This was my 13th cruise and 2nd on Royal Caribbean. To give you a little background, besides my 2 RCCL cruises, I have been on 6 Princess, 2 Carnival, 2 Celebrity and one Premier cruise. With the exception of my very first cruise (Carnival Fantasy) I have enjoyed all my cruises - some better than others - but I have always had a good time.
The itinerary for this cruise was a bit differnt than most Canada/New England cruises. It was a repositioning cruise from Quebec City, Canada to Fort Lauderdale. Stops included scenic cruising on the Saguenay River; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; and Boston. An interesting fact to note here is that about 2/3rds of the passengers on board were French-speaking Canadians. They were thrilled with having a cruise that departed from Quebec!
Pre-cruise: Flew from Milwaukee to Quebec via Toronto on Air Canada. No complaints whatsoever, except that Pearson Internation is a mess right now with all the construction! But I made my connection with 35 minutes to spare so they must know what they are doing.
Arrived in Quebec at the smallest Internation Airport I have ever seen (7 gates total atJean Lesage International) but it was a very pretty and efficient small airport. No problems finding anything! Took a taxi to my hotel - the Loews Le Concorde on Grande Allee just outside of Old Town Quebec. Check in was efficient and there were a lot of cruisers staying there. I booked through Priceline and got the hotel for $75 for the night - those booking through the cruise lines payed much more than I did. The hotel is nice, clean and pretty much your standard 3 - 4 star hotel. I had a room on the 5th floor overlooking the old city and I could see the port of Quebec. After settling in, I strolled around the area - including the Plains of Abraham (a large park area) and down Grande Alle a bit. Lots of restaurants there. While I had supper at the hotel, the next morning I went next door to Cosmos (upon the recommendation of someone on the CC board) and had a FABULOUS breakfast! Checking out of the hotel was a piece of cake, and I took a taxi down to the docks. I was in my room about sunset when I heard a loud ship's horn......looked out my window and say the QM2 pulling away! I tried to get some pics of her, but the flash kept interfering. She was a sight to behold as she pulled away from Quebec.
Embarkation: I went online at www.rccl.com and filled in the Set Sail pass and printed it out. I had to go back and print a new one less than a week before I left because I decided to splurge and upgrade myself from my inside stateroom on deck 2 to a balcony cabin on deck 7 (more on that later.) Supposedly, if you print the Set Sail pass, you go through embarkation much more quickly than if you did not. Well, I think that works well at ports where RCCL sails out of at least weekly. Here, since it was the first time RCCL embarked anyone in Quebec, the agents were extra careful and thus slower, plus there were some computer problems that held things up too. All in all, it took about an hour for me to get on the ship from the time I dropped off the luggage til the time I could go to my cabin. Spent the time before I could get to my cabin wandering around the ship and stopped at the Pool Bar to have my first drink of the cruise................a Bahama Mama (OK - it was very warm - near 80 - and I wanted something refreshing!) Made friends with the bartender and talked with a gentleman from Quebec who was wanting to try an American Beer. I told him to try an MGD (Miller Genuine Draft) and he loved it! Ran into him later in the cruise and he told me he was ordering "MGD's" all week! Love it!
Finally just before 1:00 they announced that the staterooms were ready - went down and found my cabin. Upgraded myself to a D1 balcony - that turned out to be in the new section of the ship - very clean, everything was pristine! Mattress was firm but with what felt like a pillow top on it. Pillows were bigger than what I am used to on Princess and firmer. Bathroom was small, but shiny. Shower had the sliding doors on them instead of the shower curtain. Lots of storage in the cabin - I didn't even use half of it! TV was small, and reception was not that great on this cruise (satellite kept going out or range, or whatever....). Minifridge was stocked but not stuffed. Did not have to remove anything to put my stuff in it. Met up with Armando who took care of me for the week. He did everything I asked. No complaints there.
We had the muster drill at 4:45pm - outside on the promenade deck. Totally useless as everyone talked through the whole thing and no one could hear any of the instructions. Also had to wait for the stragglers. And they did call out room numbers! Those that did not show I hear had to go to a make up session the next day and the crew were NOT happy about it, from what I heard! Even though I have been on 13 cruises now, I wish people would just be quiet and listen to the instructions - yes, I could probably recite them in my sleep, but every ship is a bit different and you need to know where to go and what to do.
At 5:30 I met up with some of the people I had corresponded with on CC on the roll call thread. Finally go t to put faces to Sue and Ray, Cat and Dave, David and Janet, Milt and Arlene, PCO and his lovely wife. Had to leave early as I had my pedicure scheduled for 6:00pm. Pulled away from the dock about 6:30pm and watching the sailaway from the newly remodeled spa area was wonderful - my pedicure chair overlooked the aft of the ship and the sunset was pretty spectaular. Got back to my cabin in time to take a couple of pics of it. (If I forgot anyone who was at the sailaway gathering, I apologize!)
Dining Room and Food: Let me first say that food and service are subjective. We all have our different tastes and standards. I want to thank Sue for making sure that we (Cat, Dave, myself and Sue and her husband) were sitting at the same table. We were at talbe 135 on the second level of the My Fair Lady dining room. Our waiter was Nilesh from India and his assistant was Yocanda from Costa Rica. When Yocanda came to our table the first time, she immediately recognized Sue and Ray from the year before! Also, Ajay, one of the assistant maitre'd's came to our table a few times during the cruise as Sue and Ray knew him as well. Our service this cruise was excellent!!! Nilesh and Yocanda - along with the head waiter (I can't remember her name, but she was at our table almost every night helping out when she could - she was just recently promoted to head waiter and was doing well, imho.) Our bar server was Suzanna - who also remembered Sue and Ray from the cruise last year.
Food ranged from very good to excellent. I found it on par with Princess and Celebrity - and just a notch ahead of Carnival. If I ordered something rare or medium rare, it came that way. Seasoning was perfect for my taste. My only complaint was that the first two nights there were no chocolate desserts on the menu. First night we went with the flow, the second night, Sue and I both looked at Nilesh with tears in our eyes and said "Chocolate, PLEASE!!!" He came back with mini lava cakes, brownies and a little cheesecake for us.....I don't know where he got them, but from that point on, he was our hero! I do have to say the Maryland Crab Cake appetizer was EXCELLENT! And the chocolate desserts were too. Ate at Chops one night and that was just downright excellent too. The service there was attentive but not intrusive. The food was cooked to order and though it was a slow paced meal, it was just what was ordered that night.
Ports/Scenic Cruising: We cruised up the St. Lawrence til we reached the Saguenay River on Monday AM. We cruise about 2 hours up the river viewing the cliffs and fall foilage (my guess is the colors were about 25% of peak). We passed the Maasdam coming out as we went in. Got to the area where the Statue of the Virgin Mary is located. The story goes that a man who was a survivor of a shipwreck in that area raised the monument as a thank you for saving his life. As we approached the monument, the Captain turned off the engines and we glided past the statue while Ave Maria played from the loudspeakers. Truly a spine tingling moment. We then cruised back down the river and as we were leaving the Saguenay River, we passed the World of Residensea as she entered the Saguenay. We then headed up the St. Lawrence and were in and out of fog the rest of the day.
Corner Brook, New Foundland: Arrived early at the port - which was 1 1/2 hours ahead of ships time! Sue had arranged a private tour with Vision Atlantic for us in a mini van with driver/guide to Gros Morne National Park. Scott was our driver/guide and he was wonderful. We set out for the 1 1/2 hour ride to Rocky Harbor inside Gros Morne National Park, where we picked up our box lunches and headed up to Lobster Cove Head lighthouse where we had a picnic lunch. Now is probably a good time to mention the weather..........in Quebec it was near 80 and sunny. In western Newfoundland, it was sunny to partly cloudy and in the 70's - a one in a million day for October in Newfoundland! But it was windy.........the flags at Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse spelled out GALE. And when we left the port that night, we did feel the full brunt of the gale force winds. After lunch we traveled about the park - stopping at little villages and fishing towns, had coffee and pie at a small restaurant and then went to the Tablelands part of the park - that is where the earth's mantle pushed up through the crust . It is a geologists dream area. Very stark and barren with little vegetation, but very close to the sea and lushness of that area. We then headed back to Corner Brook and were on board the ship with plenty of time to spare. Thanks, Scott, for a wonderful day!
Next day was a day at sea and after a pretty bumpy ride the night before we were in and out of fog all day and night long.
Next and final stop before debarkation was Boston. Once again we were blessed with sunny and warm weather......upper 70's and nary a cloud in the sky. This time I took a ship's excursion that included a scenic harbor cruise and a bus tour of historic Boston. Well, with 4 ships in port, traffic was HORRIBLE! We were so behind on our excursion, that we could not stop at Faneuil Hall or Quincy Market to do any shopping - had to go straight back to the ship. Should mention that we were in port with the Golden Princess, Crystal Serenit and the QM2. We were the last to dock and we slipped in between the Golden and the QM2. Got some great shots of those ships leaving port that evening before we did.
Next two days were sea days and the weather was lousy. Except for an hour or two on both days it was cloudy and VERY windy. We ended up going through the remnants of TS Tammy......and we all know how rough the seas can be off Cape Hatteras. I was told by an officer we had 12- 20 foot seas and force 7 winds at times. This lasted almost two full days - finally calming down later afternoon on Saturday - of course that was packing day as the cruise ended on Sunday.
Debarkation: After 2 cruises on RCCL, I still don't get why they don't announce the debarkation colors IN THE DINING ROOM!!!!!! I know that since we went through Immigration upon arrival in Boston, we would not have to go through it in FLL..........but when you go to the dining room or stay in your cabin, you went to breakfast and got out about 8:30 - when I got out of the dining room there was a long line waiting to get off the ship. I asked people if "red" had been called yet and nobody knew. So, I waited and waited.....finally decided to ask someone else. This nice gentleman spoke some english and and I spoke very little french, but we were able to determine that "red" had been called, so I just got up and got in line and walked off the ship. There were only about 10 suitcases left in the red area - grabbed mine and a porter and then went through customs and got a taxi.........I was at the airport 10 minutes later and 10 minutes after that I was at the gate for a 90 minute wait for my flight. Not bad at all, but I wish RCCL would make the debarkation announcements in ALL areas of the ship!
Miscellaneous: I really enjoyed this cruise - the Enchantment is a wonderful ship and the stretching and refurbishment really make her look sparkling new. I enjoyed it enough that I booked another RCCL cruise for the Grandeur for Bermuda from Baltimore in the fall of 2006 - knowing full well that I am going to change that to a 2007 cruise.
I just wanted to mention that wherever I went on the ship, everyone, from Captain Per on down had a smile and a can-do attitude! They made everyone feel welcome. This was in marked contrast to my last cruise on the Diamond Princess where no one seemed happy and simple requests were met with outright "No's". I do think that the fact it was the last Mexican Riveria cruise of the season and crew burnout was a factor, but it really impacted that cruise and I felt a little underwhelmed and unsatisfied. This cruise on the Enchantment cured me of that feeling!
The embarkment was the smoothest ever and the end was just as smooth. The new express checkout was wonderful. The service was great by all personel on the ship.
Food was on the upper side of the scale. The shows were really enjoyable.
First Time Cruiser Review 7 day cruise EOS, my husband, my son and I, out of Philadelphia, PA Boarding: Boarding went very smooth to my surprise we were on the ship by 12:00pm ET. I had passports ready and in no time were on the ship. We had some lunch from the huge buffet and relaxed by the pool until our room was ready.
Interier State Room: The room was small, but I was prepared for that. There are two beds which our stateroom attendant combined to make a queen size. There are 2 bunk beds that pull out from the ceiling, my 8 year old son loved that. Stateroom service was excellent, our attendant was in our room minimal 3 times a day straightening up and leaving cute animal figures made out of towels. My room did smell like rotten eggs, but I brought a can of Baby Powder Lysol...it worked wonders.
Onboard Activities: There are activities throughout the day. We saw a few shows and played a few games(Quest and Love & Marriage were hysterical) in the evening. Casinos were fun. Boleros was my favorite lounge, I enjoy thelatin dancing. The Viking Lounge however was pretty empty..
Kids Activities: My son wasn't interested in the Adventure Ocean Camp during the day, which was fine, we wanted to spend our days as a family. However there is an excellent babysitting service from 10 - 1. My son loooved it(kind of small though), they do all kinds of fun things to keep them busy. There is a pool deck that my son loved, along with hot tubs. There are plenty of lounge chairs on Decks 9 and 10. There are trampolines and rock climbing.
Martha's Vineyard - boring Portland, Maine - Excellent Bar Harbor - Excellent Halifax - my favorite
Food on the ship: Dining Room food was very good. Service was excellent. The lobster was cooked to perfection. Buffet..was Ok but there was plenty of it. Burgers in the Solarium, very good!
Drinks: Watch that sea pass...it can add up. But overall the prices were the same as a bar. Look for the specials they have $3.75 daily drink specials. Very tasty! Purchasing a Soda Card is well worth it.
Overall the service was excellent they deserve every penny of their tip. The New England trip was excellent. The only thing that I hoped for was more for the kids: basketball, more arcade games, bigger kids section etc.
I am looking forward to my next cruise! PS..I was very leary about getting sea sick. I purchased sea bands in preparation...they worked!!
Just returned from RCI's 7 day Enchantment of the Sea's New England/Canada trip. Group included myself, husband, 3 teenage daughters, and in-laws.
Embarcation - We drove to the Phila pier from Westchester County in NY - 3 hour drive - the Phila pier was a one-time Navy base - very interesting, I believe they give tours of the base now. WE drove up to park, paid $70 week long term parking, dropped our bags off and took a short shuttle ride to the ship. Since we booked this trip 3 weeks ago, we had pier pick-up of our tickets. Everything went smoothly, we handed in our paper work, and within 30 minutes, we were in the Windjammer eating lunch. Excellent embarcation process.
Food - Much has been written about the quality of RCI's food taking a nosedive. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. We ate lunch and breakfast in the Windjammer most days, and everything was delicious. With the stretching of the ship, RCI redid the Windjammer, setting up separate food stations, improving the flow of traffic. There was always enough seating, and ample selections of food. No complaints at all.WE ate all but two dinners in the My Fair Lady Dining Room, Second seating. Again, the food was very good. The wait staff was outstanding. Our waiter, Gracien from Romania and his assistant were fabulous. Snacks in the Solarium were very tasty. The one negative comment concerning food would be that I did not like the fact that if we wanted ice cream during the day, the only place you could get it was at Lattitudes, the Ben & Jerry, pay as you go ice cream stand. I felt the nominal charge was petty.
Stateroom - since we booked 3 weeks ago, the only cabins available were inside, third floor. We booked 3 inside cabins, hoping for an upgrade, but as this ship was full, we were unable to get one. I have to say, that the rooms were adequate in size, with plenty of storage space. The shower was small, with a shower curtain instead of a circular shower door. This caused water to run out of the shower into the rest of the bathroom. No biggie. Cabin attendants were very good. I thought I would miss not having a balcony cabin, but have to say it wasn't that big of a deal.
Entertainment - CD Matt Baker (Austin Powers Lookalike) is absolutely hilarious. He is funny, and very entertaining. BEsides hosting various events throughout the ship during the week, he can also been seen walking about interacting with the guests. You definitely get the feeling this guy loves his job. He is the best CD I've had on any RCI ship. The RCI stage shows were excellent. The first night they had a comedian, Don Gavin, I believe, he was very funny. Headliner entertainment included The Platters - Excellent, and Bobby Arvon (the guy who sings the opening song from the old Happy Days show. Boy, can this guy sing. He did a great show, including some Bobby Darin tunes. Later in the week, he sang with the RCI band, doing Big Band tunes. Other acts included a magician who was okay, and a mediocre juggler/comedian who did too much off color humor for a family show. His act was inappropriate at times for an audience which included children. My in-laws found him offensive.
The ships look - What can I say - everything sparkled - the stretching added more space to the pool deck with another pool and an interactive splash pool for kids. There was really not a problem getting seats by the pool or Solarium. My kids liked the Rock Wall, and Bungie Trampoline. The ship was immaculate, with staff constantly cleaning. Having been on 3 Voyager class ships, I thought I might be disappointed with a smaller ship, but I wasn't.
Ports of call - First of all, we had great weather. Warmer than I expected, we did not need jackets or sweatshirts.
Martha's Vineyard - my kids rented bicycles, and My husband rented a moped. They explored the Island, while I relaxed, enjoying one of the beaches. Did some shopping. The area is a beautiful part of Mass. The tender ride from the ship is a long one. We needed to get tender tickets for this port.
Portland - We've been here before, so we walked to the Victoria House, a beautifully restored home, owned by the Morris's of hotel wealth. After the tour, we walked the town and did more shopping.
Bar Harbor - Bought tickets ahead of time for Oli's Trolly. This is a 2 1/2 tour of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. We booked this tour on our own. They are worth the price of $25pp. (Which is set by the National Park Service).
Halifax - Booked ships tour of Halifax. Overpriced, $39pp. Probably could have done same thing from one of the vendors off ship. This was a 1 1/2 bus tour. Highlight was stop at cemetary where some of Titanic disaster victims were buried. After that we walked to Maratime Museum and saw display they had on Titanic. Riverfront was very nice, reminded me of South St. Seaport in NYC. Although the ship never mentions is, there is a casino within walking distance of the pier. Halifax was a port with plenty to do. We've never been before, and could have spent another day there exploring.
Overall, this was a teriffic trip. The ship was beautiful, and we had no major complaints with any component of the trip. We were plesantly surprised with the itinerary, and would recommend it highly.
Just returned from Enchantment of the Seas cruise to New England and Canada. With its recent "streching", I thought the ship was in excellent condition. All public areas were clean and well maintained. Our cabin, a junior suite on the eighth deck, was comfortable.
Positives: The ship itself; the ports of call (Martha's Vineyard, Portland, Bar Harbor and Halifax; the weather (sunshine every day!); service (cabin attendant was great, waiter and assitant were very good);and the entertainment and shows.
Negatives: The food...fair to poor at best except for "Chops", the specialty restaurant; children and young adults run amuck and the cruise personnel never enforce their own rules; wireless internet did not work; some "guest relations" people were surly and obnoxious; Royal Caribbean has changed many pricing policies: e.g you can no longer buy booze at the shops, pay a premium and bring it to your room, premium coffee is no longer free as it was on Navigator 18 months ago, in general it seems you are nickled and dimed to death.
In spite of the negatives, we did enjoy the ship and the ports of call, but doubt very much we will use RoyalCaribbean again.
Let me start by saying this was my FIRST ever cruise. So, my only expectations were to relax and enjoy myself. Included in this trip was my family of 4 (2 adults/2 children).
Embarking: I have read some horror stories about getting on ships, but our experience went smoothly, only taking about 30 minutes.
Stateroom: Our room was ready as soon as we boarded, so we were able to drop off our carry on luggage and get a peek at our accomodations. We were on deck 7, in a superior ocean-view balcony room (7020). I admit, I was a bit surprised at how "tight" the quarters were. There was very little floor room, as the beds took up the majority of the space. There was, however, a fair amount of storage (drawers, closet space, etc). The shower was teeny-tiny! I had to twist myself into a pretzel just to shave my legs! Over all, the bathroom was just extremely small. The balcony was a fair size, and provided a nice view. Unfortunately, I was roomed next to a smoker whose cancer sticks caused me to choke, and I was only able toenjoy the fresh air when it was available. There was virtually no noise to speak of in our room. Sleeping was no problem at all. More than anything, we loved coming back to our room in the evening to find our beds turned down, and our "towel animal" posing for a picture. Our stateroom attendant was excellent and always kept our room neat and clean.
Adventure Ocean: My boys are 9 and 11, and were in the same age group together. For the most part, the staff was wonderful. My older son didn't get as much enjoyment out of the activities as my younger son did. While my 9 year old wanted to stay for the late night session (10pm to 1am) every night, my 11 year old was ready to leave at 10pm. The rooms are rather small, and a bit outdated. For example, there is an arcade the size of a closet, with only about 6 games.
The food: We only ate at "My Fair Lady" once. I'm not big on the "dressing up" thing, and prefer a buffet style dinner. The one time we did eat there though, the food was very good, as was the service. We spent most of our time in the "Windjammer". The waitstaff here was superb! Most of the food was delicious. We especially enjoyed the desserts, which were amazing. The only complaint I have is that the "Windjammer" was often overflowing with people. It is quite large, but still not large enough. Since the restaurants were closed by 9pm - 9:30pm, my kids also ate at the "Solarium", which is open past midnight. They thought the food was good. I can't comment, as I didn't try it.
Entertainment: We didn't visit the bars, dance clubs, or the casino, so we can't comment on them. We did enjoy the "sail-away" party by the pool upon leaving the port, the many bingo games, and the singers in the centrum.
Other things to do: We did use some games in the library, and also visited the RC online to use the computers. Also, I took a step class in the "ship shape" fitness center, and used some of the equipment. It is small, but can certainly give you a good workout just the same. The shops are nice to look at, but tend to be way overpriced. They push cigarettes and alcohol way too much!
Ports of call: We only had one, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was fun, while very tiring at the same time. After an afternoon filled with walking and bus tours, we were plum tuckered out by days' end.
Overall: The weather was cold and windy, not at all like I had hoped for. But, you can't do anything about it. Because of this, we were unable to enjoy swimming, or try out the newly added "bungee trampoline". Due to high winds, it was closed most of the cruise, as was the "rock-climbing wall". So, while there were many things we didn't get to experience, we got a good feel for what cruising is all about.
Next time: We would like to try one of the bigger ships that offers more sports (basketball, skating, miniature golf, etc). Maybe, I'll be writing another review soon!
Overall Impression: The Enchantment is a good boat and a great value for the money. We thought the food was outstanding - not a bad meal on the trip. The service was also excellent and the staff extremely friendly. We loved having a Junior Suite with balcony on the back of the boat, a first. We did not make use of the entertainment, so I can't comment. There was a mishap on the boat - one of the engines fried, and they therefore had to do most of the trip on one engine, and thus cancelled one of our stops (Grand Cayman) in order to make sure we got back to Fort Lauderdale on time, which pissed off a lot of people who had excursions on Grand Cayman. Also, we had 2 days of cloudy weather which of course is not good on a cruise ship! but that is hardly the fault of the ship!
1. Room - we were in 7654 - a junior suite on the back of the ship. Marvelous. Roomy, big balcony. Nice to have the privacy to sit in the sun (when we had it)without having to sit by an overcrowded pool. Clean room, but the fixtures were a little dated. The Phone was ancient as was the TV. The refrigerator BARELY kept things cold. However, the bed was comfy and having a shower and bath was nice (compared to just a shower). The steward was attentive and pleasant. I do have ONE big complaint - the noise! We should have been on the 8th deck rooms on the back. Being in the back on 7 you are directly over the Carousel lounge - which had a band most nights. I could hear the band - especially the bass guitar - right into my room, loud enough that I knew the songs they were playing. I had to wear ear plugs until they quit around 11:30 pm - midnight. RCI could do more to soundproof the rooms above the Carousel.
2. Food - excellent! Best overall food we've had on a cruise, including better than Celebrity. The meals in the main dining room - My Fair Lady - were well-prepared, varied and on-time. our wait staff was outstanding and helped us out with our occasionally cranky children. The steaks were in particular excellent. We also ate our lunches in the Windjammer Lounge - yes, it's buffet - but the food again varied every day and was delicious. I have no bad comments on the food on this ship.
3. Entertainment - we did not go to the shows. no comment.
4. Ports - as I said above, they canceled one of our ports because they lost an engine. The one port we went to - Ochos Rios, Jamaica - was rather disgusting. Dirty. Felt like I was dropped into downtown Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. People trying to hustle you every 20 feet, trying to entice our kids to by things. I even got propositioned by a prostitute within 300 yards of the ship. I did not feel safe and did not stay off the boat long. Some people who went on excursions said they were happy with them, but we didn't. I had never been in Jamaica, but this is by far the nastiest, dirtiest port of call I've been to yet in 5 cruises.
5. Boat Activities - Lots and lots of them, but we didn't make use of many of them. No comment.
6. Kids program - it was very well structured, and comprehensive. We could hardly get our kids out of the program, they loved it that much.
7. Fitness facility - A negative here. WAY too small, too few machines, a couple of which were broken. Few other real athletic facilities - they had a rock climbing wall, but no baskeball court, etc. It's a smaller ship and was limited.
8. The traveling public - far too many teens and 20-somethings on the boat. Noisy bunch. Also, what is it with obese women wearing bikinis? It seems to be epidemic. Saw things I don't want to see again.
9. The crew - good, helpful, pleasant.
Returned from a 5 night cruise on Enchantment of the Seas [2/19-2/24] with stops in Georgetown, Grand Caymand and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This is the first cruise for my family and I. I had been on a cruise with my parents about 20 yrs ago so I have limited experience cruising but other than that we travel pretty often.
Boarding was very quick and easy. The Royal Caribbean rep's are waiting down at baggage claim in Ft. Lauderdale to check you in if you've gotten the airport-port transfer through RCI [royal caribbean international]. We hadn't gotten the transfer and I chose to use a taxi instead. The taxi fare for the three of us was 7 or 8 bucks total and we didn't have to wait for the bus to fill up with the other passengers, we just got in our cab and left. Something weird though, the RCI people at the airport kept telling us not to bother going to the port so soon because we couldn't get on the ship and we'd have to just sit and wait. So they wanted us to sit and wait in theairport instead??? Anyway after we got our bags and the cab we were at the port by 11am. Went through port security very quickly as I had filled out all our boarding paperwork online at www.royalcaribbean.com ahead of time and we were on the ship by 11:30am.
First thing RCI does is hit you with "would you like a welcome drink for 5.95? comes with a free [plastic] glass!" We explored the ship and hit the Windjammer buffet which was open already for all the passengers. Food was most excellent. Sandwiches, wraps, and hot items. You aren't allowed into your rooms until 1pm so we took it easy, hung out on deck with most of the other people and waited until 1 to see our room. Our bags didn't get to our room until after the life boat drill at 4:30, no problem though because some people waited longer than that. Our dinner waiter told us they have to handle 4000 pieces of luggage! We brought a small bottle of hooch and mixer with us [official ships policy on this is 'no' but they look the other way] and had cocktails on our cabin deck [we had a junior suite deck 8, cabin 8060] and watched the boarding process and the other ships in port. We also visited the spa and made appointments for a seaweed wrap for my wife and a hot stone massage for me. If your interested in them book early because all the good dates times fill up quickly. You could always cancel your appt. with 24 hr notice. Lifeboard drill is no big deal to talk about. All the ships in port do it at the same time at 4:30 then it almost seemed like a race as all 4 or 5 ships in port hit the gas and left port at the same time. Our cabin attended introduced herself to us during that time. She filled our ice bucket twice a day, made up the room in the morning [actually late morning for us :) ] and turned down the bed at night. After the first day she got used to our schedule, when we got up in the morning, when were in the room to get ready for dinner and adjusted her coming and going accordingly. We tipped her well at the end of the cruise.
Also on the first day we visited the restaurant where they were confirming dining assignments. Our table had been preassinged and they showed us where it was, if the location was ok. AFTERTHOUGHT - I would've asked who we were sitting with kids/no kids .. because I'll get to that later.
Dinner was a very nice experience. Food was great. Our 14 yr old always found something she liked. She's probably going to prefer cheeseburgers and pizza by the pool grill but we encouraged her to try 1 new thing each night that she'd never had before and she found quite a few new dishes that she enjoyed (duck, escargot). Our waiter, assitant waiter and head waiter were wonderful. I can't praise their service highly enough. I hope everybody that reads this tips for good service! Don't be a cheapskate!
SUGGESTION: If you don't like your table mates, ditch them! Seriously, if you end up with people who are boring, loud kids or what I think is the worst, Complainers talk to the Head Waiter [discreetly] and ask for a reassignment. Having fun, outgoing interesting people at your table can really enhance the whole cruise experience because you've got instant friends onboard and after the cruise too!
The day at sea wasn't bad, just darn windy all day. The only place where the wind wasn't too bad was by the pool which was packed. Even though there are signs everywhere saying "don't reserve deck chairs" I think alot of people must've gotten up at 7am and put out their towels on the chairs by the pool. The nightly entertainment was OK, our daughter liked it. Its not Vegas but the dancers/singers had a lot of heart. The casino was fun. My wife loves slots and she said they were very tight, not alot of payouts. I like the tables and there were plenty of low limit tables each night. 1 dollar roulette, 5 dollar blackjack.
Jamaica - we wanted to shop for 2 items, coffee and rum. Buy the coffee at that Taj Mahal shopping plaza thats right by the port, we got a pound of coffee for $14 U.S. dollars ($50 a pound in U.S.!) The booze shop right by the cruise ship, its right next to where you go through security to get back on the ship has the cheapest liquor prices, 6 bucks for a bottle of Appleton dark rum. Speaking of booze, I'm used to all inclusive resorts where drinks are included and on a cruiseship you've gotta keep your Sea Pass practically glued to your forehead because your always pulling it out to pay for a drink, get on the ship, get off the ship at port (sometimes two or three times in a row) and buy stuff in the ship gift shops. We'd been to jamaica before and I'll tell you duns river falls is a both boring and a rip off. I did some searching of my own on the .net and found an all inclusive resort that has day passes that was Cheaper than the similar version offerred by RCI's excursion people. We took a cab to Beaches Boscobel in Ocho Rios and got day passes there. Beautiful resort.
Cayman Islands - we did the wreck and reef snorkling excursion , BYO towel!. Had an excellent time, Stingray city is quite a cab ride away and keep in mind you've only got a limited # of hours on this island. After the snorkling was done at about noon we took a cab to 7 mile beach which was about 2.5 miles away from the port (the cabs, and basically everything is very very expensive in the caymans, they charged 4 bucks per person for a 2.5 mile cab ride in a mini bus - each way!) 7 mile beach is BEAUTIFUL. Its a huge slightly horseshoe shaped beach with perfect white sand and aqua colored water. Its a public beach but there are beach grilles, bars and chair/umbrella rental stands every quarter mile or so.
Another day and sea and the next morning your back in florida. The last night on the ship is sort of a washout because you've gotta have your bags packed and outside your cabin door by 11 or 12 midnight. Getting off the ship didn't take long, they let you off according to how soon you need to get to the airport.
Here in NY the kids had a week off from school and there were a ton of kids on the ship 500 our of 2000 passengers, but they never bothered us. We chose the 2nd seating for dinner and there were practically no kids at that time. My SeaPass bill (onboard account) was pretty high. Drinks on the ship weren't cheap, plus they tack 15% gratuity onto everything. Food was free though, plenty of it and good quality. We had breakfast buffet once, breakfast in bed once, and breakfast in the dining room once (you order off a menu there). Lunch was a burger, pizza, fries by the pool. I noticed some people didn't go to dinner in the dining room every night. Your option but how often do you get the chance to dress up and try all those different kinds of foods.. lobster, steak , filet mignon, home made pasta and deserts?
Sorry if this is long. If you have any questions or comments feel free to hollar, Kevin from Rochester NY firstname.lastname@example.org