Overall, my husband and I had a very enjoyable time aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas during our nine-night cruise to the eastern Caribbean out of Baltimore, MD. For reference, I'm twenty eight and my husband is thirty. We traveled alone. The majority of cruisers seemed to be older people, though there were an unusual number of families on this cruise because of winter break in the local school districts. The first day at sea was extremely rough, with 20-25 foot seas due to a storm off Cape Hatteras. Although I was in bed seasick most of the day, I believe that Captain Shaun did the best he could and I realize the cruise line cannot control the weather. The other sea days were very smooth. We were surprised to find three formal nights scheduled, rather than the two we'd planned for. However, it worked out well, since we didn't attend the first formal night due to the rough seas.
We found the ship very clean and nice. Our room attendant, Bobby, did a fantastic job of keeping our room clean and we loved the towel animals he'd leave for us. The recent dry dock added some nice features, my favorite being the Park Cafe. The food there was usually very good. I loved the grilled three cheese Panini and my husband thought the roast beef sandwiches were fantastic. They would sometimes have left over desserts from the dining room as well, and always had some sort of cookies or pastries. Fresh fruit was also abundantly available.
The staff was exceptionally friendly and courteous. In fact, there was some instances I felt the crew was too nice. For example, the Solarium is supposed to be for ages 16 and over when the outdoor pools are operational. However, we often saw small children running around unattended in the Solarium pool and hot tub even though the outside pools were open. No one on the crew said anything or called security. Another example was the rowdy teenagers in the Viking Crown lounge during "quiet hours." Not a thing said by the crew, and the one passenger who said something to the group of twenty-or-so teens was ignored. Our only other mild complaint with the crew was getting tender tickets for the port of Samana. Instead of setting up a queue line for people to wait in, so that those who arrived first got the first tickets, it was a free for all process in the Centrum. A single crew woman was responsible for handing out the tickets, and she got mobbed as soon as she started giving them out. It seemed very disorganized and could have been handled better.
The food in the dining room was very good. We ate there every night and had very few complaints about the food. The only exception being on the last formal night, when many people complained their lobster tails were either mushy or too tough (my husband was in the later group). A small quibble is that the menu seemed to start repeating itself toward the end of the voyage. A much larger criticism was how the My Time Dining was handled. I made my My Time Dining reservations before we boarded, and requested some nights to eat at a table with others and other nights to have a private table for my husband and myself. The first night was absolute chaos, with a very long wait (though frequent cruisers told me this is normal). The rest of the nights we had no wait at all for a table. However, we almost never got our requested seating arrangement. Nights I'd requested to sit with just my husband, we were put at a larger table, despite two person tables being empty. Other nights, when we had requested to sit with others, we were placed at a private table. It seemed completely random and I felt it had been a waste of my time to even specify my preferences in the reservation.
We were not fans of the food at the Windjammer buffet. In our opinion, there was never a very good selection, and the food just wasn't very good. The best thing I found were their French fries at lunch and tater tots during breakfast. The scrambled eggs were often runny. The bacon was extra crispy, which is just how I like it, but if you like soft bacon, you'll be out of luck. The juice machines were often out of order or very limited in their selections. Seating for the two of us was easy to find, even during the peak times, but I imagine it would be harder for groups larger than four, as those tables went quickly. The complimentary soft serve ice cream on the ship is located outside on the pool deck, but the machine was often not operational or had only one flavor available. The ice cream itself was not very good, and was icy and not very creamy. There were no toppings available, not even sprinkles. I felt it was a ploy to get guests to spend money at the Ben and Jerry's onboard.
Another source of major dissatisfaction was the beach towels. We didn't mind having to use our cruise card to check out towels, as we understand that the company needs to keep track of them. However, the towels were obviously very old. Every one we received had stains on it, which was just gross. After watching a couple kids get bloody noses from horseplay in the pool, and then using their towel to clean up, I was very wary of what the stains were from. For an otherwise classy ship, the towels were very low class. The other problem with the towels was a lack of supply. While in port, you couldn't get fresh towels because so many had been checked out by guests going ashore. We saw some guests having to use their bathroom towels as beach towels on these days.
If you are looking for a cruise with lots of onboard activities you might be a little disappointed with Enchantment of the Seas. We were happy reading by the pool or in a quiet lounge, so it didn't bother us much. If you like trivia or bingo, you'll be set, but if you want more active participation you will find this ship lacking. The rock climbing wall and trampoline activities on the ship weren't open during the four at sea days because of the wind. Since we went ashore at every port, when these activities were open, we never got to use them, which disappointed me. The night time activities were much better than the day time ones. The two shows put on by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers, "Can't Stop the Rock" and a salute to Broadway were fabulous. Most of the hired acts were also good, though my husband and I couldn't stand Judy Kolba, who just seemed washed up. The older people, however, raved about her, so it may have been a generational thing. There were two late night, adult only comedy nights. The first comedian was better than the second, but both were funny. The quest game show was hilarious as was the love and marriage game show. We never had trouble finding seating in the Orpheum Theater, but we always went at least fifteen minutes early for shows. Don't expect to find easy seats if you arrive as the show is starting. The earlier 7pm show was always less full than the later 8:45 show. A small point of contention, the out dated smoke eaters in the casino couldn't handle the volume of cigarette smoke, so the Orpheum Theater, which is next door, often smelled like smoke, as did the stair wells near the casino. There were three smoke free nights in the casino (always the formal nights) but we were so busy attending shows and other events we could never make it to the casino during that short time.
I enjoyed the four ports of call, San Juan, St. Thomas, Samana, and Labadee. We've been to San Juan once before, and did a rain forest tour, so this time we explored the Old City and El Morro fort, which is just breath taking. On St. Thomas we took a cab on our own to Sapphire Beach (the ship offered a tour, but it was cheaper to do it on our own, since we were familiar with the island already). I brought my own snorkeling gear with me and found a lovely little reef right off Sapphire Beach with lots of colorful tropical fish. You can also rent snorkel equipment at the beach. Samana, Dominican Republic turned out to be our favorite port, as we did a culture tour through Tours With Terry. I believe Samana gets a bad rap because there is no large, security patrolled tourist area with great shopping or beaches right off the ship. We Americans don't like being reminded that just beyond the well manicured tourist area is total poverty, and Samana kind of throws that in your face. However, our culture tour showed us that the Dominican people are very happy with what they have (what a foreign concept to us Americans) and happiness is not defined by what you own. Yes, some of the venders can be a little pushy, but a firm "no" usually does the trick. Labadee was relaxing, and we enjoyed the Dragon's Tail alpine coaster, but for $20 a ride, it was pricey. Also, the buffet lunch offered on shore was only so-so.
We did the express walk off to disembark, which left from deck 4, Centrum. Because we had a room on deck 4, this was very easy for us since no elevators were involved. However, the Centrum was soon packed to capacity and there was no room for people on the elevators to get off. My husband and I were off the ship in half an hour, but another Cruise Critic member posted in our sailing's thread that it took her an hour and a half to get off with the express walk off. My best advice is, if you are on a deck other than four and want to do express walk off, get to the Centrum well before the ship docks to avoid delays. Once we were off the ship, there was a large bottle neck at customs. We had been ushered off the ship in two lines, but customs only allowed you to enter the terminal through one door, which slowed down the process considerably.
Overall, our cruise experience was nice. This was only our second cruise, so we can only compare it to our experience on Princess Line's Caribbean Princess, which is a larger vessel with more to do. We both agreed that we like Princess just a bit more, but it wouldn't stop us from cruising with Royal Caribbean again. Perhaps we'll try a larger ship next time, or Royal Caribbean's sister company, Celebrity. Cruising from Baltimore was very convenient for us, it was easy to find and the staff very friendly and organized. Unfortunately, due to bridge heights, the vision class vessels are the largest that can sail from that port. We'll have to go to New York or fly to Florida for a larger ship experience.