Okay. First off, we have cruised Royal Caribbean 7 times, so we're not new at cruising. If you want to spend a full 3 days at sea in weather that is too cold to sit at the pool, and before you see land, this cruise is for you. We chose Bayonne thinking we would save on airfare, since we usually sail out of Florida...bad choice. The type of guests leaving out of New Jersey are much different than those leaving out of Florida for some reason. Their expectations seem to be lower, and the ship staff rose to those low expectations. And the "shows" that were to keep us occupied for the total of 5 days on the ship were more like high school musicals that professional productions. The very worst part was the disembarkation...we had seen bad reviews on this ship for this reason before, and were pleased to be told during the cruise that they had developed a new method for frequent Royal Caribbean cruisers. We were to meet in a special place and get off quicker...yeah right! They actually kept us longer than most of the others. I thought there was going to be a mutiny, people were so angry. Not a good experience. Believe what you may read in the reviews. We have always held Royal Carribean up as the standard that many other cruise lines should attempt to match. Not so any more. Our last 2 cruises with them have shown us that they are lowering their standards to become equal with most other lower class lines. That's a shame. The only good thing is that we have learned our lesson and will never sail out of Bayonne again. We will give Royal Caribbean another try on another ship.
Good shopping port for a variety of items. We had been there 3 times before, so there was no novelty for us. Don't miss the small flea market of new items at the square downtown. The downtown shops are good and willing to barter...actually you should barter so you can pay reasonable prices. Overall, a nice port. If you get the chance and have a full day there, you should rent a vehicle (Budget car rental is just at the terminal exit) and drive the entire island as we have done in the past. Great bays for swimming.
We were supposed to arrive at 3pm, and were not able to get off the ship until 6pm. A passenger had a medical emergency and we had to go off course to get them off the ship. So we got to San Juan in the dark, the stores closed at 8pm, and we had to be back on the ship at 11pm. Not much time or visibility for anything.
Labadee was great, as usual. We recommend that as the other guests are going left from the tender dock, that you go right to a less crowded beach near the water playland area. It is quiet enough, and there is a band playing in the background. Be aware that there are 2 buffets on land. There is one a little further down the quiet beach. Don't miss the shops in the two buildings. However, don't pay full price. You can barter down to 25 percent or better, than the original prices they give you. Many items are quoted as $50 and you can barter down to about $15, which is reasonable. Again, great port for relaxing and some sun.
In four words, stay on the ship! We were planning to go to shops on land and a beach. Our head waiter informed us the night before that there is absolutely nothing to do there unless you do a tour. So we booked one that night. Our tour was a visit to a church that was built in England and reconstructed in Samana, DR; a whale museum; a gift shop; and a village that was described as a former fishing village that now had European-style shopping and restaurants. We got on the bus (a nice tour bus) and began. Our first stop was the church...we didn't get off the bus. Instead the guide pointed out the window, talked for 5 minutes, and off we went. The whale museum was amusing. The locals found a whale carcass on the beach, dragged it ashore, build a cinderblock building around it, partially reassembled to skeleton, hung some posters, and dubbed it a museum. The gift shop had some local crafts, and some imported. There were about 7 shops in the village, and the restaurants were bad
Pros: Size of Ship, Fitness Center
Cons: Sanitation, length of time at sea, temperature, customer service, some ports of call
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