Year Started: 1969
Ships in Fleet: 23
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, Mediterranean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:UK, Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda
Good for: Disabled Travelers. Group. Families.
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.
Regions:China (as of May 2015)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do NOT go on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas
If you haven’t booked a Royal Caribbean Cruise do NOT book one. As a seasoned traveler and a 5 time cruiser I am telling you DO NOT BOOK ROYAL CARIBBEAN—OR-- cancel your cruise if you are unfortunate enough to have already booked the Independence of the Seas. Here is why:
• The worst food of any cruise I have ever sailed
• No 24 food service in the Windjammer
• Food police guard the Windjammer so even if you wanted an apple around 5 pm the cops are there to stop you and direct 6 floors below to the pizza place.
• They shut down the Windjammer from 5 pm until 6:30 and then again at 11 pm
• Unhappy people serving the food All of them wanted to get off the ship
• Nothing special on the Buffet EVER—Hamburgers, Hot dogs and then slop that was bland enough to cater to the over 80 crowd and let them gum it down without their teeth
• Overcrowded and horrible boarding and departing procedures
• Over priced drinks and watered down cocktails
• Any alcohol brought ontothe ship is taken off you and given back on the last day
• Automatic gratuities and then the servers try to get you to tip on the 18% saying they don’t get it all
• NO FOOD SERVICE at the pools so even if you wanted some of the slop you have to go back to the Windjammer and tote it out yourself
• Don't purchase their drinking water packages. It costs about $4.50 for a bottle of water.
• They try to ding you for every minor thing as if they built the ship and now YOU have to pay for it every nickel dime they can extract All the time we were on the ship Royal Caribbean was incessantly attempting to fleece the last penny from your pockets. If it wasn't for official photographs at $20 a photo, it was cocktails at the pool side, art auctions, paying for fitness classes or paying for the shuttle buses at some of the Ports that convey you from the boat into the local town
So you say –Well what was good:
• Our Jr. Suite was wonderful
• Spending time with my wife
• Sleeping with the door open so you could hear the waves
• The Casino
• The Entertainment Director Goff was hilarious!
Final word---Book anything but this BIG ship the Independence of the Seas Or you will HATE it
Sailing out of Tampa fl. 4 nighter,got a very good price,cabin deck 4 Ship in good shape,food very good Windjammer,MDR and hot. Crew friendly,helpful. Didn't have a camera in your face every time you turned around.Capt.Ron a American gave updates with added humor. Didn't do shows,or get off ship. As other reviews had small problem with drains,sink water would back up in shower,didn't bother using it used the spa showers after a relaxing steam.sauna Very good product hope to sail her again.
There is an old adage that goes something like this: It's not where you are going, but rather, how you get there. Well, in this case, the Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has constructed the largest cruise ship afloat, which is a destination in itself. Its home Port Everglades of Ft. Lauderdale had to increase its Pier #18 in order to accommodate this behemoth, as did each of its destination ports.
Her 225,282 gross tons, is an increase of more than 65,000 tons over the RCI Freedom Class. It is not just size that is important, but rather the fact that the Oasis has more outdoor space than any other cruise ship: a fact that makes sailing on her so different an experience from sailing on any other cruise ship. Her seven neighborhoods concept makes for a wonder of a cruise --- a vacation like no other. So much has been written in anticipation of the Oasis of the Seas Maiden Voyage, that this review will instead center on our personal experiences while cruising with Captain Bill Wright (a terrific Renaissance man) and our old friend Hotel Director FrancoisWache' and the many new acquaintances we made.
EMBARKATION We looked forward to Tuesday Dec.1st, 2009 for over a year, having booked this cruise on the first day available to Crown & Anchor Society Diamond Members. As physically challenged travellers, we knew that the ship size and number of passengers (over 5,000) could possibly create chaos. However, this was one of the simplest and most orderly boardings we have ever had. Crown &Anchor members and wheelchair passengers had special lines. Each Deck had a special check-in line, thus, cutting down on the waiting.
We arrived in Port Everglades at 12:45pm and had curbside assistance with our luggage, wheelchair and scooter. We were on board and in our stateroom by 1:15pm. There were several venues for Welcome Aboard dining, but we chose the closest to our cabin #14166 portside: the Solarium Bistro on Deck 15 forward. Some good advice is to keep the Oasis Deck Plan handy, which is part of the Cruise Compass' Daily Planner, thank goodness! In the Bistro we had terrific assistance from Manager Melinda. At 4:00pm there was the mandatory Boat Drill which was totally painless: We took the elevator down to Deck 4 and the "On Air" studio, which is part of the Entertainment Place --- comfortably seated, we didn't even have to bring life jackets, since they are kept at the muster stations. We then returned to our stateroom to enjoy the sail away from our balcony.
SHIP OVERVIEW The statistics of the Oasis are stunning: 225,282 Gross tons (over four times the size of the Titanic), 208 ft. wide (this is no Panamax ship!) 1,187 ft. long (almost four football fields), 236 ft. high above the waterline, all with a draft of only 30 ft. We were shocked when we first saw her in port, she floats so high. With all her size, her cruising speed is 22.6 knots. There are 15 passenger decks, 24 passenger elevators placed both forward and aft, so they are less than a quarter of the ship's length from anywhere on board. Neat! Guest capacity is 5,400 (double occupancy of its 2,706 guest staterooms), but she can accommodate over 6,296 total guests. Her international crew of 2,165 are all eager to please.
The art work on board is so eclectic and numerous (9,800 pieces) that RCI has published a book "Wonder Book: The Art on the Oasis of the Seas." The common theme of this vast collection is "The Wonder of Our World (p8)." There are photographs of everything from tiny micro-organisims to unending fields, all contribute to the wonders we encounter on our beautiful Earth.
Larry Kirkland presents 23 pieces of tiny wonders in "hand forged interior-lit bronze microscopic vessels.... placed randomly throughout" (p100) the ship. The Oasis is so full of art that it is obvious that one cruise is not sufficient enough to appreciate it all: An excellent reason for which to return! An overview of the art does make one take a closer look at our world---- the photograph of a volcanic eruption by Ernst Haas (p108) brings this phenomenon to life. Then, an oil and embroidery on canvas by Nikkie le Nobel depicts an obvious sentiment "I'm so Sorry" (p131), and a sunlit Icelandic landscape photographed by Magnus Sigurdarson (pp120-121) reveals nature. Our world with all its life forms past and present makes up the beautiful art work of the Oasis of the Seas. Take time and look closely, you will be rewarded and touched.
The Oasis has many innovative venues. She has a Flow Rider for surfers, an 82 ft long Zip Line Ride, an Aqua Theater Pool, a Central Park, a Boardwalk complete with Carousel and a myriad of other attractions in its Seven Neighborhoods. This review will describe the seven areas of the Oasis rather than describing the ship Deck by Deck. It is the open air atriums and split superstructures which mandate this review format.
NEIGHBORHOODS One: Central Park is based on Deck 8 with five decks of balcony staterooms opening on to it. It certainly lives up to its name with 2,178 trees, vines and flowering plants, beautifully arranged among winding paths. There are several seating areas – some covered for when it rains (yes, it is open to the sky like a park). There are delightful pergolas covered with blooming bougainvilleas and poles wound with night blooming jasmine. Each type of plant is identified with tags.
This is an ideal spot in which to sit and read among the flowers and trees or even dine "al fresco" at Giovanni's Table ($15 fee) for excellent Italian cuisine under the jovial Senior Executive Chef Marco Morrama and friendly Maitre d' Alessandro, or at 150 Central Park featuring celebrity Chef Kerriann Von Raesfeld ($35 fee).
There are also fine shops featuring designer handbags, sports wear, etc. However, it is the wonder of sitting in an endless garden at sea, which drew us back daily: no crowds, peaceful with an occasional Strolling Scot bagpiper playing soulfully. In the evening there are moonlight serenades with the "Black Pearl Strings" and guitar melodies with Wilfredo Arca.
Two: The Boardwalk is on Deck 6 aft and features a Carousel with 18 hand carved animals; in its entrance are several horses in various stages of carving and painting, both informative and beautiful art. Along both sides are typical Coney Island style shops and stands: Johnny Rockets a 1950's hamburger joint, Candy/taffy shops, coffee and doughnuts and a terrific Seafood Shack ($8 fee). All the way aft is the 600 seat Aqua Theater --- with two shows, one of Dancing Waters (fountains timed to music --- reminiscent of the famous fountains of Lugano, Switzerland). The other show, "Oasis of Dreams," is a water extravaganza of high diving, synchronized swimming, and acrobatic routines: Stunning! This is also the seat of two rock climbing walls.
Three: The Royal Promenade on Deck 5 is retained from the Voyager and Freedom classes of ships and features a village center with coffee shops, Pizza parlors and the Globe & Atlas Pub with music each night by Scott Perham. The on board shops located here have the logo wear, perfumes, jewelry, etc. The Promenade is the site of Captain Wright's Champagne welcome on board party and numerous parades and entertainments. The innovative Cupcake Cupboard provides a unique spot for Birthday and Anniversaries. The biggest attraction is the "Rising Tide Bar" an oval shaped spacious glass enclosed elevator which will lift you up three decks to Central Park. The automobile attraction for this ship is a 1936 Auburn Speedster, a supercharged convertible, with four exhaust coils on each side. This sleek sports car is a combo of black and silver with white wall, wire spoked wheels --- an eye-catching feature of the Promenade.
Four: The Pool & Sports Zone is located on Deck 15and offers more sports activities than any other ship at sea: The Flow Rider is fun for both surfers and spectators, Mini Golf has real turf and unique bronze statues of golfers and a caddy and brightly colored animals for the children. Take the Zip Line across the ship, Whee! There is a basketball court, and ping pong. The Solarium is Vincent's favorite place: Every morning he relaxes in a whirlpool in the adult only spa among plants and flowers. There are also eight restaurants and bars some catering only to children --- try the serve your self ice cream machines.
Five: Vitality at Sea Fitness Center is forward on Deck 6. There is a "Thermal Suite," massage center and gym with over 100 cardio & resistance machines, the longest jogging track at sea (2.4 laps = 1mile). There are classes in yoga and kick boxing and a Health Spa for adults and children with juice and snacks.
Six: The Youth Zone is completely dedicated to children and teens with Adventure Ocean Theater, Science Lab, Video Games and even a nursery at sea. Teens are teated to their own area with an out door deck, nightclub, video arcade and even a Hangout spot. We went through this area several times, since it was located just above our stateroom.
Seven: Entertainment Place has something for everyone: Cruise Director Ken Rush is an old acquaintance who keeps ship activities humming. This cruise there were three terrific shows --- "Hairspray", and the "Nelson Brothers" in the Opal Theater (seats 1,380, be careful in choosing your seat because there are several poles blocking the view of the stage)and thirdly, "Frozen in Time." The Nelson Twins did a tribute to their father Ricky Nelson of Rock and Roll fame. They also showed clips and told anecdotes about their famous grandparents Ozzie and Harriet Nelson of TV fame. Great selections, great voices, and great stage presence. Excellent! Like the Voyager and Freedom classes the Oasis has an ice skating rink and an Olympic quality ice show: "Frozen in Time" is based on Hans Christian Andersen's tales, "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Snow Queen," " The Little Mermaid," "The Red Shoes," and "The Ugly Duckling." Fantastic! Don't miss it. Within this show there is also a new attraction: a young lady who does sand painting or sculpting to tell stories. Breathtaking is not even adequate ---- with a wave of her hand or touch of her finger, she created scenes with characters and animals, etc. Live entertainment all over the ship includes jazz, comedy and string music in the dining rooms ---- delightful.
CABIN Stateroom #14166, a wheelchair accessible cabin on Deck 14, is large, airy and cheerful. However, there is plenty of room to widen the front door to make entry easier, and it would be more helpful if it were an automatic door: Although the stewardess Suleva always helped us if she was in the corridor.
When entering on the right there is a large bathroom with shelves for toiletries a bit too high and too deep to locate items. There is ample room to place a wider set of shelves. The same goes for the drawers below. All the hooks on the door were placed too low, some higher hooks for nightgowns and robes are needed. The shower was perfect with safety rails all around. Next there was a king size bed flanked by two sets of very low shelves, but alas, no drawers for medications. The reading lamp was too far from the bed, one had to get out of bed to shut it off. We think the reading lamps should be exchanged (the one on the left of the headboard moved to the right and then the one on the right moved to the left) thus, it places the switches nearer the bed rather than on the far side. Same equipment just better placement, it means a lot to the handicapped. Next, is a comfortable love seat and a tiny coffee table, too small to be useful.
When entering on the left there is a double maple wood armoire with a set of shelves and a private safe, a refrigerator, and a 32" wide screen TV, a vanity/desk with three drawers, and a lighted mirror and one chair. The far wall is mainly glass and a door to the nice large balcony, with two chairs and a large table to which the lovely Suleva added a chaise for Vincent. He enjoys sitting on the balcony watching the stars at night. The walls are all beige and the furniture all maple wood. There are two pictures: one of a branch of apple blossoms blowing in the wind, and the other a close up of a green banana leaf with water drops. Both are on beautiful sky blue backgrounds. The carpet is multicolored streaks of blue, green and speckled with pink.
Our excellent Stewardess Suleva Bryan-Forbes was not only efficient, smiling but, she also anticipated our every need. Kudos!
SERVICE & FOOD On board of the Oasis, under Hotel Director Francois Wache', the service is top notch. The crew attitude is that it aims to please the passengers. The Opus Dining Room is spread over three tiers (Decks 3, 4, and 5). It has a stunning chandelier set just over the Captain's table. On formal night, we dined with Captain Wright, who enthralled us with stories of the Oasis of the Seas, her sea trials and her Maiden Transatlantic voyage, where she encountered a storm with waves as big as 50 ft high. Great lady that she is, the Oasis sailed safely through it all. He attributes her extraordinary stability to her width and engineering and finds her exquisite in every way. The Captain was born in Miami, Florida and educated in Vestfold College in Norway. He is also an RCI Vice President --- very interesting man.
Dinner was Escargot Bourguignonne , Lobster Bisque, Papaya/Pineapple soup, Beef Filet, Caesar Salad, Shrimp Ravioli and a bittersweet Chocolate Souffle for dessert. Wonderful food, wonderful service, and wonderful conversation, all with the best view of the Christmas garlanded balconies of the Opus Dining Room.
Head Waiters Roscoe and Melinda secured us table #401 near the entrance. We don't like to go throughout the dining room with the wheelchair and the scooter, since it disturbs so many diners. Our waiter was Agnelo and his assistant was Harley Davison. They were both excellent. We had reserved a table for two near the entrance of the dining room; however, the first night the reserved table was occupied by others and we were taken to another table far away from the entrance and not very practical for the parking of either the scooter or the wheelchair. When, we finally were assigned to table #401, we found that it was a table for four and we shared it with another couple. Fortunately, we met a friendly couple Kate and Charlie from Chicago, with whom we had enjoyable dinners and pleasant conversations.
We had breakfast served in our cabin each morning at 7:00am, and it was always on time, hot and delicious (eggs, hash browns, bacon, sweet rolls, jams, fruit, coffee and hot chocolate). There are so many venues at which to eat, plus the Buffet, called the Windjammer Market place. There is 24 hr. room service, a donut shop on the Boardwalk, a fantastic coffee, sandwich, cookie shop on the Promenade and don't miss the delicious pastries at the Mondo Cafe' Bar. And for those interested, the Promenade Bar opens at 7:00am!
At night the Solarium Bistro is transformed into an upscale restaurant with lovely table setting of flowers and white linen covered chairs. We dined there with Hotel Director Francois Wache' and three other couples. It was an unforgettable evening. Just lovely with twinkling lights overhead and interesting conversation. Thank you, Francois! The food is great, abundant and everywhere. The service is amiable and the crew as gracious as their Captain.
ENTERTAINMENT This ship is an entertainment destination. From surfing, to rock climbing, Spa facilities, sports venues to several shows nightly, the problem is to decide which attraction to attend. We were blown away by the live skating show and the Nelson Brothers, but also enjoyed many music opportunities and the on board comics--- Strolling on the Promenade or spending quiet time in the library can be pleasant too. It is impossible to be bored on the Oasis. Sleepless? Join Cruise Director Rush for "The Quest" an adults only game starting at midnight in Studio B on Deck 4. Our dining partners, Kate and Charlie told us it was hilarious. There is something for everyone on board.
PORTS Back-to-back Cruises (Dec. 1-12 2009)
Ft. Lauderdale --- For us this is the closest port to our home, less than half an hour drive. Terminal #18 in Port Everglades has been expanded from 67,000 to 240,000 square feet to accommodate the new gigantic ship. The embarkation and debarkation process has been facilitated significantly by the increased number of check-in desks.
Labadee, Haiti --- Oasis has docked here. Until now, in this port, cruise ship passengers had to be tendered ashore. A large pier has been built and this RCI resort has received extensive improvements, including the new Dragon Trail roller coaster, the "Town Square" where local musician and dancers perform, and the "Artisan Market" with the many wood carved souvenirs, pottery and other artifacts that can be bought at bargain prices.
St, Thomas, USVI --- One of the best shopping ports of the Caribbean, with a new shopping center built near the new pier. A tour accessible to the handicapped is the "Scenic Island Drive and Mountain Top."
St. Maarten --- This island is divided between the Dutch and the French. Many tours visit both sides. Physically challenged guests should consult the Exploration staff before booking a tour.
Nassau, Bahamas --- Here a visit to the amazing Atlantis Hotel Resort with Casino, sparkling white sand beaches and a spectacular aquarium on Paradise Island is a must for the first timers.
CONCLUSION These back-to-back cruises (Dec. 1st to 5th and Dec. 5th to 12th ) represent the 39th and 40th cruise credits toward our Crown & Anchor Society membership, thus it is evident that RCI is one of our favorite cruise lines. We have had some great cruises, but this one has been awesome, mainly for the extraordinary novelties that the Oasis has brought to cruising: The signature neighborhoods, particularly Central Park, Boardwalk and the enhanced Royal Promenade, which are spectacular places we never thought conceivable on a cruise ship.
It was an extraordinary cruise, not because of the itinerary, food, service or any other aspect, but for the Oasis herself that offers to the passenger what other ships cannot offer: her grandiosity. We will still cruise on other ships, small, medium, large, gigantic and enormous, since we are addicted to cruising and love them all. However, we know that certain experience we have had on this ship cannot be matched on any other ship until the launching of the Allure of the Seas, which we have booked for our anniversary in Jan. 2011. For the near future, we'll go back to normal having booked the following cruises: Celebrity Solstice, on Jan. 3rd, Liberty of the Seas, on Feb. 7th, Star Princess, from Rio de Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale, on March 16th, Crown Princess, a transatlantic cruise to Italy, on May 1st, and the return from Europe with the Norwegian Epic, on June 24th. Happy Cruising!
As an experienced cruiser on several lines(and a Diamond member with RCCL's loyalty program)I've seen many changes in the overall cruising experience as the various companies merged and sometimes changed their philosophies on customer service, ship size, etc.
Navigator was the largest ship I've been on to date, and I was concerned that the increased number of passengers would result in additional demands on the staff - ultimately resulting in poorer service. I firmly believe this to be the case. Examples include longer lines at bars, less waiters on the pool deck, poorer training and English comprehension by dining room wait staff, far more clutter in common areas - particularly Windjammer buffet "cafe", and overall a far diluted experience from cruises on smaller ships and certainly a step down from Celebrity. Granted some of my prior cruises took place several years ago when RCCL's philosophy seemed to be "the customer always comes first" and all I ever heard from staff was "No problem, sir." I'm not sure what their philosophy is now, but it seemed to be more like,"Explain to the customer how it's really their fault" and "It's not my problem". Andat times worse.
Here's an example of every cruiser's customer service desk nightmare: Partner N. and I went to the Purser's desk to get the tips for her children (in a separate cabin) pre-paid on the 2nd to last day. Ours (2 occupants of "my" cabin) were paid in cash. We were very clear. With the direct supervision of the clerk "Put a #2 right there...", we filled out the appropriate form with a very clear #2 at the end of the bolded print saying, "Total number of guests charging customary gratuities to my seapass account".
When 3 gratuities were charged to her account (a $40 error in their favor) I was furious and was told they'd look into it but couldn't change it because the accountants weren't there! At my insistance I spoke with the desk manager (O. from Turkey I believe), who assured me that if the original form had a #2 on it, we'd get the refund. I wanted to believe him and hoped the issue would be resolved as I had already generously (over)paid the cash tips.
The next morning I received a photocopy of the original form which had CLEARLY been altered from a 2 to a (practically illegible) #3 - changed with a different pen! THE ALTERATION WAS OBVIOUS AND THEY STILL DENIED THAT SUCH A THING COULD HAPPEN! Not only did they make an incompetent error in their favor, they TRIED TO COVER IT UP RATHER THAN FIX IT!
Where I come from they call such rascals thieves and I went back and very loudly said so in front of a long line of dissatisfied cruisers. After a lot of "no way" head nodding from the individuals visible in the back "accounting" room, and at the last minute (precluding breakfast on disembarkation day...) another clerk found a way around the "can't undo the tip" problem and credited her account an equal amount under a different code, but only after my very loud and public continued expression of my displeasure. This is not the kind of training, leadership, and customer service I expect from ANY cruise line, let alone one I once owned stock in. Fortunately I no longer do, as I am disgusted by the "capture the herd" mentality.
Partner N. was on her first cruise and while she and the kids generally had a good time, she has told me that the crowded, noisy experience was unpleasant enough that it will likely be her last. I've never heard that before after an RCCL cruise - only after cruises on the "other" big line. Seems like both major companies employ clowns now. Maybe they should just merge and get it over with because the experience on RCCL has been degraded to what I once associated with the big "C."
Hmm, they could change the name of the big club on top of the RCCL ships to the Viking "Clown" lounge...
Dining room selections have been greatly reduced, and Chops grill selections now grace the inside menu for only "14.95" additional. I met several cruisers who ONLY do the specialty restaurants every night. Geez... Just choose a better line with better food already!
Cozumel was just fine by the way, we hired a cab to drive us around the island, toured some ruins (bring bug spray!), and stopped at San Franciso beach - highly recommended. Best day I've had in Mexico on many trips. Stick with the Ceviche and avoid the larger and more expensive seafood platters and you'll be ok. Good cigars from the hawkers on the beach too. N. and kids loved the water rock climing wall and other features ($10 each wristband to use) at the beach nextdoor. Otherwise Mexico still is what it is.
I can say I've had a worse time on a cruise but not with RCCL. Very disappointing to see that bigger clearly does NOT mean better if you're concerned with service and quality. Personally I'm switching back to Celebrity or smaller "sailing" ships. But after this experience, I'm concerned about what corporate changes I might encounter there as well. I guess I'll have to keep reading other's cruisemates reviews before booking, eh? One more cruise like this and I'll just fly down and charter instead.
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.