This was not my first cruise, but it was my first on Royal Caribbean. Some RC regulars grumbled that the company has cut back. There were no bedtime chocolates on pillows, and there's a $3.95 charge for room service between midnight and 5 a.m. (This was done to curtail waste, one of the food staff members said. "People were ordering stuff they didn't eat.") In the bars, there were no complimentary hors d'oeuvres, only peanuts -- if you were lucky.
Other passengers said they had to scrounge for a shower cap, and still others thought the service was slow.
>>> The food in the main restaurant was uneven, and service could be maddeningly slow. I had chosen My Time Dining -- a choice of times daily between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. -- instead of traditional assigned seating.
>>> I wasn't the only passenger unhappy about not being able to get into the upscale restaurants.
>>> The Internet cafe was a tiny, windowless space. (There is Wi-Fi onboard for those with laptops.)
>>> The Vitality at Sea Spa seemed pricey (facials, $119-$325; massages, $119-$195), not that spectacular and given to product-pushing. It didn't help that my facialist suggested I could use a "resurfacing" ($125).
>>> The two-level Solarium, by day an adults-only retreat with swimming pool and four whirlpools cantilevered 136 feet above the ocean. By night, a smart bistro.
>>> Dazzles, a two-deck dance lounge with a sophisticated '50s vibe. Musicians played in front of a wall of glass overlooking the Boardwalk.
>>> The wide choice of live music in the bars and lounges -- pop, jazz, standards, Latin. (Note that smoking is allowed in some.)
>>> The artwork, particularly "A Flock of Seagulls," the 88 metal birds that fly over the forward elevator lobby.
>>> The tempura at Izumi, an intimate Asian spot (a la carte), and the Solarium Bistro ($20 surcharge), where entrees are 500 calories or fewer. I ordered pumpkin soup and grilled lamb, and low-cal never tasted so good.
-- Beverly Beyette
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