what Cape Cod looks like... Then it was to be another 1 1/2 hours to Chatham for lunch. EXCEPT, the bus driver had a great idea, he wanted to "avoid" highways, so we were driven down neighborhood roads, ran into a roadblock, and since apparently neither the driver nor the guide was using GPS, we ended up on a dead end street in a tiny, quiet neighborhood. This necessitated, backing out, and retracing the entire way, to ultimately get on the highway anyway. Meanwhile, no apologies, no "interesting" tidbits of where the heck we were.... In fact, the guide was completely unprepared and unaware of what to tell us, and the driver was so erratic, speeding through lights, slamming breaks in the middle of an intersection when he missed the red light, that I was very worried about our safety. Finally, we get to Chatham for "lunch". The guide gave us NO history of Chatham, no tips, no recommendations for restaurants or shops. Considering that it was a Sunday, this would have helped, since most of the good restaurants were closed. The only thing she said was to ORDER us to be back on the bus in an hour. The town was a good 10 minute walk from the bus. There was a mild mutiny as many yelled this wasn't fair, the driver already cost us 45 minutes in lost time...and her response was not only unapologetic, but angry "I said be back here by 3 PM!" Wow. It looked like a tv scavenger hunt as we all sprinted off the bus, without a clue where we were going to find a meal in order to eat, use the restrooms and get back on the bus. Shopping in this "quaint town" was of course, out of the question. We got back at 6 Pm that evening. Most did not tip either the driver or the guide. A few of us went straight to the Excursion Desk to demand our money back. There was a wonderful and sympathetic man, "David" who promised to try and help us get a refund, but of course, he is just an employee and could not change policy. I got a phone call later saying that since we "stopped in Sandwich, Chatham and Cape Cod" the tour fulfilled it's promise. I said I would rather have had 3 free meals on board ship that day, and thrown in a massage, than sit on that bus possibly risking my life to "see" stops that I could not enjoy. I looked up the tour bus on Yelp: It is "Peter Pan" lines...and has numerous one star ratings, with a few curse words thrown in. Royal Caribbean should consider hiring higher quality tours. Another tour, in St. John's promised a tour of the Bay of Fundy and a lunch at a famous restaurants, The Caves. The tour was nice, the area is beautiful, but "lunch"???? Again we were herded into a back room of the restaurant...passing the lobsters, and seeing the diners feasting on fresh lobster and fish and chips. After the staff passed out cans of pop, we were asked if we wanted chowder or chicken fingers. I chose chowder, and got a small cup of chowder. That was lunch. Should have gone with the frozen chicken fingers and fries. At least that would be more filling. For dessert we got 2 chocolate chip cookies. I added them to the free cookies I got in my room for being an Emerald member.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment consisted of 3 shows. I saw 2 of them: The Gift and We Will Rock You. The Gift is short, about 45 minutes, and at first very strange as most of us were confused by the plot, but the message at the end was nice, and the singing was very good. We Will Rock is about 2 hours long. The talent of the musicians and dancers is very very good. This show lasted a little long as it took a good 45 minutes before the recognizable Queen songs were sung.
DISEMBARKATION MORNING was a Nightmare.! The Windjammer opened at 6:30 am, but good luck getting in there. The lines wrapped all the way around past both elevators to the other side. It is easier to go down to the Cafe and grab a coffee and roll. We landed in port around 7 am, and disembarkation began for the walk offs at 7:45. There was an enormous line on the ship waiting disembark with your own luggage. I thought at first I was glad I was not doing that....until my number was called around 8:45 am. When I got to the hall to claim my luggage and get in line for Customs, it was a sea of thousands of people. TIP: Get a porter. It is well worth the tip fees to go through the expedited "porter" line, otherwise, you will spend an hour lugging your luggage through line after line, while others are cutting in around you. When you get to Customs, you see that while there are 20 kiosks for Customs, there were only FOUR open to serve 4800 people. Cell phone service did not work in the hall, so you had to wait to get outside to call Uber or Lyft. But then, it was another mess of buses, and cabs both disembarking and embarking. It took about 30 minutes for the uber drivers to get to you. If you waited on the ship to disembark to avoid the long lines, it would be even worse considering that embarkation was heating up, causing delays for cabs to enter the port.
FINAL NOTES ON THE SHIP. The ship is huge and filled with things to do, especially for young adults and teens. From the iFly, to bumper cars, to the Xbox room, and so much more. Grandparents can bring their children and grandchildren and be assured the kids will love it. The decor is modern, minimalist. There are plenty of dining options. The only difficulty is the lines for so many things...excursions, getting off the ship, meal times..... It seemed to me that Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas, while also huge ships, did not have so many lines. Read Less