Royal Caribbean's embarkation and check-in process in Bayonne, New Jersey is not ready for prime time. The luggage drop system needs major work. Parking is available, but you will have a long walk to check-in or a long wait for a shuttle. After check-in, there is a bus to take you to the ship.
Does anyone else think that these ships are too big? On a cool weather itinerary, people are not out on the decks, so every part of the ship (inside) is crowded. There were even long lines to enter the dining rooms.
When I decide on which cruise to take, I usually opt for one of three types. One is the cruise with wonderful food and lots of pampering; for this I would go on an upscale line or the Celebrity Mercury. The second is destination-oriented. For this I might choose the Universe Explorer to Alaska or a Windjammer Barefoot cruise to Caribbean islands. Another type of cruise is the floating resort experience. The Voyager of the Seas (VOS) is a perfect choice for this last type of cruising.
My nine-year-old granddaughter and I chose the VOS to have a week of fun. We flew from California to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed in the La Quinta Hotel near the airport. Free airport shuttle service and a very nice buffet breakfast were included in the room rate. Royal Caribbean has a shuttle from Fort Lauderdale Airport to the pier in Miami, so we could fly into that airport to get more reasonably-priced flights without inconvenience. The embarkation was about average. The lines were not especially long, but the service at the desk was quite slow, considering that we had alreadysupplied all needed information to the web site months before.
We had cabin 8583 overlooking the grand promenade, in the middle of Deck 8. This location was perfect. We never had to go very far to get to a desired location. There was a Plexiglas diagram of the ship in the corridor right outside our door, and I frequently consulted it to find my way around. The window at the far end of the cabin gave the feel of being an outside cabin at the price of an inside. I did not care for the color scheme of aqua, beige, and orange with yellow printed drapes, but Hannah thought it was great. There was a very nice sitting area on the promenade end, with a loveseat in the bay window and another one perpendicular to it. The sofas had attractive and comfortable throw pillows, and a small glass-topped coffee table completed the furnishings. The king-size bed was made up of two twins, which we left together to have more room in the sitting area. One mattress was comfortable, but the other was too soft and felt worn out. It "bottomed out" when laid upon.
Luckily a nine-year-old is not as fussy about the mattress, so we just switched beds. The cabin had the best lighting I have seen on a cruise ship, and plenty of storage space along with all of the usual amenities. A clock that you could see from a distance would have been useful, as the only way to tell the time was to walk over to the phone and look down. The bathroom was one of the nicest I ever had on a cruise. The shower was big enough to take a comfortable shower, the storage space was adequate, and the colorful painted tiles on the backsplash of the vanity were a nice decorator touch. The triple mirror gave the room a feeling of spaciousness as well as being useful. Bathroom amenities were minimal: bar soap and a shampoo dispenser in the shower. (Bring your own conditioner, shower cap, etc.) I had read in earlier reviews that the clear windows to the promenade were a problem. We found the window to be no trouble at all. We just closed the drapes or turned off the lights when dressing. It was fun to watch the parades from our own cabin. The sound was greatly muted from inside the cabin; in fact sound from the promenade was no problem the entire week due to the thick, double-paned glass in the bay window.
The food was the biggest disappointment on this cruise. I did not expect gourmet cuisine, but I did expect better than we got. The meals were pretty much banquet food. The rack of lamb and one steak were very good and cooked perfectly. Unfortunately, that was the exception. One morning we ate in the dining room to have my cruise favorite, eggs Benedict. It came with hard cooked eggs under lukewarm sauce. When I asked to have soft cooked eggs, I was told that was the only way they fixed it. The next day we decided to try room service. It was delivered 10 minutes after the designated 30-minute window for serving time. Everything was there, but lukewarm sausage and eggs were unpalatable. Next we decided to try the Windjammer for a buffet breakfast. When I asked for brown sugar for my oatmeal, the server said there was none on the ship. (Wrong. He just did not want to get me any. I had brown sugar if I ate in the dining room.) The Belgian waffles on the buffet line were quite good although limp instead of crisp.
I was really looking forward to the formal night dinner when lobster was served. But it came so salty that it was inedible. My tablemates said theirs were fine so I guess the salt just got spilled on mine. Our server and his assistant were very accommodating and friendly at dinner, but service in the dining room for the open-seating breakfast and lunch was definitely not the same.
Requests were often either ignored or handled with an attitude. The food was generally edible, and the people at our assigned dinner table were a pleasant group to dine with. We definitely did not lack for enough food; mealtimes were just not something to look forward to. The lunch menu in the dining room was the same every day, so after a couple of days Hannah and I ate in Johnny Rocket's. The hamburgers or bacon and tomato sandwiches were not gourmet fare, but were well prepared and tasted as I expected them to. We also enjoyed their milkshakes. I had expected lots of problems with lines on a ship with so many people. This did not happen. The only long lines we encountered were for lunch in Johnny Rocket's and the Windjammer after shore excursions, and for cooked-to-order omelets for breakfast in the Windjammer. The Promenade Café was just below our cabin, so Hannah made good use of their pizza at all hours to tide her over before our 8:30 p.m. dinner, or when she was hungry in the evening. She also enjoyed the convenience of the frozen yogurt dispenser just down the promenade from the pizza.
The shows in the La Scala showroom were standard cruise fare. The best shows were the ice skating in the Studio B ice rink. Be sure to get the free tickets when the daily paper gives the time. The shows featured champion skaters and well choreographed routines. The parades in the grand promenade were also fun. During the day on sea days there was a wide variety of things to do.
Hannah's favorite was ice skating. She skated during several sessions. Skaters must wear long pants and socks and a parent or guardian must be present when a minor is skating. Bring a good book or get one from the well-stocked library. There is no charge for the skating, or for the skates and optional helmet that are provided. Hannah also enjoyed climbing the rock wall on the top deck. Again, there is no charge for climbing shoes or the necessary rigging. The crew on the ropes was exceptionally cheerful and helpful. She was thrilled to make it to the top twice. I was surprised that there were never more than four people ahead of her waiting to climb. My special favorite was a real promenade deck that goes all the way around the ship. On this deck were two well-waxed shuffleboard courts that we enjoyed in the evenings during our walk. Since the week of our cruise was often cold or windy there were plenty of deck chairs and the pools were not crowded.
There is no fee to charge money to your sea account to play in the casino. The craps table was never open when I wanted to play so I just donated to the slot machines a couple of times. My favorite activity was the "team trivia". I joined two gentlemen to make a team. Our areas of expertise were completely different so that as a team we came in second. The prize was a very nice RCI folder for airline tickets, passport, and other important papers -- a nice change from the usual keychain.
The children's program was generally good. The kids are divided into groups according to age, each with its own facilities and staff. They earn credits for each activity. These credits are spent on premiums at the end of the cruise. The children could sign up for dinner with the staff on three nights. They were told to sign up before noon, so Hannah hurried down. Only a few children were allowed to participate, and she never got there in time. It would be better to have a dinner where more children could participate, such as in the Island Grill, instead of the small Johnny Rocket's venue.
The gaming arcade in the middle of the children's area is very expensive. We paid $2 for a short 7-point game of air hockey. The minimum amount that can be put on the arcade card used for the games is $10. One boy did not understand that he was charging his parents' account each time he added to his arcade card. He spent more than $60 in less than an hour. Luckily the parents saw what was happening when they checked their account on the TV in their room.
The long, winding pool slide is also in the children's area. It is open at designated times. The $5 per hour fee for child care after 10 p.m. is promoted as late-night "party time". I haven't seen child care pushed this way on any other ship. Since it was Easter break, about 1,100 children were on the ship. They were not a problem except in the elevators, and with some running in the halls. Some parents seemed proud that they turned their kids loose for the week with no supervision. The kids may have been safe, but I suspect that these were the kids pushing all of the buttons in the elevator and then leaving.
Since the weather was windy we couldn't go ashore where tendering was required, as the big waves made it dangerous. I had reserved my shore excursions on the RCI website months in advance. My account was automatically credited for the snorkeling tours at the places we did not stop.
I have climbed Dunn's River falls at Ocho Rios, Jamaica before, so I signed up for the Martha Brae River rafting on this trip. The bus ride was very long with little information about the local area. The river rafting portion was beautiful and relaxing. Each raft has a seat for two persons and is poled along for about two miles by the "raft captain." I was not sure that Hannah would enjoy this type of excursion, but she did. I noticed that on some of the rafts the captains were sitting while the passengers were trying to pole the rafts. I was perfectly content to just enjoy the ride. Our captain told us that 94 men take turns poling the rafts down the river. Each man makes his own raft, a new one about every six months because they get waterlogged. On a busy, warm day all men get a turn, but sometimes they wait a day or two for another turn.
The ship did not stop at the line's private island or at Grand Cayman. In Cozumel, I had signed us up for the Dolphin Encounter. This was definitely not worth the $99 per person. About 30 persons lined up along a large tank of water, and a dolphin swam past the line fairly swiftly twice. This was the opportunity to touch or pet the dolphin. After this each person was "kissed" and got to shake flippers quickly with the dolphin while a photographer took a photo and tried to sell it to you later for $15 each. There was no informational commentary about the dolphins. After everyone had a turn, the dolphin did a few tricks -- again, with no explanation of training methods or anything about the dolphins. After the demonstration of fast swimming and jumping we filed out. I think that this was the most overpriced shore excursion I have ever taken.
I had a rip in a pair of slacks. The guest relations desk supplied me with a nice little sewing kit to repair it. However, when I needed a bucket or pan to soak an infected toe, nothing was available and I had to wait until the infirmary opened. Luckily Hannah noticed that the plastic trash bin in the bathroom could be removed from its cutout, and it worked fine if I pointed my toes. The next day a plastic disposable basin was available from the infirmary for $5. The people staffing the guest relations desk were always courteous and helpful for all the questions we asked and situations encountered.
In Cozumel and Jamaica, several tours ended at about the same time. A lot of hungry people came onto the ship to find the dining room and Island Grill closed, and only one line operating in the Windjammer. This led to long lines at both Windjammer and Johnny Rockets. I would expect the dining staff to know when tours are returning and to plan accordingly for hungry passengers.
The computer area was convenient and easy to use to send emails home. The fee for a quickly written three-line email was $4.50 one time and $3.50 the next. I used my own email account via the earthlink.com website.
Debarkation took more time than usual because we had to wait for our luggage at an airport-style carousel instead of looking in a group for our cases. The RCI bus back to the Fort Lauderdale airport was very convenient.
Overall we had a lot of fun and met some very nice people. This was my favorite inside cabin, but not my favorite cruise. Good food is an important part of my cruise experience. Hannah liked the variety of activities and the pizza. She preferred the children's programs on the RCI Vision of the Seas, Disney Magic, and the Windjammer Legacy.
This by far was the best cruise I had ever been on. The service was outstanding, the food great, the activities endless. The shows including the ice skating was so incrediable. The staff went out of their way to make everyone comfortable and happy, they work so hard and do so much for each and every passenger.
The ports of call were great the tour guides on the tours I booked were very knowledgeable. It was sad when the cruise was over but I do know that Royal Carribean will have my business in the future.
We cruised on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas (VoS) on 2/1/04. This was our fifth cruise, and our second taking our four children and my parents. This review is written from the perspective of a family cruise. Our previous family cruise was last year on the Disney Magic, and we'll make plenty of comparisons to that in this review. My wife and I have cruised three other times by ourselves: twice on Royal Caribbean, and once on Carnival. Our children are 13 (son), 10 (daughter), 10 (twin daughter), and 6 (daughter), My parents are in their mid-70's. My children all agreed that they enjoyed this cruise more than last year's cruise on the Disney Magic.
Pre-Trip Planning: The VoS sails out of Miami, and quite frankly we've found Miami to be one of our least favorite departure ports. We always fly one day in advance of a cruise and stay overnight in the city of departure. In Miami, the hotel selection isn't great, and they offer few perks such as shuttle service to the airport and the port. We much prefer Ft. Lauderdale. Preferences aside, the VoS sails out of Miami,so we had to find accommodations. There are a few hotels near the airport that offer free shuttle service to the airport and to the terminal (Days Inn, Fairfield Inn, Holiday Inn), but by and large they've received poor reviews (check out www.tripadvisor.com). A number of cruisers have had good luck using Priceline to find 3-star accommodations close to the pier, but given the number of travelers we decided that was not an option (Priceline only guarantees a room to accommodate 2 people.) In the end, we decided to splurge and book the pre-cruise package at the Marriot Biscayne Bay, overlooking the bay where the cruise ships dock. I say splurge because the rooms, which included a deluxe bayside view, breakfast, two drinks, and shuttle service to the pier, were $230/night.
We booked our cruise through Travelocity via telephone six months in advance. We booked our shore excursions well in advance through the RCCL web site. We booked our ATA air travel via the ATA web site.
Day Before: Our ATA flight out of Midway was uneventful; this was our first try with ATA and we were quite pleased. It's nice having a reserved seat assignment, especially traveling with a large group that includes children. We arrived at Miami International, claimed our bags, and proceeded to the ground transportation level. We had decided before the trip to use the Super Shuttle service available 24x7 in the airport. No reservations are accepted, but they guaranteed a short wait for a ride. We easily found a SuperShuttle representative, who politely took our reservation. In ten minutes, a private van showed up to take our group of eight to the Marriott. The quoted fare was $55, which seemed fair. After we drove for a mile, the driver pulled over to the side of the road. He asked where we were going, and we told him. He asked for the address of the hotel - luckily, I had it with me. Then he started pulling out maps. He told us he wasn't from Miami and had no idea how to get around, and that he was afraid to ask for directions because the dispatchers yelled at him. If we weren't in the middle of nowhere, we would have gotten out at that point. Now we felt like hostages. He examined the maps for almost 20 minutes before finally calling in for directions. What a nightmare! He was equally incompetent once we found the hotel - he couldn't find the entrance and passed it twice. He also had difficulty running the charge through. I definitely do NOT recommend the Super Shuttle!
The Marriott was very nice. We were paying a premium to stay here, and our rooms had a wonderful view of the bay. The Marriott is connected to the DoubleTree via a small mall, and there are a few nice restaurants in the mall. The steakhouse and Chinese restaurants are quite fancy; we ate at the more casual Italian restaurant. The food was wonderful, and the service was fantastic. A great start to the trip!
Embarkation: We woke up the next morning to see the Miami marathon runners crossing the bay bridge, and the cruise ships arriving in port. The Marriott is expensive, but the view is great! After a nice breakfast, we packed. The porters took our luggage to the lobby, and the shuttle driver loaded it in the van. If you book the pre-cruise package you need to reserve a time for the shuttle - the shuttle runs every 45 minutes but has a maximum capacity of 10, and it's first come, first serve. Since we arrived late, we had to choose between the 10:30 shuttle and the 2:30 shuttle. We chose the 10:30 shuttle, since Royal Caribbean usually lets passengers on the ship quite early. The shuttle driver took us to the port, and we arrived by 10:45. A porter took our luggage (tip required) and we were off to the ship. We waited about 30 minutes before they opened the ship for check-in and boarding. We were on the ship by 11:30. In our experience, Royal Caribbean has the best embarkation process - minimal waiting and virtually no lines. What a pleasant contrast to the Disney Cruise, whose embarkation is best described as chaos.
First Impressions/Stateroom: The ship itself is beautiful. Much has been written about the décor, so I won't go into detail here. For families, they will register your children and give them armbands even if they aren't going to participate in the children's programs. This is designed to allow the crew to get the children to the proper muster station if there is an emergency and the children are separated from the parents. I think this is a great idea, and all cruise lines should adopt this policy.
RCCL indicates your stateroom won't be ready until 1:00 p.m., but our rooms have always been ready early, and this time was no different. We had booked room 6200, a family stateroom. In the past, we have booked two adjoining staterooms but the VoS has a number of "family staterooms" that sleep six. These rooms are at the ends of the ship - ours was all the way forward and had two large windows. The room has a king sized bed (can be separated into two fulls), a queen-sized sleeper sofa, and a separate bunk room with bunk beds and a closet. There is also a privacy curtain that can be pulled between the king-sized bed and the rest of the room. I've never seen good pictures of these rooms, so I've uploaded some pictures at the following address: http://www.ibbotsonfamily.com/images/Room/VoSroom.html
We were really pleased with the room. We were concerned that there might be a lot of movement since the room was all the way forward, but this was not the case. In fact, the VoS was the smoothest sailing we have experienced. There was only one negative aspect to the room. For those ports that required the use of the anchors, we learned that the forward anchor mechanisms were below our rooms. The lowering and raising of the anchors was quite loud! For this cruise, two ports required anchoring, and the room was noisy for the 15 minutes or so it took to get the anchors dropped or raised. This was really a trivial issue, though, and we would not hesitate to book the room again. From a value perspective, we definitely prefer the family stateroom to two adjoining oceanview staterooms. Another common tactic used by families, however, is to book one balcony room and one inside room across the hall. The balcony is very nice, so you'd have to weigh the tradeoff of separating the family at night against having a balcony. We really liked having everyone in one room. If you're comparing the VoS with the Disney Cruise, Disney has one big plus in most of their rooms - they call it a "split bath". There are two separate rooms for bathroom facilities. One has the shower and a large sink/makeup area. The other has the toilet and a sink. Our room had a single bathroom, very well layed out but not has convenient as the split bath on the Disney Magic.
Port of Call - Labadee You can see pictures of the ports we visited at: http://www.ibbotsonfamily.com/images/Ports/VoSports.html
Our first port of call was Labadee, Haiti. We have been to three private islands used by the cruise lines - Disney's Castaway Cay, RCCLs Coco Cay, and now RCCLs Labadee. Labadee is the best of the three. Castaway Cay felt too crowded - you really felt like you were shoulder to shoulder with the other guests. Coco Cay was nice, but felt crowded at times. Labadee seems more expansive and feels more remote - perhaps it's the mountains that separate Labadee from the rest of Haiti, and perhaps it's because it's more tropical, since the other islands are in the Bahamas. Whatever it is, we enjoyed Labadee more than the others. It's wise to wear water shoes (aqua socks) because the beach area is coral-based, and the layer beneath the sand can be rough.
Port of Call - Ocho Rios If you haven't been to Jamaica before, prepare yourself - nearly everyone wants a tip, and the vendors are aggressive. It's a good idea at all the ports to have a good supply of dollar bills for tipping - sometimes it's simply easier to give a dollar than deal with the persistence of some locals. In Ocho Rios we signed up for a shore excursion that took us to the Brimmer Plantation, Dunn's River Falls, and Dolphin Cove. The excursion included lunch at Dolphin Cove. We weren't sure how this would be arranged, since these three locations were offered in a variety of combinations and tours. It turns out that people are grouped based on the combination chosen, and only 9 folks from the entire VoS (eight of them in our party!) had chosen this tour combination. We were assigned to a van, with our own tour guide and driver. This tour guide and driver would be taking us to the various sites today, but not giving us the tours at the various sites - each site has its own set of tour guides. The bus ride to the Brimmer Plantation is lengthy but interesting; the van tour guide did a nice job of giving us a glimpse of the tourist side of Ocho Rios as well as the local's perspective. Arriving at the plantation, we were introduced to our plantation guide. The plantation tour is really nice; the plantation tour guide is not shy about asking for a tip about 3/4 way through the tour, and we had no problem tipping him as he was very informative. However, there was another local who rode on the plantation vehicle and did nothing. We did not tip him. After the tour, we headed for the restrooms. Each bathroom had an attendant who expected a tip before exiting. When we exited the bathroom, the local who had simply rode on the tour vehicle was waiting for us and would not leave us alone. Eventually we gave him a dollar; he was not impressed, but left us alone. As I said, some locals are quite aggressive.
Next was Dunn's River Falls. The falls are beautiful, and we climbed the falls using one of the Fall's tour guides. It's an interesting system at Dunn's River Falls; there is the head tour guide, who will take your camera and take pictures making sure your camera won't get wet - this is a valuable service, as there is no way you could carry your own camera on this trip. There is a videographer, who takes a movie of your climb and offers to sell you a copy of the video at the end. And there is a climb leader, who leads the group up the falls. You typically travel in groups of 30 or so. This was the highlight of the day, and seemed more dangerous than I thought. I was glad we did not bring our six year old or my parents on this tour! My wife didn't enjoy it, but the older kids and I had a blast. Once again, the tipping thing gets tense at the end. We had only brought $5 with us, since we wore our swimming suits. I tipped the tour guide, since he had taken pictures with our camera and provided this valuable service. I did not tip the climb leader, and he let me know about his disappointment with my lack of tipping. We did purchase the video (they come out to your tour bus). I was skeptical of how it would turn out, but it ended up being very well done and a nice keepsake. They charged $30 for the video, and I tipped the videographer. One tip for Dunn's River Falls - when you are finished, exit back through the entrance. In the normal exit area, you are routed past a set of very aggressive street vendors. People on the ship complained that they were told the exit was a certain direction, only to find they were led down a street towards more shops. Some complained that the vendors followed them all the way out of the park. One couple indicated that vendors put things in their kids hands and then wanted payment for the items. All said it was a fairly unpleasant experience. Take our advice - exit back through the entrance.
Finally we went to Dolphin Cove. The van driver and tour guide drop us off here and we take the shuttle back to the ship. They were both excellent; we tipped them generously and headed into Dolphin Cove. We were pretty exhausted right now - it was after 2:00 in the afternoon and we hadn't eaten lunch yet. We had a nice buffet lunch overlooking the dolphin area, and watched the end of the dolphin show. We walked down by the beach but we were toured out - we walked back upstairs and took the shuttle back to the ship. My advice regarding Ocho Rios is to make sure you go to Dunn's River Falls. One trip that most on our cruise enjoyed was the catamaran or boat trip to the falls - they avoided the heavy sales tactics since they landed right on the beach below the falls. And don't forget to bring a bunch of $1 bills!
Port of Call - Grand Caymen Grand Cayman is beautiful. On Grand Cayman we chose the Seven Mile Beach Break, which is run out of the Beach Club Colony Hotel (or something like that). The beach is beautiful, but they do pack you in quite tightly on the beach - it was too crowded for our tastes. The facilities are nice, and there are plenty of extra cost activities (waverunners, parasailing, sea kayaks, etc.), but it would be worth it to see if you could find a less crowded area on this beautiful beach. The town looked charming, and the shopping areas looked good as well. We definitely want to head back to Georgetown on a future cruise.
Port of Call - Cozumel We've been to Cozumel before, and we've always enjoyed it. This time we took the excursion to Passion Island. I've read in the past that people were unhappy with the crowds on the Island, but they now appear to be limiting the number allowed. There were only 30 people from the Voyager, and about the same number from the other 3 cruise ships in port. There were only a few over 100 people on the entire island, and there was plenty of room and privacy. The island is beautiful, and the service is outstanding. We were the only family on the island, but it was a great place to bring the kids - they played in the sand and the surf all day and had a great time. The three hours on the island went too fast! Our tour guides were fantastic. Be prepared to tip the chef, the tour guide(s), and the driver. You will also be offered the opportunity to purchase pictures taken of you on the island for $10/picture.
Dining We were impressed that nearly all dinner guests dressed appropriately for formal nights. The dining room in the Voyager is stunning. It is impossible to not be awed at its magnificence. Our wait staff was excellent, as were all the staff on the ship. Our wait staff on the Disney Cruise was the best we've ever had, especially the creative things they did with the kids. Our wait staff on the VoS was just as good, and they also had lots of special things for the kids - riddles, games, and tricks that made each dinner interesting. Our room steward was the best we've ever experienced. You will not be disappointed by the service on the Voyager of the Seas.
The dining room food quality was good, but not excellent. Our server tried very hard to accommodate our every wish, but overall we thought the quality of all dining room food (appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts) was not as good as what we've experienced on other RCCL cruises. We were surprised that the quality of the food on the Disney Magic has been the best we've experienced - it was very good, and better than the VoS.
In contrast, we found the Windjammer / Island Grill buffet to be the best we've ever experienced. The food quality was good and always seemed fresh. There was plenty of seating, and servers walked around with drinks and coffee to serve you at your table. The two rooms have a nice, airy feeling and we only found them crowded one morning. They also had a wonderfully exuberant Asian women greeting you in the morning, and you couldn't help but smile at her energy and warmth.
The other area where the VoS shines is in their promenade food service. Near the forward part of the ship was a café that served pizza, fruit, muffins, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, milk, water, and big cookies 23 hours a day. There was never a wait, and the food was always quite yummy. There is a bar attached the café as well, so it's easy to get a beer with that late night piece of pizza. There are also ice cream machines located in a few places in the ship that provide soft-serve ice cream nearly all day. My favorite was getting two cookies from the café and making an ice cream sandwich with chocolate-vanilla swirl!
Entertainment The shows on the VoS are of varying quality. We've found that you can skip the opening show on every RCCL cruise - it's always a preview of the shows you will see later on the ship. No exception on this cruise - the first night's show was a preview and somewhat disappointing. The Dreamscape show seemed a bit bizarre in the beginning, but ended up being great - the performers are wonderfully talented. The Beatle's cover band Rain performed one night and had the entire theater dancing and clapping - they were great! The Broadway musical review was also very good. We skipped the comedian on the last night, because we've found most comedians tend to not be very family-friendly (the Disney cruise was a notable exception). The ice show is not to be missed - you will be awed at the performance!
Activities This is really where the VoS shines. There is so much to do on the ship, and we tried to do it all. This is one of the reasons my kids enjoyed this ship more than the Disney Magic - there is much more to do on this ship, and it never seems crowded. The kids loved the rock climbing (quite challenging!). We did the in-line skating, ice skating, and mini-golf. They were all a blast. There is always something to do on this ship, either organized or not organized. My wife and I participated in the wine tasting, which was a lot of fun. My parents enjoyed themselves as well. I went with them to a big band dance, and they had a great time. It was fantastic to watch them dance to some of their favorite songs from the 40's.
Debarkation Debarkation was a breeze, some waiting but not too bad. Since we had signed up for a shore tour, we were the first off the ship. If you do sign up for a tour, be sure to check in at the appropriate place on the ship before debarking - they called our luggage tag color before we expected and we had not yet checked in for our excursion. We debarked and found out we were not officially registered for the excursion. Luckily, and RCCL rep came out and registered us at the pier - but it would have been much better if we had simply checked in on-board.
Miami We took the Everglades Safari tour to finish off our trip. The trip was enjoyable, and the kids really enjoyed the airboat ride and seeing a variety of wildlife (especially the alligators.)
Conclusion This is a long review, but I feel like I've only scratched the surface! You can't go wrong with the VoS. It is especially nice for multi-generational groups - the activities are varied and appeal to a variety of ages. The service is great, and you really feel that every crew member wants you to have the best time possible. A great trip for families!
This was our seventh cruise over the past 12 years, starting with Carnival's Fantasy in 1990, followed by RCCL's Song of America in 1992, Sovereign of the Seas in 1993, Legend of the Seas in 1995, and Enchantment of the Seas in 1998. In 2000, we went on Celebrity's Century.
We were traveling with eight other people, for a party of 10, with ages ranging from the early 60s to two children aged seven and three. Madeleine and I flew out of Boston on Delta Airlines via Atlanta. We stayed in downtown Miami at the Hyatt Regency. The location and the hotel itself were excellent. The hotel and the room were spotless and the staff was wonderful. It was about a 12-minute walk from the hotel to Bayside Marketplace, which we visited several times over the three days prior to the cruise.
My wife and I are Platinum members in Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society, which gave us the benefit of a separate processing and boarding area. We were able to board Voyager in about 20 minutes. My wife and I split from the others and stopped for a bite toeat at the cafe located at one end of the Royal Promenade. It was here that we had our first view of one of the things that make this class of ship so exciting: the Royal Promenade. Wow! We then headed to our cabin, 1612, on the port side of Deck 10.
We had never had a cabin with a balcony before and I thought it was time we experienced it. The cabin was by far the most spacious we ever had. My wife was pleased with everything. She was shocked at the amount of storage space, including a walk-in closet. Having read that many people leave the door open to the balcony at night, we tried it too. However, we found that it was much too humid and the further south we cruised, much too warm.
Our cabin steward, Arthur, was from the Philippines. He was ideal; never "in your face" but always there when you needed something. From the first time we met Arthur, which was about 15 minutes after arriving in our cabin, he learned our first names and used them whenever we met. That may not appeal to some, but to us it was an example of his desire to provide personal and memorable service.
Even though this was our seventh cruise, my wife was hesitant to book Voyager of the Seas because of the size of the ship. She feared she would never find her way around this monster. To her delight, she did not get lost once. By remembering that he food options were in the stern and the theater was in the bow, she could orient herself all the time. Also, she could smell the coffee served at the Cafe Promenade and that would provide a trail to follow.
Once on board, we both quickly realized that this ship was immense but very easy to navigate. As many have mentioned, you just don't feel crowded on the ship. The designers provided for the easy flow of the guests throughout the ship and provide many places for small groups of passengers to gather. The only times we encountered crowds were on the Royal Promenade in the evening and after several shows in the "La Scala" theater.
The three-level dining room, in my opinion, equals that of Celebrity's Century in splendor. I missed the Century's view out the stern windows, but the overall layout and design were equal to the Century. Our table was in the lower level, the "Carmen" dining room. It was near a large round window on the starboard side that gave us a nice view of sunset each evening.
Over the 12 years that we have cruised, we have seen an increase in space provided for activities for the younger passengers. Well, this ship has wonderful facilities for the young people along with a wonderful staff that provided the kids with a great variety of activities the whole week. On our sailing, there were more than 500 kids. And as far as we could tell, all of them were well-behaved. The two children in our group did not want to leave the ship at the end of the cruise because of the activities they experienced and the other kids they met through "Adventure Ocean". We would strongly recommend this ship, if you want to bring children on a cruise.
Food and Beverages
We had dinner in the dining room each night, save for one night we went to the Portofino restaurant. The service provided by our waiter, Salim (from Turkey), was efficient and of high quality. This was bolstered by Marie (from the Philippines), the assistant waiter, who was especially good with the young people at the table. The headwaiter, a young lady from Sweden, was very attentive to our needs, again with the children, and assisted Salim and Marie on several occasions. I think the policy of doing away with wine stewards and relying on the assistant waiter to provide the entire beverage service (including wine) may overburden the assistant waiters. Fortunately, the headwaiter was there to help.
My only complaint about the food was that the filet mignon I had early in the cruise that was almost tasteless. It probably sat on a steam table for an hour before reaching me. On Thursday evening, we went to Portofino for dinner. The setting was elegant, the service was superb, and the food was excellent. I tried the filet mignon and this time it was perfection.
We only ate breakfast in the dining room on one occasion and lunch on two occasions. The rest of the time we used the Windjammer or the Island Grill for breakfast and lunch. Madeleine preferred the Island Grill; it was less crowded and you could get individually prepared omelets in the morning, which were very good. One day we visited Johnny Rocket's and had their famous burgers and shakes. With all the dining venues on the ship, you could almost eat each meal in a different place.
In closing, the Cafe Promenade is a great place to replenish if you want some very good pizza, sandwiches, or cookies along with coffee, ice tea, and water. And it was open almost 24/7.
Entertainment and Excursions
In my experience, RCCL has always had good entertainment, but this time we were disappointed. We thought the RCCL Singers and Dancers were excellent, along with the entire cast of "Ice Jammin'", the ice show. But we were disappointed was in the quality of the "outside" entertainers. Of course, personal preference plays a big role in such judgments. To others, they may have been wonderful.
Madeleine does not care for excursions. She enjoys the days in port when most everyone leaves the ship and allows her to have "her pool" to herself. I joined two other members of our group in Ocho Rios for an excursion to Brimmer Hall Plantation and Dunn's River Falls. I thought it was very good trip, especially seeing the restored main home on the plantation.
Madeleine did venture off the ship with me to walk around Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and to the shops at the end of the dock in Cozumel. Both walks were enjoyable.
For everyone, I'm sure the worst part of the cruise is going home. This can be made even worse by a slow disembarkation process. But not on this cruise. Arthur, our cabin steward, asked us about mid-week what our arrangements were on disembarkation day. We told him that we were not in a hurry to leave as we were staying overnight in Miami and flying to Boston on Monday. We had a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer and cleared out of our cabin around 8:30 a.m. We went down to the two-level library to wait for our tag color to be called. We heard the announcement around 9:30, and we were back at the Hyatt by 10:30! That was as smooth and efficient as we have ever experienced.
Madeleine and I both had a wonderful time. We would recommend this ship and itinerary without hesitation. This was made possible by the crew and the beautiful ship we sailed on and the great people in our group. Was it worth it? Absolutely, every penny. Would we do it again? I can be ready in 15 minutes!
Just came off a cruise on voyager, my wife and i couldn't possibly be any more impressed. Everything was just fantastic. The food was great and the entertainment phenomenal. There is almost to much to do! It's hard to do everything you want to do, not enough time. Between the rock climbing wall, golf course and skating rink the choices of entertainment are beyond imagination. Service was top notch, the prominade not to be believed.
The nightly activities, shows, bingo etc. were great. This was our second Royal Carribiean cruise, last year we booked a cruise on NCL cruise lines and were totally disatisfied it had nothing compared to a RCCL cruise which we had taken in 2000 (majesty of the sea), therefore from now on we will be booking with RCCL (besides, the bennies offered to returning cruiser's are worth the loyalty). Anyway just wanted to state the the voyager class ship are well worth the price of the cruise.
p.s. With the program for kids on this ship, like sea adventures and others you hardly know ther are children on board.
Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the seas is a 138,000 tons and 1,020 feet long, traveling with a crew of 1,188. This ship can carry just under 4,000 passengers, so there can be almost 5,000 people on board. You would think with that many people you'd see lots of crowds and lines, but honestly unless there is a parade going on, that just isn't a problem. Voyager entered service in Sept. of 1999 and for almost 5 years old, the ship is in great shape, I actually tried to look for signs of neglect, but I couldn't find anything. In a few months Voyager is scheduled to go into dry dock in Nassau for some work, so I was a little worried that it may look like it needs a touch up, but it really didn't, the ship is very well maintained and kept up.
We had an aft balcony cabin up on deck 10 and I was also worried that we'd be bothered by noise from the above "Island Grill", but never heard anything, so I would definitely do that again, I usually try to have a cabin where guestcabins are above and below, but as long as you aren't above a theatre, show lounge, casino, there was no noise from there. Since we've already cruised on Explorer 2 years before this cruise, we were well knowledgeable about the lay-out of this ship. First thing we try to be able to tell if we are on the port or starboard side, once I can figure that out I'm fine..
Our Captain onboard was Erik Tengelsen and the Cruise Director was Richard Spacey. We found the staff onboard to be both professional and friendly as we've usually encountered on all our Royal Caribbean cruises, this was no exception had a good waiter and a very attentive cabin attendant.
Since this cruise was put together so a few of us "hosts" from Cruisemates could finally meet and cruise together, made this a very special and fun cruise. Most of us got down to Miami by Saturday, (cruise was on Sunday). Even though we were at a few different hotels, we had a pre-cruise party at the Marriott, which was almost right next door to the Radisson where we stayed. I always recommend getting down to the cruise port a day early if at all possible. We had a 6:15AM flight out of ORD and arrived in Miami at 10:00AM, so we had plenty of time to get to the hotel and unwind before dinner and the party... It was so nice to meet our fellow cruisers the night before the cruise, matching faces, etc. We got back to our room around 10:00 and had a good nights sleep before getting onboard. Our hotel was very close to the pier, but unfortunately we didn't get an Ocean view room, so we couldn't actually see the port of Miami, but at least we arrived by cab at the port around 11:00. They soon started a painless embarkation by that time, so within 30 minutes we were onboard and searching for our cabin.
The Windjammer cafe is on deck 11, so just up one flight of stairs for breakfast and lunch. Also the pool deck is on 11 and more deck on 12 with lounge chairs. The sports deck is one more flight up on deck 13 and the Viking crown lounge up one more on 14. The dining rooms are located on decks, 3, 4 and 5. We had a lovely group of tables together by the windows, which I loved...I was able to catch a sunset or two while stuffing my face. We actually had 3 tables of 8 in a corner of the dining room, so it was nice eating with a large group of cruisers, although we had different waiters, so we didn't think it would be wise to change tables nightly and we still ran into people we knew throughout the cruise, which makes it so much more fun and enjoyable.
The beauty salon is found on deck 12 along with the teen club, and the ship shape center is huge and on deck 11. I did stop in and took a look around, I was amazed at how many people actually do take part in working out, along with the morning joggers on deck 11. You will find all the shop onboard on deck 5. Its always a gas to walk along the Royal Promenade, which they have a few parades during the week, something to see at least once. The La Scala Theater is on deck 3 and 4 and I don't think there is a bad seat in the house, we preferred the higher level on deck 4 and always had a great view. You will also find Casino Royale on this deck. The disco named the "vault" is on deck 3....had a peek inside there during the day and it looked very high tech kind of place, bet the music sounded great.
What a surprise to see that cabin, our cabin #1388 was on deck 10, but a corner aft balcony cabin, so the actually size of the cabin was larger than the normal, plus a very large balcony too! We also got an added feature, a support pole at the foot of the bed. I was worried I'd bang into it in the middle of the night, but there was enough light coming through under the door to outline it, so that was good. We actually had a few feet of just floor space in the middle of the cabin, it was wonderful, the largest cabin I've ever had. One problem with these cabins, sometimes you have a long walk to get to a staircase or elevator, which we found on Radiance, but was not the case on Voyager, it was a walk, but we didn't have to walk from stern to middle, another nice plus on this ship.
We had a full size sofa/sleeper along with a chair and table. Since there are only 2 cabins like this on Voyager, the lay-out is a bit different than the normal size cabin in this category. The closet was next to the desk across from the normal sized bathroom, just with shower, no tub.. We both noticed the water pressure was wonderful, not the norm from some previous cruises, so that was a huge plus, and of course the glass shower door. I did notice that in the past they would leave travel size packets of lotion, those seem to have gone to the wayside, just glad I bring some any way. We had the TV and fridge as usual and plenty of drawer space, we even had two extra tables next to the couch on both sides with more drawers, so we were able to totally unpack everything. If I ever have the chance again to get one of these cabins, I certainly will. When we first booked this cruise about a year in advance I had a different cabin, someone else already had this one, and for some reason they changed cabins and were nice enough to let me know, so I grabbed it, thanks a bunch Vacation Queen!
This area was also just to my liking, top notch all the way, from food service in the dining room to our cabin attendant. Rarely had to ask for anything, and when I did, it was taken care of right away. We did have one drawback with this cruise, which had nothing to do with the cruise line, but George ended up having a scooter accident in Grand Cayman and at the time, we were not sure if we'd be staying there or he could get back onboard before our sail away at 4:00...I came back onboard and notified quest relations who in turn got me in touch with the medical facility and they totally took over and contacted the hospital in Grand Cayman and the port authority and kept me informed as to what was happening...I was happy to finally get the call that the ship would wait a little until he got to the last tender to get onboard. In the meantime, so cruisemates helped me pack in, (I swear) less than 2 minutes in case I would be getting off, so a HUGE thanks to Cher, Mark, Lynn and Ray, don't know what I would of done without you....turned out we were able to stay and finish the cruise, so I had to re-un-pack, UGH! The entire time the people that were working with me to figure out what would/could happen were wonderful, I really didn't know what exactly to do. We also had the opportunity to check out the medical facility on deck 1. Its like a mini hospital, they can do all kinds of test, x-rays and the staff there were very helpful and understanding, not what we found on the island.. All in all it turned out fine, we were not able to do all the excursions we had planned on, but still got off at all the ports and had a look around, guess its a good excuse to stop there again in the future. At this point George is doing much better, should be able to go back to work, but be careful as to what he does.
We did miss a few nightly shows, but did attend a few, most were good, some were just not to our liking, but nothing wrong with the entertainers, all the singers/dancers were wonderful, very professional and entertaining. The show NOT to miss is the ice show they have in Studio B, deck 3. Great show, although they did a competition in the middle of the show, which we didn't care for, but other than that, the show is unbelievable considering the small area they have to work in. They also hold the adult game show "The Quest" in Studio B as well, towards the end of the cruise. If you want a good laugh, don't miss this either. I still think this is one of Royal Caribbean's strong points, their entertainment, very well put together shows.
PORTS OF CALL:
This was the 5th week of Voyager's exotic Western itinerary and the first day is a sea day, so that's a great way to start a cruise, relaxed and went to the pool deck with most of the passengers. I will say, finding a lounge chair was not a major problem like it has been in the past. I think their deck space around and above the pools is better to equip all the sun worshipers like myself...unlike Radiance, by 10AM on a given sea day, its close to impossible to find a chair, forget about 2 together, this was NOT a problem on Voyager.
Our first port was Grand Cayman. We had been there on a previous land vacation years ago, so things still looks about the same here, had to tender, simply walked down and got on a tender, no long lines or waiting, I was amazed! WE had decided to meet on shore and go rent scooters... We did take off and stop in "HELL", pretty much like I remembered it, then we had a longer journey out to Rum Point...That also looked just as pretty as I remembered it...we actually made it there with no mishap. It did take quite awhile to get up there, so we almost had to turn around and head back after getting some sodas... We made it back to about the 10 mile mark, when George lost control, had trouble all day with the steering and tumbled off, so that was the end to our visit here....did make it back onboard, order room service and took it easy..
Our next port was another new one for me, Costa Maya... They had a huge dock there and a trolley running up and down to carry people, nice touch. Had the normal touristy shops at the pier, beach and a big bar and pool. This day was terribly humid and muggy, you were soaked by the time you got to the end of the pier, so all we did that day was walk around and see what they were selling, the usual t-shirts, paintings, etc. I later came back out with my camera and walked a few miles along the beach. We were supposed to go on a ship excursion here to a beautiful beach...I had talked to another passenger that did do it and was very pleased with the beach, Uvero was the name of it. Next time I hope to make it there.
We hadn't been in Cozumel in at least 10 years and were quite supervised at how much it had changed.. Almost major shopping there now, along with a Hard Rock Cafe, Senior Froggs and Carlos and Charlies all very close to on another. Later we were talking up on the pool deck and saw quite a few passengers come back from being onshore, and you pretty much knew where they had been.. We were able to find an internet cafe, price was very reasonable, $1.00 for every 15 minutes, can't beat that, so I was able to check in with the kids at home and say a brief "hi" on the Cruisemates message boards. Cartons of cigarettes were $19 here and we found some other souvenirs to bring home. We had hoped to go to Chankanaab or Paradise park and check out the beaches, but George just wasn't up to it yet, Ok, save that for the next time...
Our last stop was Belize and I've heard so much about this new port, I was really interested to check it out.. It is a long tender ride, at least 20 minutes, especially if you get a big tender boat, but much shorter with a smaller/quicker one. Once you get to the pier, they have a an area where you can purchase different kinds of foods, and drinks as well. Quite a few shops, much more than I thought they'd have, bought a t-shirt and an ashtray, reasonably priced. As you first immerge from the tender, there are various tour guides trying to get you to go with them, we thought it was a little bit much and talking to people that did some of these private tours, they all said they were well worth the money and everyone made it back onboard on time. Everyone that did the cave tubing loved it, we were also going to go do that, but that didn't happen, guess we can do that too next time.
Our last day was another "sea" day, so both sea days were nicely placed at the start and end of the cruise. Unfortunately this day was chilly/cloudy so it was too cold to be lazy at the pool, but that's where a nice balcony comes in handy. I caught up on some reading and got the packing process in gear.. WE also had another cocktail party, we unfortunately missed the first one on the second day, so we really enjoyed meeting up again with all our cruisemates. This particular group was an awesome group to cruise with, some new people for us and others that I've wanted to cruise with for years, everyone enjoyed it and one another, I'd love to meet up with everyone again for a future cruise, how about it gang??
Mike and RoboCop....weve always talked about cruising together, well we can say "we did it" and I'd do it again in a second! ML and I always want to cruise together and I love seeing Cher and Mark, Mark the funny Man! Next time, we can hopefully eat together too! We had great tablemate's, Skip and Robin and Don and Jennifer, hope you all join us again for another great cruise! Had the pleasure of meeting Boo and VQ and their gang, didn't see them too often, but could catch Boo's head occasionally when on our balconies, we too had a lot of us in the aft balcony cabins. It was also great meeting Sylvia and Betty, whom I've heard so much about, I'd love to cruise again with you guys too....hopefully sometime next year, got my fingers crossed.
Lastly the disembarkation, another sup rise when cruising with Royal Caribbean out of Miami. We had a 1:15 flight home out of Miami and according to our color luggage tags, we should of been called off the ship between 7:00 and 8:00AM...Sure enough we were off the ship before 8:00AM, picked up our luggage easily. They call your color as your luggage gets put on the belts, just like at the airport, so you don't have to look through a hangar to find your luggage, very simple and time effective. We then got a porter who took our luggage and us through Customs, had my paper and passports ready and it was a quick procedure. Since we were flying American Airlines, they now have a check-in right at the pier, so we got our boarding pass's and checked in our luggage and that was it. They even have the x-ray machines for the luggage right there at the pier, so that was a nice plus, hope to see more airlines get back to that. At that time, I also had the ticket agent see if she could get us on an earlier flight, we could of easily made a 10AM flight, we were at the airport at 8:30 and had to wait hours yet..but only could go stand-by, so we decided to just keep what we had and wait it out. At least security was quick to get through, we got something to eat and could still go out and get back in a small amount of time.
Its just amazing how a week of cruising can go by in the wink of an eye, but then I still have some wonderful memories, hopefully lots more in the future. A special thanks To Y2C (Steve) who made this cruise actually happen, was also a treat to meet his lovely wife Barb....Thanks Steve!
This was the Chat Rats cruise. A large number of Cruisemates readers and friends got together to sail and meet each other. It was one of the most enjoyable cruises I have taken because of these people. It was great seeing old friends again, meeting old friends for the first time and meeting new friends. We had booked this cruise over a year before. This was the farthest out we had ever booked a cruise. I also give my thanks to Steve Surges for putting things together and arranging for some great amenities and parties for all of us to get together. The parties and amenities were a great addition to the cruise.
Pre-cruise: We booked the Hyatt Regency Downtown Miami via Priceline for our one night pre-cruise stay and were more than happy with the accommodations. We were given a corner room with two balconies. One was overlooking the river and downtown and the other looking north. The room was very spacious with all the amenities you expect from a 4 star hotel.
We had a pre-cruise bash at the Marriott Biscayne Bay. It was organized by Cher (Cruisenut1) and shedid a wonderful job setting it up. We all had our name tags on and even though it makes you look like you are at a convention it sure helps people like me who has a hard time remembering names.
Embarkation: This was by far the fastest embarkation I have ever had on a cruise ship. We got to the pier early, around 11:00 AM. We spoke with a couple from Seattle who had disembarked earlier and were waiting for their transportation. There was no line outside the entrance and I thought it would be an hour before they would even start checking people in. We went inside at about 11:10 AM and showed our ID to the security person. As we were showing our ID, I heard over her radio that embarkation was beginning. We went up the escalator, walked right up to the Deck 10 check-in, showed our ID and within two minutes we had our SeaPass cards in our hands. We then proceeded to the embarkation line. There we waited about 5 minutes before the doors opened and we started boarding. We bypassed the embarkation photo and proceeded on the ship. We entered the ship on Deck 4 and headed aft through the casino towards the aft atrium elevators. We easily found our aft balcony cabin. The time from the time we arrived at the pier until we were in our room was less than 20 minutes. Our pre-ordered champagne and Asti were there along with a surprise gift of another bottle of champagne. It was a nice surprise.
The Cabin: We had booked a Cat C aft balcony cabin, 1694. The cabin itself was very large and well laid out. It had more than enough storage space for a 21 day cruise. There was a small but functional walk-in closet and plenty of cupboard and drawer space. Now for the part that was a negative for me, the balcony. Remember, what I may consider a negative may well be a positive to others. The balcony was very large with 3 chaise lounges, 2 chairs and a 36" round table that was very wobbly. However the biggest negative was that the balcony reminded me of a "pole barn". It was completely covered with a steel bulkhead on one side and Plexiglas partition on the other side. We had friends next door and were hoping to open the partition and found out that it could not be opened. I even tried to remove one of the Plexiglas partitions but when the glass started coming loose I gave up and tightened it back up. "I don't advise trying this." During the majority of the cruise there was no sun on the balcony and worst of all for me, no breeze. The final two days there was a bit of a breeze but still not what I like on a balcony. I like to smell the ocean and feel the wind.
Our cabin steward was nowhere to be found for most of the first day and we were without a Compass newsletter, soaps, any of the suite amenities such as; lotion, shampoo, q-tips, etc. I finally saw him before dinner that evening and told him that we were missing a number of things. He then gave me a Compass and when we returned from dinner we had all the things that we should have had, including the robes. One other thing that was a negative was when my wife tried to put one of our bottles of champagne in the refrigerator. She was appalled at how dirty it was. She set forth cleaning it and removing what looked like month of grunge. That was not a good thing.
Cabin attendant: Other than the problem on the first day he did his job but was rarely seen. He did provide towel animals on most evenings and kept the cabin neat and clean.
The Ship: This was our first time on a Mega-Ship and I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive. Overall I would say I liked the ship but I didn't fall in love with it. The ship itself was in good order, especially since it is scheduled for dry dock in a month or so. I personally found that once you were "inside" the ship you felt more like you were in a Hilton and not on a ship. It was hard to see the outside and other than the dining room you rarely saw the water. It was very well laid out and I never found myself wondering "Where the heck am I".
On the positive side: In my opinion this would be the perfect ship for families, especially with children from 5 to 15. The Adventure Ocean area for kids was about the nicest I have ever seen onboard any ship. The video arcade had a large number and variety of games including foosball and air hockey. There was also a miniature rock climbing wall for the young kids. Ping pong, miniature golf and the giant rock climbing wall were also available for those who wanted to give them a try.
There is a large amount of deck space and finding a place to lay in the sun or shade was rarely a problem. The adult pool was one of our favorites. The nude male statues seemed to be a favorite for a number of ladies in our group. <VBG> I did see rampant deck chair saving with towels and books put out early in the morning. I had to move a few of them that had been setting for well over an hour to get a place in the sun. We were sunning on the deck more on this cruise because of our "pole barn" balcony.
The casino was actually fairly small for the size of the ship but I can see why. There were very few nights that it was full and only on two nights did they open up the extra gaming tables to accommodate players. My luck started out well in the casino then took a turn for the worse but ended up almost even. So I have nothing to complain about. The dealers were friendly and most players were fun to share a table with.
The dining room was spectacular. It is divided into three levels with a center atrium. The three levels are set up as separate dining rooms. The Carmen dining room is on the lowest level. La Boehm is the second level and the Magic Flute is the third level. We were in the Magic Flute restaurant and had a nice table by the window. We had early seating so it was still light for most of the dinner and the view of the ocean could always be seen.
The theater is the La Scalla. It is set up very well with a few poles that obscure views but overall it had excellent acoustics and sight lines. It did seem that they didn't turn the air conditioning on until the performance started so the first 10 or 15 minutes were a bit warm.
I did not visit many of the bars or lounges so I can't really comment on them other than that they seem well laid out. There was a jazz band in one. (Sorry I can't remember which one) but they were overly loud for the size of the venue. They were good but I finished my drink and called it a night.
The Promenade: This is a unique area on Voyager class ships. It is designed to look like a main street with shops, bars and restaurant along it. The shops carry the standard cruise ship fare, watches, and sundries, gold by the inch, jewelry, liquor and clothing. The Captains welcome party was also held there and the Captain and cruise director stood on a bridge connecting the port and starboard sides of the promenade to address the passengers. This made things quite crowded and we left quite quickly because of the crowded conditions.
The Restaurants: As I said we had the Magic Flute restaurant on the third level. Our waiter Selcyuk was ok but was very nervous and looked like he really could have used a valium. He made his nightly recommendations for what was on the menu and they corresponded each time to what was marked as the "chef's recommendation" on the menu itself. He seemed to get overly frustrated when anything was a bit out of the ordinary. I don't think he liked it when I was talking to someone at another table when he brought my appetizer or entrée. It seemed like he needed to have the "presentation" part to make things right for him. One thing that really bothered me was wine service. I had pre-ordered two bottles of wine and each time I asked about it, I was told, "It would be there the next night." Not an acceptable answer. I finally went to our Head Waiter, Ashton who took care of it immediately.
Our Assistant Waiter, Vadim was excellent. However, he had too many people to cover. He was being shared by two other waiters. I found his service excellent and he was easy to talk with and was quick with a joke and a smile. I found his service very good but a couple of people thought he could have done better with keeping water and iced tea glasses full.
Our Head Waiter, Ashton was excellent. As I stated he handled the wine issue well. He also helped with any issues we had. What I liked was that I saw him filling water glasses, passing out extra lobster tails and helping the assistant waiter when he wasn't able to pull an empty plate off quickly. Ashton earned his tip.
The food: I found most things to be good but not too many things were "excellent". That would not have been evident with amount I consumed. I did find the desserts to be deliciously sinful.
The Buffet: I found the buffet to be well laid out and the service to be excellent, from the person giving you your plate and utensils to the staff bringing extra coffee, juice and iced tea. I also enjoyed some of the senior wait staff stopping by and chatting for a short time. The food was good but not great. I did enjoy the Tira Misu. The made to order omelet station was our standard on the mornings we visited the buffet. Otherwise I found most of the food to be luke warm and not really memorable.
Room Service: The room service breakfast was VERY good. You could order a full made to order breakfast. We did this on two mornings and on each morning everything was delivered promptly, accurately and hot things hot and cold things cold. It was very nice.
24 hour dining: The Promenade café is the 24 hour dining venue. It is not 24 hour. I awoke early on two mornings, each time around 4:30 AM. On both occasions every thing was shut down for cleaning. Not even a cup of coffee was to be had. One of the staff said that they usually did this each day between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM. So if you are an early riser your only alternative is waking up your spouse or cabin mate and ordering room service.
Portofino's: We dined there on one evening. The food was quite good especially the fettuccini e funghi. The service was good but nothing better than I would expect at a regular dinner seating. I was actually very disappointed in the Tira Misu. It was overly sweet with no coffee liqueur flavor or lady fingers. It was more like a chocolate and whipped cream pudding. I guess I have been spoiled by the Olympic Restaurant aboard the Millennium. Since then no other specialty restaurant has come close.
The Shows: I am not a show guy. However I did attend 2 of the shows in the La Scalla theatre. One was Finis Henderson, an impressionist singer. I went in with an attitude that I was in for an underwhelming experience. I was dead wrong. He put on a fantastic show. He may not have hit a home run with each song and impression but he sure as heck got on base. He ended his show with Bruce Greenwood's "Proud to Be an American" and it hit home with the audience. I will admit that it may have seemed to be a bit cliché to do this but he pulled it off well.
The second show we attended was Duality and comic, Carl Strong. Duality is a duo who does some fantastic gymnastic ballet that is much in the venue of Cirque de Solei. Carl was somewhat funny but resorted to flatulence humor and while it gets laughs it is the easy laugh for a comic.
The best of all: The Ice Show is fantastic. It was the best show I have ever seen on a cruise ship. It is amazing how well the skaters do on such a short rink. The only negative thing I can say about the show was that the last part was "competition" between couples, women and men with selected members of the audience as judges. It was good but it was not as good as the first part where they did the group routines and special effects.
The Ports: We left the ship in Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Belize. In Cozumel we got off only to wander the streets looking for a greeting card. Do you know how hard it is to find a greeting card in the tourist section of town?  It had been a couple of years since we had docked in the downtown area of Cozumel and I was somewhat disappointed. The new pier area now looks very similar to the Carnival pier on the south end of the island. I find both of them to be basically another mall that you would find in Anytown, USA. The feeling of Cozumel is now gone unless you walk a number of blocks and get away from the main tourist areas. We did this in search of the greeting card and my wife ended up getting a manicure and pedicure for $10 and they did a pretty good job.
Costa Maya: Once again the pier area of Costa Maya is another mall. You can take a taxi into Majuhal and get a bit of local flavor but it is still the high pressure selling. I did find a couple of really nasty folks at the pier when I tried to get my own taxi and not use the "preferred" service and also when I tipped the "wrong" person at a bar in Majuhal. I responded back and the conversation ended. I can be quite nasty when someone treats me with disrespect. We did buy a couple of necklaces and I bought a silver money clip in Majuhal and was happy with both.
Belize: In Belize we went on a snorkel excursion that had been set up by one of our party who was kind enough to let my wife and I tag along. It was a nice excursion in which we swam with stingrays in one area and then did a deep water snorkel a few miles away. Regretfully, my snorkeling days are now over. A medical problem I have made it impossible for me to do the deep water snorkel. My wife said that a large number of fish were seen and it was quite a good experience. We then were taken to Caulker Cay for a good lunch and to do a bit of shopping in a non commercial area. We were then taken back to the pier where we took the tender back to the ship. It can be a long tender ride back to the ship but if the port tenders are used they cruise at about 30 knots and make the trip in a short time. I think it would be much longer using a ships tender.
Conclusion: The people that my wife and I cruised with are what made this cruise so great. I wish it could have been twice as long. As always, you feel you didn't get enough time with everyone. It looks like we all had so much fun that we are going to be doing it again next year. We don't know what ship and where but we will soon figure it out.
I don't think I will book another Mega-ship unless the itinerary or people are of special interest to me. However I would strongly consider it for family cruising. Otherwise there was nothing that I really disliked, other than the "Pole Barn" but there was nothing other than the ice show that really stands out in my mind. I think I will stick to the smaller ships from now on. One last thing, the Navigator and Adventure of the Seas ships no longer have the balconies built into the hulls so that could eliminate the "Pole Barn" effect.
I have pictures posted in the Cruisemates Cruise Photo Gallery at: http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=1753
If you have any questions please feel free to email me at: email@example.com
First cruise with Royal Caribbean. Previous cruises with Carnival. Arrived at the Port of Miami from Alamo Rent-A-Car's depot near Miami International Airport. Free shuttle to port. Arrived at port around 2:00 p.m. A bit of a line to check passports and ID. Then had to fill out SARS screening questionnaire. As we passed through Pearson Airport in Toronto to get to the ship, we and our party were separated from the larger group. Waited about 45 minutes for the nurse, with other Canadians and people who indicated on the form that they traveled through Toronto. When the nurse did arrive, no orderly method was used. A line formed, but not organized. (e.g. those who waited 45 minutes were at the back, those who just arrived were in the front of the line). Nurse took temperature of each individual prior to checking in and informed us that we would have to have our temperature taken each day of the cruise. Only saving grace was that we were able to get on a "priority"line for registration after the SARS screening. Got our Sea Pass and headed toward the ship. Long line forthe entrance picture. Finally boarded at 3:45 p.m.
We had an interior "M" cabin on deck 9. Enjoyed the location of this cabin as it was aft, near the Windjammer Café and dining rooms. Size was adequate and had enough storage space with the drawers for small items and larger shelves in the closet for larger items. Enough hangers and area for shoes. The TV was well located. Enjoyed a small love seat, however, the small coffee table seemed to get in the way in the middle of the room; put it to one side. Handy safe. Table with chair was good as was the hair dryer located in one of the drawers of the table. Thermostat worked well. Washroom was large enough for one person to get ready. Shower was very good, adjustable and temperature was well regulated, however, the shower would be small for some people.
Our party of six was placed at a table of eight next to a window in the Carmen dining room. An excellent table which we shared with a retired couple from Florida. It was a great opportunity to share stories and life experiences. We were waited on by Belmiro from Portugal and Joseph from the Philippines. Both servers were excellent! Food was top notch!
Attended the one Midnight Buffet in the Dining Room. Very fancy display of food, ice sculptures, and creative carvings.
Ate most breakfasts on deck 11 at the Windjammer Café or the Island Grill. Took the advice from other cruisers and noticed the Island Grill is usually less crowded than the Windjammer Café and both serve mainly the same food. (However, grab your omelettes from the Windjammer en route to the Island Grill). The Island Grill has a beautiful view from the aft. However, the earlier you are the better seat you get. Most days we were eating breakfast by 8:15 a.m. On the day we docked in Cozumel, we ate after 9:00 a.m. and it was crowded; had to search for a table. Food was hot and usual breakfast fare (eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage) and had low-fat items such as cereals, fruit, yogurt etc. The quality of the food was good. Tea, coffee, and juice were plentiful, and there were many times that waiters were on hand to bring you these drinks.
Ate at Johnny Rocket's on the last day at sea. Waited only 10 minutes for a table. Good burgers and great milk shakes. (Only milk shakes, malts or floats are extra cost).
On the Wednesday evening, after leaving Jamaica, we attended the Caribbean outdoor buffet and dance around midnight. There was an abundance of food, frozen drinks in pineapple shells, ice sculptures, dancing with a band, etc. Lots of late night fun.
While the kids went to Johnny Rocket's for dinner with "Adventure Ocean" the four adults took in Portofino's. Beautiful dining room. We were seated by the window. High end fare and a filling meal. Enjoyed an appetizer, soup, salad, main course, dessert and coffee, followed by chocolate dipped strawberries. Received excellent service over the two hours we spent in Portofino's. Do recommend it once during your trip.
Cruise Director Ken Rush was a high-energy entertainer who enhanced the entertainment value of the cruise. Attended the welcome aboard show in La Scala Theatre and another show for parents in Studio B, where we received a preview of the Ice Show to come later in the week. We viewed the "Welcome Aboard" Parade through the middle of the Royal Promenade. It was a well done spectacle. Music played all related to the sea ("Sail Away" by Enya, "In the Navy" by Village People, etc.). Saw "Rhythm and Rhymes" which was good, with various songs from Broadway plays. Took in the Ice Show in Studio B. Very good show with great costumes and special effects that will dazzle! Attended the final show "Dreamscape". A good show; very "artsy" in nature. Highlight of this show is the "in the air theatrics". The cruise director holds a late-night game show at the end of the cruise called "The Quest"; was very funny but crowded as it takes place in Studio B. Arrive early if you wish to get a seat. Attended farewell show La Scala Theatre. Very good Russian pair of acrobats.
The is THE place to be on the ship. We found ourselves at least once per day at the Café Promenade. The Café is open from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. (with only a couple other closing times around dinner hours). The Café serves Pizza (different varieties), sandwiches and desserts (cakes and cookies) which do not cost extra. Ice Water, Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Milk are available self-serve at the Café. The only time we saw a large crowd here is on the first day when people are getting oriented to the ship. Otherwise, there was rarely a line.
The Royal Promenade features the stores for logo items, liquor, perfumes, etc. They also had costume jewelry for sale here (gold by the inch, cat's eye jewelry by the inch, etc.) which were reasonably priced. You will also find the Pig and Whistle Pub, which was well attended. On the last day at sea, we saw the "Krooze Komics", who did a performance in the middle of the Royal Promenade. A very professional, entertaining group.
What can I say?! Took in the walking track, in-line skating rink, ice-skating rink, mini-golf, and basketball. The men did the rock climbing wall and one of our party played water volley ball. Each time you participate in an activity that qualifies, you earn a "Ship-Shape Dollar". At the end of the cruise you redeem these dollars for merchandise. For example, for $1 you receive a key chain, $5 a hat, $14 a T-shirt, etc. We went ice skating as they have open skating on both sea days. Open skating is at 45 minute intervals, usually characterized by different music styles for each 45 minute span. All the above activities are at no additional cost, however, you have to sign a detailed waiver form to in-line skate, ice skate or to rock climb. (Royal Caribbean's lawyers at work) Staff were great especially Karl and Megan. They encouraged those who were less sports minded to participate and have fun doing it.
Tendered to Labadee. Very hot that day - around 95 degrees F and humid. We rented a floating mat from our TV in our room the day before. There were still many to be had. We parked ourselves at "Barefoot Beach", the next beach over from the pier. Very nice beach. Had lunch at Dragon's Point café. Buffet lunch with ribs (both pork and beef), hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, salads and desserts. Cranberry drink, iced tea and water available at no charge. Very nice set up; not crowded and very clean. Visited the two markets. The Artisan's market was nicer and airy. The Haitian Flea Market was crowded with pushy salespeople. Had to wait to tender back as only two of the three tenders working. (The tenders are named the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria)
Ocho Rios, Jamaica:
We thank all those other cruisers who had recommended Peat Taylor. Booked Peat via the Internet the week before our trip. We saw a guide holding a "Peat Taylor" sign, by the exit to the parking lot. An air conditioned bus awaited us. Peat first took us to Dunn's River Falls and arranged a meeting time. Have been here on two other occasions before. Used a locker for our things. Started at the Beach and worked our way to the top. Had a very good guide. It poured rain half way through our climb, but we didn't care as we were soaked as it was. We took the advice of other cruisers and walked out the same way we came in, therefore avoiding the crafter's marketplace. A security guard tried to guide us to the marketplace, however, we just kept walking toward the exit. Peat then took us for a behind the scenes tour of Ocho Rios, including Fern Gully. We were dropped off at the pier for lunch and met him later for shopping. Visited Soni Plaza. Soni Plaza has some good shops, but the street outside is in a very poor area. We were asked for money by a disabled man and a woman tried to stop us to braid the 11 year old's hair. Just kept walking. Peat then took some of our group to the Taj Mahal shopping Centre. Our friends jumped off, we continued to the ship. Peat's charge is $30 U.S. per adult, $20 U.S. per child, which includes Dunn's River Falls admission. Peat gave us hints along the way to avoid scams and rip-offs and stopped occasionally to point out various foliage, plants and animals along the way. He was a true gentleman and gets a very high rating from our group. He allowed the 9 year old boy from our party to ride up front as his "co-pilot". He enjoyed the special attention immensely. Would highly recommend Peat! Peat's web site is www.geocities.com/peattaylor and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgetown, Grand Cayman:
Tendered out to the pier. Passed the Carnival Conquest, Rhapsody of the Seas, and Carnival's Paradise. Another thanks to the cruisers who recommended private Stingray City tours. We went with Captain Bryan due to our scheduling. We walked 4 blocks from the pier to Captain Bryan's office. They took us via mini-van to the pier for the trip on the catamaran. It was such a relaxing journey to the reef and the Sandbar. There were 16 passengers and two crew on the catamaran, of which 6 passengers were of our party. We passed many boats crammed full with tourists and were glad for all the room we had on board. We visited a coral reef first, while our guide fed a Moray Eel. We did some snorkeling, and then headed for the Stingray City Sandbar. We did this excursion once before, but this was the first time for the 11 and 9 year olds. The stingrays were as gentle as ever and we fed them some squid this time. Had a relaxing time back to the pier. We asked to be let off the mini-van to access Seven mile beach around the Beach Colony Hotel. Used the public entrance to the beach. Beach was beautiful, however, it began to rain (again, who cares when on a beach). It brightened up in no time and got a taxi back to the pier ($3 U.S. per person) from the Beach Colony. Visited the Grand Cayman post office to mail some cards and pick up some unusual stamps. Purchased some Tortuga Rum Cake and back to the tender. The temperature was about 85 degrees F (30 degrees C). Again, Captain Bryan's service was great. The cost was $32 U.S. per adult, $28 U.S. per child. Captain Bryan's website is www.cayman.org/captainbryan and he can be reached at email@example.com . Would highly recommend their service.
Docked around 10:00 a.m. We docked across from the Rhapsody of the Seas. The Carnival Conquest and Grand Princess were at the other pier. Took mini-van cab to Chankanaab Park. Cab ride was $12 U.S. for the six of us, plus $10 U.S. admission, per person. Snorkeled. Saw multiple fish and interesting coral reefs. Walked through the tropical rainforest and viewed the lagoon. Took a cab back to the ship for lunch. Later, took a cab to downtown San Miguel to go shopping. The 11 year old girl got her hair braided ($15 U.S. for a half-head braid, much cheaper than other ports including Labadee. Labadee wanted $60 U.S. for whole head to be done.) Got back to the ship in time for dinner. Military presence was a higher level than one year before.
While back on the ship......
While enjoying breakfast in the dining room on our last day at sea, the waiter asked us if we saw the dolphins that were chasing the ship. We missed them by ½ hour as they were out at 7:30 a.m. We saw others later that day, at 3:30 p.m. from the top deck, however, they were less interested as the ship slowed considerably. We only managed to see them in the distance, playing in the wake. We also saw some Marlin jumping out of the water.
Went to the casino on a couple of occasions. Staff here were friendly and patient with beginners at the tables.
Tips & Extras
-The "Roman Bath", adult only swimming pool was usually not crowded and had cloth covered lounges. A nice touch. -On the last sea day, around 5:00 p.m., a masseur set up his chair in the Royal Promenade, across from Sprinkles Ice Cream. Received a 30 minute massage for $30 U.S. (rate of $1 per minute). Much greater value than found in the Spa itself. -As the Voyager Class ships do not have a coin laundry, they do have laundry and dry cleaning service at a cost per garment. Needed to have one pair of pants washed. Very convenient and excellent service. -Attended an interdenominational Christian Service on the last day at sea (Saturday) at 9:30 a.m., located in the Chapel, led by Julie, a staff member. Very nice touch. There is also a Jewish Sabbath Service on Friday evenings, however, at least 12 participants are needed to hold this service. (There was a sign up book at the Guest Relations desk to register for this service). -View the Peek-a-boo Bridge, at the bow on Deck 11. You can look down on the officers driving the ship and all the computer guided instruments. -Thoroughly enjoyed the video of the making of the Voyager of the Seas, which ran continuously on one of the TV stations.
Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival
Both lines cater to a similar market - young, energetic, fun with both having excellent food. Small differences between the two lines:
-Royal Caribbean has a very upscale design (e.g. display cases with art work in halls), Carnival's older ships are more Las Vegas (neon, bright colours) however, newer Carnival ships (e.g. Carnival Victory) are more subdued, and upscale in decor. -Royal Caribbean and Carnival are very similar in the dining room. Royal Caribbean has some more exotic dishes than Carnival, although the portion sizes of Carnival are larger (but who cares, when you can order seconds). Salads are better on Carnival. -Royal Caribbean does not charge for desserts in the Café Promenade, Carnival charges for specialty desserts outside of the dining room, however, Royal Caribbean charges for a Cappuccino in the dining room, Carnival doesn't. -Entertainment very similar between the two lines. -Royal Caribbean Voyager Class has much more in the way of sports. -Carnival seemed to have more Pool Games and Musical entertainment pool side. -Royal Caribbean seems to "soft sell" their tours and shopping recommendations. Carnival very frequently, had P.A. announcements about the above, which was more "hard sell".
There was a fairly long, slow line to disembark once your colour was called. You then joined another line to wait for U.S. Customs. Afterward, it was quick and very organized. Royal Caribbean uses a carousel, like in the airports, rather than placing your luggage in a warehouse (sectioned by colour) as we were used to with Carnival.
Voyager of the Seas was a very large, beautiful ship with lots of activities and entertainment, in addition to great food and excellent service. Would highly recommend this ship to anyone who wants a fun and active cruise. Both the kids and adults loved this ship!
The ship is amazing. Our cabin was a D6 (balcony), which was very nice. It was similar to a balcony suite on a Silversea cruise we took, but without the huge walk-in closet and huge marble bath with a soaking tub. But I did like the way the shower in our cabin on Voyager had a rounded door instead of a shower curtain. I would have preferred to be on Deck 7 or higher, because the balcony has glass instead of metal. The location of our cabin (6678) was nice because it was on the aft part of the ship, close to everything -- dining rooms, front desk, the elevators up to the Viking Crown, Windjammer, etc.
This was the part of our trip that totally exceeded my expectations. We took a Silversea cruise in May, and they are known for their exceptional service and staff/passenger ratio of almost 1 to 1. Of course, it is a much more expensive line than RCI, and you expect that from what you pay. I can honestly say that on Voyager, the service was very close to that we received onSilversea. And it was consistent, from the time we sat down for our first drink to our last breakfast. Every staff member we came in contact with -- Virgilio in the Champagne Bar, the Scoreboard bartender, the casino bartender, the pool bartender, the Viking Crown bartender and servers, the servers in the casino, our head and assistant waiter, the front desk, our server at Johnnie Rockets, etc. -- were outstanding.
And it wasn't forced. These people were having a good time and really wanted to get to know you. The guys at the 24-hour snack bar would always see us at 3:00 in the morning when we were desperate for food, and would automatically know who wanted which kind of pizza or cookie. Our room steward saw that we ordered a bottle of wine through room service and would replenish our wineglasses until the bottle was finished. Virgilio at the Champagne Bar went out of his way to get things for us, even if he had to walk to another bar, because they didn't carry things like cranberry juice or Coke. The dealers in the casino were all very nice.
The food was good to excellent with a few exceptions. At home, we eat out two to four times a week, and at least two or three times a month in a gourmet restaurant. I wouldn't say that I had a meal on the Voyager that was absolutely gourmet, but the presentation and the service compensated for that. Most nights, the food was outstanding. The only meal I didn't care for was the first night, when we ordered steak, which was on the alternative menu. Three steaks were ordered three different ways; I ordered mine medium rare. All three came out completely overdone and tough. The seafood pasta one night was just o.k. Other than that, the filet, the lobster tails, the duck pate, shrimp and saffron rice, etc.--all of it was great. Johnnie Rockets had great burgers, fries and onion rings. The Windjammer breakfast buffet was all right -- great omelets, salmon lox, fruit, bagels and pastries, although the potatoes were too dry. We never had a chance to eat in the dining room for lunch or breakfast. The 24-hour snack bar had good sandwiches, cookies, and great pizzas (at 3:00 in the morning!). The chocolate-covered strawberries at the Champagne Bar were awesome. Desserts were generally really good. Ice cream cones were great.
Labadee (Hispaniola) was o.k. They had a nice little setup with food, chairs, a little shopping area, volleyball, hammocks, bars, etc. When we got there, we went to the side of the island opposite of the ship. The water was very choppy and it was very windy. Later we moved to the other side, which was much better. The shops were all right, but there was nothing I wanted to buy. The people were pretty aggressive. The food set up for lunch was pretty nice...lots of flies, though.
At Jamaica, we didn't have any excursions set up. We got off the ship and walked around the main shopping area for a while. I really didn't care for this area --the bars on the windows, the poverty on the streets, the shops that didn't sell anything interesting. Then we tried to find Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, but we didn't. So we just went back to the ship and enjoyed a nice, quiet relaxing day. The island itself looked beautiful (from the ship).
Grand Cayman is a beautiful island. I'd rate it between Bermuda and Aruba. So far, in my opinion, nothing holds a candle to Bermuda, but this island, with its downtown shopping area and the kind people and cleanliness, was somewhat similar to Aruba and Bermuda. We did the Stingray City tour, of course! Very freaky, but I'm glad I did it. I just wish we had more time.
I have to give a plug for Captain Bryan's excursion. Before going, I could hardly find any feedback on his company, and I was worried. I couldn't get a booking with Captain Marvin (which is recommended a lot on this board) or Nativeway, because they were both full. I can say now that I'm so glad we ended up with Captain Bryan. We had maybe 12 people in our group, a large beautiful catamaran that you could lay out on, and plenty of water and ice. We saw the other boats -- they were mostly double-decker boats with sitting room only, filled to the max. The price we paid ($30) was worth just the ride out and back on the boat. Our tour guides were very nice and even made fun of us when we were too freaked out to get in the water. I really liked Grand Cayman, but I wish we had more time there. Because of the tenders and the long lines, we only had time to have lunch (which was pretty expensive) and do a little shopping. I wouldn't mind it if the ship skipped Jamaica and spent two days in Grand Cayman.
Cozumel turned out to be my favorite port. We went through the shops and on the other side are people trying to rent you a car or a scooter. We decided to do a scooter ($45 included gas and taxes) for two people. Someone had suggested visiting the state park ($10 per person admission). We were planning to do this, but wanted to get some riding time out of the scooters, so we drove around the island for a while. We saw lots of beautiful resorts and then we came to a sign that said 'Mr. Sancho's.' We decided to see what it was like, and that was probably the best decision we made on the whole trip. There were four or five little shops, and then you walked down to the most beautiful beachfront. The place had a wonderful bar with swings as bar stools, lots of tables and chairs right on the beach, a huge covered dining area with a grill, a little pool on the side, and bathrooms and showers. We got service immediately (margaritas, of course).
The drinks were awesome, the food was excellent, the beach was beautiful, Mexican music in the background -- it was exactly what I wanted from this stop. And the place was amazingly clean -- the bathrooms, showers, pool, beach, bar, and the kitchen. It was like we sneaked into a five-star resort. The service was also great. The merchants at the shops were very pleasant and not pushy at all. I was so impressed that I found the manager so I could compliment him on his place. We had two or three rounds of margaritas (very strong), three rounds of Mexican beer, four lunches with one appetizer, and our bill came out to $100! We were there for about five hours. I wouldn't have minded if the ship left me there for good! (http://www.mrsanchos.com)
Overall, we had a wonderful trip. The lines and crowds were not nearly as bad as I expected. In fact, there were times when there were absolutely no problems with lines, even though the ship was full to the max. (When the Nordic Empress had a problem, they had to move a large number of their passengers to our ship. Plus, there were maybe 10 weddings going on.)
Boarding the ship was a bit of a pain. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't worry about getting there early for an upgrade. I'd get there at 2:00 and walk right on. Getting off the ship, we purposely requested the last color, enjoyed a nice breakfast, lay around the pool and when our color was called, we had a very short wait.
The only complaint I had about the whole trip was the luggage situation. I know that hardly anything can be done, because they have to go through almost 10,000 pieces of luggage, but we didn't get ours until 8:30 the first night. I guess that's just the way it is on a ship with so many passengers. I think that if the cruise line didn't try to squeeze every last bit of profit out of their vacations, and left a one-day cushion in between cruises, the whole embarkation, debarkation, and luggage ordeal would be much more enjoyable.
We just started to get into cruising, but have traveled extensively to the islands, and it's nice to be able to relax and start enjoying your vacation as soon as you step off the plane. One more thing -- I had expected almost no movement on this ship, especially after sailing on two other very small ships. It must have been the weather or something, because this boat was rockin' big time! I was zigzagging thought the hallways (no, it wasn't the martinis), we could hear the hangers clanking together in the middle of the night, that big pendulum thing in the atrium was shaking like crazy.
All in all, it was a wonderful cruise, an amazing ship, some wonderful islands, and over-the-top service. I believe the service is what really made this vacation for us. So thank you to all of the wonderful people on the Voyager.