Best Family Vacation Ever
Our family just returned from a New Orleans spring break cruise on the Voyager of the Seas. Collectively, our family decided this was our best cruise and vacation ever! The cruise was not without its problems, but we truly enjoyed our time on the ship
This is our 5th cruise on Royal Caribbean and our second on Voyager (previously in 2008 out of Galveston). Because of our schedules, 2 family members drove to New Orleans from Dallas and 2 flew out the morning of the cruise.
The driving set spent the night at the Spring Hill Suites in Baton Rouge and met the other two at the airport in New Orleans the morning of the cruise. The Baton Rouge hotel was about half the cost of the hotels in New Orleans, (but I am not sure that is norm. The SEC basketball tourney was going on the weekend we left.) The trip from Baton Rouge to New Orleans took a little over an hour and there was little traffic on the highway early in the morning. We easily picked up our other family members at New Orleans Airport and were at the cruise port by 10:45 AM. We parked at the Julian Street lot next to the cruise terminal. It cost $14 a day, but was an easy in and an even easier out after the cruise.
The check in process in NOLA was the easiest and smoothest we have ever experienced on a cruise. We literally dropped our bags, parked our car and were on the ship in 15 minutes. We ate lunch at the Windjammer and our room was available right at 1:00. We had two connecting promenade suites on Deck 8. Our steward John was awesome. He had been a steward for 5 years and knew exactly how to take care of his passengers. Amazingly, all our bags arrived about 1:30
We were concerned about the reviews we had read on Cruise Critic and did notice a few places where the Voyager was showing wear and tear compared to our 2008 cruise. Except for a cabin issue I will mention at the end of this blog, the ship was still spotless and well run. We were also concerned about the Windjammer comments on Cruise Critic. We found the food to be fresh, the variety acceptable, and the service to be very good. It is a mass produced cafeteria style buffet feeding 3000+ people a day and overall was very good.
The passenger mix on our cruise was about 75% from Texas with a large Mississippi contingent. We also had a performing arts group from Hamilton Canada and 34 members of the Texas A&M Aggie Band on board. The passengers were generally very friendly and we enjoyed our mix of passengers.
We had the 5:30 dinner seating with a table of 4 on the Fourth Floor La Boehme dining room. Edwin and Ravi were our waiters and by far they were the best cruise wait staff we have experienced. The food was good to very good. The appetizers and the deserts in the dining room made the evening meals. The entrees were somewhat average to bland. We did note that the dining staff seemed to be stretched a little thinner than prior trips. Ravi was assisting several waiters besides Edwin. Edwin seemed to be extremely busy relative to our prior trips, where we have gotten to know our waiters, learn about their home, families, etc. Edwin was working hard just to move the orders and cover his tables.
The entertainment was very good. As others have shared, the production shows seemed to have a lot of talent, but were quite frankly boring. I am in my 50's and did not know or remember some of the movie songs they sang and except for a rap bridge on one number really had no appeal to my two college age daughters. We were surprised to find the theater upper balconies empty for the shows as we usually have had to come early to get a seat.
The guest performers made up for the RCCL dancers shortcomings. Kenny James was incredible and the highlight performer of the week. His smooth tones mesmerized the audience. Paul Boland, an impressionist was equally enjoyable. His cast of characters was amazing and his interaction with the children in the room is something we will always remember.
The love and marriage show was moved to an afternoon time slot. It was very funny and the Cruise Director Keith Williams did a great job playing off the reactions of the participants.
Our first port was Falmouth. The new port complex was very nice and we found some pretty good prices in the stores. This is definitely an upgrade from Montego Bay. We took advantage of a non cruise line excursion from Jamaica for a Day. We spent the day at the Rose Hall Hilton. The excursion while a little pricey, was top notch. The hotel and the beach were beautiful, the hotel staff bent over backwards to be helpful, and the food from all inclusive food and beverage package was one of the best meals we had the entire week! This was without a doubt the best shore excursion we have ever done!
We spent the second day shopping in Grand Cayman. We have enjoyed the wonderful Seven Mile Beach in the past, but decided to take a break from the sun for the day. The shopping in Grand Cayman is excellent. My daughters were pleased to purchase Longchamps purses tax and duty free. Our highlight of the week was a visit to the Guy Harvey gallery and store. Dr. Harvey was visiting the store that day. We were able to get him to personally autograph several prints we purchased and had a chance to personally visit with him. It was very refreshing to meet such a famous person, yet find him very approachable and really appreciative for coming to his store studio. It was truly an amazing day.
The third port was Cozumel. We chose to do the basic Playa Mia beach break through RCCL. The beach park was nice, the area clean, and the staff friendly, and while not a bad day, it did not compare to the 5-star experience in Jamaica. We did play with the paddle boats and enjoyed the beach. They did not have any motorized rentals which disappointed us. We were under the impression they would be available and had hoped to rent some jet skis or to parasail.
We really only had a couple of issues with the ship. The toilet in our room did not consistently work for 6 of the 8 days we were on the ship, sometimes being down several hours. Twice the shower back up and flooded the bathroom. We complained to the maintenance department or front desk six times during the cruise and only received satisfaction when the bathroom flooded at 1:45 in the morning and as a last straw insisted that they fix it immediately. The maintenance person showed up and 30 minutes later, he indicated he had cleaned the line. We had no other issues with the shower or toilet after the middle of the night visit. Several other folks on our hall shared they had similar instances with the toilets not working and the water backing up in the bath.
The ship took the internet down during our day in Grand Cayman for the day. There was no advance warning and we noted several guests that were very upset as they had business commitments requiring the internet and no advance warning was given.
We also noted an issue where the pool towel computer was not working when my daughter returned a towel. We complained to the front desk and they removed the charge, but I noted there were several guests in line complaining about the same thing. Seems they could have gone to the old manual system or suspended the billing on the towels.
Our departure from the ship was a breeze. We literally walked off the ship, claimed our bags, claimed our porter and cleared customs in about 5 minutes. The porter rolled our bags the two blocks to our car in the Julian Street lot and helped us load our car.
All in all, we had a great cruise and look forward to joining Royal Caribbean on a future cruise.