Enchantment of the Seas - May 11-17, 2012
I just completed my third voyage on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas. The cruise was a 6 night voyage to Bermuda, where we would stay overnight for two nights, allowing for one full and 2 partial days on this lovely island.
Pre-Cruise: After several changes of plans, I stayed at the Embassy Suites BWI using Hilton points. Rooms at ES properties are 2 room suites and are generally very comfortable. My room was a 'corner king' located opposite the elevators. The down side was that it was both near the elevators and was a double-connecting room though I did not hear any sounds. (I think only 1 of the connecting rooms was occupied.)
Embassy Suites hotels offer a nightly managers reception featuring an array of complimentary cocktails and soft drinks along with light snacks. A few friends were also staying here so we had a nice chat for a couple hours while enjoying the reception. Also included in the rate is a free, hot breakfast with cooked-to-order omelets, breakfast meats, cereal, pancakes, juice, coffee, etc. The omelet was very good and the other items were tasty as well.
There are a few restaurants within a short drive, plus you can head over to Arundel Mills where there is an even bigger variety. I wound up buying some sliced turkey and making a couple sandwiches as opposed to going out to eat. I think it was about a 10 minute ride to this huge shopping area. All in all my stay at the Embassy Suites was fine-no real complaints.
I was able to catch a ride over to Cruise Maryland with friends. We departed the hotel around 10 AM and arrived at the pier approximately 20 minutes later. We dropped off our bags to the porters, tipped them and drove over to park. The folks at Cruise Maryland really have the process well organized. Once we got through security, I'd say we had about a 15 minute wait until the agents were ready to commence the check in process. After receiving our sea pass cards we sat and waited to board. Boarding started between 11 and 11:30 and we were soon aboard the beautiful ship-our home for the next 6 days!
Cabins were not available until 1:30 so we took a tour around the ship, took the first of several hundred photos and then headed up for lunch. No honey stung chicken-though I am not a huge fan...it is more of a start-of-the-cruise tradition for me!!
My friends and I continued to wander around the ship until cabins were available. My cabin was on ocean view on deck 7. When the ship was stretched in 2005, some of the cabins that had belonged to officers/staff were relocated. Thus, my cabin, 7012 was HUGE, compared to standard sized OV cabins. The room featured a full sofa, PLUS an arm chair (though not a sofa bed). I even had the tube-type shower as opposed to the attack-curtain! The main problems with the cabin-1) it is atop the theater (I should have paid more attention! I always check this sort of thing, and I guess I thought that the shows wouldn't keep me awake. It was VERY noisy. ) Great location if you are not always in the cabin. The OTHER problem was that this was the WORST bed...EVER..on a RCI ship! It was so hard that I asked for a foam topper. Even that didn't help much. I got no sleep at all for the entire trip (well, except for the last night, but that's another story! Lol). I almost wonder if there was a bed board underneath. I didn't check, but as I was disembarking, I noticed about 6 of them standing against the walls. Horrible.
The cabin itself was very nice. My stateroom attendant did an awesome job keeping the room clean, and she seemed to always get this done quickly. The only other issue with the cabin is that it is VERY far from the center of the ship, so I noticed a little bouncing at times. On the other hand, it is very near the forward elevators so it was a quick trip up to the pool deck and the Windjammer.
In a change of pace for me, I dined with a few of my great friends in Chops that first evening. In all my cruises with Royal Caribbean, this was only the 3rd time ever in a specialty restaurant. We had a delicious meal, wonderful conversation and lots of fun. I had the onion soup, petite filet mignon and the mud pie. Everything was served at the proper temperature and on hot or cold plates as appropriate. No complaints at all. You get a LOT of food so pace yourselves if you eat at Chops.
Other than that, the food was a little less spectacular. Our initial table of 10 was a table for 8 shoved against a two-top. Totally uncomfortable and impractical. We stuck it out for a few nights, but finally insisted that they move us. Our servers were decent and pleasant, but all in all I was somewhat underwhelmed. I was unable to get my beloved potato croquettes almost every night either which was disappointing. ( I cruise for them, and savory bites!!) I sent one meal back as it was cold, but none of the dinners were especially hot so that was really below standards in my book. When you're dining with a large group, it can be both awkward and somewhat embarrassing to always complain about food not being the correct temperature. Having worked in a hotel, and knowing that yes, you CAN serve hot banquet food to a large number of people at the same time, please do not tell me that it's impossible.
That said, we had such a great time that it was easier than normal to overlook the food temperature issues. We had My Time Dining, and we should have had the same time, table and wait staff the entire cruise. But due to the discomfort of the 1st table, coupled with the servers' inability to actually SERVE (we often passed our plates to each other, etc.-really not an ideal situation) as well as changing tables and servers mid-cruise may have attributed to the mess. Had we been able to sit at our second, round, 10-top the entire cruise may have made for a better overall experience. Last fall on Explorer, we also had 10 people, but we had a nice table where we were all comfortable and everything was fine.
Breakfasts were always eaten in the Windjammer. Plenty of variety though for some reason, I stuck with cereal and a pastry with some ham/bacon tossed in on occasion for good measure. Lunches were usually on the pool deck from the Solarium cafe (burger, pizza, etc.) or the Windjammer. After our Cruise Critic group had an unofficial meet & greet and a slot pull, most of us (maybe 15 or so) adjourned to the dining room for a lovely lunch. The Tutti Salad is delicious and filling. (You go up, select your items and the chefs toss it all together for you! YUM!!)
Our final dinner was in the Windjammer for no reason other than we wanted something different and some of our party wanted sushi. I sampled a couple different entree selections as well as the stir fry. This was probably the hottest food we'd had all week. It
was also a nice change of pace from sitting in the MDR.
The weather for this trip was nothing short of perfect except for the last day at sea. Bermuda was beautiful. We arrived right on time at about 3 PM and I left the ship and did a few things right in the Dockyard. The next day we had a full day on the island. Some friends took off on scooters, I went over to Hamilton for some shopping. You can buy all-day passes for the buses and ferries, but since I only needed to go to and return from Hamilton, I used tokens (which I think are about $2.50 each). The ferry ride is about 20 minutes from the Dockyard over to Hamilton. Once there, you can walk around and browse the shops. I went up to the customs office to get my passport stamped, stopped for a decent cup of coffee (for some reason the coffee on EN, even the stuff you pay for, was LOUSY!) and made a few purchases. I was back to the ship in about 2 hours. After a brief rest, I went back out to the Dockyard to catch up with the scooter riders for a beverage and a tour of the Maritime Museum. It's $10 to enter and it's lovely. One thing to note, you will walk...A LOT....up hills and some steps. Very much worth the time to look around as the views of the area are beautiful. Be sure to bring some water and comfortable shoes. We spent about an hour there and then headed back to the ship to get ready for dinner.
The last morning in Bermuda really doesn't allow for much. I think there are some short excursions. I just ran over to the Rum Cake factory to pick up a cake and to take a few final photos. Once back on the ship we played cards (our usual sea day activity) and waited for sail away.
This was a very low key cruise for me so I missed most of the shows. (Ok well, I heard them in my cabin!!) I did go to the Concierge Lounge every night. The Concierge was Reyno and while he seems nice enough, he really did NOT ever leave his desk and mingle. 99.9% of his time was spent fawning over one couple and ignoring everyone else. I do not need to have my hand held nor does my ego need massaging. BUT, HE should have TAKEN THE TIME to learn MY NAME and to at least walk through the room each night. There were only about 30 Diamond Plus members on this voyage, NO pinnacle members and then the suite guests. He really had no excuse to not at least greet everyone nightly by name. It's his job. He did not receive a gratuity from me as 1) I didn't need his services and 2) he has no idea what my name was. The bartender on the other hand was nice, if a bit shy.
I did attend the two Crown & Anchor events. Your choices for free beverages on this cruise were champagne in a variety of colors (blue, pink, etc.-they'd added small amounts of liqueurs like Blue Curacao) or fruit punch. In the past, on other ships, they have offered a small selection of cocktails but here the only choices were champagne and fruit punch.
Speaking of shows, along with the production shows, the cruise featured a couple comedians, a juggler and a magician. Didn't see any of them! Oops! There was plenty of live music all around the ship and the pool band was very good, though I forget the name at this time.
We did have a couple "meetings" up in the Viking Crown. After 10 PM part of the VCL turns into the Cigar Bar. Before that there was some music but later at night things got louder with the addition of a DJ. This appeared to be a popular spot though we were never there too late.
As a Diamond Plus member in the Crown & Anchor Society I was able to secure some behind the scenes tours. The only one I actually attended was the Bridge Tour. (The galley and theatre tours were offered when I had other plans). I've been on Bridge Tours in the past, but this was the first time for me on a Vision class ship. I really liked that the bridge wings are actually outside! This has got to be one of the best places on the ship. The second officer who conducted the tour did a good job, though I think that perhaps it was the first time he'd given the tour. He was a little hard to understand though he did have answers to questions, and when he did not, the first officer stepped in.
The cruise was great until the final night. When exiting the Windjammer after dinner, I seem to have misjudged the hill coming out onto the pool deck. There are 2 sets of doors and the ones we used were not really automatic. It was a little windy so that made the door hard to open. That, coupled with the raised area stepping onto the deck from the area outside the Windjammer caused me to fall resulting in a sprained ankle! Ouchies. The ship's crew took care of me, and luckily I had packed almost all of my belongings so my traveling companions were able to just lock up my bags and put them out in the hall. Bummer, I sort of messed up our final "meeting."
All in all the cruise was great fun. We could not have asked for more perfect weather, or smoother seas (for the most part.) I had lots of fun, my friends made for a great vacation and I really didn't run into any major issues. The noise issue was somewhat resolved. I was offered a cabin change but it was really not worth it for just the short time on this cruise. For the trouble, I was sent some wine and ear plugs and will be receiving a future cruise credit (which was a pleasant surprise as I did not even consider this. The wine , earplugs and pleasant attitude of the Guest Relations officer was plenty of 'compensation'. I just hope that when Enchantment undergoes her upcoming drydock, they change out the bedding. I look forward to sailing on Enchantment again sometime in the future, hopefully after she receives her "Royal Advantage" enhancements.