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: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Families. Value for Money. 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: Foodies. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Group. Families. Children`s Programs.
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.
Just the Facts: Cruise: Voyager of the Seas--Western Mediterranean Date: January 22-January 29, 2009 Captain: Frank Martinsen Cruise Director: Mercedes LaFuente Ports: Barcelona, Spain - Naples, Italy - Civitavecchia, Italy - Livorno, Italy - Villefranche, France - Toulon, France - Barcelona, Spain Weather: Very nice all week for late November
This was my 13th Royal Caribbean cruise and 4th cruise on the Voyager of the Seas.
Day One--Sunday-Embarkation-Barcelona Spain We took a taxi (20 Euro) from our Barcelona hotel to the cruise terminal arriving about 1:15 pm. It was a good time to arrive as there was only a short line at security and a short line for the Diamond check-in area. We could then go directly on board the ship and it was then only 5 minutes until the cabins were opened to passengers. We stored our carry bags right away then went to the Windjammer and enjoyed a nice lunch. DW had a nice Salad, Vegetables, & Mashed Potatoes and I had the Roast Beef from the carving station, Mashed Potatoes, and Grilled Corn on the Cob. We walked around the ship and refamiliarized ourselves with the public areas and decks.We had a rest in the cabin and decided to eat in the Windjammer in lieu of the dining room as we have a late dining time. The Buffet Dinner in the Windjammer is very nice. They have waiter service for drinks and to take care of your needs. The food was very good as well. I had a large Salad, Prime Rib from the carving station, Mashed Potatoes, a 'made to order' soup, and a Pork Tornado. For dessert a Viennese Strawberry Meringue, Key Lime Pie, and a Sponge Cake soaked in liquor. All very good and it will be hard to get DW into the dining room. They have added a Taste of Nations area and today it was Indian Food. It was available for both lunch and dinner. The Welcome Aboard Show for both dinner seatings featured aerialists Adagio Hunnia, a comedian/juggler Kirk Marsh, and Mercedes LaFuente the Cruise Director. It was a good show and a good start to the cruise. After the show we retired to the cabin for a movie.
Day Two--Monday--at Sea A beautiful morning and the sea was fairly calm. I had a very nice breakfast of Eggs Benedict in the Carmen (main) dining room and then picked up tickets for the afternoon Ice Skating Show. We attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle at 11:00 a.m. in the High Notes Lounge. There was a good crowd and it's always great to put real names to screen names. They had small finger sandwiches, water, coffee, and lemonade. The Activities Manager from the ships cruise staff attended. I did some Internet time in the ship library. We had lunch in the Carmen dining room as they have the wonderful salad bar. I had a Salad, Steak Sandwich, and Carrot Cake for dessert. DW still prefers the Windjammer salad bar as they do have more specialty salad items such as sunflower seeds. The seas have picked up and there is a big wind across the decks. We went up to the upper decks to watch us sail through the straits separating the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, but the winds were too much. As it turned out our aft balcony was the ideal place to watch as we were protected from the wind. It was pleasant on the balcony as well with the sun warming us while observing the coastline of the two island. A very short nap before we went to the 3:30 ice show Ice Odyssey. It was the same show we have seen previously, but an excellent show and not to be missed. Following the show they had a meeting of the B2B cruisers at 4:30 in the La Scala theater. It seems we have set a new RCCL record for most repeat guests ever on a B2B cruise with 600 doing this cruise and then the transatlantic back to Galveston. We will not have to clear customs nor check-in, nor go through security again as they will do everything for us. BTW-the most repeaters by far are from Texas. They had delivered Chocolate Covered Strawberries to the cabin when we returned and they were great for an afternoon snack. The Captains reception was held in the Grand Promenade this evening and they had a special 10th anniversary cake for the ship as it was it was the Voyager of the Seas tenth birthday. We went to Cleopatra's Needle, the new designated Diamond members lounge, for wine before dinner. As it was the Captain's reception they had a very nice dance band performing. Dinner was at 9:00 and we have a very nice six top table in the middle of the main dining room. The Captains Dinner menu was very good. I had the Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Beef Filet, and Grand Mariner Soufflé as my selections. There was a headwaiter brought me a plate of sliced Hearts of Palm (one of my favorites) that were fantastic. The primary entertainment was one of the production shows, Music in Motion, but having seen it and the lateness of the evening we retired to prepare for our first day in Italy.
Day Three-Tuesday-Naples, Italy We slept very well and when we awoke and looked out our aft balcony we were docked at Naples. The ship was aft to the town so we had a great view of all the activities around the piers and a great view of Castel Nuovo. The weather was cloudy in the early morning, but would later become a beautiful day. We had room service breakfast delivered about 7:30 am as a wake up call to get out and see Italy. Our only plan for today was to see Pompeii, but we arranged for a nice private tour at the pier. Maximo was our driver and our first stop was Pompeii. It is really a spectacular place and not to be missed if ever in Naples. We spent 3 hours walking among the Roman ruins and seeing most of the major sites and restorations. Our next stop was Sorrento which is located across the bay from Naples. It is a beautiful town with a great view, nice shops, and great restaurants. We ate at a restaurant formerly in an old church, the Basilica, and really enjoyed the food. I had the Cannelloni Sorrento and DW had a Capri style pizza (Mozzarella cheese & tomato). We also sampled the LimonCello the drink of Sorrento. We spent about two hours in Sorrento and then returned to Naples for a tour of the city highlights. The Old gate, Old (1st) Castle, and Church Square are interesting, all dating in the 13th and 14th centuries. Naples has very old sites and interesting buildings; however, it was not a clean city nor appears to have a positive spirit about it. It's a shame to see graffiti everywhere including fountains. Not as nice as Sorrento or Barcelona. We had Fruit and Cheese plates delivered by room service as a nice balcony snack and enjoyed some sangria wine we brought aboard in Barcelona. The Crown & Anchor Past Guest party was tonight and the feature production show this evening in the La Scala Theater was Knight Magic, but we skipped both for rest from all the walking today. Dinner was good although hard to go so late. DW had the Cheese Tortalini. I had the Maryland Crab cake, Shrimp Cocktail, Black Angus Sirloin Steak, with a Dulce De Leche Cheesecake for dessert.
Day Four--Wednesday-Civitavecchia, Italy The weather was very nice today perfect for the tours we were taking. We again had room service breakfast and met our group of eight for a private tour of Rome. We used Rome-in-Limo Company (€90 pp) and they were perfect for seeing as much as possible with only one day in Rome. We were picked up at the dock and made the 1+ hour drive to Rome getting a history lesson on the way. The first major stop was the Colosseum. It is very impressive as is the area around the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine. We had about an hour to visit the Colosseum and area and then it was off to the location of the Circus Maximus (think chariot race in Ben Hur). Next stop was locations of the Roman Forums. Almost all ruins now, but there are columns of the various original buildings. Fortunately we had a guidebook that compared the existing ruins with what the original buildings looked like by using an overleaf in the book. It really helps to get an idea of what it looked like in early Roman times (Caesar and Augustus). There is really so much to take in in such a brief time. There were so many Temples, Forums, Arches, Columns, etc. to see. The Capital Hill area was also impressive especially the Pantheon. We drove by several other notable sites such as the Spanish Steps, Tiber Island, and so many more. We did stop at the famous and beautiful Trevi Fountain. We tossed some coins in the fountain as well as get an Italian ice crème from a local shop. This was a very busy morning and the Vatican area was scheduled for the afternoon, but now it was time for a lunch at a non-tourist family trattoria recommended by our guide. We stopped at Osteria dei Pontefici located near St. Peters and it was a wonderful experience and must be well thought of by the locals as there were two Cardinals and two priests at the next table We had a table for the eight in our group and were served family style. They brought bread and antipastos: Salami, Prosciutto, Bruchetta, Marinated Carrots, Eggplant, Zucchini, and an Egg dish. For entrees we were served a meat Ravioli and Penne Pasta in meat sauce. For dessert we had a small Tiramisu and Banana crème cake. Now it was time for the Vatican. The guide knew the time to drop us in order to avoid the larger tour groups and there was a very short line for admission. In order to save time we stayed in the main rooms of the Vatican Museum and a shortcut into the Sistine Chapel. The art and tapestries were numerous and beautiful, but of course Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is the most impressive. After leaving the Museum area we entered the Basilica of Saint Peter. Wow, what can one say? Perhaps the most impressive building I have ever seen, it was both awe inspiring and impressive. We stayed as long as possible, but had to meet our guide and driver at 4:00 pm. for the return trip to Civitavecchia. We made it to the ship by 5:30 and time to rest. Dinner this evening was very good, I had the Stuffed Pasta appetizer, Jalipeno Potato Soup, the Turkey Tenderloin, and BBB for dessert. Then cabin time and rest for another big day.
Day Five- Thanksgiving-Thursday, Livirno, Italy The weather was again pleasant and good for touring the Tuscan area of Italy. We shared a local taxi service with 6 others that would allow us to tour both Florence and Pisa on our own. This was a bargain (€40 pp) and also allowed us to be dropped in the best locations to tour each city. We first went to Florence passing the beautiful countryside and observing grape vineyards and olive trees. You could see the rolling hills and mountains in the distance. After an hour we arrived in Florence near the main cathedral piazza and first visited the Baptistery of St. Giovanni (4th-5th century and 1128), the Cathedral of Florence (1296-1375), and then the Academy Gallery that contains the original statue of David by Michelangelo. We then walked the several blocks to Piazza Della Signoria the location of the Palazzo Vecchio (1294), Neptune Fountain (1563), and the Loggia dei Lonzi (1376). The Loggia contains the original Rape of the Sabine Women (1583) a particular favorite as DW's family has a bronze that has passed through three generations. We then crossed over the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge (1345) and stopped in a beautiful restaurant. For lunch we had pizza, spaghetti, and the local chianti wine. We walked through the Uffizi that contains many masterpieces of the old master artists but knew we did not have time to see them with the limited amount of time we had left. We met the taxi for the trip to Pisa and the taxi dropped us just a block from the Piazza del Duomo. The Cathedral (1063) and Leaning (Bell) Tower (1172 & finished in 14th century) are very impressive. Our visit is at a good time as the recent renovations and repairs are completed and the Tower has also been cleaned. This is a must see for tourists to this part of Italy. It was also fun watching tourists pose for photos holding up the tower. As you can see from the photo, there was a Voyager ship photographer there. I found that to be very convenient. The driver had us back to the ship in good time and dropped us right at the gangway. Today being Thanksgiving the ship had a special Thanksgiving Dinner with Turkey, Dressing, Potatoes, Cranberries, and Pumpkin pie for dessert. The waiters ended Thanksgiving night by singing America the Beautiful.
Day Six--Friday-Villafranche, France The day was very pleasant. This is a beautiful natural harbor and the Voyager anchors in the middle. The port has nice tenders and you get ashore in just 10-15 minutes. Our plan was to go to Monaco for the day. We tendered over about 9:00 am and took the short walk to the Villafranche train station. We bought return tickets (€5 pp) to Monaco and the train came straightway. It was only a 15 minutes trip on the train and we got off in the station in central Monaco. We walked to the famous Monte Carlo casino visiting the gardens along the way. We then took the bus to the Royal Palace arriving in time to watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony. The palace museum was closed for the season, but we did visit the Cathedral and the graves of Princess Grace and Rainier. We found a fantastic Crêpe restaurant just below the Palace in the Old Town area. I had a ham & cheese crepe, DW a cheese crepe, and we shared a carafe of wine and a dessert crepe. This was an excellent lunch.
We were very impressed with how all of Monaco is clean and well manicured with lots of flowers, especially in the palace area. We found the underground Train Station and had to wait a while for the next train, but we made it back to Villafranche harbor well before the last tender. DW stayed and shopped a bit at some stalls set up in the town as I returned directly to the ship. We attended the production show Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme before dinner and enjoyed the show. This was the final formal dinner and the menu was very good. My selections were the Shrimp Cocktail, Soup, Garden Salad, Fisherman's Platter (Lobster & shrimp) and the assorted dessert selection with vanilla ice crème.
Day Seven-Saturday-Toulon, France We were scheduled to dock in Marseilles, but due to a potential dock strike we called on the port of Toulon. Toulon is the headquarters of the French navy. We had to take a shuttle into town as the Voyager is too large for the city piers and we docked across the harbor in La Seyne-Sir-Mer. Toulon is not one of the primary tourist destinations so it was fun walking around town and taking in the sites. This was market day and there were hundreds of stalls set up with fresh vegetables, fish, olives, fruits, flowers, etc. It was beautiful and the olives and red peppers were most impressive. We had a wonderful crepe at a local stall as a morning snack as we didn't have breakfast on board. I really enjoyed the visit to the Muse National de la Marine, the National Naval Museum, located in the 18th century naval arsenal. They had a good display of items from the 18th-19th century and transition into modern navy. We saw some traditional Provence fabrics and pottery in the shops in old town and along the promenade of the harbor. We visited the local Saint-Louis church that was rebuilt after W.W.II. We shuttled back to the ship in the afternoon early enough to get a salad and made to order frittatas in the Windjammer as a late lunch. We had much needed cabin time to rest from all the walking we have done this week. We went to the Diamond lounge for wine before another good dinner.
Debarkation--Sunday No debarkation as we are staying aboard ship.
Ship The Voyager has had a dry dock update since we last sailed in January, but I haven't noticed any major difference or update. Since this cruise was so port intensive we have not really explored the ship that well, but will do so on the next leg as we have more time.
Crew The staff and crew are very good. The staff is very friendly, but I look for that to even improve once they again begin sailing form Galveston. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. Our Stateroom Attendant, Norris, was good and kept the cooler in ice.
Cabin We had cabin 9692 an aft balcony on deck nine. It is an average sized cabin and a nice balcony. The safe has a button keypad and there is a hair dryer. The TV's were not upgraded during dry dock, they are the same old TV's. There are now two electrical plugs on the vanity/desk. BTW-you can check the status of your on board account using the RC-TV. We never used the cabin refrigerator. Norris didn't leave any mints on the bed at turn down as RCCL has eliminated them, but did some weak towel animals most nights.
Food We had second or late seating for dinner and it is even later on the Med cruises: 9:00 pm. Our dining room was the Carmen, deck three (lower level) of the 3 level restaurant. It was a six top table and it below the beautiful main chandelier. We enjoyed all the dinners in the dining room. We never ate at Johnny Rockets or Portifino. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer usually had a fresh frittata and a carving station for nice meat selections. We enjoyed the green salads and specialty items. The desserts are very good. There are several ice cream machines with vanilla and chocolate flavors. We do use Room Service more when we have a balcony cabin. You can order room service on the RC-TV, but I recommend calling room service. DW used it for light breakfast every morning. We also used it a few times in the afternoon for Fruit plates & Cheese plates. Service was very good when used.
Weather The weather was very nice especially considering that we are sailing in late November. The days are short, but we usually got an early start on tours so we were back on board when Sundown came about 5:00 p.m. It never rained and a light jacket is all that was needed during the day.
Personal Comments The new C&A Diamond members lounge was located in Cleopatra's Needle. We visited a few times, but were limited on drink selections. Taking away benefits earned under the loyalty program is not good. Benefits fairly earned should never have been reduced. The coupon book they now have has NO free items, only credits for very expensive items or small percentage off some more useful purchases. I know RCCL had to make some changes in the program, it was the way that it was handled is what I have been upset and concerned about. Believe me I want success for the company as I own stock beyond what is needed for a shareholder discount.
Cruise Highlights The five ports were by far the highlight of this cruise. We really enjoyed each and everyone. So much history and culture to absorb. Our favorite port was Rome our least favorite was Naples. We really enjoyed this cruise! A LOT!
I recently sailed on the Brilliance of the seas. It was the worst cruise i have ever been on. The crew was not friendly nor helpful. The ports were nice, but that was about all. Royal Caribbean stranded passengers at the airport for over 18 hours who had booked their airfare with them. This has got to be the worst customer service I have ever had with any crusie ship or cruiseline. Princess is looking better everyday.
I consider my self a crusing expert. Food, service,entertainment and the like. I am often asked " which is the best cruise line". There is really no correct answer. Each line has good and bad points and much depends on the passenger. The most important aspect of an enjoyable cruise is preparation. Most of the griping I hear relates to poor planning of a misunderstanding of itineries and port planning.
Work on preparation and planning and any cruise line will be enjoyable.
We flew the red-eye and after a stop in Atlanta arrived at the airport in San Juan a little after noon. We gathered our bags, took a short taxi ride to the pier and went through security, got our Sea Pass cards and were up eating lunch in the Windjammer before 1:30. A very quick and efficient process at the pier. However after a long overnight flight without a whole lot of sleep and the warm humid air we looked terrible in our boarding picture and it was the first time we didn't buy it.
The staterooms were available after 2:00 and we slept for a few hours before the muster drill which was at 6:00, without having to wear the lifejackets the muster drill was a lot quicker and more enjoyable a great change on Royal Caribbeans part. Luggage was delivered soon after the drill was over and after unpacking and a shower and change of clothes we were ready for the cruise to begin. The ship departs late at 8:00 and there was a great view of San Juan as we left. Ate dinner (second seating) in theMain Dining Room. The food was very good and so were our table mates (would someday like to find out how they assign table partners, we have always ended up with very good ones) the service was so-so the waiters seem to be handling more tables than they used to and could tell they were rushed trying to keep up.
The first day was at sea and gave us time to wander the ship. The weather was warm but was hazy so it seemed to keep a lot of people from the pool deck. We have cruised on two other Voyager class ships so we pretty much knew our way around. Spent time in the casino (won some so we didn't stay long) and just relaxed and enjoyed the only day at sea on this itinerary. We ate at the Windjammer for dinner, we actually eat most dinners there we like the quiet laid back atmosphere, good choice of food and since we were cruising this time without the kids we wanted to spend time alone.
First port-of-call Barbados, had not been to this island before and just wanted a nice relaxing beach day. We went to the taxi tent just outside the pier, the taxi system there was not set up well and would only leave when there was a full van (10-14 people) going to the same location. This took well over a half hour waiting for a full van and although the beach we went too (Blue Monkey Beach) was very beautiful and the water calm, there were so many locals trying to get you to buy things or ride the waverunners that it became very annoying and we left after a couple of hours. Went to "downtown" to try and find some souvenirs to buy but there but didn't have much luck. We also didn't have much luck trying to find something for lunch so we went back to the ship. We ate lunch played mini golf and hung out the rest of the day onboard. Overall one of my least favorite islands and would probably not go back. Ate at Portofinos, excellent food and service, although a bit slow to bring courses.
Second port-of call, St. Lucia an incredibly beautiful island. Spent the day at Reduit Beach a great beach with a nice beachside restaurant (Spinnakers) had a wonderful time and although there were a few people selling stuff they were all around in the morning but as the day wore on they left you alone. Went back to the pier at 3:30 did some shopping, the prices there are a bit more than at most of the islands but not too bad. Overall this was our favorite port because of the mountainous island, great beach with amenities and friendly people. Went to the Love and Marriage show, it was great and would recommend this as a don't miss activity.
Day 5 port-of call, Antigua another beautiful island, great taxi service. Our taxi driver was a sweat lady who gave us some history of the island as she drove us to Long Bay beach, didn't pay for taxi until after she returned us to the ship, which was great knowing that she would return at the requested time. Beach was excellent, calm water, very few people selling stuff. There were small shacks on the beach with t-shirts and drinks to buy. Had a great time did a little snorkeling. After returning to the pier we did some shopping and the prices were very inexpensive and a lot to choose from. Ate dinner at the Windjammer again and called it an early night.
Day 6 port-of-call, St. Maarten we have been here before and it is one of our favorites. Took the water taxi and shopped a bit before heading to the beach again. We asked the taxi driver to take us to Coconut Grove Beach (recommended by one of the locals) somehow though we ended up being taken to Orient Beach. I don't think he knew where the other beach was. We stayed at Orient Beach and had a wonderful time. Great amenities and lots of places to eat at. There were a few topless sunbathers but not too bad. Spent all day there and went back to the pier around 4:00 shopped a little right at the pier before boarding the ship. We decided to try the Main Dining Room again and although the food was good and our tablemates were great, the service was terrible.
The wrong drinks were brought, it was lobster night and my husband ordered lobster after his steak and never got it. My drink had a hair on the glass so I asked for a new drink and never got it. A couple at our table never got their coffee after dinner. We had way better service in the Windjammer. We went with the other couples from our table to the Quest show, it was excellent, hadn't laughed so hard in ages.
Last port-of-call was St. Croix, a very beautiful island with lots of beaches close to the pier. It was great to spend the day at the beach (Sandcastle Beach) where you can still see the ship. The beach was great with a nice little restaurant on the beach and drink service at your lounge chairs, and nobody hassling you to buy anything. There was locals selling t-shirts and stuff at the pier and overall the people are very laid back without anybody pushing you to buy stuff or taxi drivers trying to wrangle you. Will definitely have to go back.
Departure day, we had a later flight home so we picked luggage tags that weren't called till 10:15. We like that they let you leave your staterooms at your leisure and have the assigned departure lounges. After our color of tag was called we walked off the ship found our bags quickly and had one of the porters help us out (a wise decision) the taxi line was very long when we walked out but the porter went to the end of the line flagged a taxi and loaded our bags and we were off (I'm sure a lot of people in line wish they would have used the porters.) Same thing at the airport we had an airport porter help with our bags, the Delta check-in line was even longer than the taxi line was. The porter went to the front, printed our boarding tags retrieved our luggage tags took us to the front of the line and helped lift the bags on the scales and we were off. Quick note though you have to take your bags to the agriculture screening machines before lining up at the airlines line.
Overall experience was excellent, this is a port intense cruise so with an island stop five days in a row we didn't do much late night because of the early arrivals at the islands. Other than the bad experience with the waiter in the MDR we had friendly service everywhere else. Had an excellent waiter at night in the Windjammer (thanks Joel Ng) Both boarding the ship and departing went very smooth and very quick, definitely have the porters assist you when leaving. We love the Voyager class and would do this cruise again, would love to do it as a back-to-back and will at least have to look into doing the alternate itinerary.
We cruised the Greek Islands on Splendour of the Seas from Sept. 26 to Oct.3 out of Venice. It was our first Royal Caribbean cruise and it probably wont be our last.The service crew and ship were all outstanding and after some shabby treatment from Carnival we are now converts.
We were lucky enough to notice a price drop after we had made final payment and ended up with a $660.00 ship board credit and got upgraded to a Jr. suite.
We took the 4 hour drive to Toronto on a Thursday and flew out on Air Transat on the Friday to arrive in Venice via Montreal at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday. We used the R.C. transfer were met outside luggage claim and boarded a bus for the port. After a 20 minute trip we arrived at the pier. We simply unloaded our bags from the bus and a lady put some tags on them and away we went to the ship leaving our bags with her. Having just spent 10 hours on an overnight flight the details are a little blurry but I do remember filling out some forms whilewaiting in line. I think they were health related but since they were in Italian I’m not sure. I also know that we had preferred boarding because we were in a Jr. suite. This part went very fast and there was champagne and pastries for us before we boarded. I can see my watch in the boarding photo and it says 2:25 so that’s when we boarded.
Departure was set for 5:00 P.M. so we had lots of time to explore the ship. Though this ship was built in ’96 she seemed to be in great shape. Just a word about our cabin, a Junior suite. It was nice to be upgraded but I don’t believe I would pay for one. There just isn’t that much difference from a balcony cabin aside from preferred boarding and a bath tub. Our cabin steward ,Bruno from Brazil , was outstanding and very professional. Besides taking care of our every need he offered valuable advice about each of the ports we visited.
After the now life-jacketless boat drill we set sail. Tug boats actually tow the ships down the Qiudecca Canal and out to sea. I assume this is to limit damage to the shore from the ships’ wake. This has to one of the most spectacular sail-aways in the world. We stood spellbound on our balcony watching this vista unfold until we were in the Adriatic. We went to the dining room to arrange for a table for 2 and found out that we already had one. We over heard people trying to get times for My Time Dining and it seems that this is actually Their Time Dining. People were asking for certain times and were being told that time just doesn’t work. I think this plan is a dud.
We found the food in the dining room very good to excellent and the service outstanding,especially our waiters Iliu from Romania and Roderick from the Phillipines.
As for the ports,it would be hard to pick a favorite,each was wonderful in it’s own way.The only port we booked a ships tour was Santorini. This was only to take advantage of the bus to the top of the island and so avoid the cable car line ups.
All the other ports are easily seen on your own unless you want to see Ephesus from Kusadashi. Even there we had booked an independent tour guide at a fraction of the price of the ships tour.
We returned to Venice very early in the morning and were of the ship before 9:00 A.M. The disembarkation procedure was one of the most efficient we have experienced. The shuttle from the ship to Piazzale Roma dropped us off literally at the door step of our hotel (Santa Chiara). We dropped off our bags and had the day and evening to explore Venice. The next day we caught the bus across the parking lot and were at the air port 20 minutes later. Back in Toronto at 9 that night .
All in all this was one of the best cruises we have ever taken and I recommend it highly to anyone wanting to see the Mediterranean. Just be sure to spend some time in Venice before or afterward.
This was our tenth Alaska cruise. We have also taken several Pacific coastal cruises. This was a repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Alaska, then down the coast finishing in San Diego. The ports included Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier (cruising), Sitka, Victoria, San Francisco (two full days) and San Diego.
We flew to Vancouver a day early and were glad we did. It has been a few years since we flew into Vancouver and we did not realize how long it took to get through Canadian Customs. Several planes had landed around the same time as ours and hundreds of people were lined up waiting in the Customs line. It took us about 2 hours to get through and on our way to the hotel. Had we been heading for the ship, we may not have made it by the appointed time.
We spent the night at the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver. This is a 4 star hotel that we reserved through Priceline at $130 per night including all taxes and fees. Several people on our cruise who contribute to online message boards had recommended this hotel andwe were very pleased with the room, service, and price. The hotel in located a half block from Robson Street, the main shopping street in downtown Vancouver. We asked at the front desk if there was a Thai restaurant nearby and were told that there is one right across the street from the hotel. We had a very pleasant dinner at this place. The next day, we took a cab to the Ballantyne Pier. The cost was about $15.00 American including tip.
Embarkation Embarkation was smooth and quick. Because we were platinum members of the Crown & Anchor Society, we were escorted to the special check-in line. Since we arrived at 11:30 AM, our cabin was not yet ready. We went up to the Windjammer and had lunch. At 1:00 PM we were able to go to our cabin.
Cabin We were on the Jewel of the Seas last year and learned that the outside cabins, which adjoined the next cabin, had a different configuration than all the other outside cabins on the ship. These cabins have the head of the bed against a side wall, which we prefer. This enables you to look out the window without having to climb up on the bed. Since the Radiance is a sister ship to the Jewel, the cabin configurations are the same as the Jewel. We chose one of these cabins and were very happy with it. Our only complaint is that these cabins have inadequate drawer space. Our steward did an excellent job for the entire cruise except he was unable to provide ice tongs, but we managed to live without them.
Every night of the cruise we had a different “towel animal” on the bed. We saw several that we had not seen on previous cruises. We also noticed that the quality of the bath towels and bed sheets exceeded what we have had on previous cruises and other cruise lines. The location of the cabin was excellent being about half way between the Cascades Dining Room and the Aurora Theatre.
Food Unfortunately, the food in the dining room and Windjammer were not up to par. We had My Time Dining for dinner and the waiters did an excellent job. Most of our meals were taken at 6 PM when the dining room opened for the evening, but on several occasions, we attended an early show and had dinner at a later time. There did not seem to be any difference in the service when we went later and we were seated immediately whenever we arrived. The My Time Dining system seems to be working out very well. I suspect more people will select this option as they learn it is available. We found out about it on the last day of our Jewel of the Seas cruise in New England last year when another guest mentioned it at lunch. Up until then, we had no idea that it was available. Strange as it seems, our Royal Caribbean in-house agent never mentioned it to us as an option.
We noticed that the menus have been changed to discourage guests from having several courses at dinner. Instead of listing soup, salad, appetizers, and entrees under individual headings, they list the soup, salad and appetizers under the heading Starters and the entrees under another heading. Therefore, most people ordered just one item from the Starters group and one from the entrée group. It seemed to speed up the service and everyone appeared to be happy with the system. I never felt hungry upon leaving the dining room. I suppose Royal Caribbean saves a little on food costs by using this new system.
Entertainment Because this was a repositioning cruise, I had assumed that the entertainment might not be as good as it would be on a regular cruise. Was I wrong about that! They had a couple of production shows and the rest were individuals or groups that came onboard for just one performance. Every night was a different show. Some of the best were:The Diamonds- This foursome sang oldies form the 50s and 60s and brought down the house. They were nothing short of fantastic. The place rocked. Marie Neglia- She is a violinist and she stated that she had been on the Ed Sullivan show 24 times in her youth. She is a mature lady now, but she still has full control over the violin and played some amazing pieces that would have made my arm fall off. Lenny Welch-Mr. Welch is another entertainer from the 60s. I frankly had not heard of him before, but he is an excellent showman and did a great job putting on a very professional show. Tim Walkoe- This comedian had the jokes coming so fast, I was always two jokes behind him. And he had a clean show. Mathew & Gunnar Nelson- The twin sons of Ricky Nelson did a tribute show to their father. I was not familiar with these two and did not expect much from them, but I sure was wrong again. They are very professional and did an excellent job.
We have taken 8 Royal Caribbean cruises and I have yet to see a performer that I have seen on a previous cruise, so these folks may never appear on another RCL ship. But, if they do appear on one of your cruises, don’t fail to see their shows.
Ports Since we have been on 10 Alaska cruise, we have seen most of what is available on the ship’s tours. Therefore, we did only one of them on this cruise. At other ports, we just walked to some of the local places that we missed on past cruises. We had excellent weather in all ports except Icy Strait Point, but even here we were able to run between the drops.
In Ketchikan, we walked up to the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center. I was disappointed and felt that the entrance price was inflated for what they offered. They had two Bald Eagles in an enclosure. They both looked sickly. A guide, who provided a quick 15-minute description of the place, led us through and then escorted us out the back door. After leaving the hatchery, we walked down the Married Man Trail to Creek Street. Along the way, we were amazed at the number of fish that were trying to get up to the hatchery. The creek was choked with them and I doubt that there was any more room available at the hatchery. Most of them probably died in the stream before they spawned. Thousands more were stacked up at the mouth of the creek just below the highway bridge in the heart of Ketchikan. We finished off our day at the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. It is a little pricey, but they put on a good show.
In Juneau, we took the local bus to the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure. It is a few miles up the highway from Juneau and took about 1/4 hour to get there by bus. They provide a tour through the forest and up to the top of a hill where you have a view of the entire Juneau area. Unfortunately, there were not that many flowers in bloom, but our guide provided a interesting commentary as we proceeded through the forest. The upside-down trees were a novelty.
At Icy Strait Point, we took a tram tour through the local forest and along the shoreline. There was not much to see in the forest, but we were entertained by a group of whales off the coast. The highpoint of the tram ride was some very colorful mushrooms that grow in a certain place along the trail. The local tribe has done an excellent job of converting an abandoned fish cannery into various shops selling locally made items. A shuttle was available to take visitors into the local town for a fee of $8.00 per person round trip. Heavy rain prevented us from going, but people that did said it was not worth the cost of the trip. They have a mile-long zip line ride at this port and people that tried it said they had a ball. As we returned from our tram ride, six people zoomed over our head on the zip lines. It was raining buckets just as they passed and I surmise that some or all of them were soaked by the time they finished their ride.
In Sitka, we walked to the Alaska Raptor Center. This was the highlight of the day. They have a number of birds in various enclosures and they all appear healthy and happy. Once they recover from their injuries, they are released back into the wild. This place is quite attractive and well kept. It is worth the entrance fee and the money goes to a good cause.
Victoria was its usual beautiful self with lots of hanging baskets full of flowers. There was lots of activity around the downtown port and people watching was the order of the day. We walked a couple of miles looking for antique stores, but discovered that they were all closed because it was Sunday. It was such a nice day, we did not mind and finally went back to Government Street where they had tourist oriented stores open and ready for business.
Two more beautiful days were spent walking around San Francisco in the sunshine. Unfortunately, it was so foggy in the morning that the Golden Gate Bridge was barely visible as we passed under it at 6 AM. We also could not see any city lights because of the fog. However, as soon as we docked, the fog lifted and the city stood out in all its glory. The GG Bridge spent most of the two days in a bank of fog. All the people that wanted to see the bridge were up on the top deck as we left San Francisco. The wind coming trough the Golden Gate was almost strong enough to blow you off the deck, but hundreds of people braved it just to get a good look at the bridge as we passed underneath. There were many oohs and aahs as it happened.
As we approached San Diego, the fog was just as thick as it was in San Francisco. The captain announced that the ship had to be docked with the use of instruments because the fog was too thick to see. Fortunately, it lifted so those who had never been here before could take pictures. This city, like San Francisco, is very impressive to view from the deck of a visiting cruise ship.
Captain We have noticed that the Norwegian captains always seem to do a better job than any of their competitors. They usually make excellent announcements each day and always keep the passengers up to date on any concerns they might have about the weather or other problems that might arise concerning life onboard. Our captain did an equally good job, except that he was more of a ham than any of the others with whom we have sailed. His question and answer period on Day 11 kept the audience in stitches for nearly 1 1/2 hours.
Cruise Quality Overall, this was a good cruise. The food quality could have been better. We did notice that Royal Caribbean is cutting back on some of the "small things" to which we had become accustomed. They no longer put candy on your pillow each night and the commemorative gift has disappeared. They are also cutting back on the benefits for Crown & Anchor Society members. We just qualified as Diamond members and were looking forward to the increased benefits on our next cruise, but now find that we must become Diamond Plus members before receiving those benefits which were heretofore available to Diamond members. That is a shame.
Disembarkation Many cruise ships are starting to release passengers around 6 AM so they can make early flights. On this cruise, they did not start to disembark until around 8:30 AM. We were supposed to be called by the color of our luggage tags, but many people felt that they were going to miss their early flights, so they started to line up at the gangway as soon as it looked like it would be opened. This created a crush anxious of folks coming from all directions and was not a good situation. I could have been avoided if the ship had started to disembark passengers earlier.
We just returned from a 3-night cruise to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. It was our second cruise with this line, for no better reason than a holiday weekend getaway. Our first cruise with Royal Caribbean 6 or 7 years ago holds memories of a forward verandah cabin, impeccable service, and a quaint promenade that mimicked a small town main street, complete with street lamps. This is what we were looking forward to. Surprise!
Embarkation was fast and easy – no lines, no waiting. Our cabin on deck 2 was ready when we boarded sometime around one o'clock. Our assignment to cabin 2026 on deck 2 was a shock, disclosed at check-in. We made the mistake of allowing the Royal Caribbean agent who booked the cruise to talk us into an open booking. The "guarantee" was at least an ocean view cabin on deck 6 – no lower, but likely higher. The offer of an even better cabin was too tempting to pass up, hence this note to selves: remember open booking lesson. The ocean view on deck 2 is through a porthole!
The cabin staff was pleasant butunreliable, and complained of being tired all the time. Twice we were given only one towel, once we did not receive the day's Cruise Compass, and finally, we were not given a guest survey form. On our second day, the shower drain backed up and flooded the bathroom floor. Though we reported the problem, it was still backing up when we disembarked. Just like camping. This very small cabin was packed with cases of water, bottles and cans of soda, and snacks that were available for sale. This clutter left very little table top space for our use.
We routinely had breakfast and lunch at the buffet, where the service was good and the choices were adequate. We noted that very little food was wasted, maybe because there were no food trays. The staff was polite and pleasant, but not too engaging with the guests.
My Time Dining was a new cruise dining experience for us. Prepaid gratuities allowed us to have dinner in a designated dining room at whatever time we chose. One night we shared a table for four, one night we shared a large table with seven other guests, and on our last night we requested a table for two at the window. We got it.
Disembarkation was as well-organized and easy as embarkation. No lines, no waiting.
This was our least enjoyable of over a dozen cruises, but it could have been worse. The surprise cabin assignment was a major disappointment and colored the entire weekend. When the shower backed up, my husband decided that he'd had it with Royal Caribbean. Maybe after another 7 years he'll change his mind.
9 Nites to Bermuda, St. Thomas, St. Maartan, San Juan.
Although the Explorer is based out of New Jersey this was our first cruise on Explorer. It was nice not having to fly.
Ship - The Explorer being 11 years old is in very good shape. We cruised on Liberty two weeks before this cruise and could not tell the difference that Liberty was only 2 years old and Explorer was 11. Kudos to Royal for keeping their ships in excellent and clean condition.
Ports - We really enjoyed the ports and also having close to 5 sea days. First time to Bermuda. Horseshoe Bay is beautiful. My son had broke his wrist two weeks before the cruise so we did not do the excursions we planned on doing. The only excursion we did was in St. Thomas Coral World which was fun. We will have to book the next cruise in order to take the excursions that we missed out on. :)
Entertainment/Activities/Shows - Shows were all good. Two comedians were funny. Production shows were good as well. Motown show was great. There was alot of activities going on all week.The cruise director Good Day Dave Chapman does a great job. Along with his staff they really make the cruise more enjoyable. I would have to place Good Day Dave on my #1 cruise director list tied with Richard Spacey.
The pool band Vibes are excellent!! I love those guys I have seen them on the Navigator in February and I was so happy to see them on the Explorer.
DJ Savio is one of the best DJ's Royal has got playing todays hot dance music in the disco each nite.
Food - Ok so I'm not a foodie. I don't cruise for food or to eat. The meals I ordered were all good. Never had any desserts.
Staff/Service - Well once again a ship with a wonderful crew. It was nice to see Richardo again in the Diamond Lounge. Abel the room attendant was great. Waiters were Excellent. Disco Bartender Sharon is the best!!
Did the Bridge tour and Galley tour. First time in the Galley and it was impressive.
We will cruise on Explorer again in 2010!!
I will preface by saying we have cruised 6 times before 3 on Carnival, 2 on Royal Caribbean and once on Disney. We are a married couple in our mid 30s with two children. On this cruise we sailed just me and my wife.
We stayed at the Hyatt Miami Place near the airport and took advantage of their one way shuttle to the port and left our car on their property for the week which was included in our stay. This was approximately the same cost as driving the day of the cruise and paying for parking at the port. We drove in from Tampa and did not want to have to leave so early to be in Miami to catch the ship. The hotel was very clean and worth the money.
After catching the shuttle from the hotel, we arrived at the port terminal and checked in with no problems. Got on the ship in a little under an hour and made our dinner reservations with my time dining for 6pm. After seeing our 8th floor balcony room, we toured the ship which was absolutely beautiful. Wethen did the muster drill then the sail away party. Dinner was next at 6p the food was ok. We attended the welcome aboard party which was nice.
Sunday day at sea,
Hung out by the pool got a good tan and enjoyed a bucket of Corona. Windjammer for lunch was ok. Formal/lobster night was very good probably the best lobster I have had on a cruise yet. The show was good.
Monday day at sea,
Days at sea are always our favorite. We hung out by the pool got more of a tan. This day we hung by the solarium pool which was very nice and tried the overhanging hot tub which was very cool. I played some poolside blackjack and tried the flow rider. What a blast! Johnny Rockets for lunch was very good. We did late seating dinner and the food was ok. We skipped the show and did some casino then dancing in the Catacombs club. Sorrento’s pizza for a late night snack on the balcony was very good.
Tuesday Saint Marten,
Breakfast in the Windjammer was ok then we went shopping by the pier as we had an excursion at noon. We did the Double Eagle catamaran which was very nice. Very rough waters so the boat had to divert to a beach instead of the Tintamaare Island that it was supposed to sail to. Beach was nice and the crew was awesome. Overall it was a very good excursion. Dinner was at Chops and the filet was excellent.
Wednesday Puerto Rico,
We met some friends who live in PR who took us to Isla Verde beach. We had lunch at a local place because we had to try mofongo which was very good. Back on ship we hung out by the solarium for awhile then watched the sail out from San Juan from the upper deck. 8pm dinner was ok. Blackjack then dancing at the Catacombs then I ordered room service. This is when I discovered the Bistro Burger and chicken wings on the room service menu which was better that the Johnny Rockets burger in my opinion.
All I can say is how cool is this place. Tender operation needs to be looked at but it appeared as though they were building a dock which will take care of the problems. We did the zip line which was a blast. The beach area on the ocean side was a nightmare to try and walk into with bare feet as there were big pieces of busted up coral all over and under the water. This explained the big crates of water shoes I saw in the onboard shops when we first got on the ship. I really wish a good explanation would have been given on this port as to the deal with the water on this side of the beach. On the bay side of the facility, you could walk fine into the water without shoes. Bring single dollar bills to tip the chair guys. The BBQ lunch was excellent and not to be missed. Very nice place with chairs and hammocks in the shade as well as in the sun. I wish we could have had two days there. We did dinner in the Windjammer which was good. We danced late night poolside at the nightclub they had set up there.
Friday at sea day,
We hung out by the solarium pool getting in and out just lounging for the final day. We did the windjammer for lunch and I played blackjack poolside for the final time. Dinner was in our room on the balcony with a Bistro Burger. We attended the farewell show which was nice then packed our stuff. We didn’t stay out too late because of the drive back home.
Overall a very nice cruise although I noticed that the quality of the food/entertainment was lacking from previous (2) cruises with Royal Caribbean. The specialty dining restaurant was not even close to being as good as Carnivals offering which was a bit disappointing. With this being said, I understand that hard economic times make companies cut in areas to save money which I believe was the reason for these and other things about this cruise to be surprisingly substandard for a Royal Caribbean product. We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and will cruise again with Royal Caribbean probably due to their ship innovation alone.
Family vaction onboard the Serenade of the Seas July 11th - 18th 2009. Me, DH, DD (21) and DS (17)
We flew into Vancouver from Boston the day before cruise via AirCanada which was terrible due to delays of their own making ie: sold same seat to two different people. Had we flown in the same day of the cruise, we would've missed the ship.
Took limo from airport which was excellent -- reasonable rate $41 CAD and great service.
Stayed at Carmana Plaza Suites on Alberni Street which was also great.
Embarked next day = Saturday. The Serenade of the Seas is a beautiful ship! Clean, well maintained, great crew. We thought the food was very good, especially liked the Windjammer buffet but then again, we like a more casual atmosphere. Most people ate dinner in the Main Dining Room in which there were lots of jeans on casual nights but very dressy on formal nights.
Had connecting balcony cabins on deck 7 -- the ones that have the lifeboat cover obstructing the view downward. We did not feel this was an issue until glacier day as we couldn't see all ofthe icebergs. But it was not so much of an issue that it would keep us from booking them again.
The self-righting pool tables in the Safari bar were awesome and we used them a lot. The water in the pools was too cold to swim in until the last day, so the hot tubs were often crowded.
The gym lacked air conditioning, was crowded and much of the equipment was broken so we often just ended up walking the decks for exercise.
My husband and BIL enjoyed the cigar bar @ Hollywood Odyssey Lounge on deck 13.
Coffees at Latitudes were very good.
The headliner entertainment was great but the rest of the shows were a waste of time.
That being said, we were never bored on the ship. There was always something to do and I really believe she is one of the most beautiful ships sailing today.
First stop was Icy Strait Point. Very small village that can be seen in an hour. You really need to book an excursion here to get the most out of this port. We booked a private whale watch w/ FISHES and saw bears, humpback whales, sea lions, eagles and salmon. Excellent!!
Next was Endicott Arm Fjord which was simply amazing. The Capt got the ship much closer to the glacier than I thought would be possible and spun the ship so all sides had great viewing. We watched the entire time from our balcony, saw one medium and 3-4 small calvings that created "white thunder". Many seals are resting on the larger icebergs floating near ship. It was truly spectacular!
Next port was Skagway which had a lot of shopping and got crowded as the day went on. We had booked the Helo/DogSled but it was cancelled due to low clouds. This excursion often gets cancelled so have an alternative in mind. Instead we went on the White Pass train --- crowded but ok; great scenery though I fell asleep on the way back -- and a Helo/Glacier Tour that was fantastic! A helicopter took us to the glacier where a guide took us on a tour. We had sweatshirts, hats and gloves, only our cheeks got cold but I am sure on colder days you'll to bundle up more.
Next port was Juneau --- also a lot of shopping and crowded but if you walk further into the city, you can shake loose of the other tourists and see what the place is really like. Went on the Alaskan Canopy Zip Line -- loved it!! 10 ziplines and a suspension bridge. The staff were fabulous and my family enjoyed it.
Weather: Our sea days coming and going were cool, cloudy and rocking. But the rest of the trip had weather that was mild (high 70s) and sunny to mostly cloudy but we never had any rain and the seas were calm. This was fantastic sailing weather for Alaska!
Vancouver: I highly recommend biking Stanley Park! I really enjoyed this! It's a mostly level, very scenic ride of about 8 miles. You can rent kids bikes and even bikes for two. There is also a free shuttle through the park for those who can't bike it. We also went to Capilano Suspension Bridge which kids will love! It's all outdoors and has a TreeTops Adventure = boardwalks high up in the trees.
Trip home on AirCanada was again delayed as our plane was broken and it took them several hours to get a replacement.
It is sad that this is the Serenade's last summer sailing Alaska. She is the perfect ship for this type of cruise.
I have to say that if we ever go on another Alaskan cruise (and we intend to), we will sail from Seattle instead for a couple of reasons: avoid customs; cheaper and direct flights from Boston; and I will never fly AirCanada again.