This was our winter break trip and decided to go out of New Orleans since it was an easy drive from our home and we wanted a break from dealing with airlines. Having been to the NO area in the past, we decided we wanted to stay on the outskirts of town and avoid the busy downtown area, hence we stayed at the Slidell Sleep Inn the night before. This is a very comfortable accommodation and the room rate includes Continental breakfast. We will stay there again on future trips. Plenty of restaurants at the exits just north of the hotel as well. It was a short 15 minute ride to the port from there.
New Orleans Port=
This is where the port experience went down hill=
The facilities at the port of NO are acceptable, with the exception of the parking and luggage drop off..this is where they have a long way to go. We followed the signs for RC terminal, stopped and asked police/security and still we were forced to make the "one way" drive around the Convention Center several times before we could find porters to check bags for us. "Security/police" told us to just drop our bags into these huge white bins on the side of the road and just leave them unattended,"they'll be fine there". With so much car/pedestrian traffic..not feeling this was a secure spot for our bags, we made another trip around the Convention Center/port area until we finally found a baggage porter who had come out & started taking bags.
Once the bags were checked, we needed to drive around another time to get into the RCI designated parking lot, as the entrance was behind the car and there was no way to back up. We wanted to use the RCI lot because we thought it would be more secure! WRONG! We paid $112.00 for the week and the parking attendant indicated it was a secured lot. WRONG! This graveled/broken concrete lot with all it's pot holes & standing water is actually a combined RCI and hotel city type lot. And the only security is the section directly in front of the hotel, which has a security camera on it's roof. The section of the lot next to the RCI pedestrian ramp is not secured or monitored at all. We know this because the car next to ours damaged our fender while loading their bags the day of return. When we finally found a security guard to ask if there was maybe camera evidence of who did this, he said "the lot is not monitored by RCI. We were welcome to go over to the hotel to see if their camera caught anything tho!" So much for getting into a secured lot.
Once you park your car, you will walk to the terminal along a very rough street with no sidewalks. You are forced to drag your bags over an ACTIVE railroad track to get to the taxi drop off area and into the terminal bldg.
This is a heavy traffic area & not a pedestrian friendly area at all. I have written to RC to let them now that they really should consider making this a more pedestrian friendly area of their cruise facility. There is an elevator that will take you up to the restaurants and washroom facilities, however we attempted to use their back exit that has a sign "To Ships", but it is a "bridge to nowhere" and we ended up backtracking with all our carry-ons and taking the street walk to the terminal. For first time visitors this was a horrible experience. Can't imagine if I would have had kids in tow or a stroller to cross this railroad track.
Once inside the terminal we stood in line in the lobby for approx. an hour before RCI agents opened the doors and started letting us file into the security and check in area. This was very much the same as most RC port facilities, however they have the different C&A levels segregated so they can let the Diamond & above cruise customers in first.
Once on board we stood in another "4 deep" line which extended from the doors of the Windjammer out onto the decks for approx. 45 minutes waiting for the department of health to inspect & release the ship ..this was not an issue as I am quite happy that they hold the cruise ship's galleys to such high standards. Once inside, the Windjammer was extremely crowded and the food lines were very long. Note to the man in front of me "No eating in line,licking your fingers and then touching all the handles with your nasty fingers!" Yuck!
New Orleans was rainy and overcast on this day and departure was uneventful. We were just happy to be heading for sunny warm weather. It takes 8 hours to transit the river before you actually enter the Gulf.
First stop- Cozumel, we took the ferry over to Cancun and went on the Tulum Mayan Ruin excursion and it was a very nice day. Got some great pictures.
Second stop-Georgetown- We took the tender to town for a little while, but there were so many ships in the harbor that there were over 12,000 people dropped onto the island all at once. It was very crowded and so we took the opportunity to go back to the ship and just lounge by the pool for the day.
Third stop- Jamaica and it rained most of the day. Of course the umbrella & rain ponchos were left in the cabin. Poor planning. The dock area has been built up like a shopping village and there was music and dancers and lots of shops. We did the Dunn's River Falls and lunch at the Dolphin Lagoon excursion. It was ok, the rain & cold really messed things up. Jamaica is still allowing the tour companies to use the old tour buses with the jump seats in the aisle. This may not bother others, but for a claustrophobic, this is hell on wheels. If there is a wreck and you are at the back,there is no way out! The lunch experience at the Dolphin Lagoon was not customer friendly at all. By the time our tour arrived, all the covered eating areas were taken. We were walked all the way to the end/back of the property through the muddy path to the beach picnic area. There were three picnic tables under the canopy , which were taken and the rest of the tables were on the beach in the rain and of course all wet. They really need to consider putting up some kind of sun/rain tents for their customers. Our guide ended up trying to wipe tables and chairs for us with napkins so we could sit down and eat our hamburger and salad. The operators were clearly unprepared for the crowds they had that day. The shark show was interesting, and there were a few shops to look in. Back on the bus for the rainy ride back to the dock area. And of course the sun came out just in time for us to leave! Perfect end to a nasty day.
Heading back to NO and we had a passenger who became ill on board. We sat just off the coast of Cancun for quite a while waiting for medical people to come and pick her/him up and get them to a hospital in Mexico (I think). Then we continued our trip back to NO where we arrived on time. This was the second Caribbean trip where an ill passenger had to be evacuated and in both instances Royal did a fantastic job of caring for the ill person, getting them timely medical help and still making sure that the rest of the cruisers experienced very little interruption. I feel this is a mark of a great cruise line.
The entertainment on board was enjoyable and we were happy to see that the Beetles type group "The Revolution" was on the list of entertainers. We always enjoy that show.
We carried off our luggage and find this to be the best option. No searching for bags in a sea of luggage at the dock. We love that Royal allows us to do this. An hour to get through the customs officer, a 10 minute walk through a maze of terminal hallways, a walk across that scary railroad track and in our case the wheels got stuck in the rails and it took two of us to wedge them out. Thankfully the freight train had just passed and the guard rails did not come down on our heads. We were on the highway within 45 minutes of clearing customs. The 8-9 hour drive home was easy.
We will use the NO port in the future because it is the closest drive from our home and we don't enjoy air travel anymore. BUT we are hopeful that if they want to retain the ship business they are enjoying, that they will make the port experience safer and more user friendly for the passengers.