We are a married couple, early 50's, enjoying travel now that the 5 kids are grown and on their own. This was our 7th cruise, 3rd with RCCL (have also sailed NCL and Princess, will cruise with Carnival this August, and Celebrity in Jan. 2010 with those trips already booked), but this was our first short cruise (less than a week). We mostly choose our trips by itinerary. After enjoying this mini-vacation, we hope to do more of them in the future. It was a really wonderful get-away for a few days. If you are able to plan sort of at the 'last minute', price breaks can be great.
We had not been to the Bahamas since our honeymoon 32 years ago.
We flew to Miami from Virginia early Friday morning on a direct flight which was great...no worries about transfers or connection delays. Very relaxing flight. Once we landed in Miami, our plan was just to catch a cab to the pier, but we were met by RCCL reps, and ended up getting a transfer to the ship. We did this primarily because the reps said we couldn't get on the ship until 11 AM anyway, and it was easier to wait the short time at the airport in the A/C.
We waited a bit in the airport, but we were on the first shuttle to the ship and embarkation was simply a breeze. We were on the ship by 11:15 AM. No one was allowed to go to their cabins until 1:00 PM, just to be sure that all had been cleaned and readied for the new passengers. Lunch was open at 11:30 in the Windjammer and we enjoyed a relaxing lunch with a great view, then got a cocktail and headed out to the deck areas. Once we could get to our room, we headed in that direction, unpacked and then on to the next activity on the ship.
We were on the 9th deck in room 9048. No balconies on this ship. We had a large window, and though cabins on the 9th floor are listed as 'obstructed views', we could see clearly out the window, just not DOWN. The life boats were below us, but we had bright light/sun, and could always see out toward the water or approaching island.
Upon entering the cabin, we discovered there was a slight odor..sort of smoky. As we started to unpack, I opened one of the wall cabinets next to a mirror, only to discover a half-smoked cigar. Smoking is not allowed in the cabins and the policy states that anyone caught smoking in their cabin will be charged a $250.00 cleaning fee. We called a room steward to have it removed as we did not want anyone to think it was us who had been doing the smoking. They took care of it very quickly. But then as we continued to unpack, we were not completely satisfied with other aspects of the the cleanliness of the cabin we found either, which was a first for us.
Dining: We ate breakfast and lunch mostly in the Windjammer. It was regular buffet fare, but with many selections, fresh fruit, carved meat, ethnic food choices, omelets to order in the morning, etc. We like good food, and we know most cruises work to provide high star quality. We're not overly picky, and thought there were many tasty offerings. Cooking for 2500 people is no small feat....we didn't expect the buffet to be 5 star....everything was well prepared, hot foods were hot, etc., so we had no complaints. We ate in the Moonlight Dining Room at Table 15 each evening. Our waiter, Catherine (Kit Kat for short) and assistant, Arlene, were very accomodating, remembered our names after our first meeting, and provided us with great service and conversation. We felt the food was very good, we like to try things we wouldn't normally order or cook at home, like chilled soups, escargot, etc. We were not disappointed. There were different choices every night, plus some regular items if you didn't like the main items on the menu. Mostly we had trouble choosing and some nights had 2 appetizers to share and try, etc. Dining should be a good experience...we like to keep it fun and really enjoy ourselves. We had a good time.
We also had a late night snack at Johnny Rockets one night. They used to charge a fee for just the shakes, now they charge a $4.95 cover charge to get in like the other specialty restaurants, and also a charge for the shakes.
But we did it for fun anyway and we had a coupon in our Gold Member coupon book for two-for-one shakes.
Frozen yogurt was available on the pool deck, the coffee house was much like a 'Starbucks' and was another great alternative too.
Bar: Drinks seem to have gone up in price. We looked for the drink of the day bargains, but we like what we like, so we have what we want and make the best of it. We understand cruise ships need to make money at the bar in order to make a profit on a cruise.
Entertainment: The shows in The Chorus Line Theatre were fine. The first night was a comic, there was also a juggler/comic who was quite good, and the one show performance by the RCCL singers and dancers was good too. Its not Vegas, so if you keep your expectations in check, you would have enjoyed the entertainment very much. We always go to the early show time, then check out what's available on the ship for the rest of the evening in the other venues. This is the smallest ship we've been on, and it was easy to navigate around and get to other lounges/bars for other forms of entertainment. The cruise director was high-spirited, a great dancer and 'comic' too....he kept things going well on board with all the different activities and added quite a zest to the venues.
Fitness Room: Great view while biking it or walking the treadmill. Each piece of equipment has its own TV, but beware, you must bring your own headphones.....none are provided as we have found available on other cruise lines and ships.
Ports of Call: CoCo Cay was our first stop, the private island owned by RCCL. We were the first off the ship to the tender boat in the morning. The beaches, coves, accomodations, food, etc. were great, and there are lots of activities for all ages on the island. If you didn't find something to do, its your own fault. The beauty of the surroundings was amazing. White sandy beaches areas, tons of lounge chairs everywhere, palm trees swaying in the breeze. You could rent floating mats, snorkel gear, head to the inflatable water park and water slide, etc. for a nominal charge. We had pre-booked a Jet-ski excursion and were not disappointed. After a video and instruction about water and jet ski safety, we were off. We followed each other, with about 300 feet between each jet ski, and toured some of the other small islands that are also close by, making 4 stops during the tour. It was really fun and FAST. We were on the jet ski at least an hour. It seemed longer! The rest of the afternoon we snorkeled and swam, and ate lunch. Lunch was bar-b-q type food: hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs, chicken, different salads, fruit, condiments, sweet dessert treats, and drinks. Special drinks, beer, etc were also available for charge. We had perfect weather and a great day. The tender boats ran every 15-30 minutes so passengers could come and go as they pleased.
Nassau was the second stop. We pre-booked a snorkel excursion via a catamaran called Seahorse Sail and Snorkel. The catamaran was in great shape, the crew was efficient, but certainly were not as energetic as other crews we have had to assist the crowd into a good time. The snorkeling at a remote reef was terrific, second only to Bonaire, which for us, is still them most eye-popping marine life we've seen yet. This came pretty close though. There were not a lot of people on our excursion, so that made it nice for being able to seperate yourself from the crowd and really enjoy the underwater life. We swam a ways away from the catamaran to another nearby reef and saw sea turtle, squid, barracuda and multiple other kinds of beautiful and colorful fish. The coral was beautiful also. It seemed untouched and a bit remote so we really enjoyed it a lot. After snorkeling, we had lunch and changed clothes, then we walked the city streets of Nassau in search of a few items we wanted to shop for. Much has changed in 32 years, but parts of it (other than Diamonds International Row) are still quaint and authentic. We didn't have time to get over to Atlantis, so we'll save that for the next time.
Miami: We had booked an everglades tour for the last day since our plane did not leave until late. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to lack of participation, It sounded amazing and was recommended by our travel agent. Others we spoke too had heard all positive things about this exursion too. The RCCL guest relations person told us this excursion gets canelled 1-2 times a month, so buyer beware. We planned a late flight to do this excursion, and ended up sitting at the airport for longer than we planned.
All in all, we really enjoyed the short trip, and look forward to checking out what is available at our local port of Norfolk, which has been receiving rave reviews as a cruise ship port. That will take the airfare element out of the picture for us, which makes a weekend get-away even more affordable.