Wife and I drove from NC to Baltimore one day before cruise and stayed at the LaQuinta in Glen Burnie together with one of our family group of 4. We recommend this hotel for cleanliness and quality but especially for its follow up to our request for pickup at the pier at the end of the cruise (a failing we have found at some other Baltimore area hotels we have stayed at for past cruises).
We got to the pier about 11:15AM and processing into the waiting area was flawless and took only minutes at this time of morning. After being seated for about 30-45 minutes, we started seeing the arrival of others in our group (15 total including us two) and boarding began at around noon. Our impression of the ship was that it was very similar to the Grandeur of the Seas that we sailed on 2 years ago from Norfolk so we saw many familiar things and knew our way around quickly and headed to the Windjammer to await the rest of our group of 9 adults and 6 children....we were soon to learn that this particular cruise would have around 700 children total (more on that later regarding kids activities).
Cabins: Our cabin was on Deck 3 and I can confirm the reviews by others that there IS a problem with sewer gas odor on this deck and quite noticeable in our cabin. A small can of room deodorant for the bathroom area took care of this problem for us until it ran out. The cabin impressed me as smaller than similar classes of cabins on HAL, Carnival and on Celebrity Mercury (also owned by RCL) that we sailed on 4 months earlier. Compared to the now departed Mercury, the cabin facilities on the EOS (Enchantment of the Seas) were disappointing. Few shelves available, were only above the desk and none in closet, were small and shallow and the desk was cluttered with the pricey water and snacks that RCL will NOT take away even after you ask that they be removed (confirming similar reports from other reviewers). We notified our cabin steward that we would not use these items and placed most of them on the tiny glass shelves behind the left mirror above the desk. HINT: The 4 life preservers in our closet took a lot of floor space that can be liberated by putting them on the long, shallow shelf on top of the closet that is useless for anything else anyway.
Public Areas: Centrum is nice and greatly impressed our first time family cruisers. This area has little-to-no sound absorbing features and results in typical very loud sound levels in internet and library areas that are open to the Centrum with no doors or partitions. The going away party in the Centrum probably resulted in significant hearing loss to many travelers with music playing at well above deafening levels.....be warned! Library is small with no magazines, newspapers or sources of daily news from outside world, but a few more books than I remembered from experience on Grandeur. Smoke levels on the ship are high but not excessive and RCL should learn from its sibling Celebrity that smoke free inside the ship does not necessarily hurt profits and results in a much better atmosphere for the majority of non-smokers and all those children I mentioned earlier. Casino, bars, shopping etc. etc. were all pretty standard with no particular benefits or problems noticeable. The ship is in generally good repair and quite a pleasant place (except that sewer gas thing mentioned for cabins).
Activities and Staffing/Children's' Activities/Entertainment: John Blair, CD and his wife Katrina, activities director were great! Many sports activities, enough Trivia contests to satisfy even hard-core players like us (2nd place in progressive trivia despite missing Day 1) and very nice job on the classic "Quest" for adults and in the many, many other events performed by the other activities staff.
Children's activities must be a strong point for RCL because although I did not personally witness them, the 5 youngest children in our family groups (ages 6-9) could not wait to get back to the children's' area each day. Parents of all were equally happy with service and kids activities.......what else can I add to that positive 5 rating?.......and remember that total of 700 kids onboard I mentioned earlier?
Entertainment in the main show lounge was good to excellent and included comedians, the Horizons from Detroit with good audience participation and good dancing and singing from the ship entertainers. We were disappointed that there was no magician for our oldest grandson but guess we will have to cruise again and again until we get to see one with him..........oh heck! John B said that there had been a magician on the previous cruise (that one had 900 kids) but was substituted by the Horizons.....that was a good substitution John for both adults and kids who loved these guys! The small size of the theater is a negative mentioned again below.
Dining: Mixed bag of experiences. The EOS suffers from the ship being elongated to get on more passenger cabins without adding to the space in the main dining levels or the Windjammer. As a result, the Windjammer often has the feeling of overcrowding and poor traffic flow, primarily because of the excessive number of people for the space available. The food in the Windjammer is quite good if you get there early but often suffers later in the dining period from just being out too long..........for those who disparage the variety or quality of the food I would suggest not eating what does not taste good to you and try something else, easy to do in this type of venue that has so many selections. I liked what I took and followed my own advice for the other selections. The hamburgers are prepared in large quantities and sit on the hot table for long periods.....you can guess what they are like; although ones I had were tasty and kids loved them. I agree with others that the lack of food choices in the 10-12 PM evening period is a negative; finger foods or sushi and other light snacks would be a great addition.
My Fair Lady main DR: We chose "My Time Dining" because of the size of our group. The experience at dinner on Day 1 will always be memorable when the Maitre d' asked "How many in your party"? I cannot give enough credit, praise or kudos to the staff in the main DR for handling our group of 15. The RCL staff, waiters, etc. etc. in the DR all get a 5+ star rating for excellence in performance, attitude and friendliness and higher if allowed by CC (PS: Ask for Indera " Mr. In" and he will be your favorite too).
Food in the main DR was another story. Some days were a 5+ for quality, quantity and selection and others were disappointing in the selection of main dishes.
Note: None of us had any bad experiences with preparation of the food or service but the possible selections available on a few of our 7 days were poor. On a few days the selections were magnificent and we hope that they had been spread over some of those other days just mentioned. I swear that that we all considered the Prime Rib to be one of the best I had ever had and our son (Johnson&Wales, culinary school graduate) agreed.......while he was eating his second excellently prepared lobster tail for a surf and turf combo.
Excursions: Family raved about the "Dolphin Encounter" in Nassau and everyone enjoyed the snorkeling on Coco Cay, both experiences themselves rate a 5+. However, in Nassau, the logistics of getting to the Dolphin area were awful or worse. There was confusion about where to meet at the pier with conflicting advice and multiple relocations. Finally, the excursion group had to walk from the furthest berth where the ship was docked to the reception building (I would estimate this as around1/4 to 1/2 miles; or at least it seems that far on a hot day!). Remember that there is a free shuttle to the reception building if you get it when there is not a huge crowd as for the excursion groups.
In Port Canaveral, if you do not take any excursions, walk off the ship to the road outside the fenced area, turn left and walk along the inlet road to either a very nice beach or just stroll out on the fishing pier for a very nice walk to see many, many green sea turtles and often manatees if you look carefully. HINT: There is a Concession stand for drinks and food just before the beach you will appreciate on a hot day.
THINGS THAT COULD BE BETTER:
Come on RCL, Add more Staff!!! I am an RCL shareholder and am quite dismayed/disappointed by how hard the staff works simply because they are stretched too thin or employed inappropriately. The "greeter" at the door of the Windjammer is worthless and spends more time talking to crew members than to cruisers; she/he should be reminding people to use hand disinfectant.........but does not EVER do so that wife or I saw for 7 days.....thus, almost 9 in 10 people (including children who often have haphazard food handling habits) enter the Windjammer without sanitizing their hands........too much trouble I guess. It was a true and blessed miracle that the Norovirus or worse did not strike us all. Spills were left on the floor, tables not cleared in a timely manner (or at all until after dining times), Windjammer had bins of ice to use for drinks (when ice machine malfunctioned) with ice scoops floating in the melted water (yuck, remember those non-sanitized hands that had touched it!?). As a final comment on sanitation, wife and I always use hand sanitizing stations on all ships but on the EOS I often found them empty!!
What's with that sewer smell on Deck 3, forward cabins starboard side, specifically.............yuck, issue cans of deodorant if nothing else. Beds were very uncomfortable in my opinion, should have asked for that egg crate addition; so my fault I guess.
"My time dining" is really NOT. It seems more like "whatever time we want you to dine" after you make reservations, that is. Any time dining on RCL appears to be a hybrid of fixed seating and ability to somewhat change reservations to get the same waiters, interesting but we enjoyed the waiters we had so this possibly is a PLUS, I guess. Although I will give high praise to all of the staff of the main DR, the DR is too small to have true my time dining like we experienced on NCL or even on Celebrity Mercury owned by RCL at the time. This is the result of increasing the size of the passenger load on the EOS and stuffing a greater number of diners in a DR meant for the old, small unstretched ship.
The same problem with overcrowding on this ship will be evident when the ship is very full (as in "many children onboard")when seats in the theater will be unavailable because of the size of the theater designed to accommodate passenger loads when the ship was smaller
There were many more positive things on this cruise than the annoyances mentioned. RCL could enhance the experience even more by better staff management and increasing the staff size moderately (and I don't mean drink waiters)!. The lack of emphasis on hand sanitizing was distressing and cannot have a good ending in the long run.....a matter of time until the next GI outbreak I would wager. Food was remarkably very good and juggling the daily selections would have increased my rating of 4 to a 5; which is due only to daily selections in Windjammer and DR not on quality. Example>> one day I found that the carving station in the Windjammer was serving "meat loaf"......meat loaf on a cruise???? It was not very good meat loaf either. HOWEVER: In contrast, if they serve "sea bass" or "honey kissed chicken" anywhere on the ship.........run and get/order it and you will not be disappointed...very very good.