Background: I consider myself an experienced cruiser, and have sailed most of the world. While my favorite line is Crystal, I like to cruise more than I can afford with them and have also sailed with Windstar, Silversea, Celebrity, Cunard, HAL, and RCI. I hope my 3-star rating is not viewed as disapproval, I've enjoyed some really awesome cruises and my behavior probably says more than a star number. This was my second cruise on Enchantment with a 3rd booked so they must be doing something right.
Ship: The Enchantment, part of Royal Caribbean's Vision class, is one of the older ships, entering service in 1997. Unique in the class, it was stretched in 2005, adding a 71-foot section midship. The added rooms and lounges are nice but the added cabins made the Windjammer Cafe and Orpheum theater more crowded than they should be. When I first sailed Enchantment a year earlier I found the ship generally in good shape with some maintenance issues. A year later the ship seems significantly improved; I would say excellent condition. I did notice a few things related to the age of the ship:
1. The safes are the old variety which requires a magnetic card swipe to open or close, rather than the more modern pin code. I had encountered this last year and came prepared with an expired card.
2. The TV's are small tube type units but they performed well.
3. Wifi is available only in public lounges, not in cabins.
Items 2 and 3 are supposed to be updated in a December 2012 drydock.
Activities: Most of the activities seemed better suited to a younger crowd than I am, although there was never a shortage of things to do. There was one enrichment lecturer, something I haven't previously seen on Royal. Timothy Calvert made 4 presentations on Bermuda, Baltimore, and ocean liners. While not a world class expert, Calvert was interesting and informative, and a very welcome addition to the program.
Service: For a large (to me) mass market ship I found the crew much better than expected. Most of it was not particularly personal but my waiter from a year ago did recognize and greet me in the dining room. I think RCI may have made a recent effort to improve the service of the head waiters. Both our head waiter (Ice) and another mentioned by a roll call member reported the same from a second head waiter (KitKat). I don't remember this from my previous RCI cruises (last year and Jan on Jewel)
Travel To Port of Embarkation: This to me is one of the big draws of the Enchantment. I boarded a commuter bus a half block from my Columbia home in the morning, transferred to a connecting bus which took me half a mile from the port. I could do much the same with a competing ship but the Enchantment keeps me coming back.
Stateroom: My outside stateroom was comfortable and well laid out. I had concerns about being under the Orpheum Theater but had no problems with noise.
Dining: I remember 4 dining venues. The main dining room covers 2 aft levels with a choice of either traditional or "my time" dining. I did not find the MDR food particularly wonderful but it was more than adequate. There were 3 "always available" items (chicken, steak, seafood) and I had intended to try them but kept putting it off as there were always things I wanted to have on the main menu. The Windjammer cafe on the vision class is at the front of the ship, rather than aft. Given a single choice of forward or aft I would probably choose aft but found the forward location a nice change; it is a wonderful feeling to enjoy a meal there as you approach a port. With the stretch adding cabins, the WJ was a bit overcrowded but that was only an issue once in a while. The food there was spotty. Pancakes and eggs were both good while french toast and waffles tended to be a bit tough. A small cafe in the solarium serves burgers, hot dogs, and pizza. Chops grille is the only specialty restaurant, open only for dinner. I did not dine there this year but enjoyed it last year.
Entertainment: The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers put on 2 excellent shows. I'd prefer they do a 3rd show which would make sense with the relatively long cruises Enchantment is doing. On other nights there were comedians, jugglers, magicians, and vocalists. Most were good, although the quality varied somewhat. The Orpheum theater is unfortunately a bit on the small side for the size of the ship. There were 4 other bands playing a variety of music in the lounges.
Disembarkation: We pulled up to the pier at 6:55. I had elected self disembarkation and was off the ship and in line for a taxi line at 7:20. After a short ride to Camden yards I boarded a commuter train and connecting local bus, walking in my front door at 10:15. Couldn't be easier.
Summary: I really am not a natural customer for Royal Caribbean. While they have a lot of great activities for younger families and kids, as a single those really don't matter to me much. For me Royal Caribbean fulfills 2 niche rolls. While not currently applicable to the Enchantment (they'll get a crack at that role next year) Royal does very well with short getaways that seem to throw crews of other lines off their stride. The other niche is the ability to cruise close to home. While there is a competitor at out port RCI's itineraries are far superior, as I expect the onboard experience is as well. The ability to walk out my front door and be on a ship just a few hours later (less than an hour later if I drove to the port) greatly enriches my options for cruising. I liked Enchantment enough last year to sail it again this year and found it much better the second time around. I thought the crew was better in 2012, the ship seemed to be in excellent condition, and I appreciated having the front section of the Promenade deck open much of the time. Despite a very busy cruise schedule, I'll be back in January.