Introduction/Who we are:
I must begin our review by thanking all the reviewers who came before us, specifically Tom & Mary Miliano. If you have not yet read their review it is a MUST! Their suggestions were wonderful! But as Tom explained in his review, all of our comments and suggestions are just that—suggestions—the following is our opinion based upon our individual experience aboard the ship and clearly this will vary from person to person. Of course, after reading all the reviews, we felt very much at home once on the ship! We are a young couple from Maryland—Samantha (24) and Michael (28). Michael’s dad is a travel agent so he has been on more than 25 cruises all over the world. This was my third cruise.
After a leisurely four hour drive up from Maryland, we arrived at the Bayonne port around 2:30pm—correctly disregarding the insert that said we should arrive after 5pm. We had read about the chaos at the terminal so we were expecting the worst. This is definitely not what greeted us. We did wait a little bit in a line of cars, but quickly realized this was the line to drop passengers off. We drove to the RIGHT and quickly parked our car literally 50 feet from the entrance to the terminal. Had Michael pulled up to drop me and the luggage off, he would have had to circle back around and wait in the line again. We suggest you park and wheel your luggage over the short distance. The cost to park is $60 for the five day cruise. A porter greeted us immediately and took our bags.
By this time it was 3:00pm. We snaked through empty security lines and went right to the front to get our SeaPass cards. Because we filled out our forms online beforehand, the whole process took less than 10 minutes. We waited in the terminal for a bit eating the hot dogs. A band played happy music and an entertainer walked around making balloon animals. Soon our number was called and we boarded the shuttle buses to the ship. We boarded around 4:00pm. We received our luggage after we came back from dinner so be prepared to have a change of clothes and your toiletries ready if you want to freshen up after a long day of travel.
First things first:
We checked out the cabin (more on this later) and headed straight to the maitre d’ to change our table. We were booked with the late seating, but Claudio helped us find a table during the main seating. (Note: There was NO line since we were on the ship early, but we noticed a very long line later on that evening.) We headed to the specialty restaurant and made our reservation at Portofino’s. The maitre d’ there told us Italian night in the dining room was Wednesday so we thought this would be a good night to skip the dining room. We toured the ship (more on this later) and got settled before heading to dinner. The muster drill was around 8:30pm and was quick and painless.
We were in Cabin 9595, an inside cabin. It was very clean and well lit. I’m sure the outside balcony cabins are very nice, but we knew we wouldn’t be in the room much so we opted to spend our money elsewhere. There are not many drawers, but there is ample closet space and plenty of hangers. For all the women—let’s just say I’m glad I brought my own hair dryer and didn’t depend on the one in the cabin. The bed is two twin beds pushed together and it was not bad. I enjoyed being able to control the temperature in the room and I loved the innovative shower doors. Yes, it is a small bathroom, but it was much nicer than expected. Our stateroom attendants Josephine and Julius were great. On the first night I requested extra towels and they ended up giving us extra towels each day. Nice touch and much appreciated. I must again thank Tom and Mary for their air freshener suggestion. I bought one of those stand-alone balls for the bathroom and it was great. My only suggestion would be to bring a glow-in-the-dark alarm clock. The inside cabin gets completely dark without lights and there are no clocks!
This ship is absolutely beautiful. It is very large and easily accommodates the more than 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crewmembers aboard. And yet, despite its size, it is incredibly easy to find your way around. I can understand why people on this site have commented on the waiting time for the elevators, but I think it probably depends on your tolerance level and your hurry! We never waited more than 2 or 3 minutes and usually opted for the stairs anyway. I can’t speak on this point personally, but the ship appears to be very accessible for disabled passengers.
Main Dining Room: In two words: Understated elegance. This is the grandest place on the ship. I know everyone has a subjective opinion when it comes to food. Our opinion was that is was FAIR to GOOD and not great. There was only one night when we thought the food was “bad.” However, the service and presentation MORE than made up for what was lacking in taste (as hard as that is to believe). Our waiter Robert was the friendliest person I’ve ever met. He remembered our names and made sure we got anything and everything we asked for. One night I wanted three appetizers and it was no problem. Our assistant waiter Stacy remembered I ordered iced tea and each night brought me an iced tea as soon as I sat down. Our tablemates were hilarious and made the experience a lot of fun. We actually looked forward to our dinner conversations all day. The bottom line is that we never walked away hungry (we were stuffed) and we didn’t have to cook or clean. Perfect in my book.
Portofino’s: WORTH EVERY PENNY. I won’t explain too much because I don’t want to ruin it for you! I was very skeptical of spending $20 per person extra when we could eat in the dining room at no extra cost. However, the food is incredible, the service was impeccable, and the desserts were “to-die-for.” It was a very romantic evening and truly a highlight of our cruise.
Johnny Rockets: We went late the first night and didn’t have to wait in line. We had lots of fun, good greasy onion rings, and a delicious vanilla milkshake. Good alternative if you want some comfort food. We did notice long lines during lunch on sea days.
Windjammer/Island Grill: Unfortunately we must agree with some others on this site. The food wasn’t very good and the selection wasn’t expansive, but it does the trick of providing a quick, easy meal! We usually didn’t have much time for lunch on the At Sea days (too many activities) so it was perfect for a quick salad and hot dog.
Room service: We opted for room service for breakfast each day. You fill out the form and put it on your door the night before specifying what you want and what time you want it. Room service is provided at no extra charge and they were ALWAYS on time. Food was good; my only complaint was that it was cold—not just once, but every day. Other than that, it was a great luxury!
Midnight/Gala buffet: Looked better than it tasted.
Activities/Entertainment aboard ship:
We literally had to run from one event to the other! There were so many things to do and not enough time to fit it all in! Some highlights: Ping Pong Tournament, Napkin Folding (Michael was a good sport with that one), Ice Skating, Miniature Golf, Bingo, Karaoke, Massage Class at the spa (worth the extra cost!). The Vibeology show was your typical cruise show. The dancers outperformed the singers. The Ice Skating show was better than expected. Some of the skaters had actually competed in the Olympics. Get your tickets early—this is an event not to miss! Thoroughly enjoyed cruise director Richard Spacey headlining the Love and Marriage Show (it’s like the Newlywed game with 3 couples—one young, one middle age, one older). I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. We never even made it to the pool or hot tub, but they looked really nice. The Krooz Komics did a great job of entertaining while we waited for various shows to begin. At night they had an eclectic live music selection in a number of different venues, including Jazz in the High Notes Lounge, a very good garage band “The Stingrays” in Cleopatra's Needle, guitarist in the Pig and Whistle, and dance music in The Vault. Other activities we didn’t have time to try: Casino, wine tasting, art auction, gym classes, rock climbing, trivia games, sports competitions, dance classes, the list goes on and on.
Saint John: The locals here were so welcoming! It is a quaint little town with a few shops. We spent the morning walking around and enjoying the sunny weather. Visited the City Market, King’s Square, and had lunch at Keystone Kelly’s by the water. Bought a few souvenirs, but there isn’t much else so we boarded the ship after a few hours. Don't waste your money on a city tour excursion unless you are interested in learning more about the history of the city.
Halifax: We walked along the Harborwalk and went in the little stores, watched the ships, saw glass blowing, and ate Lobster Rolls by the water. There is a nice museum for about $8 on the Harborwalk that has a permanent exhibit on the Titanic disaster but we did not have time to do it. In the afternoon we took the 3 ½ hour tour to Peggy’s Cove. The bus ride there was about an hour and our tour guide spoke a lot about the history of Halifax. Once at the cove we took many pictures around the lighthouse and in the fishing village. Got to hold a lobster and enjoyed great homemade ice cream. The weather at both ports was gorgeous—in the 70s, sunny, no humidity or rain! We were very lucky!
We had to be out of our room by 8:00am and they did not start letting people off the ship until 9:15am. We had exchanged our beige tags for yellow tags at Guest Relations (just ask and they’ll give you an earlier color) so our color was called by 9:35am. We were off the ship and on the road by 10:00am. Can’t complain, but this is a definite area for improvement.
-Read the Cruise Compass they put in your cabin each night. It highlights the next day’s schedule and will answer most, if not all, of your questions.
-Be EARLY to everything.
-The ship seems to be very family friendly. We rarely saw kids and there were a lot of them there of all ages!
-Putting the tips on our SeaPass card made handing out gratuities a lot easier.
This cruise was amazing. There was not one dull moment! Royal Caribbean lives up to its hype about “Gold Anchor Service.” We will definitely cruise again on Royal Caribbean although I hope to go somewhere a little more exotic than Canada! If I could recommend one thing it would be to RELAX and enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about all the little things and just have fun…it goes by way too quickly. Feel free to send us your questions. Bon Voyage!
Thanks for sharing such a well-balanced and through review. You have the perfect cruise attitude! A cruise is always what you make it and it certainly appears that you made the most of yours.
Bayonne port is in NJ, across from NYC, and is the port facility Royal Caribbean uses for cruises from the New York area. Thanks to Samantha for such a good thorough review, and the comments about arrival for those driving to the port are especially appreciated!