We were a group of 34 people ranging in age from 10 yrs to 74 yrs, some of us, first time cruisers and some with many cruises to our credit. We started the cruise at the Sofitel Hotel for the overnight stay on March 25th. The hotel was a bit of a disappointment, as they were performing extensive renovations both inside and outside of the building and many of the amenities were not available. Some of us ate lunch there, the lucky ones walked around the block to McDonald's. I had the french onion soup thinking as it is a French hotel it should be good ( WRONG ) it was at best mediocre. We all went elsewhere for dinner and breakfast the next day. Royal Carribean personnel were at the hotel on the morning of the 26th to assist us with our pre-boarding arrangements. We were issued our credit-boarding pass-room key cards and were told to meet in the lobby at 12 noon. We were taken by bus to the ship and proceeded to go on board via the forward gangway, we then proceded to our cabins to deposit our carry-on baggage. (our cabin was 9 deck forward )
Being the exploring type, I immediately went to the Royal Promenade and walked the length of it. I was surprised for a few moments as it seemed somewhat smaller than I had expected but that feeling soon went away as I got to know it. I walked to the aft centrum and took the elevator to the 14th floor ( it should be noted only the port elevators go all the way up) and checked out the Viking Crown, It appeared that 3 weddings were going on at the time, so I did not get to see much and started my walk down. I walked around all the decks but by the time I got back to the Royal Promenade I had worked up quite a thirst, so the first visit to the Pig & Whistle was in order. This was my first real disappointment with the cruise. This is supposed to emulate an English pub. But an English pub with no seats at the bar is quite unusual, and I was immediately disenchanted with this and would find it hard to return. One surprise for me, was the availability of Bass Ale on tap and being originally from England found it quite a pleasant one. I later found that a few of the bars onboard also provided the same on tap.
I am not going to go into all the details of the cruise, but just give my own impression of the ship which I can more or less sum up in one small word "WOW" it is not everyday you see such an unbelievable work of architecture. I found the ship to be extremely clean and you could always find someone either cleaning glass or brass, in fact as you walk around you can smell the brass polish in quite a few places. The cruise we were on was the second which included free food at Johnny Rockets (they still charge for the drinks and shakes but no-one in our group complained about that). I chose a day in port to try it out, but still had to wait for 20 minutes to get in. The food was good and the staff really seemed to enjoy themselves, smiling and giving a little show out in the middle of the floor every 15 minutes or so. Everyone enjoyed the food, I am not a good judge being English, I like bland food, so I enjoy simple things. The staff of this ship is superb. I never made eye contact with any member of the staff without being given a smile and pleasant acknowledgment. I don't know where they get so many pleasant people from. I visited the Studio B for one of the ice shows and was surprised by the professionalism of not only the skaters but the cruise staff, stage staff, and video people. In addition the equipment seemed to be state of the art and really top notch. As we were leaving Studio B, one of our party was paged to the sound booth, it seems they had dropped their wallet containing $500.00 And other hard to replace items. It had been found before it was missed. We would like to thank Ms Sarah Martin for her honesty in returning it to us. If anyone sees her on a future cruise please thank her once again for us.
There were two parades during the course of the week and both were very well done, with stilt walkers, etc. everyone had a great time. Another group of people very deserving of mention were the "Krooze Komics" a quartet of graduates from Barnum & Bailey Circus, who you can always depend on for a good laugh whenever they appear, This is a real nice touch and I think will be carried on to a lot more ships and lines in the future. They often wander round the ship dressed as kids, ships painters, cleaning staff, etc, and involving everyone who will play along into really funny situations.
I did not go to many of the shows, but the ones I did attend were very good. We did have one misunderstanding with the ship, my 19 year old (who looks about 16), decided he was only responsible for bringing himself on the cruise and left everything else to his mother consequently he left his drivers license home, the ship has a policy of allowing 18-21 year old's into the nightclub to dance and drink soda, you now have to be over 21 to drink on the ship. He kept getting thrown out because he could not prove his age, perhaps, as the ship knows the ages of the teenagers they could print this data on the shipboard card so the staff can see at a glance this age,
To wrap it all up, I have to say we really had a great time and did not want to leave. I don't think it would be fair if I didn't mention the bad parts (although they were hard to find) so here they are; the ball thing in front of spinners was not working when we got on was partially fixed in Labadee but did not work properly the whole trip. The door to the vault nightclub that I was planning to make my grand entrance was broken when we joined and still broken when we left, so everyone had to use the door on 3 deck and it just was not the same. The mens room inside door 4 deck port side, just forward of the schooner bar, was broken on Monday and still broken when we left the ship. In fact, it looked as if they didn't even touch it. Once again the bar stools in the Pig & Whistle. All our party said they had a great time as did everyone else I talked to on the cruise. I am not surprised they ordered another two of them, I think this is the way of the future and other cruise lines should take a good look, as this could be real competition for them. Hope I didn't bore you too much with my ramblings.