Ok lets try this review thing again. Hopefully with no technical difficulties this time:)
Background: This was DH & my 12th cruise, about 1/2 with Royal & 1/2 with Carnival. We are 40 yrs old and we left our kids at home this time. We’ve sailed on Royal’s Voyager, Freedom, & Oasis class ships previously. We were looking forward to returning to the Freedom class of ships as that’s what we thought (and confirmed) we prefer the most. We enjoy cruising for the mix of activities and relaxation it has to offer. We picked this cruise based off the date (to celebrate my birthday), ship, and wanted to avoid the FL crowds since the Super Bowl was in Miami on Feb. 2nd.
We flew from MN to Houston the day before. We had no problem getting an Uber from IAH to Galveston. It cost $73 (plus tip). We stayed at the DoubleTree Galveston on Seawall. The hotel was older, but was clean, beds were good, and we got upgraded to a balcony room that overlooked the gulf. There are free computer/printers that we used to print out a few documents we had forgotten. We did not do breakfast as it cost extra and we’re not big breakfast eaters. We enjoyed walking down the Seawall Rd to take in the scenery. Note that we didn’t find any stores that offered much for snacks/toiletry items. We ended up eating at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner which was easy & tasted good. Royal notified us that our ship was going to be returning to the port late (medical emergency made it return to Cozumel). They asked that we do no arrive to the port earlier than 12:30, but noted that they still planned on leaving at our regularly schedule time of 4:00. We tracked the ship’s progress on the web and watched it come in the gulf in the morning from our balcony. Now my husband loves to be to the port early so he just wasn’t having what Royal was telling him & wanted to still schedule our Lyft ride to port at 10:00. I talked him into 11:00 instead. We didn’t have any problem getting an Lyft, but we did get stuck in traffic by the port as one of the roads was closed and many people were trying to come & go from the port. Definitely the worst traffic we’ve experienced at any port. When we got dropped off it was a little confusing where to put the checked luggage, but after that was figured out we got into line outside the port and stood there maybe 10 minutes before it opened up and started letting us enter the terminal to get checked in. That process went smoothly and we were seated in the platinum waiting area by noon. We waited here a while and got on the ship maybe around 1:30. Note: we talked to another couple who didn’t show up until 12:30 like Royal asked, and she said it was horribly busy so I’m glad I listed to my husband’s request to go early:) Our room was not ready when we boarded so we walked around a while, ate (pizza at Sorrentos was way less busy then the Windjammer), drank (found our favorite bar of the trip, the R bar), and then returned to the room later when it was ready. Our muster drill location was one of the lounges and went smoothly. If I remember correctly we set sail a little later than originally scheduled, but only by maybe a few hours if that.
Room: We were in room 9201, interior room on deck 9. The room was small, but fine for just fine for only 2 people. Our room attendant asked us if we had any requests, which we didn’t. Looking back, I’d probably request an additional set of bath towels so we would have them on dates we showered more. The bathroom only had one electric outlet which was on the ceiling which unfortunately didn’t work well for the nightlight we had brought. Tips: bring a battery operated nightlight, air freshener, and hanging clothes in the bathroom while showering helps remove wrinkles. We didn’t hear any noise in this room, no motion issues, thought the location was great for getting around, and would book it again if we wanted an inside location. It’s been a long time since we had an interior room & our thoughts with picking it was that it being nice and dark would allow us to sleep in (which it was, esp. when we covered the peephole with the door magnet). Despite that, our internal clocks overpowered the darkness and we were up early almost every day so next time I think we’ll go back to having a balcony so I can sit out there with some coffee in the morning.
Dining: We had My Time dining room in the 3rd floor dining room. I had booked reservations for each night prior to sailing. The time was pretty much the same all week with a couple of nights being earlier & later based off availability and the activities we had planned. The first night we had asst. waiter Stanloyd and waiter Matana. They were great and we requested them for the rest of the cruise. The host did mention it was easier to have the same waitstaff if we had the same time each night so she changed one of our reservations to accommodate (which was fine with us). We had a table for 2 in their section all week. Stanloyd was one of the best asst. waiters we’ve had in a long time. The food in the main dining room was pretty good. I do wish they changed the menu around a little more - often there were only 2 “new” choices for the night and the rest were the classic choices that were on the menu every night. Formal nights were on day 2 & 6 with the later having lobster. We saw a whole range of dress wear. My husband wore very nice jeans and a button down shirt & fit right in. I wore short evening dresses. We did talk to a lady at the table next to us who was gluten intolerant and she felt she was getting excellent service from the waitstaff and providing her gluten free meals. She reviewed the menu for the next day w/the waitstaff each evening and mentioned it was prepared in a separate area of the kitchen.
We ate in the Windjammer (buffet area) most days for breakfast & lunch and ate dinner there one night. The variety of food was good. I really liked that you could order an omelette and they’d give you a number & bring it to you at your table (instead of having to wait at the counter). Seating at the Windjammer was very limited at prime time so going earlier or later helps. I do wish they’d start the lunch earlier as noon seems late to me if you eat an early breakfast & dinner.
Pizza at Sorrentos was better than I remember and lines moved quickly. We didn’t eat much at the cafe, but they had some fruit, cookies, and pre-made sandwiches. I enjoyed getting a latte here in the morning (part of the deluxe drink pkg).
I did miss Carnival’s casual food choices and am looking forward to trying an amped up Royal ship to get the casual mexican place. Royal’s burgers in the Windjammer are not good:(
Drink service was terrific on this ship. Plenty of waiters around the pool decks and shows. We bought the deluxe drink package prior to sailing when it was $48/person. I’m not a big drinker, but took advantage of the opportunity to try lots of new drinks. Marshall and Lincoln at the R Bar were fantastic! Make sure you ask them to make you drinks that are not on the menu as we had so much fun trying their suggestions. I fell in love with the coconut mojito and my husband loved a Vodka sour that had elderflower in it. If you did not have the drink package mixed drinks averaged $12. Also ask for the premium liquor if you have the drink package as it’s included! As my husband and I are now 40 years old I found no longer the need to sit out in the sun the entire vacation and really enjoyed spending more time inside at the different bars.
Misc. ship thoughts:
This ship is getting some bad reviews lately and I want to reassure you that you’ll still have a great time. Yes, there is some wear & tear, but a vacation is what you make if it in my opinion. The bottom on DH’s chair in the theatre fell off, but we just laughed about it. Was the artwork beautiful? In my opinion, no, it was just weird, but does that make me not enjoy my vacation, heck no. The service we received was fantastic and I was able to relax and enjoy the nice weather with my DH = money well spent. We noticed carpet was being replaced on the forward stairs all week and plenty of cleaning was going on. This ship goes into dry dock next year I believe. I’d say 85+% of the ship’s passengers were from Texas, or close by, so lots of very friendly retired people. Very, very few foreign people. Not many kids, but that is expected since school is in session for most kids. The waterslide with the tube is awesome. We loved the adults only serenity area pool & hot tubs too. The ice skating show was great, esp. when you consider how small of a rink the performers have to work with. We were at the late night showing of Sat. Night Fever and there was technical difficulty ~15 min into the show so it ended up getting rescheduled for mid-day on the last sea day so we didn’t see it.
Roatan - This was our first time visiting Roatan and I was excited for the great zip lining and snorkeling opportunity. After reading reviews of people holding sloths I decided to add that to my bucket list too. Royal didn’t have any excursions with all of these activities so we decided to book independently. I contacted Rony's Tours online and got very quick responses every time I emailed. He wanted me to put down either a $60 deposit or pay for the entire balance prior to the date so I decided to pay just the deposit up front & pay the rest on the date of the tour. I got a confirmation of my deposit and easy to read directions on how to meet our guide after getting off our cruise ship. We got off our cruise ship shortly after the gangway opened and met our guide, WIll, who had a sign saying Rony’s tour. He confirmed our name and state we were from when we met him. We reviewed our plan for the day which included zip line, sloths, and snorkeling. I told him holding a sloth was my number one priority. We then walked a short distance to meet our driver. We first drove to the zip line place we had previously chosen, Extreme Pirate of the Caribbean Zip Line. No one else was there when we arrived so it was quick & easy. It was very fun and we felt safe with a guide going before us, one after us, and even our guide Will joined us. After zip lining we went to AJ’s monkeys & sloths. Please note that this was a different place then what we had selected on-line, but it was close and Will thought that there would be less of a wait here. It cost $15/person and we did have a little wait, but there was a cool breeze, plenty of seating areas, and we got to interact/hold guinea pigs, sloths, monkeys, and parrots. After that we asked to go to Bananarama on West Bay for snorkeling. When we arrived they were full so we walked down the road a little bit and were able to get lounge chairs on the beach at Paradise Beach Hotel for $20/person. Will pointed out where the good snorkeling areas were and hung around the area while we snorkeled. We were approached by a guy who accepted tips for taking us out to the reef. It was definitely worth the $20 we gave him as he made it easier to swim, we felt safe, saw amazing fish, and never would have gone out as far as we did without him. The water was pretty, I just wish there were less vendors selling things as we were approached every few minutes. When we were done for the day Will and our driver took us back to the port (~2:30). Will answered all our questions about Roatan and we felt safe with him. The only bad part of the day was at the end when it came time to paying as Will didn’t know how much our balance was. I put a $60 deposit down and the cost of the tour for Rony’s was $80 so I only owed him $20 (plus tip of course). All the activities we did we directly paid for at those venues. Will and the driver seemed a little confused when I mentioned owing only $20, but when I showed them my receipt I brought with me they were ok, and just said that’s not what we were told this morning. SO, my tips for readers are to make sure you print out your receipt, discuss price up front at the beginning of the day, and bring extra money as 2 of the venues we ended going to were different & more expensive then what I had selected when I reserved the tour online. Will also mentioned that the only money he made was what we tipped him, whether this is true or not, I’m not sure, but we compensated him well.
Costa Maya - the captain announced just before our scheduled docking time that it was unsafe to dock (wind causing water over the pier) so we would have another sea day. We didn’t have anything planned, but were a little disappointed since the same thing happened to us the last time we tried to visit! About an hour later the captain said our plans were going to change again as there was a medical emergency on the ship. The new plans called for us to sail to Cozumel quicker with us being able to dock around 4pm once the Celebrity ship set sail so we could have the pier.
Cozumel - There were 2 ambulances waiting when we arrived and 2 passengers were taken off the ship. We talked to a few crew members and they were very excited as this ship almost never overnights anywhere & Cozumel was the perfect place for them to enjoy some late night activities off the ship. We didn’t have any plans in Cozumel so we stayed onboard until the following morning and then walked around town a bit. We enjoyed having a lazy day with less people on the ship. It was a cool day with highs only in the low 70s so I was glad we didn’t have a beach day planned.
Overall we were very impressed with the service on this cruise and love the layout of this ship. Can’t wait to sail again!