Well, unfortunately our trip has ended, but what a trip it was! We just got back from the 10 night circle the Caribbean out of Miami departing on 1/3/03.
We booked this cruise, and a hotel stay (night before and after) all through Royal Caribbean. The hotel they put us in was nice, though it was out of the way. It was in Coconut Grove, and was about 10 miles from the pier. There are many closer hotels, so look for them. The way they transfer you to the ship is via bus, and this was a headache. The bas was to be there by noon, and did not arrive until 3pm, this made allot of people uncomfortable. We would have taken a cab, but due to the fact we were a good distance away, it would have been an additional $25 on top of the money we paid for the included transfers, HOWEVER, if we were closer, it would have been cheaper. My advice to you if you will are going to book the night before and after package, get a close hotel so you have some options. All in all, it did not ruin the trip, but was not as smooth as I would have liked.
Arriving at the ship: This process could not have gone any better. We arrived at the ship at about 3:30pm, and were onboard in about 30 minutes. There were allot of people in the terminal, but the line went fast, and was very organized with allot of employees making sure the process went smooth.
Once on Board: The ship is beautiful and CLEAN. There were employees cleaning every inch of this ship at all times. Also, there were signs in all bathrooms and at all bars telling people to wash their hands frequently. We did not notice any sickness that was out of the ordinary.
The Stateroom: We were in cabin 8666 all the way at the stern of the ship, but still on the side. It was nice, and had a larger then normal balcony (note: get a port side stateroom if you want to see anything while in Ports, get a port side room, it will make the balcony more enjoyable. The staterooms could have used more soundproofing, if we were in our room, with the TV off, you can hear everything around you. All in all, the rooms were nicely decorated, always kept clean and had plenty of room.
Dining: The dining on this ships was pleasantly surprising. We really like all the options that were given to us, Chops being the best. There are many places to eat, the fist being the Windjammer which is a buffet. We ate here for breakfast, and one dinner. It is a large room, with plenty of food and space to eat. It is good food, and is a very clean restaurant. Next is the Seaview Cafe. This you order and they bring it to you, it is open for Lunch and dinner, and has burgers and sandwiches. It too was good food, with healthy portions. The dining room was very nice, and had great staff. It was a little crampt, but the staff handled this well. All in all, the food was a 3 on the scale of 1 - 5, it did not blow me away like on our previous RCCI cruise, but was very good. Service from the head waiter to the assistant was GREAT! Chops and Portofino are the more intimate restaurants you can go to, it is $20 per person to eat there. They are wonderful and intimate, with small rooms, good service and wonderful food.
Common Places: At no time did we feel crampt or that there was a lack of space. The ship is laid out very well, and has plenty of places to go and rest, read or just relax. All of the bars are nice, and have room for all. However, my favorite and recommendation is the Scoreboard Sports Bar. YOU HAVE TO GO AND SEE EDDIE!! He is a great bartender and person, and makes it a point to great you, and chat. Is is from Texas, and really makes you feel welcomed and at home. GO SEE HIM!
Service: Over all, service was very good. All of the employees were very polite and always said hi or tried to help in anyway they can. It was nice that there are ALLOT less announcements on this boat, but you need to follow you cruise compass if you like activities.
Ports: We loved Grand Cayman, very clean and great shopping. Jamaica and Cozumel we could have done without. They are a bit dirty, and unless you are in to Scuba or Snorkeling, are useless. Aruba and Curacao were wonderful. BIG, clean and lots to do.
As you should be able to tell, we loved this cruise. We had a good to great experience in all aspects, and nothing was disappointing.