) We stayed in a Junior Suite on Voyager.
Embarkation: Question: How long does it take to get over 1200 non US citizens off a cruise ship? Answer: About 4 extra hours. A friend onboard the previous sailing (4/5/09) kindly called me about 11 am to tell me not to rush - they and most other passengers were still onboard. Customs and immigration was taking extra long due to over 1200 Mexican citizens onboard. We were staying at the Galvez and the shuttle was leaving at 11 am. If we opted to stay and miss the shuttle, there were no guarantees when we would be "shuttled." Sitting at the Galvez, sitting at the terminal. Other than comfort and a potty, not much difference. Off we went. The lines were still relatively short but looks can be deceiving. We are Diamond and opted for that Priority Line. Joke's on us - our line was moving at the rate of 40 "regular" passengers to 1 "priority" passenger. Took the specialness right out of that moment. It didn't help that the pier person running the priority line kept looking around, anywhere but the line to tell us to go so the "regular" line took advantage. Can't fault them! But we got back at them - once we were finally through the line after about 45 minutes - we got to drink free champagne for 2 hours. OK, so it was pig swill. It was free and it was alcohol. Since we got onboard shortly after 1 pm, the bright side is that we could go immediately to our cabin and drop our carryons. We (read that I) then did the usual boarding ritual. Rush to the spa to make an appt then check the table in the dining room. We had hooked up with our cruise buddies in the terminal so already knew that RCCL had fouled up our dinner request by not seating us together even though we had provided all the information to be linked together. Because of their mistake, we lost a prime location in the dining room in order to sit together. I went to the Spa where I was ignored by the girls in the salon styling each other's hair. When I finally asked them if they were taking reservations they glared at me and said "2 o'clock." I can't tell you how much their gracious and welcoming attitude made me eager to come back and tip them generously. Off to the dining room where we harassed the maitre'd to fix our table. We were seated together - moved from prime real estate on Deck 3 to subpar real estate on Deck 5. Fine, we're on a cruise. We're happy (play ominous music now)
SAILAWAY ETC: Usually the band and cruise staff are at the pool to get everyone in the party mood. The band made a brief appearance - if you think playing for 20 minutes and leaving before the ship leaves port counts. Yes, we left late due to late embarkation. No cruise staff appeared to frolic and welcome passengers. We created our own dance group. We had great weather and foo foo drinks.
DINNER: Ok, so we go to dinner, meet our tablemates. They are older, very quiet but rapidly loosen up once our wild friends arrive. They are all Italian/American so they know how to keep him in line. Or as close to inline as can be. Our waitress appears, orders are taken. And we wait. And we wait. And we wait. To call the entree pork medallions is an insult to pigs everywhere. I'm not a big portion eater so I was able to pretty much deal with it since I had eaten heartily at Windjammer earlier. After 14 cruises, I am however concerned about the delay in getting our meal. No biggie - we have an evening of frivolity and laughter.
DAY ONE AT SEA: It's a blur but I recall large amounts of laughter, beers and pinacoladas. Incredibly windy, not much pool action. We prepare for formal dinner. We arrive and wait and order and wait and wait. My 2 orders of escargot arrive - the highlight of all my cruise meals. They are room temperature. Not wanting to wait even longer, I just eat them. Dinner is acceptable - the food is fine. It's the excruciating wait that is killing me. I'm growing old waiting for my dessert. .
DAY TWO - COZUMEL: I'll cut to the chase. Nachi Cocom is a little slice of heaven. But I don't want to tell anyone about it since I like it just the way it is. So stay away. Don't go there. We decide to do the dining room. There are issues. Some of them (in the spirit of full disclosure) involve raucous laughter at our table which seems to annoy other diners who prefer to look dour and serious while on vacation. I don't know - maybe if we could have gotten our food before an hour went by, some would have been better behaved. Another evening of frivolity. Please let Derek Lews come back next year - I think I lost about 10 pounds just shaking his balls and laughing. And no I'm not being pornographic. If you know about the Pig, you know what I mean.
DAY THREE - GRAND CAYMAN: For the third time, we rented waverunners to Stingray City and Rum Point. Surprisingly, Margaritaville was deserted when we got there around 3:30 pm. First time for everything. We eat and drink and head back to the ship. More frivolity and this time we decide to forgo the dining room and eat in Windjammer. It is a shocking state of affairs to say that the Jammer had better food than the dining room but it was a score of 4 - 0. The pasta made to order was tasty. Another evening of decadence and debauchery. That's what cruising with friends is all about. I think this is also the evening we were spanked in the casino by a plethora of dealers at Caribbean Stud Poker. It's bad enough the slot machines are tighter than my jeans after day 4 of a 7 day cruise but come on...........
DAY FOUR - MONTEGO BAY: I recommend using the Hot Spot Shuttle. I felt safe and comfortable. $15 allows you full access all day. We only used it for going to and from Margaritaville but it served its purpose. I can only say about Margaritaville that if women in their 40s want to get up and dance on a bar, this is about the only place where people won't make fun of you. Or if they do, you just don't really care. When we head back on board, this time we are heading to Cafe Promenade for pizza. A fine outstanding pizza it is. And some of the famous coconut cookies go great with it too. Once again, a finer meal than the dining room. I see a trend on this cruise.
DAY 5 - AT SEA: Beautiful day. There are things to be done. Photos to be purchased, perfume and cosmetics to be purchased. A book to read. A massage to receive. A Pool Bar to lounge at for most of the day and a dance floor to attack. This is the perfect sea day. Jambalaya cook off. Well, it was fine but The Gumbo Shop in New Orleans has nothing to worry about. Since it is second formal night, we gut it up for the dining room. Service is still sub par but the food quality is just fine. Hubby even gets his "surf and turf" (lobster AND prime rib) so we are relatively content. Since most of the ship seems to be in casual mode outside the nearly deserted dining room, we change clothes after dinner and have another evening of spirited conversation and laughter.
DAY 6 - AT SEA: Another beautiful day. I could bore all of you with the details of a relaxing sea day but everyone has their own version of relaxation. Suffice to say it was heaven. Chili cookoff - well, it looked like dog barf and tasted like taco meat. Wolf Brand Chili has nothing to worry about. The day finished off with an early dinner at Johnny Rockets. Fresh onion rings and fries and a burger cooked to order. Once again, the dining room came in a dismal second place. Another evening of being "inner pigs" with stops in the Schooner Bar (great atmosphere) and a short foray into the casino before regretfully heading to bed. A storm was out and we were treated to quite a light show complete with thundering sound effects. The seas however were fine.
DISEMBARKATION: We awakened before dawn to a fogbank through which we could guess there were about 20 some odd ships all lined up waiting to come down the channel. The port was closed. Unless you experience this for yourself, it is uninteresting to report. Just know that if you are fogged in and the Captain says it will take 2 hours to make it down the Channel before the ship will even be boarded for clearance, you ain't getting off for a very long time. We were among the first tagged passengers to get off and made it through about 1:30 pm.
GENERAL THOUGHTS: I don't sweat the small stuff. The ship seemed fine and the staff were always cleaning and wiping. Our stateroom attendant was outstanding, had great timing and always a pleasant word. All the bar staff that we encountered were a blast. The concierge lounge was never crowded - we popped in 3 mornings for cappuccino and 3 evenings for one drink apiece. The entertainment that we saw was good - Derek of course in the Pig. I'm sure he'll never forget Lurch, no matter how much he tries. Men of Culture are a great poolside Caribbean band. After so many cruises, we don't run to the shows, we don't do lots of activities. This was time to share with friends and just relax from our high stress lifestyle. We achieved our goal. This was the first time we had dining room issues. It happens and we found ways for it not to impact our enjoyment. We did prepay gratuities and while I would not have shorted them, it was paid a little grudgingly. I find it interesting too that the assistant maitre'd never came to our table the first 3 nights and only appeared Friday to do the lobster. We are used to better service. Our water in our room was cut off 2 nights from 1 to 5 am. Normally, we are up late so this would have inconvenienced us on a normal cruise. This time we did make it to bed usually between 12:30 and 1, so it was not a problem. It could have been but we planned ahead. We had a bucket of water ready for tooth brushing and face washing. We don't do the C&A lunch in the dining room. Some people enjoy it and it gets good reports. I don't want to spend 2 hours on a precious sea day trapped in a dining room. I miss the cocktail party. I'll live. I felt the cruise staff to be one of the least visible I have seen. We were at the Pool in front of the band almost all sea days. Never did I see them come out to encourage dancing and fun. First time I have not seen them interact with the guests at the pool. Most evil slot machines I've ever seen on a cruise - and I speak from extensive experience and comparison. I conceded quickly though perhaps not gracefully. I didn't hear any bells ringing for anyone either.
I'm sure I've left some delightful little anecdote out so I'll blame it on the fried out brain cells. We look forward to our return on Voyager next season and know that we will once again find a way to have a large time.