This was a 12 day southern Caribbean cruise on Enchantment of the Seas out of Baltimore. As we live an hour away from the port, we drove to the pier and took advantage of the $15 a day parking. Nothing like being able to walk off the ship when the cruise is over, get in the car, and head for home. We arrived around 11:30. Baggage handling and parking went smoothly. Once in the terminal the security line was a bit long, but once past the x-rays, the Diamond line was quick and we were on the ship and chatting with other Cruise Critic folks by noon. Nice operation.
We had an oceanview cabin on deck four, a few doors behind the Champagne Bar. Easy to find and convenient for the debark. Nice size, adequate storage, everything worked.
The service on this ship from the cabin stewards and the dining room wait staff to the bartenders in the various venues was first class. However for the first time I have to say that the food in the Windjammer was better than the dining room. The first few days showed promise, but then the stroganoff had pickles and beets in it again. Really? I know the curries are used for the vegetarian option, but sometimes a nice lamb or chicken curry would be nice. Nine out of the twelve days, the vegetarian Indian option in the dining room contained cauliflower. Did RCCL buy a lot of this on sale or what? Anyway we opted for Chops Grille twice to avoid the dining room menu and were not disappointed. The only criticism at Chops was that the fish items tended to be overcooked; I'd stick to the beef. Chops is well worth the upcharge.
Being a 12 day cruise, the passengers were mostly retired folks. Because of this the early seating was moved up to 5:30 instead of 6pm. It just made the time between dinner and the nightly entertainment longer. It would be nice if management would run a poll of their passengers on the longer cruises to see if this is what they really want. No one I spoke to, even some very elderly folks, were pleased about this.
One more thing on dining. This twelve day cruise had three formal nights. Yeah, I know some folks just love to play dress up, but this was the Caribbean. No matter how well the air-conditioning works, some areas of the ship get hot and humid and a suit and tie in humid conditions is not a vacation to me. Another reason for going to Chops (where currently it is always "sharp casual") or the Windjammer. I actually skipped "lobster night" to avoid that third formal night. Please reconsider, RCCL, two is enough.
About our fellow passengers. We knew we were sailing with a number of friends from past cruises and we met many new friends as well. Most of the passengers were delightful. However we also endured a few of the rudest folks I've ever seen on a cruise. Someone collapsed in the dining room and while the staff were ministering to them some "gentleman" from another table got up with a camera to videotape it. A good friend of ours was knocked to the ground on the gangway by an oblivious person pulling along luggage. They didn't even look back. The staff, as usual, were quick to respond.
The ports were Tortola (BVI), Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Labadee in Haiti. We did a ship sponsored island tour in Tortola. It was very good, but we are finding that all the islands in the Caribbean are beginning to look alike. In Antigua a group of us from Cruise Critic did a private tour with a local outfit one of us had used before, Lawrence of Antigua. Lots of fun, especially as we all knew each other. And the operator had refreshments for us including beer and rum punch. At the rest of the ports we just walked around and shopped or had lunch ashore. If you like Spanish tapas with a Caribbean slant, try Meson Amelia in Palm Passage in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. It was our new place for lunch this trip. We liked it a lot.
Enchantment provided quality entertainment. We saw a couple of really good comedians, Haines Magic and a juggler. We usually go directly to the theatre from dinner (early seating) as since this ship was stretched and more cabins added, the shortage of seats in the theatre has become pronounced. You actually see fights over saved seats. I wish staff would enforce the "no saved seats" policy, but I've never seen them say a word about it. Really, if your friends and family want a seat, then they should come early and sit in it. The passenger participation shows like the Love & Marriage game (think the "Newlywed Game") and the Quest (an adult stationary scavenger hunt) held in the nightclub are lots of fun. Our group won a gold ribbon in the Quest.
Live music was everywhere on Enchantment and it was great. From the piano player in the Schooner Bar, the band in the Centrum, the Rosario Strings, and the steel band at the pool, having live music really made a difference. We also noticed more lectures and more movies being shown in the afternoons in the theatre. Nice selections too, WAR HORSE, TOWER HEIST, J. EDGAR; something for everyone.
Lots of activities on this cruise; trivia games; Win, Lose or Draw (like Pictionary); beading; watercolor painting; dance lessons. If anyone was bored, they weren't trying.
While the voyage south had a couple of rough days (always near Cape Hatteras), the return trip was all calm seas. Cruising in March always carries this risk. It is always best to come prepared with the seasickness meds.
Disembarkation was amazing. We carried our bags off ourselves at 7am. We were through customs and in the car by 7:15 and home by 8:15. All in all a good cruise and a great experience. So much in fact that many of our group are booking the 12 day one again in 2014; we're just waiting for the schedule to be published.