Embarkation was relatively smooth, although we missed the email from the travel agent that told us we should have boarded two hours later. We gave them our bags (except my carry-on) and went to have lunch in the Windjammer Cafe, a large buffet-style restaurant.
Food was good and plentiful. I should say right here that my husband and I are not gourmets, or even foodies. Our at-home diets tend to be almost vegetarian, with a lot of rice, beans, fresh fruit, vegetables, and yogurt. When we eat out we go to places that feature 'home' cooking. That is why I really enjoyed the meals in the Windjammer, the buffet-style dining area of the ship. I could walk around and survey everything available (most items were repeated around the semi-circle, but there were a few items that were only offered in one place) and then decide what I wanted to eat. There was no rush, and you could take time to eat in a leisurely fashion. I didn't like the dining room very much - the table we were assigned to didn't have a view, service was relatively slow, and sometimes the food seemed to have been sitting for a while before it was served. The only thing that the dining room had that was better than what was at the Windjammer was the choice of desserts, although the only time I ordered creme brulee it arrived at room temperature. I think Royal Caribbean has cut dining room staff to save money.
There was also a yogurt machine near the entrance to the Windjammer, and a 'Deli' in the Promenade area which almost always had fruit, sandwiches, and pastry.
|The decorations were there when we came. The last passengers must have had a party.|
The Cabin: Nice cabin with a lot of storage. Everything worked, and there were no off smells. Even though we were close to one of the elevators there seemed to be good sound-proofing. We had a balcony so that I could get fresh air - especially nice after the claustrophobic San Juan hotel we had stayed at before the cruise.
Entertainment: We especially enjoyed the "Beatle Mania" production one evening, but what I heard and saw of the rest was not so good.
Gym: The exercise area was huge and well-equipped.
Decor: Lots of nice artwork and decoration.
Swimming pools and deck chairs: Abundant. I can understand why people who live in cold climates would love this part of the cruise experience.
|Some of the pools at night. Very pretty.|
Extra charges for some things you wouldn't expect: Here are some of the things that cost extra:
-Specialty dining - that includes not only the high-end specialty restaurants, but "Johnny Rocket's" burger bar.
-Specialty coffee or ice cream on the Promenade.
-Any alcoholic beverage* (except for champagne during the Captain's party). You may bring aboard one bottle of wine per passenger, but if you want anything else the bar prices run from about $6 to $15 for your average mixed drink, plus an automatic gratuity to the bartender)
-Soft drinks, juice, or bottled water.
-Any shore excursion. You also paid for transportation to ports that are more than a walk away from the dock. Here your options are to arrange for a private guide before you go, or to take one of the ship-sponsored tours. There is little or no information onboard about any of the destinations except for perhaps a map showing you how to get to the shops that pay them to advertise.
-Laundry (there is no do-it-yourself laundry onboard)
-Internet - slow and expensive.
-Gratuities. (Here they add $12 per passenger, per day, automatically to your bill and then they give you "tip' envelopes to hand out additional gratuities) The crew depends on the gratuities, so I don't begrudge them, but I hope that the crew members get their fair share.
-In-room movies (if you don't want to watch the one or two movies that they show over and over…)
-Smoking areas are in the same airspace as other public areas.
The onboard 'shopping' program. Three companies, Onboard Media, Royal Media Partners, and the PPI group, work with different cruise lines to give 'shopping lectures' and provide port shopping information. They charge the land stores to be listed in the newsletters and port guides, and may receive a part of the profit from sales made to cruisers. They don't work for the cruise companies. This means that if you shop at a 'recommended' store you are probably paying more.
Lack of information about destinations: On this cruise we got a 14-page catalog of extra-cost land tours, but very little information about the islands themselves. My husband points out to me that we were paying for a 'cruise' and not a 'tour' so I shouldn't have expected a lot of free information, but my freeling is that this information vacuum is a way of herding you towards the more expensive options for tours and shopping.
The glitchy room key. The first three times my room key wouldn't work I accepted the "Help" Desks suggestion that something in my purse might have degaussed my key. After all, this had happened before. After the third try, though, I put the key into a plastic pouch that I wore around my neck and it still wouldn't work. On my fourth visit to the "Help" desk they suggested that perhaps my key and my husband's key were somehow incompatible, and after that the key worked fine.
All in all, I enjoyed the trip, but next time I will look for a cruise line that at least offers free bottled water to its customers.
*Suite travelers may have a free bar, but they have to pay extra for the suite.