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: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Group. Families. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Suez Canal, Bahamas, Dubai
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Brazil, Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles
Good for: Seniors. Families. Singles.
Regions:Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Scan Russia, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
On 4 October we leave from Barcelona for a cruise around the Italian cities. We (my husband and I) live in Holland and are 52 and 60, but younger looking and interesting people.
For those who have made this cruise already, can you tell us a little more about it?
This was the 7th cruise RCI for my wife and I. This cruise was scheduled for 7-nights in the Southern Caribbean embarking from San Juan Puerto Rico, with stops in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
Pre-Cruise We arrived in San Juan on Friday. Our flight from Chicago was on time and we arrived in the afternoon. We booked 2 nights at the San Juan Intercontinental Resort and Casino. We had a great room; the hotel is situated right on the beach and has one of the most beautiful pool areas I have ever seen. The staff and service were great, comfy bed and a very clean room. The only downfall of the Intercontinental is the food prices at the restaurants; the cheapest beach grill item was a $12 hotdog! However, there were many dining alternatives right across the street, including a steak house, 2 delis, a bakery, and a Puerto Rican diner. On Saturday, we toured Old San Juan and saw the El Morrow fort and the old city wall. Also we visited the burial site of Ponce de Leon. Sunday we slept in and left forthe ship around noon.
Embarkation This was easiest embarkation we ever had! From the time we walked out of the hotel room, checked out, got a taxi and drove to the port, checked in our baggage, went through security, entered the check-in line for Platinum members, checked in and was walking on the ship was a total time of……35 minutes! We did the online check-in and once again made our check-in time with the clerk only about 2 minutes. Just FYI, the Adventure of the Seas docks at the newer Pan American Pier for embarkation and debarkation, not the cruise docks in Old San Juan. A lot of reviews will tell you to stay at the Sheraton Old San Juan and the ship will dock right across the street, this is no longer the case.
The Ship We were blown away by the size and beauty of this ship! This is our 2nd cruise on a Voyager class ship, but for some reason, this ship seemed so much larger and more elegant. The Royal Promenade and the other public areas almost seemed to sparkle. The ship has 2 pools on deck 11, the main pool and an adult solarium. The sports deck has a basketball court, climbing wall, mini-golf course, roller blade track and a golf simulator. Being a Voyager class ship, the Adventure has an ice rink. The Viking Crown lounge is split into a couple of different areas, including a 19th hole lounge and the Blue Moon lounge. The children's area in the back of deck 12 has a small water slide and nice play area. I really couldn't find any flaws with the public areas, the crew was constantly cleaning and polishing and we had a full ship with never had a crowd anywhere.
The Cabin We booked an E2 balcony cabin, but received an upgrade to a D1 balcony about a week before we left. Our cabin was on deck 6, starboard side and forward. We felt the gentle rolling of the seas and slept great on this cruise. The balcony was more than adequate and we really enjoyed the view. No different than any other D1 balcony, decent room to move around, a nice couch area, no flat screen TVs yet, and the standard RCI stand-up shower and bathroom.
The Staff Of course the highlight of any RCI cruise is the service. Every crewmember had a smile and a greeting for me morning, noon and night. Our stateroom attendant did spectacular, kept the cabin spotless and handled our simple request with ease. One change is RCI will only fill the ice bucket in the evening now, no longer in the morning unless the guest requests it. Our dining room staff was the true stars of our cruise experience. Our entire wait staff performed superbly. They were so nice, we enjoyed talking to them every night. Everywhere we went the service from the RCI crew was great.
Ports of Call After a day at sea to start, our 1st stop was Barbados. We bought an excursion taking a catamaran ride and swimming with sea turtles. This was really fun, and our tour guides did a great job as well. Our 2nd stop was St. Lucia, we had some morning rain showers here and not the best weather. We had a complimentary day pass to the Sandals Regency Resort for the day, and spent the entire day in the Sandals pool. Our 3rd stop was Antigua, we also had a complimentary day pass to the Sandals Grande Resort and with much better weather, we spent this day tanning and swimming in the resort pool. Our 4th stop was St. Maarten. We booked an island tour that showed us both the Dutch side and the French side of the island. The tour took about 3 hours and we saw both the good and the bad of both sides. We had a particularly good tour guide on this tour; we spent some time in Marigot, the French side capitol and did some shopping. Out last stop was St. Thomas, USVI. Here we took a ferry tour over to St. John and did some snorkeling at Trunk Bay and took the underwater snorkeling trail. My only complaint was our tour guide who tried to be both a comedian (he wasn't funny) and a political persuader to the visiting US tourist for his favorite Presidential candidate. I, and many around me, didn't care for this and we reflected this in his tip. We don't go on vacation to get a live political commercial; we get enough of that at home. The island of St. John is a must see, 2/3 of the island is a national forest reserve, and Trunk Bay is a national underwater marine reserve. This was the most beautiful Caribbean island I have ever seen!
Dining I was pleasantly surprised at the increased quality of food on this RCI ship. We had noticed a downward trend in our previous cruises, but I noticed they made an effort to make better food in the Windjammer and kept rotating the food so it didn't sit under the warmers for long. The lack of variety is still in the Windjammer, but the quality is better. The dining room showed markedly increased quality. The menus are now hard backed, no more flimsy cardboard menus. We had many different entrees to choose from, and we could order as much as we wanted, including the lobster. The real highlight of the cruise was the Portifinos dining experience on our last night onboard. We have never had a better dining experience, and since this was our 5th wedding anniversary, the staff made our experience very special and something to remember forever. Also, let me say we once again lucked out and had great dining tablemates this cruise. We ate with a couple from the Atlanta area that was retired high school educators. What a pleasant and interesting couple to share a table with every night. Between our tablemates, the better quality food and the wait staff, this was our best dining cruise yet!
Entertainment Our entertainment was really a mixed bag on this cruise. We had 2 outstanding entertainment experiences, 1st was the ice show we saw on Tuesday evening. It is called "Hot Art, Cool Ice". It was an art expression themed show, it was spectacular and well worth going to see. The 2nd great entertainment we had was the BeatleMania Live show. The actual BeatleMania Live band from Las Vegas was doing a short tour of RCI ships and performed a shortened BeatleMania show for the ship. A really great concert that had us literally dancing in the aisles! The comedians weren't really funny, the same old cruise jokes about the sucking toilets, small showers and tiny cabins, and we have heard these same jokes on every cruise. We did enjoy the El Goucho from Uruguay, and the juggler. The Cruise Director, Mike, was really funny and did some great magic tricks and was very entertaining throughout the cruise. The cruise had the same Quest and Love & Marriage shows. They did do a new show called the "Cruise Family Feud", which is modeled after the TV game show and was unique and very funny.
Disembarkation We used the luggage valet for out debarking. We paid the $20 each, got our boarding passes for the return flight along with our airline luggage tags on Saturday night. We placed both the cruise line and airline luggage tags on our bags, and placed them outside the cabin by midnight. We were out of the room by 8am on Sunday, had breakfast and relaxed in the Platinum & Diamond special departure lounge until our group was called. We were off the ship in about 10 minutes, claimed our bags and walked them a few feet to the airline representative in the pier and didn't see them again until we claimed the bags at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. After getting off the ship, we stood in line for a taxi to the airport, and suddenly realized this was the 1st line we had stood in all week!
Overall Report I would definitely give this cruise a 9.5 out of a 10. We just had an awesome time, met some great new friends, visited beautiful islands, cruised on a wonderful ship and had the best anniversary we could've asked for. This cruise was VERY port intensive, and full of activity. When we got home, we slept for at least 12 hours straight! I highly recommend this cruise to adventure seekers, history buffs, active people and eco/nature buffs as well. The good weather, great service, beautiful ship and spectacular Caribbean islands made this our best anniversary cruise yet! One we will always remember.
We repeated the same cruise twice on September 27 and October 4 because we had taken a similar one several years ago and missed several ports due to two hurricanes. This time we thought we would see all the ports even if we missed some on the first or second cruise. Fortunately all went well and we saw every port twice. We still had two hurricanes come through the general area where the cruise went, but they passed to the east when we were still in the west. The captain did a great job of keeping us informed about the weather and any problems that might be caused by the hurricanes.
We spent two days in Boston before the cruise. The weather was horrible. They expected 3 inches of rain in Boston the day before the cruise and we think is all fell on us as we tried to walk the Freedom Trail. After 3 hours and being soaked to the skin, we gave it up and returned to the hotel for a hot shower and an afternoon nap. That was the best idea we had all day.
Embarkation The nextday we had breakfast at the hotel and took a taxi to the ship. When we arrived, the place was in total confusion. Somebody said to go in one door to register, but they told us there that we had to take our bags down the street to another door. My wife stayed at the registration table while I took the two large suitcases about 200 yards down the street to another door. I had to fight my way through crowds of people getting off busses and out of taxis and they all seemed to be going the other way. I finally was able to get the bags checked and returned to the other building. The registration process went quickly as soon as the clerk was able to find out how to handle back-to-back cruises. She had never had back-to-back guests before and had to get help from her supervisor. Even the supervisor was a little unsure about handling the registration. A few minutes later, we were on our way through the security line and onto the ship. Since it was only about noon when we got on board, the cabins were not yet ready so we went up to the Lido restaurant and had lunch. After lunch, we went to the Solarium pool area and relaxed until a few minutes before 1 PM. Then we sneaked down to our cabin and checked it out.
Cabin We had bought an outside cabin, but it was not as good as those that we have had in the past. RCCL is notorious for having small cabins and this was one of them. There was very little drawer space and very limited closet space. The bathroom had only one small area for storing our things and we were hardly able to get our stuff on the shelves. Fortunately, the safe was large enough to accommodate our valuables. We were happy to see there was a refrigerator. Not all RCCL ships seem to have them. The bed was against the window, requiring one to climb onto the bed to look outside. The cabin arrangement is just not as good as Carnival or Princess ships. The room attendant did an excellent job of caring for us and our cabin. She made up for the cabin deficiencies.
Food The food was better than a previous cruise we took on this same ship. However they seemed to serve the good stuff (prime rib and lobster) on the same nights and on some other nights nothing seemed that interesting. The service in the dining room was very good and the waiters did everything they could to keep their guests happy.
I ordered a sandwich one evening when we stayed in the cabin and it was soggy and stale. I did not order anything more from room service on either cruise.
We prefer to take all our meals in the main dining room. Unfortunately, the dining room was not open for lunch on the days we were in port. It was only open on the two sea days. Service during breakfast and lunch was extremely slow, but the assistant waiters were very attentive while we waited for the food to arrive.
Entertainment The production shows were very well done with some surprises that we had not seen on ships before. The comedians were also quite good. The magic show was OK.
Ports We did not take any shore excursions. I had done some Internet research and found that free hop on/hop off busses were available in Bar Harbor and Halifax. In Portland, Maine the all day bus costs $5.00 per person, but it was well worth it. The drivers were very nice and provided some interesting facts about their city as we rolled along.
The Island Explorer bus that runs from Bar Harbor into Acadia National Park was wonderful. We were too early to catch the right bus and had to wait about 1/2 hour for the next one, but had a very nice chat with one of the drivers who was waiting to get a ride to the bus yard to get her vehicle. She gave us some good advice about how to best see the park. Her suggestion was to get off the bus at a certain point just inside the park and walk a coastal trail for about two miles. She said we would be able to flag down the next bus or wait at the next scheduled stop for a ride. We took her advice and had a wonderful walk along the trail. The views were superb.
The bus in Halifax is called Fred and starts its loop of the city very near the cruise ship dock. It hits all the highlights of the city on each loop. The Citadel on top of a downtown hill is well worth a visit. Halifax also has a boardwalk along the water's edge that starts near the cruise ship dock. The cruise ship dock has an abundance of vendors selling locally made items.
St. John has a shopping mall that runs through upper stories of various downtown buildings starting near the water and ending several blocks up the hill at a market selling fresh produce and ethnic food items. It is an interesting walk through the various buildings including the St. John city hall. An interesting museum is in the same building where the market starts near the water.
Portland has an excellent art museum that is about a mile from the pier. The bus stops close by or you can stroll through the shopping area on you way to the museum. The Victoria Mansion is also worth a visit and the bus also stops just outside this building. There are a number of fish restaurants along the water's edge and in the downtown area.
We had hoped to see some fall colors, but were again too early. Each time we go to the east coast, we go a little later in the season, but have not yet been able to see an abundance of colors. I guess later in October would have been a better time for this trip.
We had a long wait at the airport in Boston. Our flight was not until 6:30 PM and it was almost an hour late. We were off the ship by a little after 8 AM, so we were at the airport for 10 hours or more. Fortunately they had some comfortable rocking chairs near the window where we were able to sit and watch the planes come and go.
There isn't a cruise line at sea that welcomes passengers back like Royal Caribbean International (RCI). First day on board there were several knocks at our stateroom door; each bringing the following: One dozen American Beauty Roses, a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Champagne chilling in an ice bucket with two glasses, a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries, and finally a huge bowl of fruit. VIP treatment for "Diamond + frequent floaters" is wonderful and it signals a wonderful week to come: Exotic destinations, unique experiences with old and new friends on board!
The first surprise was to see Captain Charles Teige as master, since we had enjoyed meeting him on the Voyager of the Seas in 2006. What a pleasure to sail and dine with him again on the Liberty of the Seas. This lovely ship is well run and affords travellers such unique marvelous opportunities including the following: the Flow Rider, a surf simulator; the Ice Skating Rink presenting Olympic quality Ice Skating Shows; the Rock Climbing Wall, the nine hole Mini Golf, etc., etc., etc! This, our first review of the Liberty of the Seas, will cover theentire ship and point out some of its exquisite decorations.
EMBARKATION On Saturday I-95 traffic was bearable, we arrived at the Port of Miami at 12:45pm and had wheelchair assistance from the point of luggage drop off --- all the way to our stateroom. Check-in was simple, then we were escorted to a waiting area from which the ship's crew took us on board. We were in our cabin in less than one half hour. This was all simple and no hassle.
THE SHIP This Freedom class ship, the Liberty of the Seas, is sister to both the Freedom of the Seas and the newest of this triumvirate, Independence of the Seas. The Liberty made her maiden voyage on May 19, 2007. She was built at Kvaerner Masa-Yards in Turku, Finland. Her gross tonnage is 160,000 and she is 1,112 feet long and 185 feet wide, with a draft of a mere 28 feet. She is approximately the same as the Empire State Building laid on its side --- nearly four times the size of the Statue of Liberty and three times the size of the Titanic! She has a cruising speed of 21.6 knots and 15 passenger decks, 14 elevators, and can accommodate 4,375 guests. This cruise she carried 4,100 passengers and a crew of 1,360. This ship has 1,817 staterooms of which 1,084 are ocean view (842 of these have balconies). There are 733 interior cabins of which 172 have a view of the Royal Promenade. The RCI Royal Promenade concept, in both the Voyager and Freedom classes, is a village street in the interior part of the ship (with a Pub, a Barber Shop, Logo Shops, Boutiques and restaurants). This is an excellent place to stroll, shop, sit and read, or meet with fellow passengers. Next will follow a deck by deck description of the Liberty of the Seas.
Deck 1 has the medical facility and crew areas.
Deck 2 forward has the Conference Center and the Screening Room, plus passenger cabins and the first level of the Platinum Theater.
Deck 3 forward has the Platinum Theater with its gorgeous curtain "Pearls" with 13 separate panels, a total of 28 feet tall and 46 feet wide with seven statuesque female figures with head pieces and dresses of 76,000 hand sewn sequins and 4,000 Austrian crystals. Their shoes are of 4,000 ruby red bugle beads. The total effect is elegant. Also forward is the Art Gallery; mid ship is the "Catacombs Disco" with Harry Cardross' Stained Glass Windows titled the "Ravens of the Catacombs." Norse mythology call them Hugin and Munin. Simon Dray has painted the god Odin, who gave one eye in return for knowledge--- his other eye is the sun. Dray also painted Frigg, Odin's wife. She was a strong woman who often got the best of Odin. Needless to say the disco is striking.
Next is the Ice Center and the Studio B Entertainment complex. Aft is the Rembrandt Dining Room which is the bottom level of the tri level restaurant. It is a RCI triumph, with a massive chandelier seen from all tiers. The triple staircase holds the bandstand which provides live music each evening during dinner.
Deck 4 has the Schooner Bar and the Casino Royale with its Hollywood, Casablanca and Oceans' 11 characters on murals ( Bogart, Bergman, the Rat Pack of Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jr. and Dickinson). Artists Smolover and Zaiba call the murals "Casino." These two artists also did the primordial garden of glass floral sculptures in the Bolero Bar. They are fantastic giant agave blooms in warm colors of yellows and oranges. The Michelangelo Dining room is aft.
Deck 5 is the most used passenger center, since it has the Guest Relations Desk, Exploration Desk for shore excursions and the Shopping Desk and the Promenade with the following:Shops on Board (perfume, sports and logo), Ben & Gerry's Ice Cream, a Barber shop, Wine Bar, Hoof & Claw Pub, Cafe' Promenade and Sorrento's Pizza featuring antipasti, artisan breads, pizzas, and desserts of fresh fruits and biscotti! The walls inside have photos of many famous Italo-Americans from Caruso to Mario Lanza and Joe DiMaggio.
Aft is the Botticelli Dining Room with a mural of "Venus rising..." Forward is the Sphinx Lounge. Its entrance is flanked by huge statues of Pharohs, while on its walls are murals of "Views of the Nile" and "Figures from Daily Life, Egypt" by Clarissa Parish. Look for the Novidis statue of Tutankhama, it is a representation of the one in the Cairo Museum. Its beauty is in black and gold.
Decks 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are mainly cabins plus the Business Services area, the Library, the RCI computers and the Concierge lounge all of which are located near the aft elevators.
Deck 11 forward has the fitness center and the Solarium with an excellent pool and two giant whirlpools which extend out over the ocean! On this deck there are 6 whirlpools, 3 swimming pools and the Sea Trek Dive Shop. Mid ship is the Sprinkles Ice Cream and aft are two specialty restaurants: Chops Grille, excellent filet and veal chops, etc. and superbly run; the Portofino, with Italian cuisine, featured a new menu with updated items; all the way aft is the Jade (oriental food) and the Windjammer Buffet serving all day long everything from soup to desserts.
Deck 12 has the Johnny Rockets Restaurant, a nineteen fifties railroad car diner, all chrome and red Naugahyde booths plus juke boxes with all the golden oldies. They specialize in hamburgers, hot dogs, French Fries, onion rings and old fashion soda fountain fare: Ice cream floats, sundaes and apple pie a la mode. Here also are the Adventure Ocean Youth Center, Fuel Teen Disco and the Game Arcade.
Deck 13 is the Sports Deck with a Rock Climbing Wall, Mini Golf and Golf Simulator, Basketball Court, Flow Rider (for surfers) and the Wipe Out Bar.
Deck 14 has the Sports bar and night club Olive or Twist, the 7 Hearts Card Room, Cloud 9 Club and the second Concierge Lounge overlooking the sea.
Deck 15 holds the Skylight Chapel which accommodates 45 people: Great for weddings at sea!
The ship is artfully decorated with designs too numerous to mention here. It reflects the excellent taste of RCI. Suffice it to say there is a surprise around every corner and in every stairwell.
CABIN We had wheelchair accessible cabin #7624 on Deck 7. It is a large roomy stateroom decorated very tastefully in teal blue and gold. When entering, the door is a bit too narrow for a wheelchair and we had to do special maneuvers each time. On the left there are armoires with both shelves and hangers and a personal safe. Then, there is a long desk/vanity with lighted mirrors.
When entering on the right there is a large bathroom with safety rails all around and a shower stall with a fold away seat. The mirrored medicine cabinet is roomy. Then there is a sofa, a coffee table, and an upholstered chair. RCI has a new bedding program featuring a king size bed, upgraded sheets and a nice duvet (the 20 pound variety, which is a bit too much for the Caribbean).Two night stands flank the bed with two reading lamps. The far wall is all windows, floor to ceiling and a door to the balcony, which holds a chaise, two chairs and a small table. The balcony is extra long and deep, and very spacious. Our Cabin Stewardess was Evelyn Marcosa, the sweetest, and most efficient we've had. Brava!
SERVICE & FOOD The Hotel Director Christos Karavos is a very capable man who gave us much detailed ship data. We can't thank him enough. He runs an excellent ship, where service is always smiling and fast. We used Room Service every morning for breakfast and the RS Supervisors Theresa and Teeana should be proud of the prompt and accurate service.
RCI's Crown & Anchor Society has many perks to offer returning passengers in the way of cocktail parties, gifts (i.e. Caps and beach towels), concierge services by Pretty Shamu, Anthea Helmsing and Mario Reyes who preside over the two lounges on Deck 10 and Deck 14: Great service and cordiality from all three, especially from Anthea who made our dinner and show reservations and provide us with the Italian language newspaper. The lounges are open for breakfast 8-11am and cocktails 5-8:30pm. It is a nice way to meet new people on board and to connect up with old friends.
Most cruisers equate service with the treatment in the dining rooms and restaurants. This cruise Exec. Chef Johan Petutschnig was on board; he is another old acquaintance of ours. Feeding over 5,000 people every day is a daunting task, but he is up to it and he can be seen making the rounds of the many various venues daily.
The Captain's Dinner on Formal Night was exquisite -- escargot, Lobster bisque, Caesar salad, linguini Alfredo with truffled wild mushrooms (Mary's choice) and a perfectly done Filet of Beef (Vincent's selection). The Chef's Surprise dessert was a delicate mousse topped with a spun sugar basket filled with wild berries. What a way to end dinner with Captain Teige. Excellent conversation, delicious food and a sweet taste in our mouth.
Each evening we dined in the Botticelli Restaurant Deck 5. Head Waiter Myra Fuentes was constantly watching that everything went smoothly. Our Waiter was Pedro Arevalo and both he and his assistant Ning were perfect. They brought each course at a nice pace, but not rushed. The food was typical RCI, good quality and we are happy to note smaller portions. Vincent felt that the beef was not of consistent quality.
We especially enjoyed Sorrento's on the Promenade and highly recommend Chop's Grill where quality was top notch, with meat cooked to perfection, and served well. The Mississippi Mud Pie is the ultimate in chocolate. Food and service are alive and well on board!
ENTERTAINMENT This Freedom Class of ships has so many diverse possibilities for fun for everyone. For the sports minded there are unique items only to RCI venues like the Flow Rider: stand up surfing from 8-9am and 3-4pm and boogie boarding from 10-11am and 4-6pm. Then there is Rock Climbing Wall and ice skating. No other cruise line offers all of these. There are also skating, golf, jogging, shuffleboard and ping pong. For those enjoying gambling there are Bingo, poker and slots tournaments and other Casino games. For the less athletic minded, there is Daily Trivia, and a great library with many comfortable leather sofas and chairs overlooking the the Royal Promenade. This is a much coveted spot for viewing the many Parades on the Promenade.
The nightly shows include comics, variety shows and Broadway style musicals --- all very entertaining. Cruise Director James Andrews keeps passengers informed of the many activities on board. James is very friendly and approachable. We cruise for rest and relaxation, but many cruise for activities and RCI has the best and most afloat. "Get out there!"
PORTS OF CALL Saturday: Port of Miami, FL Sail Away 5:00pm. Sunday: At Sea. Monday: At Sea. Tuesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:00pm Wednesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 7:00am Depart 2:00pm Thursday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive 8:00am Depart 4:30pm Friday: At Sea Saturday: Port of Miami, FL Arrive 7:00am Debarkation
CONCLUSION We have cruised two years ago on the Freedom of the Seas, sister ship of the Liberty of the Seas, and were amazed by the immense dimensions of this "giga" ship and, most of all, by the many innovative features first seen at sea. However, now we spend more time going around and admiring the individual pieces of artwork which decorate the various areas of these ships. It is like visiting a museum. Each day we tour different areas, take the time to enjoy the interesting sights and learn something new. We rarely visit the ports of call, since we have been there many times, but we leisurely enjoy the ship.
We are addicted to cruising. This was our 75th cruise and our 35th on RCI ships, thus it is evident that RCI is one of our favorite cruise lines. The main reason is that the perks and benefits offered to Crown & Anchor Society members are substantial, especially to those repeaters ("Frequent Floaters") who have achieved the Platinum and Diamond levels. We are looking forward to sailing on the newest of the RCI ships, Independence of the Seas, Nov. 29th. Other cruises already booked are the Norwegian Pearl, on Jan. 4th, Ruby Princess, on Jan. 24th, Celebrity Solstice, transatlantic cruise, on April 19th and the inaugural cruise of the Oasis of the Seas, on Dec. 12th 2009. Happy Cruising!
I sailed on the Mariner of the Seas on Sunday, September 7th through the 14th. This was my husband and I's second cruise. Our first cruise was last year on the Carnival Triumph - and that was EXCELLENT! I felt there was just something missing on RCI that Carnival had (more detail later). Anyway, we were traveling with my family. We flew from Boston to Orlando the Saturday morning before our cruise. We then took a shuttle to Port Canaveral, which is about 50 minutes away - a very nice, relaxing drive. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites. This is probably one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in! The staff was very helpful and friendly, the place was spotless, and it had everything! It has a great pool, hot tub, arcade, gym, and free breakfast. I highly recommend this place! It was a Saturday night so they also had a free shuttle to nearby places, so we took it to Fish Lips, a restaurant right on the water. That place was so much fun! Great family environment and great food!
The next morning, we took the hotel'sshuttle to the port at about 10:30am. About 10 minutes later, there we were at the port - staring at the Mariner. What a beautiful ship! She is HUGE! (Just wanted to add, for a big ship with so many people - we never felt crowded - no lines, it was good!) Very sharp looking. It also towered over the Disney Wonder and the Carnival Sensation that were in port that day. We went through security and then we were off to show our Sail Pass. The line went quick and we had our Sail Pass card and were all checked in - all in about 10 minutes! We couldn't board yet so we waited in a row of chairs for about 10 minutes more. Then it was time to board! The whole process was very easy and quick - I think Port Canaveral is a lot nicer, more organized, and quicker than Miami (which we did last year).I will definitely do Port Canaveral from now on!
My first step into the Mariner, I was in shock! How beautiful and big! haha Much nicer interior than the Carnival Triumph that we sailed last year - and a LOT bigger too! We took some photos of her and then made our way up to the Windjammer (Deck 11) for lunch.
While on the topic of the Windjammer, this is probably a good time to mention my first disappointment - the food on the Mariner. The food was just okay - tolerable. I just wasn't that impressed - which, in a way was good, it meant I didn't pig out as much! haha Usually for lunch I just had a cheeseburger or hot dog and fries. I'm a picky or 'selective' eater so I don't eat weird 'fancy' stuff, haha. Most of the food on the Mariner was fancy things. Even the desserts weren't of my liking. The only thing I did like were the cookies - but sadly, those were usually hard as a rock. The cakes, pies, etc. were more European desserts, which I'm not a fan off. I'd prefer simple Ring Dings and Oreos, haha. Gosh did I MISS the chocolate cake from Carnival. Oh, and Carnival's chocolate melting cake. Gosh, I'll just say it - I missed ALL of Carnival's food! I simply couldn't get enough of the food on the Triumph. But the Mariner left me hungry and craving more 'normal' food. I wasn't even impressed in the dining room. I had chicken breast and a baked potato every single night! haha I don't like my food with extra weird sauces on it and things like that. But if you're into fancy foods, like my hubby is, you'll love the Mariner! ** But, let me say, that the Jonny Rockets is EXCELLENT! Now that is real food! haha We went there twice! Well worth the $3.95 a person. And don't forget to have the Oreo Sundae!!!! **
After eating lunch, we walked around the whole ship. I was really impressed by her. Then at 1pm exactly, we went to our stateroom - 6643, and interior cabin on deck 6. It was definitely smaller than our cabin on the Triumph (which had a porthole). I will never do an interior again. It was way to dark - which made me never want to get out of bed, haha. I NEED a window. But, we made the best of it. The bathroom is REALLY tiny and don't get me started on the shower! haha But at least it had a real shower door. What I wasn't happy with was 1) there were no nice Royal Caribbean beach towels - they were simple yellow ones (Carnival had nice blue Carnival logo towels) that looked like bath towels; 2) there were no RCI bath robes (Carnival gave us two Carnival bath robes); and 3) there was no basket of free samples in the bathroom (Carnival gave a nice assortment of samples!). I'm sorry, but if RCI is 'better' and costs more, why doesn't it have these same simple things like Carnival??? Doesn't make much sense to me!
Next, I'll talk about the shows and entertainment. Once again, RCI did not live up to the Carnival standards. The two parades were okay - not too exciting and kind of childish - not to mention short! The shows were mostly singers and dancers - I prefer more Comedians and other upbeat, fun shows. But, they were good - not bad - but just not lively! The comedian juggler was HILARIOUS though!!!! He's not to be missed! I also found myself missing a lot of the activities by the pool as well.. I just didn't expect them to be good, so I didn't bother! Which is pretty sad! haha I went to EVERYTHING on the Carnival ship! We spent a lot of time napping, eating, and walking the promenade on sea days.
Staff - wow is all I can say! haha While most of the crew on the mariner were very nice, helpful, and went out of their way to make your day - there were many I saw who weren't friendly! I walked by many who didn't even say hi to me. I saw some Windjammer staff huffing and puffing and looking bored. I never saw this on the Carnival Triumph - everyone on that ship smiled and said hi. I guess it just depends on the ship, but that really did turn me off to RCI. The cruise director Abe was okay, he was funny, but he wasn't that exciting. The BEST crew member had to be Simeon at the Schooner bar!!!! I swear I spent 80% of my cruise at that bar, haha. He is a piano player and he is hilarious! I'd go on the Mariner again JUST to see him! He really made my week! Go see Simeon!Ports of Call:
- Labadee, Haiti was our first stop. It was pretty rough seas on our way there, since we were getting the back part of Ike. Luckily I never get seasick. Labadee is a very nice beach area. We went directly to Hideaway beach at the end tip. It's quiet here and the sand is nice. Water was warm and beautiful - perfect. You also get a great view of the ship. There was a bathroom right there and the food buffet is right near the beach too - great location. The food buffet wasn't that great, I was pretty disappointed. Again, I was expecting RCI to be better than Carnival, but my expectations were not met. After a day on the beach, eating lunch, and walking around, we headed to the market. Oh my gosh! How pushy they were! Somehow we bought two bracelets for $15, haha. But oh well, I hope we made their day and helped that guy and his family out. I was pulled, tugged, yelled at, and everything else by people trying to get me to buy their things. I had to run out of there. I think they would sell more if they weren't so pushy!
- Montego Bay, Jamaica - We were supposed to go to Ocho Rios, but some other ship was there, so we went to Montego Bay instead. Hubby and I did the Negril Express and Shopping tour - it was a lot of fun and I really suggest it! It takes about 1.5 hours to drive to Margarittaville in Negril. We really got to see the real Jamaica this way. Wow, those people are really poor. It makes you appreciate what you have back home. After a few hours on the beach, we did 30 minutes of shopping, then drove back to the ship. It was a fun relaxing day and I also felt like I learned alot about the country. Our tour guid was great! There were only like 10 people on our tour too, which was good.
- Grand Cayman - Sadly, due to high waves, we couldn't get off the ship. I was really upset because I was going to do the Moby Dick sting ray tour. Hopefully I'll go back!
- Cozumel, Mexico - Wow it was hot! haha Very nice mall at the port, so if you like shopping, you could stay busy there all day! We had wanted to do the Sandals all inclusive resort, but it was full, so we did the all inclusive beach break at Play Mia. I don't think it was worth the money. The beach was nice and we met two nice people there and chatted the day away under the warm sun - but the food was lacking. I was hoping for cheeseburgers, fries, etc. but it was Mexican food - nothing I would eat. And the open bar wasn't that good. So, I don't think it was worth the $70 a person. Definitely do the Sandals one!
The last day of our cruise, we went to find our photos - we had them taken as we boarded, on the ship, at dinner, and at every port… but we had ONE photo in our folder! We couldn’t find any of them. We tried the photo finder machine, but had no luck. We got frustrated and just gave up! RCI lost some of our money because of that! The photo center was very disorganized.
Getting off the ship was very easy - took maybe 30 minutes. My mom and dad sadly didn't find one of their suitcases when leaving. I don't know if they have it yet or not. We then drove by shuttle to the airport and headed home on a 11am flight.
Overall, we had a great time! The ship is unbelievable... but the food, crew, and activities had me missing the Carnival Triumph! I think next time, I'll try a newer Carnival ship. RCI really didn't impress me that much, sorry to say it. Everyone had told me I'd love it so much more, etc., but I didn't see it.
On a funny note, last year on my first cruise, I had tripped on the wet floor by the pool and fell on my butt in front of everyone. Well, I couldn't disappoint anyone this year and fell on a wet floor on deck 5 on the royal promenade and landed face down in front of everyone! hahah Do I have bad luck or what???? :) Happy cruising everyone!
Enchantment Of The Seas -- Sail Date August 28th, 2008
Cruise Theme -- Avoid Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna
Introduction My wife, Joanne and I booked this cruise about two weeks before sailing. We had a Junior Suite on deck eight, cabin number 8644. We are Diamond Crown & Anchor members that earns you all kinds of extra benefits. More on that later. The scheduled stops were supposed to be Key West and Cozumel. Prior to departing for Ft. Lauderdale from Atlanta, all you had to do was watch a weather report, which tracked Hurricane Gustav and you knew this cruise was going elsewhere. If we headed to Cozumel as scheduled, it would have involved sailing through the category three hurricane, TWICE! Not recommended.
Thursday -- Departure Ft. Lauderdale Our 10 a.m. flight from Atlanta was in Ft. Lauderdale by noon. A short cab ride to the pier, a very quick check-in and we rolled our two pieces of luggage into our cabin at 1 p.m. At the check-in desk on the pier, we learned (happily) that the cruise would visit Key West and Nassau. This was our first cruise on a "Vision"class ship. The Enchantment of the Seas was launched in 1997 and had a passenger capacity of 2,446. Signs at the Guest Relations desk, said no cabin upgrades were available indicating the ship was full. A couple of years ago, the Enchantment was sawed in half and they inserted an extra 73 feet of cabins and stuff. Hence the pool area is huge and there are fewer laps now for you runners to do a mile. This is a beautiful ship. It's very similar to the Radiance class and we've sailed the Radiance of the Seas three times now.
When we booked our cruise on-line, we also made reservations for Chops steakhouse for our departure dinner. We had a wonderful dining experience, with excellent food, service and ambiance. The captain entertained two junior officers at the table next to us. It is worth the extra $25 per person for a wonderful dining experience. Over the next couple of days we talked to a number of fellow cruisers who wanted to dine in Chops but were unable to get a reservation and were put on waiting lists. You may want to book on-line early to make sure you get a table when you sail for the day and time you want.
Friday -- Key West Great weather and no hurricane…yet. We've been to Key West before and really like the port. For the first time we took the Conch Train tour of the city. We bought tickets ashore ($29 each) and had a great two-hour tour of the city. It really gives you a wonderful flavor of the history of Key West. I recommend it. We later had a nice lunch on Duval Street at a place called "Death By Cheeseburger" or something close to that. My wife and I can't remember the real name, but you will know it when you see it.
We sailed at 4 p.m. and headed North versus South into the hurricane. Dinner in the My Fair Lady dining room was wonderful. We were on the deck 4 level of this two level facility. The food, tablemates and service were excellent.
Saturday -- Nassau We pulled into Nassau at 10:30 a.m. There was one open berth at the pier complex to accommodate the Enchantment. The captain had been on the ship's P.A. system to tell us that you just don't say "You know…I don't want to sail through a hurricane, 120 mph winds and 75 foot seas to Cozumel today, instead, let's go to Nassau!" It takes a room full of logistic experts back at the RCI home office in Miami to analyze the weather and the optimal dispersal of the whole company's fleet of cruise ships whose destinations may be affected by the storm. I suspect it takes more than a few phone calls and some "baksheesh" to get your ship into a safe port while you are competing with half a dozen other cruise lines with the same agenda. We have been to both Cozumel and Nassau several times each and were delighted to spend the day in Nassau. The skies were sunny.
As we exited the ship around 11:00 a.m. you slip your sea pass card into the scanner to log you off the ship and walk down the ramp to the pier. We hit the bottom of the ramp and looked left (East) towards the foot of the pier and about a mile away was a wall of brown water descending from the black clouds above. This wall was racing towards us like a freight train at full throttle. There was no "on" ramp set up yet to re-board the ship. Running at full speed, we knew the storm would hit us before we could make it to the building ashore. There are several 20'x60' shelters on the pier. The shelters had roofs but no sides of any kind. One shelter held dozens of phone booths and was full of people. Another had no phones and no people so we ran to that and went to the far end opposite the direction the approaching storm. Fellow passengers followed our lead and in no time we had lots of company.
When the storm hit, there were suddenly 50 mph winds and rain blasting sideways at fire hose velocity. Our position at the far end of the shelter and the fellow passengers windward of us kept us perfectly dry. Five minutes later, the storm was past us, the skies were blue and sunny and we continued into town avoiding the evaporating rain puddles. Every hour on the hour for the next three or four hours we received two inches of rain in five minutes with the accompanying high winds. These were the very outer bands of Hurricane Gustav that was passing the Western end of Cuba hundreds of miles away as it headed for the Gulf of Mexico. To have such violent weather so far from the central eye says Royal Caribbean made a good call on our modified itinerary. Hurricane Gustav was Southwest of us and Hurricane Hanna was a couple of days out, Southeast of us.
Sunday -- Sea Day The weather was perfect and the Enchantment spent the day doing seven-knot lazy doughnuts in the ocean South of Grand Bahama Island. Carlos, another Piña Colada por favor. Ft. Lauderdale was just a few hours steaming west.
The Ship The Enchantment of the Seas was built in 1997 and is similar to the newer Radiance Class of ships. There is an atrium with a group playing each evening, filling all of the vertical spaces with wonderful music. Our favorite groups were the George's String Trio and The Evergreen Trio. The My Fair Lady dining room is a two-story affair. We ate there twice, but made sure we gave our waiter and staff full gratuities. One night we ate at the excellent Chops and another night had hors d'oeuvres in the Concierge Lounge followed by more munchies and cocktails at a Crown and Anchor member reception. After all that we didn't need dinner.
We booked this cruise two weeks prior to sailing without much concern for the itinerary. We didn't attend the big acts in the Orpheum Theater and can't comment. However, the group, Surfside, up on the pool deck, set a fine Caribbean party mood and the other musical groups we like have been noted.
To me, it seems the larger the ship; the more space there is despite the expanded passenger load. This ship was totally booked, but at no time did it feel crowded. Despite walking all around the ship, four days is not enough time to get to know her.
Our Cabin Our Junior Suite cabin was probably three feet wider than a standard balcony cabin. It doesn't sound like much, but it gives you a huge living space. We had a three-person sofa plus two club chairs and two foot stools plus a glass topped coffee table. The balcony had two comfy chairs with a table in between. The bathroom had a full bathtub versus a stand-up shower and was larger than what you get with the usual cabin with balcony. We have grown spoiled to cabins with balconies I'm afraid. There was a huge amount of storage with a big closet, plenty of shelves and drawers.
Diamond Crown & Anchor Status Dude. Put on your his and her fluffy bathrobes, and eat your chocolate covered strawberries. Diamond status is pretty corrupt.
When you check in, you receive a second Sea Pass type card that gets you into the Concierge Lounge on deck eight. In the morning, this lounge spreads out a fruit, pastry, juice and coffee buffet. In the evening, hot and cold hors d'oeurves plus an open bar with a wonderful ocean view and the attention of Julian brings you back. Your attendant, Julian, by the way, could be the double for Denzel Washington. Ladies take note.
There was a Diamond member luncheon get together that we forgot to attend on day four of the cruise. As Diamond members on this cruise, there were three days of food and drinks to schedule. One night was a Crown & Anchor member reception. Joanne and I had settled into a table at the back of the lounge and just enjoyed the cocktails, food and music. One of the ships officers asked to join us and we of course asked him to sit down. He really wanted to know why we kept returning to Royal Caribbean. This was not a rhetorical question but a RCI officer doing some marketing research. We talked for about ten minutes and he seemed genuinely attentive to our responses. The bottom line is Royal Caribbean works very hard to make sure repeat customers keep repeating. I've got to say they do a very good job. To paraphrase Arnold, we'll be back.
We also had chocolate covered strawberries left in our cabin one day and his and hers baseball caps left by the cabin elves on another. When we first got to our cabin there were two Diamond Member coupon books. The coupons got you things like a 20% Spa credit, a complimentary cocktail, water or soda, a free photo, casino credits, internet credits, 10% off in the gift shop, and much, much more.
There was a special line for Diamond members when boarding in Ft. Lauderdale, however at the time we arrived at the pier, 12:30, there was no wait for anybody. At the end of the cruise, we were issued white luggage tags. This was the first group of color-coded passengers to be called to disembark.
How To Get A Free Cruise AND Make Money No I didn't hit it big at BINGO or in the casino. Here's how you do it. I have a small business and charge 20 to 30 thousand dollars each month on American Express. If you are signed up with their Membership Rewards program, you earn a point for every dollar charged, so my points build up quickly. I purchased the cruise with my AmEx card and was told when the statement comes, call them and they would convert my Membership Rewards points to dollars and pay the cruise charge. O.K. so we get a free cruise.
Next we own 100 shares of Royal Caribbean. Let them know that and provide RCI your stock and cruise info and on a 4 day cruises, they credit your account with $50. (On a longer cruise, the credit is $100.
Next, we had points built up on our Royal Caribbean Visa card and converted them for another $250 credit to our Sea Pass account. Lastly we had signed up for an excursion in Cozumel when we booked the cruise and so there was another $196 credit to our account due to the cancellation. After four days of bar tabs at the pool, wine at dinner and browsing the shops aboard we had to go to the customer service desk on our last day and collect $265 of unspent cash in our account. They would not credit it back to the credit card we provided at check-in to cover our Sea Pass charges.
Summary What a great four days. We are really low maintenance cruisers. We are not gourmands, entertainment snobs nor passengers that expect to have their butts constantly kissed. Give me a chair on the pool deck in the shade where I can listen to the band du jour playing "The Electric Slide" while I read my book and I'm good! Carlos, another Piña Colada.
If you are on the fence about booking a cruise on the Enchantment, drop me a note. I'll convince you to go and I may possibly join you. If you've followed me this far, drop me a note and critique my review. I really do these reviews to connect with fellow cruisers such as yourself and make a journal of my travels. I look forward to hearing from you.
This was our first cruise on Royal Caribbean, and I can't say enough about what a wonderful experience it was. The ship is beautiful, the food was excellent and the entertainment first rate! Be sure to go to the Ice Show....it was outstanding. We loved the Cafe Promenade for an afternoon snack and a cup of coffee. The Solarium is a comfortable spot to spend the afternoon reading, or just relaxing in the sun. With the number of people on the ship, we were concerned that the it would be crowded with long lines at the buffets, but it was never the case. Overall, it was an excellent experience and we can't wait to sail on RC again.
It's been a long time since I fell in love with a cruise ship, and no one is more surprised than I am that my new favorite happens to be the biggest ship in the world.
Now let me say that I love cruise ships, but have always much preferred the smaller, more elegant ships to the techno-behemoths that set sail in recent years. The larger ships lost the warmth and ambience of cruising somewhere in their massive tonnage or, in an attempt to be a large ship with a small ship feeling, compacted the lounges, cabins and public spaces to an uncomfortable, even claustrophobic size that left us yearning for a little personal space.
But Royal Caribbean has perfected the equation with the Voyager of the Seas. At 142,000 tons and 1,020 feet long, the statistics are astonishing. The comparisons are mind-boggling. Itís as long as17 freight cars, longer than seven 747ís end to end and even large enough to accommodate five Goodyear blimps. But Iíve discovered something even more staggering in its significance. The Voyager of the Seas is not just the biggest ship ever built; it is perhaps the mostbrilliantly designed ship I have ever experienced.
Among many innovative design elements of this ship, the one that makes them all work so well is the Royal Promenade. A colorful boulevard of shops and lounges, itís also the bridge between two soaring atriums leading to the remaining public rooms. So finding your way around is as simple as knowing which end of the ship you need to be on and getting from end to end is as pleasant as a stroll down the promenade.
And oh, that promenade! You may be tempted to stop by and play a little video poker at Spinners, where you sit and actually rotate around a gigantic roulette wheel. Or take a ëstreet tableí at the Pig N Whistle English Style Pub. Stop for coffee, pastry or some pizza at CafÈ Promenade, catch a game on TV at the Scoreboard Sports Bar or do some shopping at any of the gift shops. And if youíre really lucky, you may get to mingle with the Krooz Klowns.
Now let me say this: I am not a big fan of clowns, heck I'm not a fan at all, but the troupe I came upon on the Royal Promenade made me forget that. I was charmed and enchanted as Eddie taught me (or tried to teach me) how to juggle a DiaBolo, and other guests around me practiced balancing a Peacock Feather on their chin, took a crack at juggling and even got their own clown faces painted. There were those passers-by that looked askance at our inner children at play, but those of us mingling with the clown contingent were having a much better time.
On either end of the Royal Promenade are two soaring, light-filled Centrums. The Forward Centrum provides entry to the Vault night club, Cleopatraís Needle dancing lounge, the Schooner Bar, the casino, the La Scala Show Lounge, the Solarium with retractable dome, and the impressive two-story spa and fitness center.
Off the Aft Centrum youíll find the worldís first floating ice-skating rink in Studio B. While the ice show will be taking center stage, this showroom is designed with a floor to cover the ice for RCTV productions (thatís Royal Caribbean Television) to be broadcast throughout the ship and right into your stateroom. The Aquarium Bar actually has huge aquariums of tropical fish built right into the walls, the two-story library provides internet access for emailing photo postcards back home and the spacious three-story, ocean-view dining room features a sweeping staircase and a crystal chandelier the size of a Volkswagen beetle.
Ride the glass elevators a few decks higher to Adventure Ocean, a wonderland for children with separate rooms and amenities for each age group. Just out the doors is the wading pool and water slide, surrounded by kid-size chairs and tables and even chaise lounges. And just around the corner is the 50ís style Johnny Rockets diner for a quick burger and fries.
One more deck up and you can play on the miniature golf course, the virtual driving range, full size basketball court or tackle another first at sea, the rock climbing wall. You bring the sneakers and theyíll provide the rope and harness. And while there is an additional fee for some of these activities, it didnít seem to stop anyone from enjoying the fun.
There are more places to see and things to do. And I could go on and on about all that makes the Voyager of the Seas so unique. But Iíd rather you go on to see for yourself. This is a ship that is taking the joys of cruising to new heights. And I canít wait to scale those heights again.
31 of us boarded the Freedom of the Seas for a 7-night W. Caribbean cruise starting August 17, 2008. The oldest family member was 80 years old and the youngest was 2, spanning 3 generations.
Pre-Cruise Stayed at Hyatt Summerfield Suites (close to Miami airport) and were all upgraded to two-bedroom suites upon arrival. Summerfield Suites provided free hot breakfast buffet, free internet, and taking the shuttle from the hotel to the port was only $10 per person, and $3 for each bag. The journey took less than 20 minutes on a Sunday morning.
Embarkation and Cabins We arrived at the port at about 11:30 a.m. and were able to get on the ship before 12:30 p.m. Our 10 cabins (6 D1 on Deck 10, 1 interior on Deck 10, 2 E1 on Deck 8 & 1 Promenade-interior family stateroom that can house up to 6 pp. on Deck 8 with almost 400 sq-ft) were all great. Each of the 3 aft cabins (1400, 1402 & 1404) had a huge balcony with 2 lounge (bed) chairs, 2 regular chairs and 1 round table. Taking afternoon naps on the lounge chairs on ourown private balconies was added luxury that only suite guests would experience. Rooms were all ready at 1 p.m. but luggage was delivered close to dinner time at around 5:15 p.m.
Dining and Food We had 4 tables in Leonardo Dining Room on Deck 3 by the window. Food was quite good, considering they had to prepare over 1000 meals at the same time. Dinners at Portofino ($20 extra) and Chops Grille ($25 extra) were exceptional and well worth the extra bucks. The setting, the food presentation, the food quality and taste & the service (everybody had their own personal waiter that brought the food out at the same time!) all contributed to an extremely satisfying fine dining experience. Chops Grille was able to accommodate all 31 of us at the same time. Food at Windjammer was regular buffet food but they had Jade that offered some kinds of pretty authentic Chinese food. The sandwiches and pizzas (especially the Seafood Pizza) offered on Deck 5's Promenade were mouth-watering. Kids (they are 14-20 years old) said Johnny Rocket was so good that they had to give them extra tips.
The Midnight Buffet (now they call it family get-together night club) was downsized & didn't even offer viewing time. There were only a few ice sculptures and the food presentation was only average. Selection was very limited too.
Entertainment It was surprisingly good (way better than last year's Mediterranean cruise onboard Voyager of the Seas). The solo entertainer, the RCI singers, and the magic show were all worth watching. However, the Ice Show was not as good as the ones on Navigator or Voyager. It was probably because we have seen similar shows so many times before & it was not thrilling any more, even with the wheels, wings, etc.
The 70's & 80's dance parties and the parades were great!
We loved to sing Karaoke & met some friends too. The Quest & Love-&-Marriage show were fun to watch. Ken Rush, our Cruise Director, was quite good.
Outdoor Activities We played in the H2O zone, the Flowrider, rock climbing, mini golf & different types of ball games & had a lot of fun. The Adventure Ocean (kids program) was so good that all 4 to 17 year olds enjoyed that very much.
Ports & Excursions This was the part that made this cruise so much more fun, enjoyable and memorable. In beautiful Labadee we went on the waverunners, then did kayaking & parasailing -- expensive but a lot of fun. Local magnets with a list price of $5 could be bargained to $1 in the Labadee market.
As we were a big group, we boarded a 28-seater van that took us to Ocho Rios' Dunns River Falls and went on an island tour (5 hours in total & $20 each person including tip). We got the van from the white info booth located right outside the pier. Admission to Dunns River was $15 each. It was a blast & half of us climbed the whole 650-ft. falls. It was tiring but we had great fun & didn't feel the heat as we were in water the whole time. We bought the video (quality was below average but still worth it as a big group) for $40. Bring your own Aqua shoes so you don't have to pay $5 to rent them or $15 to buy a pair ($9 at Wal-Mart).
Grand Cayman was the best as we had a private group tour to Stingray City & Coral Gardens for snorkeling. We had our own private boat so we didn't have to worry about our belongings when we were in water playing with the Stingrays. There were 4 guides for the 31 of us and they brought the stingrays for us to touch, to take photos & to feed them with squids. One guide took a lot of photos for us and sent them to our e-mail addresses for a reasonable cost (about $5 to $15 per picture, the more we bought the cheaper per pic). We also had our own water cameras & that's a must. No shoes were allowed at Stingray City so you wouldn't step on the stingrays and hurt them. Watch their tails as they're hard & could sting you if you are not being careful. Our 2-year old had a real fun time with the stingrays & he was not scared at all. We booked the tour through Best Value Water Sports & it's about $30 cheaper per person than booking the same tour with RCI.
We didn't book any excursions in Cozumel so we just went downtown ($6 per cab ride) for shopping. Carnival parked very close to the shops but RCI docked way further. The head-bobbing colourful turtles & other sea creatures for $1 each were great souvenirs. Last time we were in Cozumel we rented a jeep to a private beach with big waves and yummy barbecues, so it's great to see Cozumel with the locals this time. Street sellers had hand-crafted 3-D baskets (pushed down to one flat piece of wood or push up to form a basket), we had the biggest size for $10 each. They were gorgeous!
Spa The ladies of our group enjoyed the "Happy Hour" with facial, massage and champagne. We felt so relaxed that most of us slept through the soothing and relaxing treatment.
Parking at Port and Disembarkation Parking is now $20 per day, so parking cost us $140, yet it's extremely handy to have our own vehicle after disembarkation & we were able to leave the port in less than 10 minutes after collecting our luggage from the carousel. We were given colour tags Beige 1, that was called at 6:40 to get off the ship, though we chose not to leave the ship till 7:20 a.m. The line got quite long & we actually had to stand & wait to go through immigration for about 20 minutes. We left the port at 8 a.m. and were able to arrive at the awesome Miami Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort (between North & South Beach in Aventura) at 8:30 a.m.
The hotel was wonderful & we were upgraded to a big room (almost 600 sq. ft) with a sitting area and golf course view right away. We were able to sleep for a few hours before lunch.
This was the 6th cruise we took with RCI & it was the best. We loved the big ship and we enjoyed the time to chill with our friends and relatives. It was a pity that Oasis was not open for public booking yet when we were on the ship, we just can't wait to get on board the even bigger Oasis of the Seas. We're hoping that next year's 12-night Scandinavian Cruise on Jewel of the Seas will be another wonderful and positive cruise experience.
If you are a well-traveled individual or family and thinking about trying a cruise (on Royal Caribbean or another line) please read on. We have been on several luxury vacations and particularly enjoy Four Seasons Resorts in Hawaii and Mexico. When we booked a week on a Royal Caribbean (RC) Alaskan cruise that costs $16,000 for a week excluding air transportation (more than any of our Four Season Resort trips) we expected great things. What a disappointment. It is difficult to express how far the RC cruise fell short of a luxury vacation. The food, service, facilities and other amenities aboard our ship, the Serenade of the Seas (a 5 years old ship), were all far short of many other of our vacations. The insulting thing is that $16,000 for a week for a family of five should delivery amazing food, service and facilities.
Below is a letter we sent to RC (below). Eventually we were offered a 20% refund ($2760.00) but RC required us to sign non-disclosure agreement (also below) which we were unwilling to do because we felt that people should know what a (RC) cruise is like relative toother luxury vacation options. If you've never cruised and are considering it, we would encourage you to think again and if you must then embark on a cruise with your expectations well below similarly priced vacation options.Letter to Royal Caribbean
My wife, three sons and I recently completed an Alaskan cruise aboard the Serenade of the Seas departing from Vancouver on August 16, 2008 for one week. I will acknowledge that we knew early on that this trip would be expensive as we booked two suites, most of the excursions and the specialty dining before we left. Specifically, we booked two Junior Suites (rooms 1080 and 1082) for the journey for which we were charged $13,895 by our travel agent Ana Dixon at America's Vacation Center. In addition, we spent $555 for alcohol and bartender tips, $90 for specialty dining, as well as $1,528 for excursions. All of this brought our one week trip to a total of more than $16,000 excluding our flights and other transportation expenses. Needless to say we were ready to have a great time on our first cruise.
What we experienced was something that fell way short of expectations. Before I get to the shortcomings, I should note that we are experienced travelers and have vacationed at many luxury resorts including, among others, the Four Seasons in Maui and Hualalai, Hawaii and Punta Mita, Mexico. During these one week trips we have never spent anything close to $14,000 for lodging and food for what were amazing trips.
The most glaring of the shortcomings on the cruise was the food. Overall we thought the quality of the food was poor. The "Windjammer" breakfast buffet was equivalent to Denny's with the addition of an unlimited quantity of food. This tradeoff of unlimited supply in exchange for low quality seemed to be a tradeoff that some guests gladly accepted. Dinners at each of the main dining room, Chops and Portofino were the biggest disappointment; not because they were worse than Denny's but because there was so much hype and pretense about the items on the menu. The meats were dry and tended to be overcooked, the seafood was not anything close to fresh despite our proximity to the sea. No dinner meal or course for that matter was memorable in a good way. We did, however, find one bright spot in the Seaview Café which was a good option for lunches on the ship.
Other frustrations on the trip included: There was an extra charge for fountain drinks so we signed up for the "soda option" for $6.95 per person per day which seems like a lot considering refills at McDonalds are free and we just paid almost $14,000 for lodging and food. The bigger insult was that most of our frequented dining locations (Reflections main dining room, Windjammers and Seaview Café) served sodas that were "flat" and the staff was unable to remedy.
We requested a small table during the 6pm dinner seating because we have three young boys (ages 3, 5 and 7) and received confirmation for this prior to departure however upon arrival we were placed at a table for eight with another family. I spent two hours talking with a head waiter and customer service rep (both of whom were very nice) to get what was promised us before we left.
Wines at either of the supplemental charge restaurants, Chops and Portofino, did not include the vintage year. This just underscored the point that this is not fine dining. Our local Italian restaurant includes the vintage for wines on the menu.
The wait staff on the Serenade seemed to be genuinely nice, warm-hearted people. However, the practice of hiring staff from 3rd world countries that have likely neither dined in upscale restaurants nor received proper training presented a service problem that was too often apparent. The RC strategy seems to be more people will deliver better service when less qualified servers would produce better service.
The rooms were fine and the balconies were nice. They did however feel a bit like being in an RV, particularly the bathrooms and the linens (sheets and pillows) were sub-standard.
Housekeeping was inconsistent including missed towels, soap and shampoo.
The entertainment options onboard were in short supply and overbooked. Specifically, the golf simulator was overbooked as only two slots remained when I checked on the second day of the trip. Also the experience was weak as the system appeared to be poorly calibrated. Also, all of the spin classes in the gym were booked on the arrival day of the cruise.
As we traveled in August of 2008 we were very disappointed to find out that the Olympics were not available for viewing aboard the ship on either in-room or "public" TVs. CNN was available so obviously the satellite was working but why NBC and Olympics were missing was strange and disappointing. The TV programming that was available was repetitive like it was the same 24 hours of programming shifted around in different order daily.
Another entertainment shortcoming was that the same six movies were exhibited in the theatre for the whole cruise. Our family enjoyed watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix but having seen the film before we had no interest in watching it everyday.
Finally, we felt a lot of pressure from RC to tip the staff including several waiters and housekeeping. We enjoy rewarding good service, however, the tipping guidelines and envelopes from RC made the tipping seem compulsory rather than a reward for excellence. We felt as if RC was shifting some of the burden of compensating its employees to its customers.
In total, we were disappointed with the food and services on the ship. Perhaps cruising is not for us which would be fine except that we feel cheated given the price we paid and the promise of luxury cruise unfulfilled.
Upon return home I decided to call Royal Caribbean to air my grievances. Today I spoke with Tamara in the Post Cruise Guest Relations department (800-256-6649). Tamara listened to my complaints and said there was little she could do. I asked to speak to someone that might be able to remedy the situation and Tamara transferred my call to Adelia who informed me she was an Executive Guest Relations Officer. I again recapped my problems with the cruise for Adelia who was not only unsympathetic but dismissive of my grievances. Specifically, Adelia said that food is merely an opinion and she had little respect for mine because no other passengers had complained. When I asked to speak to someone else Adelia informed me that my next option was to speak with Tatiana who would call me back in a month. Not only did she say "a month" but Adelia seemed to take pride in passing along this inconveniencing news. I encourage someone to check the tapes on this if they are kept; it was awful customer service.
We eventually did speak to Tatiana who was very helpful. After some discussion we were offered a 20% refund on the trip.20% Refund Offer Letter
General Release and Confidentiality Agreement
To All To Whom These Presents Shall Come Or May Concern, Know That I, _____, Being Over 21 Years Of Age, Hereinafter Releasor in consideration of ($2,760.00) Twenty Seven Hundred Sixty Dollars received from Royal Caribbean International, as Releasee, receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, releases and discharges Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD., "Serenade of the Seas"., Its Affiliates, Successors, Assigns, the GTV "Serenade of the Seas"., Her Master, Officers, Crew, Agents, Operators, Charterers and Underwriters (Hereinafter the Releasees), Releasee's heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns from all actions, causes of action, suits, debts, dues, sums of money, accounts, reckonings, bonds, bills, specialties, covenants, contracts, controversies, agreements, promises, variance, trespasses, damaged, judgements, extent, executions, claims and demand whatsoever, in law, admiralty or equity, executors, administrators, successors and assigns ever had, now have or hereafter can, shall or may, have for, upon, or by reason of any matter, cause or thing whatsoever from the beginning of the world to the day of the date of this Release and More Particularly Because of an Alleged Incident Involving _____ on the GTV “Serenade of the Seas” on or About the Week of August 16, 2008. It is Expressly Understood and Agreed That This Settlement Represents A Full and Final Disposition of Our Claim and Is Inclusive of Any Hospital, Medical and/or Other Expenses Which We Have or May In the Future Incur.
Passenger hereby promises and agrees that he shall keep and maintain the settlement by and between Royal Caribbean International and Passenger confidential and shall not disclose to any third party except under legal compulsion the existence of this settlement, the terms of this settlement or any other items connected to or relating to the underlying facts in the matter as alleged by Passenger or the settlement thereof.