I went on this cruise as part of a Seminar at Sea with Cruise.com and Royal Caribbean. Please remember that this review is merely my opinions and feelings which may differ significantly from others.
I was very excited to experience the largest ship afloat. My husband was unable to get time off work to come with me so my sister took his spot. It was a nice chance for us to spend time together away from husbands and children. The ship is gorgeous and, despite its size, fairly easy to get around. However, I think the cruise was half over before I "found" the front half of the ship.
We had a balcony cabin on Deck 6. This was my first balcony cabin, and although we didn't use it a lot, it was nice to look out at the ports in the morning and enjoy the nice ocean breeze. There was plenty of space for everything, however, I would have preferred a few more drawers. The closet had many shelves which took the place of drawers for shorts, t-shirts, etc. The bathroom was a typical cruiseship bathroom EXCEPT for the shower. This was amazing! No flimsy shower curtain that sticks to you…it was a round shower with shower doors! This was wonderful and all the new ships should have this. Our cabin stewardess, Eva, was outstanding! The room was always immaculate, her personality was very friendly and all our wants were always handled with a smile. Even had lots of towel animals.
We had 2nd seating dining, which is not my preference, but since we were with this large group from Cruise.com we ate with them. The food was probably the main disappointment on the ship. Don't get me wrong…I certainly didn't starve, however, it could have been better. Mashed potatoes at dinner tasted like they were out of a box and the scrambled eggs ordered in the dining room for breakfast tasted like powdered. Beef tended to be overcooked…try ordering one less than you usually like it. Iced tea was so strong it looked like coffee. My sister started ordering an extra glass of ice and mixing to get it the right strength. Dessert selection was ok…some were outstanding. Two things stand out as fantastic with the food…Caesar Salad (which is available every night) and the chilled fruit soups. I am a big fan of the Chilled fruit soups both on Celebrity and RCL. After tasting mine, my sister would frequently order the soup for dessert! Service in the dining room was good. No complaints here. The wine list was fairly extensive…lots of options, however, I miss the sommeliers.
Entertainment…I didn't go to a lot of the shows, however, the ones I saw were very good. The ice show was outstanding and one of the highlights of the trip. The comedians on board were very good. My sister went to the "adult" show and was impressed that even at an adult show, a comedian could be funny without all the profanity. The topics were of adult nature…John Wayne Bobbitt, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. and were not appropriate for children. A couple of other popular events were the toga party (see pictures on my web site) and the sock hop (I think that's what it was called). It took place in the ice rink and covered music from the 50's to the present. It was near the end of the week.
Favorite Places: My favorite place on the ship was the Solarium Pool. This was so peaceful and relaxing…no one under 18 is permitted in this area and it seemed to be enforced. The only thing that would have made it better was if we could have heard the music from the other side. Yes…I said I liked peaceful that doesn't mean it has to be quiet. My other favorite place was the Promenade. The Cafe Promenade was especially good. You could get cookies, mini-sandwiches, pizza, lattes, etc. 24 hours a day. No charge for any of it except the special coffees (I think).
Ports of Call - This cruise stopped at Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, and the cruise line's private island in Labadee. My sister and I took the Yellow Bird excursion in Nassau because we had both been there before and didn't need to see any of it again. The excursion was fun…it takes you to the Sandals Resort Beach for about 1 to 1 ½ hours of beach, swim, etc. There are refreshments on the island and the boat has free fruit punch and rum punch. In St. Thomas our goal was to "shop til we dropped". I will say we did reach our goal. We both came home with the purchases we set out to make…and then some. Again, we had both been to this island before. In San Juan we just decided to get off the ship and walk/shop a little in Old San Juan. Nothing big…just some souvenier t-shirts, etc. We stopped in the terminal on the way back to sample the free rum punch…DO NOT MISS THIS…it was fantastic. I think Labadee was our favorite port. We did nothing but rent the floating mats and lounge in the water and on the beach. The weather was perfect. Lunch was brought from the ship and was one of the best meals we had all week.
Security - given that this was only one month after the terrible tragedy in our country, security was tight. However, there were only a couple of instances where I would say it slowed things down. The first was the arrival at the pier. If you were on a bus from the airport using RCL transfers, it was a long wait. You now had to claim your luggage at the airport, watch it be placed on the bus, claim it after you got to the pier and personally take it to the porter. We waited about 1 ½ hours on the bus after arriving at the pier. Thankfully, there were vendors with drinks, etc. and the air conditioning on the bus was working. Also, my fellow passengers on the bus were very patient, although anxious to board the ship. Once we arrived in St. Thomas, EVERY PASSENGER had to go through immigration prior to disembarking. The system worked very well. Once through immigration, your Super Charge card (which gets you on and off the ship) was marked so that they could tell you had gone through the process. So if you didn't want to get off the ship, you didn't hold up the other passengers. The only catch was if you didn't go through immigration in St. Thomas, you couldn't get off the ship in San Juan, either. San Juan was the only port with any problems with security. Upon entering the terminal to get back on the ship, everyone had to have their bags screened and walk through the metal detectors in the terminal. There were 2 cruise ships in port (Explorer and the Carnival Paradise). There were 3 security screening and metal detectors, HOWEVER, 2 were broken. People were waiting in line over an hour to get on the ships and there was a lot of pushing, etc. I heard that eventually they just let everyone go…not much security. We were late leaving San Juan and the Captain apologized for the problems everyone encountered at that port. As such, drinks were complimentary for 1 hour that afternoon on the Promenade. Overall, I wasn't inconvenienced by extra security and I never felt unsafe in the ports.
Overall, I had a great time on this cruise and would cruise this ship again. There are things to do for all age groups. I talked to several people traveling with children that raved about the children's programs.