We took a one week vacation to the Caribbean on Seranade of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship. We visited San Juan, St Lucia, St Martaan, Antigua, St Thomas, and Barbados. It was warm, and the weather was beautiful. We did have a very nice time. However, cruising was very much praised to us by friends and family before our trip. We were told that the staff is unbelieveably helpful and friendly and would go out of their way to do anything you asked. This was not our experience. The staff was nice enough, but most were not interested in going the extra mile even to find out the answers to very simple questions. This was disappointing.
The ship itself was amazing. We saw live shows in the theatre, which were hokey but fun. We enjoyed the various dining areas and the pools. The whole ship was just beautifully decorated and a vacation destination in itself.
One thing we had heard about crusies was the number of dining options available. We found that this was far less than advertised. Yes, there were several places to eat, but often they weren't even open. The only place that was open most of the time was the buffet. The small cafes which had very good food were open only for short hours. We enjoyed the dining room for dinner, and the food there was delicious. The dress code or suggested themes for the evening were confusing and weird. The cruise had two formal nights, but they were optional. It's not really a formal evening if you are in a cocktail dress, and the people at the table next to you are in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts. I understand that some people don't want to dress up, and that's fine. Why have a formal night at all?
The only other problem we had with the dining options was the lack of soda. First of all, you have to pay for a soda package. You can have all the water, iced tea and lemonade you want but soda costs you about $6 a day. What is that about? Also you could only get sodas when the bars were open, which meant you could not get it in the morning even though you paid your $6 for as much soda as you wanted. We were also not able to get soda through room service. If we wanted it with dinner and we were ordering room service one of us had to run up to the bar. I know it seems like a small thing, but it was really annoying. If Royal Caribbean wants to seem like they are bending over backwards to please us, could they not bring us a soda with room service?
We were thinking of a cruise as all-inclusive but there were many things that required extra money. They were all optional, of course, but rather expensive.
I enjoyed visiting various destinations, but I cannot say that I really saw or learned about the places we stopped except at those places where we purchased a tour or other excursion. If you don't go on a tour, all you see of the place is the little tourist strip-mall near where the boats dock.
In general, I give cruising a thumbs up. However, Royal Caribbean did not give us that magical experience we were told to expect. Maybe Disney next time?