This was our first cruise and we heard and read many wonderful things about Royal and this ship in general. We picked it basically on the itinerary as we wanted to see as many islands as possible as well. I also posted pictures on the Photo galleries on this site as well (see 4/9/05).
We did a 2 day pre-cruise to check out Puerto Rico in general. We arrived at the pier at noon, our debark time wasn't until 10pm and many folks on this site said you can check-in early. We only had about 30 people in front of us and check-in was a breeze! We were on the ship in about 10 minutes. Our jaws were on the floor as the size of the ship to us first-timers was enormous! We felt like dwarves in comparison.
The Windjammer cafe wasn't open until 12:30pm and we ate there. We were shocked at the various stations of different foods! The food was delicious! Each day there was always a different variety, especially at the carving station. You could have Pasta, salads, hamburger/hotdogs, chicken, it was endless! There were about 5-6 different areas and I won't even mention the dessert section and ice cream! We ate lunch and breakfast alot there and dinner only once since we did most of the dinners at the dining room.
We got to go to our room at 1pm. It was #2018 (the Belly of the Beast as we fondly named our room!). We weren't sure of the movement on the ship, so we wanted something dead center of the ship. My opinion on being at the bottom of the ship was there is no better place to be!
All excursions took place on Deck 2 for getting on/off the ship. Our hallway held only 30-40 rooms (see their map of the ship) and we didn't have that many people on our floor. So you basically walked to the elevators (maybe 20 feet from our room), walked past the stairs & you were right there to get on/off the ship! That side of the ship was crew stuff, so those doors were always shut unless we were at port. Besides, when everyone came back to the ship, they had to wait for the elevators while we just strolled to our room.
The ship is constantly being cleaned! Everytime you looked around, something was being polished, cleaned or painted. The crew was extremely friendly and always had a smile and comment for you. The pool servers were always making jokes about the drink of the day and making a rhyme to go with them. They were great!!
The dining room service was fantastic! Each night we'd arrive, they put your napkin on your lap, never forgot your name and always had our soda's waiting for us (we aren't big drinkers). I recommend the soda cards if you or have friends who drink alot of soda. It was $42 or $47 (I forgot now). To buy soda individually (includes the 15% grat), was like $2.19 each. All drinks include the gratitutiy. The food in the dining room was delicious! Always something different and if you didn't like what was on the extensive menu, they have a small listing of alternate items which usually didn't change during the week. Recommend the chicken, that was always good!
You can no longer visit the bridge - they stopped that after 9/11, however, I've seen photo's on other ships where you can visit the bridge. Oh well. But if you go on Deck 5 and walk towards the front of the ship, keep going and you'll be able to go on the Helicopter pad pretty much at any given time. I recommend going there when you are leaving port. Can't beat the views!!
Fun things to do: Must check out the levitating pool table! The balls don't move when the ship is rocking or moving. That was a mind blower! Do play the 9-hole mini-golf which goes around the back of the ship. That was alot of fun & its open 24 hours a day. It was hardly used while we were there.
Say Hello to Fernandez the bartender at the Sports Bar behind the casino. He's a wonderful, down to earth guy! Tell him Cass & Jenn said hello! We visited him alot during the week and he never forgot our names the first time we met him!
Ahhhhhhh......the casino! Don't believe a word anyone is saying on here that it doesn't pay out. It's bull. I saw more people hit on the 25c slot machines the highest paid amount on the machines in 1 week than I've seen all my trips to Vegas! People were winning $2,000 and $3,000 on these. They are loose! They paid out almost $500,000 in 1 week on the quarter machines alone. They also have a nice fun game where you drop in a quarter & this bar slides back and forth and pushes the quarters (you see this at amusement parks & such). If you get lucky, it'll push a bunch down. They also have $50, $20 and $10 sitting in these machines as well. Don't expect to win - just go to have fun!
There were about 13 bars scattered on the ship. Some bars were nice & quiet where you could go read with a good book to get away from the crowds. The only really crowded area was the pool.
I highly recommend this ship and itinerary. The service, the crew and the food was excellent! We have no complaints on anything. Feel free to email me with questions!