I could find little info on this ship (besides a wierd vacation video) before booking it. I knew it was RCCL's smallest. The price of the 11 day trip was very good and there were 9 ports to explore so like most passengers we booked for the itinerary. With frequent flier tickets to San Juan, $25 cabs to/from pier, total transportation cost for my wife and I... under $1300.
We got to the cruise terminal about 3pm and there was nobody in line...i mean nobody, it was too good to be true. It seems someone had booked our cabin and then upgraded to another but was listed in the system for both, they had lost our reservation...after 30 minutes and 3 supervisors we got our seapass cards and permission to board...because this comp error was not corrected it screwed us onboard a few times.
First we got a drink but my wifes card was not active, go to the desk..they say now it is. we get our drinks and go to stand in line to get a table assignment since ours was lost. with that taken care of we go to the "room"...
I was prepared for small but seriously the inside rooms were the smallest i've ever seen.
2 bags could be crammed under the bed and others piled beside but it was a squeeze...seperating the beds might have made a little more room but not much...there were a few drawers and some closet room but the closet was full of dirty laundry by the end of the trip
(first place i sprayed lysol)
we had a ceiling panel missing where our ac vent was but the air was working. shower was one temperature (warm to hot thankfully) but the sink never got to warm...much better than the other way around, which we heard some complaining about. the room walls and trim were badly scuffed and the ship was in need of repairs...they were replacing the carpet on the upper deck at the end of our cruise, turning it into a construction zone.
On the 8th day of our cruise they replaced the 5 missing ceiling panels in the hallway and were working on the ac in the area ouside our cabin when we left for a shore excursion we got back at 2pm to find out the air was still off and wouldnt be turned on till 5pm. no warning or notice.
the ac in our room had a box in the vent that made loud intermittant noises when the thermostat was turned down past halfway..causing me to jump out of bed to bang on the box more than once...they never fixed the box, but on the 9th day they replaced the cover which muffled the contraption some.
the ship had dirty windows everywhere and i didnt see any get cleaned till day 7 in port. they allways had someone polishing the brass handrails (the polish residue would remind you not to touch the rails unless nessesary) but nobody cleaning windows...i did see them clean the elevators often.
being a small ship has pro's and con's that work like this...pro: shorter lines, getting on and off was much easier, never tendered, even the buffet lines (except for one morning) were short, elevators were not overloaded most of the time.
cons: we were on the 7th deck which may have made it worse but the "motion in the ocean" as the captain put it was very noticable..it felt like i was in a rodeo with a mattress for a saddle...we watched the pool empty in one end and throw water 6' at the other, i was amazed they had no net up to stop any drunk morons that really wanted to get sloshed. later in the cruise some of us did swim while it was sloshing, but not that radically.
ok..back to cons: less to do onboard..we were glad for only 2 sea days...they had a disco below the gym that was deserted most of the time and considering they didnt open till 11 or 12 midnight it was a waste of space..a piano bar, the pool bar and bandstand, a larger lounge that looked like a bordello (think red velvet) and the show lounge. the entertainers were adaquate but only for a short time....
the lack of space extended to less variety in food and while the portifino resturant did have an excellent filet mignon it wasn't worth the extra $20. you mainly have the dining room or buffet with occasional grilled stuff by the pool or room service....
Our computer error made me explain the problem to many people and thier supervisors during the cruise...they lost my casino credit, crown and anchor gift and party invite..
the problem was their computer systems didnt get updated because even though they had fixed it at embarkation that was a different system than shipboard...so i talked to a cage clerk, slot manager, casino manager, group services lady, 2 crown and anchor reps, 3 pursers reps and the actual purser who seemed to be the only person empowered to fix problems and offer compensation.
In the end we were given a bottle of champagne, reservations at portofino's, 2 t-shirts and a golf shirt from the casino, and a book of art and stuff from RCCL and Celebrity ships.
The free stuff made up for everyone knowing my name in the first few days.
What really made our problems seem trivial was on the first sea day i hit a straight flush in caribbean stud poker in the casino...it paid $2500....after that all the casino employees knew my name for a better reason. (i never heard of anyone getting a straight flush was repeated many times from the dealers)
I don't think i would go again on this ship, but with the awesome itinerary it was worth the hassle of a smaller ,older ship and a nice change of pace from the huge megaliners. It was great to do once, but i think I'm spoiled after getting a balcony and a cabin with room, to me this was a step backwards.
The food was good to RCCL's standards, with the dining room having a list of 4 or 5 alternate dishes in case the chefs special is not to your liking. Lobster night is the first sea day. I checked the menu in the afternoon, its posted outside, and some of it is listed on the room service menu on one of the tv channels. some portions were small, so I didnt hesitate to order multiple entrees. The windjammer didnt have great choices on the one night we tried it for dinner, but did have a carving station to satisfy me.
Breakfast in the dining room is CRAZY when they pull into port, it sits over the props or pods or whatever in the back and I swear it shook silverware off tables....the windjammer had a great breakfast and lunch. They would grill for a few hours by the pools on some days. Don't miss the midnight chocolate buffet or the late buffet near the end of the cruise. the food, decorations, (ice and fruit sculptures), are awesome.
When i said choices were limited, I meant that unlike larger ships dining is only in the windjammer, the dining room , or your stateroom.
(fast and full menu)..i got it delivered one night and ate dinner at a game table on our deck, i forget why, but it was good. On larger ships there were multiple resturants and choices, so many i never got to try them all on the big ships.
for excursions, we went on our own in st. Maartin to little divi beach, a short cab ride and much cheaper on your own than with the ship tour. cabs have set prices and are available all day at most beaches...divi is less crowded than orient and we had snorkeled there before but it's nothing special.
on st kitts we pooled with 2 other couples at the pier that wanted to see the fort and the gardens at rommy manor our driver was a good tour guide and the sights were nice cost $15 each for a 4 hour tour...getting a .5 liter coke in a glass bottle was a treat, they bottle it there and sell them and the local beers out of coolers on the roadside. our tablemates were thrilled this island had the pirate ship "the black pearl" from the hollywood movie...the local crew were used as extras they had a great show and a few rum punchs..it was a must-see for them...
my must see was a tour we took a few years ago in barbados called swim with turtles and shipwreck....it went up in price a bit but had a nicer catamaran this time. I will go again next time i'm there.
Isla margarita had very little info about it but here's the scene...Its a vendors market in a long strip with a bar then a beach which had a bad smell either from cows somewhere or the tidal marsh behind it. there was small swimming area but its shallow for a long ways out...the beach was free and a double chair with shade was $15 a day...we walked the shops and went back to the ship.
in curacao we enjoyed the snorkel sunken tugboat tour the ship offered, it had the best reef and visibility that i saw this trip and was a good value. note: a good snorkel boat serves free rum punch after the snorkeling is done...saves on the bar bill back on ship.
Aruba is great on this route because your there into the night. They have a nice casino in sight of the ship with free drinks and penny slots.