This was mine and my husband's third cruise - second with Royal Caribbean. We've done the Mediterranean and Caribbean, so we decided to try something different for vacation this year by heading north. We live in northern Virginia, so the drive up to Baltimore is quick and easy - a major selling point. We're in our late 20's and travel quite a bit. Ship review is below, see separate port reviews for Portland, ME; Bar Harbor, ME; St. John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Boston, MA.
Embarkation - Embarkation at the Port of Baltimore was a breeze, as always. We pulled into the parking lot at 11:30am, paid our $135 for parking ($15 p/day) and were on the ship by 12:30pm. Check-in lines were divided by cabin deck number, with separate lines for Diamond/Diamond Plus members and suites. We waited in a short line to go through metal detectors and a shorter line to check in.
Dining - We chose the second dinner seating, which always works well for us, and ate in the dining room all nine nights. We were seated at a table for six, but unfortunately, our tablemates never showed up. Our waiter, Cruz; assistant waiter, Ender; and head waiter, Collins, were the best we've ever had on a cruise. Collins made it a point to stop by and chat several times; something we've never seen in a head waiter before. He also helped clear dishes and keep the service moving. Cruz made solid recommendations based on the menu and was almost always right. The food was pretty good, especially considering they were preparing 10,000 meals a day. Lobster tail was served on the second formal night, but it wasn't the fresh Maine lobster we had become used to on this itinerary, so it was a little disappointing. The sugar-free desserts and healthier foods off the "Vitality" menu did not disappoint.
We ate in the Windjammer almost every morning for breakfast. There was plenty of selection, with everything from fruit to eggs to pastries to cereal. We both enjoyed the custom made omelets a lot. While it was crowded, we never had trouble finding a seat with a little walking around. The wait staff were very quick to clean tables after people were finished and were always on hand within moments of sitting down to get you coffee, water, etc.
We had room service breakfast one morning and it arrived right on time and hot.
Cabin - This was our first cruise not in a balcony cabin, but due to the limited number of the on the Enchantment and our itinerary, we couldn't justify the cost. Our cabin was on deck two, in the middle of the ship, which meant you could almost not feel any rocking of the ship. Our window, rather than being a huge picture window, was two smaller windows, which was fine. The room had ample storage and the bed was pretty comfortable. Our cabin steward, Roel, did a good job and kept a steady stream of towel animals coming - it looked like a zoo by the time we got off!
Service - We felt the service was good on the ship. The staff was always friendly and smiling. Our waiters greeted us by name, even when we saw them outside dinner hours. The only disappointment was in the guest relations desk staff. Once evening I called down, after we had been "kicked out" of a hot tub in the Solarium by a group of eight teenagers who thought they belonged there more than we did. When I expressed to the woman who answered the phone that I thought it was a shame I couldn't enjoy a relaxing evening with my husband in an adults only part of the ship at 11:00pm, she dismissed my concerns and was quick to hang up the phone.
Activities and Entertainment - There weren't loads of activities on the boat, which was a little disappointing since we had three sea days. The public space was nice, but there was a lack of quiet space for people to read. The library was packed every sea day with people reading and, other than Bingo and gambling, not really too many fun activities on the sea day. We didn't see any of the shows, but they had a lot of "guest entertainers" throughout the week. The cruise director was okay, but certainly not the most dynamic or personable one we've had.
The Solarium is supposed to be "adults only," yet it's really 16 years old and up, younger than that okay with parents. A lot of kids of all ages seemed to be wandering or running around the ship, with seemingly few organized activities for people their age. Not sure if that's Royal Caribbean's fault, or their parents, but it did get pretty annoying.
My husband worked out at the gym a total of four times and went to three group cycling/spinning classes. He said that the gym was very full every time and the exercise area was pretty small. We both went to the spa for one of their port day specials, and both had a good experience. There was a sales pitch at the end for some of their products, but we've just learned how to say no.
The ship overall is in great shape, given her age. They were painting the outside at every port and you could tell there was a significant effort in upkeep.
The biggest disappointment was that they allow smoking in almost every lounge where there is live music (Viking Crown and Boleros most often). We would have loved to go to these places more, but the smoke was really bothersome. There were also large sections of deck five outside where you could smoke and also a big section of the pool deck. Additionally, the deck five sections are right by the doors, so every time a door opened or closed to the outside, smoke came in.
Debarkation - As easy as embarkation. We chose the Express Walk Off, since we didn't have much luggage, and were off the ship by 8:00am. There was no line for Customs and Immigration and we were quickly on our way!