I was 17 years old the first time I cruised, and of course it was my parents who planned the trip. I've never really asked them why they chose the way they did--they had never been on a cruise either, and the cruise we took was not one that many cruise newbies would attempt. It was a week-long, port-heavy Southern Caribbean schedule that sailed round trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico--which meant long flights there and back, with three children (ages 17, 15, and 12).
|Myself and Christy with our awesome waiter. I wish I could remember his name!|
Of course I don't mean to sound as if I'm complaining. Although the window and the room itself were small and a bit crowded, this cruise on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas was still one of the best vacations I've ever taken, mainly in terms of service and food. There were also some great ports (including many that you would not get to visit on a regular old Eastern or Western Caribbean cruise leaving from a Florida port), namely St. Thomas (for the shopping), Antigua (for the beaches/snorkeling) and St. Lucia (for the scenery).
|On the catamaran for our amazing Antigua excursion|
I previously mentioned the high quality of both the food and the service on this ship. Although ten years has gone by, I still remember the name of our waiter (Jamal) and how awesome he was. He knew all of our names, always commented on the fact that my father and I often ordered two desserts each, and was a very entertaining person in general. And the food that he served us was absolutely divine. To this day, I have not had a piece of cheesecake as light, fluffy, and delicious as the marble cheesecake we had for dessert one night, and the baked Alaska was far superior to the baked Alaska on my Princess Cruise (which was in Alaska!).
|Sailing away from St. Lucia|
(Just a note: You know something was bad when I remember specific details of it nearly ten years after I experienced it!)
|With some of the awesome girls that I met through the teen group on the cruise|
After our failed shopping trip, the party boat took us to a "private island"--which was smack in the middle of the murky lagoon that we had crossed to get to Marigot. The water was dirty and smelly. We tried to snorkel, but we couldn't see anything--and beyond that, we felt disgusting even swimming or wading in it. After about ten minutes, my sisters and I--the only ones who had been brave enough to get off the party boat and attempt to enjoy ourselves--boarded it again and merely sat around waiting for this awful excursion to end.
|We stayed up all night and watched the sun rise over the Caribbean.|
In conclusion, after years of travel and now three cruises under my belt, I still remember Royal Caribbean as having the best service and food, and when we started discussing a European cruise for 2011, I knew that it had to be with Royal Caribbean. Not that I had a bad time on my Carnival or Princess cruises--I would go with either of those lines again, as well. I think only a second cruise on Royal Caribbean will solidify my opinion that they are the best out there for that price range and cause me to be a true Royal Caribbean aficionado. So here's hoping for that chance in just over a year ::fingers crossed::