We are a family of four, semi-seasoned cruisers. We have cruised Carnival (1x), Princess (3x), Disney (2x) and this was our first cruise on Royal. I'd been curious to try Royal for a while now and to see how it stacked up against the other lines we've cruised on before. I'm also someone who likes to have as much information as possible before embarking on a trip and that's not always the easiest to find with cruising, so I will try to include as much as I can remember. We are a family of four, semi-seasoned cruisers - two adults and two kids ages 13 and 9. We have cruised Carnival (1x), Princess (3x), Disney (2x) and this was our first cruise on Royal. I'd been curious to try Royal for a while now and to see how it stacked up against the other lines we've cruised on before. I'm also someone who likes to have as much information as possible before embarking on a trip and that's not always the easiest to find with cruising, so I will try to include as much as I can remember.We were on a New England/Canada cruise out of Port Liberty, NJ with stops in Bar Harbor, ME, Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia. We cruised with a group of 6 and had 4 balcony cabins on Deck 9. Embarkation - This was super quick and easy. We have family in NJ, so we were able to have them drop us off at port. We waited in "traffic" at drop off for about 10 minutes and that was the longest wait we encountered. We arrived around 11 am and were on the ship in less than 20 minutes. Our traveling companions were on board by 10:30. Embarkation lunch in Windjammer - I had read before we traveled that getting into Windjammer for lunch was a mess and it turns out this was true. We waited in line for at least 30 minutes to get into Windjammer. Once we got in we had no trouble getting a table and eating, but the wait to get in sucked. We started our cruise during a heatwave so it was 100 degrees out while we were waiting in line and people were getting very cranky. Really wish there were more lunch options open on embarkation day. Luckily this was the only wait we had in Windjammer all week. Rooms were ready right at 1 pm and out of our party of six travelers, five of us had our luggage in the hall at that time. It was not right in front of our rooms, but spread out in the hall a little bit. We were able to find it all within a few minutes. Muster - Royal wins hands down for muster drill. We had our muster in the MDR and it was over and done with in less than 10 minutes. Fabulous. Dining - we ate in Chops the first night and the MDR the rest of the trip for dinner. On the first day when I went to make a reservation for dinner and again when we ate we experienced a very hard sell for the dining package. Not a fan. Dinner in Chops was great, would 100% eat there again. The server was nice enough to charge my 13 year old the $10 kids price vs the adult price even though she ordered off the adult menu. MDR - We had My Time Dining - we booked our cruise late and were wait listed for My Time Dining. Our wait list came through and when I went to book times online the only choices were either early (5:30/5:45) or late (7:45/8). I was assured many times by posters here on CC and RCI FB groups that we would be able to change these times to whatever we wanted once on board the ship. This was not the case. I tried to reserve a table for any night between 6:00-7:30. I was told (in a not so nice way) we could either eat at 5:30/5:45 or 7:45/8 and there were no other options. The same was said to the person in front of me asking a similar question. Yes, we could have gone without a reservation, but with a larger party we didn't want to have to wait a long time to eat so we just went with it. We split the difference and ate early half the time and late half the time. In the end it was fine, but I was royally annoyed with the snippy attitude of the person working the computer outside the dining room. We were seated in the same section each night with the same serving team. Service was efficient and the meal took about 90 minutes each night. We had only one night with an exceptionally long wait - we were seated nearly an hour before we received our first course. We all enjoyed the food in the MDR. Dress in the MDR - We happened to be seated right near the entrance to the MDR and so I got to see everyone coming and going. I know this is a hot topic and lots of people (myself included) want to know what "typical dress' looks like these days. For smart casual nights the majority of folks were dressed sort of relaxed business casual - think polo shirts and khaki pants or jeans. As the week wore on people seemed to dress more and more casually. Saw plenty of folks in (plain and graphic) t-shirts, jeans, and shorts including basketball type shorts. On formal night most folks were dressed in at least a dress shirt and khakis, some men had ties, some had jackets, some suits, plenty of polo shirts and no tuxes. Women wore dresses or capris/pants and a nice top. Most casual I saw on formal night was a man wearing jean shorts and a polo and yes, they let him in. Windjammer - I loved the hand washing station outside the windjammer - real sinks with soap and water! Brilliant. Breakfast - lots of choices, they had both an omelet station and a waffle station - these waffles are worth the wait and so much better than the ones on the buffet. The only cereals I saw all week were corn flakes and raisin bran. The only varieties of yogurt I saw all week were plain and strawberry banana. And speaking of bananas - not a banana to be found in Windjammer. Lunch - Here's where I feel RCI pales in comparison to other lines. All the other cruise lines we have sailed have had food venues out on the pool deck - a pizza place, a burger/hot dog place and sometimes a sandwich place. RCI does not have these - so these foods are included on the Windjammer lunch buffet. This leaves less room on the buffet for a variety of other foods. And it also means that hamburgers, fries etc are just sitting out on the buffet line and not being cooked to order. I was not impressed by the lunch buffet options. Dinner - we did not eat dinner in WindjammerWindjammer closes from 4-6 which is exactly when you would want to grab a late afternoon snack if you have late dining - again, this is where we really missed the pool deck food venues found on other lines. These places are usually open from late morning until the wee hours, it's easy to grab a snack or lunch when you are in and out of the pool without having to dry off fully and they are a great place to grab a late afternoon or late night snack. Yes Adventure has Cafe Promenade on Deck 5, but again, I wasn't impressed with this venue at all and it was a pain to have to dry off and catch an elevator and go down 4 floors when all I wanted was a slice of pizza. We spend a lot of time on the pool deck in the pools and hot tubs, so I found the lack of outdoor pool deck food options annoying. Soft Serve - this was the only outside food option on the pool deck. We ate a lot of soft serve, it was of decent quality. The hours for soft serve were 11 am - 9 pm. I felt like closing this station at 9 pm was early. I was expecting it to be open either 24 hours or at least until 11 pm. Coke Machines - There are 4 coke machines on board - 2 on deck 5 and 2 in the Windjammer. The coke machines on deck 5 had a really hard time keeping up with the demand for ice, they were frequently out of ice. The coke machines in the Windjammer were less popular and did not have this issue. I really wish they had one coke Machine on the pool deck, but outside of WIndjammer - maybe next to the soft serve machine. There were several times I went to go get a drink only to have Windjammer be closed at that time. I was also kind of surprised that there was no mug/cup washing station anywhere to wash the cup you have to use with the coke machines. There was really no way to wash your cup except with the bar of hand soap in your cabin sink. Next time I would bring some paper towels and some dish soap for washing my cup. Just seems like having a cup washing area would help cut down on the spread of illness around the ship. Pools and hot tubs - The majority of our cruises have been on Princess and Disney which have freshwater pools. Royal has saltwater pools. We found the pools to be exceptionally salty, much more so than the ocean. I liked this for the buoyancy, my children did not and found the salt to burn their eyes even with goggles. We boarded during a heat wave and swam a lot that first day. After day 1 we found the main pools to be too cold for swimming most of the rest of the cruise. Hot tubs - The hot tubs are neither hot nor true hot tubs with jets, I would call them bubble tubs. My kids spent most of their swimming time in these and we watched two movies from them as well. They weren't salty like the pools. The solarium pool was heated to almost hot tub temperature and this was fantastic, especially on our cooler weather cruise. The solarium hot tubs also had true jets vs the annoying bubbles of the main pool hot tubs. As an adult I really enjoyed the solarium area.
Checking out towels - what a pain this was. Is there really that much towel theft going on? It also made everyone more hesitant to move towels off of the always present empty "saved" chairs of which there were plenty. Splashaway Bay - My kids are too old for this section, but I saw lots of kids using it. There are two areas - one for non potty trained kids and one for potty trained kids. This is a small area, and the non potty trained area is REALLY small - there's room for maybe 3 or 4 kids to play here. The potty trained area has room for 10-15 kids to play comfortably. Be aware if you have one child that is potty trained and one that is not - your older child cannot go back and forth between the two areas. The non potty trained area is only for children in swim diapers. I heard several parents complaining about thisThe Perfect Storm water slides - I love a good water slide and was excited to try these out. Much to my pleasant surprise they were not fast slides, nor were they the kind that would hurt your back like many body slides. Still, we only used the water slides one time. We did not use the flowrider at all. We did do the rock wall once and my kids enjoyed it. They also enjoyed the arcade, ping pong and mini golf. Ice Skating - sadly never got to try this - I was expecting it to be available on the last sea day and it was not. Not sure why. I had reservations to try it one evening but that happened to be the night our dinner ran extremely late and we missed them. Movies by the pool - this is one of my favorite things to do while cruising. We were able to catch two movies by the pool - they did not offer them every night, but I wish they did. The screen is on during the day, but no sound and mostly showed clips of extreme sports videos. Disney shows tv shows and movies all day and Princess sets up the loungers with covers, blankets and provides popcorn. On Adventure the view of the screen was blocked by Splashaway bay and the loungers nearest the screen with the best view were mostly facing the wrong direction - it would be nice if the staff could at least turn the loungers around to face the screen in the evenings when they show movies. Entertainment - we saw the magician (excellent), the ice skating show (good, but not my cup of tea), and bits and pieces of a couple of other shows - in general production shows are not our thing (except on Disney). There seemed to be no comedian on our ship? This is something we usually enjoy so it was missed. We are not big drinkers or late night party people, so we didn't hang at the bars, but I did see lots of nightlife happening around the ship if that is your thing. We played trivia at least once a day and enjoyed it a lot! Usually not crowded. Staterooms - my family of 4 shared two balcony staterooms. These were not connected but we were able to get an extra set of keys from guest services. The room itself was a good size, in great shape and plenty of storage.
I liked the shower doors vs a curtain and thought the shower was a good size. The toiletries provided on Royal, frankly, are terrible. All that is provided is a dispenser of body wash/shampoo in the shower and a rather scratchy bar of soap. Bring your own!
The balcony was rather small and we did not like the enclosed aspect of the balcony vs other ships we have been on. We were also disappointed that the dividers between the balconies could not be opened, but knew this going into the cruise.
Our room steward was fine, we had towel animals most nights. Royal does not provide chocolate at turn down. Breakfast menus! There were a couple of mornings I wanted to order the complimentary room service breakfasts - I kept seeing the menus on the housekeeping carts in the hall, but could not find one in our room anywhere. I ended up just swiping them off the carts, but finally found them the last day in the top drawer of the desk.
Voom and the Royal App - We had the 4 device stream and surf package and internet service was great! This was a game changer for cruising and staying connected. That said, the whole reason we bought Voom was to be able to communicate with each other on the ship - something that is offered for free on Disney and Princess through their apps and on some Royal ships too. They really need to roll this out to their whole fleet. Otherwise we really liked the app and used it frequently.
The ship itself was in great shape - I only saw a few spots in need of maintenance and that was around the pool area. I really liked that you could walk to the very front of the ship on the Promenade deck, that's usually a crew only area on most ships. The crew was fine, always polite, not overly friendly or rude. I had two encounters with guest services - I tried to adjust our dining times in the app and kept getting the message that my charging privileges had been suspended (they were not) and to go to guest services. The person working the desk had no clue what the problem was and could not fix the issue, I was not able to use the app to modify dining at all the whole cruise. Midway through the cruise I needed to contact my airline and guest services let me use their phone for free with no issue, that was lovely. We really missed having a self service laundry room on ship - I felt like we had to pack so many more clothes. We always do laundry on vacation and try to travel in carry-ons only so this was a change for us.
Port Stops - We had a beautiful day in Bar Harbor - we took a morning tour with Oli's Trolley to Acadia National Park, had lunch at the Side Street Cafe and walked around town for a while. This is a tender port and we had an early morning tour, so we were a little stressed about getting to port in time. We were able to easily walk onto a tender and were on land in less than 15 mins. We waited about 10 mins to get a tender back in the afternoon. Highly recommend Oli's Trolley and the Side Street Cafe
Saint John, New Brunswick - we took a private tour with Char's Taxi and Bay of Fundy tours to the Bay of Fundy. Our driver was great and this was a full day event. We met them on the dock at 8 am and were returned to the ship with less than 30 minutes to spare before sail away. We made lots of stops, had plenty of time to explore the bay and had a nice lunch. I would recommend this tour to anyone. Much cheaper than the cruise line tour.
Halifax - we took a taxi to the Citadel and then walked back to the boat with some stops for beer and food along the way.
Weather - we had beautiful weather the first couple of days and then lots of fog, colder temperatures and some rain the last few days. We didn't need anything heavier than jeans and a sweatshirt.
Debarkation - we had the last slot for debarkation - 9:15 am. We were called by 8:45 am and were off the ship by 9. Debarkation was smooth and easy.
Overall, we had a lovely cruise. I was excited to try Royal for all of their unique add-ons like the water slides, rock wall, and ice skating, but it turned out we didn't spend more than an hour using those amenities all week. While I would cruise Royal again, and I would like to try an Oasis class ship at least once, Disney still remains my number one cruise line with Princess coming in second and Royal third. Happy to answer any other questions.