Better than expected
This was our 4th cruise on RCCL, second on Vision class. Our cabin was in the newer section, so our shower door was circular plexi and the safe has magnetic card activation. Otherwise adequate space, strong waterflow in the shower, tiny CRT TV (not interactive), comfortable large bed by the window, and a one-seat sofa (due to connecting cabin door).
Drove from Toronto to Baltimore (9 hours) and overnight at the Brookshire Suites cruise-park package, based on favourable CC reviews. Upgraded from the standard room to the suite 1103 for only $20 and got harbour view and nice amenities. Managed to walk around the Inner Harbour, Little Italy, Federal Hill Park. It was rather quiet on a Sunday evening. Dinner at Supano's behind the hotel. Enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at the rooftop lounge overlooking the harbour, and transferred to the pier at 1:30pm in a town car limo just for us.
At the pier there was a long lineup of cars waiting to unload passengers. We didn't want the driver to wait, so we just got out and rolled our suitcases to the drop off area, where we encountered the first problem. There was no room to load any more suitcases on the carts (they were waiting for the empty ones returning from the ship), so that was causing the backup. We had to drag our luggage right through the long security lineup, hoist them up for the x-ray machines then the check-in lineup. We asked for a supervisor and thanks to Jose Pardave (RCCL Guest Administration Officer), the suitcases were taken off our hands with a promise they will be delivered to our cabin. We dropped off our smaller bags in the cabin and headed to the Windjammer.
The ship's condition was better than we had expected, and that observation extended to our entire experience on this cruise.
Our dinner seating was at 8:00 pm, which worked well for us. We managed to find seats for all the shows except for the first night. Food at the MDR was good, but when I didn't find anything I liked on the menu, I ordered the 10 oz. filet mignon from the Chop Grill. Worth the extra $13 plus 15%. On sea days they offered "tutti salad" bar and a good variety of main courses. Windjammer food was not as good, not much variety, but we managed fine, eating there less often. Late night snacks at the Solarium were the same pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches, fries, pound cake and cookies. Every night !
The service was very good throughout the ship in all departments. Crew smiled and did their best to please. The cruise director John Blair and wife Katrina were just great. John is a trained actor, good singer and entertainer who knows how to get the crowd going. There were many headliner acts and two production shows comparable to Broadway. We didn't find the lectures interesting enough to attend (Gardening). Wine tasting was too pricey. The first run movies shown at the Spotlight lounge or the Orpheus theatre were good if you found nothing else to do.
Ports: Labadee - we boarded the free tram to Columbus Cove for the quiet beach life. Set up two loungers in the shade, then moved them closer to the water. Walked back to the ship for lunch. Windjammer was almost empty, and waiters were eager to pamper us.
Samana - we took the tender to shore at 2 pm and walked along the water to the souvenir market. We enjoyed the large photo exhibition along the path and climbed to the top of a watchtower for a better view out to sea. Not much else to do there. In San Juan we sampled rum at the DonQ outlet near the pier, then rode the free tram, walked around the shops and found the Old Harbor Brewry where we did some beer tasting ($9) and chatted with other cruisers, including Herb and Marianne Lucas, loyal RCCL customers (almost 300 cruises). In St. Thomas we shared a cab to Megans Bay Beach at $8 per person each way, admission was $4 per person. Beautiful beach, but not good for snorkling.
In St. Martin we shared a taxi going to Marigot ($7/person) and walked around the marina and shopping area. Fantastic French pastries and stone oven pizza were so tempting, but we were not hungry. Many merchants and restaurants offered the Euro prices at par with US$ (an amazing 40% discount) to compete with the bargains on the Dutch side. We ventured on the local bus back to Phillipsburg (US$2/person), and enjoyed the experience of riding with the locals. In Tortola we joined an Island Tour offered at the pier in a safari style bus for $20/person. Great value for this 4 hour tour covering the entire island, including 40 minutes at the top rated Cane Garden Bay Beach (free admission).
Three days at sea were relaxing. The seas were generally calm, except for some bigger waves off Cape Hatteras.
Disembarkation: After breakfast in MDR, we returned to the cabin and by 8:45 proceed to the waiting area with other Platinum level guests. About 15 minutes later we got off the ship through immigration (a little slow) and found our luggage. We looked for a pay phone to call for our shuttle pickup, but there are NO PHONES in the entire arrivals hall. This makes no sense. Ended up outside in the pick up area, where a well dressed man offered me his cell phone to make the call. Turns out he was our driver waiting to take us back to the Brookshire Suites. How's that for being lucky!
We got our car and drove to the Holiday Inn Express (BWI), in Hanover for one night and some shopping at the Arundel Mills mall, and met with a couple from Fairfax VA we met on two previous cruises. This hotel was comfortable, but walls have no soundproofing whatsoever. Next day we had the complimentary breakfast and embarked on the 9 hour drive back to Toronto. Started out warm but got colder as we made our way North.
Enchantment of the Seas gave us memorable and affordable cruise. It certainly deserves a repeat visit.