It's been 24 hours and I can still smell the fresh raw sewage stench lingering through the 3rd deck hallways. The sheets had obviously been slept in. The china has never seen a decent meal served on them- ever.
How was that for a Titanic-esque intro?
Seriously, though, we had a good time on the cruise. We knew going in that the two-day cruise was an introductory special, and not to expect too much. That said, we walked on board with our expectations somewhat lowered, since this wasn't an $8,000 three week cruise around Cape Horn, and we understood that. We did get our money's worth out of the excursion, but we did many things to cut corners.
We arrived at the West Palm Beach terminal and had valet park the car for us. This was $15 per day, and got us prepared for the never-ending onslaught of fees upon fees upon even more fees. Apparently, as we were from out of town, getting around the valet service at the port was going to be nearly impossible, so we gave valet the keys.
As soon as we get our boarding passes, we put our credit card on file to allow for payment of the cease-less fees. They required $100 per passenger up front. Next, we headed up the gangway to the ship. Before we get to the gangway itself, first we were required to make dining reservations. My immediate response was, "Which is the included meals?" They replied with "Rio's and the Crystal Restaurant," and they immediately put two diners on the reservation list for each night.
Next stop, was the table selling bottles of wine and all sorts of other liquids to imbibe ones' self, causing a complete cluster f*ck as people drooled over the selections. We were asked if we'd like to purchase, illiciting a declination, after which we were quickly ushered on our way, as it was apparent they weren't going to get any more money from us.
Next stop was the guy at the desk with the computer whose job it was to swipe our guest card. Immediately upon approaching HIS desk, my immediate question was, "What are YOU selling?" He swiped our cards, and then we entered the boat, whereupon a rather foul raw sewage smell literally smacked us in the face and turned our stomachs.
We found our cabin. Small, simple and austere, as we'd imagined. We weren't expecting a five-star resort quality room. The tiny complete bathroom was about the size of two phone booths put together, with the sink in the middle. Hardly enough room in there to fart, let alone shower one's self, but we managed.
It looked as if a blind person had painted the room, as white paint was all over everything, including the single lamp shade. We'd requested a double bed, but we found that all we had were bunks. So much for a romantic cabin getaway.
We set sail shortly after dark, then found our way to Rio's for our first dinner of the night. Seating space was at a premium, so they sat you literally with the prior party they had just seated who had entered the room before you. So unless you were a hermit, you pretty much had to make dining friends FAST.
We were actually impressed with the food at Rio's. We both had the Chicken Fetuccini. We settled for iced water and tea, as anything else- and I mean ANYTHING else, was an extra charge (sodas, alcohol, etc.).
Next we toured the ship, which was what we expected for a ship 31 years old. Nothing extravagant, but not the pits either. Then we turned in and hit the hay. We were so tired we didn't even notice the slight tossing of the ship on the waves. The sewage smell gradually dissipated over the course of the evening.
Next morning we grabbed some grub at the top pool deck. It was buffet-style, and apparently was included in the deal. One of us commented that the scrambled eggs looked like something that had been scraped off the bottom of the ship. The eggs were repugnant, but everything else was edible.
We knew there would be a $9/ day per passenger fuel surcharge and a $12/day per passenger gratuity. More and more fees. One thing we did to cut down on the fees was to keep the little "Privacy Please" insert in the cabin door card reader, eliminating the need for daily room service. I think other passengers on prior cruises were charged $25 for this very same daily service, which never appeared on our end-of-the-cruise charges settlement.
Every off-ship excursion had a fee attached. Duh, right? We opted for the $51/ person bus ride to Freeport, to Lucayan beach. It included a bus ride to & from, and use of an upscale resort (the Grand Lucaya Resort) for the day. We didn't actually use the rooms there per se- just the facility and its beautiful oceanside beachfront. The sand was pure white, just like in the pictures. As it was off-season (January), so the place was practically deserted, with no one there but those of us who had taken the bus there from the cruise ship. Lunch was included, which consisted of several buffet-styled dishes of fried chicken, pasta, pizza, steamed vegetables, and, of course, iced water and tea. Fecal matter from two birds flying around inside the large circular dining hall where lunch was served covered seat backs of the dining area. As my partner and I were the first to make it to the lunch, we saw the larger bird helping himself to the sweet frosting of the desert cup cakes also at the buffet line. No one seemed concerned that two birds were inside the glass room, flying around, helping themselves to lunch and leaving "deposits" all over the room.
We enjoyed the beach at the Grand Lucaya, and made friends with a couple very interesting and inquisitive white fish. I have no clue what types they were, but they were identical, and about the size of my hand. What made them so interesting was their interaction with us in the water. They proceeded to do "circle 8's" around our legs, and casually "slapping" our legs slightly with their tails as they glided past quickly. We totally were not expecting this. This went on for about an hour and a half. They would come and go, playing with my partner and I. We enjoyed their company, as it seemed they did ours as well. We didn't want to get out of the crystal-clear ocean water.
A five minute walk outside the resort was a collection of small shops, boutiques and kiosks of vendors selling locally-made wares, trinkets, wood carvings, souvenirs and everything else one could imagine. I walked away with a $40 hand-carved walking stick as a gift for my dad.
Soon it was time to head back to the ship on the bus.
After a couple more hours of exploring the ship and relaxing a bit and watching the sun set one final time, it was time for dinner. It was Rio's again. Shortly after we were seated (this time at a table for two by itself), another group of four was ushered in. One member of this group was a young woman of about 22 who was so completely sloshed, I don't think she even knew her name. She was loud, obnoxious, and made a complete ass of herself. No doubt if someone had a hidden camera aimed at her, the video would have gone viral on YouTube. She was a complete mess. The three other people in her party seemed hardly to notice that everyone in the room literally was watching this drunk make an ass of herself, which she did so easily, loudly, and quite proudly, and they did little to try to restrain her. My partner said, "Someone needs to throw her overboard," and I think everyone else in the room was thinking the same thing at one point or another during her rambunctious ravings. She was an utter walking disaster, but somewhat entertaining in her own little way. If nothing else, she showed others the dangerous social ills that plague society, and the dangers of appearing in public with absolute zero control of one's senses.
After dinner it was time to head back to the room to pack, in preparation of disembarking the following morning. We would soon be asleep while the ship tossed and turned through the night on its way back to port at West Palm Beach, Fl. At some point during the night, we awoke in our bunks to cabin temperatures in the 90's. The ship AC had failed- at least the part pumping cool air in to our room. Other rooms may have been affected. We called the ship's guest services, and, lickety-split, like greased lightning, 35 minutes later a member of the staff arrived with a fan to circulate the warm air in the room. "Better than nothing," we thought, and soon went back to sleep. At some later point, the AC kicked back on, and we awoke to a pleasant 66 degree room.
It was too chilly to eat on the upper exposed deck for breakfast, so we gathered some edibles on to plates and then scurried inside to eat. This second day's breakfast wasn't as good as the previous day's. They did try to offer a degree of variety, with nothing on the first day's breakfast menu being duplicated on the second.
I was amazed both days that OJ and coffee were also free. Even in the lowest of the low of state-side restaurants are OJ and coffee chargeable beverages.
After breakfast we returned to the room to wait for the call to head back through customs and wait for valet to find our keys and bring us our cars. During the process of leaving the ship and getting in to our car, we must have made 20 corners and passed through 20 hallways, rooms and passages. I felt like a lab rat going through a maze looking for the prize pellet at the end.
A few other side notes: although ship entertainment was included, it seemed to us to be mostly cut-rate "comedians" and other entertainment of similar ilk. We declined the on-board entertainment. While we went to the Grand Lucaya Resort on the island, a few members of the ship staff also went, and were in charge of offering entertainment and supervising the lunch. The entertainment provided wasn't too exciting. I mean, come on... a bean-bag race for the kids? LOL! I am being serious here: that was one of the modes of entertainment offered to the youngsters. There was also a ping pong table and an impromptu volleyball game arranged by the cruise ship staff.
Needless to say we declined to participate. We enjoyed the company of the two fish over any of the provided and "scheduled" entertainment.
All in all, I have to say that I wasn't at all disappointed with the cruise, the amenities, the service or the food. Sure, things could have been better, but it was, after all, a low-end cruise, and, as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for."