Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A small ship with lots of quiet; large inside/outside standard
cabins; single, open seating or intimate dining; a close-to-the-sea
When Voyager of the Seas, first of the Voyager class of ships
(Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Mariner and Navigator), entered
service in 1999 as the largest cruise ship in the world, many
observers predicted that such of her features as an ice skating
rink, rock-climbing wall, in-line skating track, horizontal atrium,
and inside cabins with promenade view would change the face of
cruising forever. One thing is for sure: the 3,114-passenger ship
appeals to people of all ages but is especially suited for the
younger and more active set.
Oldsters can still enjoy people-watching but its the youngsters
who really benefit from the 40-foot-high rock-climbing wall,
ice-skating, miniature golf, volleyball and basketball and
rollerblading on the sports deck.
Deck three features "Studio B," an incongruously named ice rink
for recreational skating as well as for Ice Capades-type shows. The
ship offers one of the biggest casinos at sea, a tiny movie
theater, a library, and an internet cafe.
There are a full three miles of public corridors, but the
hallways are occasionally "jiggered" so you don't get a sense of
the full distance, plus excellent signage precludes anyone getting
too grievously lost. There is a severe shortage of elevators, with
but two banks of four to service 3400 people over 14 decks. Wait
times can be excruciating.
A simple "let's go see the ship!" comment on day one leads you
out the door, and by the time you return to your cabin you will
feel like Marco Polo. The 500-foot-long, four-deck-high Royal
Promenade, all too evocative of an onshore mall, is like a real
street, with a cherry-red British Morgan car parked outside the
faux English Pub. The promenades are lined with cafes, a 24-hour
eatery for pizza, pastries and sandwiches. Shops, including
souvenirs, liquor and cigarettes, display their wares outside on
days at sea.
There is a $4.25-per-scoop Ben & Jerry's. Pay-per-view
in-cabin movies are $11.95, and there's a $3.95 per person service
charge to Johnny Rockets (although the burgers are free, and worth
every cent). There's a $20 surcharge for the small alternative
restaurants Portofino which serves great a la minute meals but are
a little overly crowded.
The breathtaking Royal Promenade -- four decks high, longer than
a football field, wider than three lanes of traffic -- has no
windows, but is always dazzlingly illuminated, as only befits a
venue for Mardi Gras-style parades complete with stilt walkers, a
swaying inflatable dancer, streamers and confetti.
The enormous Casino Royale, through which passengers must pass
to get to the main show lounge, is gilded to within an inch of its
life, with nearly 300 slots and tables for blackjack, craps,
roulette and Caribbean Stud Poker. The disco pulses into the wee
hours. Floor-to-ceiling seawater tanks teeming with Day-Glo
tropical fish flank the Aquarium Bar. The well-stocked library,
which feels like an urban bookshop, provides seating along its
glass wall for an overview of the Royal Promenade. The Viking Crown
Lounge is perched 14 decks above the ocean. You can get married in
port in the ship's Wedding Chapel, bringing up to 60 of your
closest friends and families.
The gorgeous La Scala Theater, a state-of-the-art 1,350-seat
show lounge, features such decorative elements as a Murano glass
chandelier and a jewel-bedecked velvet stage curtain.
That ice rink you hear so much about is a two decks below the
atrium and right in the middle of the ship, which means some fancy
footwork is sometimes required to get to other public areas. In
fact, the great and spacious interior of the ship is almost
completely surrounded by private cabins, so to get any look at the
ocean at all you'll have to head for the cluster of lounges on the
upper decks or outside on the decks themselves.
Amply decked out with recliners, the pool areas bustle with
activity and also are the staging area for fashion shows and
planned games. The real action takes place on the sports deck,
where fitness fans work up a sweat playing ping-pong, basketball or
rock-climbing. Families flock to the open-air 9-hole miniature golf
course. There is inline skating on a well-padded track.
The best spots for being alone with a book during days at sea
are the sea view Seven of Hearts card room and Cloud Nine Lounge on
Deck 14. Serious misanthropes can retreat all the way up the
curving stairway to Deck 15's Skylight Chapel, where no one ever
ventures, and where no music is piped in.
Mouthwatering descriptions on the menus notwithstanding, you
probably won't hear people raving about the food. Particularly
annoying are misleading descriptions of food items, a notable one
being a dessert called "chocolate fondue" which evokes a plate of
fruit and marshmallows for dipping into a bowl of hot, molten
cocoa-laden chocolate. What arrives is a refrigerated bowl of
congealed white pudding with a few berries stuck to the bottom. The
immediate response is, "Huh? What is this?" It turns out the
description says "white chocolate" and as for the word "fondue," -
well, it just isn't one.
These ships have changed their dining room menus, limiting the
number of courses. While most ships list appetizers, soups, salads
and entrees separately, there are now but two categories, starters
and entrees, with a single type of salad offered as a separate
option. The result is people getting different items (soup, salad,
appetizers) all at different times. Entrees will all arrive at
once, however. Beef is the best bet - fish is unpredictable. In
addition to entree selections that vary nightly, the menu always
offers salmon, chicken breast, steak or pasta. These are often the
best choices on the menu.
Particularly problematic is the bar and wine service. There are
no dedicated sommeliers so don't be surprised if your white wine
arrives at room temperature and no ice bucket if you order a
bottle. Wine by the glass is three fingers in the smallest wine
glass made, and costs over $7.00. Royal Caribbean does not offer to
keep unfinished bottles in their cellar for their guests, but you
can cork it and take it with you at the end of the dinner.
Specialty coffees like espresso or cappuccino with dessert, with
or without liquor, have to be ordered from bar service which can be
tortuously slow. Try to order these well ahead of dessert or you
will likely be served after your meal is finished.
Cabin service staff is efficient but unobtrusive. The purser's
desk tries hard to be responsive, especially in view of how much
troubleshooting they must do on a ship this size. Room service,
though, can be pretty slow.
The ship's elegant main restaurant features a crystal chandelier
a grand, two deck staircase. The three decks it spans are
separately named for famous operas; Carmen, La Boheme and the Magic
Flute. The ship's second most popular dining venue (though it is
more of a lunching venue) is Johnny Rockets, which carries a $3.95
per person service charge (soda fountain drinks are extra), and in
which you might have to wait to be seated. The vast Lido deck
restaurant for casual buffet-style meals is cleverly designed to
look like two individual eateries, minimizing the sense of size and
crowds. Portofino, the alternative Italian restaurant, is a lovely
intimately-lit venue, though you might, if you're not attentive,
realize you've got your fork in an adjacent diner's salad; the
tables are that close together.
The Vegas-style production shows, especially clever in their
special effects, rival Carnival's for the best at sea. The ship's
musicians are adequately entertaining, with the best bet being the
solo folk guitarist in the English themed pub serving several
British ales on tap. Late night parties like the 70s Disco Show or
Karaoke are held in the Connoisseur Club nightly. Daytime the is a
minimal reggae band playing by the pool or in the Royal Promenade.
A jazz trio heats up the Viking Crown Lounge at night.
Best For People Who Want
A bigger-than-life cruise experience with nearly unlimited
activities; the feeling of being in a city-at-sea; family members
of many ages to have a grand time; non-stop nightlife
Clean, simple and tasteful, featuring a lot of Art Nouveau
influence, seems just right for a ship this size. The atrium boasts
a beautiful fiber optic sculpture rising several stories. The
ship's well-placed art is surprisingly sophisticated. Particularly
notable are the Georgian-style dining rooms, a stunning tucked-away
lounge for smokers called the Connoisseur Cigar Club (to which
you'll have to ask directions); and the elegant Champagne Bar, with
curvaceous champagne-colored leather banquettes.
with a smile is the style here, and room stewards work
especially hard. While these ships started out working quite well,
certain challenges arrive with age. The laundry facilities don't
seem to be up to the challenge of a ship this size, so towels are
worn out and odors have settled into the seat cushions. The
drainage systems are not as clear as they used to be and showers
may back up. The front desk does its best to help but unfortunately
they have to deal with a very large crew that often can't deliver
what they try to promise.
Royal Caribbean suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50
for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite); $3.50
for the waiter; $2.50 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 Head Waiter.
These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard
account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the
stateroom, tipping is at the parents' discretion.
An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage
tabs. Gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are
at your discretion.
Royal Caribbean is known for small cabins, inside cabins are
just about big enough to turn around in. Hats off to Royal
Caribbean, though, for not skimping on balcony cabins. Actually,
cabins are roomier than elsewhere in RCI's fleet. Inside cabins do
measure a stingy 160 sq. ft; but outside cabins range from 180 to
265 sq. ft. and suites from 610 to 1188 sq. ft. Moreover, there's
lots of storage, especially nice for a ship that essentially goes
nowhere. Standard amenities include color TV with CNN and movies; a
safe; individual temperature controls; and RCI's first hair dryers.
There are tubs only in the highest category staterooms' bathrooms;
most have just showers (though unexpectedly large ones) with
If you book an interior cabin, be aware that the cabins come
with twin beds, one against each wall. If you attempt to put them
together for a single king-size bed you will not have enough room
to get around the corners of the bed.
The ship's well-equipped gym still draws serious fitness buffs
with its full range of state-of-the-art machines. The two-level
Steiner Spa, with its winding staircase, looks more like the lobby
of a boutique hotel, albeit with a Greek motif. It houses a small
attractive thalassotherapy-like pool in an airy glass-enclosed but
private semi-circular room. The Solarium's serene outdoor pool area
nestles behind the spa; you're surrounded there by fountains,
foliage, and statues, with a retractable glass ceiling
Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to youth and
teen programming. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed
by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids an immersion into
the performing arts. On each RCI sailing, teens and kids can learn
acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a
series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions.
Another innovative program is Scratch DJ101 classes, which are
available to all ages, along with special two-hour sessions just
for teens on Liberty of the Seas. After their lessons, teens can
showcase their music mixing knowledge in a graduation performance
that friends and family can attend.
RCI has added new activities for those three to five years old
in conjunction with Fisher-Price. Some of the new themes include
Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for pre-schoolers; Dino
Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.
Lastly, RCI unveiled a Youth Loyalty Program this summer.
Children and teens can now also enjoy Crown & Anchor Society
repeat passenger benefits. Rewards for youngsters on their second
or more RCI cruise include Crayola Twistable crayons or a Royal
Caribbean bag. All repeating youth receive a Youth Ultimate Value
Booklet with coloring pages, games and discounts for onboard
amenities such as Ben & Jerry's, Airbrush Tattoo, and arcade
games. Parents can enroll their children (if they have already
cruised with RCI) via the line's website:
Private babysitting is offered from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.,
provided sitters are available, for children from one year old. The
rate is usually between $8.00 and $10 per per hour depending on the
number of children in the family. Cash payment is made directly to
the sitter. Arrange through Guest Services at least 24 hours in
There are two formal nights per cruise. Maybe it's this ship's
particularly festive reputation that induced most men onboard our
sailing to don actual tuxedos for formal nights. A dark suit is
just as appropriate. In general, though, this ship offers so much
to do onboard that passengers don't all dress alike.