Dear wife and I have now completed eight cruises, mostly with Royal Caribbean, experiencing both their smaller and (at the time) largest vessels. Having lived abroad, we consider ourselves highly experienced (and frugal) travelers with the ability to adapt when challenges pop up.
This was our first cruise on Enchantment. We had sailed on her standard-size Vision-class sister, Grandeur of the Seas, twice. She does not carry the toys that Freedom and Oasis class megaships do, or even those of the between-class ships. She is due to freshen at the shipyard in December 2012. There is minor wear-and-tear apparent if one looks hard, but otherwise she presents a shipshape image. Crew was regularly engaged in maintenance work, painting and polishing.
Baltimore is a fifteen minute drive from home. (BWI airport is about a half-hour drive from the port.) It was easy embarkation, as usual. Happily, the Windjammer had open tables available at noon, which is a first in my experience. It was also an apparent indicator that this was going to be a light passenger load on a pre-holiday run. (I understood passenger load that cruise was about 2000, which was on the "low side" from the ship's usual number.)
We are forever seeking bargains, and usually purchase inside cabins because we consider the entire ship an extension of our room, generally only sleeping and changing there. Our basic (Q) inside stateroom forward was exactly that -- 150 square feet of living space, which is the standard size. Our attendant, Ting, kept it clean and tidy, and always greeted us with a smile and a bit of conversation. Using the space under the bed to stow our luggage, there was plenty of closet and drawer space for our clothes. Word of warning: Your luggage may be larger than ours, so our experience is no guarantee your trunks will fit.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer. The food was always well presented and hot. It appeared to me that choices were more limited in the past. The Asian and Indian dishes I tried were just not to my taste, mostly offering the same base flavor regardless of purported origin. Our traveling partners spoke highly of the dining room, especially for breakfast, where there was a variety of different offerings.
Dinner was taken nightly in the "My Fair Lady." There were signs of economizing. The menu appeared to feature more chicken, pork and fish. The cuts of prime rib were thinner, like a slice of holiday ham. Service was okay. I suspect our servers were either in training, or on their own for the first time or two. Unlike previous cruises, our meal beverages were neither waiting nor brought unless we asked for them. Our headwaiter expedited fixes to the slips, and none were so serious as to mar the meal. Once we waited for our Atlantic cod while the others were served...told it would take at least 20 minutes to prepare. Our headwaiter, Medic, somehow got our entree to us pronto, without having heard a word of complaint from us. One regular irritant was the pepper mill - which was seemingly perpetually empty, and was used to serve other tables around us, leading to frequent arm-reaching interruptions by a waiter at our table - until we said something. The food was tasty and technically satisfactory, but it missed the WOW! of previous cruises. We did not use the alternative Chops. BTW: Formal night attire for men was mainly suits...with one group of "dress downers" sporting jeans and open neck shirts who walked en masse to their table to apparently call attention to their "rebellion". Oddly, their female tablemates were dressed to the nines. Enjoy yourselves, boys, but no reason to wave a flag, IMHO.
Speaking of formal dress, my visiting brother forgot his tux at my home. My intrepid son-in-law brought it to the terminal bare minutes before actual departure. The Guest Relations staff did all it could to get the tux aboard, but after we sailed brother was told the suit had failed to arrive. So, Guest Relations promised to contact their Baltimore agent to hold the suit, and offered a voucher for a complimentary rental, although none of this was their fault. In actuality the suit bag was indeed there, hung unnoticed by our cabin attendant in the closet. Thanks to Guest Relations for their unnecessarily kind gesture...not to mention my son-in-law for his dash with the tux.
Entertainment was very good throughout the ship. The evening Showtime headliners were generally excellent...no worse than very good. The ship's band played often at the Spotlight, and the dance floor was usually hopping. The various venues offered good bar service. Drink prices seemed to have risen a bit, offset by heavier hands pouring. The "Drink of the Day" did not appear to represent the value it once did.
Cruise Director Mitch and staff did a nice job of offering a variety of activities throughout the day. The destination lecturer was prepared and informative in ways most aren't. The ballroom dance instructors, Wendy and John, did a fine job keeping things simple for those of us with those proverbial two left feet. Captain and crew were accessible, and happy to talk about their lives at sea.
We prefer to do our own thing on shore. We had previously visited all but one of the destinations, and had no problems arranging for our own transportation to the beach or wherever. Frankly, it's not hard if you prepare your itinerary. Our partners did a run to the Baths at Tortola/Virgin Gorda using Speedy's...mostly in the company of those using the ship excursion. Their cost was significantly less for the same experience, from ferry to "taxi" to beach.
Disembarkation was very efficient. Kudos to US Customs and Immigration Service for their part in moving people along. Finding our luggage was easy enough inside terminal.
Altogether, we had another excellent adventure. And, it is obvious economizing is underway. Fewer soaps in the bath, subtle menu changes, that sort of thing. That said, we never felt the intrusion of any sales pitches, although was apparent that the ship was hustling for your business. Past passengers, members of Crown and Anchor, were treated to multiple hosted receptions. The economizing did not detract from our cruise; don't let that deter you.
We have always found good value with Royal Caribbean International. This cruise was no exception.