I think this was my 12th cruise overall but first time on Royal. My brother, his wife and my mother have only cruised Royal and swear by it. This trip was for my mom and Aunt (theyre twins) 60th bday. There was 12 of us. My wife and I are the only ones with kids (4.5 & almost 7) and the rest of our group was anywhere from 34-65. We loved the ship. Simply amazing. I was saying to my wife last night Im kind of pissed we spent $ on a balcony because I dont think we were in our room other then to change and sleep. Didnt even turn the TV on once. I dont even know if we had a remote. There is just so much to do from the moment you get on until you get off. My frustrations came from the service which was shockingly awful and the food which was borderline atrocious and a huge let down.
The new terminal is unreal. We were legit on the ship 12 minutes after getting out of the shuttle. (the hold up was the 5 mins to get the bands for the kids). They gave us complimentary champagne to board which kind of set the mood for the 4 days as they celebrated this great ships pre-inaugural cruise. Sail away with the boats and fireworks was incredible. IT was like Macys 4th of july. So cool. My kids were going nuts loving it.
Once we got moving, we decided to hit the MDR since we were such a big group. (we did My time dining). This was the first of the just awful service. First thing, we took our kids to the kids area to drop them off. The little one was tired and not having any of it so we had to bring her to dinner but the older one stayed. We sat down around 7:30 and ordered drinks. Didnt show up until close to 8, Not a huge deal. Apps took forever. Close to an hour after we sat. IF we ordered a second drink, it was at least 20 mins if it even came. Once it got to be 9, my wife felt bad and went to get our kid from the club. She was there an hour and a half and all they did was color despite the planner saying they had activites planned. Needless to say, she did not want to go back all cruise (which wasnt a huge deal bc we had family who could watch them when we did our thing). Dinner showed up at 9:15 half cold. The waiters had no idea who ordered what constantly. They would come to the table with a tray of drinks and half the time, they wernt even our drinks. They would have 4 glasses of red wine and not know which one was what and we would have to taste test to see. This went on every night. When we split off from the parents and just went out a group of 6, 5 items would come out and the 6th would be missing.
The food was bad. Out of all the cruises Ive been on, hands down this was the worst with the second being when I was on another mega ship, NCL Epic. I get they want you to go to the specialty ones, but with our group and kids, its not possible. The selection was pathetic. Every night was almost the same with like 2-3 changes but always staples. The prime rib looks like red piece of leather. Lobster tails on the last night, overcooked to the point you had to use a knife to saw them out of the shell. To be fair, the French onion soup was delicious and it wasnt all bad but compared to any other cruise it was well below. The windjammer was fine and I did enjoy Sorrentos at 1am. All the specialty places were booked solid. Tried to go to Hooked for lunch and they pretty much laughed at us. The mexican place was a huge highlight. You had to wait but it was worth it.
So back to the good. The ship outweighed all of that. Like I said, we were never in our room. NEVER! The flow is perfect. I thought I would be getting lost all the time but after the first night it was easy. Never waited for an elevator.
One highlight was taking my daughter to the bathroom during dinner on night one and seeing a piano man in one of the elevators. Spending the next 5 minutes figuring out how to coordinate getting that elevator so we could get in and then singing with him for 5 minutes going up and down. One couple got in when we did. We went back to eat, came back 20 mins later and they were still in there singing. He was awesome. My daughter made us search him out every night. He even let my two girls play piano with him one night. They loved him.
The silent disco party, you have to go to this if youre on the boat. Hilarous and a great time.
One thing that stuck out was I never felt crowded on the boat. Even on the sea days there were chairs. Maybe not at the pool but you could find chairs on deck. When we were on the Epic, it was not like that. If you went to sit after 9am, everything was taken. They had a great set up with all the pools and then shade areas around the pools for when it gets unbearably hot.
Solarium was nice too. Very relaxing when the band was playing and you wanted some peace and quiet.
Another gripe, the kids swim area. Now, my kids are small. My 4 1/2 year old is a tiny little thing. However, she can swim. I dont get for the life of me how those small slides have a 42" requirement when the Abyss is 46 and the pool slides are 48. How can you have a kid area that kids CAN NOT USE! If your worried about them drowning at the bottom, put a guard at the bottom! Its cruel to have that area and kids cant use it. We werent the only ones to not agree. One family said then went to playa mia, they kids went on most the slides twice the size but cant go on these.
The room layout was kind of silly too. Why you put a pull out bed next to a balcony makes no sense. Thankfully when our kids went to bed, my mom was back and didnt mind staying in the room with them but having the pull out there makes the balcony un usable. Had we not had someone there, we couldnt have gone and relaxed out there when they slept which is one of the reasons we get a balcony.
The only show we made was Hiro which of course is so cool. Never been a big 'show' guy on cruises but this is one you cant miss.
Bev package was a plus too. If I was paying for the drinks they made at their prices, I would have stopped drinking after the first one. We all must have had 10 drinks throughout the day and didnt even feel buzzed (none of us are huge drinkers either). Some bartenders were generous but most abide by the one shot rule.
There is just so much to do on this boat that I probably could have gone for 14 days and not have gotten bored. Activities were fun, clubs and bars were always hopping. While I had some complaints, like I said the good far outweighed the bad. My mom and bro said the service was an anomily compared to their last RCI experiences. They dont have young kids tho and I feel like thats where they drop the ball on this ship. Maybe the kids club thing was a one time thing but it set a bad tone. The room design sucked for kids too. The kids area rules too. My older one was able to do the abyss which she loved but she couldnt go on the 3 big pool slides. The abyss is a 100 foot drop, these are twisting water slides. Makes no sense.
At the end of the day, its a vacation and we all came back happy and sad it was over. Cant ask for much more.