Embarkation Embarkation was to begin at 4pm - we arrived at 3 pm and were on the ship and in our cabin in about 15 minutes - very efficient!
Ship In a word - AMAZING!
This is the seventh (and best) cruise ship I have been on. Not only the sheer size of the ship but the intelligent design and artistry make this vessel stand out.
Where to begin? The Royal Prominade is a brilliant "downtown" for this little floating city. The "Main Street USA" of the seas. Excellent for people watching. They even have a parade! At one end are the theatres - at the other end the 3 story main dining room. In between - shopping, a quaint English pub with appropriate live music (and Guinness!), a cafe with snacks, pastries, pizza and loads of coffee, the usual ship-board shopping, a sports bar and access to the large casino one flight down. Royal Carribean did something realy cool on this ship - inside cabins with a view (overlooking the Royal Prominade).
The Rock Climbing Wall - Tried it twice (made it more then half way up). The key is use your legs or your arms will get really sore (trust me - I looked like Popeye after my first attempt).
Miniture Golf - Very cool on a ship!
Basketball / Volleyball Court - When the court is empty it's fun to horse around and shoot some hoops. Also fun to watch when a game gets going.
Pools - There is a great (adults only) pool area that is very nice (the deck chairs are more comfortable). A little more shady and a bit more sheltered from the wind. Excellent spot for a snooze - my wife called it "nap row". The decor was a Venetian type of theme. The main pool area is great too - with plenty of live music.
Ice Show - Probably the best show I ever saw at sea. Great stuff! I believe the rink is open for skaters when not in use by the show staff. Not being a skater myself I don't know this firsthand.
Feature Acts - A really funny comic (forgot his name) performed as well as the old time act The Coasters ("Charlie Brown"). The production shows were good - similar to what I've seen on other cruise lines. G rated Vegas review stuff.
Shopping Didn't do to much shopping - YEAH! Bought souvineirs for everyone at work in one spot in Aruba - T shirts 7 for $20. Keychains 6 for $5. Thats it - I'm done! Oh - and we bought a 6 pack of rum cake on the ship - also a great gift!
Ports Aruba - Booked a snorkling excursion through the ship. Rode a cartamaran out to a cool reef for some snorkling then sailed to a ship wreck for some more snorkling before we sailed back to the ship (rum punch included). A great trip (did the same excursion last time we were in Aruba). Worth the money.
After lunch took a 2 1/2 hour island tour for $10. Went to the natural bridge and various points of interest.
If crazy partying is your thing then go to "Carlos and Charlies" in Aruba (a two minute walk / stumble) from the pier. We didn't stay long but in that short time we took part in the tequila shot conga line (imagine a line of grown men and women dancing past a guy pouring a tequila concoction in their open mouths as they dance by - reminded me of a bunch of drunk, dancing baby birds waiting to be fed) and were dancing some wacky dance on the bar. Enjoy!
Curacao - Took a cab ($14 for two) to a really cool aquarium ($15 admission). After we strolled over to a really nice beach by the aquarium ($3 for a chair). Took a cab back to town - had a local flavor of Amstel beer (just like Corona - with the lime). Dont miss the floating pontoon bridge that opens for boats on occasion. Jumped onto the bridge as it was opening - otherwise we would have had to take the (free) ferry across. Very colorful (friendly)town.
St Martin - Went to Orient Beach (and yes we went to the nude beach and, unlike most ship people, we went native. And loved it!) If you do as we did be warned - you may bump into your (fully clothed) dinner table mates. They were more embarrased then I was (hello - its a nude beach! didn't you see the sign? what did you expect to see?)
St Thomas / St Johns - Trunk Bay - AMAZING! This must be where beaches go when they die! Bumped into the same table mates here too.
Our driver to Trunk Bay told us to remember his name (Beva) for the return journey, so to make remembering it easier I tried to think of some thing to remind me of his name. So I started singing "Beva Las Vegas". A few hours later when it was time to find our driver I thought for a second and then said to my wife - "Ok - now lets go find Belvis" (Ok - maybe you had to be there - but boy did we laugh!!!).
Puerto Rico - El Morrow fort in San Juan still amazes me - and I've been there 4 times in the last 4 years. Try not to miss it! Matter of fact try not to miss old San Juan in general - I could wonder that place for hours - and at sunset - WOW!
Food Pretty average (meaning good) for a cruise. My wife says it was a bit better then Carnival but not quite as good as Norwegian. Didn't have a bad meal. And remember on lobster tail formal night - you can order as many as you can eat!
Packing Try to travel light and remember - you WILL return with more stuff then what you came with. Also - remember that your luggage may not get to your room for a few hours - so pack a few items (ie bathing suit) in your carry on that you may need immediately after getting on the ship.
Here's a tip that I use (I've been made fun of for it but that's ok, I'm gonna tell you anyway). I throw away my luggage. Let me explain. My drawers and closets are full of stuff that is on the verge of being thrown away. For the flight out - I wore a pair of torn jeans and a shirt with an ink stain that I can't wear to work. That night - in the trash. I have a drawer full of sweat socks that are on their last legs (no pun intended) when I've worn them once - out they go. No smelly socks stinking up my luggage. Old t-shirts - wear 'em and chuck 'em. Wore a pair of beat up old sneakers every beach trip - they got sandy, salty and dirty. Who cares! Last day of the trip - in the trash. For reading material - bring all those old magazines you haven't gotten around to reading that are lying around the house. Chuck them when you're done. Feel free to modify this technique as you feel appropriate. It will guarantee that your luggage will have room for all the worthless junk you didn't plan on coming back home with. It will help you in your spring cleaning. After your trip packing, unpacking and laundry are now that much easier. (I don't recommend this tip for clothes to be worn on formal nights).
Dis-Embarkation We had a 1 pm flight. Left our room before 8am. Had a relaxing breakfast. We were off the ship just after 9. At the airport by 10. Whent through check-in in 20 minutes (I think we were lucky - other folks had much longer waits). Security took another 20 minutes. Be warned - at San Juan airport they will occasionally change the gate of a flight without making an announcement. Half an hour before your flight ask at the counter if you are at the right gate (this happend to us two of the four times we sailed out of San Juan).