First off, let me say this was my first cruise. It took me some time to decide whether or not to cruise or do an All-Inclusive again. Advice I typically heard usually ended with "people either love cruises or hate them." In the end, I booked a 5-night cruise on RCCI and got what I thought was a really good deal. The online agent I used sent me all of the information needed and suggested I do the pre-registration online to save time. My Set-Sail pass was completed within a half-hour. The cruise was from Fort Lauderdale and went to Key West, Cozumel and Belize. Our mission: food, drink, and fun in the sun.
We flew in on Sunday and stayed at La Quinta Inn, Fort Lauderdale Airport location which really is in Hollywood, Fl. I highly recommend this Inn for a pre-cruise stay due to the amazing customer service, free shuttle services, and complimentary breakfast. Rates are approx. $200. The shuttle took us to Port Everglades at 11:30 Monday morning. We gave our bags to a RCCI staff member and made our way into the building. Everything pretty much went smoothly and we were on the boat within 20 minutes.
Because we were told our cabins would not be ready until 1:30 in the afternoon, we made our way to the pool bar and started our vacation with a cocktail. I immediately bought the all-access soda option for $36 which comes with an insulated cup and allows free soda for the week. Upon 1:30, we made our way to deck 4 which brings me to our cabin.
Cabin: Because my friend and I are thirty-something single females, we did not really care about the size of our cabin. We figured our time would be very limited there because of the scheduled activities, bars, etc on the ship and ports of call. We had a category Q inside cabin #4749. It was not as small as I had imagined so we were off to a good start. Basic amenities- nothing special. Max was great and always had the room tidy and well-stocked.
Food: The Windjammer Cafe is the buffet mega-center of the ship. We ate there everyday for breakfast and were very pleased. Every breakfast item under the sun can be obtained here. Lunch hours varied (we like to eat late afternoon) but again, the Windjammer had burgers, hot dogs, nachos, salad and so on. We had dinner here one night and enjoyed Asian fare, carved meats, and many other delightful goodies. We also had a late night snack in the Solarium; fries and pizza.
"My Fair Lady" Dining Room: We opted for the late dinner seating at 8:30pm. Now let me say that I do enjoy fine dining, good wine, good service and great conversation but do not classify myself as a 'food snob'. I can have a craving for foie gras one minute and pizza the next. I also would say I am not a huge complainer but here I go. I was really disappointed with the food. My friends and family have endlessly gushed over the food on cruises but I was not impressed at all. For example, my spinach salad was nothing beyond baby spinach out of a bag with a few mushrooms thrown on top. My medium rare steak was served super well. Spinach dip had a thick layer of grease on top. There were about 6-9 choices to chose from each night. The best I can describe the fare is bad hotel food. The plus of the dining room was our waiter and assistant waiter. They were kind, attentive and funny. Our head waiter did not get a tip in the end because besides saying hello on day one, we never saw her until the very last night. Go figure.
Chops Grille is the specialty restaurant on the ship. There is a $20 pp cover charge and well worth every cent. If I could do it all over again, I would have eaten there every night. Amazing food, outstanding service- need I say more.
Key West: Have been here many times and never get tired of it. Because you are only there from 8am until 2pm, there really is not too much time overall. We walked around a bit, had a great meal at Caroline's, a drink at Irish Kevin's and jumped back on the boat. Once we got settled, I had my deep-tissue massage. Heaven, simply heaven.
Cozumel: We decided not to book an excursion and just wing it. This turned out to be the best day of our vacation. Cab driver gave us a tip and we ended up at Mr. Sancho's beach break. Great beach area, full bar (cheap too!), clean bathrooms/changing area, buffet at noon. There is also an infinity pool to relax in. And the best part was it was free. No cover charge like Playa Mia. We met some fellow cruisers and had a super time.
Belize: Now, I now what many will say when they read this. There she goes complaining again! Trust me; I'm the type of person who can have fun doing anything with anyone. Wait, that doesn't sound right, but you know what I mean! First off, we screwed up and waited too long to book the snorkeling/scuba barrier reef excursion. It was fully booked by the end of day one. We thought since we had such great success in Cozumel, let's do the same today. Bad move. After being bombarded by many aggressive Belizean men, we found a "tour guide" and he said he would take us to the "best beach in Belize". No taxis to be found, just tour guides and their deathtrap cars. After driving around in his unmarked 1985 Toyota for a while, he dropped us off at Cucumber Beach. This turned out to be no beach at all. It was a run down marina with some sand, old chairs, and no access to the sea at all. There was yellow "DO NOT CROSS" tape everywhere (like the kind on CSI/Law and Order) but the best part was the green water that smelled like sewage. This was such a disappointment. And I wish I could say that I was exaggerating but I'm not. One hour and $50 US dollars later we were back on the boat, drinking 'love connections' poolside.
The other thing I will say about the ports of call is the so-called shopping. I find it hilarious that RCCI gives you a map of the 'shopping district" of each port and that RCCI actually supports and pushes it upon the people. It's either jewelry (sure duty free is nice) or crappy junk shops with the same merchandise as the last crappy junk shop. Shopping was limited at best.
Day at Sea: Weather was terrible and I spent the entire day in bed feeling nauseated. After talking to a few other cruisers, it seems many did the same.
The Ship: Enchantment was big enough to have many areas to discover but small enough not to feel lost all the time. There were plenty of bars and activities. I thought kids running around would annoy me but I barely noticed them at all. We went to a show on the second night called "Can't Stop the Rock" but left five minutes later because my high school musicals were better. Sad but true. The Viking Lounge was fun to dance in. There was an "Almost Village People" show which was great. Those guys know how to move. Bolero's, the Latin-themed lounge was also really fun. There was this great little server who got on the dance floor and showed us all how to really move to the beat. I am not much of a gambler so the Casino was only an area we walked through to get to Bolero's. I am really surprised with all of the bans on smoking in the US/Europe that RCCI pretty much allows smoking everywhere. The thick smoke in some areas was really bad.
Debarkation: We were told to be out of our cabin by 8:00am. Around 7:30am we went to the Windjammer cafe for one more round. The place was packed with people from wall-to-wall. After we ate we went to our designated waiting area which happened to be the Spotlight Lounge. Hundreds of people jammed into this lounge for approx. 1-2 hours. Not fun. When your color/number was called, it's mayhem getting off the boat. Finding your luggage amongst everyone else's luggage is like finding a needle in a haystack. Once out of the building, it was a war zone trying to get a cab back to the airport. When we got to the airport the line to check-in had to be at least two miles long. Seems that six other cruise ships all docked at the same time that Saturday morning and everyone was trying to get home at once. We waited for 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to the AirTran counter. My nerves were shot and I was ready to go postal.
In conclusion: Another thing I should have mentioned earlier is that I was sea sick most of the cruise. I took medicine to help me along but it did not seem to help much. Other passengers said it was "not as bad" as other cruises they were on but they noticed it too. It seemed very rocky to me. My friend has been on five cruises and she felt this was the worst by far. I also found it annoying that everything is extra i.e. Seattle's best coffee, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, soda. Do I have anything else to say? Not really. The great deal I thought I was getting on this cruise really ended up totaling to be more than the AI I was going to go on. I really thought I'd save hundreds of dollars. Not the case. The cruise itself is cheap but add the flight, pre-cruise hotel stay, port activities, alcohol, spa treatments and anything considered "extra" you are well over $1000pp. This will probably be my first and last cruise.