Year Started: 1969
Ships in Fleet: 23
Summary: The largest and most technically impressive cruise ships in the world. Great for kids, families and adventurous adults. A large fleet, but Oasis and Brilliance are often cited as favorites
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, Mediterranean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Families. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Teens.
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Regions:China (as of May 2015)
Good for: First-time Cruisers. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Suez Canal, Bahamas, Dubai
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Brazil, Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles
Good for: Seniors. Families. Singles.
Regions:Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Scan Russia, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:UK, Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda
Good for: Disabled Travelers. Group. Families.
Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Families. Group. Overall Service.
Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Save your vacation, run screaming from RCL.
On Royal Caribbean, you are vacationing cattle, held captive to be herded and milked dry. You will encounter all manner of crass, tacky scams designed to wring every penny from you before you are hustled grumbling home. Royal Caribbean brings new meaning to the term "shake down cruise".
Tips for Royal Caribbean cruisers:BEWARE OF RCL AMNESIA: Record everything the Royal Caribbean reservations agent says to you. Bring the recorder with you aboard. You will need the recorder and a stool for the hours you will spend complaining at the "Guest Relations" desk. Get everything in writing. RCL reservations will tell lies to get your booking. Nobody on board will honor the lies. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES: You will be gouged by RCL for a ride to the end of the pier. It is worth the walk. Royal Caribbean shore excursions are a complete rip off. You will find great cheap tours within a block of the pier head. REVENUE ENHANCEMENTS: Royal Caribbean will give you crummy orange juice, awful coffee and cafeteria food as a part of your ticket. If you want decent food, real orange juice, sodas, water or drinkable coffee, you must pay lots extra. On our RCL cruise, there was a $25 dollar per person cover charge just to set foot in the decent restaurants. Internet service is set to run at a snail's pace, maybe because RCL charges by the minute. You will be given a handful of gratuity envelopes. Swallow your anger and tip, in person, only those staff that actually did their job. In our case, our cabin steward, one bartender and one waitress. ADVANCE PURCHASES: If you purchase anything from RCL reservations for a "discount" you are being screwed. The same packages are available at the same price aboard the ship. When you try to redeem anything you pre-purchased from Royal Caribbean, be prepared for a long, long wait and something like an IRS audit. The usual excuse is "nobody has the wine locker keys" or "the wine steward is off duty". If you advance purchase wine you can't have it delivered to your state room. Room service will, however, sell you another bottle instead of delivering what you have already purchased. RCL tells you where and when you can have the wine that you pre-purchased. If you buy a soda package you are doomed to roam the ship for two weeks carrying the "special" sippy cup that you must drink from to be served. ALCOHOL: You will pay simply infuriating prices for alcoholic beverages aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. RCL will search you and your bags at each gangway to make sure you don't have any bottles. They even sniff your mouthwash. Once they are sure you have no bargain booze they will really put the screws to you. Expect to pay multiple times the retail price for a bottle of wine. You will pay almost the cost of a twelve pack for just one beer. Plan to get short poured on cocktails and bend over and grab your ankles when they bring the bill. AIRPORT SERVICE: Imagine the service you have received from the airlines in recent years. Picture your worst airline terminal nightmare. Visualize long lines, screaming kids and high handed treatment from puny gods behind counters and podiums. Now surround that with water and you get some idea of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience. Royal Caribbean advertising bears no resemblance to RCL reality. As our shuttle bus finally departed for the airport, someone yelled "Anyone who had a good time, raise your hand." Nobody did.
Royal Caribbean still owes us $92 dollars in disputed charges. They were going to contact us. I am not holding my breath.
There were 3 couples on this trip, all forty-somethings cruising for the first time sans kids. We flew out Thanksgiving night on the red-eye nonstop from Los Angeles to San Juan on American. Given the state of the economy, I think airlines should be improving in flight customer service, not going backwards. Except for the in flight staff, the flight was uneventful.
We stayed at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan. In a word it was excellent!! I had read several reviews of this hotel on the Trip Advisor website, and was concerned about spotty service, but service was uniformly terrific!! I thought I had already gotten on the ship, as every staff member was friendly and said hello with a smile. The one very minor problem I had was taken care of very quickly, and with a smile. The property was lush, well maintained and beautiful. The private beach was wonderful. Enough about the hotel, and onto the ship.
We arrived at the port at noon after sitting in very heavy traffic for about 35 minutes. The largest ship I had cruised on before this was a Princess Grand Class ship,so WOW was this ship huge!! They had just started allowing passengers to board when we got in line, so we went through the check in process and were on board in about 20 minutes -- that was the second fastest I had ever experienced. Once onboard, we were told that cabins would not be available until 2pm, so we headed up to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. We were greeted by Santiago the singing waiter, and went inside. The buffet was a typical buffet, but the food was hot and fresh.
At 2, we went to our cabin, and dropped off our stuff, and we were greeted by our terrific cabin attendant Linda. She kept everything sparkling clean and provided towel animals on several nights. After going to the cabin, I left my wife to do the unpacking, and I went exploring. I was impressed by the variety of activities available, and all of the public spaces. While this ship is seven years old, and did show some wear, it was very clean and well kept, and I saw crew constantly cleaning. The only negative comment I have up to this point is about the lack of hand sanitizer throughout the ship. There was NONE! My wife and one of the other couples started to feel like they had a cold by Friday, and they are still sick almost a week later. After the required muster drill, we went up on deck for sail-away, got our first frosty drink and watched Puerto Rico move off into the distance.
We had late seating dinner, so off we went into the Mozart dining room, and the aforementioned Santiago the singing waiter turned out to be our assistant waiter. He and our waiter Aristides were excellent. Our head waiter Neeraj was also wonderful. This was my 9th cruise, and I don't think I have ever had a better dining room experience. We had six wonderful dinners during the week with them. The reason for only six is that all of us went to the Murder Mystery Dinner on the first formal night. DO NOT MISS THIS! It was kind of corny, but a lot of fun. There was no night that I could not find something that I liked on the dinner menu. Most nights there were at least 2 desserts that I wanted to try and usually did! For those of you wondering, yes there was lobster, but it was on a casual night instead of formal because, according to our head waiter, they were getting too many complaints about stains on formal wear!
Onto the ports -- Aruba: Never left the main shopping area, so I don't have much to say about this one.
Curacao: Here is my one big fat honkin negative complaint. We took the Jewish Heritage Tour, and the supposed tour guide either had never done this tour before, or after she was trained, she just decided to make up facts and figures along the way. I was truly disappointed about this, and when I returned to the ship I complained to the tour desk, and was given a form to fill out. I filled it out and returned it, and after investigation, RCCL refunded the full amount for this tour. The port was beautiful, and I think I could learn to live there.
St Maarten/St. Martin: I think it is a toss up between this port and St. Thomas for the most beautiful. We took the city highlights tour here and really liked the tour guide Marcel and the tour. Did a little shopping here and just like Curacao. I think I could learn to live there.
St Thomas: Did some shopping and tried to go to the synagogue here, but it was the sabbath, and it was locked in the afternoon when we got there. However, we got lucky in that a member of the congregation showed up as we arrived, and allowed us to at least get some great pictures of the harbor and Charlotte Amalie from on the balcony of a house the congregation owns and uses as its banquet hall. Sadly once back aboard, it was time to start packing.
Disembarkation was very slow to begin with, but once it started it took very little time to get to our luggage, and clear customs. After a second lousy flight on AA, we were back in L.A.
The last cruise I took was an Alaska cruise on the Norwegian Pearl, and I thought that the food and service were very good, but after several cruises with choice dining, I forgot just how much I really liked connecting with the wait staff. We were trying to decide whether to take NCL or RCCL for our next cruise, as we had no really big complaints with either. After this cruise, I give the edge to RCCL, as their food and service were just that much better. All in all, this was a great cruise on a great itinerary, and we will cruise RCCL again soon.
The Royal Caribbean International (RCI) Independence of the Seas, with her sister ships Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, are the biggest cruise ships afloat. They will hold this title until December 2009 when the 220,000 ton Oasis of the Seas will be launched! This Saturday morning she sat alongside another renowned cruise ship who previously held the title of "Biggest Cruise Ship": The Queen Mary 2 of the Cunard Line.
Captain Teo Strazicic of Dubrovnik, Croatia is very proud of his beautiful behemoth, which although larger than RCI's Eagle Class (Voyager, Explorer, Navigator, Mariner, and Adventurer of the Seas) she still uses only the same number and types of engines, but more efficiently. Bravo RCI this awesome ship is a true engineering marvel!
Embarkation Saturday noon, the I-95 traffic was bearable and we arrived at Port Everglades at 12:00pm, however, it took thirty minutes to go through traffic control. Many passengers were surprised at this delay, since other ports are more efficiently handling security. Once in port, things moved along more quickly. We were through Check-in in five minutes, but had to wait for another wheel chair for Vincent fortwenty minutes. The ramps to the ship were not too steep, but they were very long ones. Mary's motorized wheel chair handled them easily!
We checked on our dining arrangements and found we had a nice table for two at the rear of the Romeo & Juliet Restaurant near the magnificent triple deck staircase. We kept this table because of its proximity to the live music. Now, we were off to the Welcome On Board Buffet: which was overcrowded, but even with courteous assistance we had an unusual dispersal of hot potato soup!
Embarkation was good considering over 3,600 were boarding along with crew members.
Ship The Independence was launched in May 2008, so it is in pristine condition.
Hotel Director Darren Budden (Newfoundland, Canada) has a right to be proud of the Independence: she is immaculate, well run, service is pleasant and immediate. He kindly gave us a book: "Art The Collection" on board. There are 15 decks with many eclectic pieces of art which merit a detailed overview.
Deck 1 is mainly for crew except that the Medical Facility is located aft.
Deck 2 forward has the Alhambra Theatre with a beautiful Austrian crystal beaded curtain. The design has five dark haired Flamenco dancers with their gorgeous ruffled skirts spread: all forming a 13 paneled 28ft tall by 46ft wide spectacular display. Midship is the Ice Skating Rink, a RCI innovation, which allows passenger skating and show opportunities. There are also staterooms on Deck 2.
Deck 3 again forward is the Alhambra Theatre. Then toward midship is the Labyrinth night club with its Harry Cardross stained glass windows featuring the "Raven of the Tower" (Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, the British Monarchy and the country will fall.) The second window features the "Raven of the Battle." Midship is Studio B, On air Studio and the Art Gallery. There are also staterooms and aft is the Romeo and Juliet Restaurant. At the entrance is a marvelous all white 3D bust of William Shakespeare, which follows the viewer as s/he walks by. It has the effect of motion. Very cool!
Deck 4 forward has the balcony of the Alhambra Theatre; then towards midship is the Schooner Bar with its nautical décor and a ship model of the "Flora of Tjomo," one of RCI's founders Gjert Wilhelmsen' first barques. Then there are the upper level of the Labyrinth, the spacious Casino Royal, the Photo Gallery and Shop, and the Boleros Lounge. All the way aft is the Macbeth Restaurant.
Deck 5 forward has the Pyramid Lounge with the entrance flanked by a series of imposing Pharaohs and inside is a stunning black and gold statue of King Tutankhamen based on the one found in the boy King Tut's tomb in the King's Valley, Egypt. Also located here are Clarissa Parish's two frescoes of Egyptian women.
This deck has the unique Royal Promenade with its many shops and eating venues: "Sorrento's Pizzeria" features antipasti, pizzas, garlic toast, and panini, daily; plus Italian biscotti, macaroons and amaretto cookies. There are logo shops, "A Clean Shave" barber's shop, men's and women's boutiques, a perfume shop, a general store, "The Dog & Badger English Pub" and "Ben & Jerry's" ice cream. Also there is "Cafe Promenade" serving excellent coffee and tea, sandwiches, scones, RCI's terrific cookies and doughnuts.
The star exhibit of the Promenade is the blue 2008 Morgan V6 Roadster handmade on commission by RCI. Aft suspended is Larry Kirkland's Greek Drinking Vessel featuring dolphins -- a good omen at sea. Kirkland modeled his huge cup on a 550 BC work by Exekias in Athens. Also here are located the Guest Relations Desk and the Explorations Desk. All the way aft is the King Lear Restaurant, which completes the third tier of the dining complex with a gorgeous crystal chandelier visible from all three tiers.
Decks 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are all staterooms and located nearby the aft elevators on each deck are the Business Services, the Library with open stacks, the "Royal Caribbean Online" computer center and the "Concierge Club."
Deck 11 has many guest facilities. Forward is the State of the Art Fitness Center with beautiful views of the sea while using treadmills, etc. In the Solarium are two huge whirlpools, one on each side of the ship, cantilevered over the sea, and a swimming pool just for adults. Near here are two Barsanti Mosaics named "Tigers in the Jungle" based on the works of a French Post-Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau. In the forward stairs portside is the Robert Silvers' head of Venus inspired by Botticelli's unforgettable "Birth of Venus." This artist creates his work by computer using thousands of tiny photographs to form a larger image -- You must look at this up close, rather than the usual admonition to "stand back in order to get the full import of a picture." Here, you must go up close to see how this was made. Amazing!
Deck 12 forward is the Day Spa, the Sky Bar, and the jogging track. Toward aft is Johnny Rockets, a 50's style diner and the Challengers Arcade, Adventure Ocean children's area, and the Surf Teen Disco.
Deck 13 has the Rock Climbing Wall, the Sports Court (basketball, volleyball, tennis), the Golf Simulator and the Dunes Mini Golf. The most unique sports opportunity is the Flowrider which allows passengers to surf standing or kneeling.
Deck 14 has the "Olive or Twist" & the Viking Crown Lounge, the card and game rooms and Diamond Lounge where we met the Diamond Member Concierge Columella Arandia.
Deck 15 has the nearest thing to heaven on the sea: the Skylight Chapel.
The Independence of the Seas is decorated with art work inspired by the Old Masters, but executed by modern artists -- very interesting.
This ship is huge at 160,000 tons and 208 feet tall (double the height of the Statue of Liberty) and its Royal Promenade is longer than a football field. Its enormous size allows RCI to offer a more diverse vacation.
Service & Food The state of the economy has finally done what years of begging from us could not accomplish. The over abundant portions have finally been reduced to appropriate sized portions. We are so happy not to waste food -- we could rarely finish those too ample entrees. It does not restrict those with gargantuan appetites, since they can still order as much as they want.
RCI has brought eating back to normalcy. Thanks to Executive Chef Ivo Jahn, we enjoyed dining in the Romeo & Juliet Restaurant. Maitre D' Dominic Barr gave us a nice table and our Waiter Sabit Majaki and his Asst. Waiter Chantelle John made every night a dining pleasure. Head Waiters Jason D'Silva and Francesco Orlando made us feel special.
Sunday formal night we dined with Captain Teo Strazicic (a very erudite gentleman, who had insightful ideas on education (Vincent & Mary are both university teachers) and other world topics. It was a fantastic dinner only surpassed by Chef Ivo's Almond Brittle Hand Made Chalice filled with wild berries and cream! The food is of good quality and available all over the ship: from Sorrento's Pizzeria on Deck 5, to self serve frozen yogurt on Deck 11 at Sprinkles. We also dined at the Chop's Grille where both food and service were excellent. Food & Beverage Director Joao Mendonca oversees a complex system with dexterity. Bravo! Room Service all week long was prompt, hot and appetizing.
Cabin Wheelchair accessible cabin #7324 is bright with light pine wood and the RCI trademark blue and aqua colors. When entering on the left there is the oversized bathroom with a 4'X4' shower with safety rails and a fold away seat. There is one sink with a large medicine chest for amenities. Next, there is a sofa and a queen bed flanked by two night stands and reading lamp sconces; the head board is the traditional aqua suede.
When entering on the right, there is a triple armoire with shelves and both high and low cross dowels for hangers and a private safe. This last is the handiest item since cruisers may lock up valuables and go wallet and purse free all week. There is a lighted mirror on the desk/vanity, a LCD TV and a hair dryer in the first of four drawers.
The far wall is all glass and has a door to the extra large balcony with two chairs, a small table and a chaise which our excellent steward Lenore Reid brought for Vincent. Our week was perfectly restful thanks to the lovely Lenore.
Entertainment On the Independence there is no shortage of opportunities to be "amused."
Sunday evening from our balcony there was a beautiful sunset with a clear view of the slenderest crescent moon in the SW sky. Above the moon shone the planets Venus and Jupiter. All three heavenly bodies were close to each other -- picture perfect and brighter than 1st magnitude stars. However, as we looked at other balconies, we were astonished to find that we were the only audience for this phenomenon; so we took a picture of it! This is why we love to cruise.
For other more typical activities, Cruise Director Allan Brooks does his very best. The RCI singers and dancers perform in production shows like "Center Stage" in the Alhambra Theatre along with comedians like Michael James; ballroom dancers Olga & Dimatri have a dance competition. The Ice Show "Strings" with world class performers on ice and an extraordinary violinist from Canada (so sorry we haven't got her name.) This is only the beginning. For the athletic minded the "Flowrider" and the "Rock Climbing Wall" are musts. Don't forget golf, basketball, shuffleboard, ping pong, swimming, Bingo, Casino games and tournaments, etc. etc. Oh, just get out there.
Ports of Call Day 1: Ft. Lauderdale -- Sail Away 6:00pm. Day 2: At sea. Day 3: San Juan, Puerto Rico -- Arrive 1:30pm, Depart 8:30pm
For first timers this port has an interesting "Old & New San Juan City Tour" (2.5 hrs, $32.) Try the "Fortifications Segway" touring the old city on a Segway (3.5 hrs, $95).
Day 4: St. Thomas, USVI -- Arrive 7:00am, Depart 5:00pm
This is one of the best shopping ports in the Caribbean. A tour especially designed for the handicapped is "Accessible Scenic Island Drive and Mountain Top" (2.5 hrs, $64).
Day 5: Philipsburg, St. Maarten -- Arrive 6:00am, Depart 5:00pm
One of the most fascinating tours here is the "America's Cup Sailing Regatta" (3 hrs, $89) -- A sailing competition with famous yachts like Dennis Corner's "Stars & Stripes," "Canada II" and "True North." After the exciting race, participants are treated to complimentary rum punch.
Day 6: At sea. Day 7: Labadee, Haiti -- Arrive 8:00am, Depart 4:30pm
This is RCI's private island where passengers may enjoy the white sand beach and swimming or snorkeling in the sparkling clear water. For those who love water sports there are many choices: "Kayak Adventure" (1.5 hrs $38.); "Personal Watercraft Experience", enjoying the thrill of speeding on a Waverunner (1.5 hrs, $95 adults and $29 children); "Snorkel Safari" (2 hrs, $46), etc.
Day 8: At sea. Day 9: Ft. Lauderdale -- Arrive 6:00am.
Disembarkation We had a terrific going home breakfast in the main dining room at 6:30am and went back to our stateroom. At 8:30am a wheelchair came for Vincent and we were taken down and off the ship to baggage pick up, customs and passport control. We were out on the port at 9:00am. This is quite good for the biggest cruise ship with so many passengers.
Conclusion This was another great cruise. As "Frequent Floaters" with 37 cruise credits on RCI ships and Diamond Plus membership in the Crown & Anchor Society, we enjoy all the repeaters benefits aboard, including the use of the Concierge Services, the Diamond Lounge, evening cocktails, reservations for specialty restaurants and tickets for the ice skating show, and other favors. That is the reason RCI is our favorite cruise line. However, we are addicted to cruising and we also cruise on other lines. Until now we have never experienced a bad cruise, although some cruises have been better than others.
Now we look forward to cruising on the Norwegian Pearl on Jan. 4 and on the Ruby Princess on Jan. 24. We have also booked transatlantic crossings on the Celebrity Solstice in April and Queen Mary2 in May, as well as the inaugural cruise on the Oasis of the Seas on Dec 12, 2009. Happy Cruising!
Departure Tip: Be sure you do the computer on-line pre board. Hold onto passport. Porters at curbside whisk away your luggage. Up the escalator to airport style security checkpoint. On to customs visa check. On to photo op and finally take another picture and receive all important "Sea Pass". Walk the gangway and, boom, you're lost. Since your luggage is in limbo and your room may or may not be ready you ask how to get to the Windjammer on Deck 9. Find elevator and this is the first really cool impression of shipboard life. The buffet is in full swing with everything you could want, live Calypso band playing in front of the friendly bar on the open deck in front of the monster pool, and you with this new Sea Pass card where you can charge anything that is not included. Food is included, they charge for alcohol, photos, etc. but the prices are moderate. Tip: Included in the price of drinks is the gratuity. No fuss with cash on board except for Casino. Slots seem loose at Casino which includes; Craps, Roulette and Blackjack.
Rooms are ready "sometime" shortlyafter boarding. Tip: Get a room with a balcony, truly worth it. Rooms are narrow and the head is compact. TV, Phone, Room service is fantastic. Second most important person on the ship is your room steward. Luggage arrived about one hour after room was ready. Not bad considering there are 2,300 people on this ship.
At Sea Brace for first day put-on-your-life vest and muster on deck for abandon ship drill. The Vision of the Seas is a beautiful ship. The ship does a little rock and roll and should rock you to sleep at night. Huge and sleek with every amenity. Captain gives progress report every day at noon. You can see all the features in your book. OK, the next hurdle is seating in the dining room. We were celebrating 40th wedding anniversary on the day of departure. We got in line (there are lots of lines) for dinner and it was like they never heard of us. Reservation was booked four months in advance for main dining room at six -- and maître'd said "sorry no table for you". Tip: When you get your Sea Pass Card approaching the ship, check to see if you have a table assigned. Your travel agent does not get a table assignment. Our card said Table 00 which meant we did not have a table but we did not know that. So they sat us at 8:30. We met a delightful family from China and during dinner, the dining room boss came and told us he had a six o'clock table for the following night. These dining room people are the first most important people on the cruise unless you do the buffet every day and night. There is a total org chart of people serving you in the dining room. At your table alone is the assistant waiter, the waiter and the head waiter. Then there is Kumar who is in charge of the whole dining experience and who we tangled with the first night. In fairness, he arranged for a first rate table for two which was rare and delightful for the duration of the cruise.
The dining room is nice even if you have to dress up a little. Tip: the formal Captain's Reception/Dinner is really special and worth the effort. I really resisted getting dressed up for the formal part of this but it was cool. The party-hearty tank top and shorts bunch who walk around the ship making too much noise with a Corona in hand and live at the bar and all-you-can eat buffet, well...party on.
At Port Unless you really know these towns I suggest a signed up in advance for tour except Cabo. Generally I think things get better the further south you go.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja del Sur: Cabo is basically a party town for rich gringos who love Marlin fishing with famous night clubs such as Cabo Wabo, Squid Roe, etc. Cabo has a really lovely bay which you can see from the ship. You will take a small boat from the ship to the marina. Lots of lines. Most of the tours want to take you around the bay on a catamaran or maybe horseback on the beach. I recommend no tour in Cabo, (OK maybe a glass bottom boat). Just take the tender to the marina dock and walk the marina and follow the signs to the shopping area. Walk around Cabo. Don't buy much, prices are higher here than further south. Not a town for kids. Weather is super. Tip: Most vendors will accept USD, Visa, etc. They may give you change in Pesos which you don't want to get stuck with when you arrive home. Tip: Best shopping value for booze is duty free on board the ship.
Mazatlan, Gue.: Now on the mainland and in a different time zone, different feel, more conservative, the ship is tied up snug to shore and the shore is green. Tip: The ship changes time during the trip and not necessarily consistent with local time zones so be sure to know what is "ship's time". We took the tour to Stone Island (not really an island), were loaded on a two deck panga, toured the bay, saw Pacifico Beer Factory, and finally herded into the "limo" -- a flatbed with slat seats pulled by a tractor to the other side of the "island" and spent a lazy morning at a lovely beach with open bar and Mahi Mahi lunch included. Pinata party for the kids. Wife won a prize dancing the Macarena on the shaky stern of the panga on the way back to ship. Great tour guide, Humberto. Although we enjoyed this, I recommend some other tour that gives you a better look at the city of Mazatlan.
Puerto Vallarta, Jal.: We took Town, County Tequila Tour with Jose. A bus tour which I thought was excellent. A good look at PV upscale hoods and rural life. Went to small tequila fabrica and learned how it is made, lots of free samples with an energetic Jose leading us in various toasts. Good tacos for lunch with handmade tortillas. ($2 a taco was a little pricy). End tour with look at downtown PV, the malecon and shopping. Wife bought Mexican Fire Opal in 14k setting for $300 USD while the store staff plied me with "free" Pacifico beer. PV from a distance looks like Las Vegas in terms of construction underway, condos, etc. Lots of growth. Weather is like Hawaii.
Summary Excellent trip overall. The cruise is a good value. Crew is truly international, (get used to very different accents) and really work hard to please customers. The ship is clean and luxurious. 2,300 people is a crowd and you will encounter some long lines and all types of people. This cruise had 600 kids, lots of large family reunions which can test your patience in an elevator.
I smile at the term "Mexican Riviera" but there is a deep pride even from jaded tour guides and I suspect the true Mexican reception of cruise passengers is probably much more friendly and sincere than the other side of the pond.
As promised here are our impressions of our very first Royal Caribbean Cruise aboard the Freedom Of The Seas 11-16-2008 to 11-23-2008 Eastern Caribbean.
Embarkation as well as debarkation at the port of Miami were by far the fastest we have ever experienced and frankly, we were left stunned by the speed and efficiency. It was explained that Royal has begun to debark all passengers who have U.S. citizenship papers from the bow (front) of the ship and any foreigners debark from the aft (rear). The ship had approximately 4,000 guests on our voyage. 1500 were U.S. citizens the remaining 2500 were international passengers. This resulted in zero waiting time for us. We literally walked off the ship, gathered our bags as they arrived and walked out to the street showing our ID along the way. Maybe we were lucky -- but it was unbelievably fast!
It should be noted that we had always sailed on Carnival prior to this cruise. We always were quite satisfied on our Carnival cruises. Our friends Rob and Liz asked us to let them know when we returned, if Royal Caribbean was worth the extra $200per passenger. Our first words to them upon returning were "Book your next cruise on Freedom Of The Seas."
What a magnificent ship. Freedom Of The Seas is truly something to behold. Everywhere you look the detail of design is evident and the entire ship provides a feast for the eyes. It is a stunningly beautiful vessel and I can't help but implore anyone who enjoys cruising to experience this ship. We would sit at Boleros in the afternoon, enjoying a lovely mango mojito (Mike's favorite drink onboard) and admire all of the details that went into the décor all around us. There is no comparison between FOS and anything Carnival has when it comes to décor, nothing at all.
(Boleros was also the spot where each night our 18 month old grandson Henry would be dancing it up with all the pretty girls onboard!)
Food This was probably where Royal and Carnival share the closest comparisons. Most dishes onboard were quite good but some were rather poor. The steak served on the last night of the cruise was horrid. It was tough and flavorless which was probably why they served it covered in some type of sauce. On the other hand, many dishes were very delicious like the Chilean sea bass -- wow! That was excellent. For those caught up in the controversy, lobster was indeed served in the main dining room. Almost every dessert was exceptional.
Sorrento's was always a culinary delight and we will miss Michelle and Reyna. They were just wonderful people who always found time to chat with us and make our experience there so very special.
We came away very pleased with the quality of the food overall.
Portofino: The service was exceptional. The food however, was average to below average.
Mikes dish "Saltimbocca" was pretty good and tasty, and well prepared. Suzanne ordered the Spiedino Di Mare.
The presentation was stunning but that's where it ended. In Suz's words, "The lobster was salty and bland, the scallops were a tasteless glob of nothing, the shrimp were average and the salmon was fishy."
Once again, the desserts were astonishing, but the lack of quality regarding the entrées left us unimpressed.
Cabin The cabins were a bit small but once we got used to our quarters, we were comfortable. The bed was the BEST!
The shower was wonderful. Our cabin steward "Hilton" was always friendly and did a magnificent job. We always looked forward to seeing him each morning. He got an additional tip! We had 2 items in our cabin that required maintenance. Our TV would go on by itself 2 minutes after we shut it off. One phone call and minutes later there was a knock at the door and the problem was diagnosed and fixed. The only other problem was a flickering wall lamp. One call and moments later, maintenance was there to fix it. Lovely!
Entertainment The entertainment onboard was spectacular -- far better than anything we have witnessed on Carnival.
The quality of the production shows truly showed the dedication and talent of the staff involved.
And then there is Richard Spacey. This man made every cruise director we've ever had before him utterly forgettable. I certainly hope that Royal Caribbean appreciates what they have in Richard Spacey. He can make a doorknob seem exciting!
The Quest: This was everything and more that we'd been led to believe it would be. We laughed until it hurt. Once again, I have to wonder if it would have been half as good with anyone other than Richard Spacey running the show.
Freedom Ice.com: This was spectacular -- dazzling -- inspirational and, at times so nostalgic that I was choked up and my eyes began to well (the whole 60's segment really brought back some beautiful memories).
Conclusion All in all my good friends, our first Royal Caribbean cruise began a new era for us, and closed an era for Carnival. You've been just great Carnival, but it's time to move on! As I said in another online post, Royal Caribbean provides a degree of elegance that doesn't exist within the Carnival experience. We are now of the age where we can appreciate that difference. Our cruise on Freedom Of The Seas was easily our very best cruise experience to date. We hardily recommend this beautiful ship to everyone.
This was the 8th cruise on RCI for me, and my 3rd cruise on the Majesty of the Seas. This cruise was scheduled for 4-nights in the Bahamas embarking from Miami, FL, with stops in Nassau, Coco Cay, and Key West. I was part of a travel agent group for this cruise, and thus my wife was not along for the cruise. My wife and I cruised together on the Adventure of the Seas to the Southern Caribbean about 5 weeks ago.
Embarkation I flew in to Miami on Monday morning and caught a taxi for $24 to the pier. I did the online check-in and once again made my check-in time with the clerk only about 2 minutes. I arrived about 12:45pm and was through security, through the line and onboard by 1pm. A very easy embarkation, my cabin was ready when I walked on the ship.
Ship My 3rd cruise on the Majesty OTS (2nd since she was dry docked and had a $40 million refurbishment) and she was just as beautiful as ever! The Majesty OTS was built in the early 1990's, but received the massive makeover inFebruary 2007. The public areas were clean and spotless. The crew keeps the ship clean, polished and up to date. Because I was part of a travel agent group on this cruise, we were treated to some special tours of the ship's bridge, the ship's galley and the crew's quarters. All these tours were very eye opening and spectacular!
Cabin I was booked into a Category I, oceanview cabin on deck 8. I was in the very forward part of the deck in cabin 8002. My actual oceanview was pretty limited by the lifeboat right above the window, but the cabin itself was very nice. The cabin has the flat screen TV mounted high up on the wall, the upgraded bedding, decent closet space and a small desk/vanity.
Staff Of course the highlight of any RCI cruise is the service. Every crewmember had a smile and a greeting for me morning, noon and night. My stateroom attendant did spectacular, kept the cabin spotless and handled my simple requests with ease. The dining room staff were the true stars of our cruise experience. Our entire wait staff performed superbly. They were very efficient, did their jobs well and I enjoyed the dining room experience every night. Everywhere we went the service from the RCI crew was great.
Ports of Call I have been to all these ports multiple times, so there were no surprises here for me. Our first stop was Nassau, Bahamas. I took an excursion called "Forts and Pirates". The name turned out to be a little misleading. It turned out the excursion was really a bus tour of Nassau itself. We did stop by two forts, saw the Queen's staircase and ended the tour at the Nassau Pirate museum. The second stop was the RCI private island of Coco Cay. I spent the entire time, about 5-1/2 hours, on a hammock in a secluded spot on the island. I alternated between napping and reading! The third stop was Key West. I just wandered around Duval Street all day, in and out of the shops, bars and museums.
Dining The upward trend in food quality from RCI was evident on this cruise as well. I really enjoyed the dining room menu and selections. There seemed to be a nice variety of menu choices every evening. I usually ate breakfast in the Windjammer, which seems to be limiting the time the food is spent out and under the warmers, which makes it much better to eat. I also ate in the Johnny Rocket's venue, very good burgers and shakes! I also ate at the Compass Deli, which I had never eaten at before and I really enjoyed the selection of sandwiches and soups. Also, the Sorrento's pizza was really good too. The Johnny Rocket's, Compass Deli, and Sorrento's Pizza are all one deck up from the Windjammer at the forward end of the ship. Windjammer is on deck 11, and the others just above it on deck 12.
Entertainment Our entertainment was good. I only saw one production show and saw the same comedian twice. I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise director, Ricky, and his staff. I am proud to say that yours truly was part of the gold medal winning team at "The Quest"!
Disembarkation As usual, the disebarkation process was simple and quick. I placed my luggage with the colored tags outside my cabin, and I was out of my cabin by 7:30am the next morning. I ate breakfast and during my meal my luggage tag color was called. After I finished, I simply walked off the ship, with no line at all to get off, went to the luggage claim area and collected my luggage, got in a taxi and it was off to the airport I went!
Overall Evaluation I would definitely give this cruise an 8 out of a 10. I had a very relaxing cruise, and my only complaint was the cruise was only 4 nights -- way too short! I really love the Majesty of the Seas. She may not have all the activities and amenities of Royal Caribbean's other big ships, but she makes for a nice relaxing cruise ship for those looking for a nice getaway to the Bahamas.
There were 5 of us on this cruise, myself, my wife and 18 year old daughter, plus my in-laws. This was our 5 cruise and third Trans-Atlantic cruise.
We had an outside stateroom on deck 2 mid ship and my in-laws had a balcony stateroom on deck 6.
Traveling and Embarkation We travelled from Edinburgh to Barcelona via London City airport. It was a very early start with a 6:30 flight out of Edinburgh, but we all seemed to get up with spring in out step as it was holiday time.
We arrived in Barcelona at 12:30 and were met just outside baggage collection by the RCI rep, who pointed us in the right direction of porters; this was the last we saw our luggage until we were on the ship.
There was a short 20 min bus ride to the port where we were sped through the check in process. Having now attained Platinum status we were very lucky to join a very short queue and within 30-40 mins we were on the ship. After getting slightly lost, we found our stateroom which was still in the process of getting ready.Sammy our stateroom attendant met us, what a nice guy.
Nothing was a problem for him, and he always seemed to be smiling as we met him coming and going.
The Ship and Crew Having been on both the Mariner and Explorer; we all had a basic idea of the layout so it didn't take us long to figure out where everything was.
We knew that the Windjammer was going to be busy so we headed for the Promenade Café on deck 5 for a few snacks.
The ship itself is still looking like it just came out of the dock.
Everywhere we looked someone was polishing or cleaning something.
We can't praise the staff and crew highly enough, everyone we passed in the corridors had a smile or a nod to acknowledge we were there.
I'll give a special mention to our Waiter, Judith and her assistant (who for the life of me I can't remember his name), plus Ray our Head Waiter, honestly the best Head Waiter we've ever had. Normally in the past we've found they only show face, smile and move on, but this guy took the time to speak to all of us. We would regularly meet him in the Windjammer always taking the time to chat.
I'll also mention the bartenders we got friendly with. Richard in the Theatre, who only after the second night knew what we were all drinking. One more was in Vintages (and I'm truly sorry I never got his name). Again he knew what I was drinking and before my bum was on the seat he was over handing me my drink, now that's service.
At this point I'll mention our Cruise Director and his staff, Kieron Buffrey was for me just about right. Not in your face and subtle, which I don't think went down well with our American friends.
Once again thanks to the CD staff who after my wife wrote to Kieron arranged for my daughter to do a backstage tour as she is studying stage management and lighting in the theatre at collage.
He had a great partner in Cuddy who managed to bounce off Kieron just nicely. I hope he makes a CD in the future.
For me the only cloud on the silver lining was Captain Bang, for us he was as dully as dish water. His daily announcements were tedious, all we seemed to hear was his name then it became garbled with long periods of silence. I'm sure in person he's a very interesting person but on the stage of pubic speaking a small improvement is needed.
Ports We didn't have many ports of call on this cruise, which is one of the reasons we chose it.
The first up was Cartagena in Spain. The ship had never been docked here before so it was a bit of an adventure for guests and crew alike.
We did manage to get on an open top bus trip for €13 each, taking about an hour for the tour. Very nice and condensed city full of naval history. After the tour we took a stroll up to the shops.
After 2 days at sea we arrived at the port of Ponta Delgada in the Azores, where we had 16 hours to kill. We've never organised a tour via the ship as we can normally find something to do. With this port we really struggled.
The tourist information desk should be done under the trade descriptions as they weren't helpful at all, telling us most of the buses were off or broken. So we had to fend for ourselves. The town itself is very compact and we managed to wander through the small streets taking in all the sites and sounds.
After returning to the ship for some lunch and a change we went back off the ship and struck lucky. It seemed we were there on the day all the Christmas lights were being switched on. It was truly a magical place, full of marching bands, Santa and kids playing.
Our last stop came after 6 days at sea and we arrived in the port of Nassau in the Bahamas.
After a small delay waiting for another ship to dock we got off and headed for the hotel Atlantis. Having been to Nassau in the past we knew where to go and how to get there so no time was wasted.
We wandered around the hotel checking out the aquarium and casino, then headed back to the main town for a drink at the local Hard Rock Café. It was then back to the ship and to prepare for the big offload at Fort Lauderdale the next morning.
Sea Days As I've said before we chose this cruise because of the amount to days at sea, which for us is the must relaxing time you can have. In total out of the 12 days 8 of them were spent at sea. The only down side to this was the weather wasn't the most favourable, it was warm but for the most part overcast. To say the sea was lumpy would be a small understatement, for at least 2 days it was pretty rough, so much so when we looked out our stateroom window it wasn't unusual to see the sea hitting it. We did spend this time doing all the stuff around the ship -- playing golf and roller blading and ice skating etc. The rough waters didn't stop us from having a great time; sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. We were just lucky on all the port days the sun was shinning.
Entertainment This was a real mixed bag for us. We thought the RCI dancers do a good job working under the conditions they do. However some of the star turns were a bit poor. Darren Day was really bad and never seemed to connect with the audience. Brenda Cochran tried very hard and has some real talent but I don't think the theatre was big enough for her voice. The real star turn was Mr Nobody (Yacov Noy). His three legged man was just classic.
We did manage to see 3 showings of the Ice Dancing and we all still watch with open mouths how these people do the things they do. With leaps, jumps and back flips it's all very cool. We just managed to stand up on the ice when the ship was moving all over the place, so how they do it is beyond me.
Food I can't really do a review without mentioning the food. Overall it was really good. The choice within the Windjammer is amazing, if you can't find something you like you must be a very picky eater. Some things could have been hotter. I do feel like people behave extremely badly and can be very rude within the Windjammer. Pushing in when queues have been formed, loading plates up like all the food is going to run out. I've always subscribed to the theory that you can go up as many times as you'd like, don't waste good food.
We ate every night in the main restaurant, and there wasn't a night gone by that I couldn't find something to eat. The steak was always done the way I like it. I never walked away thinking hmmmm I need more to eat. In fact most nights I thought that was a lovely meal, and I don't have to do the dishes.
Disembarkation We were very lucky that we managed to be one of the last ones off the ship, and also being Platinum members we had access to our own waiting area, which was in the restaurant on deck 4. This made for a more pleasant experience than sitting in the theatre. By the time we got off the ship there were only a few cases left in the hall so we could spot our luggage without any problem. Clearing immigration was only a problem as some people seemed to think it was a good idea to fill in their green cards when they arrived at the immigration officer. On the whole we were on our way to the airport within an hour after getting off the ship.
Overall In conclusion this was a very enjoyable cruise, well worth the money we spent. Will we be doing another cruise? You'd better believe it. Will we choose Royal Caribbean? Most definately yes, they tick all the right boxes for me.
If you are already booked on a RCI cruise, or if you are an ardent fan of RCI, you may not want to read this review. If you do and disagree or think it will spoil something, I have warned you.
It is long.
First cruise on RCI, 20 something total cruises.
I will not talk about the ports visited, only the ship. It is a cruise review, not a port review.
Sat. Oct. 11, 2008. Jewel Of The Seas, Boston to Canada.
Parked in Port Of Boston parking garage. Sign said $27.00 per DAY. However upon leaving the garage, the fee was $15 a day. Whew.
11:30 arrived at check-in. No wait, took 10 minutes only because the woman who checked us in was training a new person. Thru security and on board by 11:45. Rooms not ready until 1pm, so off to the Windjammer for lunch. Food OK, quality comparable to that of a buffet at a medium priced Las Vegas hotel.
1pm, to the room. The cabin steward was still working on his section of cabins, and ours had not been vacuumed yet. I know this because of the toenail clippingsleft on the floor. This seemed really unusual when Reuben, the cabin steward, told me that the cabin was vacant on the previous cruise. If they don't use it, they don't clean it? Strange.
After dropping off the carry-on luggage, time to explore the ship. Long level corridors in the cabin areas unlike the cruise ships of the past when the corridors had a noticeable sway to them.
The cabin was the generic cabin of today, with a nice window. The bed turned out to be so-so as to comfort, and was two twins pushed together to make a queen.
The ship is a handsome vessel and its fairly easy to navigate about it. Muster drill went off fairly quickly, and it appeared that the people who are always real late for these things or don't think they have to participate, were not on this cruise.
Dining Well, we tried the 'My Time Dining', and can say we tried it and didn't care for it. Turns out you can only make your reservation for dinner between 9-10am, and 4-5 pm. And nowhere did I see anything about how to make that reservation, so it was a phone call to the operator to get a number to call, and after a bit of a wait, she found the number. Then of course, if you don't have dinner close to the traditional early or late seating, you will not see the scheduled evening show. Very few people were doing the MTD deal as it was were using only a small portion of the upstairs of the dining room.
The wait staff was inconsistent in their service, and the first night's dining experience was underwhelming to say the least. Took forever to get anyone to stop by after being seated, and then it was the headwaiter who came and filled the water glasses. Waiter and assistant waiter were friendly, but sloooow. Different set last three meals and they had a terrible time the last night with the orders at our table for six with two meals totally messed up.
Breakfast was taken in the Windjammer. Same items everyday, but enough selection to be interesting. Tend to eat the same thing for breakfast anyway, so it was OK. actually the best meal of most days.
Lunch also taken in the Windjammer. Different cut of meat at the carving station each day, but most of the rest of the selections seemed to repeat day after day. Second best food of most days. Like I said, comparable to a mid-priced Vegas joint. Deserts a big letdown with an equal number of sugar-free and the kind I like (with sugar and calories), but not much taste (I know the Europeans have a different concept as to sweet than us Americans). Fruit also at the desert station.
Tried the Seaview Café for the fish & chips (two small pieces of fish, fries) OK but once was enough.
Dinner in the dining room was a huge disappointment. A step up from fine dining at Denny's, but I won't go much better than that. A basic three course offering, starter, main course, and dessert. The starter selection made no separation between an appetizer and a salad so it appeared most chose one or the other. Five choices for main course, one of which was a steak (the default entree) of strange flavor.
I have been on 20+ cruises and this is the first time that I have left the dining room hungry. Actually skipped the main course one night because I didn't like what I ordered at all, didn't see anything else I wanted, and could not face another of the steaks. I know times have changed, but from a meal of appetizer/soup, salad, (perhaps sherbet to prepare the palate) meat/fish, cheese, dessert, coffee/expresso/capachino, and mint/truffle to Applebee's on a tablecloth. Come on people.
Thursday sea day dinner was the best meal we had in the dining room, lobster & prime rib main course selections (took lobster as appetizer, prime rib as main). Not gourmet by any stretch but good.
Spent the extra twenty pp on Portifinos and was treated to excellent service and a fine meal. Impressed my bride and me the most of anything else on the ship. Just like the service you used to get in the dining room in days past. One tacky thing was the extra charge for the espresso and other dessert coffees (Seattle's Best), please don't ruin such a nice experience with ol' Mr. Greed.
Entertainment Didn't care for the cruise director at all, but again she was not our cup-of-tea as the Brits say. The cruise directors staff seemed to be really disorganized, late, and generally a mess, never seemed to really get it together. Not a whole lot to do as for activities, especially on the sea days, unless you were into spa stuff, or physical activities with the fit n' trim staff. (fee for spa/fitness) Oh, the odd trivia, bingo, art/jewelry sales and such, but this is the first time we were bored. Very small tacky prizes form trivia and game winners. So it was a lot of time at the bar. Very friendly bar/wait people at the Schooner bar. When they know your name after day 2, you are drinking way too much.
Movies in the theater are somewhat old. If you want first run flicks, they are available on pay-per-view TV. Don't want to miss out on revenue, now do we.
Saw a magician/dancer dude, a production show with the ships dancers/singers. Forgettable. Saw a comedian who was a funny guy. Missed the Tango dancers. Gymnast was good. The usual singers, who are from Poland and sing phonetically, not really understanding the song. Most of them fair. Same for the dance quartet, who were really a trio because the drummer missed the ship. Pianist/guitarist, miscellaneous music maker pleasant in the background throughout the public spaces.
Thirty-one dollars to play four games of bingo on Thursday. It was more the last game, I didn't go.
Of the activities listed in the daily to-do-list, several were a pay-per-do event (spa), and a lot were an outside physical-activity activity, and a few were telling us that so-and-so venues were not available for us common passengers to use. Sometimes I was bored, so the choice was nap or drink. Big bar bill.
Photos Boy do they take a lot of photographs of you. Leaving the ship in St. John, there were three photographers on the gangway/exit walkway, all within 50 feet of each other, all with different props, all clamoring to take our picture leaving the ship. Take my picture, break your camera. Better half actually bought several of the photos and they are pretty good.
Ever notice on a cruise ship that there are people whom you never see until the last day no matter how few passengers on a ship, then there are those who you see all the time no matter how many on board. Everyday, everywhere. Sandy and Gerry were those people for us. Saw them all the time.
Tendered into port one day, went off without a hitch.
I was amazed at how many people did not dress for formal nights. Amazed. Kudos for the crew when they stopped people from entering the area where the Captains reception was occurring who were not appropriately dressed.
Also was amazed at the amount of people who ate at the buffet every meal, never set foot in the dining room. Pardon me, but why cruise?
Peeve If you want to sell me a bottle of booze while I am on your ship, let me take it back to my cabin, and not 'hold it for me' until the last night of the cruise. Ah, can't let any opportunity to make a dime off of the passenger now can we.
One thing of note: If you are a soda drinker and don't want diet, say regular Coke, etc., cause if you don't, the default is diet. Same with beer, lite unless you speak up. Guess they think we are too fat. Well they are right, but I'm on vacation.
Went to the Meet & Mingle, met and mingled, won a nice prize in the drawing. Met some terrific folks there and got together several times during the cruise.
Gambling Tight slots. Blackjack gave me some. Saw someone selling pull-tab lottery tickets outside the showroom entrance, thought that was tacky. Then of course heard that someone won a grand from a pull-tab, so...
Tuesday sea day was dead calm waters and fog so thick I hoped the navigator had a knife to cut it with. Thursday sea day was windy and 6-8 foot swells. Ship rolled quite a bit.
Not too much brasswork on the ship, mostly stainless steel. Low maintenance, but not the same. The crew kept the ship very clean.
Fifty cents per minute internet access fee. 30 bucks per hour. Ouch.
Highs and Lows The ship was nice and the crew did their job very well. Chef not so much.
Took no ship's excursions.
The smoking areas on the ship were very smoky. How about NO SMOKING throughout the ship.
Disembarked using the express method. You carry all your bags and stuff off yourself and thus get to get off first. They said between 7 and 7:15 for express folks, actually was about 7:40 (glad for Indian summer because we waited outside), but then bam, and we were lurching down the sidewalk to the car.
Overall, 2 1/2 stars out of five. Will we return to RCI? Probably not, but I won't say don't go, only chose wisely. With the exception of the dining, not too much seriously awful, just to me there is that little something missing.
I know that many people who were on this cruise will have a totally different perspective of this adventure, this is mine.
My wife and I sailed on Adventure of the Seas on the 10/05/2008 sailing. In a word, it was great.
Pre-Cruise We flew into San Juan on Friday, 10/03. It was a direct flight from Hartford, and, believe it or not, was only 60% full! We had plenty of room to stretch out. We arrived at a little after 1:00 PM, and took a cab to the Marriott Stelaris on Ashford Street. It is an absolutely gorgeous property. We had a corner room on the 19th floor.
We looked around the immediate neighborhood after we settled in, and had dinner at Tuscany, one of the restaurants in the hotel. Wonderful, but not inexpensive.
Saturday we took a free bus to Old San Juan and wandered around. In retrospect we should have waited until later in the day or evening, as it was very warm and humid. We had lunch and went back to the hotel. We went to church, came back and had some gelato -- there is a small store right up the block from the hotel -- and settled in to watch the ocean from the balcony for therest of the evening. Sort of practice for the cruise.
Embarkation We left the hotel and arrived at the ship at approximately 11:15 AM. We were somewhat surprised that there were no porters waiting for the cabs in order to help with luggage. So we started to drag ours through a line to where they were which took about 10 minutes. We are used to Fort Lauderdale where the porters will take the luggage from right next to the cab. No big deal, just different.
We were in line waiting when an RCI employee noticed that we had a junior suite. She immediately escorted us to the front of the line where we went through security and then immediately to the desk where we were given our Sea Passes. This is a great perk as the line was long and it was already hot.
So off we go, up escalators and ramps and finally at the ship itself where once again, we go through security. Once again, everything through the scanners. Again, no big deal, but having gone through once already, this was unexpected.
We then went to our cabin, 9264, starboard side, and dumped our carry-ons and put valuables in the safe. This was around 11:50. While they say the rooms won't be ready until 2:00 PM, ours was. We met the steward and he said it was OK to leave our stuff. Then off to the Windjammer for a bite and then walk the ship for familiarization.
Cabin As I mentioned, we had a junior suite, and compared to other cabins we have had, it was really large. There was a walk-in closet with floor to ceiling shelves and a long clothes rack with plenty of hangers. The bathroom had counter space as well as a cabinet on either side of the mirror for storage. There was also a shelf underneath the counter. It had a bathtub/shower which provided plenty of room. For once I didn't wash the sides of the shower enclosure while showering!
There was a queen size bed, a sleeper sofa, 2 chairs and a small glass topped table. There was also a large mirror with cabinets on either side, and plenty of drawers and other cabinets as well. There was so much storage space that my wife, who packs quite a bit, didn't need all of it.
The balcony was large, with 2 chairs, a chaise and a small table. We are now spoiled for life, and will be sad if we go back to regular balcony cabins.
Our steward was excellent, making different towel animals every night, keeping the cabin spotless, and always attending to it early. We gave him an additional tip in addition to the normal suggested amount which we opted to put on our Sea Pass account.
The Ship The last time we sailed RCCL was in 1999 aboard Monarch of the Seas. It was our first cruise. We thought Monarch was huge when we first saw it. At somewhat over 1,000 feet in length, AOS dwarfs it in comparison.
There is the usual Windjammer in the aft of the pool deck, with the main pool in front of that. This is separated from the Solarium, or adult pool, by bathroom facilities, and back to back bars. The Solarium has 2 jacuzzi's and a small pool. In front of it are the forward elevator bank, and then the spa. We spent all of our pool time in the Solarium area. The only drawback to this was that you could not hear the band as it was near the main pool. Still, it was really nice.
The Promenade, with all the shops and small bars and restaurants is a sight to see. We ate lunch a couple of times at the coffee place (can't recall the name) when we had returned to the ship and it was peak time in the Windjammer. Rather than wandering looking for a table, it was just easier to go there, have a couple of slices of pretty decent pizza, and some pastries, and finally a coffee. In fact, this is where I would go each morning to get the free coffee from the dispensers, and it wasn't all that bad. Not Dunkin' Donuts to be sure, but acceptable. I did this rather than room service, because we are early (6:00 AM) risers, and room service doesn't start usually until 7-ish.
The casino is pretty large, and we made sure to donate our usual few dollars. The theater is also large and has pretty good sight lines. It was interesting that even though the theater has 2 levels, one on deck 3 and the other on deck 4, we never saw anyone in the upper (deck 4) level seats. I have no idea why.
The ship is easy to navigate around as all but a couple of decks have pass through companion ways. This is unlike the Caribbean Princess which we were on last year and had a difficult time getting from fore to aft. I do not like that ship's layout at all.
There are 3 dining rooms in the aft of the ship named Mozart, Strauss, and Vivaldi. All nicely done.
Food It was OK. Some things were excellent, while others were just OK. One thing we did notice was that the menus were not sectioned with Appetizer, Salad, Soup, Entrée, and Dessert. Rather, the left hand page held choices for appetizer, salad and soup, while the right hand page was for entrees. We were never asked what we wished for each course. While I know we could have had all courses, we ordered an appetizer and then the entrée, followed by dessert. Perhaps someone can shed some light on how long this has been going on with RCCL, because it was not that way last year on Princess.
Our waiter, Cyrus, and his assistant were excellent. Cyrus does look like Buddy Holly though. Doesn't know the words to Peggy Sue though.
The one shining moment food wise was Portofino's. We were both absolutely amazed at the presentation, service and quality of food there. We each had the filet, and it was easily one of the best we have ever had. I can't recommend this strongly enough to anyone who wants quality dining. Granted, it's extra, but worth every penny.
One night we skipped the main dining room and went to the Windjammer instead. It was a buffet, and the food was good. They also had a guitarist playing during the time we were there. It was actually a pleasant break from the normal formal dining room routine, and we enjoyed it.
Entertainment If you can at all help it, do not miss the Ice Show. Those performers, doing what they did on an abbreviated ice surface, with the ship moving, are not to be believed. The house was packed and with good reason.
We also really enjoyed both production shows. We thought the dancers were excellent, and the singers good as well. Granted, it's not Broadway, but then what else is? These kids worked their butts off for 45 minutes, and it was good. We did miss the Motown group and heard they had them dancing in the aisles.
Ports Aruba: It rained, and there is nowhere you can buy an umbrella. Took a bus to check out the Marriott Ocean Club (stunning). Bought the magnet and t-shirt, got the DI charm bracelet for the grand daughter and went back to the ship. Next time we will explore more.
Curacao: It didn't rain; walked to the shopping area, got the magnet and t-shirt, took a couple of photos, then headed back to the ship. FYI -- internet access was $1.50 per 30 minutes, which is a great rate.
St. Maartin: Picked up the freebies for the grandkids, a ring for our daughter (and one for my wife as well), and went back to the ship. This was our 4th time there.
St. Thomas: Just went to Havensight where we got another DI charm for our granddaughter, then back to the ship. It rained late morning.
Sea Days We spent our time in the Solarium alternating between the lounge chairs, the pool and the jacuzzi's. We met 2 other couples from Connecticut in the pool at the same time we were. What are the odds?
Miscellaneous I want to give a plug for AOS Guest Services here. In particular Vanessa Rodriguez. When we booked the cruise it was with a $300 on board credit. When we checked our account the Monday after we sailed, it wasn't there. After emails and phone calls to out TA, it appeared that the credit was somewhere in Royal Caribbean's system. Vanessa took ownership of the issue and got it resolved the Wednesday after sailing. We were so grateful for this as we had factored that in our budget. I hand wrote a note to her manager describing what she had done and expressing our thanks. She is good people.
Disembarkation It was the usual thing. We went to the theater to wait for our number to be called. We were in group 3. Well, it was never called until the announcer said that they were disembarking groups 1, 2, 3 and G. No big deal, but that meant that a whole bunch more people now had to climb up the stairway to deck 4 at once. Still, from the time of the announcement until we were looking for the luggage wasn't more than 20 minutes.
We got a porter who helped find our bags, got us through Customs, and got us a cab. This is really the only way to do it. I tipped him well, and we were on our way back to the Marriott.
Post-Cruise This time we had a regular ocean front room on the 18th floor. Since it was very near the corner of the hotel where our other room had been, we had a great view of the ocean as well as Old San Juan.
Our plan was to use the pool Sunday afternoon, but the intermittent rain showers prevented that. So my wife enjoyed the balcony and I watched some football. We had an early dinner, and hit the sack fairly early.
We left San Juan at 8:30 that morning and arrived in Connecticut around 3:15 that afternoon. Walked in the house around 4:30.
Conclusion It was a great cruise, and we had concluded that we are "big ship" people. The staff on board was wonderful, and we will definitely sail RCCL again. Our dream cruise however is a 10-11 day Med cruise, and we are eyeing Celebrity's Solstice, but a lot has to come together to make that happen.
In the meantime, I would heartily recommend AOS to anyone.
On 4 October we leave from Barcelona for a cruise around the Italian cities. We (my husband and I) live in Holland and are 52 and 60, but younger looking and interesting people.
For those who have made this cruise already, can you tell us a little more about it?