We are lucky enough to have now completed fifteen cruises - the majority being with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises - and we were looking forward to our back to back cruise on the new and fantastic 'Freedom of The Seas' sailing October 26 2006.
We have to travel from Aberdeen, Scotland UK, so before we cruise we have a one hour flight to London, then nine hours to Miami with a night in a local Hotel in Miami.
After a superb night in the Miami Sheraton we came down to the foyer on the morning of the cruise, and found our RC representative. Being frequent cruisers, we know the routine backward, but have to say on this occasion the Rep was fantastic, and had us all on the bus in fine order and psyched up for our vacation on this new and massive ship.
The Terminal at Miami however, was the 'same old same old'. Huge lines, miserable faces (cheer up! You're on vacation!) but as Platinum Members we skipped the lines and before we could say 'Wow! Some Ship!' we were in our suite, bouncing on the bed, looking in the beautiful bathroom, checking the massive wardrobe space and sliding the doors open to our amazing balcony. No matter how many times we cruise, we still act like kids when we get to our amazing stateroom.
The flat screen TV was on, and on the screen, the Captain was welcoming us on board, reminding us to wash our hands and advising us of the dangers of stomach flu. Unbeknown to us, the ship had docked that morning with many passengers and staff very ill with Norovirus. With hindsight, we wish they had made more of a big deal of warning us about this, as it became very personal to me as the week progressed! However, we watched him out of one eye, then it was up onto deck 13, and 5pm found us, cocktail in hand, waving to the homeowners in Miami dock as we sailed majestically into our wonderful vacation.
Now my husband and I are very careful about hand washing, and we never take any risks. But somehow, I managed to contract this awful virus within days of boarding the ship. My husband did not! We can only assume that I picked it up from the computer stations, where I spent a lot of time emailing home in the first few hours. Please folks, be wary of using the keyboards, and touching your face. Enough said.
I was quite seriously ill for most of the first week of our vacation, and was confined to my stateroom. Our stateroom attendant, Carmen, was fantastic and so attentive.
Thankfully, as we were on a back to back cruise, I had the whole next week to look forward to and I was raring to go!
My husband tried the flowrider, and scaled the climbing wall as usual, but I was content to lay beside the beautiful pool and watch the world go by with a cocktail in hand.
By this time my stomach was waking up to the thought of food again, and as always on RC there was a lot of choice. The Windjammer as usual was beyond wonderful, but we missed being able to make our own tea and coffee. Why are there no beverage stations in the lounge areas either? Because of the health concerns, we were no longer allowed to help ourselves to food from the buffet which we are used to. The serving staff did their best - but I did see one cruisers' hand being hit with the back of a spoon when it dared to try to take a piece of smoked salmon without being served! It was all taken in good humor, but I found I do prefer the relaxed atmosphere of the Panamax ships (Brilliance for example.) We also missed the poolside Tex mex buffet, and the open cooking areas serving pizza and pasta as found on ships like Legend.
The self serve ice cream machine was sadly closed due to the health scare. We found it odd that RC did not think of placing a staff member to serve on our behalf. Someone told us it was because ice cream is not the best for stomach flu - personally, I found it helped!
I always use the gym on these ships as they are among the best I have ever used, but on this occasion, I had to content myself with a look around. After my illness, I did not feel like 'running' all the way from Labadee to Grand Cayman. As usual, the equipment was brand new and first rate - they even had the ultra new Power Plate.
The evening meals were beyond superb. The menu was varied and tasty, and the week was capped by the usual waiter parade with their Baked Alaska. We waved our napkins like maniacs.
I am not going to talk about our Ports of Call on this review - as far as we are concerned, the ship is our destination! We enjoy a stroll round each port but hey, what's the point in eating out when you can have a five star meal on board?
Entertainment was six star. Our CD Ken Rush was amazing, and very funny, even if we did have to listen to his jokes twice (back to back!) He didn't change a word! We particularly enjoyed the Scandinavian Trapeze artists.
The Circus Parade on the Promenade is NOT to be missed! The elephant making its lumbering way down the prom has to be seen to be believed.
The skaters were fabulous, and we had the pleasure of sitting next to a lovely couple of these professional entertainers when we were invited to dine at the Captains Table on our second week.
The only 'complaint' I have about this cruise was the amount of anti bacterial spray everywhere. I realize it was being used for passenger health safety...but I was even caught in the spray of a 'Ghostbuster' with his canister on his back, squirting the sunbeds when I was trying to enjoy the sun on deck 13! All doors, handrails and surfaces were covered in this awful smelling bleach, and I groaned everytime I saw the beautiful varnish, glass and furnishings on the ship dripping with the stuff. Many passengers had their clothes and evening attire ruined by brushing against this bleach.
However, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, but we were even happier when RC gave us some compensation for my being ill the first week. We will be back in a couple of months, on our very favorite ship, the beautiful 'Brilliance of the Seas'.
Well done Royal Caribbean, you are the BEST in our book.