It was with a lot of trepidation that we booked this cruise on Voyager of the Seas. Our last cruise with Royal Caribbean was on Vision of the Seas in Northern Europe and the British Isles last summer. It was a much less than happy experience, and I wasn't sure what I was letting myself in for when we booked this cruise. However, there was a group of poker players on board and my husband wanted to join them, so we gave Voyager a try. We're really glad we did; she's a great ship and we had a great time on her.
We flew to New Orleans a day and a half early to see a little bit of the city. We took a cab to the Drury Inn and Suites after seeing it suggested on the Homeports board. It's great that the cab fare is a set amount ($33 for one two people, $14 for each additional person) from the airport to any part of downtown New Orleans or to the port. The Drury Inn is comfortable, if not grand or regal, and the location was perfect to explore the French Quarter and waterfront areas on foot. They serve a buffet breakfast and a "5:30 Kickback" snack and drinks buffet as part of the hotel rate. Both were fun, though not gourmet, and we knew we'd be eating tons on the ship so weren't overly critical. We walked to the French Quarter both nights we were there, and to the Riverwalk area during the day. We also took a streetcar out to see the Garden District, and felt we were able to at least scratch the surface of what the city has to offer in our limited time.
On embarkation day we took a cab from the hotel to the pier($7 per person) at about 10:30. Checkin was fast and easy, and since we are Emerald we only waited a few minutes before the priority boarding began. We were on the ship before 11:30, and headed up to the Windjammer, which was still uncrowded. We had read that the buffet setup on Voyager was different from the new ships in her class, with the traditional long serving counters rather than the stations. I found that this worked better than the newer setup on Mariner, and we absolutely loved the Island Grill at the rear of Windjammer. We never found long lines or felt crowded in the Windjammer, even with 3,000 plus passengers. And the food was some of the best we've had on a ship's buffet. There were a lot of familiar items, both in Windjammer and the MDR, but they tasted better somehow. As an exemple, we had a hot spinach dip appetizer in the past that was so salty I couldn't eat it. On Voyager it was perfectly seasoned. I found that was the case in the Windjammer too. Foods that were too highly spiced or too salty on other ships were just right. We ate dinners in the MDR all but one night, and the food was good. Not gourmet, you understand, but I never had trouble finding something that I wanted to try. Sadly, that hasn't been the case in the past. I don't think that beef dishes are Royal's strength, but everything else was pretty good to excellent. One exception was that fish dishes tended to be overly dry at times, but on lobster night (and yes, there was a lobster night) there was a real lobster tail, of good size, and deliciously moist, not overcooked. Our table waiter, Antonio, was absolutely the most professional waiter we have had in several years, and still friendly and fun to talk to. His assistant, Craig, was attentive in keeping us supplied with bread and water glass filled. We had dinner in Portofino one evening to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The meal was delicious and the service matched it. My husband had the filet steak, and I had lamb chops, and we enjoyed both.
We had a balcony cabin on deck 8. The cabin was in good shape except for a few small items. The balcony railing was in need of varnish, and the couch was tired looking. But everything was clean, and everything worked as expected. I expect that some small maintenance items are being deferred until the refurbishing that will accompany voyager's deployment to Asia. With the extremely mild weather we had, I used the balcony day and night and really enjoyed it. Even on sea days when it was very windy and the seas rough, the balcony was deep enough to shelter me so I could read and relax there.
We had two days at sea at the start of the cruise. The seas were very rough on the first sea day, with high winds. After that, and on all our port days, the weather was hot and humid but only a few drops of rain fell during the whole cruise.
Our first port was Falmouth, Jamaica, where we took the ship's "1700s Manor House with Lunch". The port itself struck me as very manufactured and Disneyish, though clean and safe. The tour was a very pleasant surprise; one of the best ship's tours we have ever taken. We were bused to the Good Hope Estate, where we boarded a kind of tram and toured the agricultural areas and outhouses, then the manor house itself, before having a light lunch of jerk chicken. We both enjoyed the tour thoroughly. Our next port was Grand Cayman, where we disembarked by tender and walked around the downtown area. We had been there before and decided not to do a beach break or snorkeling this time. The last port was Cozumel. I had done some research here on Cruise Critic, and decided we would take a cab to Chankunaab, an eco-park just over 5 miles from the port. The cab ride was $10 for the four of us who went, and we spent our time walking through the park's botanical gardens (amazing), replicas of archaeological ruins, and toured the areas where dolphins and manatees are kept. The park offers the chance to swim with the dolphins but we chose not to. It was thrilling to see the animals just a few feet from us as they came up to greet the trainers conducting the tour. We also saw a Sea Lion Show which was great. We could have chosen to lie on the beautiful beach or snorkel, including swimming to an underwater sculpture garden. If we return to Cozumel, we will probably go back to Chankunaab to see what me missed this time. Be warned, it is very hot and humid, however.
When we were on Mariner previously we missed the ice show, so we made sure to get tickets for it this time. It was amazing, so professional and beautiful, and on such a small ice rink. The skaters were able to execute jumps and spins without mishap. We also attended one of the production shows, which I thought was somewhat mediocre, but of course that's very subjective. What was good about the show was that the music was not so loud that your ears hurt, as most shows at sea are. My husband attended a show with a musical impressionist and liked it a lot. We were kind of surprised when Quest was held in Studio B, which is usually the ice rink. We didn't think the stadium style seating was as relaxing as the usual lounge setting. The Cruise Director, Keith Williams, did an excellent job of keeping the show going, and was more funny than graphic when the action got a little wild.
All in all, we loved Voyager. We loved the promenade, especially the Cafe Promenade where food and drink is available all the time. The service on the ship was wonderful, given with a smile. There were a number of new Asian employees in the various areas, including Guest Relations and Windjammer, obviously still learning their jobs. But their smiling attitude and willingness to keep after it until they found what you needed, made interacting with them fun. The Hotel Director announced at the Top Tier party that the ship is being deployed to Asia next month and will be there for at least the next couple of years, depending on how she does in that market. I enjoyed our cruise on her so much that I will have to research an Asian cruise as soon as the schedules come out.