Enchantment of the Seas Review March 19-31, 2012
We were overdue for a cruise: the last time we sailed was 1974 on our honeymoon from NYC to Cherbourg, France on the QEII. We spent our honeymoon in Paris before returning to Berlin Germany, our home for the first three years we were married. Our TA was able to find this 12-day Southern Caribbean cruise which fit perfectly into our schedules.
I used Fodor's Caribbean Cruises and the AAA Caribbean Tour Book guides. Cruise Critic ship and port review were invaluable as was the Roll Call.
We drove 5 hours to Baltimore from our home in eastern Ohio and stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express at the Stadiums/Russell Street, a package our TA arranged for us. See my review of the hotel on TripAdvisor: "Holiday Inn-Express to the Pier." Our included shuttle departed the hotel at 11:00 a.m.; we were at the Baltimore Cruise Terminal by 11:10. The shuttle driver handed our bags to the ship porters. Be sure to keep your carry-on with you in the van or it could be whisked away with the checked bags.
Our carry-on was scanned along with our credit card and passports. We were assigned to a boarding area (#29) and waited to be called for boarding. While the procedure is efficient, we did not enjoy being sandwiched with other cruisers while waiting. We were onboard by 12 noon, oriented ourselves and explored the public areas. I purchased a helpful app for $1.99 called "ShipMate," specifically for the RCCI line. One of the helpful features was "Explore the Ship" with a map for each deck. We used the deck map for several days. We noticed that the our sailing was mostly older adults with varying degrees of mobility.
Our stateroom was ready at 1:30 as promised. Our amazing attendant, Milton, came around to introduce himself and then it was off for the muster drill which was over in about
30 minutes. Serious business, post Concordia. Names were checked off. Don't even think about missing it.
Stateroom: Balcony/Stateroom 7060 is mid-ship, port side, equidistant from the staircase or the Centrum area. The room was so well insulated we never heard any noise coming from the Centrum area or the staterooms on either side of us. I had read about the spaciousness of the balcony stateroom and we were not disappointed.
The storage space is amazing. There were 23 hangers in the closet which also had 3 drawers. Our large suitcase and garment bag fit easily in the closet; we stored the lifejackets on the side of the vanity. Our other roll-a-board suitcases fit easily under the beds. Other storage includes a 5- shelf angled closet; 3 shelves at the end of the vanity; 3 drawers on either side of the vanity; shelves on both sides of the vanity mirror; and, 2 drawers in each bedside nightstand.
The beds were very comfortable. The bed linens were crisp, clean and fresh. Each bed had two pillows: one firm, one soft. I brought my own tempur-pedic pillow for my personal comfort.
The bathroom medicine cabinet had 3 large triangular-shaped glass shelves behind two glass-fronted mirror/doors. The bathroom lighting was excellent. I appreciated the mirrors on the side of the sink which allowed me to apply makeup easily without having to lean over the sink (I'm quite nearsighted). An open area under the sink holds a 'built-in' wastebasket. There are shelves in the shower for toiletries which also has a soap/shampoo dispenser which was filled daily.
Other reviewers have commented on the 'friendly' shower curtain. It never made a move on me; however, I did weigh it down with two clothespins (previously suggested) and left one side of the curtain open a little for airflow. When Enchantment goes into drydock in December 2012, glass shower doors are supposed to be installed. Our stateroom had a new, smaller
flat-screened TV and a digital safe. The ship must be rolling out these updates since others mentioned older TVs and safes which are accessed by a credit card. It was difficult to hear Captain Gus' announcements clearly in our stateroom. We stood near the door and could hear him clearly from the hall. The only time we could easily hear announcements in the stateroom speakers happened when passengers were late for a port sailaway. Captain Gus ended his
12 noon briefing with words of wisdom. Among my favorites: "There are 50 ways to leave your lover, but only one way to leave the ship: the gangway."
We really enjoyed our balcony (and the refrigerator) - well worth the extra cost. It had two chairs and a glass-topped table, the perfect size for our morning room service tray. The balcony is not 100% private since the translucent divider is curved and you are able to see your neighbor by standing at the railing. Others have commented on the lack of varnish on the balcony railings: true statement. However, I like to think the varnish was worn away from cruisers leaning on the balcony talking with their new neighbors or staring at the ocean while slowly decompressing and falling under the ocean's spell. I can assure you there is lots of varnish on the public decks, polished to a high gloss.
Room Service: I concur with other reviewers: the crew works incredibly hard for 12-16 hours a day while away from their families (up to 8 months at a time, depending on their contract). I wish I could name each crew member who smiled at us, asked us how we were doing or made us feel special. We came to know: our amazing, insightful stateroom attendant, Milton Pasos (Nicaragua); Keshia Ellis (Jamaica) who delivered our coffee and then breakfast to the stateroom on time, without fail; Peeter de la Cruz (Peru) the Deck 6 bar attendant in the Orpheum Theatre. Although we did not order drinks until the last night, Peeter came over to say hello every.single.night and to ask about our day. Mark in the Windjammer Marketplace greeted us every night and always had a nice word. RCCI is fortunate to have these four crew members and all others in their employ. Hint: on Day 1, we called Room Service to have a standard coffee order delivered between 7-7:30 am. Another nice touch? We got a call to let us know the order was on its way. We filled out a breakfast room service card and hung it on the door each night. Every morning, breakfast was delivered within our 7:30-8:00 a.m. window. Now you know why we didn't want to get off the ship! If you like strong coffee, room service is the best on the ship. Windjammer coffee is weak and Latte Tudes is very expensive.
Meet and Mingle: Prior to the cruise, I registered with Cruise Critic(.com) and joined the Meet and Mingle held on the first full morning at sea in the Spotlight Lounge. Many people attended the well- organized event which included lots of goodies: signature RCCI travel accessories, a gift exchange and personalized visors for each person. Grandma Gail, organizer of the event, made the visors, a nice memento of the cruise. Following the M&M, we participated in a "Cabin Crawl" to visit four types of staterooms. Other organized activities included a Casino Slot Pull; group lunch; a shuffleboard tournament; and a dinner in the Chops Restaurant. Since we were first-time cruisers, I benefited from reading the posts on our cruise Roll Call. Experienced cruisers willingly shared information and answered questions. Their advice helped us adjust to ship life and to know what to expect. Join Cruise Critic for a wealth of information on everything cruising.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the early/6:30p.m. show in the Orpheum Theatre each evening. Many have commented on the crowded shows and the need to show up an hour early; we did not find that necessary. We staked out seats on Deck 6 in the upper balcony each night at 6:00 p.m. and people-watched. Entertainment summary: Day 1: The "Sailaway Show" emceed by John Blair, Cruise Director, and his wife, Katrina Blair, Activities Manager (60-100 activities are scheduled daily). Day 2: This was an SRO crowd for a production show, "Can't Stop the Rock," a tribute to rock and roll featuring an energetic young cast finishing up their 6-month contract on board. Day 3: Joey Van, music, comedy and impressions. Day 4: Rodney Johnson, comedian. He joked a lot about shipboard life and parenting. Day 5: The music and comedy of Judy Kolba, international comedienne/singer. If guests were listening closely, they took away this message from her closing song: "Enjoy yourself; it's later than you think." If I learned anything on this cruise, it was just that. Hello. Day 6: The Grand Illusions of David Haines, illusionist, featuring (wife) Abi. Because of the anticipated large crowds, we were in 'our' seats by 5:50 p.m.
Day 7: El Gaucho, singer/dancer/rope twirler/audience participation. Day 8: Johnny Thunder from The Drifters. Day 8: Matt Henry, juggler. Day 9: Production Show featuring the RC singers and dancers in "Stage to Screen" - the Broadway hits that made it to the Hollywood. Day 10: Matt Henry, comedy juggler. Later: Cruise Director, John Blair, starred in a tribute to Neil Diamond: "Longfellow Serenade."
Day 11: Your Three Tenors, singing highlights from famous operas. Day 12: Farewell Showtime, featuring many of the previous entertainers and the RC singers and dancers.
Each show had two interpreters for the (only) deaf passenger onboard. Their services are contracted with RCCI at no extra cost to the passenger. Website: Terpsatsea.com. They also interpreted for the passenger on shore excursions and at a daytime Centrum event toward the end of the cruise.
Onboard Observations: If you are a runner, you will enjoy the ' mile track on Deck 10. Keep in mind, however, that you will compete with casual walkers who will not necessarily keep to the right and who may stroll three abreast. During inclement weather and/or high winds,
Deck 10 will be closed. Although running is not permitted on Deck 5, we walked that deck many nights when Deck 10 was closed. It is more protected from the elements than Deck 10.
Shopping Talks: Frequent port shopping presentations are scheduled with Earl, the shopping guide. They focus on how to buy diamonds and gems. "Official Shopping Maps" for each port are distributed with the "Royal Picks" noted: those vendors endorsed by RCCI. The cruise line receives commissions from passengers. Art on Royal: Art Gallery on Deck 6 with an art dealer and scheduled seminars, collections, and auctions. Music: The ship is alive with music in the Centrum, lounges, and pools. The groups included: DJ Conrad/Lucian; Rosario Strings; Viva Band; Lightning Wave; Max Difaz; Evergreen Trio; Enchantment Orchestra.
Shops at Centrum: Shop till you drop at the onboard shops. Hint: toward the end of each cruise, many items are reduced significantly. If you can, wait! Ditto for spa treatments. Watch the Cruise Compass and signage for details.
Disembarkation/Embarkation Procedures: When leaving the ship in port, each passenger inserts the SetSail Pass into a machine to document who has left the ship. When returning, all sunglasses and hats must be removed. Do this before you reach the gangway. There are many people behind you! Screeners match each passenger with the photo taken at Baltimore on
Day 1. Each passenger is required to produce the SetSail Pass and sometimes, photo id. I was asked once for my photo id. All backpacks, phones, and cameras are put through a scanning machine, just like airport security. A crew member squirts passenger hands with antibacterial solution. Purell dispensers are found throughout the ship. While rules are prominently posted at the gangway and in the Cruise Compass about taking food off and on the ship (including warnings about fines if caught), our bags we were never inspected. Fruits and vegetables are the big worry.
Enrichment Lectures: Joe Condrill presented enrichment lectures in the Spotlight Lounge. His one-hour topics: "Age of Discovery in the Caribbean;" "Piracy in the Caribbean";
"Enchanted Isles-Tortola, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico"; "Twenty-five Amazing Dates that Changed the World"; "Nostradamus Speaks to Us"; "Fascinating Tales about US Presidents, First Ladies, & Veeps"; Handouts were available.
Religious Services: Saturday Vigil Catholic Mass was held on Saturday at 4:45 p.m.; Jewish Sabbath Service at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday; Interdenominational Video with Joel Osteen 6:00 a.m. -- noon, Sunday, on Channel 27; Interdenominational Religious Service at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday.
Cruise Compass: The Bible of your cruise. The stateroom attendant will bring two copies to your stateroom the evening before for the next day's activities. The multi-page leaflet includes: Important Things to Know Today; Programs Onboard; Offers of the Day; Activities and Entertainment Highlights; Open Hours (for onboard venues); Daily Planner; Today's Activities. The CC also includes a daily insert: Cruise Specials and More, focusing on shopping and onboard services; and, when in port, the omnipresent Official Shopping Map.
Towel Exchange: Not as annoying as reported. Check-out RCCI beach towels on the Pool Deck and exchange for the same number of towels. SetSail pass is required. A $25 charge will be applied to the shipboard account if the towels are not returned prior to disembarkation.
Library Deck 7: A nice, quiet retreat. Games and books are available for checkout. Daily Soduku and Trivia puzzles are available. I was happy to see a used book exchange, too. Imagine my delight when I traded my paperbook from home for James Michener's Caribbean.
Reading it after the cruise helped to 'extend' our cruise and teach me more about the fascinating history of the Caribbean.
Future Cruise Sales Deck 7: Take advantage of special prices by registering for your next cruise onboard. Hint: If you are even considering a future cruise, sign up early for a
30-minute appointment with the (two) cruise counselors. Hours are limited. Onboard we applied for a RCCI Visa card (approved the next day); registered for the NextCruise Program
(a $100 per person nonrefundable deposit with ability to decide later on a specific cruise); registered for the Crown and Anchor Society. I guess you could say we are now
"loyal to Royal."
The disembarkation was as smooth as the embarkation. The night before departure, an instruction sheet and new (numbered) luggage tags were placed in each stateroom. Each number (ours was '41') was assigned a departure lounge on the ship and a time to gather. All passengers were divided into groups. All "41"s waited in the Orpheum Theatre, Deck 5 forward at
9:10-9:20 a.m. Coffee (undrinkable), juice, and sweet rolls were available. At 9:15 a.m., we formed a 'conga line' and were led off the ship, walking through the Enchantment one last time. We didn't want to leave! Passengers could choose to do a 'self-carry' departure between
Our luggage was already waiting for us in Area 41 in the terminal. Our 5 bags were all together. However, no one checked to see if we were the owners of the bags. Kudos to RCCI for pulling off this amazing feat. We gathered our bags and proceeded to the "Pick-Up Lot" to call and wait for our hotel shuttle. Porters with rolling carts are available to assist with bags but more are needed. Caution: Even though guests are staggered as they exit the ship, there is a lot of congestion with people and baggage. Don't fall over the person in front of you who decides to stop for no reason simply because h/she is dazed and confused! Everyone is still on island time.
We called the Holiday Inn Express at 9:20 a.m. for a shuttle; he arrived at 10:00 and we were back at the hotel at 10:20. We used the bathroom, grabbed a cup of coffee, gassed up and departed Baltimore at 10:45 a.m.
The Enchantment worked her magic: we arrived home rested, relaxed and ready to sail again: September 28-October 4 to Bermuda.