Year Started: 1969
Ships in Fleet: 22
Summary: The largest and most technically impressive cruise ships in the world. Great for kids, families and adventurous adults. A large fleet, but Oasis and Brilliance are often cited as favorites
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Teens.
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Good for: First-time Cruisers. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Families. Group. Overall Service.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Suez Canal, Bahamas, Dubai
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Brazil, Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles
Good for: Seniors. Families. Singles.
Regions:Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Scan Russia, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Our (me and hubby) second cruise on the Mariner and first time since it moved to LA. We flew in same day to LAX and took a taxi to the port. It was only about a fifteen minute ride at sixty dollars one way.
We arrived at the port around 10:30, went through security and got our sea pass cards in less than fifteen minutes. However the ship had not been cleared yet so we sat in the Diamond member chairs and had to wait till a little after 11:30 before boarding. We have had to wait before so no big deal, however before at other ports there was usually cookies, water or lemonaid available but nothing this time. Not even for suite or diamond members.
After boarding there was the usual orienting ourselves with the ship and lunch at the windjammer. Rooms opened at 1:00 and our luggage was delivered a short time later.
In general the cruise proceeded without anything unusual happenings. We were onboard with a bunch of Santas on a group cruise that made for an unusual and very enjoyable trip with all of the jolly Santas.
We neverate at the main dining, more as a preference than anything to do with the food. We ate twice at Portofinos, it was such excellent food and service we had to go a second time. The rest of our meals were in the Windjammer, which we prefer to the dining room, because of the quietness and that we like salads and fruit (trying to eat as healthy as we do at home).
It rained on our day at Cabo which dampened alot of activities we had planned but after a short trip on shore we spent the afternoon in the Solarium in the jacuzzi's.
We had great weather the rest of the time and was pleseantly surprised at how nice the ports were. We liked them and the Mariner so much that we have already booked this cruise again for next year.
This was whale season and we were able to see at least a dozen whales from the ship during the week, as well as passing through two huge schools of dolphins (one on the first day at sea and the other on the last sea day). If going on this cruise during whale season I would reccommend bringing binoculars, we forgot ours and really wish we would have had them.
Overall this was an incredible cruise and the differences between cruising the west coast verses the East were quite a nice change. The water isn't near the clear blue/turquise water you get in the Caribbean, but you don't get the oppurtunity to see whales and dolphins there either. We live in Utah so it was a nice short flight and we were able to leave the same morning which saved the pre-cruise night in a hotel that we usually have to add to our costs of leaving from the East. We have always loved the Mariner since first cruising on her in 2007. But also can't wait to bask in the Caribbean sun on the Oasis. The Mariner for us was one of our least expensive cruises ( the price dropped a total of $1200 total since booking in Nov. 2008)based on just the cruise fare alone (we were in a Jr suite). For those who usually stick to the Caribbean this is a very nice cruise and the ports were more stunning than I expected and very comparable to the islands in the Caribbean.
Service on the ship was very good as expected with RCCL, there were a couple of employees saying that doing the same cruise itinerary week after week was monotonous and they wanted to change ships. Service in Portofino's was better than our last few cruises as was the food.
Thanks to all the Santas onboard for there fun loving attitude and for reminding us how fun life is.
My approach is going to be a hybrid of review and suggestions based upon experience.
To begin with cruises start on day "one" which obviously is your first day. But if you arrive at the ship at 6:00 PM you don't have a very long "day one", so the goal would be to arrive as soon as RCCL will allow you to board the ship, which is around 12:00 noon on day one. Your objective should be to maximize day one.
Its always a good idea to arrive in the departure port the day before and stay overnight at a local hotel. San Juan has dozens of choices ranging by price. If you check Expedia.com they provide a list of hotels and give you the ability to sort the list by price or by traveler opinion. The latter is the way to go and you'll notice that Hampton Inn is consistently listed in the top 5, and its worth it. First, it costs far less than the Caribe Hilton with the added bonus of a morning breakfast that includes a couple of hot items. Mostly the choices are toast,bagels, English muffins, fruits, cereal, juices, coffees, etc. This saves you on breakfast for 2 in the morning which won't be cheap in San Juan unless you find a McDonalds.
The choice of hotel really comes down to life style: some want more from a hotel and some accept less for lower price. Just remember that choosing a hotel is like paying taxes in the United States: you get what you pay for.
From the airport you can take a cab at a defined rate, just ask the driver what it will cost. From your hotel the next morning you can again hail a cab and pay a defined price to the pier. Ask people at the front desk for info on cabs. NOTE: they charge an additional $1.00 per bag that goes in the trunk.
Trust me on this one and learn from someone who has been burned in the past. Do not, and I mean DO NOT, and I'm saying you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT take the RCCL transfers and here's why:
Problem 1) They pay a local cartage company to transfer your bags FROM the airport TO the pier. Problem 1: Bags are often pilfered due to the locks being cut off. This violates your privacy and trust in them. RCCL does nothing thing to stop this so its YOUR problem, not theirs.
Problem 2: Bags arrive at the pier whenever the cartage company truck arrives. We once arrived at the pier just before 6:00 PM and our bags didn't arrive until nearly midnight. Until they arrived we presumed them to be lost and sought help from the cruise line (Celebrity) who gave us a small pouch with a tooth brush, past, and comb: big deal. The bags arrived with locks cut off and contents rifled. This latest trip we got lucky and our bag arrived by 3:00 PM. That is a fluke.
RCCL hires local buses to transport you to the pier. The problem is they decide to fill the bus and that means waiting around for passengers to arrive, which can take an hour or more and that delays your transfer to the pier and board time. Several years ago on a Celebrity cruise we got off the airplane at 4:00 and didn't make it to the pier until nearly 6:00 PM. After checking in we were late for our 6:00 dinner seating and denied access to the main dining room - because the bus had to fill every seat before departing the airport.
DO NOT USE RCCL TRANSFERS.
ONLINE CHECKIN; We used Royal Caribbean's online check-in and this is a must because it saves a great deal of time at the pier. Either you fill out personal information (name, address, phone, various data) online yourself or they do it at the pier, which will take at least half an hour. I suggest you do that yourself from home over the Internet. When you arrive at the pier all they need from you at that point is your signed "Set Sail" agreement where you basically agree to pay your ship account, and a swipe of your credit card.
EMBARKATION: In general the earlier you arrive at the pier the better off you are going to be. If you arrive in morning you will likely have to wait as passengers are still disembarking and RCCL will delay entry. But the line is short that early in the day.
Unfortunately, you are going to have to take some initiative and ask about the lines into the terminal. There were 2 lines: the line to the right was to drop off bags to be handled by RCCL. While they are better than the cartage company they hire to transport your bags, nonetheless, your bags are still out of your control. Those bags then arrive at any time during the day so don't count on getting them any time soon. My suggestion is to bring with you any bags you carried on the plane. Note that large bags cannot go through their xray machines and must be handled by RCCL. You hand carry (roll) all other bags to insure their safety and timely arrival at the ship. This insures you'll at least have something.
THE SHIP: Adventure of the Seas is huge. OK, its not in the Oasis class (new ship) but its still huge with lots of features. It's been very tastefully decorated, far more so than Carnival ships, which tend to be gaudy & overbearing. You can find images on the RCCL website. The Royal Promenade is a great place to hang out having shops, bars, and a cafe with pizza & deserts (included in the price).
CABIN CHOICE: Most likely you already know the differences between inside cabin, outside with window, outside with balcony, etc. But what you may not know is you are vastly better off with a room towards either bow or stern. Room aft (mid ship) tend to be burdened by lots of traffic. People pass by those rooms at night, drunk, and conduct themselves like noisy recalcitrant children. But when they get near THEIR cabin they quite down and behave. Midship, having lots of traffic by fact of location, offers little protection from jerks. We chose a room aft and not only was there little traffic but people were well behaved and we had no problems.
CHEAP ROOMS: In case you are not aware of this cruise lines offer rooms VERY cheap at the last minute to keep cabins full. This is desirable for them because that way the room attendants and dining staff stand do lose less money due to high occupancy. I've heard that Carnival lets rooms go for as low as $200.00 last minute. But keep in mind this is usually only possible for locals, which in the case of Miami led to noisy, unruly, barbarians. In the case of San Juan I found that to be much less of a problem. So you ALWAYS want to carefully consider the departure port for this reason.
DINING: Food is very good and most people typically eat lunch and breakfast at Windjammers on deck 11. Some choose the dining room instead. Breakfast at Windjammers tends to have some of the same items every day, but with so many choices it shouldn't matter because you can't eat everything. Lunch tends to be similar also but they do vary some of the meats, fish, and sides. The deserts change daily and are very good.
The main dining room, which is 3 floors high with each having their own name, is excellent. For us service was very good and the food was great. Waiters work for tips so they highly motivated to please you.
Portofinos has great food and offered the best tenderloin I've ever had. Great deserts! Worth the $20.00 per person. Make your reservation(s) as soon as you board the ship. It can be a great escape from noisy diners in a really dignified environment.
DINING ROOM DRESS: There are 2 formal nights in which the majority of people actually dress formally. If you are the kind of person who refuses to dress up then I suggest having dinner at Windjammers Cafe on deck 11. Also, if you cannot get to dinner on time you should have dinner at Windjammers Cafe. It's informal and buffet style. When people refuse to dress properly in the dining room they disrespect their fellow passengers. When they refuse to arrive on time they disrespect the dining room staff and make life very difficult for them.
BEDS: Other reviewers talk about how bad the beds are and if they are talking about the edge of the bed they are right. But what people forget is the cardinal rule of beds - which is you DO NOT sit on the edge of the bed. In addition you don't sleep on the edge. The beds are large and though the mattress is thin it's not bad in the middle. My wife and I had plenty of room.ALCOHOL:
RCCL is pretty chintzy about this and want to make sure you ONLY buy THEIR liquor at their inflated prices.
In ports of call, for security purposes, they x-ray your bags so you are not going to sneak on liquor. But hopefully RCCL won't read this and I can pass this on to you: at San Juan pier we purchased liquor at the pier shop (AFTER we went through port security - the guys that x-ray bags) and then brought the liquor on the ship. After you go through port security no one gets intrusive with your property. At the ship's door someone was there to greet us but didn't pursue our bag (with liquor inside) as they did on past cruises. So we did manage to sneak something on board. Even if it gets confiscated they return you liquor to you on the last night. Trust me - buy champagne!
PORTS OF CALL & EXCURSIONS:
Renting a car VERSUS excursions:
It certainly is cheaper to rent a car than go on an island excursion, and this is true for any island. However, you have to consider that first you are driving in the 3rd world and if you are American you take for granted the roads you drive on. If you drive a highway in America there's likely local police who will offer assistance if you pull over with a problem.
When driving a car in the Caribbean you have to keep in mind you are NOT in America, but rather, the 3rd world and they don't have a tax base to support the roads and infrastructure. For example we rented a car on Barbados and found it impossible to navigate because there are no road signs. None. I'm talking about standard signs like speed limit, warning signs, and even street signs. You have no idea what road you are on and no idea where to turn. And it gets worse because the roads are VERY narrow, unmaintained, and covered with potholes everywhere. Cars driven by locals are often full of dents so that tells you how little they care and how bad the roads are.
On the other hand if you can manage the roads the advantage of a car rental is you can come and go as you please. And it will cost less. On St. Lucia we paid $55.00 each (2 of us for $110.00) for a 4 hour island tour. A car rental would have been less. But note that all Caribbean islands heavily push "collision damage waiver" which limits the amount you are responsible for. And worse some require a "deposit" which in island speak means a promisory note to pay $500-1000 in case of an accident claim. We purchased an insurance policy through CSA Travel Insurance over the Internet that covered the trip INCLUDING cruise, air, and the collision damage waiver so don't take their coverage - it stinks and is just another way to get money out of you.
Barbados:This island is a 3rd world pit. The roads are so bad you DO NOT want to rent a car there unless its a jeep. After driving on Barbados you'll have a new appreciation of how tax dollars provides services and infrastructure. I would NEVER consider opening a business on Barbados because it cannot support one. Most "houses" owned by locals are propped up on cement blocks (so it can be moved) and there's no utility hook ups. I have no idea what they did for electricity, water, and sewer. Be advised that houses are next to the street, there's a tiny curb, and between the curb and house there's a trench for drainage, which might be used as sewage also. Barbados is a total dump! Driving is on the LEFT with steering on the right.
St. Lucia: This was far better than Barbados but still a very poor island and some of the Barbados characteristics exist here also. You can see some of the palaces owned by the rich who control the island. Driving is on the LEFT with steering on the right.
Antigua: Yet another 3rd world island. We rented a car and the roads were slightly better than Barbados but likewise roads are not marked. It is smaller than Barbados and a bit easier to navigate. Betty's Hope Sugar Plantation is in ruins but still interesting, and free because no one is there to charge you. The wind mill is very scenic and appears to be in working condition. Nelson's Dock Yard is another worthwhile place to see and entrance is $5.00 per person. There's parking just off the entrance for free. But watch out for the rental return because its very hard to return a car to the cruise port - the town is a complete zoo. Driving is on the LEFT with steering on the right.
St. Maarten: Because driving was so difficult on other islands we gave up on a car rental. But you can take a water taxi from the pier to town for $6.00 and good for all day passage as often as you like. The town had been spruced up a bit since our last visit 3 years ago. Lots of shopping & very nice beach.
St. Croix: Since this is a U.S. territory the roads are more like America. The pavement is fairly maintained and there's actual signs to assist you. This might be a good place to rent and drive a car. Driving is on the LEFT.
There are tons of excursions offered by Royal Caribbean, but what's not generally known is there are other companies providing excursions. One such is Port Promotions who we used in the past. They have any number of excursions on many Caribbean islands and are comparable to those provided by the vendors selected by RCCL, and may cost less. BUT - if you choose them you MUST keep track of the time returning to the ship and let your guide know. DO NOT expect them to keep track of ship departure time because they won't. You DO NOT want to arrive late for the ship since it may not still be in port.
This is pretty subjective and depends upon your personal taste so that must be up front. The ice show is fabulous and not to miss. Get your tickets as soon as they are offered, which I believe is Monday. There were 2 musical shows that are 'Broadway' and/or Las Vegas quality. Around the ship there are various other musicians and usually pretty good.
ART AUCTIONS: Auctions are held on most cruises lines and on most ships. I've sailed Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Carnival, and Park West Galleries was on all of them.
Park West used to claim they sell art for 60-80% below gallery prices. That's hogwash. Today, they no longer make that claim because people were catching on. On this last cruise they wanted over $6,000 for one of pieces from Salvador Dali's 100 illustrations from the Divine Comedy, which we purchased from Park West back in 1997 for $200.00. But if you check the Internet you'll find them being sold by Lockport Gallery (southwest suburb outside Chicago) and their websites says the Divine Comedy pieces go for only a few hundred dollars.
Park West appraisals come from outer space because they don't jive with the real world. You can get some good pieces but you MUST do your homework first. If you see something you like go research it on the Internet BEFORE you bid. The will NOT tell you the minimum bid they will accept so forget that. Watch out for opening bids because they can be very high.
About once in each auction they give a low opening bid for piece and let it go just to get the audience fired up, and so Park West can claim the buyer got a really great deal. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't. But be aware there are other places to buy art so don't feel obliged. Drink their champagne and wait until the end so you get your free artwork - which is an 8 x 10 that's probably not worth much. And don't forget the purpose of the champagne is to get you loosened up to buy are their prices.
Also, you can catch the Park West people on the cruise, let them know what you are interested in, and make them an offer. You're going to have to do it blind, having no idea what their minimum bid OR opening bid would be. FYI: Often their opening bid is higher (maybe MUCH higher) than their minimum bid, which typically are 2 different things.
WARNING: Park West auctioneers like to talk about the value of a piece and how it rises so quickly. Be advised - they are salesman and very slick. Many auctioneers are NOT knowledgeable. Buy artwork because you like it and NOT because some fast talking 29 year-old says it's a great buy. Trust your instincts, not them.
Art work is shipped from a Detroit suburb and we've never had a problem. HOWEVER, you WILL see some reviews in which people describe their nightmares with Park West.
DISEMBARKATION: People leave the ship in groups and you are provided with a group number, which they call for disembarkation. RCCL wants you off the ship as quickly as possible so expect a knock at your door by 7:00 AM.
OVERALL CONCLUSION: We had minimal problems with obnoxious people, probably because mid January is a highly desirable time to travel so there's not too many cheap tickets issued. Food was very good, entertainment was great, the ship is fantastic, I would take this ship and cruise itinerary again.
SUGGESTIONS:It's worth it to try to sneak on alcohol at San Juan. It's your property. Don't miss the ice show. It has world class skaters and you'll see it up close rather than on TV. They are incredible on such a small ice rink. Check in online. Embarkation will be faster. DO everything possible to AVOID letting ANYONE to handle your bags. If you have problems with rude people at Windjammers then eat all meals in the dining room. WARNING: Be advised to avoid a confrontation with rowdy people. You are at sea and there is no local sheriff to arrest people. The ship's "security" will "file a report" which you CANNOT get a copy of for documentation or further legal matters. They WILL NOT cooperate with you. Been there, done that.
My husband and I are avid cruisers and we made our reservations more than 18 months before actually sailing on the Oasis. We took the 7 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas, St. Maarten/Martin, Nassau, Bahamas plus 3 days at sea. We traveled with two other family members and two friends. Here is our review.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port around 11 a.m. and quickly checked-in with no delay and boarded the ship. Our rooms were not available until 1:00 p.m. so we rolled our carry-on with us as we explored the ship. We embarked right into the middle of the Royal Promenade, which resembles the royal promenade on the Voyager class ships. We began at the top deck and worked our way down.
The Oasis is made up of "neighborhoods" which I will briefly describe:
Solarium/ Sports Deck: There is a huge partially domed Solarium in the front of the ship. This area has multiple levels, is beautifully laid out, and has palm trees and tropical plants. There is a small pool (3-ft. deep) that is warm, plus two hot tubs. Covered verandas are furnished with large, beautiful "TommyBahama" style chairs with thick cushions and matching ottomans--perfect for reading a book or taking a nap. There are 10 cabanas along the very front of the Solarium that are like giant "Papasan" chairs with convertible tops. They are highly sought after and, unfortunately, a few selfish people grab them early and "hog" them all day long, leaving their belonging in them while they go about doing other things on board. There is a policy against such obnoxious behavior, but it needs to be better enforced. Also in the Solarium is the Solarium Bistro, which serves breakfast and lunch "healthy" fare but turns into a chic bistro at night for a surcharge. Located in the Sports Deck area is Izumi, the Japanese specialty restaurant available for a surcharge. We did not get a chance to eat at Izumi but our friends did and said it was outstanding.
Adjacent to the Solarium on both sides of the ship, in a part of the ship that cantilevers out over the water, (inside the glass area) are two huge "infinity" style hot tubs with big-screen televisions. You can sit in the hot tub and look at the ship as though you were alongside it. Also on the sports deck are several other pools, including a cute kiddie aqua park that features fun slides, water guns and fun things to entertain them for hours and a "beach" pool plus sun decks and plenty of beach chairs.
Beach towels are large and thick and have the Royal Caribbean name on them, which makes it feel like you are at a resort. You have to "check out" the towels and return them to the towel kiosk. The rest of the sports deck contains many amenities such as: full-size basketball court; miniature golf, ping pong tables; shuffleboard; rock-climbing wall; zip-line; flow-rider wave machine for surfing or using the boogie board. Everything is well laid out and spacious. Also on the sports deck is a dining venue called Wipeout Café plus a small beach shop that sells beach wear, suntan lotion, and other things. A free soft-serve ice cream machine with cones is located near the pools. Although it can get crowded, there were always lounge chairs available.
Vitality Spa and Fitness Center: The spa is huge and takes up 2 floors. There are the usual offerings plus additional special treatment rooms. The relaxation room could comfortably seat 16 people but was never that crowded. There is also a nice salon. I had a massage, pedicure, and reflexology as I am a spa junkie – my guilty pleasure on cruises. Located within the spa and fitness area is the Vitality Café where you can get a healthy snack, energy drink, or smoothie, and specialty coffee drinks. Some of the items in the café are free and some cost extra. The fitness center was huge. I never had a problem using the equipment, much of which is state-of-the-art. There are plenty of classes and lectures to attend, or you can do your own routine, which is what I did. There are some bikes available (for an extra charge) that have simulated interactive biking courses, which looked interesting. The fitness center has a stairwell that takes you down to the promenade deck, which is essentially a jogging track. Along the way are motivational signs and reminders to stop and stretch, and informational markers to let you track your distance.
Boardwalk: The Boardwalk is very cute. There are 2 dining options available for an extra charge: Johnny Rockets diner and Seafood Shack. We ate lunch at the Seafood Shack and enjoyed several different appetizers and entrees. The carousel is beautiful and I was dragged aboard by my Mother in Law --- and have to admit --- it was fun to ride it with the kiddies and their grandparents---very authentic. There are some shops on the Boardwalk such as: ice cream parlor; donut shop; old-fashioned candy store with many nostalgic candies; a gift shop with items for the beach; cute children's beach clothes, etc. Along the Boardwalk are decorative items you would find in a real boardwalk, such as pop-corn machines, "funhouse" mirrors, and so forth. Even "Voltar" is available to tell your fortune. The Boardwalk has about 5-6 stories of "inside" cabins that overlook it. I would imagine those who took rooms overlooking the Boardwalk would be reminded of summers at the shore, as that is what it looked like to me. Those rooms were quite noisy, however, as I was told by fellow cruisers. At the very end (aft of the ship) is the fabulous Aqua Theatre. This theatre has stadium seating (comfy) and a stage with a 17 foot deep pool --- various diving boards and platforms, lighting, and 2 big-screens for movies and other special effects. The evening performance put on by former Olympic swimmers and acrobats was spectacular. The Aqua Theatre was flanked on either side by the Aqua Suites. I was very enthralled with the Aqua Suites for several reasons. First, the suites were stepped such that the lowest one had the largest balcony and the balconies decreased in size as you went higher. The balcony for each suite was a large wrap-around style balcony that appeared to have built-in outdoor bars. I would guess that the view of the Aqua Theatre, as well as the ocean view on the other side, was stunning; however, noise would definitely be an issue. There is also a 30 minute evening water show set to music (like at Bellagio in Las Vegas) that was very dramatic and well done. Those in the Aqua Suites were on their balconies viewing the water show and appeared to enjoy it.
Central Park: This venue was my favorite by far, perhaps because I am a native New Yorker. It was so pretty and peaceful and …absolutely elegant at night. There are so many plants and park benches that you really forget you are on a cruise ship! There is a winding path that allows you to meander along and take it all in. Central Park has the high end shops (including a Coach purse store) and restaurants. Vintages, the on-board wine bar, was huge. We all met there one afternoon for tapas (small plates of tasty food) and wine flights (3 different glasses of wine based on varietals and/or vineyard) and had a great time. Restaurants in Central Park include: Chops Grille, Park Café, 150 Central Park, and Giovanni's Table. We ate at 150 Central Park for dinner and we were blown away! I felt like a judge on the TV show Iron Chef. There are two menus that alternate depending upon the day of the week. One of our table mates was afraid that she would not like the food because she is a rather picky eater; however, she loved it. The ambiance is very elegant, the service is outstanding, and the food just took our breath away! While my husband and I ordered a bottle of wine, our friends selected the wine-parings and really enjoyed it. There is a surcharge for the dinner and an extra charge for the wine and alcohol but this place is on my list of one of the most fascinating food experiences I have had. If you are a "foodie" and love wine, you really need to go to 150 Central Park ($35 surcharge applies).
We ate lunch at Giovanni's Table (also a surcharge of $10 for lunch and $20 for dinner) but thought it was "just ok." They serve food family style. We like Sabatini's on Princess better. Central Park is also the final destination of the Rising Tides Bar. The bar is a slow-moving elevator that takes you up two stories inside the Royal Promenade and then ends in Central Park under a glass domed ceiling shaped like a wave and reminiscent of Tavern on the Green in NYC. We went to the Rising Tides Bar twice and really enjoyed it, especially at night, with all the twinkle lights in Central Park. Rising above Central Park are several floors of "inside" cabins that have windows overlooking the park and in fact, the cabins across the hall from us were those cabins. We were told by those cabin-dwellers that it was extremely noisy in those rooms. The Park Café was open for breakfast and lunch and was packed all the time. The cafe serves excellent fresh salads that you create and delicious panninis as well as sandwiches and desserts.
Also available for really serious foodies is Chef's Table which is available for a $75 surcharge, including wines. We did not have time to try this but it sounds really neat!
Dining Room and Windjammer Café: The Windjammer is very small. We do like the way RCCL organizes the food stations because it minimizes "traffic jams" and makes it easier and quicker to grab a bite. We enjoyed the variety of food, especially the Asian bar. The Opus Dining Room was elegant and we had outstanding service for the 6 pm seating. We sat next to the Captain's Table and behind it was a stage where musicians played the piano and/or violin during dinner. The menu selections were "good" to "great" and everything as well-prepared and delicious. There is also an anytime dining option, which is a nice alternative.
Staterooms: We had a balcony cabin as did our travel companions. It was located mid ship on deck 12 and was very quiet and adequate, but considerably smaller than the same type of cabin on the Voyager Class ships. We were very space-challenged but managed to hang or fold all our clothes and get our 3 suitcases under the bed. The bed was extremely comfortable. We had a nice flat screen TV but there were hardly any programs available. RCCL obviously does not want you to hang out in your room! The TV was connected to a keyboard, which you could use to monitor your account, review all menus for each evening, connect to the internet for a fee, and learn all about what the ship has to offer, plus it had many other features. Our balcony was huge, and we were able to get the glass partition moved so that we could double the balcony size with our neighbors (travel companions), which made it even better. The balcony was covered and yet was sunny if you stood by the railing. The railing was higher than usual so that when you are sitting, the railing does not obstruct your view. We had a table and two chairs and were able to host the sail-away party for 6 in our room. The bathroom was really tiny with just a small corner stand-up shower, which was smaller than a coat closet. The sink and toilet were so close together that one could use both simultaneously! We are both tall and had issues banging our elbows in the shower just trying to wash our hair! If you are of large girth, you would probably have a problem with the small showers. I understand the junior suites have a tub-shower, which is much larger. The Royal Suite was a few doors down from us and it looked spacious and magnificent. There were some traditional inside cabins but most of what would be "inside" cabins on other ships has windows overlooking Central Park, the Boardwalk, or the inside of the Royal Promenade. In addition to the Aqua Suites, there were Sky Suites overlooking Central Park, which I would probably really like, except for the noise factor. The2 -story Loft Suites are located near the Viking Crown Lounge, as is the wedding chapel and Concierge Suite. Our stateroom attendant was excellent and she did a great job keeping our room clean and tidy. We gave her a big tip.
Entertainment: The entertainment on board was over-the-top excellent. There are so many shows, you really have to manage your time well to see everything in 7 days. In addition to the Aqua Theatre water acrobatic spectacular, we saw the Broadway musical Hairspray; the aerial production Come Fly With Me (like a Cirque du Soleil show); Frozen in Time (a stunning ice show based on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen), the Headliner (an excellent singer-comedian that took us back to Motown and Rock 'N Roll), and two excellent comedians, who performed in the Comedy Club. There are many venues to enjoy in addition to the theatre, including a sports bar, Boleros night club, Dazzles night club, a karaoke bar, and on… and on. The NFL playoffs were taking place during our first 2 days and you could watch from any of the big screens located throughout the ship, or in your stateroom.
Getting Around the Ship: You would think a ship this huge would be hard to maneuver but that was not the case. There are only 2 banks of elevators, and located outside each bank, is a simple-to-read board for each floor telling you what is where AND there is a computerized interactive board that you can use to locate your room or any other place by answering a few questions. The info board also had wait times for the various dining venues so you could decide where to eat based on space available. There were numerous elevators and rarely did we wait long. There were two stairwells (Port and Starboard) behind the elevators. Finally, there were ship's models located near the elevators, (like all RCCL ships have) to help you locate various places by deck.
The Ports: We have traveled the Caribbean and been to St. Thomas, St. Martin/Maarten and Nassau many times so we did not take any excursions on this trip. We walked around and did some shopping and then got back on board. You could disembark in 4 different places so you never had to wait on line. Getting back on the ship was a cinch, too: no problems, no wait, and no effort. It was a breeze.
Overall: The Oasis was not just a cruise ship; it was a resort on water. We were enthralled with the ship for our first two days (both sea days) and had so much fun exploring every nook and cranny. There are some vestiges of a traditional Royal Caribbean cruise experience on the Oasis (i.e., the "newlywed" game show and The Quest) but there was so much more than anything we had ever experienced before on a cruise ship. It really felt as though we were at a resort by the sea. It was a destination in itself! We loved every minute of it and would definitely cruise again on board the Oasis … or check out the Allure when it debuts.
On the negative side, I would say that sometimes we felt like we were being "nickeled- and dimed" with all the surcharges, some of which are unnecessary in our opinion. Still, even if you prefer smaller, more intimate ships, the Oasis experience is unique and unparalleled at this time. I do not know what RCCL has planned for the future but they have certainly outdone themselves this time and have raised the bar quite high, in our opinion. If you are thinking about cruising aboard the Oasis but worried that a big ship would be too crowded or overwhelming, don't worry. RCCL has done a magnificent job of designing the ship to accommodate large crowds. There are so many different interesting and fun public areas on the ship that you never feel too crowded or overwhelmed. It is well presented and well managed. Go ahead and hop on board and experience cruising at a whole new level.
I've been on a few cruises in the past, mostly Princess cruises. This was my first Royal Caribbean Cruise and probably my last with them. To start off the ship was 6 HOURS late pulling into Bayonne NJ. where we were to start our trip. This would not be so bad except for the lack of information the crew were providing us. I also felt bad since it was January and Many elderly people were forced to stand while waiting. coffee and cookies were provided for all guest but after 6 hour of delay coffee and cookies don't cut it for a meal replacement. You would think Royal Caribbean would provided all the inconvenienced guest some sort of compensation, even if it's a free drink and a "were sorry" speech... but nothing. I went so far as to contact Royal Caribbean and let them know of my experience. They sent me a template "sorry for the delay" response where they put the blame elsewhere and not on themselves. I really didn't know how good I had it on Princess until I tried a Royal Caribbean cruise.
The Food was very sub-parand I don't even consider myself a real foodie. I'm a simple guy who loves going to diners, and that would be a step up from the food given to us on the Explorer of the Seas. My wife and myself tried all the food options on the ship and were happy with only one... the restaurant we had to pay $20 per person to get into. This was an Italian style dinning experience that we enjoyed. In that restaurant we had three waiters catering to all our needs, and the food was very delicious. It almost seemed like Royal Caribbean forces you into this style of dinning to get the extra cash out of you. In my experience a buffet is supposed to offer food services 24/7. I guess due to budget cuts this buffet was scheduled for the most odd hours of operation. In addition to that the selection of the buffet food was very limited. It seemed like all the buffet stations (which they had many of) were loaded up with the SAME 4 or 5 items. The food reminded me of when I was a child and would join my grandmother at the senior citizens center for lunch.
Our Stateroom was conveniently placed right above the one of the theaters so It was very noisy until about 1AM. I usually don't mind loud noises but this was like sleeping right above a club. When the noise did die down every little hinge in the room creaked all night long. I've been on a few ships before in the past but never experienced anything like this. Maybe it's do to the ships age or poor maintenance but it was like sleeping in a creaky submarine.
The activities and the entertainment is was got me thru this trip and got my mind off the poor food and staterooms. I really enjoyed everything from the rock climbing to the ice skating and mini-golf. I'm an active person and I must say that they kept enough interesting activities going on-board to really keep us busy. The gym was very nice and well kept as well. I looked forward to going to that gym every morning more than I did the breakfast.
I really enjoyed the destinations we landed at. Every place we stopped we had a great time. San Juan was vibrant and lively, while Antigua was an amazing beech destination that my wife and I loved and would go back to any day. Dominica was rich in friendliness and personality definitely one of the more interesting islands I've ever been too, and I've been to many.
Just returned from an "escape" aboard the Oasis of the Seas. (FYI- the date piece on this site has not been updated for 2011. Our trip was January 8, 2011) I have never submitted a review, but this time I feel compelled. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale two days early because of the snow in the North so we were ready for our Saturday departure. We arrived at the pier by 11:15AM and we were onboard in 30 minutes. The husband and I then explored the ship for a little while but got tired of carrying our carry-on bags. While the cabins weren't ready until 1PM, our great cabin steward allowed us to hang out on our balcony until the cabins were released!
The Oasis is indeed a grand ship, but having been on five other RCI ships, I have to share that it is the same as the others only much larger. Sorry, people but besides for the zip line and flow rider there isn't much else "new" to do onboard. There are the pools, multiple shows and restaurants, but they are all needed to accomidate the increase inpeople. Central Park is beautiful but after walking through it a few times, been there, done that. The Boardwalk was cute but by no means a real boardwalk atmosphere.
Our cabin was on deck 12 aft. It was great for watching the Aqua Theater and seeing the ocean and boardwalk. If the door was closed tightly, you could not hear anything, but sitting on the balcony, it was not a quiet experience. But that is to be expected.
The daily activities are not anymore special then on other cruises. As a matter of fact, they are heavy in Spa activities and open type programs. Not too much is special. I know there are fans of the Cruise Director, Richard Spacey, but I found him to be immature and disconnected with the guests. His antics are funny, but grow tiring after awhile. I wonder if people would take im seriously in the event of an emergency? Also, his staff LOVES to make constant announcements on the PA system, which get tedious and annoying. BTW - they cannot be understood in the Boardwalk area.
Food was medicore. We ate in Chops, Seafood Shack and the Japanese place. In Chops, we ordered the filet and sent it back. It was baked, not broiled and dried out. Kudos to our head waiter in the MDR. After talking to him about our experience, he got us a full refund. Seafood Shack food was no better than Red Lobster. The ribs were great-not a usual choice for seafood lovers. The Japanese place had low quality, pre-sliced sushi. I understand the galley is trying to feed 6000 people a day, but the quality of the specialty places needs to be better then the main dining room! The Windjammer is just that, jammed! We had many a breakfast in the Solarium. As a note, RCI should not allow young children in the MDR at the late seating. There were strollers all over as well as children either running around or sitting on the tables-very dangerous and inappropriate.
Ports of call were a waste of time. We knew we were going on this cruise for the "Oasis" experience, but Labadee and Costa Maya are plastic worlds. They are custom built places that are there to just suck your money. Costa Maya is a gathering of souvenir shops and a pool. I did purchase items to help the people from Haiti, but that was it. Cozumel is basically the same. The town is one big jewelry mall with shop keepers begging you to look at their merchandise.
Needless to say, this cruise was a great escape from the cell phone and internet. We did relax, but the ports lend much to be desired.
I will say the crew on Oasis go above and beyond. They were friendly, helpful and always tried to accomidate you.
Departure was fine. The gangway got a little backed up but when you have 6000 people leaving, many of which don't listen or follow directions this is to be expected.
Royal Caribbean Christmas Cruise
I've been fortunate to enjoy many fine traveling experiences in my lifetime, but my experience aboard the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas during this past Christmas is not among them. I will never cruise again on ANY ship; I do not have any animosity toward Royal Caribbean; I do not want to be contacted by anyone affiliated with RC to compensate or apologize to me; I simply wish to warn others about making the mistake of booking this trip. You really need to accept giving up your freedom if you cruise.
My wife and I are in our forties and we travelled with our 17 and twenty-year-old daughters. I speak for all of them by saying this was hands-down the worst family vacation we ever planned. If you are considering taking the Royal Caribbean Christmas Cruise out of Galveston and you have teenage children, I strongly recommend you consider our experience. Here is the good and the bad:
Boarding in Galveston: Extremely efficient process. We stayed at the Hilton the night before and enjoyed a complimentary shuttle to the pier. Hilton parked our vehicle free.
Stateroom: Room washospital-clean; however, there was a distinct sewage odor upon opening the door to the stateroom. The room attendant did his best to correct it, and his efforts seemed to help initially. By midweek, we realized the odor was not emanating from the bath but from the ventilation system and it was affecting the adjoining room occupied by my children. RC was very courteous about the problem, but could not repair it and could not relocate us on the ship because there were no available rooms.
Luggage: Everyone in my family received their luggage except me. I finally got mine at 11 p.m. and would have had it sooner if the staffer who called me could actually speak reasonable English. By the time I got to sleep Sunday night, buyer's remorse was setting in and never really ended for me.
Food: We live in the Dallas area and are certainly spoiled by great restaurants. The food on board was not bad, but certainly lackluster. Aside from the nice presentation and the opportunity to replace any dish you did not like, it is definitely not remarkable unless you appreciate quantity. The ship faces a daunting task trying to feed 3,000 people in short time periods, so make your mind up before you go to expect somewhat bland food for an entire week. Plan ahead to pay for the upgraded meals occasionally to break the monotony. We could not wait to eat something with some spice in it when we got off the ship. I know we are spoiled; it's just that I would never plan a trip where I eat hotel food for seven days.
Staff: Very friendly and genuinely engaged all of us. Unfortunately, my stateroom attendant seemed to be in fear of me since I repeatedly told customer service about the odor in our cabins. It was not his fault but apparently he was blamed. I did see a technician working on the air handler in the hallway but the problem never went away.
Weather: Probably the most compelling reason you should reconsider this trip. It was 47 degrees in Galveston upon departure and still too cold on Monday to be on deck. We had good weather in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica, but a storm appeared on Friday after lunch and it quickly became too cold or windy to enjoy the deck. My teenagers had a misconception that they would be in deck chairs for most of the trip, but with the exception of Friday morning, it was too cold.
Age of children: Royal Caribbean can't help this, but there is very little for a 17 and 20 year –old to do aboard this boat. If you have small children, perhaps pre-middle school age, I think it would be fine.
Excursions: Without getting too lengthy here, the excursions are fine but the mechanics of getting so many people off the ship and onto shuttles takes up too much of the days ashore. Yet another compelling reason to take your dollars and fly to a resort of your choice and not have to deal with lines and transfers. It isn't that RC isn't well organized, it's just a time consuming process to get 3,000 people where they wish to go. I cannot imagine what it would be like on their newest, even larger craft. In Jamaica, I hired a cab to take us to a private beach just so we could avoid the shuttle herds. I regretted doing so on the return trip back to the ship because beggars were tapping on the windows of the cab and my daughters were justifiably frightened. I really cannot imagine why RC stops there.
Communication: I own my own business and unfortunately I always travel with the laptop and cell phone. I'm used to paying some high fees, but the rates aboard the ship are the worst I've encountered anywhere. I did make arrangements with AT&T before the trip so I could concentrate my cell use while ashore and not on the boat where it's $6.95 per minute. The web speed onboard was excellent and I had no email issues.
Departure: My bill came to my room as promised on Sunday morning, but not without an overcharge. I got to wait in line at customer service only to be told the computers were down but they would correct my bill. I told him a final time about the odor in our room and he said he would make a note of it. He made no such note and some other poor souls spent a week the same way we did. I know that computers fail everywhere, but it did disappoint me again when my visa bill arrived without the correct charges and I had to call RC and write a letter to Visa to protest the charge. RC did agree to correct it.
In summary, we just don't get it. My family felt trapped in a hotel for a week with the exception of the three days of excursions where more time is spent on the transfers than on the activity itself. If I had flown to a destination and had the sewer odor problem, I would have cut my losses and returned home early. I realize many people enjoy cruises, but my family got a good lesson in making the best of a disappointing situation and we learned how much fun we've had on our other vacations enjoying our FREEDOM. For my family, we enjoy doing what we want, when we want and eating when and wherever we wish while on vacation. Other than the Disney trips when the kids were little, we don't go places where we stand in lines. I backpacked across Europe after college and stayed in my share of unpleasant accommodations, but I would never consider putting my family in those conditions, especially not when trapped aboard a ship. My last thought before drifting off to sleep each night was wondering if Legionnaires disease had an odor.
A final humorous note: we took advantage of the early departure offer and carried our own luggage from the ship. The Hilton shuttle greeted us at the dock and we were quickly transferred back to the hotel parking area. You could sense the relief as we closed the doors on the Suburban to make the drive back to Dallas. We had only travelled a few blocks before my wife asked "My gosh, do you smell that? It's following us!"
The unpleasant odor of the staterooms had permeated our luggage. We pulled into a Starbucks and drank coffee while watching the open windows of the Suburban!
We had sailed Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas from Vancouver to Alaska in the spring of 1997. However we were truly looking forward to heading south and choose a Vancouver to Honolulu itinerary. The Vision Class, Rhapsody, like her sister's and cousins, is a beautiful ship. We over-nighted in Vancouver at the Waterfront Center Hotel, directly across from the Canada Place pier where the Rhapsody docks. It's a wonderful feeling waking up and seeing the ship directly across the street from twelve stories above street level, and that certainly added to the excitement, if that is possible.
On embarkation morning the bellman took our luggage directly to the pier. We got together with the CruiseMates we had met the previous night and arrived at the pier about 11:45 a.m, when the embarkation process began. The RCI staff went through the line checking documents and responding to questions prior to your arrival at the embarkation desk. However, the entire process was delayed by a computer glitch due to new computer software. Regardless, we were aboard withing an hour.
One change from the previous RCI check-in is the processing of credit cards for the "SuperCharge Cards." This replaces the old system of standing in line again to activate the "Super Charge" once onboard.
In waiting for embarkation,we were surprised by the broad range of age groups on this sailing. The norm is "more days, more years." This axiom didn't hold true for this cruise. The average age aboard this eleven day cruise, was similar to what one would encounter in the Caribbean- in the 45 or 50 plus range. This may have been impacted by a large group of 500 passengers, all in the auto parts business.
Also of note on this particular sailing was a large number of first time cruisers. I was very surprised because of the length of the cruise, and the somewhat exotic itinerary.
THE SHIP The Rhapsody's Centrum is a great spot to walk onboard. Windows to the sea are everywhere, and the warm earth tones in the interior areas direct your eyes to the blue skies, blue seas and panoramic views. This makes for a memorable first impression.
Having sailed the ship two years before, we were struck byt how good she looked in "most" areas, with some cabins being the exception. It appeared that much of the furniture in the public areas had recently been recovered. In a conversation with Hotel Manager, Bob Tavadia we found that it was simply a matter of effective and ongoing maintenance.
Some of our CruiseMates were rookie cruisers; some very much veterancruise addicts, but new to RCI. Everyone new to the Vision Class ships was most impressed with their look and layout. We were in a Category D cabin with a private balcony. The cabin, while not overly spacious, had great storage space and is so well designed that it feels more larger than cabins on other ships that boast more square footage. As this was a long cruise, we had seriously over-packed, yet everything found a place, out of our way.
The cabin's sitting area is equipped with a full size sofa, and a coffee table. Having a place to sit and relax inside the cabin is a nice bonus compared to, Princess's equivalent cabins, which offer only a tub chair, or Celebrity with "sofas" that are much more like loveseats. Yet, these comparable cabins are actually larger. In the tradition of RCI, the showers are miniscule. However, I must be too accustomed to cruising, because they're starting to seem spacious. Our showe had a mind of its own. It shifted from hot to cold a number of times during a typical shower. What a shame there's no video of me jumping in and out!
The cabins are equipped with all the normal amenities with the exception of hair dryers, so if you use one, bring your own. The verandahs are pleasant but small, and not all that private, and have two arm chairs and a small side table. What impressed me most was the sliding glass door to the verandah, as opposed to a door that opens in or out. These don't take up valuable room inside the cabin, or on the verandah.
The Edelweiss Dining Room is, in my view, one of RCI's prettiest, with a particularly relaxing ambiance. Our CruiseMates group was seated at three tables towards the rear of the main floor. I would have preferred round tables to the rectangular ones we had, for easier conversation rather. We decided ond simply switching our seating arrangements each evening to allow everyone to converse with different folks nightly. Of course, this bunch was loud enoughto make ourselves heard!
ENTERTAINMENT With entertainment normally one of RCI's strengths I was looking forward to very good acts. The first night's "Welcome Aboard" was without a doubt one of the worst I've ever seen at sea. The cruise director specifically mentioned that they keep announcements to a minimum. As the cruise unfolded we noticed that this couldn't have been farther from the truth.I would have never given these announcements another though if he hadn't made such a point of mentioning them. They announced bingo, art auctions, horse races, and when anyone on the ship ate, or so it seemed.
My choice of shows on this cruise was definitely off. I attended the bad shows and then skipped the next night,hearing afterward how good they were.
Combining my opinions of the shows I saw with those I heard about from CruiseMates, I would have to say the showroom entertainment was generally below the quality we've come to expect from RCI.
FOOD The dining room cuisine overall was good to very good. The Windjammer buffet was pretty typical buffet-not very exciting, yet not bad. Mornings featured a made-to-order omelet station; lunche offered a carving station for roast beef, pork and similar items. The breakfast buffet menu wasrelatively basic and stagnant all week, alternating pancakes and French Toast from one day to the next. Except for variations in the potato preparation, the morning buffet menu did not change.
I had a mediocre NY steak twice during the cruise but everything else I in the dining room was very good-even other beef dishes. At our table, aside from everyone's individual entrees, the waiter brought plates of the daily pasta for all of us to share, and it was very tasty.
Don't be shy about sending back things you don't care for, or ordering another portion of the dishes you liked. The waiters want you to enjoy meals rather than leave the table complaining. If you do, in a way, it's as much your fault as the chef's.
Royal Caribbean can still lay claim to the worst pizza at sea. It seems a shame that no ones attention has been directed to improving this area. I'm sure some people couldn't care less about pizza on a ship. But, after so many elaborate meals, some good old junk food can be pretty appealing.
The Solarium Cafe also featured good hamburgers, decent hot dogs and wonderful curly French fries.
The room service menu is not exciting, but fairly substantial for snacks.During meal times you may order off of the full dining room menufor service to your cabin.
SERVICE & STAFF We encountered what I feel is quite standard for Royal Caribbean; a warm and friendly staff. Our cabin steward did a good job of keeping our Kuki little home clean, and decorating the roome using pillows to create different shapes and insignias. It wasn't quite up to the "towel animals" of Carnival, but nonetheless, cute.
Our dining room waiter was a true professional, and shared his pleasant personality with us, while doing a yeoman's job of delivering the goods.A few days into the cruise he realized that we would welcome his participation in the fun at the table, and joined right in. In Maui we found a shop that had tee shirts dyed in chocolate. One had a moose characture with the title Chocolate Moose on it. This seemd like an appropriate gift for our waiter Andre, so we gave it to him at dinner. He was thrilled. I believe that by the end of the cruise he was sorry to see us go.
The assistant waiter/bus boy was perhaps the worst we've ever had. He wasn't happy with his job and it showed. He should not have been there. I notedon my comment card that he should seek a career change.
Regardless of this we maintained a Kuki tradition. Every cruise, I bring tee shirts from Calgary for our dining room staff and present these on the last night. Both were very appreciative until I explained that it was in place of the customer gratuities. Both were very relieved when I reassured them that I was kidding.
The headwaiter in charge of our section was very personable. He stopped by for a chat nightly. However, when he was informed of the bus boy's shortcomings hedid nothing to remedy the situation. We were told they would reduce the number of the busboy's tables on the next cruise, but that did nothing to address our problems. I felt that if the headwaiter was aware that the job was not well done, it was his responsibility, even if he had to pitch in himself.
Tim Seaver was the Cruise Director on this sailing, a nice enough guy, but everyone seemed to agree that he didn't come across as very genuine. He admitted that people seemed to either love him or hate him.
While he was very pleasant when we encountered him, we didn't notice him about the ship much. To my view this limited his involvement with passengers.
I've had the pleasure of sailing with two of the best CDs in the business; RCI's Jamie Logan, who Tim tells me ihas left the business, and Carnival's John Heald, so it may be hard for other Cruise Director's to measure up in my eyes.
RANTS AND RAVES RCI's has given it's onboard daily activities report, Cruise Compass, a new and innovative twist. Along with the normal 4 page, 8 by 11, pamphlet, is an abbreviated carry around size. These are easy to carry, and serve as great bookmarks at the same time. It doesn't sound like much, but was very handy to keep up with events. Unfortunately someone continuously placed mis-infomation in the Compass. The other oddity with regard to these were the numerous and daily, typos and errors in grammar. Doesn't their word processor have spell check? It was daily entertainment to find the errors. We laughed out loud at the look on the head waiter's face when it was pointed out that on debarkation day the Compass stated the dining room would be open for breakfast from 6 AM to 8 PM. We told him we'd see him at 7PM for breakfast.
The Cruise Compass is a part of the Cruise Director's responsibilities, so that may have impacted my earlier evaluation of him.
Another area we found very confusing is the way they worded some of the "suggested dress." RCI has "Formal," "Smart Casual" and "Casual." I think most understand "Formal" and "Casual" but the "Smart Casual" seems to throw everyone off. I inquired as to the meaing of this classification. For men, they intended sports jackets, with no ties necessary.
On the first "Smart Casual" night, I bet my fellow CruiseMates that most people would be confused by this description and I was right. At least 75% of the passengers just took it to be another casual night. I really don't care what people are wearing, but the poor description of the attire they're trying to promote is to blame. A more apt term to describe the dress they're suggesting would seem to be semi formal (tie optional). I discussed this with Hotel Manager, Bob Tavadia, and while he understood our viewpoint of view, company research and opinion polls came up with this terminology.
Along this line; it's been my observation on my last three cruises, that attire on board all ships lately is heading more and more casual. On this particular cruise I cited quite a few people wearing blue jeans, jogging suits, and even shorts in the dining room.
I personally don't mind getting "gussied up" a couple of times on a cruise, and dressing reasonably well on the remaining nights. But, if the cruise lines are not going to enforce their suggested dress codes,they should stick with the two formal nights, with the balance remaining casual. It seems to be what the passengers are after.
Summary We found our RCI cruise experience to be very comfortable. Overall it was a terrific cruise. Theinteraction we had with fellow CruiseMates truly made it memorable. The group fun seemed to diminish any shortcomings we noticed on the part of the RCI.
This was the 4 night Bahamas cruise. This was our 7th RCI cruise and 5th time on the Majesty. Left out of Miami and went to Nassau, CocoCay and Key West.
We did the online checkin so embarkation was quick and smooth. No lines. Got there about 12-12:30pm. Had to wait a bit for room to be ready at 1:00pm. The room was nice, Deck 8 out side cabin, but view was obstructed by lifeboats. A lot of water and soda on the desk/vanity. Had to move them so we had room for our stuff. Bathroom showed signs of age, wastebasket bin was chipped and some tile in the shower and the towels looked old and some edges were frayed and they were a little rough, not soft. No more chocolates at night on the pillows and the couple of towel animals we got were nothing special and were made with frayed towels.
Entertainment was good. Enjoyed the magician and the 2 shows with the RCI singers & dancers. The ship was decorated in the centrum area very pretty for Christmas. There was a big christmas tree, photos with Santa andchristmas carols sung and gingerbread houses on display.
The Windjammer food was the usual, except now they charge for fresh squeezed orange juice. The fresh omelet made to order station is great. There was always a good variety of food, but not always very hot.
The dining room food was good. Also not very hot, some things were just warm. Variety was pretty good. Shrimp cocktail two nights for appetizers, but no more lobster on formal night. The last night was Italian night and the crew sang for us. No more theme nights and costumes like before and no more dancing and congo lines with the crew performing for us.
We are Platinum members, so we did get coupon books for various discounts on the ship. But no gifts like the tote bags we got the last couple of years.
We had to do the muster drill before we left port. You don't have to wear your lifejacket any more. Just go to your muster station and listen to the instructions. Much easier than going to your room, getting the lifejacket and then fighting the crowds going back to your room to return your lifejackets.
Disembarkation was crowded. We kept our luggage and just walked off the ship in the morning. The line was all through the centrum and circled around the whole dining room to get to the exit and then there was customs. It was time consuming and it seems the line didn't move very fast. Not like the last time we left the ship this way.
All in all, we had a great time as usual. We do this cruise pretty much every year because it is so affordable and just enough time for a quick getaway. The Majesty may not be big and new and have all the amenities of the newer ships, but it is still a nice relaxing little vacation, especially the day on CocoCay with the BBQ lunch. It's still cruising, and a lot of it is what you make it. Do a lot or do nothing. It's up to you and you can still have a great time.
We flew in a day early and stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Los Angeles Harbor. There are several restaurants within walking distance. Rooms were very nice and the hotel was quiet despite two events going on that evening. They do offer a free shuttle to the cruise port. We used Super Shuttle to get to the hotel. About 3 block from the hotel is a Mexican Restaurant, Green Onion, food was great and fantastic service. There was also a family restaurant we had breakfast at, The Grinder.
Embarkation: The shuttle leaves the hotel every half hour. We were at the port by 11:30 and onboard by noon. Rooms were not available before 1pm. We sat in the promenade and waited for our rooms. Deck 9, room 9636 was our room. The room did have a small refrigerator which was nice to keep a few bottles of we bought onboard for shore excursions. There was plenty of closet space but we were not able to fit the suitcases under the bed. This floor was a quiet floor and we didn't notice a lot of traffic in the hallways.
Ship: The Mariner livedup to our expectations. We enjoyed setting in the Royal Promenade waiting for dinner. We did walk around the sports deck one day but never stopped to climb the rock wall, play golf, skate, or play basketball. Plenty of opportunity for sports activities on this ship. We did visit the gym several days. Great equipment and they do a good job of offering a wide variety of classes. While we didn't visit the spa, I was selected to model for one of the treatments. We had booked a spa tour in Mazaltan, so we didn't use the ships spa.
Food: We did eat all our evening meals in the Rhapsody in Blue dining room. Our waiters and assistant waiters were excellent. We did not use any of the specialty restaurants, found the food in the dining room to be more than sufficient. The Windjammer did get congested but if you go all the way to the back of the buffet there was a large eating area. While they say it's the same food as the dining room, it was sometimes cold but still we found enough to eat.
Shows: There was a wide variety of entertainment on this cruise. There was any type of music you would want in the bars. One night there was a 70's night in the Royal Promenade. We did go to the majority of the musical shows and they very good. There were several comedians and a juggler that were all good. We did see the ice show and it was fantastic - hard to believe you are on a cruise ship.
Shore Excursions: Our shore excursions were all excellent. We use Cabo Outfitters (booked through Shoretrips.com) for a snorkeling tour that was excellent. There were 5 of us that snorkeled at Chileno Beach, while 4 others in our group left on kayaks. A guide stayed with us in the water making sure we saw all the fish and explaining some of the formations. Leaving there, we went to Santa Maria where we snorkeled again. While we were there the kayakers came in so we were able to see them finish their trip. Again, I would highly recommend this tour for personalized service. In Mazaltan we used Mazaltan Frank for a city/spa tour. The guide (Tomato) picked us up at 8:30 and we didn't get back to the ship till 4:30. He took us all over the older part stopping at churches, art galleries, and the flea markets. We saw the cliff divers. Then we went to the newer section (Gold Zone) where our spa treatments were. The massage was over an hour and was included in our tour. We also toured the Gold Zone. I would definitely do this tour again - it was that good.
In Puerto Vallarta we did the zip lining tour through Los Veranos. We met our guide at the College Disco and picked up others on the way to the zip line. We had never done this and are so glad we did. The guides really earn their money on these tours. Just climbing the hills and helping people across the lines. They did take some people backwards and upside down but we were content just making it across the lines. I did hear a couple say when they were in Costa Rica they were a lot stricter on the lines and they went straight across the line. Really enjoyed doing this and will try it again.
Debarkation We definitely weren't ready to leave. The ship was fantastic, a destination in itself, but the shore excursions also made this trip.
My wife, Ginny, and I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean in December. We sailed on the Freedom of the Seas to the Western Caribbean in September, a back-to-back cruise with two months in between. We live only 40 minutes drive from Port Canaveral so getting to the port is very easy.WESTERN vs. EASTERN CARIBBEAN
We like both itineraries but sailing to the Caribbean is mostly about the ship for us therefore we prefer the Eastern Caribbean on the Freedom because the Eastern itinerary has three sea days versus two for the Western. The Western “private island”, Labadee, is more picturesque than the Eastern’s Coco Cay. The Mayan ruins are a special excursion on the Western. We shop so we like St. Thomas and St Maarten on the Eastern although Grand Cayman is also very nice. Sea days make the difference for us because we enjoy the ship’s amenities, more of which are available on sea days.EMBARKATION
Port Canaveral is an excellent cruise ship port! It is easy to navigate, easy to park, clean and safe. Getting on the ship takes about 15 to 20 minutes fromparking the car to clearing security, checking in, and boarding. Lines are amazingly short for a ship the size of the Freedom of the Seas. Checking in on-line is a must because security checks the “set sail” passes at the first step in the process. Parking is $15 per day in a multi-story parking garage next to the very modern terminal. We usually sail with friends so we split the cost plus it is a huge convenience to have your car immediately available when you disembark.THE SHIP
You have to experience it to understand just how grand and unique it actually is. It is now the second largest cruise ship sailing but “big” is not a good descriptor. The centerpiece for us is the Royal Promenade on deck 5 with its Café Promenade, Shops of several types, barber shop, Sorrento’s pizza, Bull and Bear Pub, Vintages Wine Bar, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and much more. Coffee in the early morning at the café Promenade is a great way to start the day. A Murphy’s Stout at the Pub is also nice in the afternoon. The Royal Promenade was decorated for Christmas on our cruise which was very pretty.
Decks 3 ,4, and 5 hold the leisurely attractions like the dining rooms, ice rink, Royal promenade, casino, photo center, lounges, show room, and much more. Decks 11-13 hold the action venues like the pools, rock climbing, flow rider, spa, basketball, golf and a lot more. The Windjammer Café, specialty restaurants, and Jade are on deck 11.
If you want to be close to the internet café book a cabin on deck 8. The library is on deck 7.STAFF
The Royal Caribbean people in every venue were very friendly, always trying to accommodate and please. It is a special treat to hear about their adventures, families and experiences. They can offer a lot of assistance if you need any.FOOD
The food options rage from the Café promenade with its coffee, pastries and sandwiches through the main dining rooms to Pizza at Sorrentos, the steakhouse, Italian themed specialty restaurant, the buffet, the Brasserie lunches and ice cream specialties. The quality, selection and presentations are very good. The Windjammer and Jade on deck 11 serve buffet style breakfasts, lunches and dinners with a large selection. It pays to look around before you make selections the first time or two. You will miss something you really like if you don’t. Fresh vegetables and fruits, oriental pizza, and English bacon are all there along with a large display of other foods. Seating is seldom a concern. Most guests eat in the buffet on embarkation day at lunch time so it can get crowded.
We enjoyed "Sprinkles" self serve ice cream on the pool deck and scones in the café as special treats during the day.ENTERTAINMENT
The highlight for us is the ice show. We have seen a few of the Royal Caribbean ice shows and they are all great. You do need tickets because the seating is somewhat limited. No cost for the tickets. The theater and lounges have live entertainment and there is something for everyone starting in the evening and going until the late hours. The cruise director and staff schedule activities on the ship all day long, especially on sea days. Then there is the Casino Royale on deck 4, a fun casino with slots and table games.BARS AND LOUNGES
There are twenty of them scattered from deck 3 to deck 11. Most are themed. Several have dancing to live music. The “Olive or Twist” on deck 14 has great music and a terrific view. We like the Schooner Bar on deck 4 where we gather when we have a large group that wants to gather. The Pub is great for people watching on the Royal Promenade.DISEMBARKATION
It is as easy to get off as it is to get on. You can pretty much schedule your time to get off by requesting the proper color bag tags. Starting at 6:00 AM with express departure you carry off your own bags to a later time where colored tags determine your time so the ship stays on schedule. It took us 35 minutes from the time our color was called to depart the ship, clear customs, retrieve our bags and be in our van. Bags are put on carousels, very similar to airports, so you need to be timely when your color is called.SUMMARY
Great ship. Great experience. Great staff. We believe bigger is better and the ships just get better and better. We will return in May for our third Freedom of the Seas experience.