We really enjoyed our cruise - wonderful ship, excellent service by the staff, comfortable accomodations. My husband and I were on the Enchantment for the 12-night Eastern Caribbean cruise that left Baltimore on January 14, 2013. This is only our second cruise - the first was on Holland America for the Alaskan Inside Passage cruise, so our observations are from cruise neophytes.
Embarkation: We're really pleased that Royal Caribbean sails out of the port of Baltimore as this is very convenient for us. We used the Airport Shuttle to pick us up from our home, deliver us to the cruise terminal, and pick us up after the cruise. So easy! Embarkation was straightforward. I had attached our RC luggage tags before leaving so we dropped off our luggage at the carts outside and headed into the terminal. The first line was for security - walk-thru scanner and X-ray of any carry-ons. Be sure to let them know if you have wine in your luggage as they want to check it. Wine and champagne only - no liquor allowed in your luggage. Then we stood in the line for our cabin type (about 30-45 minutes) and checked in. Then, zoom - right to the ship. There's a stop to get your photo taken then up the long ramp. You arrive on Deck 4 and you can go anywhere you like, but cabins weren't ready until around 1:00. We headed to the Solarium and enjoyed a delicious roast beef sandwich and light dessert.
Stateroom: We had a balcony stateroom (#7084). Very roomy with a sofa and lots of storage, flat screen TV, hairdryer in a drawer. The balcony is on the smallish side but really a nice luxury. A little annoyed that passengers are allowed to smoke on balconies. The smoke drifts over and forced us inside several times although I think our neighbors were trying to be considerate when they knew we were outside. The bathroom is small of course and our shower had the dreaded "fondling curtain" that clings to you as you shower. Two outlets at the desk to recharge electronics. We used one for a small electric clock (I like to see the time at night) which gained a minute or two each day. They don't want you to leave items charging when you're not there. Our room attendant unplugged ours if we were out. There is a safe, but it's pretty small. It fits the iPad and my Kindle and DSLR camera, but the bigger camera wouldn't fit. It operates with a number keypad to open and close.
Enchantment: Our trip was post-rehab and everything looked fresh. New carpeting, flat screen TVs, and a bright Centrum with pretty lighting displays all made for a pleasant voyage. The jogging track on the top deck was nice although it was often closed when windy. The promenade deck on Deck 5 was open all the way around just once. They seem to block off the ends to do maintenance. I liked the touch screens around the ship to tell you how to get places. Everything seemed to work well.
Food: We ate at the Windjammer buffet for breakfast and lunch and a few dinners. The food there was kind of hit or miss. Breakfast offers scrambled eggs, omelets, bacon and really good sliced ham. Nice selection of sweet rolls, muffins and croissants. Coffee was good. Stay away from the cardboard-like pancakes!! Lunch and dinner offered meat dishes like stir frys, pork chops, sliced roast beef, barbecue, salads and desserts. Some of the desserts were excellent (cheesecake, chocolate cakes) and some not so good (mousse and nougats seemed to have no flavor). All had a nice presentation. We could usually find a table for two and the wait staff was excellent keeping tables clean and bringing coffee and drinks.
My Fair Lady Dining Room. We chose the My Time Dining option and I set reservations online before we left, but adjusted them each day as needed. The food there was really good with a lovely presentation. Pasta dishes were nicely seasoned, the salmon dishes were flavorful and perfectly cooked. I'd recommend the fruit "soups" as appetizers - really a nice fresh start to dinner. Desserts were really good - the Chocolate Sensation was great, Warm Chocolate Cake was nice, Kahlua cake was delicious. Wait staff excellent! We had Hemant and he was terrific! The dining room is a much better choice - the food is much, much nicer than that of the Windjammer and the service is great! We had a table for two, near a window as I had requested and we had the same table and waiter throughout. Really lovely to watch the sunset while dining.
Entertainment: We attended only one show the last night, but wished we had attended more. The comedian was really good and the singing talent was great. Most nights we enjoyed the bands in the Centrum (Evergreen Trio and Shine) and watched the dancers. A pleasant low-key way to enjoy the evening. Several movies: Bourne Legacy, The Amazing Timothy Green, Dark Knight Rises, Hope Springs, Premium Rush. Don't miss the "Captain's Cake Decorating Contest". Captain Gus and the Hotel Captain square off to decorate cakes. Lots of laughs!
Ports: British Virgin Islands (Tortola) : We took the RC excursion to The Baths at Virgin Gorda. A speedy catamaran boat ride to the island and then a bus trip to the Baths. A short hike down the hill took us to the shore and then a walk through the boulders. You have to be able to duck under rocks and scramble over some rocks a bit, but the water is no higher than knee deep. A pretty place and worth the trip. On the boat ride back everyone was treated to a cup of Rum and CocaCola. We arrived back in time to do some shopping in town.
Antigua: Not our favorite place. Hoards of taxi drivers descend on passengers once you arrive and throughout the day. We walked up to St. Johns Cathedral for some photos. It was once a beautiful church but it's in bad shape now and under restoration. We returned to portside and forged our way through the taxi hawkers to do a little shopping, but quickly returned to the ship.
St. Maarten: Very nice island. We took the RC Island Tour bus excursion and really enjoyed this. It takes you on a loop around the island and crosses the border to the French side. The tour bus stops in town for you to do some shopping and visit the vendors at the marketplace. Be sure to do some bargaining as the price goes down as you walk away. It's an interesting place with all the signage in French. Back on the bus and the tour returns you to Philipsburg. The driver let us off close to town for shopping and we walked about a mile back to the ship.
St. Thomas: We took the RC tour to St. John which involved a short boat ride over to the island, an open air tour bus takes you on a loop around the island and stops at several of the beaches and overlooks so you can spend a few minutes taking photos and enjoying the beach. We enjoyed this trip and the driver had some interesting and funny commentary along the route. You arrive back at the dock and have about an hour to do some shopping before boarding the boat back to St. Thomas. It's about a mile walk to Charlotte Amalie (water taxis are available) for shopping. We were here 30 years ago and it was much more crowded and noisier than I remember.
San Juan, Puerto Rico: Our favorite stop of the trip. This area of San Juan is really pretty. There are two old forts within walking distance - San Cristobal and El Morro. Both are worth the visit to see the old battlements and learn a bit about the history of the island. Take a few minutes to look down the side streets to see the nicely maintained houses with the colorful fronts and decorations. The ship was only here for a few hours - 8 am to 1 pm and I wish we had more time here. Long lines to get back on the ship - this was the only port where we had to show a photo ID to get back onboard.
Labadee, Haiti: First I need to say we're not beach people, so Labadee wasn't so great for us. Royal Caribbean has put a lot of money into making this into kind of a beach/amusement park. There are zip lines, a children's water play area, cabanas (which cost extra), and some nice beaches to relax on. It's just for Royal Caribbean so the only people here are the passengers and the attendants and merchants. Lunch is served at a large pavilion - chicken wings, ribs, salads and cookies. When we arrived all the beach chairs are stacked up with guys standing next to them. If you want a chair you have to ask and then they expect a tip. They all work for Royal Caribbean - why not just set the chairs up when the ship docks. I could have done without Labadee.
Debarkation: Easy! We got instructions the night before and filled in our customs form for purchases made during the trip. We did most of our packing the night before. On debark day, the Windjammer opened at 6 am (super crowded!) so we had breakfast there. Back to our room to finish packing and when they announced that we could leave, we stood in line to debark. One last ding for our Seapass and we were off the ship to Customs. That was quick too. My only complaint was the Baltimore Cruise Terminal - we had to wait outside once we cleared customs. It's January, raining and cold. They did have overhead heaters, but they really don't help much. I don't understand why we couldn't wait inside for our shuttle to arrive. This isn't a problem if you parked here, but there were a lot of folks shivering outside waiting for their ride home.
Some nits: The Park Cafe in the Solarium is nice, but really fills up at lunch. Also, people "reserve" the chaises with towels and items so that means none are available. Most were left like that for hours.
The music in the Windjammer is way too loud. It's already a noisy place and loud rock/pop music doesn't help.
The big TV on the pool deck was usually tuned to loud MTV pop videos. I think less than 10% of the passengers even knew who the musicians were.
I'd like to see the Main Dining Room menus posted for the whole trip so I can plan what nights I want to go there.
Please, RC, ban smoking on the balconies! Smoke drifts all around, spoiling a very expensive cabin upgrade for non-smokers.
Please pause the movie during announcements. We were at a critical point in a movie where plot points were explained, but missed the whole thing.
Also, please offer a TV news station other than Fox News. CNN International was okay, but another US news station would be appreciated.
Luggage: Only one of our two suitcases arrived with most of the luggage. My bag was nowhere to be found - not a good feeling as the ship pulls away from the dock. After 6 pm they said there was no more luggage to be delivered so I asked our room attendant (Renato) to check for me. He finally found my suitcase and delivered it to our room around 7 pm. No one knows why it was late - it still had all the tags on it and looked fine. Really had me worried though, trying to imagine what I'd need to do without it! Next time I'm keeping my bags with me when I board.