My first reaction to the Voyager of the Seas when boarding was simply one of shock and displeasure. I went in by the forward atrium and walked to the centerline to see the "Royal Promenade" stretching roughly 500 feet in front of me. Brightly lit from above, the promenade is topped with three decks of bay windows lining the sides. A gray brick-like sidewalk meanders the entire length, passing two bars, a 24 hour cafe, part of the casino and a (thankfully) few shops. There are 2 bright chrome bridges, one which passengers can clamber up and watch the scene below while standing with a mannequin that is forever fascinated by the crowds. On top of the 2nd bridge was an arched neon sign saying, "Royal Promenade." I was momentarily confused- was I actually onboard a ship or I had somehow wandered ashore again? Was this the Mall of America? Was this modern society? Was this what cruising has come to? Much to my surprise, however, I came to learn that the Voyager of the Seas experience goes deeper than what may be first apparent and that this ship provides aninnovative and very exciting, energized way to travel by sea.
As everyone here knows, I am not, generally, a fan of the larger breed of mega-new builds. I dislike their whimsical and fanciful interiors, their miles of neon and the insistence on forced fun. I went onboard the Voyager of the Seas expecting to dislike it- I felt the ship would be different and innovative, for sure, but I thought I would be repulsed by the whole ship. Simply, she seemed too much to me- it was taking excess one more step too far. When I disembarked 48 hours later, however, I had come to really see the ship's appeal and even come to think that I would enjoy sailing on the ship for several days!
Quite simply, the Voyager delivers a different experience and ambiance than anything out there today. Grand Princess strikes me as simply a larger version of Dawn Princess- she is a conventional cruise ship with a few more dining and entertainment options. Also, despite her size, she strives to maintain as much as possible a small ship feel. Voyager, on the other hand, makes no pretensions about being large- she is huge and she wants everyone to know it. From the Royal Promenade to the 3 story dining room to the expansive upper deck space, the ship is full of grand sweeping vistas and cavernous spaces where you are constantly reminded how big she is.
What makes the Voyager so different? First must be the incredible variety of spaces and activities onboard. Just during the two days I was onboard, I was witness to Katarina Witt rehearsing her moves on the ice skating rink, getting a chance to see her interact and play with her fellow skaters as well as interact with the audience. I watched large crowds rock climb up the after end of the funnel and also enjoyed watching those who were watching the climbers. I saw a large and lush miniature golf course, complete with benches and statues. The full sized basketball court was constantly in use while the in line skating track was just being finished. I partook in a "New Year's Eve" celebration at midnight in the Royal Promenade, excitedly waiting around for the clock to strike with hundreds, if not thousands, of other fellow passengers.
Growing weary of the active life, I would search out private deck space-- and it was plentiful. The bow is completely open for passengers- there is a large observation deck/helicopter landing pad all the way forward where you can stand quite literally at the stem while you re-enact Titanic. There is also a covered space 30 feet aft as well as plenty of room to simply line the rails and feel the ship plowing ahead through the seas. (Be sure to turn around, however, and look at the attractive curved superstructure looming over you- a tremendous feeling of power is evident, especially at night.) I delighted in a section of the promenade that literally bulges out and you have to walk on part of the deck that hangs out over the water a good 10 feet beyond the hull-- enabling you to feel as if you are on a helicopter hovering alongside while you watch the waves crash against the hull with 11 decks of steel rising above you. The same view is found above the bridge up forward, enabling you to marvel from many different perches on just how big and amazing your ship is. This is where I would end my days, communing with the ship and the sea. There are also several layers of deck space open forward above the bridge, providing ample quiet spaces to avoid the people.
Should one ever want (or have enough time) to go inside you will find an incredible variety of spaces onboard. First is the Royal Promenade, which goes through different moods as the lights change and the day progresses. This space is truly the heart of the ship- a real Times Sq type meeting place. Like in any big city, the Royal Promenade has a unique feel at various times throughout the day- whether it be quiet in the morning or busy before dinner, this spaces comes alive with people. One felt compelled to walk through it just to see what was going on or to see who was there- it was truly a central thoroughfare for everyone onboard. Strolling along, you became part of a shipboard community that quickly developed as you stopped and talked to people enjoying a sidewalk cafe or listening to the man playing in the bar. With little projecting balconies at either end, it was delightful to simply stand and marvel at the space and the traffic. Street performers would come out and entertain at scheduled times and there was even a country music concert for 15 minutes! This space was always brimming.
Also, at either end of the Promenade was a centrum where one could take a glass elevator from below the Promenade to far above it. How wonderful it was to be above the Promenade in a downbound elevator and have the scene suddenly appear and watch the view change as you descend, finally dipping one or two decks beneath the Promenade. Also, the two story library and the business center overlooked from end the Royal Promenade through glass walls. For a space that I thought was degrading to ships, I soon learned that this space was the veritable pulse and heartbeat of the ship and the concept worked extremely well in reality.
In stunning contrast to the Promenade was the three storied dining room. With the possible exception of La Fontaine/the Odyssey on the Rembrandt, this room may very well be the most impressive room afloat in which to eat. Crowned by a magnificent and huge chandelier and flanked by window wall on either side, the room was technically three different dining rooms linked by a dramatic grand staircase (with orchestra platform/pit) at the after end. Each level has a slightly different feel- La Boheme on the top deck feels appropriately light and airy with gentle colors while the Carmen dining room on the bottom is decorated with a rich red carpet and (not quite) wooden chairs. The room has a slightly Baroque touch to it with the balcony levels undulating and curving around the chandelier. With excellent acoustics and many niches and private spots for tables, this room impresses but never dominates you- one marvels but is not intimidated. This is a very classically inspired room with wood veneer and dramatic entrances and is a definite knockout.
The Viking Crown Lounge was divided into at least 4 separate spaces onboard- a card room, a private reception room (that could be joined with the card room), the 19th hole bar and High Notes. High Notes was the largest of the sections and is the closest to what we think of a traditional Viking Crown Lounge. Tables and chairs lined the windows forward, commanding a startling view of the tiered pool deck, while the after half of the room was directed towards a stage where jazz players perform every night. Furthering the example of variety, there was the small Connoisseur Club, the ship's formal Cigar club. And this is just the beginning- I am not even mentioning the Champagne Bar, the Schooner Bar, the two story gym/spa, the kids section (as big as could possibly be wanted by any kid), Cleopatra's needle, the scary and very dark disco called the Vault, the Aquarium bar, the Portfofino restaurant, the Island Grill, the Windjammer Cafe, the Pig and Whistle, the Promenade Cafe, the Solarium, the sports bar, the casino, La Scala theatre, the Conference Center, the Peek a Boo bridge nor the wedding chapel! However, continuing to describe the simply astounding variety of spaces does not fully capture what makes Voyager so special. What truly makes her feel different is the ambiance and energy level onboard. Whether it be walking the Royal Promenade or dining in the extremely popular (and authentic looking) Johnny Rockets diner, there is always something going on. The ship simply energizes you with its amazing facilities and radical design. Royal Caribbean did not design a ship with block shapes and standard public spaces. Rather, it created a ship that is visually fascinating to look at and that allows for a constant stream of passenger flow. This is not your standard cookie cutter mold of a ship and it shows- some creative thought was actually put into her design. Except for the rare cases like the dining rooms, the decor is fairly typical RCI- however, this is a definite case of the overall effect exceeding the sum of all the parts. So much of the success of a voyage depends upon one's fellow passengers and the social atmosphere onboard. To this end Voyager's design does more to foster and create an instant community/atmosphere than any ship I've ever seen. Just how big is the ship? Well, you really have to force yourself to hit all the spots in one day. I kept thinking to myself how I had to go revisit certain areas, because despite constant walking and exploring I just hadn't made my way around to all areas more than once! I kept walking around the ship with a big smile on my face as I discovered some detail I hadn't seen before or revisited a spot that I had only been to once before. The ship feels more like a theme park with all the bustle and excitement rather than a ship, and there was a friend of mine onboard that I didn't even see during the entire cruise- I just know she was onboard because others had spoken with her!
It is also important to remember that for those who value only the ship experience, the Voyager offers many out of the way deck spaces where one might end up being the only one out on deck, simply listening to the sea while enjoying a warm Caribbean breeze. In fact, from the 'bulging promenade' to the bow, the Voyager offers some of the most unique sea perspectives around. Such is her size that she does afford spots to escape everything else, with the only reminder of being on such a huge ship is the sheer height of eye above the waterline.
Also, the ship really makes an effective use out of glass and mirrors. There are many places where you can stand in one part of the ship and look across a well or other such area and see people on the other side. Beneath the Viking Crown Lounge, for instance, is a large two deck high glass wall. One can be anywhere out on the open deck near the pool area, day or night, and see inside, watching the elevators zip up and down, spy on the people drinking in the Viking Crown Lounge or merely watch people climb the stairs. The same is true with the Royal Promenade which has many places to simply stand and look at people- this ship is a people watcher's dream and RCI should definitely get a web cam for the Royal Promenade! Windows were either huge affairs that effectively formed a wall or were gigantic Costa Style portholes that one could physically curl up in certain areas! This is not to say that I am suddenly a mega ship fan nor that I am giving up my preference for traditional, older ships. Not by any means. However, the Voyager of the Seas surprised me and quite simply excited me- it was a fun and fascinating ship to be onboard. Because of its incredible variety of spaces and for the energy and excitement level onboard, I would suggest this ship to any one over possibly any mass market ship out there currently- provided the destination is not terribly important and they are looking for a modern ship.
Quite simply, I walked away from the Voyager in awe of what I had just seen- the next major step in the development of the cruise experience. Much the way the Sovereign of the Seas marked a new area upon her 1988 debut, so too will the Voyager of the Seas mark the next area with her debut. Hopefully cruise ships won't get too much larger than Voyager, but I do think most ships can find something, however small, to learn from the Voyager of the Seas.Ben Lyons
This vessel is by far the most beautiful and best designed ship I have sailed on. Pictures and video clips that I have seen cannot show the views I experienced. I can also say that I have not yet found the words to describe this floating city. May I also add that I never felt overwhelmed by the size of the ship. It's layout was very easy to navigate and I was able to master my way around within the first day. Of course a new ship is not without some areas that the crew and staff are still trying to perfect. More about that later, as this is to be expected for a third sailing of a new ship.
EMBARKATION: RCI still needs to master this procedure. I talked to many passengers that waited up to three hours to board the ship. The VIP desk for Crown and Anchor diamond members however reduced this time to fifteen minutes.
CABINS: Well what does one expect? Yes, they are small. We had Cat. D9 superior ocean view with private balcony. Yes, the balcony was indeed private. Though the cabin was just slightlylarger than a standard inside cabin, we had no trouble making it work. Just enough room for everything.
ROYAL PROMENADE: Measuring 1and1/2 football fields long this was the focal point of the ship. From snacks to shopping, scheduled entertainment, sports bar and upper casino. I have only one word for this area. Intoxicating, no not in the literal sense, I'll save the other for the Vault.
DINNING ROOMS: Three level dinning room, the Carmen/La Boheme/Magic Flute. Decorated beautifully with walnut finished furniture and woodwork. We experience excellent service here. I suppose this was why I decided not to switch to the 2nd seating I originally requested. Our waiter also was quick to point out the best choice for the evening as well as the dishes that have been experiencing difficulties. The entrees for the most part were very good, but soups were cold and the dinner did take up to much time for my attention span. I must also say that I don't care for the open breakfast and lunch seating. I would have preferred to be at my table with our waiter. This service was the only one provided at sea as well, as while in port.
OTHER DINNING: Windjammer and Island Grill. Excellent design, it was very easy to fill ones plate and find a comfortable place to sit. My first visit here was the last. I went for breakfast and found that the food was, "not edible" would be putting it nicely. This was also later confirmed by other passengers. Johnny Rockets. Long lines kept me from this restaurant. It is my understanding that they will begin charging for food here come the first of the year due to its popularity. Room service. Or lack thereof. They have a real problem here. It is being delivered to the wrong cabins. 24 hr. pizzeria? great pie but why do they close at 4 am.
MAIN THEATER: The La Scala. Very good production shows and special guest appearances. I was more impressed with the theaters on the Sovereign Class Ships.
CASINO: For those that like slots, this casino is jam packed with them. Gaming tables include caribbean poker, roulette, craps and blackjack. Lady luck didn't shine down on me here. However, a little casual play was in the budget. One other note, the ten dollar minimum at the blackjack tables is no cheap date. If you search hard you can find a fun dealer with a smile but many have left their personalities at the door.
STUDIO B, CENTER ICE: Located on deck 3, this area doubles as an ice skating rink and RCTV television studio. When not being used for some of the video productions still being taped for the cruise lines advertisements it hosts some spectacular professional ice shows. It also was used for some of the new passenger game shows that the cruise staff have come up with. The new games were both unique and exciting. This does appear a lot larger on television than in person. I estimate the skating area to be about 40'x60'. I still cant believe the excellent skating considering the size.
THE VAULT: This disco does deserve special recognition. This is only because it is thoroughly soundproofed. The entrance to this area is gained through a pair of doors with a neutral zone in-between. This is so that when the disco door opens, it closes before one enters the disco through the second door. Considering its close proximity to the Schooner Bar, it never did intrude on anyone else's enjoyment. I have to also mention that to open the doors, you placed the palm of your hand on a switch that resembled something from Star Trek. A little corny but fun.
OTHER LOUNGES: There are also many other public lounges to meet everyone's needs. From the piano bar to the jazz bar and from some more intimate lounges as well as those designed for people watching. I chose the later and met a lot of new friends that made the cruise that much more enjoyable. I met people from all around the world and well, just had fun!
POOL DECK: This would be the only area of the ship that seemed small. It was cluttered with the stage for the band that played pool side and when walking around one also got stuck in a bottle neck. The Solarium pool seemed like the place for the older crowd. It looked comfortable but wasn't this cruisers style. Also no dome on it for rainy days.
CRUISE STAFF: They have been very busy fine tuning everything. This being a 3 sea day cruise I felt that they did not provide enough activities, however they did try. I did have a drink one evening with our cruise director Jeff Martin. He did agree that their are many areas that need improvement and that his staff as well as all other departments are working hard to make the changes that are needed. I was also impressed that during the ice show the final night Jeff remembered me and addressed me by name. How they can do that with 3500 people on board I'll never know. Jeff's assistant Ricardo is full of excitement and one can tell he sincerely loves what he does. I wouldn't be surprised if he is promoted to cruise director in the near future.
BAR SERVERS: These are the guys and girls that seldom get the recognition they deserve. Well, people, they make the cruise an enjoyable experience. Over nine servers remembered me from cruises dating back well over 5 yrs. At many of the bars I could not buy a drink all week. I will not mention them as not to get anyone in jeopardy with their job but drinks were plentiful and free.
OTHER ACTIVITIES They included shore excursions, miniature golf, inline skating as well as a golf simulator. I did not use any of these but I am sure they were enjoyed by those who did.
IN SHORT: I enjoyed everything about this cruise. One does need to remember that the cruise lines are now offering so many things to do that one must understand that you can no longer do everything. You have to choose if you would rather be a part of the pool games or see the ice show. With this attitude you can rest assured you'll have fun.
With our trip originating in San Diego, we availed ourselves of RCL's Air/Sea program. We were traveling with another couple from the San Diego area. Upon meeting them at the airport and checking our cruise voucher booklets we discovered that we had been booked into different hotels for our stay in Miami the night before the cruise. We anticipated that this error would be taken care of by RCL personnel when we landed. Unfortunately, we were unable to get them to rebook us in the same hotel and aren't sure to this day who made the mistake, RCL or our travel agent.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Miami and the hotel was nice. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant that evening and the food and service was average. The next morning we were preboarded at the hotel by RCL staff. This included issuing us our SuperCharge card/cabin key. The process went quickly and we were pleasantly surprised that we would not have a long wait in line at the terminal as we have experienced with past cruises. However, the wait for the buses used to transfer guests fromthe hotel to the terminal was unbearably long. It appeared that RCL did not have enough busses ready to board what seemed to be a couple of hundred people or more.
Having sailed previously on two of RCL's ships, we were expecting a lot. Upon arrival at the terminal and seeing Voyager in person for the first time we were awed by its size. The Enchantment was in port that day as well and it appeared to be dwarfed by Voyager's gigantic presence. Since we were preboarded at the hotel,we went through the security check and proceeded to an escalator to the second floor of the terminal to board the ship. With dozens of passengers on a narrow escalator carrying suitcases, etc. it seemed like an accident waiting to happen, and it did. So many people were arriving at the top of the escalator at once that the ones coming up behind them were forced to push people over like dominos. Security had to stop the escalator to avoid any serious injuries. This very serious safety issue needs to be resolved by terminal authorities before someone is badly injured. Other than the escalator incident,the new terminal is beautifully designed, very open and airy and seems to be laid out very efficiently. The boarding process in general was a good experience.
Once aboard, we were awed by this vessel. The Grand Promenade is spectacular and the shops excellent. The exercise equipment on board is all state of the art (although we never found the time to use it). The three tiered dining room takes your breath away and the La Scala theatre is magnificent. Actually everything aboard this ship is state of the art. They even have thier own radio and TV studio!
Our cabin was aft and was very nice. It has a huge balcony,one of several to the rear of the ship. From our balcony we were able to see both the port and starboard sides of the ship when we were sailing or in port. This was a nice touch and the cabin was the nicest we have had to date.
We were seated at second seating in the Carmen dining room. Our table waiter Emme from Hungary was very good although not as good as the ones were had on previous cruises. His assistant from Rumania was good also. However,the head waiter was truly a dissapointment. He introduced himself briefly on the first night and we really never saw him again until the night before gratuities were to be extended. On that night he was overly attentive and pleasant,although you could see it was an act. We deduced that he may have been "fishing" for a larger tip.
The food was average at best and not up to RCL's usual fare. One thing that we sorely missed were the flaming deserts and all the fanfare that goes along with them. This ship had none. The food on the rest of the ship ranged from below average to average and although we could not classify any of it as poor, it did come close at times. A real dissapointment was room service. We ordered breakfast one morning using the menu that you place on your cabin door knob. When breakfast didn't arrive for almost 45 minutes past the time we had indicated I called down to find out what was wrong. I was told they had too many other passengers to serve. After another 15 minutes I called again, this time I was told they had lost our order and would take a new one over the phone. About 15 minutes later our breakfast arrived but it was cold and so was the coffee. Five minutes later someone was knocking at our cabin door. We opened it to find a second breakfast order had been delivered. This one was a least hotter than the first one had been.
Another dissapointment was our cabin attendant. When we arrived on board we found that our cabin had not yet been cleaned completely and had to wait to put our things away until she finished cleaning it. On previous cruises our cabin attendants always did cute things with towels and pillows on our bed but on this cruise our cabin attendant did nothing. It was very difficult to find her to get a bucket of ice and we had to wait, wait, wait, for everything. One day we needed towels and couldn't find her. We noticed that the linen storage area was just across the hall from our cabin and the door was slightly ajar so we went to help ourselves. When we opened the door there was our cabin attendant curled up at the bottom of the closet trying to sleep. We woke her up, she did apologize.
Many of the 'features and amenities' RCL uses to attract passengers to the Voyager are extra cost items. You will pay to use the ice skating rink, the rock climbing wall, even the miniature golf course. In addition, if you choose to dine at the Portofino restaurant it will cost you an additional $8 a person. While RCL wants you to feel you are getting more on this ship you will also be paying for everything you decide to use.
The ports of call were fun, especially Jamaica. Since I had been to the island eleven times in the past, I knew where to go. So, we rented a large spacious van and the four of us drove to Montego Bay and had lunch at the Half Moon. It was a very pleasant day. In Labadee,everyone spends the day at the beach and it is a very relaxing affair. However, I must warn you not to even go near the few shops and the vendors on the so called "private island". To say that the vendors are agressive is an understatement. You start at one end of this large building and you walk through a gauntlet of the most discusting, vile, and agressive vendors I have ever experienced. The smell in there is horrendous. RCL should be more careful about who they allow to sell in this area. Absolutely one of the most nauseating experiences I have ever had and I have visited several third world countries. I just kept trying to convince myself that these are poor people trying to make a meager living and I was able to brush it off as an experience. Cozumel was very nice and we decided to go shopping for a piece of diamond jewelry. We were told by the ship's staff that this was one of the best Caribbean ports to buy gemstones. We found that none of the shopkeepers would answer our questions about diamonds. We couldn't get a straight answer about the grading of the stones,certification, etc. Needless to say we left without buying any gemstones.
In summation, the Voyager is a very nice ship and it is one that every cruiser should experience at least once. Would we go again, possibly, if the price and timing were right. However, we missed the intimacy that a smaller ship provides and came away from the whole experience feeling somewhat cold. We felt the ship was way too big and took away much of the crusing experience for us. We plan on booking our next cruise on a smaller ship that delivers better food and better service. Will it be on an RCL ship? There is a very good possiblity of that since RCL has always provided excellent service and food on past cruises.
I got to eat lunch on the Voyager of the Seas by Royal Carribean and let me tell you folks VOYAGER is the most awesome ship you have ever seen in your entire life. I have been on the Grand Princess and Destiny before, which were the biggest ships ever built before the Voyager and this ship is so spectacular you wouldnt believe it!
Glass domes everywhere and a lot of pyramid glass shapes and statues all over. High Ceilings and Lots of splashy bright colors not before seen on Royal Caribbean. SPACE is abundant and the dining room and theater are amazingly spacious and beautiful. The entire ship is so wonderful you wouldnt want to leave!