We recently returned from a Cruise on RCI's "Enchantment of the Seas" sailing out of Baltimore. This was a last minute thing for us but we wanted to get away for a week or so, we enjoy cruising and since Baltimore Cruise terminal is only about an hour from the house it seemed like a good choice. We have sailed about 9 times previously we knew what to expect and not expect from a cruise. I will go chronologically as to what we experienced and I will try to make valid comparisons as to what we experienced on this cruise compared with others we have been on. One thing I must say since our experience cruising spans a 16 year period the industry has changed (not for the good) over that period so my critisisms may be valid for other cruise lines as well in 2012 but I can only judge by my experiences.
The Baltimore Cruise terminal at its present location is very convenient and the parking is adequate and close to the terminal. We previously sailed from the Old Curtis Point location on Celebrity this much better.
The check in process was very chaotic they had about 20 check in clerks 15 of which were for non-preferred customers 10 for preferred (suites and loyalty club members). The ticket stated we were to check in at 1:00 PM and not to come before 12:00 (not true). There was one line that was wrapped around back and forth 6 times over a distance of about 200 feet and the line went beyond those rope barriers. The line moved well enough but it still took about an hour to get to the desk. Once at the desk it was straight forward and easy.
* On Cunard we received a colored ticket and were told to sit in a waiting area until our color was called you could sit and get snacks while you waited and not have to stand for an hour.
Once on board we were basically told go to the back elevator and find it for yourself.
* On other lines we have been escorted to our cabins by a uniformed steward.
The room, 3156, is and outside window cabin. We usually have a verandah or mini-suite but had an outside window on the SUN PRINCESS and were satisfied with it. This room however was the smallest by far of any cabin we have had. The set up with the window above the bed offered no view out the window unless you knelt on the bed and looked out. The steward must have been aware of this as he always closed the curtains when we were out. There were also no toiletries in the bathroom. There was good storage space, however.
They also had so called mini-bar items laid out at the usually extraordinary expense but NO REFRIGERATOR how you can sell cold drinks that aren't cold!! When I asked to have the items removed one Steward told me it was not allowed but our room steward just hid them away so we did not see them the rest of the trip.
* On the SUN PRINCESS we had a similar outside cabin that was at least 50 square feet bigger with a window that was so large it went from my ankles to above my head. The couch was next to the window and you could enjoy the views while sitting. It also had a refrigerator which was, emptied of the mini bar, at my request.
Recently we have started requesting early seating we were unable to get it and were not offered a chance to change once we were on board. The food in the main dinning room at dinner was very good I would give it 4 out of 5. The waiters were very good and properly attentive without being in the way. The food was served hot, of good quality and without any undue waiting. While ostensibly there was a dress code and the two formal nights were supposedly at least a jacket and tie. The dress code was totally ignored with equal disdain by both the staff and passengers. A table of about twelve people showed up on formal night with matching logo tee shirts and shorts alongside a table with guests in gowns and Tuxedos.
* The dinner experience was good and comparable to our other cruises.
Breakfast was open seating as usual with out being overly crowded. (I believe most people went to the buffet on the 9th deck). The selection was limited to eggs to order, pancakes and hot cereal. They have however, introduced a new "feature" they put all the cereal, fruit and pastries on a BUFFET IN THE MAIN DINNING ROOM! With some cajoling a waiter with trepidation would get you something off the buffet but it was obvious they did not like it. My point is if I wanted the "buffet experience" I would go up to the 9th deck and make believe it's Hoss's Steak house. They also tried to hawk "fresh Squeezed orange juice" for $2.25 a glass (tacky). The service at breakfast unlike the dinner service was lack luster at best... Food 3 out of 5 services 2.5. Perhaps the like of any tips may have induced this situation.
* Every other cruise I have been on had an attentive breakfast service with a greater selection of items and no "go and get it yourself" requirements.
Lunch was open seating and unfortunately very similar to breakfast with a Salad bar (feature) in the middle of the main dinning room with the same comments as above. The menu selection was very limited to one or two featured items and maybe a burger and vegetarian dish but was generally good. The major fault I had with the lunch was it was only available at sea the 4 port days it was closed. You were forced to go to the overcrowded buffet on the 9th deck. I would like to mention how small and overcrowded the 9th deck was (Windjammer Market). The ship was designed to have about 1800 passengers. They cut it in half and added space for about 600 additional passengers but did not increase the size of the public spaces to accommodate the increased load.
* I have never seen buffets in the main dinning room on other ships and the selection was considerably better than on the RCL ship. The Buffet restaurants on other cruise lines were not overly crowded and the staff on Holland America or Celebrity would even carry your trays and get you drinks if you liked.
Entertainment staff and Shows
This was the high point of the cruise. A high energy cruise director and staff worked very hard to provide varying activities during the day. The shows were varied and the performers were excellent and diverse.
The entertainment was defiantly geared towards the 40's and younger crowd which was not a bad thing.
The casino was good, although smoking was allowed it was restricted on formal nights and there were no smoking areas. The payouts were reasonable on the slots while still loosing giving a lot of play for your money.
* Here the Enchantment is in the top two or three cruises I have been on. Nothing more pathetic then some guy doing impressions of people who have been dead for 30 years or more. RCL did not have that I would give entertainment 4.5 out of 5.
In a word overcrowded. The aforementioned increase in size of the ship made for a very crowded pool and activities area. I try and swim every day and was able to only by going at 6:45 am and getting my laps in. After 9 and for the rest of the day till 7 or 8 in the evening the pools were literally standing room only folks simply talking to one another while standing elbow to elbow.
Hugely overpriced they wanted 40 dollars for a shuttle bus from the pier to downtown Boston for two people. I took the "T" for $10 for two all day and it was only about a twenty minute walk to the Commons from the pier. Similar overpriced excursions in the other ports. We took one a glass bottom boat cruise with "cocktails" good enough but the cocktails were a plastic cupful of rum punch and twice as many people on board as there was room to see the glass bottom you had to take turns looking.
* I have never been on any excursion booked through any ship that has offered any value for the money. We have booked many before and I have always been underwhelmed by the trips.
The ship has an automatic tipping plan which we participated in. As usual drinks and services had tips automatically added at 18% however when you get the bill there is still a line to add a tip onto the bill when you get it when I asked if the tip was included the waiter said I could include an additional tip if I wanted. This reminds me of Europe were the bill is always "service compris" and they try and get the rube Americans to add it again. Also at the end of the trip even after we participated in the tipping program we received envelopes to give something extra. It should be either one way or the other not both.
* My most recent experience on Cunard while not overt was the same as far as the staff tipping. I thought I would give a little extra to my room steward and dinning room waiter thinking this special but everyone seemed to do the same.
I don't believe we will be sailing on Royal Caribbean again. The small cabin, self service food, generally poor staff are not what we have come to expect on our cruises. We like the convenience of sailing out of Baltimore and hope more Cruise lines will try the market. We may even try Celebrity again as we had a very good experience on that line even though it is a RCL subsidiary I believe the Royal Caribbean Brand is just too mass marketed.
Overall assessment 2.75 out of 5