Our group of 19 all received staggered boarding notices where you were supposed to come according to your deck level, or according to your loyalty status. Since the majority of our group fell into the early boarding time we all came early. We arrived at the pier at about 10:30, a little early for the 11:00 scheduled time. Because we were some of the first people, check-in was pretty easy for us. However others who boarded later in the day had more lines in which to wait. For some of the Royal Caribbean people checking us in for our cabin, it was their first day, so this could have contributed to the longer wait times. We did have to wait in the pier lounge for about an hour, but took the time to make introductions and meet everyone in our group, or at least the first part of our group. Most of us were in the third boarding group that was for Diamond and Diamond Plus, who boarded after Pinnacle Loyalty members and Suite Guest. B on Check-in.
Dining Day 1
Half of our group headed to the Windjammer Cafe for buffet Lunch and the rebel 4 of us went to the Park Cafe in the Solarium to have the roast beef sandwich. Unfortunately that sandwich was the same or as good as the special roast beef sandwiches they have in the Park Cafe on the Oasis Class ships. Those sandwiches are really something special, and this one was just an ordinary roast beef sandwich. The Park Cafe was very quiet and uncrowded, in contrast to the hustling bustling Wind Jammer. We met up with our group there after our quiet lunch.
Before we knew it the rest of our group was on board, we complete the muster drill and it was time for pre-dinner cocktails. (As I Diamond Member, mine were complementary between 4:30 and 8:00, up to 3 drinks in any lounge. This was a nice perk. A+ on loyalty perks. )
Dinner was quiet enjoyable with my only complaint being the temperature of my escargot and steak at just luke warm rather than hot. This was an issue for others, but everyone’s food was so flavorful, that we still very much enjoyed dinner. B+ on overall dining so far.
The layout of the ship is very comfortable, and easy to get around. Color schemes are very pretty with lots of warm jewel tones. My mother-in-law is a connoisseur of chairs, and has commented that she finds the chairs on this ship very comfortable. That may sound silly but when we went to Alaska on the Mercury several years ago, she could not find a comfortable seat. They all had hard cushions and wooden backs. This ship has plenty of comfortable seating.
The observation lounge, Viking Crown Lounge, is in the center of the ship, rather than all the way forward, which makes it not have as much appeal as the ones on other ships that are all the forward. You can’t sit and stare forward at the ocean all day long. The Windjammer Cafe is all way forward, so you do have the panoramic views from that room, but it is bustling with diners and slightly undersized for the large crowds there in the first day.
The ship features a nice central pool area with a giant screen tv. This was great for the crowd watching the college football games yesterday and the NFL games today. The pool area felt very much like the pool areas we’ve enjoyed on other ships.
B+ on ship design.
Staff and Crew
The crew are extremely friendly and go out of their way to do thing right. One bar waiter was a little short on a glass of wine, so he literally ran out to the pool bar and back to get a second bottle to complete the glass. Our cabin steward greeted us, explained his shift hours and showed us how to use the new card to indicate when we were out of the room for him to clean it. Our diner waiter was very professional and gave us helpful suggestions. The bar staff was very friendly and helpful with our pre-dinner drink orders, in the Schooners Bar, where we could see the shores of Tampa and St. Pete as we left port. Tomorrow we are moving to the bar on deck 4 for our cocktail hour so that we don’t have to change decks when it is time for dinner. A+ to our wait staff and cabin stewards.
I also visited guest services so see if they might have a priest onboard for mass, but since this was not a cruise that is scheduled to have a priest, and there didn’t happen to be one on board, no mass was offered. However, I asked if they could arrange a room for us to use for a Catholic Prayer Service in Absence of a priest. The ladies at guest services were very helpful, and scheduled us in Conference Room C for the following morning. They also helped me put a card on the bulletin board to let others know. We felt that this handled very graciously. A+ to Guest Relations.
More to come from day two soon.