my party and I where honored as guests of the ship's Captain, getting ready to eat dinner with the captain. He was a wonderful host.
Embarkation: 4 3/4 Stars
I did all the pre-registration and Credit Card hoopla prior to port arrival. With my one printed form in hand, my wife and friends (we were a party of eight) arrived at the main port building at about . We dropped our luggage at the main building entrance and stood in line as you are not allowed inside the main building until (I emailed many folks asking when you can actually enter the main building and never received an answer). At the doors opened and the lines moved fast. One couple in my party were platinum members and we stayed in their line, but it was no faster than other lines. Another couple in our group went to the normal passenger line and were done almost at the same time. I was on board in less than 5 minutes.
Cabins: 2 1/2 Stars
Since I spend so little time in my room I always book the cheapest cabin - no need for more expensive, upgraded rooms for me. I received a large inside Cabin on deck 9 which was almost identical to my RCL VOS ship. Alas you are able to control on board announcements that are being piped on the ship in your cabin, not having a small frig is an RCL negative. The storage space was a bit tight and the TV showed limited programming. You are able to view your room bill on the TV but unable to see the daily dining menus. My wife and I did not like the way the shower was laid out with the shower curtain around it, even though there was a drain around the shower, water still would splash and get the rest of the bathroom floor wet. You are NOT supplied small amenities such as toothpaste, shaver, etc which I have received on other cruise lines. Overall, nothing special or out of the ordinary. Two couples in my group had balcony cabins and they were happy.
Dining/Food: 2 1/2 Stars
Aboard the AOS, there are two dining rooms, a buffet “Windjammer cafe”, a number of small places for snacks or a burger, “Johnny Rockets” and a specialty restaurant “
Public Rooms: 5 Stars
The promenade is simply magnificent; what more can I say? It is a great concept and I enjoyed walking around. The ice skating rink is lovely and so is the theatre. I found the ship to be basically non-smoking everywhere with the exception of the casino and outdoors. There were a few areas on the ship that I found to be confusing such as getting to the lovely Blue Moon Bar. The Solarium pool and deck are great adult hang outs; I found it to be much nicer than the outdoor pool area. Like all cruises, the usual save a deck chair with a towel trick lives on.
Entertainment: 2 1/2 Stars
Nightly entertainment is held at a huge theatre, with the usual Broadway-type performances, comedians, and jugglers. There was a great Beatles cover band which I thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the shows were excellent and some were below average. The Ice show was GREAT and was one of the best shows I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The ship musicians/music were poor, including the piano bar on deck 6 and the guitar player in the smoke-filled pub. There was a small 3-piece band that you could hardly hear on the promenade deck and there was nowhere to dance. The disco got started at about every night, but it was mostly hip-hop music except for the one 80’s night. On the promenade they had a 70’s themed party and dance which was great fun for about 20 minutes. Afterwards the crowd was expecting more of the same 70’s music in the disco, but a lot of people were disappointed to discover reggae was being played. Latin dance music was played nightly in the Blue Moon bar and was a very popular and crowded bar most nights. Karaoke was well done and very popular, but was only held once for adults and that was the night of the “idol type” contest. The other two nights it was family Karaoke so the kids where there as well. The Karaoke idol contest finale was great (the person who did the James Brown impersonation was fantastic and should have won).
Excursions/Ports: 3 Stars
We stopped in Aruba( I love that island), Curacao(wonderful), St Marteen( a very windy day) and St Thomas(been there often, done that, boring)- email me for details or read about the ports on my blog (www.cruisingbob.com).
Activities: 3 Stars
The usual wide variety of activities is offered from trivia to bingo. Once again, I thought that the cruise staff conducting the activities were simple wonderful, however, I did not like the way the activities were scheduled. They were either bunched together or spaced too far apart with too much dead time, especially after dinner. On three different evenings I was “BORED”. The rock climbing wall, Ice skating arena and in-line skating is great fun but they are closed during shore days.
Disembarkation: 3 Stars
I have been spoiled by other cruise lines and I found the disembarkation on this ship to be the usual mass confusion with dozens of announcements. Breakfast buffet and the dining room are open till but you must clear your cabin by 8; 00am. Prior to disembarking – a few days before - you get specific luggage tags based on your transportation arrangements and then you wait in the common areas.
I want to be up front and say that the service and the cruise staff were wonderful. From the captain of the ship (very friendly and issued hilarious announcements) to the terrific bus boys, the entire cruise staff was very accommodating. The tipping procedure is rather archaic; if you want to charge your tips to your room bill you first fill out a form saying that you will have tips billed to your cabin. Then you are given vouchers which you put into an envelope to be handed to your service staff. Why not just charge my room? If I want to give extra I have that option. I was extremely disappointed at the poor planning of the activities and due to staff shortages, shore days are dead aboard the AOS. RCL seems to be making cuts everywhere and I feel like I was nickel-and-dimed at every turn. I have always wanted to sail on a “Voyageur class” ship and I am still uncertain if I would rather sail the smaller ships, i.e. 2400 passengers max. Bottom line, I will more than likely sail RCL again if the cruise price is tempting enough, but I would rate them(RCL) on par with the competition. There is no such thing as a bad cruise! Post your comments on my blog. Happy cruising.