My company held a seminar for staff from around the world and business partners on this short cruise. Before this, I had never sailed out of Fort Lauderdale before. This was my first Royal Caribbean cruise (previously sailed on Norwegian Dawn on vacation in April 2005).
We stayed at the Embassy Suites hotel the night prior to the cruise. This was arranged by my company. The hotel is large. The pool is being refurbished this month, but we didn't have a lot of time there as our flight from London to Miami was delayed. We used Super Shuttle to get from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, and it took about 45 minutes as we hit traffic.
The transfer to the ship was arranged through the cruise line. We were charged around USD13 each, but it would have worked out cheaper to take a taxi as the hotel is only about 10 minutes away from the port.
Embarkation started off smoothly. We got to the port about noon. I forgot to sign my Set Sail Pass (which you print at home after completing online check-in), but once I fixed that it was straight through to the desk to pick up my Sea Pass (onboard cashless credit system). The only problem with check-in is one of the assistants went and got my card for his colleague - without telling anyone. This meant the person checking me in was searching for the card for 10 minutes and then he decided to create a duplicate one, while my original card was sitting on the counter! To top it off, the duplicate card didn't work and I had to come back downstairs to have the error fixed. So what should have been an easy check-in was a bit frustrating in the end.
Once on board I found my cabin on deck 2. On NCL I had a mini suite on deck 11, so this Oceanview stateroom was quite different. I didn't like the 2 smaller windows, so would recommend booking on deck 3 which offers one larger window. Although the stateroom was small, I was travelling on my own, so it wasn't a problem. The bathroom has not bath but a small shower. During the cruise the toilets were temperamental and sometimes wouldn't flush. This seemed to be a problem for a number of colleagues on the same deck.
After unpacking, we headed up to the Windjammer for lunch. I was very impressed with the variety and freshness of the food in the Windjammer self service restaurant (the views out to sea are pretty good too!). I'm not generally a fan of cafeteria style eating, but this was a quality operation. A quieter place to eat if you're happy with Hot Dogs and Pizza, etc. is the Solarium on deck 9. Kids aren't allowed in there.
If you know anything about the history of this ship, you'll know that it was 'cut and stretched' to add more staterooms and other facilities. This means it has a modern walkway feature on deck 10, which is lit up at night and overlooks the pool. The ship is a good size and was quite easy to navigate. The only area I thought was a little dull was the My Fair Lady restaurant. We were on the upper level. Compared to NCL's glitzy decor, this was understated. Each night my colleagues and I ate during the second sitting at 8.30 pm. The service in the restaurant was hit and miss. Occasionally waiters would offer people on my table (of 8) a roll or top-up of wine but then forgot to make it all the way round the table - maybe because I was in an awkward position to get to.
The food was generous (a bit too generous for my liking). For example, one night I had the duck. In Europe, this is usually prepared as duck breast, which is sliced. Well Royal Caribbean seem to serve up half of a rather large duck and I struggled to eat it all. This was the same situation with the lamb. All the food was tasty, and it reminded me of hearty, home cooked food in its presentation. Some of my colleagues felt the food could have been hotter. It wasn't fine dining, but you could reserve a place in the specialty restaurant - which I didn't have time to try if you want a more refined experience and are willing to pay the surcharge. I must say the waiters were very friendly although the head waiter visiting our table on just 2 of the nights to ask if all was okay seemed a formality designed to justify a gratuity as it didn't add anything to the experience. The waiters sing on 2 of the 4 nights which was too loud and little more than a disruption to the service. I could cope with one sing along, but 2 seemed excessive.
The wine selection offered gave plenty to choose from and all the wine we drank was good quality. Some of my colleagues complained that the restaurant staff selling specialty drinks in souvenir cups were a bit pushy. One colleague took a shine to the cups and asked our regular waiter if he could find any for her (which he kindly did). Then the drinks waiter wanted to charge her for the used (albeit cleaned) cups.
The stateroom attendants were efficient and friendly. Mine always seemed to time his turn-down service as I was getting ready for dinner. I'm not sure if they know the passenger's dining arrangements or not. But it would have been better for him to come by after 8.30 since I was always out then.
I went to the 'Screen to Stage' show in the theatre. The singing was excellent. I thought they could have chosen more popular songs, but overall it was very enjoyable and I think it was better than the productions I saw on Norwegian Dawn. The pool deck area is noisy as they constantly play canned or live music. Even when were coming into port at 6.30 am the music was playing - although only a couple of people were on deck and certainly didn't need that kind of wake-up call.
As a side point, a lot of people on this short cruise were very interested in drinking lots of alcohol - which is fine as long as they don't disrupt other passengers. Even at muster (4.30 pm) the 2 ladies in the next line were already 'tipsy' and we hadn't even left the port. And would you believe that some of my colleagues complained the drinks were too strong?
There were a lot of people on board (as we discovered when it came to disembark), but it never seemed too crowded to me - except when the photographers were taking formal photographs in the atrium, which seemed to go on all night. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even on the 1 day at sea I could still find a spot on deck 10 near the pool. I really enjoyed Key West and recommend you take the Old Town Trolley tour if you haven't been there before. Unfortunately, the itinerary doesn't allow you to experience the traditional sunset celebrations. You can easily walk into town so you don't need to book an excursion. For Cozumel, we hired a taxi to take us to Paradise beach about 10 minutes from the port. It is probably worth booking an excursion to take you to a reef if you want to snorkel, because although Paradise beach was a bargain (and very pleasant) it was quite small for snorkeling. I would have liked to visit the temple ruins, but unfortunately we had a conference in the morning and the tours leave at 10 or 11 am.
I didn't think I would be a fan of such a short cruise, but I have been converted and would consider taking one for a vacation in future. I prefer newer ships, but Enchantment looks good for her age. Based on my experience, I would recommend this cruise for first-timers, families and younger people.