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.
We are cruiseaholics with fifty plus cruises. Traveling with good friends whom we met cruising in 1992. Our ages range from mid forties to late fifties. We sail two to three times a year, multiple lines.
Unfortunately due to a personal customer service issue with RCL land operations and issues with smoking policies on RCL's Celebrity brand we are not planning to sail with RCL or their product lines in future. However that is a personal decision that in no way reflects on the cruise experience we had on board The Mariner of The Seas which was excellent.
We traveled a day in advance of sailing making arrangements to stay at the Radisson at the Port, Port Canaveral. Booking online and paying in advance we secured a rate of $99 for a double, w/tax $109.89. This rate requires immediate charge at booking and limited cancellation.
Hotel was in an excellent location about 5 minutes from pier and provided FREE shuttle to ship. Pool area was nice with bar and food available. Room was adequate, small motel style, nothing fancy. It is a non smoking hotel, however plenty of opportunity to step outside room (motelstyle entrances) or hang at pool bar area where smoking is permitted.
ORLANDO AIRPORT Our first time there, large but well organized. You shuttle via smooth operating automated rail car from gate area to baggage, main terminal area. Baggage area to rental cars and transportation level require elevator to another level. Porters are available and $3 self hand carts also readily available. The self cart would be the option to use if renting a car as you might be waiting in line for a while and therefore need second porter. TRANSPORTATION to Hotel Pier area, about 50 miles or one hour can be arranged via various online services in area of $100. RCL did not offer pre-day arrival transportation unless on their packages all which were theme park programs. We elected to rent a car since we were also visiting friends in area for a couple hours. Our friends arriving from different location and time also rented a car though going direct to hotel. We all choose Budget based on rate which was in area of $61 W GPS for under 24 hour rental. The Budget rental office is located less than a quarter mile away from hotel and makes for an easy return the next morning.
NOTE: Pickup at Orlando airport sign up for FASTBREAK or suffer the 30 to 40 minute line to do paperwork. Budget is very popular surely because of rates and line is long. With fast break acct. number you can go right to car area (which is at airport -- no shuttle needed) and pick up keys and car, bypassing all the lines. HAD I ONLY KNOWN!
EMBARKATION We were shuttled over to pier from hotel -- it is a short ride of 5 minutes or so. Upon arrival porters took our luggage. Signs at pier indicate that porters are salaried and tipping is not required. A personal decision whether you wish to do so anyway.
It was a short walk to entrance to first check point. ID and ticket check followed by X-ray and metal detector. We all know the drill by now. Then up an escalator to check in areas. If you completed your forms online and printed out your SeaPass forms you have a special line and were handled very quickly. Merely ID again, present credit card you indicated online and boarding pass issued. Really does simplify process on all lines I have used it on so far. This is where it became a LONG line, boarding, mainly because ship had not yet started allowing passengers on so there was a bit of a backlog once they commenced actual boarding. NOTE -- Platinum and Diamond members also have priority boarding and entered the long line to board well ahead of many. Still they suffered lines as well to some degree. Also, though we fit into Diamond category we did not readily see that boarding area. You really have to look and ask for priority boarding most places, this one included. I don't go nuts for it because I have found in previous years that such priority boarding can be a plus or minus depending on how staffed and such.
NOTE: Once on board you cannot get to cabin areas until 1pm. They actually have doors that close off the corridors -- shut and locked.
CABIN We were in JR Suite 1650, with our friend in 1652. These have an adjoining door if you wish to have unlocked by the steward. I can't say enough about this category, we were extremely happy with the cabin size and design! We have sailed the Grand Suite category on other Voyager ships which is start of "real amenity" suite category and I liked this cabin every bit as well. The walk-in closet was fantastic! Very, very convenient and very, very roomy! Plenty of drawers and even a laptop storage and use drawer. If you need more space you definitely over-packed!
A large safe with self programmable code and a mini bar refrigerator also. Cabin space, balcony -- more than adequate with couch, chair and table. Location and deck, 10, good for buffet and pool access and other areas of ship, though a bit aft. Bathroom has a bathtub. As a JR Suite you do not have true suite amenities such as Concierge lounge use, DVD and such. The value of those items is in the eye of the beholder. Diamond members have lounge use no matter what accommodation taken. SMOKING is allowed on balcony, but NOT in cabin. That was not a problem as weather was perfect.
DINING/FOOD We were second seating table 532 -- I think it was with Utou (spelling?) and Michele, who were excellent. Food is always a personal opinion, and we were happy enough with it. Service was excellent and we had no complaints. BUFFET area was excellent in our opinion offering many choices, iced tea, lemonade, and water complimentary and several locations makes for easy pickup. We don't use specialty restaurants so can offer no comment. Coffee was decent and on the BLVD you can get excellent lattes and such but they are at additional cost.
ENTERTAINMENT The Voyager class ships offer as much in activity as large ships -- mini golf (we used it and it was fun), rock climbing wall, ice rink and such. Two pools offer best of both worlds. Main pool noisy and active with pool games and music. Second ADULT only pool quiet and enjoyable, plenty of sun and shade areas for both. Shows were entertaining enough for shipboard variety acts featuring standard dancers and singers but also some comedians which we enjoy. Lounges had various music offerings. The ICE SHOW remains a must see. Tickets are required for one of the four shows as crowd control, but there is no charge.
INTERNET Both internet lounges with terminals and wireless laptop connections offered. As is usually the case on board a ship, connections are like fast dialup, much slower than most of us are used to. Charge is .55 a minute which is less expensive than previous .75 a minute that has been the norm. They also offer packages that bring down price per minute for purchasing set number of minutes. Wireless connect is limited to several areas and lounges mostly forward and the internet café. Printing is available in café and there is no extra charge, excellent for printing out airline boarding passes and such at end of cruise. I have taken to limiting my internet use onboard to a quick mail download to laptop, so I appreciated a relatively reasonable minute rate. Sign up is done at internet café terminal and is a painless self process. Crown and Anchor members also receive some free internet charge coupons. As Diamond we had $20 worth, simply fill out and drop in box at Pursers desk and credited against your usage.
ITINERARY Having sailed these islands many times we decided for most part to stay onboard and enjoy pool facilities and such while all were almost exclusively ours. So I leave island activity and review to others. I will say we got off and took a brief walk in Jamaica to mall area near ship, where Jimmy Buffets is located. Souvenirs were somewhat expensive there. Cozumel was a much better deal for those T-shirts and the like. Best Cigg price was on ship at $86 for 5 cartons. Other prices in ships store for clothes very high.
DISEMBARKATION Done by color tags as usual. They do not allow you to wait in your cabin nor do they offer room service that morning. They repeatedly state they would like you out of your cabin by 8 am. I am usually not happy about the hurry up, get out and wait system but on Mariner it is not as much of an inconvenience as it is on some ships. Being so large there are many areas to get comfortable awaiting your turn.
It seemed that Mariner gets disembarked quicker than most ships we have sailed. Perhaps since airport is hour drive or maybe just because the lines are after you walk down the gangway and are off the ship. You present yourself to immigration and customs at same time in an area of booths containing the Officers and computers. After clearing through there you head for your luggage. Again something a little different, a baggage carousel like at airports. Much better than the pile of luggage on the floor to search through. Porters were readily available to transport your luggage to pick up areas.
We secured transportation to airport via bus at purser's desk during the cruise. Bus to airport was convenient and comfortable at $32 per person.
GENERAL COMMENT Mariner of the Seas was a very nice ship, being newer and in great shape. Staff and crew friendly and helpful, and Captain Johnny from the bridge is a want-to-be comedian providing information in a jovial way. He was often seen walking about the ship with members of his staff. Overall the Mariners cruise was an excellent one.
You can see a few pictures at our website.
Specific questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org -- please indicate Mariner Review in subject line or your email may be filtered and discarded.
This was a wonderful family cruise. We had a party of 6 in a family suite. We arrived at Port Canaveral at 11:15 AM and were aboard by 12 noon. The cabin was ready by 1PM. Plenty of room for 6, including 2 under 5.
The ship is beautiful, service was superb, food in all venues was quite satisfactory and well presented. Plenty of activities to keep everyone busy, or quiet areas to hide and read a book. The Spa and Shipshape center are excellent and superbly equiped.
Ports of call were a mixed bag. RCCL private port of Labadee is fantastic! Best in the Carrib. Jamaica is so so. Cozumel is good for snorkeling. Grand Cayman was very good, with history (pirates) and excellent excursions, with the pirate ship experience outstanding for all ages.
The children's program for my 2 grandsons (4 and 3) was well-staffed and they loved it! Due to the size of the Mariner, it is a great ship for large families.
If available, concierge service is well run and provides many services. The business side of the ship provides good service, though response can be spotty.
One problem wedid encounter was in their photo department. Seems that a new system was installed which did not work as planned. They lost many pictures, so be careful until they work out the kinks.
The cruise, on a whole, was wonderful. The ship, weather, guests, and crew made this trip a pleasure for the entire family.
Can't wait till our cruise to the Panama Canal in Jan '08 on the Jewel of the Seas!
We just returned from a 9 day cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. The review follows.
Embarkation Ease of embarkation depends on the time one arrives. I was told later by some passengers that the lineup going to the dock at Port Liberty was a mob scene around noon time. We arrived at 1:30PM, drove straight to the baggage check in, parked the car ($16 a day), proceeded to the passenger check in and were on board in 15 minutes.
Stateroom We usually opt for an interior room and this one (7129) was on the small side but well designed. Despite a seeming lack of space, there was more than ample storage areas and a well designed, albeit small bathroom. The shower is particularly nice with a fully enclosed circular shower door.
Food All of our dinners were taken in the main dining room which proved to be a beautiful venue. We were seated at a table for eight (beside a window overlooking the ocean) with an extended family consisting of three generations. Our table waiter Eduardo and his assistant Yvonne provided excellent service. The food was generally good to very good,with the only exception being the fish dishes which were not to my liking. Up at the buffet in the Windjammer, the food was quite good although some dishes were overly salty. Some of the more interesting cuisine was found in the center specialty island during lunch with Pan Asian dishes and during the evening with a sushi buffet. One morning while selecting breakfast I found congee with all the fixings, something I got hooked on while in Thailand. One thing I found rather unusual was the fact that of all the cruise lines I have been on, this is the first one I have seen that had no hand sanitizing stations in the buffet area or the main dining room. There is only one specialty restaurant aboard, Portofino, but we didn't dine there.
Entertainment This was pretty much standard shipboard fare with a resident song and dance group and a decent 9 piece pit orchestra. Four other entertainers did one man shows, but there was one standout comedian, Max Docelli, who went on the first night and was a real hoot. The rest of the shipboard staff were always available and helpful including cruise director Mike Hunnerup.
Ports of Call The ports of call were Labadee, Haiti; Casa De Campo, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Having been to all of them except Labadee, my only comment on the last three is that Puerto Rico is always worth the trip despite the peculiar fact that most cruise lines only port there for 6-7 hours. Hardly enough time to do the place justice. Although I had mixed feelings about going to Haiti, Labadee turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I've seen in Caribbean. It was vaguely reminiscent of Bora-Bora.
Disembarkation The ship had been sold out (3616 pax) due to spring break and it showed getting off the ship. Even at that, we cleared our room at 8AM and were off by 10:45. The ship started boarding passengers at 11:30.
All in all a very good cruise with one of the main advantages being that if you live within driving distance of Port Liberty, you can get to the ship with a minimum of hassle without having to deal with the madness of airline travel. Also, you have a choice of several itineraries going round trip out of Port Liberty. We'll probably do Canada next.
This was our first cruise -- to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. We went with another couple. We stayed in Superior Balcony Cabin #9292. We were on the ship and eating lunch in the Windjammer by noon. We were allowed to our cabin at 2:00. Our room was quite spacious and the balcony was of a good size. It was immaculate and was kept that way by our room steward. The bathroom was very efficient. We wished we could take the vacume toilet home with us!!
There was plenty of storage and closet space. We had brought 8 suitcases total and we fit everything from all the suitcases in the closet, shelves, drawers and cabinets, and still had room left over. We stored the suitcases under the bed.
The air conditioning worked great in our room and kept us nice and comfortable even on days it was in the high 90's. The refrigerator is not very cool at all, but we had also brought a collapsible cooler that we set up and our steward kept it full of ice everyday for us. We kept our water bottles and sodas in that. Our roomlocation was fairly quiet at night except for drunk people going back to their rooms at night who were loud. We felt no engine vibrations or noises where we were. In fact, it was very calm at our location compared to the front and back of the ship.
We were so impressed with how efficient the ship runs. Nothing was ever out of place and everything always worked. It is also extremely clean. The staff are all extremely professional and personable. They know their jobs inside and out and are pleased to help you out. We were very impressed with what a friendly ship it is! Everyone is so happy all the time!!
The entertainment was excellent and varied. The ice show is not to be missed!! We ate at Johnny Rockets one night and had an excellent dinner with great tableside entertainment. We ate at Portafino's one night and while the food and service were very good, we didn't find it any better than the dining room. We wouldn't pay to eat there again, but glad we gave it a try. We had 3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 7 dinners in the DaGama Dining Room. We were very pleased with the food and the service. You always had several choices of food so I find it hard to believe that someone could fault the food. We had no complaints at any of our meals. The service was beyond anything we had ever experienced and we felt very pampered and special.
I spent a lot of time in the Casino and did quite well on the slots. My only complaint here would be I wish they had more than two non-smoking nights. The smoke smell would drive me out of there some nights.
The parades were spectacular, and the deck party a lot of fun. We didn't make it to the 2nd midnight buffet. We found the drink prices to be more reasonable than we had expected, with the exception of wine which was ridiculously high. We were not that impressed with the stores on the Promenade. Very pricey and not much choice. You will do much better shopping in ports.
My husband loved getting up before dawn each morning to watch the sun rise and walk the ship for a couple of hours before breakfast. He would have the ship to himself that early. He loved their coffee at the Cafe on the Promenade!
All in all it was a great vacation and a great value for all we did and saw. We would definitely sail Explorer of the Seas again and would highly recommend her!! In fact, we can't imagine sailing anything less than the Explorer now. They set the bar pretty high as far as we are concerned. She may be 8 years old, but she is one classy lady.
We sailed on the Navigator of the Seas April 3 to 7 from Fort Lauderdale -- Cozumel -- Fort Lauderdale.
I am a little late with this review, but I am not going to miss an opportunity to review this ship, so here it is.See my picture gallery here: cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=4744.
Embarkation Embarkation was smooth, long -- but fast moving lines that were well managed. No complaints.
The Ship This ship is well maintained, clean and fairly new. If you have been on RCCL you become accustomed to a certain standard and I have not been disappointed very often. You did not find much wear and tear on carpeting, or wall furnishings. You found the crew cleaning constantly. One of my things I look for is rust, and as usual there was NO rust to be found on exterior parts of the ship.
The Crew Very friendly. I have to say I can't complain about the service, however it was not as good as on my previous cruise on the Adventure of the Seas, but they really set the bar for me.
We dined with the Captain on this cruise, and we reallydid enjoy the formalities greatly. Thank You RCCL for this special treat.
Food Food was very good in both the main dining room and the Wind Jammer. I really can't complain about a single meal. All the food was hot, fresh, and delicious. Our wait staff bent over backwards to get us a table that was just right. A+++ food and service.
Activities and Shore Excursions Well coordinated, no complaints. We participated in the ATV Mayan jungle excursion, which was VERY FUN, but you should only do this excursion if you can handle a real rough ride in the jungle.
Accommodations Our room was clean and well maintained. No real wear and tear. Unfortunately I do have one complaint though.
We booked with another couple well ahead and got two balcony rooms next to each other with the intent to have the balcony partition opened so we could hang out together on the cruise. While I have never requested this on RCCL I have done this on Carnival more than once without issue. Clearly the doors could have been opened, they had locks and hinges, and yet we were first told they do not open, then after complaining we were told they would not open them for various reasons.
We never did get to sit together on this cruise and I do think that RCCL could have done better. I will not forget this experience and if you plan on doing this, remember Carnival allows it, RCCL does not, at least not on the Navigator.
Disembarkation Efficient, long lines -- but if you wait till the last moments to leave the Lido you will be better off.
All in all, I recommend this cruise unless you are planning to go with another couple in balcony cabins.
Overall Grade: B-
Our room rattled like someone was knocking on our door. When we called down to the desk, we were offered ear plugs that were never sent to our room. We spent 2 nights in that room because no others were available.
The food was very bland and unimaginative. I'm not an exotic cook, and most of the meals were things I could make at home with MORE FLAVOR!
The last night of our journey, alcohol was delivered to our room that wasn't ours. It was placed outside our door. We could have easily kept it for all our housekeeper cared.
So I wrote a note which was followed by a phone call. They sent me two $100 gift certificates that I have to use within the next year. Yeah, right. In this economy? By the way, no compensation was offered when we were in the middle of this "mess."
Ship We were on the 15th voyage of Freedom of the Seas. She's a total of 158,000 GRT, 1,112 feet long and 184 feet wide with a 28 foot draft. There are 15 passenger decks with 1,800 guest cabins. With double occupancy there are 3,600 guests, and total guest occupancy of 4,370 in addition to 1,360 crew. Freedom of the Seas can reach a 21.6 knot cruising speed. The entire week, you hardly could feel that you were actually moving. The very last night, I felt a slight rock, and we had an aft cabin, #9604.
I took an early flight down from O'Hare in Chicago and arrived in Miami shortly after 10AM. Then we were on our way to the pier and got there around 11:00. As we approached the ship from the highway, I got my first glimpse of Freedom, WOW, what a sight! She towers over everything else in the area. There were two other Carnival ships in port that morning, and they actually looked dinky compared to Freedom.
We proceeded to check-in which went rather smoothly, until we actually needed to get to the ship. Seems alot of folks like to board as early as possible, get something to eat get settled in and start exploring the ship, which was my plan as well. All in all, the check in process went well, I had done all the pre-registration on-line and I think that does speed things up a bit. Once on board, we were told we couldn't go to our cabins until 1:00PM, which is pretty standard, so we figured we'd get some lunch. Unfortunately the Windjammer café was packed. I found out later that they didn't actually open it up until later than they were supposed to, so everyone was waiting in line just to get in. I think that was my one disappointment the entire week. Almost every time we went there to eat, either breakfast or lunch at the Windjammer café, we had to wait in lines. Sometimes the lines were small, but then it was another trick trying to find a table to eat at. Previously when cruising on both Explorer and Voyager, I never had that problem. It may have been that this sailing was at or almost full occupancy, and therefore more lines.
I did however, like the way the Windjammer is set up, more like the way it is on the "Radiance" class ships. They have the 2 main side buffet lines, which now also include "Jade", and the regular breakfast/lunch buffet items, along with separate stations for different entrees and a dessert area. I did notice however, that instead of just helping yourself to a cookie or a slice of cake/pie, they had a server there to put it on your plate instead of self serve, which I think always slowed things down. My main disappointment is no self serve coffee. They have the drink stations in various areas of the Windjammer where you could pick up juices, but you always had to ask for a cup of coffee. You can no longer just help yourself, which I think they should go back to. Although, once seated, they did have someone come around and offer you juice and or coffee, but sometimes it was too late into the meal.
Freedom of the Seas, is very similar to the previous "Voyager" class ship, except for its size and there are a few more activities. The Promenade is noticeably longer than the Voyager ships, more shops, etc. There are actually a couple new exciting things on Freedom that I've never seen before, one, is and likely the most popular. The Flowrider! We did give it a try and were hooked. What a gas! I did notice during the week, people were actually getting good at it. It took time and unfortunately, since it is so much fun, you almost always had to wait in line to get your turn. Before you could go on it, you needed to sign a waiver and get a wrist band. The first day, we were told, since we did the paper work, that we were good for the entire week. Not so, by the third day, one of the flowrider workers said we needed to go and fill one out daily, which we ended up doing.
Royal Caribbean added a much larger pool deck which included a H2O Zone, just for kids, but honestly, you'd see just as many adults in that area as well. It's a great area for kids to play in the water, all ages. Plus I did notice that never once did I see kids in the other double pool or in the adult pool area. Great idea! In the adult pool, there are 2 new hot tubs that look out into the ocean, what a nice way to relax and enjoy the view.
On decks 3, 4 and 5 , forward is the massive and stunning dining rooms. They still have the traditional "early" and "late" dinner and open seating lunch. Opposite on decks 4 and 5 is the Arcadia Theater, equally as beautiful with an amazing curtain that not any of my pictures do it justice. We actually saw all but one show there, all very entertaining and excellent. I think Royal Caribbean puts on some of the best shows on the water. They also have a great Ice Show down in Studio B. You don't want to miss that one. They also hold the "Quest" adult game in Studio B and we even had a Crown and Anchor welcome back cocktail party which was held there too. Its always nice to see the Captain instead of hearing him on speakers throughout the week. The captain was Erik Tengelsen and the Cruise Director was a very funny guy from Australia, James Andrews. Seems James was leaving the same day as us, he was filling in for a vacationing Ken Rush. He was very personable and did a great job.
I did stroll through the gym, but that was about it. Looked like they had all the latest equipment one could need and also a boxing ring. Going higher up on the ship, you'd find the spa, where they now do acupuncture and teeth whitening, I had never heard of those procedures being done on a cruise ship, they did run some specials for those, rather on the expensive side from what I could tell.
Of course this ship had the climbing wall, basketball court, mini golf on deck 13 along with the new flowrider. We did spend a lot o time on these upper decks. The pools are on deck 11 along with the Windjamme café and while our cabin was on deck 9, all these day-time activities were very close by and easy to access. The casino is on deck 4 along with the photo area, while guest relations and shore explorations are one deck up, on deck 5.
Cabin I had an aft cabin with balcony. I loved it! It was nice to go back to your cabin and sit by yourself viewing the ocean and dky without anyone else walking around you. The cabins also came with new bedding and flat screened TV's. Drawer and closet space was adequate, bathroom is still on the small size but standard for a cruise ship. All cabins come with WiFi capabilities and connectivity for cells phones which is nice. The shower is about the same as usual, small but functional, with a dispenser for shampoo and the curved glass doors.
Entertainment As I mentioned earlier, Royal Caribbean has some of the best entertainment on the seas. Their singers and dancers are excellent and know how to put on a wonderful show. In addition to the nightly shows,( which include comedians), they also have a parade in the promenade which is something to see. They only last 15 to 20 minutes, but lots going on and great audience participation along with some great photo ops. The second day into the cruise, you can pick up ice show tickets, you don't want to miss seeing this show. They performed 2 different nights, so everyone could get a chance to go down to Studio B and see that. The tickets are complementary, you just need to send someone in your party to pick up the number of tickets you need. We went the first evening and there wasn't an empty seat in the house. Its quite amazing the things they can do in such a small space.
As for food, I had no complaints in that department. I always left the dining room very full. I thought most menu's had a nice choice of entrees along with salads and desserts. I was able to have one dinner at the alternative restaurant, Chops. Other than the entire meal taking almost 3 hours, food there was excellent, although the service was on the slow side, could of easily done in it 2 hours, not 3. Others in our group also included an additional night dining at Portfino's and said that was equially as good or amost better, but I was happy with a wonderful meal at Chops, well worth the extra $20 per person.
Ports of Call The first day of this cruise was a "sea" day. Weather was nice and hot/sunny, so of course majority of us cruisers spent a good portion of the day up on deck 11 enjoying the pool and the activities there. I will say this; there was never a shortage of lounge chairs at any point during the week, whether it was a sea day or a port day. In just about all my past cruises, getting a deck chair was always a feat, not the case on Freedom. It was nice to see, they used the extra space on the pool decks.
Next day was our visit at Cozumel. We were told that it was the first time that Freedom could actually dock there instead of tendering. Only problem, we used the International dock, which is about 3 miles from the downtown. If you wanted to go there, it was easy enough to get a $6.00 cab ride from the port area. There are some shops by this pier, so you could opt not to go all the way downtown to shop. We did all our major shopping there that day, figuring it would be the best port to pick up tokens to take home. They had also built a new Margarettaville in town, but had yet to secure their liquor license, so they were open, but no drinks. They were hoping to get that straightened out that day. You will find Senior Frogs, Hard Rock Café and Carlos and Charles downtown in Cozumel. You could certainly tell, that quiet a few passengers paid a visit to some of those bars. On the ride to downtown, you can still see lots of damage from the last hurricane.
Following Cozumel, was our day in Grand Cayman. After tendering in, we did some walking around and brief shopping, picking up some Rum cakes and Rum from the local Tortuga shops all around town. I noticed since my last stop there last year, same time, that they now drop you off at a new pier and the old one is under construction. Its only about a block from the old one. Grand Cayman is a nice friendly port. You don't have any locals hounding you to buy things from their shops, which is a welcome change from some other ports. There were a total of 3 ships in port that day, Carnival Imagination, Caribbean Princess along with Freedom, so walking around town was manageable.
I was able to see a new port for the first time on this trip, Montego Bay Jamaica. This port in Jamaica had different look and feel from Ochio Rios where I've been before. The port is fenced in, nothing really to walk to there, so you'd need to either hire a cab or go on an excursion here. We did the Canopy tour here and really didn't know what to expect. Its about 20 mile bus ride to get to the "jungle" from the port. Once there, they also had the river rafting, on the same river that we flew over on the cable. I'm so glad we did this excursion, so different from others I've done in the past. There was lots of fun and laughs throughout the tour, with a great bunch of guides that help you along the way. There is a good deal of walking between the different traverses, a total of 6 for the entire tour. I would certainly recommend this excursion to anyone that can handle some walking up trails and has no problem with heights. I think everyone in our group enjoyed it.
The last port and my favorite was the "beach" day at Royal Caribbeans's private beach in Haiti, Labadee. Doesn't get much better than this, with multiple beaches, shopping areas, eating areas, lots of room, never any overly crowded areas in one place. We did the waverunner excursion there and had a ball doing that. I had done it on a previous cruise and was ready to go again, always lots of fun. By the time we finished that, it was lunch time, so we took a walk to the other side, found a nice place to park for the afternoon and went to the BBQ buffet. Lunch was good, chicken, ribs, burgers, hotdogs, salads, fruits and cakes and cookies, all there and ready to eat. Then we just relaxed in the water, took a walk and just relaxed until it was time to head back to the ship. Did stop by the market and see what they had, still a lot of very pushy venders there, not my cup of tea. This stop was a wonderful way to almost end the week cruise, I love the beach days.
After 3 ports days in a row, our last day was another sea day, so spent time running around the ship, relaxing by the pool and getting packed up for the following travel day. I liked the way this itinerary was planned, with the start being a sea day and the last day another sea day and the rest with ports.
Summary I think this was my all time favorite cruise, had wonderful cruisemates, great weather and a big new ship to explore for a week. I found this ship very easy to navigate, although it did take days for me to remember where things were and which deck there were on. Art work throughout the ship is again amazing, but possibly a little less that the other Voyager shops, but none the less, impressive along with the ships décor, everything nice and neutral and open feeling and still plenty of windows/glass.
I think the best improvement I found on Freedom, was the fresh water in the pools. I expected salt water and was pleasantly surprised to not taste that salt, very welcome change. We had a wonderful cabin attendant, Romero, hardly saw him, but anything I asked for was delivered promptly, cabin always clean, always clean towels daily and some adorable towel animals. Same with our dining room waiter and asst. waiter, great service, nice job guys! I'm finding myself already trying to plan another cruise on possibly a sister ship to Freedom, the greatest ships for cruising with family/friends, great ship, great cruise.
I also have a photo's in the gallery here of Freedom of the Seas: http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=3082
Just the Facts Ship: Voyager of the Seas Dates Sailed: March 9 to March 16, 2008 Captain: Frank Martinsen Entertainment Director: Eric Dowis Ports: Galveston-Roatan-Cozumel-Progreso-Galveston Weather: Good all week
This is my 8th Royal Caribbean cruise and 2nd on the Voyager having just sailed on her in January. We only just booked this cruise a few weeks ago on a 'happy hour' sale. We had an inside cabin, but the price and value was too good to pass up, so basically this is a bonus cruise for us. I will be commenting on changes on this cruise from the recent cruise we took in January.
Day One -- Sunday -- Embarkation Left the Ranch about 6:30 a.m. and dropped off the dog at DD's apartment in Waco. We had a nice and easy drive to Galveston. Houston traffic was fine. We arrived early enough to drop our bags at Cruise Terminal #2 before automobile traffic became heavy. I drove over and parked at EZ Cruise parking and then walked over to the ship terminal. Walking is easier than riding the shuttle and the weather was great. They had a new priority line forsecurity which we used and then proceeded to Priority check-in. There were lots of VIP's in January, but very few this sailing so there was no line and we were processed strait away. We had just settled in with our complimentary glass of champagne when they announced they would begin boarding. Nice group in the priority area and no mad rush to the door and as we knew the routine we were actually the first to board the ship. I think a few handicapped passengers and a wedding party boarded early, but we were basically the first of the regular passengers to board. The ship staff were extremely friendly. Everyone welcomed us on board ship and offered help or guidance. The staff is much more friendly than just a few weeks ago. It was quite obvious. The friendly state would be proud.
As mentioned being already familiar with the ship we were the first in the Windjammer by 10-15 minutes. It was 11:50 a.m. and we are enjoying a wonderful private buffet. With no one there we could appreciate the beautiful ice carving and the fruit displays and the attention of the wonderful staff. Again, the dining staff was also very friendly. The roast beef was very good as was the salad and the desserts. We went to the High Notes lounge to wait until 1:00 pm when the cabins became available to guests. We went to our cabin shortly after 1:00 p.m. and DW had a nice nap and I a short one. DW's luggage arrived at 2:00 p.m., but didn't open it until after nap time. They had confiscated a bottle of wine and left a receipt in its place. I'm sure the increased security is because of spring break. My bag never arrived. Just before the 4:00 p.m. muster drill we met our Cabin Steward Selvon from Paraguay. We requested the beds set as twins, ice for our small cooler, robes, and for him to be on the look out for my bag. He is very personable and I think he will do a good job.
Sail away was a little late and we had a cocktail in the High Notes lounge, but I was starting to become anxious about my missing bag. We decided to eat in the Windjammer about 6:30 p.m. and it is set up very nice for dinner. The waiters were all dressed in semi-formal attire and the tables were set with the silver. I had pork, mashed potatoes, and chicken cordon-bleu which were all very good. DW actually prefers the Windjammer as she has more vegetarian choices than the dining room. We stopped by the pursers desk on the way to the welcome show to make a query about my bag and was informed that it was in security. Well at least we know it made the ship.
The welcome show for both dinner settings featured comedian Tom McTigue, Eric Dowis the Cruise Director, and the ship's singers and dancers. It was a good show, better than in January.
Saga of the Missing Bag: Following the show we went down to deck one security and they had a collection of passenger bags. We found mine and they asked me to open it. There was no contraband, the bottles of diet coke confused them. By the time I got my bag back to my room it was after 8:00 and no way I could clean and change in time for 8:00 p.m. dinner. Problem (rant): I was never notified that they had my bag in security and that it needed to be claimed. I agree with the additional security and scrutiny of bags especially during spring break; however, they must make the guest aware of what is happening. Due to no fault of mine I missed dinner in the dining room and those that read my blog and reviews know how important dinner is to me. Security claimed they notified guest relations, but no one notified me. If they had notified me I could have had my bag probably before sail away and saved myself the anxiety of the missing bag and had dinner as usual. (end rant) I think they will implement a procedure to correct this for future guests and I will not let a problem like this effect my overall cruise attitude nor should anyone else.
Bravo, Bravo, Bravo: They had a fire in the electrical controls for the propulsion system about 7:45 p.m. and sounded the alarm. We actually never heard the alarm as we were in the theater, but did hear the Captain's explanation of what happened about half an hour later. They had a fire in the electrical panel and control box of the port side azipod so we will be sailing with less than full thrust for awhile.
Day Two -- Monday -- At Sea Very breezy today, midday temperature only 75°. I had breakfast in the Windjammer. A very nice omelet made by Tamika (from Jamaica) who made the great omelet for me last cruise. Not crowded at all as passengers haven't discovered the omelet station as yet. Breakfast was very good. We still had ice for our diet cokes this morning, another vast improvement from January when our cabin steward was not very good at all and wouldn't fill the cooler full enough for the ice to last overnight. We don't drink coffee so the diet coke is important in the mornings. After breakfast I picked up tickets for the Ice Skating Show. We attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle at 11:00 in the High Notes Lounge. There was a good crowd and it's always great to put real names to screen names. They again had the great appetizers and chocolate covered strawberries. We actually won two of the little gifts this time. Eric, the cruise director, did attend and was his humorous self during the raffle.
We had lunch in the dining room and it was just OK. DW said the pasta sauce had no flavor and this was her favorite lunch in January. The carrot cake was again very good. The Captain gave his midday report and announced a revised itinerary due to yesterday's fire. We have been sailing with only the one main propeller and they need calm waters to recalibrate the other so we will be sailing direct to Roatan so they can make the repairs there. A short nap before we went to the 3:00 ice show, Ice Odyssey. They had a few new skaters since we saw them in January. It was an excellent show and not to be missed. The Captain's reception was held in Studio B although we passed on attending. Guest Relations sent us a bottle of wine with an apology about the missing bag. That was very nice and appreciated.
We attended dinner tonight in the dining room. Escargot, shrimp cocktail, Beef filet, and Grand Mariner Soufflé were my selections. Greg Bonham was the feature entertainer this evening, but we skipped having seen him previously.
Day Three -- Tuesday -- At Sea Weather is much better today. Midday temperature is 81°. I had breakfast in the Windjammer. A very good breakfast: fried eggs, bacon, hash, malt-o-meal, and fresh fruit. We had a nice walk around the decks this morning. We had lunch in the Windjammer, a very good salad as usual and pork tenderloin. Walked the ship again after lunch and then a nap. In the late afternoon we opened our complementary bottle of wine and had our own party with fruit & cheese plates from room service. We then went to the La Scala Theater for the feature production show, Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme. We saw some friends in the front row so joined them. A very unique perspective of the show to say the least. The show was fantastic with current and popular show tunes. All the singers and dancers were very good. After the show we enjoyed some wine in the Champagne Bar until dinner. Dinner was good. DW had the vegetarian entrée: an Asparagus & Brie Tart which is their best vegetarian entrée in her opinion. I had the Crabmeat & seafood salad, Tilapia and a Steak. BBB and a Mango parfait type dish for dessert. Keeping with the wine theme of the evening we did order a bottle of wine with dinner. After dinner we split a Mango Lava Flow on one of the outside promenade tables of the sports bar. Great place to people watch. About 11:00 pm. We went to the Country & Western night / Texas Party in Studio B. They had a western band and did line dancing directed by the cruise staff and two stepped the night away.
Day Four -- Wednesday -- Roatan We arrived by 8:00 a.m. and the weather is great although you really can't see the mainland today. Temperature very pleasant 84°. When we were here in January they had just finished the extended dirt work around the pier. Today they have full construction of three buildings underway. They have made great progress in just a few weeks. DW had room service breakfast. I again visited Tamika at the omelet station in the Windjammer and my omelet was excellent. Today is our stay on the ship on a port day which we try to do on each cruise in order to take advantage of ship amenities. Some pool, hot tub, and deck time most of the day in the Solarium. We brought lunch from the Windjammer back to the solarium since we had a table next to our loungers. Each of us had great salads. I had two small grilled steaks, a grilled tilapia, and baked potato. It was great, the steaks better than the steak from the dining room the previous dinner. We went to the ice show, Ice Odyssey again. Since today was originally scheduled as a sea day there were extra seats for the early ice show as a lot of people were still in port. It was great watching it again as we could anticipate some of the routine which was enjoyable. Some roles were different in this show as well and it was a fantastic show. Dinner was good, my selections were the Scallops, Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Marsala, and Tiramisu for dessert. The Love and Marriage game show was this evening. The head waiter brought me a plate of sliced hearts of palm (one of my favorites) which were fantastic. We would never get them in Bosque county. Laraf the magic show was this evening, but having seen it we passed this evening.
Day Five -- Thursday -- Cozumel The weather is very nice about 86° but a nice breeze. Really ideal weather for Cozumel. We docked about 8:30 am. at the Punta Langosta pier. There were four ships in Cozumel, two at the International pier and two at Punta Langosta. We watched the Love & Marriage show on the cabin TV this morning and Eric Dowis is amazing. A great ad-libber and he makes the now standard cruise show very humorous. We both ate in the Windjammer, I had the usual Timika omelet which was great. Since we had no big excursions planned, just an afternoon in town, we were very pleased to be at the Puerto Langosta as we can walk into San Miguel. We left the ship about 10:30. I had a hair cut at Antonio's barber shop. Martin has been cutting my hair for almost three years. We saw our friend Nelly at her shop, Mayan Pearl. Next stop was Havana Blue where we sat on the upstairs patio overlooking the Strait of Cozumel and enjoyed a few rounds of mojitos. They are the best in the Caribbean IMHO. We also had some great guacamole & chips. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the square. I had a good beer drinking spot at Plaza Leza (thanks Paco & Edwin) and DW could shop. Several mariachis played our favorites. We arrived back at the ship a little before the suggested 4:30. After boarding we made our way to the Solarium for some swimming. I also hit the hot tub in the spa. Fruit & Cheese plates in the cabin for a nice snack. The entertainment this evening in the La Scala Theatre was comedian Chas Elstner. Dinner was very good. This would have been formal night, but they have delayed that. I had another special hearts-of palm salad, the lobster, prime rib, and the sampler assortment for desert. The Quest has returned and was tonight in Studio B.
Day Six -- Friday -- Progreso Weather is very windy, up to 20+ knots according to Captain Frank. Midday temperature 86°. We docked a little late about 9:30 a.m. due to the high winds, but the winds calmed during the day. The beach and water looked really great today, a pretty aqua blue. It really looked like the Caribbean and not the Gulf of Mexico. DW found the shop with the handbags that she likes and we picked up some more for gifts. We then went to our favorite restaurant, Le Saint Bonnet and lingered there for the afternoon, basically enjoying Dos XX and guacamole while watching people and the beach, visiting with vendors, and listening to mariachis. We stayed until after 2:00 p.m. and took a taxi arriving back at the dock about 2:30 and on the ship for a nice swim in the Solarium pool. About 4:00 p.m. we ate at Johnny Rockets. It was very good, DW had a grilled cheese and I had a Nathan hot dog and a small hamburger. The fries and onion rings are really good. The sundaes are also excellent. I do recommend visiting Johnny Rockets. Departure from Progreso was at 5:30 p.m. and we watched the late arrivals from deck four which is always amusing. The second production show for our cruise was before dinner. Music in Motion featured the singers and dancers in a Broadway style review show featuring popular songs from movies. It was excellent, some of the best singers and dancers I have seen on board a cruise ship. Dinner was good. I again had my bonus hearts-of palm salad and my selections were the Shrimp cocktail, Mulligatawny soup, and the Chinese duck. The Karaoke Superstars was following dinner, but we retired early.
Day Seven -- Saturday -- At Sea We slept in this morning and DW brought some fruit and pastries from the Windjammer. It has been very nice having a cabin so close to the Windjammer as we can pick up snacks as needed. A little breezy on deck and more cloudy the further north we sailed. A great surprise when we checked the on board account. Our fuel supplement was refunded. I believe RCI and the State of Florida reached an agreement earlier this week and those that booked before a certain date received the refund. Since we used a NextCruise booking from before the date, we received the refund. Every little bit helps. We were invited to the luncheon for Platinum and Diamond guests at noon. It was in the Magic Flute and it was well attended. We were able to see our head waiter from January and the guests at our table were very nice. They served two starters, Duck Pate, and a Potato Soup with flaky biscuit. We had a choice of entrees. I had the Filet Mignon which was very good and they prepared some vegetables for DW. The dessert was a special Chocolate Melting Cake. In the afternoon we used the coupons from our Platinum book for wine and some casino specials. We watched some of the Karaoke Superstars on cabin TV, it was funny. I had an appointment with the Loyalty Ambassador this afternoon. For anyone wanting to book a future cruise I recommend making an appointment early in the week. BTW--Deadline for Next Cruise bookings is midnight of the 6th day. We skipped the Farewell entertainment show. Dinner was again vary good. I had the steak and green salad, again with hearts of palm. After dinner was the Island Frenzy Parade in the Royal Promenade. DW packed during the day and I packed this evening. An early evening as we have early departure.
Debarkation -- Sunday No room service on debarkation morning, but a full breakfast menu in the dining room. We arrived early and turned in the channel and docked starboard side to the terminal. They started allowing the self-debarkation people off about 7:50 a.m. It was really fairly smooth considering how many people are using it. We were even able to easily pick up the bottle of wine which was taken from DW's bag the previous Sunday. They had hundreds of crew members in line for customs and fortunately they were going to different customs agents than the passengers. We rolled our bags to EZ Cruise parking and were on our way to fill up the car with fuel and head north. Gas was $3.12 in Galveston. We would have been off the island well before 9:00 a.m., but they had the causeway closed for bridge demolition and we had a 20+ minute wait. We finally crossed the bridge about 9:15 a.m. We made our stop in Hearne, Texas for migas and arrived home in fine shape about 2:00 p.m.
Ship This was my third time on a Voyager class ship. I am still very impressed. There are good and bad things about the size. There are a lot of people and the pools can be very crowded during peak times. The elevators can be busy or full and I recommend taking the stairs when possible. The additional size also means that there is room for the photo gallery, casino, bars, etc. without any one of them dominating an entire deck. The Aquarium Bar and Champagne Bar (no longer a non smoking bar) are very impressive as are the Studio B, the Theater, and other public spaces. The Grand Promenade is very impressive indeed and must be experienced. The ship was very clean and the public rooms were always spotless.
There are a lot of shipboard activities to choose from while on the cruise. This being our second in just a few weeks we still didn't get to do everything we wanted to do during the week. We never really hit the sports deck and the spa only twice, but were very busy with other activities. Choose the activities you wish and leave time for just relaxing on board.
Crew The staff and crew are very good. The staff are much more friendly than in January. I guess they have really adjusted to the new port and friendly crowd. We have a new Captain and he did keep us informed of the fire damage and altered itinerary. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. The bar staff all very friendly. Even the maintenance crew on deck would greet you. Very impressed.
Cabin We have cabin 1657 which is an interior on deck ten. It is a very good location. The cabin is basically the same as an O/V or balcony cabin. Same amenities. Our cabin steward is Selvon from Paraguay and he was excellent. He did keep my small cooler full of ice and we never ran out of ice. Selvon is a great improvement from the cabin attendant we had on the January cruise. The cabin was very clean when we boarded and cleaned very well during the week. The cabin could use some updating, primarily the couch & chair is worn and stained, but overall very nice. The safe has a button keypad. Air worked very well. The cabin refrigerator was well stocked, but we never used it.
Food Our dining room is the Magic Flute, deck five (top level) of the 3 level restaurant. It was a six top table and the other four guests were co-eds from Texas A&M. Very nice girls average age 21. The table was in a very good location on the inside with a perfect view of the beautiful main chandelier. Our waiter, Vjeckoslav from Croatia is one of the best waiters we have ever had on a cruise. The assistant waiter, Anastasia from Belarus, is a delight and charming. She has a degree in linguistics and speaks five languages. The headwaiter Assif from India came by several times to check our table and arranged the hearts-of-palm.
Since we have no balcony this cruise and we are only one deck below the Windjammer we are not doing the fruit & cheese plates each day as we would usually do. We have ordered them, but it is very convenient to hit the Windjammer for a snack. Johnny Rockets was a good alternative for lunch or afternoon snack. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. There are several ice cream machines with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavors. You can order room service on the RC-TV, but I recommend calling room service. We used the Windjammer much more this cruise and we were very impressed. The dinner we had the first night was very good. All the breakfasts were good and IMHO easier and as good as using the dining room. The lunches were always good and as we learned the location of specialty items it was even more enjoyable. If one wanted to eat in the Windjammer for dinner each evening you could get the same waiter if you wish by sitting in the same area. The service was quite good. They also had several smaller themed buffets on the pool deck during the cruise, some in the late evening and some at noon. Overall the food is very good to excellent.
Room Service We used it for light breakfast and a few times in the afternoon for Fruit & Cheese plates. Service was good when used.
Cruise Highlights We 'appreciate' CD Eric Dowis and his good-ole-boy routine, the fantastic ice shows, and the Broadway style Rhythm & Rhyme and Music In Motion production shows. Cozumel is always a favorite.
Needs Improvement RCTV: They were showing the very same movies that they were in January. Surely they can add new movies in that period of time. Many times we enjoy cabin time and updated movies would help. I did enjoy the Nelson TV channel that was added.
Texanization A tremendous improvement on the ice situation from the Voyager's first week or two of sailing from Texas. I believe having an excellent cabin attendant helped 100%, but I had no trouble getting ice from the bar, bar servers, and Windjammer when needed. The hotel director should be commended for recognizing the needs of his Texas guests. Again, the staff was very, very, very friendly.
Comments They really do a very good job of scheduling the entertainment and production shows, and then coordinating them with the various receptions, and other events and activities on board ship. It was made more difficult this week due to the change in ports and sea days, but the staff did a great job. Another great cruise and we are bringing friends with us when we sail again on the Voyager of the Seas in January '09, when she again returns to Texas.
What an awesome cruise ship!
Third cruise with Royal Caribbean, and this by far has to be the most tastefully decorated ship I have ever been on.
The staff was fantastic, as was the food.
I would recommend this ship to anyone looking for a great cruise and great food.
I cannot comment on the islands, as we were not too impressed with Martinique and Guadalupe. They were awful islands and people.
Service -- Superb
Food -- Very good
Entertainment -- Enjoyable
Cabin (balcony) -- Comfortable
Organization of Ship -- Professional
Embarkation and Debarkation -- Smooth
Hard to find fault with any aspect of service.