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.