We flew from San Francisco to Miami the day before the cruise was to embark. We stayed at the Doubletree Biscayne Bay which is a very nice hotel. We asked the desk clerk if we could get a room with a view of the cruise terminal. He spent 5 – 10 minutes finding us a room with a great view (he also gave us extra cookies – Bonus!) There is a people mover about a block away which is free. We used this to get to the Bayside Marketplace where we met a group for dinner. Note: Take a taxi back after dark.
This was our first time sailing as platinum so we had priority boarding. All told, it was approximately 60 to 90 minutes from getting to the pier to getting on board the ship (we did arrive early though – around 10:30, and they began boarding at noon). Luggage made it to our room by 1:30.
This ship is HUGE and is very tastefully decorated throughout.
We had cabin 9404, Category E1, on the aft corner, starboard side. The cabin is nicely laid out, but storage was just a bit on the tight side – nothing we couldn’t deal with though. The balcony is wedge shaped and large with a lounger, two chairs and a small table. There was a structural beam that went through the balcony, but it was close to the divider and didn’t cause any problems for us. Note: The dividers on the aft do not open. This was our first time sailing with the updated bedding and we loved it. The bed was so comfortable we wanted to take it home. Slept like babies. We didn’t feel much extra motion being on the aft than we have mid-ship either.
Dining Room: The dining room is on three levels, just like on all of the Voyager & Freedom class ships. In décor and appearance it is very similar. Each deck had a different color scheme. We sat at table 312 on Deck 3 (Rembrandt), which was just at the base of the stairs, and was a great location. The food in the dining room was general good, occasionally very good and once (for me) not so good. I had ordered the NY strip but it was not very good – so they brought me something else. No big deal. We ordered the Diamond wine package (5 bottles) upon embarkation and used that each evening. Live music was usually played on the stair landing between Deck 3 and Deck 4. Pedro Dela Llana performed in the dining room on two evenings and was excellent!
Windjammer: Very nice – and large. There was plenty of seating. We ate breakfast here most days and it was very good. We also had lunch here several days and again, the food was very good.
Chops Grille: We dined here once and found the service & food to be exceptional. We would recommend it highly. We didn’t try Portofino’s on this trip so we have nothing to report.
Sorrento’s and Café Promenade: We had the pizza at Sorrento’s – this is a giant step up from the RCI pizza of the past. It’s not quite as good as that on Princess – but still pretty tasty (as our repeated trips would bear witness). As for Café Promenade, we only tried the cookies there and they were delicious.
We didn’t try Ben & Jerry’s or Johnny Rockets but they seemed pretty busy.
Schooner Bar: This is our favorite bar on every RCI ship we’ve sailed, and this was no exception. We went there for pre-dinner cocktails as it is non-smoking. Trivia was played here several times a day. They also had a piano player and sing-alongs in the evening.
Olive or Twist: This was the martini bar in the Viking Crown. It allowed smoking in some parts and was non-smoking in others. Wonderful views from there.
The Cruise Compass has martini sales almost every night – either in the Schooner Bar or in Olive or Twist. 20% off from 4:30 – 8:30 - Gotta love that!
Boleros: This was billed as the Tequila Bar. The entertainment (and fun) was on the smoking side and I am allergic to cigarette smoke so I had to leave after a short time.
The Hoof & Claw: This is the old-English Pub and a fun place to go – Mark B was the guitarist/vocalist here and there was a pretty lively sing-along each night. Again – this is a smoking venue.
Vintages: This was the wine bar, where smoking was allowed. We never tried this venue.
We didn’t notice much smoke smell in the Royal Promenade, even in the area where smoking was allowed in the bars.
These were pretty typical of all of the Voyager Class ships - all were very nice. They did have a new area called “On-Air” which is where the karaoke was done. The Sphinx lounge was non-smoking and seemed somewhat under utilized. We really noticed it being used for Bingo – maybe they used it at night but we didn’t notice . . .
The pool decks are very nice with the H20 Zone for kids and kids of all ages, the main pools and then the solarium pool. There were plenty of hot tubs including those incredible cantilevered tubs on either side of the solarium. These were awesome!! The water was fresh, not salt. The pool decks are very crowded during most times of the day but still fun. They did have live music which was nice too.
Chair hogging was rampant on this cruise. This is the first time we experienced it. We had to get to the pool deck at 6:45 AM to get a chair in the shade. Chairs in the sun were taken even earlier. The Deck Patrol was completely indifferent to the situation. They really didn’t care and if you talked to them about it, they acted as if you were annoying them. By the end of the cruise this really became a thorn in our side.
In general, the crew was efficient, but not quite as friendly when compared with our past RCI cruises. This may have been a result of the ship being at full capacity including third and fourth berths.
San Juan: We basically did a self-guided tour. We grabbed a cab to San Cristobal Fort. Admittance was $5 pp (which included El Morro too). You can take the free trolley from San Cristobal to El Morro but we opted to walk. After El Morro we walked Old San Juan. It had rained (somewhat heavily) when we first arrived in Old San Juan, but it stopped quickly. The temperature wasn’t too bad and humidity was bearable.
St. Maarten. Our friend Jan (Flooper) arranged for a tour with Bernard. This was excellent. Bernard had plenty of refreshments on hand while driving. He basically took us anywhere we wanted to go. We spent an hour or so at Orient Beach. This was our first time there and we loved it. The water is so blue! We then drove over to Sunset Beach to watch the planes land – what a neat experience. The weather in St. Maarten was very nice.
Labadee: We love this port! The ship arrived about a half hour early so we were able to disembark between 8 and 8:30. Labadee is still as nice as we remember. Nicer actually, as they have updated the facilities there. We watched some folks doing the zip line and they all appeared to be having a great time. Went parasailing with some friends and had an awesome time!! The weather some overcast most of the day, but for us, that actually worked out well. It was still nice and warm, with a slight breeze. The water was warm as well.
We opted to use the Luggage Valet program. For $20 per person, we could have our bags taken from the ship and checked right through the airport, provided your flight leaves at 11:30 AM or later. This worked great. On the last full day of the cruise, our boarding pass and Luggage Valet luggage tags were delivered to our room. This program isn’t available for all airlines but when you take the sign-up form to Guest Relations, they will let you know.
We waited in the Platinum Disembarkation lounge where continental breakfast was served. We were allowed to walk off the ship anytime after 8:15 because we had used the Luggage Valet. Total time from disembarking to getting through security at the airport was approximately 50 minutes – this is probably a record for us!
We had a great cruise (we find it hard to have a bad cruise). This was primarily due to the friendships one always seems to make while at sea. The ship is amazing and if you’ve sailed a Voyager class, you will find your way around easily.
Vision Of The Seas
Independence Of The Seas x2
Allure Of The Seas
Oasis Of The Seas x3
Liberty Of The Seas x4
Freedom Of The Seas x3
Navigator Of The Seas x2
Explorer Of The Seas x2
Voyager Of The Seas
Enchantment Of The Seas
Rhapsody Of The Seas
Majesty Of The Seas
Monarch Of The Seas
Sovereign Of The Seas