Best part: the shows, the food, Flowrider and Ifly, 99% friendly crew, the sunsets
Worst part: lack of outdoor view points, glass in your view, practically no promenade deck, a LOT of walking, zero forward facing outdoor view except ... Read More
Best part: the shows, the food, Flowrider and Ifly, 99% friendly crew, the sunsets
Worst part: lack of outdoor view points, glass in your view, practically no promenade deck, a LOT of walking, zero forward facing outdoor view except about half the time the wings over the bridge were open.
Background: A dad in his 60’s traveling with adult daughter, ≈ 20 past cruises mostly on HAL and Princess, some RC and Disney.
No hotel used but did use a bus (Yankee Trails) from Albany NY to the port. That is a nice service and makes the drive into the metro NY area much less daunting. Costs about the same as it would cost to park at the pier.
Embarkation: went surprisingly well, we arrived about 11:30 and were processed pretty fast. They did use the ID photos we had uploaded per the RC website previously. Our room was available a bit after the promised 1:30, and our bags were visible in the hall so I went and got them.
Room: Inside, was fine, probably the best bathroom and shower I’ve seen on a cruise so far. Very quiet, heavy door with weatherstripping muffled hallway noises well. The digital and accurate thermostat worked well but was slow to change. Always minimal outlets in rooms, and port security took my small extension cord and multi-outlet so plugging in my gadgets and CPAP was an issue, but solved. Nice TV, swings out from the wall, and the “virtual balcony” was something new I liked. It’s a large flat screen tv that runs a real time view out the stern. The image is a bit washed out most of the time due to being at a suboptimal viewing angle, but it was still a quick way to see the outside weather, seas, if sunny or cloudy, etc. At first we thought storage space was low but then realized the big wall cabinet over the head of the beds opened up, you could hide bodies in there.
Food: excellent, mostly ate in the main dining rooms(s), had mytime dining but didn’t ever wait long as we generally went 8:30 ish, and got a small table for 2 (our preference). I’ve read some complaints about the tables being close together, but I thought it was just about right to either interact with your neighbor table(s) or not. Made some British friends at an adjoining table that way this cruise. Don’t miss the keylime pie. The cheesecake really good and big, we split it. My daughter liked the French onion soup, every night! Service was fast, most dinners took less than an hour.
Again, I was surprised how well the dining room ran considering the number of guests.
We also ate at all the other complementary venues with no complaint. I do recommend on embarkation to go to 270 or Solarium or even the hot dog place that first lunch. Formal night is gone, fine with me. They do have two “dress your best” nights, so you can dress up and have photos, etc if you want, and some did. But I don’t think you will get turned away at the dining rooms for jeans, shorts might even be ok. I wore dress pants and shirt only and was glad to leave the suit, jacket, at home.
Entertainment: this is where I had high expectations, given the number of passengers, and thought the shows were really good! “The Gift” is different, but serves fine as a vehicle to do a jukebox musical with a bunch of familiar tunes. Spectra’s Cabaret excellent, and “We Will Rock You” was excellent. The comedians, ship’s bands, all very good.
We did the Flowrider several times (most anyone can do the belly board, the standup was more of a challenge), and we did the Ifly! Both really fun and the staff very helpful and fun too. Practically got private lessons on the Flowrider when it wasn’t busy. Didn’t rock climb, the Northstar looks more impressive than the experience, like a glass elevator to me, the bumper cars were fun for a time or two, as was the Bionic Bar.
Crew: all were friendly and helpful save for one photographer and one person at the counter in the Ifly area, but still 99% great.
Excursions: did on our own each port. I did expect a hassle at Bar Harbor, due to being a tender port, and again was surprised how well it was handled, although I think we avoided peak times.
The ship: The majority of time did not feel crowded. The Music Hall was always standing room. We had no problem getting in the production shows, and there were empty seats. May have been the older crowd that does the Canada/New England itinerary?
Any negatives? Well some, but no deal breakers. The ship was the biggest one I have ever seen! I actually got a blister from walking. I think I prefer smaller ships, but a smaller ship won’t have as much to offer. I think for a person that won’t use all this ship offers, a smaller ship would be more enjoyable. I can live without bumper cars, rock climbing, and Northstars for instance, but did like the big shows and the Ifly and flowrider.
The much touted Royal Caribbean app would not even download to my phone as it is a few years old and deemed incompatible. But we did fine without the app the old fashioned way (booked activities online before cruise, called for reservations on that weird old thing in the room by the bed that looks like a huge wired cell phone sort of…). I REALLY didn’t want to carry my phone around anyway, so no app was no biggy.
I did have a complaint when the ship departed the Bayonne pier and we were still in our safety briefing. I very much wanted to see the departure out of busy NY harbor and pretty much missed it. By the time we got topside (huge elevator wait as everyone wanted up and it was 11 floors up) we had already passed under the bridge! I was not happy. There’s no reason to hurry out of port (ahead of the published schedule by the way) when the next day is a sea day and the ship really crawls from port to port on those sea days. BUT, all was forgiven when, due to weather, we returned to NY harbor Friday evening rather than Saturday morning and the ship cruised slowly up the Hudson and let us see the NY skyline at night, it was great. Nice slow pass by the Statue of Liberty too.
I don’t think this ship configuration allows easy access to outdoor views. The wings over the bridge were often locked up for no apparent reason, I even went and got an officer once and he walked back with me and tried the doors and shrugged and left. There is no place outdoors where you can see forward and to both sides at the same time. The wings over the bridge don’t even allow that. If you are up on 15 you won’t be able to see forward, and if you want to cross to the other side it’s a bit of a path, and you only see out the back from the very back. Actually, the stern has better outside views than most anywhere, either on 15, the flowrider stands, and the rather small dining porch at the rear of Windjammer market place (lido buffet for all practical purposes but they don’t call it that) on deck 14, but it was often roped off. I ignored the ropes more than once and nobody seemed to care.
I would not take this style ship to Alaska for instance, too difficult to view all angles from outside, and even when you are topside on deck 15, there is glass everywhere. A trade off, it blocks the wind, but you have to look through and take pictures through the gaps in the glass for the best view.
When we slowly cruised by NY at night, folks were getting a bit pushy trying to get to the few gaps in the glass to take pictures.
The solarium has nice views, but is warm and humid and noisy and not photography friendly taking pics through glass. Café 270 has a great rear facing view, but the only rear outside deck is the small, often roped off, dining area on deck 14 behind Windjammer.
So I give it 5 stars, but yet it’s a toss up with me rather I liked this ship more than others. The size offers more options to keep you busy, better shows, but the outside viewpoints frustrated me and the thing is just huge to get around. But they did handle the large number of people better than I expected and we did have a lot of fun, and that's the main thing.
For an older couple, I’d go smaller. But if you have all ages, young adults on down, in your party, then they are going to like this ship. When my grandkids get a bit older, this would be a good choice. But if my party is older, I’ll go smaller.
I’ll try to add pictures but if not successful then check the boards I’ll put something there. Read Less