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. Children`s Programs. Group.
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: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.
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.
Embarkation - Excellent and very fast. We were on the ship around 11:30am the pool bar was not open yet.
Ship - This was our third time on Liberty. Liberty is my favorite Royal ship so far. Being on the newer side the ship looked good and was clean.
Stateroom - We booked the Q guar. and got the Promenade stateroom. The cabin was above the pub on deck 7 and on some nites we were able to hear the music. I would not pay extra for a Promenade cabin don't think they are worth it.
Dining - No problems with the food in the main dining room. We mostly ate fish each nite. I'm not much of a Salmon lover but the Salmon I ordered was awesome. Lobster, Shrimp, Cod, Prime Rib were good. Can't comment on desserts I never order desserts. Have not been to Portofino or Chops yet. I don't eat lunch so can't comment on the Windjammer buffet lunch. Breakfest in the Windjammer was the usual items fruit, cereals, yogurt, eggs, fresh made omlets, bacon, sausage etc.
We did MyTime Dining and it was great. We had dinnerat 6pm a few nites and other nites at 7pm depending on what was on the agenda. We sat at the same area and had the same waiters each nite.
Service - I guess this would be one of the reasons I will always return to the Liberty. Service was wonderful. Waiters were excellent. Room attendant was very good. Bartenders/servers were excellent.
A few people I'd like to mention are Jose/Waiter, Valdron/Room Attendant, Amuri & Pedro/Bolero's, Dewitt/Smoothie Bar Pool deck, Virgina & Nikko/Diamond Lounge. Ok I got to stop here or this review will get too long...On to the next subject.
Ports - Cozumel we did Parasailing and some shopping. Jamaica we did Mystic Mountain which we enjoyed very much. There was an airlift ride that lasts for about 15 minutes then we rode the Bobsled. Of course the Bobsled is no super thrill roller coaster but it was still fun and we would do it again. Grand Cayman we stayed on the ship. Very relaxing day to sit by the pool and do nothing. Labadee we did the zipline and this was the highlight excursion of the week. Alot of fun and will do it again.
Entertainment/Activities - The comedian was good. There was an Abba show which was excellent. The Jugglar was good. The two production shows were good. I missed the ice show. The Soca and Pirate Parades in the Promenade were fun. My son did the Flowrider each day and we both Rock Climbed each day. Love and Marriage game show and the Quest were a riot. 70's nite on the Promenade is always alot of fun as was 80's nite. The cruise director Allen Brooks is a very funny guy we had him as a CD before. His staff also were excellent - Paul & Joyce and the rest of the crew.
Fellow Cruisers - Alot of families onboard. Many Europeans from Germany, Brazil and Italy. Many kids onboard if you are doing a family cruise on Liberty not to worry your kids will make friends onboard.
Debarkation - Very good off the ship very quick.
Overall - Another excellent cruise on Liberty. If I had to find things to nit pick about I guess the only things I could come up with are...
1. The show lounge was cold for me I could have worn a long sleeve shirt.
2. The Windjammer gets packed for breakfest after 8:30am and it gets difficult to find a table.
3. The Long Island Ice Tea I ordered one nite was very strong....however not a biggie as I was heading to bed anyway and it ended up being a good nite sleep.
We are not done with Liberty we shall cruise on her again.
Explorer of the Seas, 11 to 20 June 2009 Eastern Caribbean Itinerary: Bayonne, Bermuda, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, San Juan, Bayonne
As always, I'll preface my review by stating that a lot of things found in a review of this nature are subjective and therefore can't meet everyone's expectations. I also warn you it is both long and detailed. I write what I consider to be a totally honest review yet I do not nit-pick. All three of our voyages have been on the same ship and the same itinerary. Obviously we enjoy both. While after reading this review you might assume we may be "Royal Champions," your assumption would be wrong. If I find something which I didn't like or with which I disagree, it will be in this review. Many I'm sure will feel because we have not sailed other than the same ship and itinerary, we have nothing with which to compare and therefore this review should be discounted to the point of meaningless. While I don't see it that way, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As the writer of a weekly column appearing in our smalltown newspaper for the past twelve years, and having been an elected office holder as well as a retired law enforcement officer and police instructor, I have a thick skin.
I'll also here state that a lot of what has been written about both disappearing perks or new ones adversely affecting more often non suite guests on RCI ships, were in no way evident on this voyage of the Explorer. To wit: There was indeed a welcome back party held the fourth day out and attended by the Captain. The event was held in the Maharaja's lounge where cocktails were served. Secondly there was no reserved seating for suite guests at either the pool, the main theater or in Studio "B" at the ice show. Additionally, many staff and crew made it a point that RCI was proud of the significant percentage of repeat cruisers it enjoys (a greater percentage than say, Carnival). Finally, as did all Crown and Anchor members, one of the gifts that we discovered in our stateroom one evening were truly nice and functional large canvas tote bags sporting of course, the RCI logo; thankfully no more ball caps as I'm sure many long time Crown and Anchor members possess a significant inventory of the item.
The ship also sailed its original nine night scheduled itinerary, meaning that there were no abbreviated stops nor were there any early dockings and/or departures. This was the first cruise without variance since the incident involving the bent prop that occurred in January; therefore the problem must have been permanently repaired during a one day stop at some point just prior to this cruise.
Also, while I'll get into more detail later, the staff and crew I found, without exception mind you, "over the top" when it came to courtesy, graciousness, helpfulness, honesty, etc. Not only I, but everyone in our party of six concurred with this observation.
The passengers were also with but a very few exceptions, themselves good humored and courteous in both language and behavior. There were of course a very minimal sprinkling of foul mouthed boors, such individuals often being referred to as, "Trash," but they were few and far between.
As we did for our two previous cruises, we drove to Staten Island and went straight to the Hilton Garden Inn for our pre-cruise night's stay. We also returned for an eight day stay following the cruise. Although certainly not by design, we happened to be greeted upon arrival by the Hotel's owners, Richard and Lois Nicotra who also own the adjoining Hampton Inn and Suites. A noted Staten Island entrepreneur, Richard and Lois certainly do things the right way. The Hilton is absolutely gorgeous. While certainly not inexpensive at around two hundred dollars a night, tax included; it assuredly is superior to many Manhattan hotels charging far more than that amount. When it comes to the relativity of hotel prices within the City of New York keeping in mind "bang for the buck," both the Hilton Garden Inn and the adjoining Hampton Inns and Suites (which was rated as second of all Hampton Inns in the entire nation in cleanliness) are quite affordable gems. The hotel also offers a very significant perk. Although we didn't avail ourselves of the service, free transportation to and from Cape Liberty is provided hotel guests as is also shuttle service to the Staten Island Ferry for those guests wishing to go to Manhattan or, as New Yorker's refer to it as, "The city."
Contained in the hotel is Lorenzo's. Named after the Nicotras' adorable little Maltese, Lorenzo's is an outstanding bistro style restaurant. Ensconced just on the opposite side of a strategically placed wall separating it from the lobby, is a most attractive cocktail lounge behind which is an excellent restaurant. Both interesting and varied, the restaurant menu manages to satisfy the most varied of tastes.
After meeting my wife's niece Adelaide, who again hosted us on our cruise, we together made our traditional initial New York supper stop at Brother's Pizza on Watchogue Road, just off Forest Avenue in Staten Island. Everyone has their favorite pizza parlor and Brother's is ours (along with probably five or six hundred thousand other folks). If you ever try it, I think you'll probably be in complete agreement. Likewise as we did last year, we went to Gino's Restaurant on Forest Avenue and had Gino's famous Chicken Gino. It must be something to write about as aside from southern fried, I'm not a chicken afficionado yet we visited this restaurant twice so I could enjoy this delectable dish.
Day One We awoke Thursday morning to a leaden sky that dropped on and off showers before that continued throughout our sail away. This pretty much presaged the weather for a good part of the voyage. We loaded our overnight luggage back into the car and drove over to Fran's niece's where the three of us loaded up her neighbor's large van with our shipboard luggage.
Following last year's cruise, we had decided that we took far too much luggage. Consequently. My wife Fran made significant changes in that department. We ended up taking half again more. It never ceases to boggle my mind, but I fear I'm certainly not alone as far as most husbands go. Not only that, but to insure I had "sufficient" changes, Fran packed for me alone (just for the cruise mind you as we had separate New York bags for our post cruise stay): 23 casual shirts, nine dress shirts, about eight pair of dress slacks, nine pair of casual slacks, one suit, two sport jackets, eight ties, a new pair of deck shoes plus two pair of dress shoes. Included was even one decent sized case containing just toiletries not to mention enough of our various prescriptions to trigger DEA alerts along the entire eastern seaboard. I won't even begin to tell you how much Fran packed for herself! Suffice it to say, I don't think we would ever have had to return home had we so decided. I wouldn't have been a bit surprised that were we to have elected to fly to New York instead of driving, our excess baggage charges may have exceeded the price of the cruise!
I think we have our estimated time of arrival at Cape Liberty down to that brief but perfect interval wherein we drive up to find no embarkation line and we drop our luggage and proceed to embarkation processing immediately after all departing passengers have left. That magical time was around 12:15 pm, or at least so it was this year. We took around fifteen minutes to clear the check-in process (the greatest amount of time being spent changing the credit card to one Fran wanted to use for the "Sign and Sail" purposes. She'd discovered one from which we could obtain much better perks at no cost whatsoever to us as she pays the entire bill at the end of every month. In essence, she figured it high time we "used" the system to our benefit as for all too long, the banks have used theirs to our detriment. I do believe were she (or millions of like minded homemakers) to be in charge of our country's finances, we certainly wouldn't be in the shape our nation currently finds itself.
One thing I've finally learned, is to just go ahead and check even what used to be our carry-ons, only physically carrying my lap top and camera. We proceeded straight to the Windjammer Café on Deck 11 as the staterooms of course would be unavailable until almost 1:30pm.
We found the Windjammer offerings tasty enough. I had the honey stung fried chicken, mashed potatoes (known as whipped potatoes if like me, you're from the South), sliced roast beef and gravy and a salad. Unlike our previous cruises I declined to purchase the Coke card inasmuch as last time I didn't even begin to drink enough soda to get any value from the purchase. I opted for iced tea (the closest thing I could get to the South's obligatory beverage, sweet tea). I had never during our previous two cruises had the iced tea after reading so many dour reports as regards it's quality, was hesitant. As so many other things, I found I greatly preferred it to unsweetened iced tea served at the average restaurant ashore.
I also ran into the only person that I've seen on all three of our cruises, an assistant waiter on our first cruise who absolutely spoiled us rotten in the Promenade Café, Gabrial Fernandez, a native of India. Whenever we were in the Windjammer where Gabrial was assigned this cruise, we were treated as visting Royalty. A little more on that later.
Sail away was pretty much a ho-hum affair inasmuch as an extremely dense fog and that combined with the on and off showers found few passengers up on deck barely able to make out the Verrazzano Bridge as we sailed beneath it into lower New York bay. Interestingly enough, all scheduled passengers had obviously effected very early embarkations, as we cast off a full twenty minutes prior to our scheduled departure. We continued through the ‘pea soup," sounding the fog horn as required. The fog extended far out into the Atlantic until late that evening.
All of our luggage arrived in lesser time than during our two previous cruises. Our stateroom, 9502, was the same one we enjoyed last year and is an oversized Category F outside and is a generous 211 square feet. The room sports an extremely large circular "picture porthole" window looking out over the bow. The cabin is located just below the Bridge, the second one in from the port side. Entry reveals a large wardrobe with wire shelving on one side on your right with the shower/bath on your left. While of course small, the circular shower has solid double sliding doors and the shower is of sufficient size (and I'm 6'4" and 280 lbs.). Closet and places for folded items is more than ample we were able to unload all the bags and easily place everything in its proper place. I think so many people don't realize that one side of the large make up mirror at the desk opens up for things such as cologne and women's make-up.
Excepting to see a bit more wear and tear from last year within the room (the eight year old Explorer is scheduled for it's second dry dock January upcoming, probably at RCI's drydock in Bermuda), I was very surprised to find out that either the love seat had recently been re-upholstered or more probably, had been replaced. I found it hard to imagine that over one hundred fifty people had occupied that room since our previous cruise in June of last year. There were absolutely no stains on the stateroom carpet. A very close inspection of the public areas revealed that it was extremely difficult if not virtually impossible for me to accept the fact that this vessel has been sailing almost continually (with only a couple of very short breaks), for over eight years.
Our stateroom attendant, Lucy Thomas from the island of St. Vincent, warmly greeted us upon our arrival to our room. Lucy turned out to be the best Stateroom Attendant we've yet had...and all of them have been excellent. There was no request, regardless of how small, that was not immediately met. She truly spoiled us. I am always amazed at the apparent sincerity of so many of the staff and crew. Lucy certainly is an outstanding representative for RCI.
Assigned early seating at table 543 in the Columbus dining room on deck five, we were pleased to discover that the table was set for our party of six, so there were no issues whatsoever in that department. Under the direction of Head Waiter Wises Phathidee from Thailand, our waiter from Peru, Javier proved most friendly, solicitous and efficient and accompanied by his Asst Waiter, Ms. Fernandez (I just couldn't remember either Javier' first or Ms. Fernanadez's last names), a Chilean native, provided excellent service. It's obvious this duo has been a team for some time which makes for a more pleasurable dining experience.
Prior to our initial entry, who did we run into but the absolutely marvelous couple we met last year and who captured the affection of the entire ship during the "Love and Marriage Show," Abe and Julie Smith! Abe who is 93 and Julie at 91, were celebrating their 70th Anniversary. Though usually traveling alone, this year they were accompanied by a daughter and son in law and a niece and her husband. We enjoyed a marvelous reunion!
The menu, from what I could remember, appeared to be a duplicate from last June. As the menus usually last for two years, I wasn't surprised. Following an appetizer of the Vidalia Onion Tart, chilled Mexican tomato soup, and spinach salad with oil and Balsamic Vinegar, the entree` of Prime Rib was delectable. This was my first foray into the world of chilled soups and I'm certainly glad I made the journey. My wife also had prime rib but her's was a bit too well done only because she had inadvertently ordered it medium as opposed to her usual medium rare. Inasmuch as we were also splitting an entree of the perfectly broiled Cod, she was certainly satisfied. As usual, everyone's desserts were excellent.
Following dinner, we attended the welcome aboard show at the Palace Theater. We were most pleasantly surprised to find on stage our Cruise Director from last year, that highly talented and energetic Australian, Dave Chapman. I had expected someone by the name of Mike Hunnerup but Dave told me he left the ship at the end of the preceeding voyage. Dave continued that he generally prefers a two month stint on the Explorer before switching over to the Mariner and then back again to the Explorer.
The evening entertainment was provided by the introductory performance of the very talented Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers backed up by what I called last year, the best house band I personally have ever enjoyed. The band has been led for several years now by a true magician on the keyboards, Filmer Flores who is a native of the Philippines.
Opening night's headliner was comedian Jim Colliton who originally hailed from Pennsylvania. A very funny man, the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy his performance. We certainly did.
Prior to turning in and following my wife's obligatory nightly donation to those sinister one handled mechanical devices located in the Neon Temple of Weird Sounds and The Almighty Dollar, our group of six proceeded to our traditional end of the evening stop at the Promenade Cafe`. This year it was a native of Jamaica, Millicent Camran, who spoiled us to the extreme in that venue by catering to our every whim. Isn't it frightening that as we begin to pass from middle age to senior status, we tend to turn into creatures of habit to the extent we take on the aspects of a flock of sheep following a herder? I prefer, however, to refer to the process as did Tevia in Fiddler On The Roof by calling it, "Tradition!"
Day Two Friday was a "Sea Day" wherein we got our bearings, finished unpacking and just enjoyed the ship. That evening was the first of two formal nights. I was really hoping that people were again returning to at least some level of formality on Formal Nights and as has been recently noted in other reviews, such was true this voyage. I only saw one unattractive couple attired in old shorts and literally dirty T-shirts awaiting entry into the dining room. Evidently the unattractiveness extended beyond just the visual as they were standing alone in a rather large circle surrounded by properly attired cruisers with disgusted looks on their faces. Needless to say, they didn't make it past the entrance. Matter of fact, would you believe these idiots tried it twice?!
My entre of Filet Mignon was excellent as was my wife's and the other members of our party thoroughly enjoyed their meal as well.
The evening's entertainment was the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers performing Fast Forward. This energetic show which we had seen last year, we again enjoyed this one as well. Although we didn't recognize most of the dancers from last year, the performance was nevertheless just as outstanding.
Day Three Saturday found us entering Bermuda which for me is probably the most beautiful place in the Caribbean; which is the reason that it is so very expensive. I even overheard someone in the elevator remark that it was the second most expensive place in the world in which to live. I must point out that I was surprised to find in a brochure a remark written in a humorous vein as to how expensive Bermuda. Can't for the life of me however, figure out why it's so extremely more expensive than some other destinations in the Caribbean basin. While yes Bermuda imports most everything, so does virtually every other island in the Caribbean. Although I love "Fish and Chips" it will be a frigid day in July when I pay over thirty dollars for such a meal.
Instead of hitting the shops, I, my wife and my wife's niece toured the museum at King's Wharf. Being a big time history buff, most notably the era surrounding WW II, I thoroughly enjoyed the museum, especially that room devoted to the U.S. Navy's assistance during the war. Highlighted is an incident that occurred in1944 wherein Adm. Daniel Gallery directed the capture of a Type IX D German Submarine, U-505, that was the the first enemy man of war boarded and seized by the United States during combat since 1815. The captured U-Boat was towed to Bermuda to help insure it's capture remained secret from the Germans. (Note: That U-Boat is now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago).
We also wandered by "Dolphin Quest" that is maintained behind the walls of the old fort as well and wherein those so wishing, may swim (for a substantial fee of course) with the dolphins. They certainly looked cute enough and we halted long enough to take some photos. Thankfully, during the first couple of minutes of what we had intended as a brief respite, a young lady by the name of Kelly Adamonis approached us as we were seated and asked if we had any questions about the dolphins. Kelly turned out to be a veritable fountain of facts about the beautiful creatures. A student from Penn State, she is engaged in a summer internship with the organization. The conversation that transpired from that question truly made our visit interesting, worthwhile and educational beyond every expectation. Kelly not only related little known and very interesting things about bottle nosed dolphins, but she also dispelled a lot of conjecture that I had heard over the years concerning the care and proper treatment of these animals in captivity. For instance, the bottle nosed dolphins in captivity are from coastal waters and inlets where they are constantly confronted by predators as well as man's destructive nature and are much smaller than their cousins you see further out to sea. Not only do they enjoy far longer lives in captivity, but unlike many other animals and because of their extremely high level of intelligence, happier ones as well. If you visit Bermuda and haven't gone to Dolphin Quest, I certainly recommend you do so. You shan't be disappointed.
On the way out we stopped by the bookstore. Being a huge afficianado of the golden age of Ocean liners, I purchased a gorgeous book devoted to the extremely interesting history of the 22,000 ton Queen of Bermuda.
We then took the ferry across to Hamilton and enjoyed a brief sojourn down the dockside where a significant number of "Tall Ships" were docked, including the training ship belonging to the U.S. Coast Guard.
That evening following another memorable dining experience in the Columbus Dining Room, we went to the theater where the head liner was the vocalist, Hal Frazier. I am fully cognizant that many are always intimating that if one finds cruise ship entertainment outstanding, they are at the very least, lacking in their tastes regarding "good entertainment." To those folks, I'll only say that I, along with everyone in that theater must certainly have been so lacking because I participated with 1,300 fellow attendees in giving Frazier the longest standing ovation that I have ever seen on any of our three cruises. With one of the more wide ranging voices I've ever heard, Hal Frazier, who some years past crossed that sixty year line, sang selections made famous from everyone from Nat King Cole through to John Denver. A former guest on the late Johnny Carson's, "Tonight Show," Frazier was in addition to his marvelous vocal performance, one of the more "fun" people, not to mention among the funniest, by whom most of us had ever been entertained. Oh, and in case you're wondering, there were a large number of young adults in that audience as well; so much, therefore, for the "old people" remarks.
Day Four Sunday was a sea day and to those I do so look forward. It is my time to relax, read, etc. The group gathered per usual at breakfast in the dining room. We generally enjoy the table service and setting of the dining room. Nonetheless, we had breakfast several times in the Windjammer, one of which was the most memorable of all of those on three voyages.
Sunday evening, Adelaide, Fran and your intrepid reporter enjoyed dining at Portofino's. Gosh, how the three of us love that restaurant. It is truly five star dining and the service is both formal and impeccable. The food, as expected, is on par with the service. A leisurely dining experience, your meal will take in the neighborhood of two hours. If you are the type who wishes not to "dress for dinner," or doesn't enjoy fine dining, then I have to tell you this venue is certainly not for you. As regards the $20 per person service charge, we believe the experience is worth far more.
We did not attend that evening's performance in the Palace Theater but those in our party who did, said the impressionist, Scott Record, put on a very entertaining performance.
Day Five We docked Monday afternoon at 12:30 in Phillipsburg St. Maarten. Having been to all of the ports scheduled on our itinerary twice previously, I elected to stay aboard to work on this review, get my weekly newspaper column out of the way and in general just enjoy a virtually empty ship. The rest of our party including my wife, disembarked in their continuing attempt to hit every shop in the Caribbean. To refrain from being an anchor to their excursions, I of course expect some form of tribute. I two years ago, informed my wife that a large bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry and a bottle of a fine men's cologne usually will suffice to dispel my expressions of (feigned) grumpiness for their leaving me behind by myself.
While the group was off shopping, I gloried in having the ship to myself; taking photographs while wandering around the ship followed by thumbing through my new literary find.
Dinner in the Columbus Dining Room was again an excellent dining event.
The evening's headlining entertainment in the Palace Theater was the magic and comedy of Peter Gross. While Peter was quite entertaining, the most memorable moment will be one that could have resulted in a true tragedy.
During his act, Peter asked for two young children from the audience to assist him. One girl of six bounded up on stage while another of four, obviously didn't want any part of the presentation. Her mother nevertheless coaxed the little tyke t climb the steps to the stage. Before proceeding and for those who've never been on a large theater stage, I'll point out that those on the stage find it difficult, because of the spotlights, to see beyond the first row. The little girl, who obviously didn't want to be there, decided to head back to "Mommy." Although unable to see where her mother was sitting but knowing the approximate direction and while Peter's attention was diverted to the other child, she started walking. Everyone thought she would of course stop at the stage's edge but she didn't.
Sitting in the front row was a couple whom we had met that morning at breakfast, Phil and Rosetta Jobe who hailed from Pennsylvania. Phil, a retired coal mine safety expert, actually launched himself from his seat and in a diving basket catch reminiscent of one of those spectacular outfielder performances in baseball, caught the little girl literally just before she hit the deck face first. Only those in the first couple of rows actually saw the entire incident and know just how dramatic the event really was.
Day Six Tuesday morning found us docked in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Both Fran and I elected to remain aboard and spent a relaxing day reading.
Dinner that evening was as usual, simply wonderful.
RCI does one thing however, that is a true and totally unnecessary pain in the neck. At virtually every evening meal in the main dining rooms, it's bad enough that there is a photo set up blocking half the entrance but on formal nights both avenues are mostly blocked. It is therefore extremely difficult for everyone to get into the dining room as they are being funneled through an extremely narrow corridor at of all places, the narrowest point of the dining room entrance lobby. Described to me wryly by one ship's officer as a "revenue opportunity," if RCI were aware of the number of extremely negative comments from disgruntled passengers that I alone heard, I believe they'd do well to review this policy. Additionally, this year, in one evening, we had not one, not two, but three photographers approach us wanting to take the inordinately overpriced "formal night photographs." And people talk about the incessant "hawkers" on the islands?
The Palace theater was once again packed for the evening's performance by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers of , "Wild, Cool and Swingin`." I shall repeat still yet again that this troupe is the equal, in my opinion, to those I've seen on Broadway. I'm sure there are superior ones. It's just that I've yet to find them.
Day Seven Wednesday's sunrise greeted the Explorer as she was docking at San Juan. While the rest of the group went shopping (of course), Fran and I stayed aboard. Here I have with me four books yet still I managed to find one from the ship's library. I won't finish all four but one of the few that I do, will be the one from the ship's library.
I make it a point to go out of my way to be nice to all staff and crew. I have yet to find in my three cruises, any crew or staff member who has been unkind, disagreeable or even out of sorts. I have observed other folks having problems with staff and crew but while the problem itself may well not have been the fault of the passenger, they're reaction to the crew member or staff member who was attempting to solve their problem was sometimes so bad as to be inexcusable.
This became classically evident when, while on my way to the elevator, I overheard a passenger state to a woman accompanying her about a problem so trivial as to be unbelievable. The issue concerned a smudge on the stateroom window that the woman wanted cleaned. Her complaint? The stateroom attendant told the woman she would do so as soon as she finished cleaning the bathroom. The woman told her friend that the stateroom attendant had a smile on her face when she replied to her request. Yes and.....? This woman had such a twisted sense of values that she felt the smile to be insulting and and sarcastic and wanted to ".....slap her (the attendant's) face!" To further prove my point, that very evening the same woman who was morbidly obese, wanted to get on a crowded elevator that I happened to be on and was indignant to find there wasn't enough room for her to fit whereas there was room for a very slender young woman in her stead. She immediately launched into a tirade that the elevators didn't hold enough people. Another female passenger who seemed to exude maturity and grace and who along with her husbad evidently had a stateroom near the offensive passenger remarked upon pressing the door close button causing the elevator doors to close in the offensive woman's face, "Closing this door makes me feel so good. That is without a doubt, one of the more offensive people I've ever run across and I'm 68 years old!"
As I once wrote in an article on this site, if you want to solve a problem, you'll get far better results with honey than you will with vinegar. We all know those with "friends in high places." I, on the other hand, take pride in knowing the "working class" crew members and have found that merely being kind and solicitous brings about it's own satisfying, "Loyalty rewards."
We departed San Juan as scheduled and once leaving the harbor we increased speed to "full bore" of around 22 knots in order to make it back to New York on Saturday morning, the distance between the two cities being over 1,600 miles.
Day Eight I was up early to try and resolve computer internet problems I'd experienced throughout the cruise. The problem lay in the fact that although I was signed up for the $55 package that provides 150 minutes of service, I kept being billed at the higher 55 cent single minute price. The folks at the Purser's Desk (Guest Relations) were great and kept removing the excess charges. One Guest Services Officer, Suzette Sobers from Trinidad, even took the time to escort me up to the Internet room on deck eight to help me re-swipe my card and change my passwords as I had expressed the possibly the problem may have been a result of something I was doing. The process, especially for one so inept at computers as am I, can prove confusing. She graciously assured me that the problem was not a result of my actions or my laptop's. True or not, we hopefully had the problem solved.
Such proved not to be the case. Early Thursday morning around 4:00 am, I again went to the Purser's Desk where I was greeted by Esteban Pinnock who had the "graveyard" shift. He once again rectified the problem as regards the charges and asked me to return a little after eight as possibly someone from IT would be available to help solve this continuing and increasingly frustrating problem. I did return and was once again taken under Suzette's wing who after a lot of juggling, found a permanent and quite equitable solution. I cannot but highly complement the Purser's Desk staff for their understanding and diligence in solving this increasingly frustrating problem. They are indeed wonderful folks.
I shall say that due to increase in usage, the speed of internet service has measurably declined. To help obtain a fast connection, I advise those using internet service to do so either late at night or early in the morning.
Although as previously stated, we on most mornings had breakfast in the dining room, on Thursday I, Fran and her niece decided to go up to the Windjammer. When entering the line I felt a little tug on my sleeve. I turned and there stood Gabrial. He said he had a special table for us and then escorted the three of us to a special reserved area that provided an absolutely beautiful view. There we were once again spoiled rotten by Gabrial and those working with him. It was indeed, the most memorable breakfast in all of our three cruises.
That evening, I was privileged to meet and have a brief conversation with the Captain of the Explorer of the Seas and a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, Olav Gunnar Nyseter. A man with around forty-eight years of experience at sea, Captain Nyseter's association with RCI goes back to 1971 when he commanded the Nordic Prince. He is by far, RCI's most senior Captain. The previous day I had observed him conducting an inspection in the lobby area of the Windjammer with one of his officers. To I'm sure the junior officer's embarrassment, I observed Captain Nysetter spot numerous really small areas of chipped paint, scuff marks, etc., that missed even the other officer's practiced eye.
Although just turning sixty-five, Captain Nysetter nevertheless cut a dashing figure in his formal attire that evening as he stood outside the Columbus Dining Room. What I found most noteworthy is that he was there not for the professional pictures by RCI staff, but stood unobtrusively to the side for anyone wanting to get a private shot with their own camera of a family member standing alongside the ship's captain. That in and of itself bespeaks volumes as to the man's professionalism.
The show that evening we had also previously seen, "Invitation To Dance," by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers and the band. This too is an extremely energetic show and one we thoroughly enjoyed.
Day Nine Our last sunrise aboard found us off the East Coast of South Carolina. After breakfast in the main dining room, everyone but yours truly adjourned to the pool deck while I went back to my beloved books. I also took frequent breaks to take still more photographs of one of the most beautiful vessels in the world.
One new addition we noted in this cruise was the generously appointed salad bar in the dining room at lunch. Including even shrimp, the diner obtains a large bowl which they then hand to the next available chef, who in turn fills it with the diner's choice (and amount) of items he/she desires including the type of dressing. It is nutritious, delicious and filling. Even I, one who normally delights in a heart clogging cholesterol filled diet, looked forward to this meal. As a result it must be considered, "extremely delicious."
As opposed to last year when lobster was served on the last formal night, on this voyage lobster night fell on the final night. As was last year, the lobster was delicious. The good bye by the galley crew was again memorable.
The final show in the Palace Theater didn't vary from previous ones to any notable extent but we did enjoy it.
Disembarkation I'm finally to the point that I personally have no problems with disembarkation. It appears they've got out all the kinks save one. One waiting area is on Deck Three in Studio B. Because of a circular island, it can become conjested in that area, however, on the circular island were padded seats where some people were sitting. These individuals because the staff member stating that they were blocking the aisles, were made to move into the Studio whereas the items really blocking traffic were the absurdly over priced "auction' paintings. These could easily have been moved out of the way for the disembarking process from that area and had one been damaged, just because of their location would have indicated it would have been no great loss. I heard one cruiser even remark that obviously the paintings were more important than the passengers. The young girl in charge replied that they weren't, but the fact they remained illustrated the untruth to that statement, at least in that area during disembarkation.
When we got throught customs (being processed by not only a very courteous customs inspector but one with a grand sense of humor as well) and outside to the pick-up area, we only then recognized that a porter had inadvertently picked up not our bag but an adjoining one that was the same make and color of one that wasn't ours. I immediately returned it to a security officer to be taken back inside. I asked one of our party if the bag was "in place of" one of our own and was told no, that it was extra. Ten minutes later I was informed that indeed, we were missing a bag from our groups' luggage. I now had to go back in and search for our bag. I was told by security "No can do" and that I would have to wait until 11:00am to be escorted back in by customs. Here it was about ten-thirty and our ride was due any minute. I happened to spot a customs agent and while approaching learned through his overheard conversation, he too was a retired New York law enforcement officer and presented my problem to him explaining that I too was retired from "the job." I showed him my shield and he immediately said to follow him, escorted me back inside where I retrieved the missing bag from a luggage cart that was being pushed to a storage area and got back to the waiting area just as our ride pulled up. The timing couldn't have been better.
While disembarkation was efficient, the limited traffic approaches insures unbelieveable congestion and a possible wait of an almost unconscionable duration for a "pick-up" vehicle. I do so hope RCI addresses this issue.
Hopefully one of these days, RCI will also have Cape Liberty looking other than an extremely depressed port area. To give credit where credit is due, they're working on it.
Synopsis I have never experienced a bad cruise. Was it perfect? Excellent yes, perfect no. There are always any number of ways that any cruise can be enhanced. That being said, the only negative issues I either experienced or witnessed this cruise that had anything directly to do with Royal Caribbean, were the previously mentioned congestion around Studio B during disembarkation, the traffic congestion and one issue about which more and more passengers are complaining.
I'd like to see replaced that dubious of all ship board "revenue opportunities," the ubiquitous cruise ship art "auction." The proocess provides few if indeed any of the consumer protection afforded on land by law (for obvious reasons of course) and to me at least, reeks of small town county fair hucksterism. I guess though that in keeping with our free market beliefs, two truisms remain, "Caveat Emptor" and P.T. Barnum's quote, "There's a sucker born every minute." I choose to be aware of the former and whenever possible, avoid the latter. As "Dirty Harry Callahan" would say, "You gots to know your limitations." Hopefully I know mine.
Those so wishing are asked to contact me by private message through this web site.
Recommendation for this ship and itinerary: Excellent.
Jim (67) and I (62) chose this ship for our 25th cruise, mainly because it is the nicest ship in the Carib this summer, and has (we thought) a live Hold'Em Poker table. Overall, the ship is stunning and service is good. We are not, however, accustomed to such a BIG ship with SO MANY passengers!
We booked our own flights, planning to fly in a day early so as not to risk missing the ship. Our first flight was late, making us miss our connecting flight. Delta confirmed us on a 5:05 flight, but was nice enough to put us on standby for the 2:30 flight, which seated us. Even though we could not sit together, we were thrilled to make the flight. If these plans had been for cruise day instead of the day before, we might have missed the ship, meaning we'd have to make our way to Ocho Rios three days later to join the ship. Whew!
We checked into the Holiday Inn Bayside, expecting the promised bay view, only to discover that all the smoking rooms are on the 3rd floor, and not high enough tosee anything else but traffic. The room was small but comfortable. We walked across the street to Bayside and, after browsing the many shops and kiosks, had a wonderful dinner at Bubba Gump's. The next morning we had a great buffet breakfast at the hotel and grabbed a cab for the short trip to the pier.
Embarkation We arrived at the pier at 11:30, and after going thru security and check-in, we were in the Lido line in 15 minutes. We easily found a table for two by the window, and even when we left 30 minutes later, we saw no evidence of anyone wandering around looking for a table. We sat by the pool for awhile and around 1:00 went to our cabin.
Our cabin, JS-9644, was a spacious room with a walk-in closet and plenty of other storage space. The balcony was deep enough for two loungers and two other chairs and a small cocktail table. The bathroom, however, was very small for a Junior Suite. The small single-sink counter could only accommodate one person. Only 2 doors away from the elevator bank, we never heard any noise from the passageway. A sign on our cabin door indicated a non-smoking room, and when I called the front desk, I learned that all cabins are non-smoking, but we could smoke on the balcony. Inconvenient, but acceptable. That's the most Jim has used the balcony in all the years we've been cruising!
We took our traditional nap before the safety drill, and prepared for our first (early) dinner in the Rembrandt Dining Room. We were seated with a couple from Florida and another couple who didn't show up until the next night. Our waiter, Andrae and his assistant were attentive and prompt, and the DR Supervisor came by to see that we were being taken care of to our liking, and with one exception, we were.
The Soca-licious Parade was really cool with the staff/crew/entertainers dressed in elaborate Carnivale-type costumes, singing, dancing and interacting with the crowd. It was really fun!
We adjourned to the casino where we donated a little to the Dealers' Benevolent Society (missed the Welcome Aboard Spectacular), and retired early.
On Sunday, our first sea day, I ventured to the Windjammer for my traditional lox and bagels. It was a little crowded, and although the lines were short, I had trouble finding a table for one. One of the stewards took my plate, found me a table with a view, and had someone get me some coffee. The food and selection was very good, but it was difficult to carry a plate, bowl, silverware and a drink by yourself.
Our Meet 'n' Mingle was held at 10:15 in the Olive or Twist lounge. We had about 35 attendees, which was great! Carla and Andrew were very personable, having provided a gift for everyone, coffee, tea, juice, canapés and pastries, and they raffled off bags of very nice ship stuff. Although we were allotted 45 minutes in the lounge, we were gone in half the time. The Port & Shopping Show (which was billed as a 'must-see show') was scheduled for the same time, so we missed it.
On Tuesday, in Ocho Rios, we braved the hoards of Taxi drivers and wandered into the little shopping area off the pier. One driver took us to a shopping center where the locals shop, and we picked up a few things we had forgotten to pack.
On Wednesday, the second formal dinner, we were surprised that there was not enough lobster to go around. At our table, one couple requested and received an additional lobster tail each. The remaining diners were told that not only could we NOT order two lobster tails, but that there were NOT ENOUGH for even ONE ORDER PER PERSON on this EARLY SEATING! The waiter said that any remaining tails were reserved for the second seating. Our table mates brought this up with the Concierge, and the following night all six of us were served lobster in addition to our chosen entrees.
Saturday was Debarkation Day, and I was, as usual, dissatisfied with the procedure. As suite guests, we were nearly first off the ship. Even at this early hour, the lines for Immigration and Customs were unbearable. We got off the ship quickly, but the luggage was not on the proper carousel, and when we found it, it took a long time to find a porter to help us through the line. There were two lines with at least 200 pax (some trying to maneuver their own luggage) and quite a few successful line-jumpers. Once past this roadblock, we easily found a cab and were on our way.
Due to air traffic congestion, we missed our connecting flight. Delta once again got us standby seats, and we didn't have to wait too long.
We liked the size and layout of our suite (except the bathroom), the attentive waitstaff in the dining room, and the friendly and helpful dealers in the casino. Other than that, We did not have any use for most of the activities and attractions on the ship, and did not care to take any of the excursions this time. I think the Liberty was simply more ship than we needed. We can generally overlook minor things that are not to our liking, but we do expect a higher level of service than we experienced on the Liberty.
"Best of Europe"
This was a repositioning cruise. We had 15 in our group. We all flew from Cincinnati to London. We spent a few days in London prior to the cruise.
We visited the normal tourist attractions. We took a private coach (First Class Cars) to the port. We arrived in Southampton around 12:30, took about 15 minutes to board the ship, and headed to the Windjammer for lunch.
The ship had just come out of a 10 day dry-dock in Germany, and it had sailed to Southampton early that morning. Since no passengers had to disembark, we were able to get into our staterooms right away.
The ship looked wonderful. The staff and maintenance crews were doing some minor touch ups during the cruise. They were laying carpet in different staterooms, and gift shops on the Promenade.
Here is the review:
The Ship The Voyager looked to be in good shape. The Windjammer café was great; the bars all over the ship were in good repair. The staff in the dining room was great. We ate on deck 5 for dinner. We had late seating. Our head waiter, table waiter, and assistant table waiterwere great. The food was wonderful, and I only saw a few items repeated during our 11 night cruise. Our group ate in Portofino's. The food and service was well worth the extra $20. Ate in Johnny Rockets twice; I love this type of food and atmosphere. The shows at the La Scala Theater were good. The comedians and magician were great. The Royal Singers and Dancers were very good.
We had a Grand Suite on Deck 10. Good location. We had one floor up to Windjammer, and one floor down to the concierge lounge. Never heard any noise from the pool area above, and never heard any noise when we were out on the balcony. The suite gave us plenty of room, lots of storage space, drawers, closet space, and the bathroom had a tub and double sink. We were very pleased with the Suite.
Staff Our captain was the youngest in the Royal fleet. He stated on the first day out that he didn't believe in having the "invitation only" captain's dinner. He said he would stop by the dining rooms during the cruise and stop at different tables. He said he could visit more passengers by stopping by tables then having ten select passengers at his table. This is a wonderful concept, however; during 11 nights, our group of 15 never saw him. Seems like the only time we saw him was during formal nights, when he was posing for pictures on the Promenade.
Our Cruise Director was Jill Tasker. Like the captain, we saw very little of her. She was in the theater to introduce the shows, but seems like every time we had an event, she sent one of her staff to that event. During the cruise the onboard staff was always accommodating and helpful.
Our ports of call were Vigo-Lisbon-Gibraltar-Sardinia-Rome-Florence-Nice-Barcelona. We used the ship's excursions for all but two tours. In Rome and Florence we used Romeinlimo. They provided an excellent service and gave us the opportunity to see more in both ports than the ship's tours did.
All in all I would rate this cruise as 5 out of 5. There were a few minor glitches; but for the most part everything worked out, and our group was very well taken care of. We had a great time.
This was my third cruise with Royal Caribbean, my 12th overall. I booked this cruise two weeks before sail date and at that time I requested a small table for 2, second seating.
The embarkation could not have been more smooth. I arrived at the pier in San Pedro at approximately 11:55am. I was able to drop bags, check in and board all within 15 minutes of arriving at the port.
Once on board, knowing staterooms would not be ready until 1:00pm, I made my way to the dining room to check on my dining assignment. The Mariners main dining room is located in the aft section of the ship, and is divided into three levels, The Sound of Music on deck 5, Top Hat and Tails on deck 4 and the Rhapsody in Blue on deck 3.
I was to discover that I was given a seat at table #320 which is a table for 6, second seating, which I felt was unacceptable. I was informed by one of the servers setting the dining room that I could possibly request a change of the assignment at 1:00 pm. This is whenone of the head waiters would be available to reassign me if possible.
Knowing I booked late, I understood there may be a chance my request may not be granted. I decided "nothing ventured nothing gained," so I parked myself outside of the entrance on deck four at 12:20pm to wait for the opportunity. As it turned out, it was a good thing I did as the line began to form quickly. Shortly before 1pm Mr. Dinesh Dogra arrived, and being first in line he quickly informed me that basically he could not help me, and I was out of luck, stating "we only have 11 tables for 2 in second seating on this sailing."
When I asked what he would suggest I do for dinner since I really did not care for dining with a large table and truly didn't enjoy the buffet dining experience, his response was "that's your choice. I don't care what you do." Mr. Dogra was very condescending, which made for not exactly a great start to this cruise vacation.
After I booked this cruise , I called a friend Carmen "H," who has been on many cruises with RCI (73+) just to see if she might be available to book as well, and she was.
Miss "H" was in line directly behind me and prefers to dine at a large table. When her time came to talk with this gentleman, she simply asked if her dining assignment was in the section of one of her dear friends who is also a headwaiter on the Mariner, and who was also expecting her to be assigned in his section. She was informed by Mr. Dogra that he was too busy to check and that he wasn't there for that purpose. In my opinion Mr. Dogra's guest relations skills need work and he should not be permitted to interact with guests until being sent for retraining in guest relations.
After the confrontation and being somewhat disappointed, Miss "H" and I agreed to meet later for a drink. Off we went to check out our individual staterooms.
My cabin was a category E1, #7216 which is located forward on this ship and included a balcony.
This cabin is spacious, clean, and in fairly good condition, although I discovered the heating system was not working properly, and after informing my stateroom attendant of this fact, it was corrected in less than 90 minutes.
My stateroom attendant for this voyage was a Mr. Mark Bonner, who is from Jamaica.
Mr. Bonner's responses to my needs throughout this cruise were met on a higher level than my original expectations. He was consistently able to quickly and efficiently keep my stateroom in a constant ready state. He should be commended for his professionalism and attention to details. Two big thumbs up from me!
Around 5:00 pm that first evening a wonderful gentleman; Merrick Saldanha -- another one of Royal Caribbean's excellent head waiters -- informed me that indeed he was able to arrange a table for two for me and in his section, although he wasn't able to accommodate Miss "H" and her request for a large table at her friend's station (because her friend was not scheduled to work second seating), so she decided to dine with me. A big thanks to Mr. Saldanha, which provided a terrific win-win solution.
This being my first voyage on the Mariner, I was presented with my chance to see what all the hullabaloo was about concerning the Promenade.
The Promenade, for those that aren't familiar, is a wide corridor in the middle of the ship. It runs forward to the aft on deck 5. This is where the ship conducts some of it's many activities including parades and musical performances, and it is also the location for the onboard shops, the coffee café, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Parlor, and the champagne bar, as well as the guest relations desk. There are cabins that are located over the area that will enable guests to look over the area, and I was told by many staff that those staterooms were soundproofed. Although, the Promenade tends to be a bit loud for my taste, I admit the concept is a 5 star idea!
The highlight for me on the Promenade is the wine bar Vintages!
Vintages is a delightful place that houses many excellent wines. There you are encouraged to "taste" a wine before purchasing, and you are also allowed to purchase by the glass or bottle. They will store your unfinished bottle for you, if you so desire.
On this particular cruise, three of Vintages' employees Gustad Irani, Alme Morrison and Lloyd Tan provided outstanding descriptions of the wines, and their service was exceptional.
This cruise had three ports of call -- Astoria Oregon, Victoria, BC and Seattle, Washington. There were also three sea days as well. Personally I ended up treating this as a mostly sea days cruise, only getting off in Victoria in order to look over the garden spot of British Columbia. We were told by the locals that Victoria was a community of retirees and gardens, so as he put it "Welcome to Victoria -- the home of garden beds, newlyweds and almost deads!" Victoria was very charming and I am looking forward to returning.
The Mariner has three specialty dining venues that impose a surcharge. Portofinos' "Intimate Italian Dining" $20.00 per person, Chops Grille "The best steak on the high seas" $25.00, and Johnny Rockets $4.95.
On Wednesday I had my chance to try specialty dining. I chose Chops Grille, and I will say I was quite pleased.
Thursday evening I was invited to dine with the Chief Engineer, Harri Kulmajarui -- a delightful man from Norway.
On Friday I received an invitation to tour the bridge.
Formal Nights were on Monday and Friday. While preparing for the second formal night, the top button on my tuxedo shirt popped off. Not knowing what to do I went to guest services. Gaston Somonte, one of the guest services officers, went above and beyond the call. He found an emergency sewing kit and quickly dropped it by my stateroom. Talk about saving the day!
Due to the economy, RCL has undergone major cost saving measures, including forgoing the grand buffet -- the chocolate extravaganza. They have raised prices across the board as well. Pellegrino is now $6.95 a bottle and they are also charging $14.95 for a decent steak in the dining room. They have also eliminated the chocolate on the pillow at night.
I truly hope this is not an indication of things to come.
Jeers * To Royal Caribbean International's efforts in cost cutting and revenue generating by charging $14.95 for a decent steak in the dining room and for the removal of chocolates on the pillows at night. Please don't cut too many pennies!
Extra Cheers * Mario Panganiban -- the waiter whose station I eventually was assigned ensuring that my dining experience was all it could be.* Manuel Datayan, the assistant waiter whose attention to detail always ensured an exceptional dining experience.
What started out with a bad customer service experience ended up as often happens with great guest relations and the gaining of new acquaintances.
In general the crew of the Mariner try to please, and as with any organization you will run into a bad apple now and again.
So much to do it can be overwhelming but in a good way. Some do's and don't's IMHO
DO - eat at Portifino Best service and filet mignon I've had in my LIFE
DON'T - eat main seating too rushed to get ready
DO - Book sail and snorkle excersion St. Thomas with Doubloon to Turtle Cove - great fun & crew!
DO - Atlantis submarine tour in St. Thomas closet you'll ever come to being a diver
DO - Buy wrist keychains (spiral) for room keys We had the front desk punch a hole in them and wore them on our wrist. So convenient!
DO - Bring Woolite and a couple of those removable hooks and some line to make a clothline on the balcony. Used these alot. As well as that wrinkle remover spray.
DO - Bring an over-the-door shoebag to hang up in the restroom! Helped tremendously
DO - Buy the video done during your cruise at the photo lab. $19.95 and well worth the money.
DO - Stay up late to view the Gala Buffet AMAZING
DON'T - Expect your teen 16 - 17 to venture off on their own. Teen programnot so good. Daughter was disappointed that she had to do all of the activities with 13 year olds so she chose not to. 13 year old son not too crazy about activities either. :( But they still had a great time with us.
DO - Try the Coco Loco's AWEMSOME
DO - Have a drink at Dizzy's the view is spectacular
DO - Attend evening parades in the Promanade Short but very beautiful and entertaining
DO - Plan some time to rest, we were so tired even though we didn't do the late night activities
DO - IF YOU HAVE KIDS buy the coke card/$20 (unlimited) and the non-alcholic drink card $43 (20 drinks plenty for the week). THESE ARE WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD, saved us a ton of money.
DON'T - Stress at the Haitian Market, have fun with it, they really are harmless. If they ask $30 (which they do for everything) you can probably get it for $10.
DO - Take lot's of pictures
DO - Tip for chairs in Labadee if you want one that is
DON'T - Be rude! We heard and saw many people that were not so nice to us, servers, and locals. No matter how much money we spend it doesn't make it right to be rude! Those people are the ones that ruin a vacation for all.
DO - TIP they really do work so very hard and deserve it
MISC - We really had NO problems the entire trip. Flights on time, easy on and easy off the ship. Some damage with luggage, ship repaired most of it while on the cruise. No problems with customs/passports etc.... KEN RUSH was the most amazing Cruise Director. He was EVERYWHERE all the time with the biggest smile on his face, we truly do not know how he does it.
My hubby says that "if this ship ain't got it, you don't need it"
HAVE FUN, we're sad to be home.
This was my first cruise and it was truly wonderful. All crew and staff were very friendly and helpful especially the Stateroom Supervisor (Marcus), the Stateroom attendant (Angelique) on deck 2 and the Chief Housekeeper. The food was exceptional and the Waiter, Assistant Waiter and Head waiter in the King and I Dining Room were great. We had table 77 for the 6.30pm sitting. The Entertainment Director and his staff were very helpful (especially Vicky) and the DJ Savio was Fantastic. Poolside attendants were also great especially Kalish.
We had booked a Junior Suite for 2 adults and one child. The stateroom was adequate. There were plenty of drawers and wardrobes although the wardrobes were very dark inside and could do with an internal light.
The bedding, carpets, sofa and chairs were clean and fresh. The dressing table was large with plenty of mirrors and storage space, but they were looking rather tired.
I can cope with that as long as everything is clean -- which is was.
We were on deck 8 and did get lots of noise from people walking above. We also had a couple of mights when high wind whistled throughthe balcony and made a huge racket keeping us all awake. However if we hadn't have had the balcony, we would have missed the dolphins and a fantastic lightening storm and pouring rain on our last night. We could have gotten any other view from the deck above. When the rain came the public were told to go inside and were not allowed back on deck until it had stopped.
The pool in the Solarium and outside were both salt water.
There are 2 jacuzzi's outside and 2 in the solarium. We used the gym which, although small, had a good selection of equipment. For a charge of $10 you could do the spin class, which was always busy.
The pitch and putt was well worn and bland but we still played. The rock climbing wall was busy at times, but the staff were very encouraging and didn't hurry anyone. The wall was open many times during the week and once a week they would open it at night, which was a totally different experience -- great fun.
The entertainment was good in 42nd Street and the bands that played in the lounges and on deck were very good.
My 15 year old son was rather bored as there wasn't really that much for him to do.
I met some truly interesting people on the cruise and made a few friends. It was nice to see that the crew members were so multi-cultural as were all the passengers. I can truly say I had a dream cruise and would recommend this cruise to all of my friends. Thank you all once again.
Shore excursions were available although quite expensive. For some of the port calls like Santorini and Kusadasi we booked private tours in advance. We contracted with local tour operators.
PORTS OF CALL Venice, Italy: The highlight was Venice and I would advise anyone sailing from Venice to go out a couple of days early and have a good look around, because it's wonderful.
Dubrovnik, Croatia: Dubrovnik is easy walking around the old town, although the walk around the old city walls is worthwhile but quite energetic.
Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey: Our group of six toured Ephesus with a guide that Denizhan (www.transbalkan.com) had arranged. We had the best tour with him -- better than in any of the other ports. The guide took many pictures of us with stunning views as backgrounds.
Santorini, Greece: We had a fabulous time on our tour in Santorini. Booked a private tour from Anna (www.santorinidaytours.com). Our guide took some great pictures and she did a terrific job in tailoring the tour around our needs, while at the same time making sure we saw all of the island's highlights. We truly enjoyed it.
Corfu, Greece: We took the Paleokastritsa and Corfu town tour which first took us to the resort area of Paleokastritsa where four busloads of tourists visited a small 12th century Greek Orthodox monastery. We saw the Greek Orthodox church of St. Spiridon in Corfu. People commented that Corfu didn't look like Greece. It doesn't have those old whitewashed buildings, and it has a strong Italian and French flavor. There is a picturesque old town and a great old fort jutting out into the sea.
All in all, the cruise was fine -- a small, clean, if tired ship with a friendly staff.
There isn't much for teenagers to do, so I wouldn't really recommend it for older families.
You do feel the engine and movement on this ship.