My family of four (me - 38, wife - 35, son - 8, and son - 6) just returned from our July 29th sailing aboard the Enchantment of the Seas. A collection of my thoughts are captured below. This was the 4th cruise for my wife and me; the 3rd for our boys.
Pre-cruise and embarkation: We drove to Baltimore from Ft. Wayne, which was achievable in roughly 8.5 hours. I rather enjoy driving not only from a cost-saving perspective, but I just hate the hassles of flying anymore. We left home at mid-day on the 28th and arrived at our hotel just before 9:00 PM. We stayed at the BWI Sleep Inn, which has a "Stay and Fly" package that gives you a one-night stay, free parking for up to 14 days, and a shuttle to/from the cruise terminal, all for $119.00. The hotel was not in the greatest neighborhood but the place was clean, the accommodations were fine for our brief stay, and the shuttle service was efficient. It also offers free continental breakfast. Considering it would cost $135.00 just to park at the port for 9 days, this was a pretty good deal.
Embarkation went very smoothly. The hotel shuttle dropped us off about 10:30 AM and two porters were right there to collect our bags. We walked about 50 yards to the terminal building, filled out some quick health-related paperwork, and got in line. We were checked-in within 20 minutes of entering the terminal, then ushered to a waiting area as the ship was not yet ready for boarding. About 11:15 AM they began boarding the ship. We were sitting down for lunch in the Windjammer by 11:30 AM.
Cabin: We had two adjoining Oceanview rooms, #4536 and #4538. They were conveniently located right as you exited the elevators. At first I was concerned that we might get a lot of noise due to it being a high traffic area or because of people congregating at the elevators, but the rooms were mostly very quiet. On Day 2, the seas got a little rough and there was a banging noise the origins of which we never determined. Luckily that was the only night we experienced it. Our room steward, Ketut (pronounced K2), was terrific. He knew all of us by name after introducing himself to us early on Day 1 and would always go out of his way to speak to the kids and greet us any time we were coming and going from the room. He took care of our every need with a smile, and our kids, of course, loved his nightly towel animal creations.
Public areas: Every part of the ship was tastefully decorated and always immaculately clean. Workers could always be seen cleaning, polishing, painting, and doing routine maintenance on the ship. The Centrum was very pretty, as was the Orpheum Theater and the MDR. My wife and I spent a little time in Boleros, the Schooner Bar, and the Spotlight Lounge and enjoyed them all. The Library is pretty small and has limited reading material (bring your own), yet was surprisingly busy the times I stopped by to pick up the daily Sudoku puzzle. We hit the Viking Crown briefly but were turned off by the smokiness, even though we were the only people in there at the time. The casino was also very smoky, though on Day 8 they offered a smoke free day. I personally didn't gamble, but it was always busy when open.
Entertainment: Sadly, our 8 year old came down with a bug on Day 1 (we later learned he had pneumonia!), falling ill at the muster drill and never recovered for the entire trip. He sucked it up and dealt with it during the day, but crashed several nights at dinner time and would have to go to bed early. Thus, our opportunities to get out and enjoy the ship's entertainment offerings were quite limited. We saw no shows in the Orpheum, but did stand in the back and watch the comedian on the Farewell Show on Day 9 for about 15 minutes (Ralph Achilles). His material was PG and he provided some chuckles, but I wouldn't say he was hilarious. At various points in time, we also had opportunities to see the piano bar singer (whom I frankly thought was pretty poor), the calypso pool band Riddim Wave (good), the Dominican Quartet at Boleros (good), and Rhythm Shakedown, which was their pop/Top 40 band, which I would rate as average. They also had various performers in the Centrum during the dinner hours who provided some nice classical music. We'd sometimes stop for a few minutes and enjoy them on our way to the dining room and they were all pretty good. We never got to enjoy any of these acts for too long due to the sick child. The most surprising element on this cruise to me was the karaoke. On previous cruises, the only karaoke singers I've seen are the types you tune in to American Idol to laugh at. This cruise actually had some REALLY good karaoke singers. We even went to the finals in the afternoon of Day 9. I'd say 3 if not 4 of the 8 finalists were terrific and I would personally rate them better than some of the ship's entertainers.
Dining: We ate breakfast every morning in the Windjammer - or the "Trafficjammer" as it became known to us. The custom omelets were good, but otherwise it was your typical breakfast fare - scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, breakfast potatoes (basically tater tots), pancakes, waffles, bagels, pastries, muffins, cereals, yogurt, etc. On to my first pet peeve: rude people. Rude people suck, and they were plentiful aboard this ship. The Trafficjammer is not set up in a way to optimize the flow of people. Cereals, fruits, and yogurts have their own station which you encounter first upon entering. That's fine. Everything else is organized in what I would best describe as a roundabout. Food is arranged on an inner ring and an outer ring, with guests maneuvering between the two rings. So if you will, imagine for a moment that you're approaching a traffic roundabout in your car. The roundabout is bumper-to-bumper and full of all types of drivers: NYC cab drivers, elderly people, people who think the road belongs to them and everyone else is just an inconvenience, people driving under the influence, oblivious teenagers, and just plain old stupid people. Now mind you, these vehicles will likely make several passes through the roundabout. They will weave in and out of traffic, they will cut you off, they will stop in the middle of the road and ask for directions, and then they will turn around and drive in the wrong direction. If you can picture this in your head, then you can envision the Trafficjammer Marketplace aboard the Enchantment during prime-time breakfast and lunch hours, especially on days at sea. It is chaotic at best. The staff does a good job keeping things clean and replenishing the food. However, I thought it was a bit understaffed at times. I purchased the beverage package but gave up trying to get a Diet Coke for lunch most days just because either my food would get cold waiting or I would finish my meal before I got it. So I would deal with a similar cluster-you-know-what at the self-service beverage area and at least hold my beverage destiny in my own hands. We didn't let our kids anywhere near the food areas, opting to use them to hold a table and keep them out of the way. Unfortunately for my wife and I, this meant multiple trips through the traffic to get the kids' food first, then go back for ourselves. We wanted to do the MDR more, but (1) our kids are picky eaters and there was more selection at the Trafficjammer, and (2) we didn't want to get seated at a table with others when we had a sick kid.
We did have lunch in the MDR on one day and it was pretty good. The salad bar totally rocks. We wished we could have gone to the MDR for lunch much more frequently just for the salad bar. Service in the MDR for lunch wasn't quite what it was for dinner, but still good.
At dinner, we did the MDR for 8 nights and my wife and I were able to sneak away to Chops for one night. Our head waiter in the MDR was a woman named Aysun ("Ice" for short). She was incredible - easily the best and most involved head waiter we've had on any of our four cruises. She was just super....great with the kids....everything. If you get assigned to her area, you'll love her. Our waiter and assistant waiter were Elsie and Carolina. They were also great and did a super job taking care of us. They were swamped, however. It appeared to us that our waiter was responsible for 20 - 22 guests and it sure looked like she was sharing our assistant waiter, Carolina, with an adjacent section of the dining room. To complicate matters for them even more, we were seated close to the door, which was the furthest spot from the galley. By the time our main courses were served, our poor waiter was sweating and looked exhausted. She continued to apologize for what she perceived as slow service, but we were perfectly happy at the pace. We did sign the kids up for "My Family Time Dining" a number of times. The way this works is you order the kids' meals immediately upon being seated and the food comes out right away. They eat, then the Adventure Ocean staff picks them up about 45 minutes after you've been seated, allowing mom and dad to enjoy the rest of their dinner in peace while the kids go play. On a couple occasions, the kids' food was slow to arrive and they had to hustle through their meal, but they always had time to eat before going outside the MDR to meet up with the AO staff. Several times, Aysun took care of delivering the kids' meals herself.
The food in the MDR was good. I hate seafood and most of the appetizers are of the seafood variety, but there was always a Caesar salad available and I ordered that on most nights. Likewise there was always a beef, poultry, or pork option for entrees (sometimes a couple) and I found each to be good. Portions weren't huge, but let's face it - nobody's going hungry on the ship and quite frankly I wasn't all that hungry when we went into the MDR to begin with. So the portions were about perfect in my opinion. Desserts were good but not great, except for the warm chocolate cake on the last night. THAT was great, and Elsie made sure I had vanilla ice cream to accompany it, which made it all the better. I'd say everything else regarding desserts met my expectations.
Chops was quite good. I would recommend it. I've read others complaining about the service in there. It is slow, but I perceived that to be by design, as they are trying to pace your meal to be slow and leisurely. Everything I read from RCI said to allow at least 2 hours for your meal in there. There were only about 5 tables occupied for our 7:30 PM reservation and our meal took us about 1 hr 45 min. I had a salad, french onion soup, the 10 oz. filet, mashed potatoes, onion rings, then coffee and mud pie for dessert. My wife had the petit filet. I commented that only on a cruise ship is nearly half a pound (7 oz.) of red meat referred to as "petit."
Ship's officers / other ship staff: The current captain of the Enchantment is Espen Been. He's one of the younger captains I've seen on a cruise ship. I'd estimate his age at early to perhaps mid 40s. He seemed quiet and rather reserved. He was friendly and cordial at his public appearances. He would smile and acknowledge you on the way in and out of the lounge, yet you could tell he wasn't particularly comfortable grabbing the mic and addressing the guests during the Welcome Aboard and Return Guest parties in the Spotlight. The cruise director was Keith Williams. He was friendly and would always offer a smile and a friendly greeting when encountered about the ship, yet there were times when we'd go a couple of days without seeing him. Perhaps that was a factor of us being confined to our stateroom with a sick child on a number of nights, or perhaps he just wasn't as visible as some of the others we've sailed with. No complaints with him at all - just an observation. The rest of the officers and the staff at the Guest Relations and Explorations desks were quite good. I went to the Guest Relations desk on a number of occasions and never had to wait in line for more than a couple minutes. I did wait in line at the Excursions desk for about 30 minutes right after it opened on Day 1. Otherwise the lines for those services were quick. Book your excursions ahead of time to save yourself that potential wait.
We did have to wait in very long lines for photographs on formal nights. We never go to professional photographers to get family photos, so we view cruises as a great opportunity to get pictures of the four of us. By my count, there were only 5 stations open for photos on the 1st formal night and 6 on the second. The lighted stairs in the Centrum appeared to be the most popular location for pictures and the line for that location would sometimes wrap nearly to the elevators. The other stations' lines weren't as long, but a couple of the photographers got a little carried away and were literally spending 7 - 10 minutes with every group. So if you were 4th or 5th in line, the minimum wait time for your photograph was half an hour. One night, my wife and I waited in line for 30 minutes until the dining room opened and it didn't look like we would be up for another 20 minutes at least, so we just bailed. Before the cruise was over, we were able to get a nice family photo and one of the kids, so it all worked out, but we spent way too long standing in those lines for my taste. If you want photos on formal nights, go early!
Ship activities: There are 3 primary pools on the ship: 1 in the Solarium and 2 at mid-ship. The Solarium pool and the smaller of the two pools at mid-ship are salt water. The main pool is fresh water. The pool deck was busy in the afternoons, particularly on days at sea, which you'd expect. However, it never got overcrowded. During morning and evening hours, the pool deck is sparsely populated, so if you just want a nice quiet dip in the pool with little (if any) company, try it then. We enjoy a little pool time but aren't the types who want to sit out in the hot Caribbean sun and just bake all day. So we typically tried to find one of the shaded tables on the pool deck and enjoy a drink while the breeze blew in the windows. We never had too much trouble finding one. Similarly, chairs at the pool were readily available. You might not always find a spot in a prime location, but you could always find a chair if you wanted one.
In addition to the pools, the rock wall and the Jump Zone were the two primary outdoor attractions. The rock wall is located on Deck 10 at the stern whereas the Jump Zone is all the way forward, also on Deck 10. Each is usually open 4 - 6 hours per day, with the longer hours occurring on days at sea. What we witnessed, however, is that the Jump Zone is quite often closed when the ship is at sea due to high wind. So if you want to try it, plan to do it on a day when the ship is in port.
Guests: I'm compelled to review the guests aboard the Enchantment for this sailing. I'm not sure what it was, but there seemed to be a higher ratio of idiots aboard this ship compared to our previous sailings. I really can't overstate just how ridiculous some of the behavior was in the Trafficjammer for breakfast and lunch. My wife witnessed three ladies literally arguing over who had rights to one remaining donut. Later that day, at lunch, a teenage kid (whom I had previously labeled a punk for his appearance and behavior) told a lady to "suck it" when she cut in front of him in line to get french fries. But she was so incredibly rude, I actually sided with the kid and rather enjoyed his aggressive confrontation with her. There was a roaming crowd of kids I'd estimate at 11 or 12 years old - maybe 13 - who terrorized the poor little Indian man named Sunil who works the Solarium grill every night. For starters, the Solarium is warm to hot, depending upon the weather. So Sunil is standing back there in this cramped space with heat lamps going on both sides of him to keep pizzas and fries warm for all the obnoxious teens and over-indulging adults who come calling every night around 10:00 PM. This group would predictably show up a few minutes before 10:00 PM every night (I know because my 6 year old would have me there waiting for pizza too) and antagonize this poor man. They would wise-crack and make smart-mouth and sometimes completely unnecessary degrading comments to him. Then, of course, order up their pizza and fries which he would serve up with a smile and tell the punks it was a pleasure. I'm sure he is used to that kind of garbage, but I truly felt sorry for the guy and tried to go out of my way to be kind to him and thank him. I just fail to understand how some parents can allow their kids to be so rude, obnoxious, and disrespectful. There was one in particular - he had a white blonde mop-top and apparently thought of himself as the funniest person on the ship - that I just wanted to throw overboard. It was embarrassing.
Rude people seemed to exist everywhere a line could form, particularly in the dining establishments. They seemed to feel a sense of entitlement and that everybody standing in line was simply doing so for their own health, and that they could just barge in in front of people if they "only wanted one thing." I tried to keep my "it's vacation and I'm not going to get mad" attitude, but I was pushed to my limit, and by the time those last two days at sea came around, my patience was really put to the test.
Kids program: The Adventure Ocean program was good. Our youngest son is 6 and he made the most use out of it. Our 8-year old would have gone more, but due to him not feeling well, there were many times we took him back to the room and put him in bed. When there, the kids always had a good time. We typically spent the morning and afternoon as a family, then let the kids go to AO after they've finished dinner until around 9:45 PM. It's obvious that some parents drop their kids off and more or less use it as all-day babysitting. If the kids like it, that's fine, but I always felt a little bad for the really little ones where it's clear that mom and dad just abandoned them for the day. If you really need the time away, make arrangements with grandpa and grandma to watch your kid for the week. Just my opinion - everyone has their own circumstances. But the staff there is very friendly and have patience worthy of saint-hood. On Labadee, AO moves ashore for the day. They have a splash park there for the kids that AO gets exclusive use of for an hour in the morning before it opens to everyone. They also have shade available so the kids aren't out in the hot sun for the entire time, and I believe they also make sure they stay hydrated. One of our kids complained about "the awful tasting stuff they made us drink." Not sure what it was, but I assume it was Gatorade or some similar thing.
Ports: San Juan - we loved Old San Juan! If you're on this itinerary in the future, position yourself along the port side of the ship as you sail into San Juan. You'll pass one of two forts and it's really an incredible site. There's a ton of history there, dating back to the early Spanish explorers in the 1500s. You can walk to one of the forts in about 10 minutes from the pier. It's the least expensive thing you'll do on the cruise. It costs $3 for adults and is free for kids 17 and under. For an extra couple bucks, you can gain admission to the other fort, which you passed on the ship while sailing in. You can walk or take a free trolley. We only did the one closest to the ship, but it's really neat and worth checking out. For the younger party crowd, there is, reliably, a Senor Frogs within staggering distance of the ship. It's literally right across the street from the pier. You'll see lots of folks stumbling back onto the ship with various balloon shapes on their head and carrying the "yard" long drinking devices that once contained their beer or frozen concoction. A very nice thing about San Juan is the total absence of the aggressive vendors you run into in many of the Caribbean ports. Even the vendors who have tables set up out in the city parks do not approach you or solicit from you. They wait for you to come to them. We were told there is a great little shopping district as well, though we didn't go looking for it.
St. Thomas - we made the 15 minute walk from the pier to the Sky Ride up to Paradise Point. It's a bit pricey ($21 per adult, $11.50 per child), however, the views from up there are gorgeous. We spent a good amount of time up there. They have souvenir shops and a bar with nice drinks and great views overlooking the harbor. One of the shops' proprietors is apparently a retired bird trainer from Busch Gardens. At 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM, she puts on a free show with her birds. Don't make the trip up there just for that, but if you're there around either of those times, it's clever and worth a look.
Samana - we didn't go ashore in Samana. Our kids are too young to do any of the excursions that would interest my wife or me, and everything we read about Samana said it wasn't a good place to go just to walk around. So we stayed aboard the ship and made it a quiet, relaxing day at the pool. This was nice as the ship was lightly populated for most of the morning and early afternoon. Around 1:00 PM, people began filtering back onto the ship, but we enjoyed the quiet and mostly vacant pool deck in their absence.
Labadee - this place is becoming a favorite of mine. I enjoyed it last year when we stopped there aboard the Freedom. Now that the pier is complete, as well as a whole bunch of other new features, it is REALLY cool. My wife and I did the wave jet tour, which was a lot of fun. If your waverunner experience is on lakes or other inland waters, just be ready to hold on! Riding a waverunner on the ocean is definitely different than on the smooth lakes of northeast Indiana - to this I can attest! After lunch, the whole family tried the Dragon's Tail Coaster. That, too, was pretty fun. There was no line for the coaster at all. They require you to watch a 4 - 5 minute video before riding, but after that, they load you on the cart and up you go. The carts are big enough for one adult and one child (or really small adult). The person in back (the adult) has control of a brake that can be used at your own discretion, though there are signals throughout the track that prompt you when you should use it. I'd estimate it at about a 3 minute ride up and probably 1.5 minutes down. On the day we were there, if you had paid $40 for the unlimited rides, I think you could have gotten off and right back on without waiting. So if that's your thing, you could certainly get your money's worth on the Enchantment stops in Labadee. I suspect it could be much busier when the bigger ships are in port.
Overall: We had a nice time. The sick 8-year old certainly put a damper on things and that was a disappointment, but that was no fault of Royal Caribbean. The ship was very nice and the itinerary was good. I'd definitely sail out of Baltimore again and I would sail the Enchantment again also. I think our kids were perhaps a little bit let-down and bored with the ship at times, but the only previous cruise they remember was last year's sailing aboard the Freedom. So perhaps mom and dad should have done a better job calibrating expectations accordingly, as there just aren't the number and variety of things to do aboard the Enchantment as there are on the Freedom. But again, we knew that ahead of time and the entire experience very much met our expectations. We do hope to be able to do a "mom and dad only" cruise soon. Read Less