Let me start off by saying I love to cruise........I am not very good at writing but I want to share my experience with you.......and a big part of my experience and fun of cruising is the pre Cruise Critic roll call which has helped make this cruise one of the best experiences in my cruising history.
Background- Myself 46, Husband 49, Son 18, Daughter 14.....4th cruise for me and dh (honeymoon 20 years ago on SS Norway and then Voyager and Adventure and now Explorer) and 3rd cruise for children Voyager, Adventure and Explorer.........So we can mostly compare this to it's sister ships. I booked this cruise in May of 06 because it was such a great value for being a Holiday Cruise. I hate being home for the Holidays and love to go away this time of year but it is normally to expensive to travel over the holiday. For some reason this cruise opened up at the lowest prices you could imagine to we booked a GS for the 4 of us rather then 2 rooms like we did on the Adventure in February. I was not sure this would work out, 4 in one room, but it was not terrible but I am not sure I would do it again. It was not the showering that was an issue, which was really never a problem. It was area. The room was a great size for 2 people maybe even 3 (I still think that is tight) but for 4 people it is a little difficult. When the couch is open and then you have to bring in a cot it really leaves little room. They put the cot in the bar area the first night but then you can't get into the closets. So we had to put the cot in the main room and that left little space. Would I do it again? Maybe if the price were right, the full size tub is a whole lot nicer than the tubular showers and that is a big bonus as is the free drinks every night. We were in GS 1568 and Manuel was a very good attendant. A big smile and sincerely seemed happy to see us and be of service to us every day. Balcony is double size and nice to have. Loved to watch sail-a-way every night from there. Room had no smell and carpet seemed new as did the sofa and chairs. Very pleased with the new bedding.
Before I really begin let me tell you that Cruise Critic played a huge roll in the success of my cruise. I opened up the first of the thread for the Holiday cruise Dec 23rd in May of 06.....it was slow going at first being it was about 1 ½ years away from departing. In that time many things happened, some good some bad...but the friendships had started to meld. Imagine that I physically knew nobody going on this cruise but already felt like I had made friends. It turned out I had made friends and our pre sail away was fun. More on that later. I learned how to get onboard credit from the message boards and was able to get $550.00 of onboard credit before I left. That meant my tips were covered. Since I had already sailed on 2 of the sister ships I thought I knew a lot but there was still more to learn. I became obsessed with the boards. But in the end that obsession really paid off.
Port- Boarding was not so bad......I live about 35 minutes from the port and was able to have a friend drop us off at around 11:15 am. We got a porter and went into the boarding line for the suite passengers and as soon as we got into the area that you wait to board it was time to get on the buses and we were on the ship soon after. We were able to check a case of water with no problem and it ended up in our room with the rest off our luggage. We were however, not able to get into our rooms until one, they had closed off the hallways and nobody could go through, unlike our past experience when we could at least drop off our carry-on and then continue to the Windjammer.
First thing we did was run for Cyber Cabin to guest services. We were able to obtain one of around 15 of them at the cost of $150.00 for the entire cruise. We had trouble getting it going and nobody seemed to be able to help us on the ship. Because we had concierge privileges I let the concierge know of our problem when I stopped in to check it out and he came to our cabin and got it going. It worked sporadically and we were unhappy with it so we returned it and just used the very slow Wifi as little as possible. We did however get free Wifi the 2nd to last day because of the delay on the ship people had to change flights and they gave free internet that day so people could change via internet.
Next we went straight to the dining room to check our request for our large table. As in the past, our request was not fulfilled (which is why this is one of our first stops) they put us at a table for just the 4 of us when our request was a table for 12. We have had great experiences in dining with other people in the past and wanted the same. They switched our table to a table for 8 next to the Captains table but nobody else was yet at that table so we asked them to put a family with 2 children there around our kid's age, what a lucky break. We were put with a family of 4 from London who did not like the table they were put at and requested a change. The adults were our age with 2 girls 16 and 17. We ended up thinking we were family and they were our long lost family from England. It could not have been a better pairing. They ended up doing a variety of things with us throughout the cruise and with our CC friends and we just melded. We learned so much about them and the way of life and culture from England it was not only fun but truly a learning experience for our kids. I never had friends from another country before. Jim, Debbie, Paige and April we love you and will miss you and we are still talking like Brits.
Sail-a-way.......We arranged our pre Meet and Mingle in Dizzy's after sail-a-way. If it were nice out some of us would be on deck to sail under the bridge. It turns out it was misty and cold and DH and I and kids went up to Dizzy's......To get great sail-away seats. While we were getting seats this little voice said are you from CC and I said yes you must be Alexa......she replied yes and I already knew this was Cruisediva's daughter and son. Let me tell you about Cruisediva's daughter........she is a delight and amazing young lady. Always with a smile on her face and so friendly. Immediately she becomes friends with my son and so did her brother. My daughter was not feeling great and because of the way the seats were the other kids backs were to her......it was a struggle at first but soon she was in there and also became friends with Cruisediva's very outgoing son. What a great way to start a vacation. Unfortunately my DD was not feeling her full self the beginning of the cruise and had good and bad moments but towards the end she was feeling better. Going under the bridge was a rush and we whopped it up and I think this is wear I had my first of many French Martini's (thanks Cruisediva). We meet most people in our roll call and had saved about 30 seats. Then the fun began.
Muster Drill was quick and painless.....just slightly chilly.
Day 2 First at sea day.....I had been looking forward to this for a long time. I have only cruised on 7 day sails before and was looking forward to enjoying the many things to do on the boat. Time flew and the next thing I remember was the Meet and Mingle in the Chamber at 1 pm. What a great job Suz, and Jamie and Kim all did great jobs in arranging extra activities and then the cabin crawl which was so much fun. I loved everyone I met. I want to name everyone but don't want to forget people. Stacy and Marc, Daniela, Peter, Lainie, Jamie and Andy and Andy's parents.......Kim and her husband.....Suzanne, Dan and Matt and Chris....Cathy and Larry and sons and Rich and Geni, Jen and Ricky (as cute as can be). Marc and Leslie and Eli........Just some of the few incredible people we met. Dinner was formal as this was Christmas Eve. Show that night was Vibeology and it was okay. Entertaining but not unbelievable. This was formal night and I am not thrilled to have to dress up on a cruise.......but again I love the dining room so I would not miss that for anything.
By the end of today you could be outside in just pants or capris and a short sleeve shirt.
Day 3 It was definitely a pool day......although we had a lot of wind it was sunny and sitting at the pool was the thing to do. Belly flop contest I did not watch but just enjoyed the sun in my face.
Smart casual was dinner and the show was Revolution. We did not attend that so not really sure how it was. We did go to the Comedy show which was Tom Drake and he was very good.
Day 4 Still at sea and a windy sunny day...... We sat at the pool until around noon because our first stop was San Juan at 3pm Our plan was to meet CruiseDiva and her family and walk around OSJ and then go for some Tapas for dinner......We are now close and personal friends with the staff at Coach in OSJ and then went to some small place for some drinks I forget the name of and then for some wonderful Tapas it was truly a nice day. One note. We sailed from OSJ in Feb on Adventure and flew in so we did not see how pretty it was to come in from the sea. It was beautiful as we sailed right past El Morrow forts. We are now close and personal friends with the staff at Coach in OSJ and then went to some small place for some drinks I forget the name of and then for some wonderful Tapas it was truly a nice day. One note. We sailed from OSJ in Feb on Adventure and flew in so we did not see how pretty it was to come in from the sea. It was beautiful as we sailed right past El Morrow forts. You could walk from the Pier right into the town which was great and stroll at your leisure. Dinner was Casual and it was the only night we did not eat in the dining room. Did not go to the evening show but it was Jay J Downs "Build Me Up Buttercup" Late night poolside buffet......was fun and the food was good.
Day 5 St Thomas.......We had been to St Thomas in Feb and ferried to St Johns which was amazing. But I always knew Megan's Bay was supposed to be a top 10 beach and wanted to go in the morning and then shop in the afternoon. We took a cab (open air) and our Roll call mates Daniela, Peter and their most adorable daughter Lainie were also in our open air taxi. We spent the morning with them and truly enjoyed the company.......Even my kids said it felt like we were with our cousins (they have younger cousins so being with Lainie made them feel like she was family) Megan's Bay was great but it really did get crowded.....we were a little bother by the fact that we had gotten there early and found a picnic table so we put our stuff on that and then some people later on did not care and just felt the urge to take over our table. (Whatever) We left Megan's Bay and did some looking around in town and purchased our liquor.......If you like Belvedere Vodka we thought it was a excellent buy. They sent it to the ship for us so we did not have to carry it around. It was delivered the last night of our cruise. Entertainment tonight was excellent a Woman by the name of Judy Kolba She is a comedian and sings and got a standing ovation. And she had a clean act.......that is hard to find. Battle of the sexes was this night it was fun to watch. Dinner was Casual and Venetian Feast was the theme.
Day 6 It was at this point we realized if this were our typical 7 day cruise we would be going home tomorrow. But we also knew that tomorrow would mean we were on the back side of this cruise and we were thrilled for more time but knew that it would start going faster till it was over. Today's port was Dominica------here we did the River Tubing and Emerald Pool excursion through the ship. I think I would try to book it right through Wacky Rollers. It is the same the cruise line uses and more people seem to book it through the cruise line so we had a ton of people in our group...the people who booked it right through Wacky Rollers only had like 6 to 8 people in the group. Dominica is beautiful and lush it is a rain forest and it proved to be so. When we arrived there was a beautiful rainbow which we would see many times throughout the day. It was not sunny (rainforest) and higher in the mountains is more rainy which is where you go tubing. It was cold, rainy and wet. I am not complaining I still enjoyed myself despite freezing and my 14 year old daughter telling me she was going to kill me. My husband got flipped in his tube and he did bump his lip but he way okay. It was fun and an adventure and I would do it again. It is a poor Island and it shows as you drive through it. Dinner was Casual.......and the Ice Skating show was great but I liked the one I saw on the Adventure in Feb better. Love and Marriage Game show was tonight kids said it was funny, I watched the playback on the TV but It was not as funny as seeing it the first time In Feb.
Day 7 Barbados.........This was a fun day. We went to the Boatyard and were with our tablemates from England. We had a great day there. The sand is pure white and soft. The water is crystal clear and wave less. I had purchased some floats from home for like $2.00 and blew them up floated in the water and gave them away to some kids before we left the beach. The entrance fee was $15.00 and it included a drink and chairs and the taxi back. Do not......I repeat do not listen to the cab driver on the way to the Boatyard when he tells you and insist he has a better beach to go to. Monkey Beach....some people fell for this and said it was terrible. He pushes you to take you there (he must get some commission out of bringing people there) Rocks in the water and just lousy. We felt the Boatyard was great but it did get crowded and it took along time to get our food but the food was good. Also.......Jet skiing...they hound you to do jet skiing, when we got there they kept coming up to us asking us if we wanted to jet ski. We did, but we told them later when we were there for a while, They said it would cost $50.00 for a half hour and we told them we would take 2 ski at $40.00 for 35 minutes......they said okay and we told them in a little while.....when we were ready we walked over to where they were and they took our first jet ski and money of $40.00 and then the next ski they just kept giving to other people......it was our turn but ignored us...my husband kept saying it is our turn and they said pay now and he said not till you sit me on the ski and they just kept putting other people on the ski.....he ended up walking away angry. Do not pay upfront. One note you cannot wear army fatigue colors on this Island. Casual attire was for dinner this night. Headliner show was Horizon (did not see it).
Day 8 St Kitts..........Went to Mr. Shiggady Shack at South Frigate Bay Beach. It was a lousy day not sunny. There is a water taxi when you get off the ship that for $10.00 takes you there and back. We had a group of 15 and we paid and the women says stand off to the side and then she gathers everyone to follow her to the boat. Problem is when you get to the area where you get the boat the boat had just left. And there were more then the 20 people that the boat could hold waiting. Since we only had a half day there we felt the need to get there quickly. We told the women the 15 of us were together and she said okay the 15 and the family of 4 will be on the boat. When the boat came back she said okay 15 and 4 lets go and we walked to the boat and other people wanted to get on also. So this one man walked ahead of us got on the boat and I said he was not part of the 15 and 4 fearing we would not all make it on the boat together. This man and his family did not like that I did that. The son said something to me and I said you were supposed to take the next boat but I am glad you got on this one and everyone else that was supposed to be on made it. (there is more to this story you will see on the next day what else happened) We got to the place we needed to be and it was packed and there was not sun. The sand was not pretty it was black (it is a Volcanic Island) And we struggled to get 15 chairs together but we did it. We were all hanging out and decided we wanted to try Caribbean Lobster for lunch. We checked out the Menu at the Monkey Bar and Mr. Shiggady's Shack and decided the Menu was more kid friendly at Mr. Shiggagdy Shack. We went to order and they had no lobsters. We were disappointed....They had a Bastard Fish Sandwich (it was Mahi Mahi sandwich) and Lobster sandwich which my DH and I split.....The Bastard Fish Sandwich was delicious. We should have gotten 2 of those but who knew. We had a appointment to jet ski at 4 o'clock and had our stuff ready to get on the water taxi back as soon as they got off the jet ski.......our all aboard time was 5:30 so we felt that 4:30 was enough time to take the water taxi back and get on the ship........So off my husband and daughter went...just as I was told that the water taxi was here and it was the last one to go back.....Panic!!!!!!! I screamed come back! My daughter (14) got scared and almost ran into other jet skiers.....My darling new friend Stacey never moved faster in her life......as she ripped off her life jacket and started running like in a movie I would love to tell you it was a riot (now looking back it is) but it was scary......then someone told us they would send another boat back for us. So they all went jet skiing for a little while and then the other boat came back and we had to have them called in. My son held the taxi back and we all made it back to the ship after a scary end. St Kitts was pretty although we really did not get to see much of the Island except from the water.
Dinner was Smart Casual ......Evening entertainment was John Christie...I did not see it so can't tell you much about it.
Day 9 Antigua......This is to be our last port..... We had planned the Eli's Eco Tour on our own.......We had a great time. It was not the best day as far as weather. Cloudy and then squalls here and there and it was cold when you got wet. We toured around the perimeter of the Island by Boat and learned a lot about it from the guide....My daughter was bored...the weather was cloudy and rainy so she could not work on her tan....Jen and Ricky (Schmobo) was on our tour with us. We stopped at Bird Island and took a small hike up to the top and learned about some birds and wild life on the Island. Iguana's and snakes and my daughter was ready to leave. Not happy with me for booking this tour. We got to the top and saw the beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea on one side of the Island meeting the Atlantic Ocean. We went back to the boat and docked in a cove for lunch and had an enjoyable meal of chicken, pasta, salad, and banana bread. Then we went to Hell's gate and climbed and went into a cave and swam in the natural pool. Climbing to the top you could scrap yourself so you had to be careful. Then they went to another spot for some snorkeling.......the water was rough and the sun came out some in the afternoon but it still was enjoyable. My DH and DS and I liked this excursion but my DD did not...but I am sure she would have liked it better if it were sunny. Tonight was New Years Eve and they made it a formal night. Dinner was great as usual and we tried to get onto the Promenade where they were going to drop balloons and streamers at Midnight. My daughter decided she was going to get right under the balloons......this proved to be a dangerous task. There were 6 of us and she led the way. Being 14 she did not stop to think about how our dinner mate and friend that was on crutches was going to maneuver through all these people. We walked a straight line down the center following other people in front of us and it was slow moving. I was not happy my daughter was leading us here and told her Paige could not do this and she did not care. All of a sudden I felt someone pushing me from behind.....I turned around and there was this heavy man pushing to get through....I said to him you are pushing me.....he said I am trying to get through I said we all are.....and I don't like you pushing me.....to find out my husband was yelling at him from behind saying to stop pushing my wife......and then learned that he had pushed our 16 year old friend on crutches and she was hysterical crying......Jerks like that should be banned from life. We ended up turning around and going to the Schooner Bar and watching it on the screen in the Bar. Then we determined that we could watch New York on CNN and could not get it at the Bar so we took the Party to Cruisedivas room.......There were our kids in the connecting room watching NY and we just made it to the room as the ball fell....We hung out for a while until a security guard came by and said someone complained about the noise....We laughed because it was the adults getting yelled at and not the kids in the next room who were quite. We then toned it down and I think we left the room not to long after that.
Day 10 Our first sea day heading back.....We had great weather and enjoyed hanging in the sun....I came out about 9 in the morning and found Cruisedivas husband waiting for his family and since our kids would hang together in the sun we sat together, we were able to get enough chairs around each other.......Then my DH came out and Cruisediva's DD and my DS we were still waiting for my DD and her DS and Cruisediva....The older kids went into the windjammer to grab a quick breakfast before continuing the sunbathing. There was still a large amount of chairs still available and was surprised when a deck patrol came over with a passenger and told us we could not save chairs.....we told him the kids were out already and they went in to grab a bite to eat and would be right back out. We were perplexed as to why they came up to us when there were so many chairs open. The guard asked when they would be back and my husband angrily said 9 ½ minutes......She said okay and walked away. The kids all came out soon after and a few hours later I realized that the man who was standing with the guard was the man from the water taxi in St Kitts and he had gone to the Deck Patrol to cause trouble. I later went up to the deck patrol person and asked them if he came up to her and singled us out and she said yes........Now I get it....he wanted revenge. Sorry I burst his bubble. Because we won that one. Anyway laugh is on him.
Dinner is Casual or 70's attire......Comedy was Tony Thirdgill was the comedian........I missed it but my son said he was great. Tonight was also the Quest......We sat with all of our Cruise Critic buddies in one section....I would say there were about 40 of us.....The kids were up at the top. Before the show started I turned around to see my son having an argument with a women and a man from the theater personnel....I told my husband there was an issue and he and Cruisediva's husband went up there to see if they could help. The 2 younger ones had wanted Red bull drinks and they did not have any in the arena.....so the two of them had to get up and go to a bar.....My son saved the seats for them and this Scottish women and husband went and got a usher and told them that my son was not allowed to save seats and they wanted the seats......my son told them that the kids were already there but because they did not have the drinks they wanted here they had to go to another bar to get them and were coming right back.....The women was nasty and persistent and everyone was yelling at her because the kids were coming right back and we were not saving the seats because they never came they were there and coming back......The usher told my son to go get the younger ones he had 5 minutes and as my son ran up the stairs the very big husband hip checked him into the wall. I did not hear about that part until the quest was over......but was now really much more angry that he was physical. I wanted to press charges and when to the front desk to file a complaint. I did not know the names of the people but told them if I saw them the next day I would call for security and let them handle it. Quest was lots of fun and we lost but still had a great time despite the Jerk from Scotland.
Day 11 2nd sea day back.....I knew this would be our last sea day to sit in the sun and it was.......I happen to be at the pool when I noticed the Scottish couple walk through....I told my husband and we got our son and the girl who saw him hip check my son and Cruisediva and her Dh and we went and my husband approached the couple......it just so happened at that time that a officer of the ship was walking by and Cruisediva's husband grabbed him and asked him to stay and call security. My DH asked the couple if they were indeed the ones at the Quest and they said they were. He told them that he knocked my son into the wall and the husband denied it while the wife said we apologized last night. I said you both just contradicted each other.....The husband said I never put a hand on your son and we said I know you knocked him into the wall with your hip. We told them they were wrong rude and obnoxious and they said it was my sons imagination....and then our witness said I must have the same imagination because I saw you do it.......They were then apologetic especially when I said I wanted to press charges.....My husband being a true gentlemen shook his hand and said we would forgo it and the man apologized to my son and my husband made my son shake his hand, my son did not want to, and I am surly not as forgiving as my DH. Some people just don't get it. We moved on, they were not worth wasting time over. We had been told that a storm was coming and it would get very rough in the evening and into the next day........I enjoyed the sun until about 3 pm and the sexy legs contest was fun. My DD and I went to grab a bite in the Windjammer and when we came out the weather had changed and it was windy and started to rain and we were done for that day...A little while later the sun came out again but we were done with the sun. This was the last Formal night and it was Lobster night Fisherman's Platter Lobster tail and shrimp.......We all had 2. They were very good. Any I am a crazy Maine Lobster eater. Invitation to Dance was the Entertainment and I did not love it........Tonight was the Gala Midnight Buffet to be the last one I am told ship wide. We had taken Bonnine and my DD was so tired and wanted to go to sleep so I had to go to the cabin with her.......the fear of the roughness we were supposed to experience was setting in and it was indeed extremely rocky. We had found out that we had turned around and headed back to PR earlier because of someone had to be airlifted off the ship which took an extra 10 hours. But the Captain said we could make up the time we lost by picking up speed and should dock at appropriate time. Then we found out about the storm and rough seas and we would not be able to make up the time and arrived in port 5 hours late.
Day 12 Last day it was still rocky and not much to do........We dined in the dining room with some of our CC friends and tablemates for breakfast. I love breakfast in the dining room. I am not a huge fan of the windjammer. My DD loves the windjammer and hates the dining room. We had a really nice breakfast and after that caught the trivia game in the Schooner Bar. We had played one time before this and found Usparky (Marc and Leslie and son, They were experts and proved to be very smart but let us join their team anyway...On the trek through the Schooner Bar we saw them again and they let my DH and DS and myself be on their team. They again proved to be extremely smart and with the aide of my son knowing the question "Why Donald Duck was was banned in some places?" answer "because he does not wear pants" We actually won and it was the first time the whole cruise Usparky and his family won.....They are truly smart but I am going to say without my son maybe they would not of won. LOL We got RCCL baseball caps. Dinner the last night was casual Red, White, and Blue or the colors of your nation. Show was Comedy and I could not keep my eyes open.......We had taken more Bonine which was one reason but the other was he was not very good. Can't believe this is our last night......It went so fast.
Day 12 ½ We even got compasses with ½ day since we would not be in port till late. We dined with our tablemates for breakfast in the dining room and ate our brains out.....We normally would have had to be out of the cabin at 7am but they said we could stay until 10am. We met at breakfast at 9 and told our cabin attendant he could clean and we would be back a little after 10 and he said all he was going to do right now is make up the beds and that was great. We went back and grabbed our stuff and met our tablemates and Cruisediva and family at the Aquarium Bar. We were not in a huge rush to get off the ship. Originally if we were docking at 7 my DD was going to go to school since we could get off and be there in 35 minutes but if we were not docking until noon it was not worth it so we could exit leisurely. Crusediva was not in a rush....and neither were our tablemates because the flight back to London was at like 8:30 in the evening.....So after sitting at the Aquarium Bar for a while we said why don't we all just go sit in the dining room (they opened it for lunch for everyone, since we were late) and have a long slow lunch and this way we could all be comfortable.........Best lunch I ever had. Should have eaten in there for lunch more. The offered so many things.....Baby back ribs, Thai lettuce wraps, calamari, pad Thai, wraps, pasta, and so many other things and the desert we ate Banana Splits.......What a great ending to the best vacation on earth.
The port is a little unorganized and getting a porter was tough, but despite the back up from the delay I expected worse.
I loved the ship and miss our new friends........my son is on his way to meet Cruisediva's daughter now as I am typing this.
Some other points.
Optix-----kids did not like it at all. Chamber-----18 year old kids and older did not like the music. Or hanging out with older people in there. Windjammer------could not stand watching people lick there fingers and pick up tongs, could not stand people coughing all over the place and sneezing......Lemonade was weak and service was spotty. Staff----in general all very friendly and nice and efficient Every evening we stopped in at the Schooner Bar for the entertainment and singing of Ed Manego he was excellent but would sing the same songs over and over again each night.
Don't think I could ever go back to a 7 day cruise again. Being at sea the first few days out and back was wonderful....I loved easing into it and easing out of it. Can't rave enough. I know I left a ton of stuff out I wanted to say....But ask any questions you want. Hope I did not bore you.