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Well, I have been back in Canada for almost a month now, but I have been so busy that I actually FORGOT to post a review. I was checking in with all of you every day before we left on our first cruise on March 13th, and now it seems I have a TONNE to catch up on!
We flew American Airlines from Toronto to Chicago and then on to Orlando on Sunday. All flights were on time and we were in Orlando by 1:00 p.m. The Royal Caribbean guides were standing near the luggage carrousels to greet us and show us the way to the bus that would take us to Port Canavral and Mariner of the Seas. We were on our way very quickly. I was impressed with the organization to this point. When we first got a glimpse of the ships in Port, we could hardly speak. I had never imagined anything so HUGE!!!! We boarded quickly and our paperwork was processed in about 3 minutes. Again, I was very impressed.
We found our stateroom first, took a few photos and hung out on our balcony drinking cocktails until it was time for the lifeboat drill. This was the only negative part of the day. It was way too hot to stand for 20 minutes with a life jacket on, but I totally understand why they do it. After that, we found our way up to the very front of the ship while she pulled out of Port. As we went by an outdoor patio bar at the pier, the patrons at the bar began singing "Love Boat"....we were all laughing on board. Since our group was on the cruise for a friend's wedding, it was very appropriate.
The ship was AMAZING. Everything was so clean and well organized. The meals were fantastic and the service made it all even better. We had late seating and all those involved in the wedding were sitting in the same area. We chose to eat in the dining room every night rather than pay extra for the specialty restaurants or dress down at the buffet. We really enjoyed dressing for dinner each night and taking our time to savour all the delicious courses. Our waiters were so accomodating that they often brought us a second appetizer or dessert just to "try". All the meals were exceptional. We ate lunch in the dining room as well (not many did) because we found the meals much better there than in the buffet (Windjammer). It was so nice to be waited on for lunch and dinner. We ate at the buffet for breakfast on 3 mornings, but all other mornings we ordered room service in our cabin. It was great to have coffee and fruit out on our balcony each morning. The first morning we ordered coffee for 2, but quickly realized that we needed to write down LARGE beside the coffee so we would get more than one cup each. By the end of the third day, all of us were saying "I would just like to remember what it feels like to be hungry!". This is another reason for ordering room service for breakfast...the portions are much smaller.
We had no problem getting deck chairs whenever we wanted them. We are early risers but the deck didn't really fill up until 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. I enjoyed ordering all of my drinks from the servers rather than at the bar. It just felt like total luxury! We all got a little too much sun the first day so let that be a warning to all of you! Even though it is windy and cool on the deck, the sun is burning!
I will just go through a few other highlights for us, as I see this is getting a little long!
-we enjoyed having our pictures taken before going into port and in the dining room. It gave us something to do while waiting for dinner...go around and hunt for everyone's photos. You do not have to buy them, but if you are like us, you will want to purchase a few as keepsakes.
-Our first stop was Labadee, RCI's own private area. Since we had had too much sun the day before, we stayed in the water for most of the day and snorkled. Take your own snorkling stuff if you have it as it costs $12.00 to use theirs. There were tonnes of chairs to sit on and lunch on the island was quite good and it was included. No extra costs except for drinks.
-Jamaica was nice. We did a boat tour but wished we had skipped the Falls. There were too many people there!!!!!
-We stayed on the ship at Grand Cayman because that was the wedding day and we were afraid we would be late if we went on shore. The port was VERY rough and they had a difficult time tendering people in. Just as well too. We were told by everyone who went ashore that, because there were SEVEN ships in port that day, the streets were so busy it was hard to walk. The wedding was BEAUTIFUL in the chapel on the 15th floor.
-Cozumel was FANTASTIC but next time, instead of a pre-arranged tour, we will rent our own car and drive around the island ourselves. That is one place to which I will definitely return.
-All of our extras.....alcohol, souveniers, pictures and tours cost us an additional $1200. When compared to an All inclusive resort, this seemed like a lot, but we did enjoy it. There is definitely no shortage of things to do and it is neat to see so many ports of call. When we go to an AI Resort, we don't spend anything extra except for a few souveniers, as the drinks and wine are all included. We are big wine drinkers so, for us, this is kind of a "down" point to the cruise. We had a bottle of wine each night with dinner, and we would have liked to have more but the cost kept us from doing so.
All in all, we had a great time, took fantastic digital photos that we will be able to enjoy forever, had a blast with our friends who were all there for the wedding and spent some great alone time together too. The highlight of every day was dinner in the dining room. Our servers, Amardeep and Edinson, made our cruise special. They were the best. We will likely go back to an All Inclusive for the next few years, but we won't rule out cruising in the future. I think the ultimate holiday would be a week golfing in Florida followed by a cruise leaving from Port Canavral or Miami and then, after the cruise, staying for a week at one of the Ports you cruise to. Maybe when I win the lotter!
Thanks for all your help before the cruise. Your advice and answers were so valuable and helped make our holiday even better.