Let me begin this post by stating that we were seasoned Princess cruisers, but decided upon price to try a Royal Caribbean cruise. Having read many positive and negative posts about this ship and Royal Caribbean in general it was our intent to go into this cruise with an open mind to determine for ourselves which line we felt was best. I am sure that after this post the Royal Caribbean faithful will begin the flaming, however our intent is to accurate and fairly report the positives and negatives from this experience. I would also like to begin by stating that it has been our experience that the important components of a cruise were fairly consistent from our experience throughout the Princess fleet. Having said that, we are assuming that those same important components would also remain consistent throughout the Royal Caribbean fleet. We fully understand that larger ships in both fleets provide more amenitities however again this post is More
really weighing those things that should be consistent within a fleet such as staterooms, food, entertainment, etc.
Embarkation - Baltimore, Maryland
We had read previously that you could embark as early as 10:30 a.m. We arrived at 10:30 a.m. (by car) and were then staged in a line to wait to drop off our luggage and then park. While we were in line we did notice that some passengers were able to board as early as 11:00 a.m. having been dropped off. At 11:30 a.m. the line of cars began to move and we parked and were processed and boarding by 12:30 p.m. The availability of the long-term parking could not be more convenient as it is right next to the cruise terminal and all in all the embarkation process was very efficient. Special note that we did check in 2 cases of bottled water with our checked baggage which did arrive in our stateroom. We simply put a luggage tag on each case and reinforced it with packing tape, so this should answer the bottled water debate. Second, we did not see any scrutiny whatsoever of any carried on luggage as it relates to rum runners. In fact, our carryon contained a full bottle of rubbing alcohol and the bag was not even opened. Perhaps the end of spring break has reduced the level of heightened security. It was fairly easy to find a table at the WindJammer for lunch and you were not allowed anywhere near the staterooms before 1:30 p.m. Our luggage arrived at 3:00 p.m.
Stateroom - Insides on second floor - aft - 2097 and 2099
Previously on all of our cruises we have always had balcony cabins and strictly due to price we opted for this cruise to give the inside cabins a try. We were pleased with the layout and size of the cabins. The space was functional for my wife and I, and we never felt confined. As was suggested by previous cruisers on these boards, we did place the coffee table in the closet and kept the beds separated which provided at least an additional 30% of usable floor space. The only negatives of the room were the lack of the mini fridge, which is provided in all Princess rooms, and the antiquated television which really was a disgrace. I would also like people to note that there is a strong sewer odor, which we noticed especially in the evening hours. This was reported on and off on the boards in the past. We did not have any plumbing problems, which were also reported on and off.
Dining Room -
We had my time dining in the My Fair Lady dining room with our reservation mostly being 6:30 p.m. The first two nights, we were not happy with our table and asked to be moved. By moving our reservation to 7:15 p.m. we were able to relocate to a nicer table and our waiter (Erkan from Turkey) was absolutely wonderful. We found the food in the dining room to be one of our biggest disappointments of RC versus Princess. From selection to quality, there is truly no comparison. A common problem was none of the food ever arrived hot - warm at best and even sometimes cold. We feel that we are not alone in this review and this was clearly illustrated by comments we heard from other passengers and our own observations of the number of people in formal wear who opted to dine on formal night in the WindJammer. Also, the dress code is NOT enforced in the dining room. Many people in shorts, jeans, sweatpants, sweatshirts, hats, etc.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that we really never had a problem finding a table for four at both breakfast and lunch. By mid cruise, we found the selection quite boring for both breakfast and lunch, as it varied very little. For breakfast, we did try the dining room one morning, but again, all of our food arrived cold. In the WindJammer, a breakfast staple, muffins, were not available most mornings even after asking for them. We also found that the staff began closing down half of the stations 30 minutes before the end of breakfast time, which led to longer lines especially at the omelet station. We feel the layout of the Windjammer is conducive to mass confusion due to the circular layout of the food area, with no clear direction of travel. People tend to go from end to end which creates a traffic jam. Another HUGE disappointment was the lack of food available after 9PM when the WindJammer closed. After that time, the only food available is the "hockey puck" hamburgers and hot dogs in the Solarium, or room service, which we also found to be very limited and lacking in quality. On all Princess ships, a portion of their buffet is available round the clock. Don't get me wrong - none of us lost any weight on this cruise, however, anyone who wants to be naïve and feel that food is not a huge part of a cruise is just kidding themselves, and again, we find the Princess line to be worlds ahead of Royal Caribbean in this area. We also feel that if this was a planned cost cutting measure by RC, that most passengers would be willing to pay a bit more to get an upgrade in the quality of the food.
We did have a problem with the way that the drinks are mixed on the ship. For example, when you get a Banana Daiquiri, they pour the shot of liquor in the bottom and then fill the glass the remainder of the way with the blender mix, leaving all of the alcohol sitting on the bottom unmixed. We found this to be consistent with any of the blender drinks, and really do not see a purpose behind this method. There was a nice mixture of free drinks available at the WindJammer, ranging from iced tea and lemonade daily, and then a rotating line of fruit punch and various flavored waters that were available all day both outside and inside the WindJammer. They also had a nice beer special for the week for AB products. For $33, you got 8 beers in a padded insulated shoulder cooler that could be a mixture of Bud, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, or Michelob Ultra. Refills of the cooler were 8 beers for $25 for the duration of the trip, which we found to be a great deal.
Port Canaveral, Florida - We found that it was a bit of a shame after the fact that we spent the most amount of time in a port with the least amount of things to do. We opted to rent a car and spent the day at Universal Studios (45 minute drive), which was fairly crowded. And later having spoken to other passengers, we regretted not taking the tour of the space center.
Key West, Florida - We booked an independent tour with Fury Cat for a 3 hour catamaran snorkel trip. We would not do this again, as it was very windy, which led to difficult conditions and even with the conditions aside, the snorkeling was not very good. It ended up being more of a boat ride (1 hour to get to the snorkel location and 1 hour back) with about 45 minutes of snorkel time. We also had time to walk around the shops a bit and would have liked to have had more time in this port.
Nassau, Bahamas - We opted for a day room at the Sheraton beach resort. This was a really good choice given the fact that a day pass is $25 per person and the room for the day was $99, which gave us the ability to shower and change prior to returning to the ship. Unfortunately, the weather did not fully cooperate and we did have some heavy rainstorms and it finally cleared about 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. This is a very nice resort, with a nice beach and pools and had some really great snorkeling right off the beach in only 3 feet of water. The location on Cable Beach appeared much nicer than that of the Hilton which is another popular day spot as the Hilton is located closer to the ship.
CocoCay - This private island (owned by RC) was by far the nicest stop. The tendering was very efficient, which got everyone off the ship and on the island quickly. We followed advice from others on these boards and walked through the vendor area, out past Coconut Willies and around the corner to Barefoot Beach. We practically had the beach to ourselves with the only drawback bring the proximity to the barbeque buffet and other amenities. There were plenty of chairs along this beach, in addition to some huts which provided shade. The water here is beautiful and shallow for over 200 yards off the beach. There is a large sandbar off the beach where we saw numerous large rays and bonefish. The barbeque lunch was good and we also snorkled the sunken plane and shipwreck which had a lot of fish to see. The one major negative that we would say about CocoCay is that once the buffet closed down, unless you had a soda card, there was no option to get any drink at all (including water) unless you purchased it. As it was a hot day, it would have been nice to be able to be able to get the iced tea, lemonade, or even ice water that is always available on the ship.
We feel that all in all the ports of call were nice stops, however also feel that Royal Caribbean needs to adjust the scheduling for this particular itinerary. For example, the distance from Port Canaveral to Key West, Key West to Nassau, and Nassau to CocoCay does not necessitate the current time limitations that are imposed in each port. When the ship is sailing at less than half of its maximum speed, it is clear that more time could have been allotted in these ports while still maintaining the scheduled arrival time in each. The limited time in these ports was exacerbated by the repeated problem of RC not being able to maintain its arrival/disembarkation schedule for every stop on our itinerary. We unfortunately experienced 15-45 minute delays in getting off the ship in every one of the ports. While some of this may be compounded by people congregating in the stairwells leading to the gangway, you really cannot blame them when they are trying to get off as early as possible due to the already limited time in port.
To keep this section short and sweet, we found the production shows to be downright painful to watch, but the guest entertainers such as Scott Henry, Kenny James, Rick Novel, and David Haines were all excellent. Show times were: Day 1: 7:15PM, Days 2 thru 4 and Day 6: 8:15PM & 10:00PM, Day 5 and Days 7 thru 9: 6:15PM & 8:15PM. I would also like to say that we attended the 10PM shows, and for the most part you could have arrived at 9:55 and still obtained an excellent seat. Previous reports of having to arrive 30-45 minutes prior to the show time to get a seat were unfounded, at least for the 10PM show. We did enjoy the casino and found it to be better than those we have experienced on any of the Princess ships.
Overall, we had heard both positive and negatives of this ship and Royal Caribbean in general. While the Enchantment may be one of the older ships in their fleet, we found the condition to be quite acceptable. While she does show some of her age, the crew constantly works at upkeep and cleaning through the entire week. We actually prefer this size ship, as we found that we never had issues of overcrowding in any of the public areas which includes the availability of poolside chairs that you can sometimes experience on many of the larger ships. One thing that we found was some inconsistency with the enforcement of some of the rules. For example, in the Solarium pool, they did not enforce the 16 and over rule on any of the sea days as some kids were running rampant around the pool. Yet, the staff of the Viking Crown Lounge prevented me from entering with my 16 year old son before 10PM one night. I have no problem with there being rules, if they are all enforced equally.
Disembarkation- Baltimore, Maryland
Not much to say here. We were off the ship, through customs, had our luggage, and were in the car on I95 within 20 minutes and it could not have been any smoother.
One thing that we found surprising was the demographic of this sailing. We had always heard that Royal Caribbean, as a whole, tended to be a younger crowd with more kids. Nothing could have been further from the truth on this cruise. We understand that there could have been several factors that impacted this, such as school break weeks and the length of the cruise being more than 7 days, and also that this was a C&A cruise. The average age of this cruise had to be easily over 60 years old. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be considered when planning a cruise with young children.
Understand that we fully agree that no cruise is a bad cruise. However, in comparing both Royal Caribbean and Princess, unless there was a huge price difference, we would opt to stay with Princess. The reason that we chose this cruise was purely price. Paying $700 PP (which included all gratuities) was an unbelievable deal. Would I sail Royal Caribbean or this ship again? As I said previously, unless there was a huge price difference, no I would not.
It has always been my understanding that Royal Caribbean's passenger base was those seeking a bare budget cruise, and it is our opinion that that is what you get with them. Not that there is anything wrong with that - it's just that you really do get what you pay for. Less