This was our first cruise, so we don't have anything to compare it to, but think it went very well. We had rough seas on two of our cruise days, which gave me a bout of seasickness, but luckily my travelmates didn't have any ... Read More
This was our first cruise, so we don't have anything to compare it to, but think it went very well. We had rough seas on two of our cruise days, which gave me a bout of seasickness, but luckily my travelmates didn't have any issues. I had brought sea bands and Dramamine, which helped a little, but not completely.
We picked this cruise because our friends were interested in a 10 day Caribbean cruise and we wanted to sale Royal Caribbean because of its good reviews. They also wanted to be on a somewhat smaller ship. Embarkation was fairly quick - there was a line to get one but it moved along pretty well and didn't take very long. Short lines for the embarkation photos.
Crew: There were only a couple crew members that were less than spectacular - one of them we only saw the first day and he was gone when we left port, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that it might have been an end to a long tour. The other was not the most pleasant, but did his job satisfactory. We had quite a few great staff - our room steward was amazingly helpful, the photo staff was awesome...all the staff were very helpful.
Cleanliness: One thing I was especially impressed with was how much the ship crew tried to make sure everyone stayed healthy on the ship. This year, I seem to have caught every bug there is, so I was worried about catching something on the ship. There were hand sanitizer stations at the entrance of every room, and when entering dining areas, staff were by those stations and directing people to use them or provided hand sanitizer directly by hand. Additionally, the crew noted they would not be shaking hands but instead doing fist bumps. I was really happy to see the efforts made for that.
Add-ons: We bought the deluxe drink package, which I think was completely worth it. We used a lot of the bottled water in the ports and had drinks in the evenings. My boyfriend bought a Wi-Fi package, which we shared. I think the wi-fi package was worth the money for sharing, but didn't consider it a "value" like we did the drink package. There are some benefits to not being connected, haha. But it was enough we could just work emails, which was the main item we needed. We also purchased the digital only photo package. One of the photographers was especially fun and seeing him was the highlight of our trip. We had over 150 photos at the end, which I consider a bargain for $99. All of our packages we purchased prior to getting on the ship, which was cheaper.
Food & Activity: For the main dining room, our group of 4 was placed at a table of 8 and they other group was amazingly fun. The only downside is we had 8:00 dining, which meant we generally missed a lot of the "parties" and other items going on in the evening. If I did it again, I think I would do the "My Time" Dining so there would be more flexibility. We were able to make it to a Love & Marriage game that started at 10, which was very fun, along with sitting in on karaoke a couple of times, but almost all of the main activities in the evening started at 7-7:30 so we always missed them. The leveling pool tables were pretty fun but usually crowded. We also did a Mystery Dinner in Giovanni's one night, which was entertaining and the food was amazing.
We did three specialty dining experiences on the ship. The first night, Izumi had their prices at half off, which was a great value and their food and service was amazing. For awhile, we were the only people in the restaurant, so if you want to experience specialty dining, I would definitely say doing it the first day is the way to go. We had read they usually have discounts, which turned to be true. Izumi is ala carte, so you pay as you go for any food you order. We also did Chops Grille steakhouse one night. The presentation of the food was lovely, but the food was just ok. Definitely not bad, but nothing too spectacular. For that restaurant, you had a cover charge for food ordered. Our Giovanni experience was part of the Mystery Dinner and their food was excellent.
For our port days, we were mostly off the ship. Most of the people on the cruise were older than us (we were in our 30s/40s) and the activities during the day were things like knitting, learning to make towel animals, etc. I think if we had stayed on the ship, we might have been a bit bored. I would be interested in trying a larger ship next time, as our table mates said there is a bit more to do on them. Because of the size of the ship, the pool areas, etc. seemed to always be crowded and they didn't have much space to take pictures on formal days.
Spa: We did do two spa packages - a couples massage and a couples stone massage. The massage was alright - my masseuse was not as good as my partner's, but overall was good. The spa had a mistake upon booking so we ended up not getting the service what we made an appointment for (couples massage and ritual bath), which was a bit disappointing but overall worked out. They very much pushed products after the massage, but our friends who also had a couples massage said their masseuse asked them politely afterwards if they were interested in hearing about products before diving into the sales speech, so I think how hard you get products pushed on you depends on the person. For our stone massage, I had a different masseuse and it was absolutely amazing. We had some scheduling and payment issues with our spa that were straightened out in the end, but kind of left us with a feeling they were trying to trick us into paying more if we weren't careful. Overall, it was a good experience, but I would suggest anyone booking spa appointments should confirm what their appointment is when they come at the time of their appointment to avoid issues like we had.
Fitness: I only used the fitness facilities a couple of times, but they were very nice. It was really warm in the gym area. They offered classes that were mostly an extra cost aside from a few stretching ones. I did a yoga class which was good, but a bit awkward because the class was held in the middle of the gym, so people on the treadmills were facing us during the class. They had a variety of equipment and held several seminars on healthy eating, etc. throughout the cruise.
Ports: We enjoyed all of our ports and shore excursions, with the exception of our first one at Tortula. Our original excursion got cancelled because of rough seas, so we ended up with the Norman Snorkeling. That was the only disappointing excursion we had - we were supposed to go snorkeling in two different areas, but instead they had us snorkel in two areas and go to a beach. The add-on of the beach meant that in our second snorkel spot, we had just got off the ship when they honked to have us all get back on. Everyone seemed very disappointed as the 2nd site was Norman Island, and the main snorkeling site. I will try to add more information on the other ports later.
Disembarking: We were alerted by our Compass to the fact that our port at Ft. Everglades was the only one in the country that allows Mobile Pass, which is an app you can download that helps speed up customs. We downloaded the app and between that and using Luggage Valet, we were off the ship and in a taxi within 15 minutes of leaving the ship. I would highly recommend using Luggage Valet - it's $25/person, and you don't have to worry about overweight charges, so we were able to come back with baggage slightly heavier without any worries. It was awesome to be able to go to the airport with only our backpacks and not worry about luggage until reaching our home airport. Read Less