INTRODUCTION: It's close. That's probably the main reason why the majority of people choose to cruise on the Enchantment out of Baltimore. Not because it's the newest ship. It's not. Not because it's the slickest ship. It's not. Not because it's the biggest. Not because it's the nicest. Not because it's the best. Not because it has the most unique and exciting itineraries. Not because it has the most amazingly unique onboard activities, entertainment, or facilities. It's not, it's not, it's not, it doesn't, it doesn't. People (myself included) most likely mainly choose to cruise on this ship because it's within driving distance to where they live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the Eastern US. That's pretty much it. Honestly, put any other cruise ship in Baltimore harbor instead and people would cruise on it for the exact same reason. While there are always exceptions, of course, few people are going to make the effort to fly a thousand miles to Miami (or wherever) for an aging, smaller, fewer-frills ship. Some people will, but mo$t people won't. However, those very same people will go on that very same ship if it's close. And we do. That's why they put it here.
Knowing these facts and being realistic about these realities coming in makes it a whole lot easier to appropriately gauge your own expectations, to prepare for what you'll actually be getting, and to remember why you're choosing this particular ship and itinerary in the first place. You're not choosing the biggest, newest, best, most unique, or slickest option. You're choosing the close one. And that's perfectly fine. Because in reality the Enchantment was still honestly mostly OK-to-good overall, all things considered.
That said, it's my aim here to give you an honest review of our experience on the Enchantment's 5-night cruise to Bermuda out of Baltimore on October 1-6, 2011. Of course some will agree and some will disagree with my thoughts here. But again, this is just an honest review of my personal experience from my own personal perspective and opinion, calling it as I see it.
This was our fifth cruise, our fourth with Royal Caribbean. The short drive to Cruise Maryland in Baltimore was much nicer than having to fly (likely out of Baltimore anyway) to a far-away embarkation port and I'd probably do it again for that reason alone.
EMBARKATION: I don't know if our experience at the port itself was unique or not, but I found it pretty chaotic trying to figure out where to go and what to do when arriving. This was in no way Royal Caribbean's fault. The city's port itself should have been much better marked with far more directional signage within its gates to guide traffic flow. They also could have definitely used some more alert, engaged and communicative staff to direct us where to go and what to do upon arrival. So my advice is to go slow and keep asking everyone you see where to go and what to do until you get some clear answers. Once we parked ($15 per day in advance, cash or credit taken) everything ran smoothly. We got inside the terminal at about 11:00 and it took about half an hour till we got through the security and check-in lines, including filling out a health questionnaire and a 10-minute sit-and-wait period before they started boarding at around 11:30.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE SHIP ITSELF: The Enchantment is actually bigger and nicer at first glance than I had prepared myself for it to be. I recommend touring the ship on your own upon embarkation from bottom to top to get the locations of things figured out (as well as to help waste some time until the rooms are ready at around 1:30). We concluded our tour at the Windjammer around noon where we ate a good, healthy meal. Since we were still relatively early, there was no problem finding a table. By the time we were finished, the place was getting pretty crowded and crazy with hundreds if not thousands of people pressing in for lunch. The Solarium Cafe also serves a nice lunch each day with only a few dozen people there to partake, so that may be a smarter option for you if the Windjammer is too full.
ACCOMODATIONS: Our bags were in the stairway at 1:30 when the rooms were ready, so we just grabbed them ourselves and took them to our room. For this short cruise we chose the smallest and cheapest category of interior staterooms on the ship. We ended up in room 2133, an "end-unit" by an interior hallway making it so we had only 1 adjacent neighbor while some cabins in the same category are crammed in with many more adjacent neighbors to the sides and directly behind. (Behind us was just an A/C control room which made no noise and seemed never to be used.) This location helped to keep the room very quiet for the whole voyage. Being low and somewhat central in the ship also kept the room more stable-feeling during the very rough seas we encountered. But with no natural light, we literally had no clue what time of day it was or what the weather was like topside before going up. As much as we love having private balconies, we paid less than half of what a balcony room would have cost us and we got to enjoy all the same amenities of the rest of the ship for much less.
I'm 6'5" tall and broad and the beds were plenty big enough for me. We had the beds separated to make for more room in the small space and that helped quite a bit. It also helps the small interior rooms to feel larger and more functional to keep things neat and tidy. They have way too much unnecessary furniture crammed into this small space, so I recommend putting the small round glass coffee table into the closet to free up even more floor space, as well. For some crazy reason, in this stateroom category it's not possible to have both end tables fit between the separated beds as they show in the photos. They have to be turned sideways and placed next to each other horizontally to fit. Odd. Even with the beds together, the room steward said they really have to jam them in on the sides by the walls to force them fit. Clearly the furniture buyer wasn't talking to the room designer on this one.
About three or four times our toilet wouldn't flush, so we had to call maintenance. They fixed it right away every time, somehow, but my wife started joking that the way to flush the toilets is to make a phone call! Eventually we found out what the problem was, and that this problem was ship wide. The older Enchantment burst a pipe which actually ended up flooding some guest rooms on the starboard side of deck 2, causing low water pressure and vacuum force throughout the whole ship! There were mattresses and such pulled out into the hallways and stairways to try to clean up the affected rooms for those poor guests who had been flooded. Fortunately, things seemed to be worked out and it appeared most guests got back into their rooms shortly. I don't know what, if anything, Royal Caribbean offered them for the damages and inconvenience. The Enchantment is an older ship and this was just one sign of the wear and dilapidation that is really starting to show. Though overall it is still seemingly well-maintained with a few clear problems here and there. Though I doubt the guests in the flooded rooms would completely agree with that somewhat generous assessment.
ENTERTAINMENT: This is the worst part of the ship, in my humble opinion, but take that with a grain of salt as I typically don't care much for shows/performances in general. "Summer camp for grown-ups" might be the best way to describe it. The cruise director and staff really seemed to have to force the appearance of enthusiasm throughout the trip and once or twice just flat couldn't pull it off even while faking it the best they could. Some of the performers were really spectacular, however, such as one of the women in the "Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers" who should be singing to sold-out stadiums and not working on a cruise ship. She sounded exactly like Whitney Houston in her prime (you know, before the drugs and stuff), only better. Most of the entertainment on the ship, however, was mediocre to unbearable. The fellow they had "singing" (and I use that term loosely) in the Centrum during the day nearly every day is best compared to a poor Elvis impersonator singing bad karaoke WAY too loudly. One lady who took his place in the evening was just as bad. I was actually embarrassed for the casting agent or whomever booked them to perform. Some of the games and other activities were fun, but they were few and short-lived. The rock wall and bungee trampoline areas looked fun, but they were rarely open.
DINING: The food was fabulous. Every venue, every time. Fabulous. I had to ask myself what the people who rate the food poorly must eat on a regular basis, because it was just fantastic. Really! The Windjammer had a great selection and there was rarely too much of a crowd. The MDR had fantastic selections even if it was a bit slow in coming at times. Even the Solarium Cafe had a nice salad bar, deli sandwiches, fresh fruit, pastries, and more at times. I was pleasantly surprised! If anything, the room service selections were a bit blasE. Despite reports to the contrary, there was lobster on night 5.
I cannot recommend My Line Dining, as every time I saw people without a set diner seating trying to get in there was always a line. With a set table and time, we walked right past the My Line Diners and went right to our table.
SERVICE: I'd say about 80% of the crew were pleasant and helpful most of the time. About 10% of the crew were amazingly (if not overwhelmingly) excellent in their level of service and attention to personal detail. While, of course, about 10% of the crew clearly did not want to be there. If you find one of them, just move on because someone else will really be good.
STABILITY OF THE SHIP: For some reason, this voyage was the most nauseating, rocky, and unstable cruise I'd ever been on, and I've been on smaller ships than this one. I'm usually pretty good on ships but I got motion sickness a few times and really had to pound the Dramamine which helped to take the edge off. I don't know what caused this, but it was probably another one of the worst things about what was otherwise generally an OK trip.
BERMUDA: This was my first trip to Bermuda and I have to say a table-mate put it perfectly: "The people aren't rude, but they don't go out of their way to help you either." We didn't have an excursion scheduled and walking around the dockyard was fun, but we'd do an excursion next time for sure.
SECRETS AND TIPS: I have referred to some of these throughout my review, but here is a summary of our key discoveries.
Check out the deck 5 aft public balcony. It's huge and very few people seemed to ever be there.
Make use of the Solarium Cafe, the crowd-hater's alternative to the Windjammer
Always keep a watch, cruise compass, seapass card, and pen with you at all times.
Ask for ice and the room steward brings it daily.
You'll have fun if you want to. And you'll have plenty to complain about if you want to. But that has very little to do with the ship and more to do with the individual on it.