Year Started: 1969
Ships in Fleet: 23
Summary: The largest and most technically impressive cruise ships in the world. Great for kids, families and adventurous adults. A large fleet, but Oasis and Brilliance are often cited as favorites
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, Mediterranean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:UK, Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda
Good for: Disabled Travelers. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Teens.
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:China (as of May 2015)
Good for: First-time Cruisers. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Families. Group. Overall Service.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Suez Canal, Bahamas, Dubai
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Brazil, Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles
Good for: Seniors. Families. Singles.
Regions:Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Scan Russia, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
This cruise was 11 days with stops in St John, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados,St Vincent,Bonaire and Aruba. The ship is well designed but showing it's age and is due for an upgrade end of next year. Getting on and off the ship was a snap and RCCL seems to have this part of it down pat.
The ship is small and you really feel the waves for the first 2 days and last 2 days we were in rough seas and it was bouncing all over and made it very difficult to walk on the upper decks and the Windjammer cafe. I am used to the larger RCCL ships and this was the first time on such a small ship. Was on the Oasis just 2 months ago and this ship was a shock to me.
Food and service was very good on this ship and because it is so small the service seems better than on the bigger ships. Entertainment was just ok for some of the acts were pretty good and some were like out of the past when I started cruising 25 years ago. Kind of cornyfor a cruise ship for 2012.
I am a Diamond member with Royal but this ship has no Diamond club so every night there is a function in one of the bars but you can only get wine, beer and champagne free but must buy drinks at 25% off. They seem to be on a very tight budget on this ship compared to the bigger ships. I believe this is because with a longer cruise you get more retired people on board who just do not drink or do many of the excursions that younger people do and this is where Royal makes there money. Bingo on Oasis gives away $5000 and a free cruise where the biggest prize here was $500. And at the on board contests they would give away keychains and items like that.
Another good thing about being on such a small ship is that in a couple of days you will know and see many people on board where if this was a larger ship you could meet someone the first day and never see them again the rest of the cruise.
So if you are looking for an intimate ship that is easy to get around and has a super itinerary then this is the ship for you. I am retired but give me the Freedom and Oasis class ships for there is so much more to do and see and the shows are superb.
We cruised the Allure the first week in December because of a previous great experience on the sister ship Oasis. This time we went prepared in knowing that you needed to book all of the shows and dining times well in advance or suffer the lack of availability of desired venues if you procrastinate or wait until you get on the ship......so that was a great plan so far.
The Good: The Allure is equally spectacular as the Oasis and the cruise to the East or West Caribbean is worth a one-off experience but the East is preferable (IMHO). The Blue Planet show I thought was spectacular, comedians good and Headliner Tony Tillman extremely entertaining.........shows in general are what RCI excels at and no difference here IF you can get in and get in early to get a reasonable seat. Room steward and bar service was fine even though these people are incredibly overworked.
The Bad: major problems on this ship were mainly due to huge, unruly and rude crowds of people. Despite "reservations" at the MDR, there was always a long wait for a table.........OK, maybe no more than 15 minutesbut what the heck is a "reservation" when a second line for people WITHOUT reservations was usually much shorter and moved significantly faster. RCI DOES NOT have "My Time Dining" worked out correctly because it seems more like "Their Time Dining" and when they will let you in.............our one experience on NCL was Much, much better.......what's up with this "reservation" system and when they make you feel guilty when you show up "late" but it's fine if you show up on time and they make you wait???
If you go on one of these largest of ships you need to expect huge crowds of people who are on VACATION and they could care less about you and whether you are in their way or if you would rather not here them laughing (hyena-like) at their highest volume every night in the dining room..........Or if you also would like to see anything in the Promenade and THEY cut in front of you to see it first...........Be ready to meet your fellow humans at their worst. Then there are the people who thing THEIR hands are sterile and no problem to hold down that cheese with one finger to get only one slice.......and then toss the tongs on top of the entire pile of lettuce, meat, etc. etc.
Suggestion: If you eat in the buffet get there early before the mobs on the Allure and then maybe lessen your chance of being exposed to these inconsiderate, unbelievable unsanitary procedures that can be witnessed by the minute in the buffet.
RCI really needs to enforce its own rules for the good of all. No babies in the pool and certainly not babies in "disposable" diapers. No young children in specialty restaurants in compliance with their own stated times for children to be admitted ($$$ should not come in front of expectations by other diners). Specialty restaurants should be "special" and not have waiters committed to too many diners at too many tables that prevents them from providing any value for the money. ENFORCE those rules about no chair saving and Confiscate towels left unattended for more than 10 minutes or so............That alone would solve the problem since those towels have that $20 deposit charge on room accounts.........New source of income............fine the chair hogs that don't watch their towels! ................There probably is nothing that can be done with rude people since they think they are fine but at least enforce rules that are written down and ignored routinely even when pointed out to ship personnel.
Let me start by saying that I'm not a complainer and very rarely do I post negative feedback about anything. Don't make the mistake that we made by choosing Royal Caribbean. You work hard for your money and you spend 6+ months looking forward to a great vacation. You want to be excited and you should be. You want to return and tell your family and friends how great it was and how much fun you had.
That will likely not be the case if you choose to sail with these people. They could care less about their own staff and equally surprising, about the well-being of their guests. On this trip in particular, they will drop you off in Samana, Dominican Republic. Forget the fact that you may wait in a 4 hour line just to exit the ship, when you arrive, the place is downright scary, filthy, and depressing. Children beg you for food and money and it is just a sad sight.
When you return to the ship and you engage in conversation with the staff regarding Samana, they will say things like "are you crazy, I've worked onthis ship for #years and I've never got off on this stop". The cruise director himself will crack jokes about how unpleasant the place is. RCI is obviously aware of this; they just choose to disregard it and continue to put their guest’s safety at risk.
As for the staff, they are very hard working people. It becomes immediately obvious that many of them don't enjoy their jobs. Sure they are courteous, kind, and they smile at you and say "hi" in the hallway, but you can tell that something isn't right. There is a constant look of concern and discomfort. All of this begins to affect the overall mood after a while.
You know that you are supposed to be enjoying yourself and having fun, but trying to do that alongside laborers who are depressed and underappreciated by their employer is easier said than done.
Upon returning home, we had a situation in which we needed to reach out to RCI support to correct an issue with the waiters tip (we wanted to leave even more money for them but both ATM's were out of service on the ship). The guest relations desk couldn't do anything to help (charge room card for cash, etc).
They asked us to follow up with corporate when we got home and that they could find a way to do it from our credit card. I'll spare the details but reaching out to corporate proved to be pointless. It's a shame.
It's possible that this company used to be great to sail with at some point, but as of November 2012, that is simply not the case.
Our last cruise (with Carnival) was an entirely different experience. There was a not only a sense of energy, excitement, and genuine happiness in the staff, but you never felt unsafe or depressed (Samana) as a guest. It seems like there is potential here, but something at RCI really needs to change. When it comes time to make a decision on what to do with your vacation money, you have been warned. I hope this review has helped you and good luck in your search.
Boarding the ship was a cinch for we went right up and waited in the Diamond area for awhile and before we knew it were having lunch in the Windjammer.
I have been on this ship in Sept 2011 and I believe a lot of things improved like the entertainment and the food. Entertainment excellent and the food much better than a year ago.
My only negative is where this big ship docks in St Thomas... we used to like the old port where you could go shop right next to the ship but on this one we have to take a taxi into town and you had to wait for one and it was just not that convenient. St Marten was wonderful as usual and we docked on a new dock made for this ship.
The last two days we followed Hurricane Sandy back up to Ft Lauderdale and that was no fun.... with the wind and rain no one went out and you had 6147 people running around inside but it was not as bad as you would think...still not sure where all those people went??? It was alittle rough the last night which made sleeping difficult and because of the storm we came into port 2 hours late but everyone just assumed they would get off their assigned times and came down to Deck 5. We opted to pull our luggage off and they made us go into the dining room in one very long line that took us almost 1 hr waiting in before we got off... this was not a cause of RCCL but the people who came down before they were called.
This is a wonderful ship and a must see for the ship is the destination for many people including me and I will return on her again someday. Service was wonderful as usual which makes the trip so pleasant and so many went out of their way to make it a super vacation. I am a Diamond member on RCCl and hopefully some day soon will be a plus.... I will be trying one of their smaller ships Vision of the Seas in 3 weeks, Dec 3 for a 11 day southern cruise. I have only cruised on Voyager, Freedom and Oasis class so this will be very different.
Cruise started in Tianjin, China south of Beijing. Had to get to there on our own as Royal Caribbean ("RC") had no bus to get you to the port. Found RC to be very disorganized and information on there web site to be incorrect. On the ship, service was good except for customer service which was extremely poor. At the end of the cruise in Singapore we were told we would be dropped off at our hotel even though it was not listed so we paid the fee. When we got to the bus they told us no, we would only be taken to the hotel indicated on the bus. As a result we had to then get a cab to our hotel.
The food on the ship was marginal and the speciality restaurant was certainly not worth the extra $20 per person. Some of the ports we visited were not memorable, could have been a better selection of ports on the front end of the trip, Fukuoka (Japan), Jeju (Korea), and Xiamen (China). Would have been better to have had the overnight in Hong Kong instead of Bangkok.Seems like everyone we talked with on the ship had the same impression.
Will never cruise on RC again they left that bad of an impression on us.
My wife, Ginny , and I enjoyed our fifth cruise on the Freedom of the Seas. The ship is very well maintained so it looks pretty much like it did during its introductory year. That’s an excellent testament to the cruise line management and staff! A new menu, being introduced on the Freedom, deserves a special note for this cruise! It was very good.
Embarkation: We live about 40 minutes from Port Canaveral so getting to the port is easy. Parking at the port is very convenient but a little pricey at $120 for the week. The multistory parking garage is across the street from terminal 10 which means a 5 minutes or less walk to the terminal. There are three entrances, one for platinum level and above members and two for all other passengers. Entries are covered which is nice. We arrived about 11:15 am and were on the ship and in the Windjammer café in 20 minutes. There was some construction outside the terminal which caused some confusion.
We were in our cabin at 1:00 pm, and our bags arrived later before the safety drill.
Dining: We use "My Time" diningwhen we travel by ourselves. The dining room opens at 5:30 pm which works for us early birds. The menu was a special attraction on this cruise because it was new. Apparently it is being debuted on the Freedom. The choices were different from those we experienced previously and those we tried were excellent. The previous menu items were also excellent, by the way.
The main courses we tried included seafood spaghetti, horseradish crushed filet of salmon, pan fried filet of barramundi, filet of beef tenderloin, shrimp gyoza, pan seared filet of sole, tiger shrimp, grilled t-bone steak, lobster (larger than previous) & shrimp, Thai chicken breast, cod filet, chicken cordon bleu, and roasted turkey. There were a dozen or so selections for every main course that included meat, fish and pasta.
Desserts seemed to be especially nice and included frozen strawberry soufflé, cherries jubilee, pies, cakes and ice cream. Soups included the chilled fruit soups which are among our favorites. Watermelon pudding was new and tasty!
The Windjammer food for breakfast was excellent as always. They present a large selection of eggs, bread, meat, fruit and pastries. Lunch had a selection just as good. We always enjoy the Brasserie 30 lunch on cruising/sea days which is served in the dining room. Selecting your own ingredients for a large salad is a treat.
Ports: We did the Eastern Caribbean which includes Coco Cay, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. St Thomas and St. Maarten both have shopping at the pier as well as downtown. We sail to the Caribbean principally for the ship experience, having been to the ports before and tried several of the excursions.
Staff and Crew: Excellent! Everyone was very accommodative, pleasant and seemed to be enjoying themselves even though many of them, including the room stewards, waiters and waitresses work very long hours every day seven days of the week.
Disembarkation: Getting off the Freedom was as easy as getting on. We signed up to get off at 7:30 am, received our green 3 bag tags, and put our bags in the hallway Saturday evening. We went to our waiting room (the dining room) and our number three was called about 7:30 am. We were in our car at 7:50 am and home before 8:30 am. That is pretty normal for disembarkation from a Royal Caribbean ship.
Royal Carribean is awful - 4 months before my trip with airfare puchased I get an email saying my cruise has been charted and my trip is canceled. The only way the will reimbursement for any expenses lost is if I cruise with them again. Why would I give them a second time to ruin my vacation. This is a trip I've been planning since Oct. 2011, I got a great flight to China - $750 roundtrip - of all the cruise lines don't cruise them as I'm a repeat cruiser and it doesn't matter at all to them. They are a joke.
Royal Caribbean did not disclose the previous cruise had Norovirus on the Rhapsody of the Seas.. I left on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 and by Monday I was violently ill with Norovirus.
The crew continued to clean and disinfect, no one was allowed to carry their own buffet plates, the lines were very, very long as a crew member had to go with each passenger thru the buffet line.
My roommate and I nearly choked to death when we walked into our hallway trying to get to our stateroom and were overcome with a cloud of disinfectant. The cabin steward was wearing a mask! No mask for us!
We were told that we may carry our own plates if there were no more cases of Norovirus. Imagaine a cruise with that hanging over the atmosphere?
I just sailed on my eighth cruise. I've been on Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival, and Norwegian. My best experience was on RC and now my worst experience was on RC Freedom of the Seas. I expected excellent service from this company especially since it was from a freedom class ship. I was very disappointed when I went to the dining room and received the mediocre service. The service was slow and had a lack of a personal touch. I felt like another mouth being fed and not a valuable customer. I heard from others on the ship that felt the same. I hope this was just a bad experience and not the new norm for Royal Caribbean.
Embarkation Arrived at 11am and there were already 800+ people waiting but there was absolutely no lines for check-in. We were seated in a waiting area upstairs and at 11:15 they started by row admitting people to the ship. It took a few minutes and we were onboard. Simple, easy and painless.
We walked through the cavernous Royal promenade. The shops were closed, but there were tables set up selling soda and wine packages and excursions. We went to the Guest relations desk to deposit some money on our account and waited in our first line. Then on to show reservations. I had made mine in advance, which is highly recommended, but I wanted to change a few things. They had six people working with lines on both sides of the theatre, and a 30 minute wait to get serviced. The people working the reservation computers were very nice, but not very knowledgeable about what was going on. There was a special live TV broadcast scheduled for Sunday night, and no one knew anything about when it would be happening. There were plenty of seats for all performances of all shows atthat point, but the shows were full at all performances so reserve on line.
EMBARKATION LUNCH: Solarium We went up to the Solarium Bistro for some healthy food and enjoyed it very much. Whoever said the food on the Oasis is bad must be very picky because I loved everything I tried. It was very crowded because it was embarkation day, but we still found a table. They offered a vast array of salads, fruit and vegetables, hot food, bread, desserts and sugar free flavored water. I was able to thoroughly enjoy my food while not packing on any extra pounds. The view was wonderful. The restaurant is surrounded by the solarium, a sun-soaked area with four hot tubs, a pool and lots of loungers.
TOURING THE SHIP We saw the Boardwalk area first. It was lovely. I was glad not to have booked a Boardwalk balcony. It would have been loud, hot and no fun at all. They had a slew of family-style restaurants like Johnny Rockets, a seafood place and then at the end, the amazing aqua theatre. When I looked up and saw the grandeur of the place, it really was amazing. On the other end of the ship was the Opus Theatre, where they were preparing for the national broadcast of a scene from Hairsrpay to be telecast on the Tony Awards, checked out the promenade, sat for a while in Central Park, which was wonderful, and saw the windjammer buffet. Even though we had just eaten, my skinny partner couldn't resist eating more in the windjammer. There were plenty of seats, and despite the bad reviews of the place, I thought everything was delicious. They had an amazing calamari salad, Asian salad with pork, a salad bar, lots of hot entrees that looked great, soups, but again, boring desserts.
We went back to our cabin and unpacked, then went to the liquor tasting, which was a dud. I was expecting scotch or something decent but they were pouring some cream liquer that had no allure. We got on the rising tide bar, had a great conversation with the waiter and a member of the cruise entertainment staff and really enjoyed a lichee martini as we went up and down. I expected a line but we were the only ones on the lift as it rose and fell. After that, we returned to the Windjammer for a really fantastic casual dinner, healthy for me, and lots of naughty stuff for my partner. Great food, really fresh, plenty of tables open, boring desserts.
FIRST NIGHT OUT We first went to Jazz on 4, and it was empty. If you like jazz music, you'll love it. They have a very good quartet, but I like a singer and there was none. We left and went in search of a singer and band. We tried Bolero, where a great latin band was playing but it was way too smoky, so we went to Dazzles, where they had a band supposedly playing Motown. They were from the Phillipines and not that great, and not really playing Motown. It was more 70's Bar Mitzvah disco. Again there were 4 people in the place. We checked out Scooners where a piano player was to be playing. He was OK and there was no one there. We went to the Promenade and the pub and the On-Air karaoke place were showing the basketball game and they both were packed and the areas outside of them were packed. It was where everyone was. The cafÃ© on the promenade was busy, as was the pizza place, the only two venues still serving food. There was a Starbucks (prices equal to land prices, plus 15%). The ship's nearby coffee place also charged but was cheaper and unlike Starbucks that charged for drinks and food, at the coffee place the food was free.
OUR CABIN, 7th floor, 208 We had a balcony cabin. It was very cozy. Not large but very functional and comfortable. The bathroom at first seemed larger than most cruises I have been on and the shower, while tight, seemed fine. However, upon taking a shower, I realized there was not enough room to dry oneself or move much. Given the girth of some of the passengers I saw onboard, I wondered how they managed at all. The toilet is wedged in as well and presents interesting but not insurmountable challenges.
There was a flat screen TV with many channels including CNN but there really wasn't much to watch. There was a sofa, desk and closet with shelves and plenty of hangars. There was a small safe, NOT big enough for a computer or an ipad. The balcony had a table and two chairs and was small but sufficient. I wanted a suite, but honestly, to spend thousands of more dollars for some extra room seems like a waste of money when the balcony cabin was just fine. We peeked in on a grand suite and it was really not that big. I would have been upset had I paid $8000 for that vs. $2200 for our balcony.
WI-FI As with other cruises, a total rip off. They charged 65 cents a minute but offered packages up to 500 minutes for $150. The cheapest was $35 for 100 minutes. I didn't use the service so I have no idea if it was slow or fast. I was able to get signals on my cell phone at all ports to check email.
The CASINO It is a smoking area and smells terrible. If you can get past that issue and you like to gamble, then you will love it. It's huge, has lots of slots and several tables, open all the time on the sea. There are blackjack tournaments, slot tournaments, lottos, bingo, etc. I donated $170 at the $10 minimum blackjack table in about 20 minutes. I won't be going back. They have a smoking area that is more crowded than the non-smoking area, but both were relatively empty. The dealers were very nice and had I won, I would have enjoyed it much more! You can use your card and pay a 3% service charge for the money you lose.
PRICES Dewars on the rocks $6.25 + 15% service, around $7 Absolute and Cranberry $5.75 + service Cosmopolitan martini $9.25 plus 15%, $10.60 or so Gin and Tonic, $6.25+ Lichee Martini special, $7.50, keep the glass Wine started around $7 per glass and went up to $55 per glass, with bottles being much more. Beers ranged from $5-7 per glass plus service. Drink of the day, $6.25 and you keep the glass Cupcakes $2.50 $24.95 Surf and turf ordered in the dining room available every day $2.50, hot chocolate in the cafÃ© $3.85, hot chocolate at starbucks, including service $135, cheapest wine package, includes five bottles of wine drank at your own pace Great prices on alcohol in the duty free shop Jewelry store offers high-end watches at very good prices
FITNESS CENTER Work out time was around 10am on the first sea day. There was a lecture going on, very informative, about eating, losing weight, being healthy, nutrition. It was great background to my workout. The gym was packed. There were no lines for equipment, especially the nautilus stuff, but the aerobic machines were completely full. I had no problems doing my workout despite the crowds. I never had to wait for anything despite the throngs of people burning off their 1000 calories of desserts from the night before. There are dozens of treadmills, elliptical machines, bicycles with pilates machines, free weights and much more. Great gym. The lecturer tried to sell the audience on doing a test for $35 to indicate toxins in the body and also to buy the products they sell to detoxify. I didn't try it. There were several for a fee classes, including a cycling class for $15, a four-day Â½ hour a day fitness boot camp for $120, Yoga for $15, Pilates for $25. They were all early in the day, too early for me. The instructors seemed knowledgeable but definitely weren't interested in helping for free when I asked questions or for assistance. One woman fitness instructor actually looked at her watch as if to say "I don't have time for you" while I was asking a question. Very off-putting. One other minor complaint â€“ the machines had interactive screens and when using the elliptical I had to go through five machines to find one with a screen that worked.
SPA We didn't use the spa but it looked very nice. They had specials on port days, starting at $99 and up for packages. A hot stone massage regularly was about $150 for 50 minutes. Everything in the spa was excessively expensive but it looked busy. They have a relaxation suite which is a sitting room, and three variations of hot and sauna rooms. One time use is $30, and $99 for the week. A lot of money for not much.
THE SOLARIUM ON the 15th deck forward is the adults only solarium. For the most part the adults only restrictions are adhered to. It is a partially open air, fully sunny area with loungers, Jacuzzis, a cooling pool, and a second deck with more loungers and a bar. The solarium was very nice, and since it was on the front of the ship the view was spectacular. The Jacuzzis were ALWAYS packed full (all four) and the cooling pool was usually full. On sea days they were not somewhere I wanted to be, fighting for a spot in a pool was not my idea of relaxation. However, if you go after 5pm, the situation changes and there is no one there and everything is empty. They are available 24 hours a day. The seating consists of wire mesh loungers, and plenty of them, some padded seats with ottomans, which went quickly until 5pm, and then seven very nice padded wicker pods, that were never available. Upstairs there were the wire mesh loungers and some padded loungers that were in the sun, so you have to like being in the sunshine to enjoy them. There were tables on the porch of the restaurant under a flooring that were protected from sun and rain that were nice. Generally this was my favorite lounging spot and with persistence, a nice spot could always be found.
POOLS The pools are all found on Deck 15, and there is a special area for kids with a circular lazy river pool, and several themed pools. There are two main pools, very small and always packed full and then four Jacuzzis in the pool area plus two cantilevered large Jacuzzis near the solarium and two more in the solarium. There are the wave riders that were very popular, and a small putting golf area, a full sized basketball court and several pool bars scattered around. There are a million loungers and half were always empty. There is also a smoker's area on 15 with the nicest loungers on the ship. Occasionally the aqua theatre pool was open for swimming as well. On sea days the pools were completely packed and not inviting at all.
The Viking Crown Lounge After the workout and another delicious lunch at the Solarium, we found the Viking Crown Bar on the 17th floor. It was completely empty, and there were beautiful sofas at the big picture windows that looked out on the pool areas and the sea. We sat there all afternoon, lounging on the super comfy couches, reading. At 4pm a violin/piano duo started playing making it that much more heavenly. It's the place to go to escape the crowds and really unwind.
SOLARIUM BISTRO DINNER The daytime healthy buffet becomes a night time restaurant with table cloths and stars. It was really beautifully serene and completely empty. We had a reservation but didn't really need one. The menu guarantees that nothing featured is over 500 calories per plate. We started with a few appetizers, Mexican shrimp, basically shrimp with a salsa, a really tasty Barley risotto, and a nice scallop dish. The soup, a chicken vegetable soup, was inedible, and the salad of fruit and endive was good. Our main courses were the Chicken breast with a ragu of vegetables and I had the bison steak. The chicken was boring and not very tasty, but my bison was delicious. The sides were roasted sweet potatoes, literally one slice of a potato, and a mango cole slaw that was boring. The desserts were a highlight, selected from a dessert bar. We had sugar free cookies (amazing), an almond torte, also amazing, a fruit cup, which was nothing special, and a apple bran muffin, that was good. The waiter was not very good, and he seemed very disinterested in us and giving good service. We canceled our second reservation there, favoring free choices instead.
SOLARIUM BREAKFAST AND LUNCH The solarium features a large array of fruits, cold and hot cereals, lots of stuff to put in oatmeal, Turkey bacon, pancakes, grilled vegetables, yogurt confections, prunes, figs, great breads and low-fat delicious muffins, juices, amazing service and such friendly waiters. We waited about a second for a table and breakfast was delightful. Our waiter was very friendly, as everyone is, and the experience upstairs was great. I ate like a king and barely ingested 500 calories. Lunch was equally as good. The choices included lots of salads and salad bar fixings, several hot entrees, always delicious and sugar free desserts. We ate there every day.
Izumi We paid $10 per person, $5 of which would apply to our dinner costs. Everything was ala carte with prices ranging from $2 for a bowl of soup to $23 to a five course sampling menu. I had tuna sashimi appetizer for $6, and it was nice, but very plain, just five thinly sliced pieces of tuna. We ordered the hot rock dinner and it was quite bad. A very hot stone comes out with about 3 ounces of raw chicken which you place on the rock to cook. It was very plain but came with three good sauces. It was barely an appetizer for $8. I had the sashimi for my main course and it was very small but very fresh and tasty. The dinner comes with free endamame which was great. After the meal the waiter brought over an after dinner cordial we thought he was offering us. We didn't want it and declined, only to find out had we taken it, it would have cost us $8 per glass. We didn't say anything but they really should inform a guest that they will charge for something that appears to be complimentary. It was overpriced for very little food.
WINDJAMMER BUFFET We only at there for dinner, but ate one lunch there as well. It was always crowded but every single time we got a seat by the window. And to dispel reviews that disparage the food, we were thrilled with the huge variety and how delicious everything was. At every dinner meal there were at least 10 different entrÃ©e choices, lots of vegetable choices, salads soup, carved meats. Only the desserts were a bit boring (which made us happy!) but one night they had a banana cream chocolate pie that was amazing. We loved the food, yes it is a buffet but there were never lines for anything and it was so easy and relaxing to eat there with a beautiful view of the ocean. I have been on Princess, Norwegian, Crystal and Celebrity and this was easily the best buffet in all aspects.
OASIS OF DREAMS SHOW Then we went to the Oasis of Dreams Aqua Theatre show. We arrived 30 minutes early and the entire middle section was packed already. We sat on the side and it was fine. They have rows that alternate between comfortable lounge chairs and very uncomfortable benches. We tried a bench in the center first, but it was not comfy at all so we moved to a lounger on the side. We ordered a few more drinks and waited. The place filled up and the show began. I couldn't see much over the head of the person in front of me, but much of the show was aerial or staged high above the water, so it was OK. The show was fun, not really much substance, just a lot of high diving and gymnastics, but the cast was great, very fit, very good at what they did, and it was a nice 45 minute diversion. After, the crowd poured out into the Boardwalk area and for the first time I felt the weight of so many people upon me. But it was quickly over as the crowd dissipated.
HAIRSPRAY We were lucky enough to be on the ship the night the cast of Hairspray was live on the Tony Awards. It was a lot of fun being part of that and the show after, which started at 11pm was very good. It was a 90-minute reader's digest version of the Broadway show, but all the good songs were there. There were entire sections that were redone for the shorter version, and for someone who had never seen the Broadway show, it might be a bit confusing as most of the book was gone and segues left out lots of information, but the talent was excellent and the energy was great. Only the guy playing Edna was sub-par. He wasn't funny at all and every one of his lines landed flat.
COMEDY CLUB We saw two acts, Kivi something was the second act, and he was truly hilarious. This guy is going to be a big star. His set was easy, natural and achingly funny. The other guy was just OK. The club is nice, small and fun to see comedy. Highly recommended.
HAIRSPRAY CAST ROCK AND ROLL SHOW Six members of the Hairspray cast performed a 35 minute set of tunes with a big band. If this show is offered, don't miss it. They were incredible.
COME FLY WITH ME A cirque du soliel inspired show, completely bizarre story that made no sense, but it didn't matter. The acts and dancing was great. The cast, same as the other shows, was fantastic, with songs, acrobatics that were amazing, flying through the air, wonderful visuals made for a very entertaining show very different from anything you would see on another cruise ship.
ICE SHOW Fantastic. I didn't know what to expect but it was wonderful for all ages. The woman who does the improvisational sand designs is incredible and worth going just to see her. The skaters were first rate, with lots of triple axles, and beautiful costumes. Not sure about the story, but they basically use the Hans Christian Anderson stories to inspire costume and scenic ideas and then just skate beautifully. There are solos and duos. The show lasts about 45 minutes and is really terrific.
DISCO PARTY The disco party was not something I thought I would go to, but I was on the Royal Promenade and it started. It was great fun. First they had two singers doing a set of disco tunes and they were great, followed by several crew members and the cruise director donning seventies gear dancing to the oldies. It was so much fun. Don't miss it.
HEADLINER SHOW They had a five voice men's acapella group. Their gimmick was that they created all the sounds we heard with their voices. They were incredibly talented and amazingly versatile in creating instrumental sounds with their voices. But despite their talent their choice of material and their endless audience participation activities grew tiresome fast. I don't go to see the audience sing and carouse, I want the performers to dominate. I realize many enjoy the participatory aspect, but I find it amateurish and irritating.
LABADEE We got off the ship at about 10am and took a walk around. There are lots of lovely beaches, three places to eat, lots of activities, a fearsomely long zip line from the tip of a mountain back to the beach. The island area is very disconnected from the rest of Haiti and could have been anywhere. But it was nice. We spent less than 20 minutes there and returned to the boat where we had the entire place to ourselves. There were five people in the gym, the Jacuzzis were empty â€“ heaven! The solarium Jacuzzis, always very busy, were empty, but the main pools seemed busy, but not packed.
JAMAICA Terrible port - basically a shopping mall filled with T-shirt and jewelry shops made specifically for the cruise lines. There is a gated entrance into the city to keep the locals away. There is a shopping street immediately outside the gate and it is sketchy and a bit scary. Within 30 feet I was offered drugs, drug paraphernalia. We went out for a minute and returned immediately to the ship. This is a sad place, where the poverty of the island is very apparent and the segregation of those on the ship from the island people is obvious and uncomfortable. I have no idea why they stop here. But the ship was empty again, although not nearly as empty as in Labadee. I overheard many people talking about how bad the port was.
COZUMEL My favorite port, or should I say, the only port that seemed safe and had something to do. We took a $7 taxi ride to the Forum Shops where we were able to use free internet. Then we strolled along the main street filled with jewelry, watch, souvenir and T-shirt shops, as well as many restaurants. Once done, we taxied back and had lunch. It is a fun port and worth a visit. The watch shops actually offer pretty good buys compared to buying full price in the USA.