Did the 12 day Enchantment of the Seas from Baltimore, 12/6 to 12/18. Wanted to try driving to the Port and boarding instead of flying to Fla. My expectations were not high, as Baltimore is not generally regarded as a prime departure location and RCI had trouble filling the ship as recently as 2 weeks prior. But they managed to do it by cutting prices. What a surprise!! RCI did not skrimp. The food , the entertainment, the service, everything was as good or better than any other cruise we have been on...[now diamond members and have done other cruise lines as well].
The crowd was great and friendly, some coming in groups from as far away as England. Plus there was Jerry, who has been on a 144 RCI cruises, and apparently will be embalmed and placed on a yardarm or a bowsprit at the front of one of the RCI ships when it is his time to go, like one of those wooden mermaids.
And let me tell you, there is nothing like driving to the port [or being dropped off] with no airplanes and no hotel. And then getting right in your car when you disembark, and 50 minutes to home. Would you rather spend your day on a cruise ship, even if cold outside, or going to and thru airports, to hotel, back to cruise terminal?. On the ship in the cold weather on the way to warm climates is a great way to thaw, chill out and enjoy being pampered on the ship. Some people even drove from Cleveland , Ohio, and that well beats airports, shuttles and hotel..although staying overnight in Baltimore like some people did is pretty good too, as some of the hotels have 12 days free parking and shuttle to the ship. This was a great cruise with a great itinerary. And this was a great crowd on this ship...very little grouchiness that I saw..maybe b/c everyone realized that others might be neighbors.
And of course, there was wonderful Captain Rob, with his great dry sense of humor—you actually looked forward to messages from the bridge.
RCI is a wonderfully run company from top to bottom. I was informed by a fellow cruiser in a wheelchair, that RCI has more facilities for persons with disabilities than any other cruise line. That is special, as was what they have done in Haiti, and the staff going to the orphanage in Tortola with Christmas presents...what a company!!
Food—we have been prior windjammer for dinner people, but this cruise decided to do the main dining room. Food was excellent every night. Did Chops one night..for $50 you get a gourmet meal as good as the top restaurants in dc. Not to be missed.
Lunch in the windjammer was very good every single day. One day while at sea we did the main dining room for lunch—they now have an awesome salad bar, which is beyond description..only on sea days -try it..
Entertainment: all around best ever on a cruise we have been on. My understanding there is a division of RCI in Miami who hires the talent for all cruises—they are doing a great job.
The comedian the first night was funny—a very good warm up act for acts follow. Then there was Mario ..who played electric guitar, songs like Apache by Jorgan Ingman etc..he was terrific on guitar [ I used to play a 12 string Guild for Guitar aficionados out there] plus he had a great singing voice. The RC cast was great. The 8 piece orchestra was fantastic. The entertainment in all the other venues was very good—every type of music you could imagine, with excellent singers and musicians in the centrum.
Freddie Roman, a Catskills comedian and president of the Friars club in NYC had people rolling in the aisles.
Johny Thunder, who replaced Ben E King on the Drifters is 78 years old and has the voice of a 25 year old—amazing! He made the hit song "Loop De Loop" [from my college days at Ohio State U.}
There was a female impressionist from Canada who had a remarkable singing voice, imitating Cher and Celene Dione for example..but absolutely great in her own right.
An Illusionist /Magician and his new bride put on a wonderful show, of Las Vegas quality.
And, The Unexpected Boys—a Jersey Boys knock off who are absolutely great—you get to see Jersey Boys as tho you were on Broadway [which I saw—my favorite musical ever] and you think you were there.
There was a very funny comedian the last night, and one more production show about the tenth night or so.. I think I am leaving two out and I am sorry, b/c all were so good..not a single disappointment, and thoroughly entertained every night after a great dinner, with some Casino action in between..very friendly Casino staff
And then you get to dance to different kinds of music---does it get any better than that?? Oh, yes—there are ports along the way.
Two days at Sea, but midway thru the second day you could be on the pool deck with the very good Reggae band. How about that! Plus there was the covered pool [Solarium] and hot tubs and the Spa...
But I digress
Haiti—Labadee. I had trepidation about this stop, because of the cholera outbreak. But once we got there, I figured in for a dime, in for a dollar... Like the first time going off the high diving board, sort of. Went off the ship, went to the beach, strolled around, saw the live entertainment which was quite awesome, and did the BBQ. This place is really special. RCI has spent a fortune making it like one of their private Islands [coco cay, x ten]. An adult Disneyland. Glad I went. Bought some stuff from the Haitians too...they are pushy, but once you say no thank you and keep walking, that's the end of it.
Samana, Dom. Repub. We did the excursion/beach break to Cape Levantado, which is a 1 square mile resort island. Beautiful, well manicured, well maintained with its own straw market. Bought "Cuban" cigars..complete with box of a name brand, its seals and Cuba tax stamps sealing them. Forget it. They are all counterfeit..they buy the tax stamps in rolls for $5 as I later found out..but my risk was low for the price and the cigars are not bad..but not genuine Cubans. Go into a real cigar store if you want real Cubans , as I did in st. Maarten. The price for real ones is $18 /cigar and up..but less than the $25 they were several years ago. Not much too see in Samana -I understand RCI will do Antigua in its place next year...but a good day all in all.
San Juan, PR—old town was definitely a highlight of the trip..the cobblestone narrow streets , row houses, stores and forts, going back to the 1600 and 1700's—a real taste of Madrid and history here. Great and fun shopping.. and a super great discount liquor store on the first floor of the cruise terminal..and I mean uber bargains. Definitely going to go back to old San Juan
St. Thomas—all about shopping...was going to do the beach but had two more beach ports coming up.
What the heck is all the fuss about chocolate diamonds?? They are not pretty. Another example of "create a need, then fill it". As a ps, the cruise lines get 8-10% back from the merchants they recommend on the ship. But for that you get the ship standing behind the merchandise, and it can be expensive..probably worth it..we had to return something once [Diamond tennis bracelet] and there was no hassle.
St Maarten—no excursion here. Why? There is a great beach right in front of the main shopping drag..we did shopping—prices better here than in st Thomas..bought a nice camera in st Thomas..and it was about 25% cheaper in St Maarten..oh well...then the beach where you walk into that beautiful water. $15-20 for beach chairs with umbrella and 6 pack of beer..or 10 bucks for just the chair and umbrella
Tortola—is beautiful—it is all about the scenery—thru the magnificent Francis Drake Channel. We did the Sailaway snorkeling excursion which is one of the very best snorkeling excursions we have ever done and most interesting. They take you to two different locations..got real close to a giant sting ray..scary since Steve Irwin..that was almost black with white circles all over its back..and then into caves..then to a private beach with snorkeling from the beach, on an island that Amway owns about 80% of, and is a retreat for the rich and famous.
The three days at sea getting home..only one rough night at sea..but Captain Rob got us thru. The three days at sea after 6 ports in a row was great....for almost two full days you can use the pool deck..on the third day I didn't care anyway and there was the solarium every day, and a lot going on on the ship..camp for adults.
Thank you RCI for a great cruise and for using Baltimore as a departure port