Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas 5 Night Cruise (Dec. 10 15, 2005) Ports of Call: Ocho Rios, Jamaica and George Town, Grand Cayman Oceanview stateroom: 2092
BACKGROUND -- This was our first cruise. My husband is 49 and I am ... Read More
Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas 5 Night Cruise (Dec. 10 15, 2005) Ports of Call: Ocho Rios, Jamaica and George Town, Grand Cayman Oceanview stateroom: 2092
BACKGROUND -- This was our first cruise. My husband is 49 and I am 46. We live in St. Louis and travel extensively. Our goals in selecting this trip were 1) find out if we like cruising and 2) relaxation. We booked the cruise directly through the Royal Caribbean web site.
DAY BEFORE THE CRUISE -- We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise. We stayed at the Embassy Suites hotel, which is about 2 miles from the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport. The rooms on the top floors are being renovated (hopefully they will include a more soothing and coordinated palate). Our room was clean and comfortable. We were on the 9th floor with a window that overlooked Port Everglades and our ship. Skip the evening happy hour unless you just want something simple like a beer. Plastic cups. . . Stale popcorn. . . But dont skip the breakfast, its the most important meal of the day and best of all it is included in the price of the room. There was a large selection of offerings including made-to-order omelets. The hotels location is great; the front desk people were courteous and helpful. There are a couple of grocery and liquor stores within walking distance. There is an Outback and Chucks steakhouse just a few doors away.
CRUISE DAY ONE -- We arrived at Port Everglades (about 1.5 miles from the hotel) around noon. We were greeted by a baggage handler who said they were responsible for our luggage from the curb to the ship. . . and that a tip was not required but would be appreciated. For some reason there are signs posted stating that tipping is not required. Inside the terminal and with our signed Sail Pass and passport in hand, we were able to breeze right through the embarkation process. Once onboard the ship we were told our room would be available at 1:00 p.m. We went to our floor to see if we might be able to get in earlier but found the hallway doors closed. We appreciated their tight turnaround requirements and didnt want to impede their progress. Magically at 1:00 p.m. the doors opened and we were free to find our room. (One note: The ocean view staterooms on the 2nd floor actually consist of 2 windows that together appear to be slightly smaller than the stateroom single windows on Levels 3 and 4. It wasnt a big difference.)
After reading positive reviews of the Chops Grille, we called and made a reservation from our stateroom. Chops is an additional $20/person and worth every cent. We enquired which night the My Fair Lady dining room would be featuring steak. Reviews of the steaks were not very impressive so that would be the night wed try Chops. (Unfortunately, steak night turned out to be the second night, which also was formal night and the night to meet the captain.) After making our reservation we headed to the Windjammer for lunch (open the first day from noon till 4:00 p.m.). The muster drill took place promptly at 4:30 p.m. and of course all passengers must participate. The muster drill lasted about 20 minutes. Afterwards we returned to our room to discover we had been reunited with our bags. We unpacked and explored the ship. Our cabin steward introduced himself and we found him to be helpful, personable and available when we had questions. We sent shirts to be laundered. The charge was $3 per shirt and they were back the following day. The Viking Crown lounge on deck 11 is a great place to be as the ship departs. Youll have a birds eye view of everyone on deck, the high rises, sunset, etc.
CRUISE DAY TWO At Sea -- We signed up for a wine appreciation class in the afternoon. For $10 they provided 3 white wines, 3 red wines and champagne along with grapes, cheese and crackers. The commentary while entertaining was not 100% accurate. If you are a wine snob, just enjoy the wine and laugh (silently) at the commentary. The ship offers several levels of a Wine and Dine package that includes several bottles of various wines that will be available in the dinning room. Be sure to look the package over carefully as most of the selections on the cheapest Gold Package are also available on the highest price Platinum Package. You will also find that the wine list (including the Reserve list) is limited with wines in the $22 to $28 range being a bargain. Wines above $35 dollars are overpriced as quality and taste ratings are comparable to those in the $25 range. Also, the ship lacks a sommelier. They used to have them (and we were told they sold more wine when they did) but some time back this ship did away with them.
Our dinner reservation for Chops Grille was at 7:00. It is a handsome room with dark woods and rich fabrics. It appeared to be about half full. The experience was akin to Mortons of Chicago (one of our favorites). Youll find a choice of several cuts of meat with a token salmon or chicken. For appetizers we tried the crab cakes and portabella mushrooms. Our dinner guests ordered French onion soup and Caesar salad. We all enjoyed sumptuous filet mignon along with creamed spinach, asparagus, and baked potato. We are still talking about their take on a Mississippi mud pie. Awesome. On the downside, they lacked decent wine glasses (they were more of a one-size-fits-all type). Overall, the experience was very enjoyable and highly recommended.
If you are Cigar aficionado, like my husband (the wine snob), and like to follow an exceptional meal with a good cigar, this ship may not be for you. The only lounge where cigar smoking is permitted is the Viking Crown lounge and only between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. He was told he could smoke on the deck but the high winds made that impossible. You will also find that the Viking Crown lounge is a disco at night and they play a good deal of LOUD rap / hip-hop music. So for all you cigar smokers out there, be warned. We enquired about other options for people with an appreciation of wine and cigars. Royal Caribbean Voyager Class ships have a wine bar called Vintages and I think the Connoisseur Club for cigar smokers. Otherwise wed have to look to a Celebrity ship for those kinds of amenities. We spoke with a representative in the Crown & Anchor Society who said, cigar smokers are being squeezed out.
That night as we returned to the 2nd Level and headed for our cabin, we could smell the dreaded odor of backed up plumbing. Wed read that this is common on some ships. It was not as strong in our room where we spayed some Febreeze, and by morning it was gone. CRUISE DAY THREE Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- I strongly recommend checking in advance to see how many ships will be in each of your ports of call (http://www.cruisecal.com/dnn/). Enchantment of the Seas was the only ship in Ocho Rios that day. Cant say that I remember what time we got into port. With no excursions planned, we took our time disembarking and headed to Island Village just a few blocks from the pier. There was lots of hassling once we left the confines of the pier. The locals are eager to offer an array of services and dont take no for an answer. DO NOT GO ASHORE ALONE. (That evening we heard a story about a couple from our ship that were talked into following a local to see the island. He led them down an alleyway where fortunately, the police showed up and chased the guy away. My guess is that the couple was spared a bad experience.) Police kept local street hustlers way once we entered the shopping area. We didnt feel compelled to go into a many shops. We tried Rum, Roast, and Royals and I bought a Tortuga rum cake, guava jelly and Blue Mountain coffee. My husband (the wine and cigar snob and former detective) checked out the cigars and recognized the counterfeit Cubans. There is a very small beach by the shops but it didnt look inviting. There were people offering, among other things, to braid your hair or give you a massage.
CRUISE DAY FOUR George Town, Grand Cayman -- Love the island; but didnt like the idea of being ferried to the island by a tender (boarding one of the tenders can be hazardous). It definitely took more time to step onto the island due to loading and unloading of the tender ships. It took an hour to leave the ship and make it to the shore from start to finish.. . and we left after the rush. Our goal this day was a little sunning and shopping. Unfortunately, there were four other ships in port making the city very crowded. We heard that the beach at the Westin hotel on Seven Mile Beach is a good bet if you want to get away from all the people. The Westin is the northern most hotel along that stretch of the island and its right next to the Governors house. We hopped on a mini bus with a bunch of people. The driver suggested a couple of places to spend a day at the beach. But we knew we would only stay a couple hours so we opted to go a little further up the road to the Westin. He said, Oh, youve been here before. I said, No, I just read a lot. :o) The good news is that it was still only $5/person due to set rates. Plan on traffic being heavy so allow twice as much time to get back to the ship if youll be returning later in the afternoon. As you are standing on the street looking at the Westin, walk to the right of the hotel and soon you will see the beach (the spa entrance will be on your right and the Governors house will be to the right of that). We brought our beach towels from the ship so we wouldnt have to use the hotels lounge chairs. There was a little shade by the hotel, but not a lot. There were hardly any people around. We could see the ships in the distance. The sand is soft and the waves are gentle. It was about lunchtime so we went to the pool and had lunch. It was pricey but the beautiful surroundings are worth it. We each had a cocktail and sandwich and the bill with tip came to around $50 US. We took a cab from the hotel back to the ship and I think it was around $6 or $7 per person. We found the people in Grand Cayman to be warm, welcoming and honest. It reminded us of Bermuda.
Shopping in George Town looked interesting but way too crowded. The sidewalks were overflowing with tourists. We did our homework ahead of time and knew we wanted to check out a cigar store called La Casa del Habano. (They have 92 franchise locations around the world but none in the US.) It was a miracle we found it. It is located on the waterfront in the center of the two cruise ship piers. The narrow entrance is set back off the street by about 20 off of the sidewalk. The shop is very small but very nice. The people are knowledgeable and its the real deal if you are a cigar snob (like my husband). Youll want to be sure to get their contact information for future purchases.
We were careful to catch an early tender back to the ship. Later we learned of at least three passengers who were injured that day in the tendering process. Even though it looked to be a calm day, once you got on the stairs to the tender you could see that it was bouncing up and down, and on and off of the ship. All could see that it can be challenging to navigate, especially for elderly, infants, overweight or handicapped (including wheelchair bound) passengers. And yet it didnt cross the minds of some of these people that this could be dangerous. Although the ship appeared to be allowing all passengers to board the tenders, they didnt offer much in the way of adequate help. Its probably hard to sue a cruise line, but does that mean they dont have to make a good faith effort safeguard their passengers? (A good start would be providing more than one staff member to help people on and off the tender.)
That evening was lobster night. The lobster tails were small so we ordered a second. We heard of someone who once ordered 14!
We enjoyed the Big Band dance music with the Enchantment of the Seas Orchestra in Boleros lounge from 10:00 to midnight. Too bad it was just the one evening.
CRUISE DAY FIVE At Sea -- Caught the first half of the Polar Express movie in the Spotlight lounge and then attempted a Salsa dance lesson in the Boleros lounge. Unfortunately it was way too crowded on the dance floor. The person providing the lesson was a dancer, not an instructor, so it became more frustrating than informative.
Tipping If you elect to charge your tips to your account, they will be charged at the recommended rate. If you wish, you can tip with cash in the designated envelopes. We were pleased with our service and did both by electing to charge the recommended rate to our account and added a little extra cash to the designated envelopes for those who provided exceptional service. DAY 6 Disembarkation
We requested the Travel Lite option for disembarkation. If you are willing and able to carry all of your own bags without assistance, you qualify. We were told this alternative is limited to a certain number of passengers so you will need to turn in your form indicating your preference as soon as possible.
We needed to be out of our room by 8:30 a.m., so by rising early we still had time to have one more breakfast in the dining room. After breakfast we returned to our stateroom, gathered our luggage and went to a common area to wait to be called. Passengers with white tags were called first. Then they announced Travel Lite passengers. We proceeded to the designated area and got in line to leave the ship (remember to have your sea pass handy so it can we swiped on your way out). Once in the port, things moved pretty quickly. We showed our passports to an Immigrations officer and then breezed through Customs. People offering cab rides were plentiful. We shared a mini van with other people from our ship and the cost was $7 per person. We were at the airport in no time. OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
Our general impression of the ship is very good. No obvious signs of wear and tear. The layout is easy to navigate. Our room, while small, was comfortable. Having an Ocean view cabin helped. We were close to the middle of the ship but did not get one of the rooms in the new section. Our bed was not lumpy, as I had read in some other reviews. It was quiet, too. We never heard our neighbors. We did not experience motion sickness. We took Bonine the first day and realized we really didnt need it. While on the ship we didnt use the casino or attend shows. We did catch parts of the Love and Marriage Game Show on the TV in our room. We had no interest in the art auctions. We watched a little rock climbing but never saw the bungee trampoline open. Not many children on board this trip. Didnt use the gym too cramped and crowded, or the spa (but would try it next time). As you can tell, we really didnt push ourselves :o) but we got what we came for: a taste of what cruising has to offer and a lot of relaxation.
Royal Caribbean has been in the news this past year or so regarding their security practices. We noticed the absence of a peephole in our cabin door. We could not detect surveillance cameras in hallways or other common areas (except perhaps in the casino).
We brought on board with us all the makings for martinis along with a 6 pack of bottled water, but once on board we found the drink prices to be reasonable. (Wed still bring the water though.) We ate most breakfasts and dinners in the My Fair Lady dining room because the quality of the food was better than in the Windjammer (where the quality ranged from great on some items to poor on others). We were surprised that food availability in general had limits. Youll want to know that on days out at sea you cannot get breakfast until 7:30 in the Windjammer and 8:00 in the dining room. Room service would be an option but the earliest you can get that is it 7:00. Lunch is not available until noon. On days in port they move breakfast up by thirty minutes (7:00 in the Windjammer and 7:30 in the dining room). Again, no lunch till noon. People were always standing in line for the doors to open whether it be for breakfast, lunch or afternoon snacks at 3:30. Dining attire in general was casual, but more upscale main dinning room, was much more casual than we expected. There was a sign affixed to the doors to the dining room stating the dress code (no hats, shorts, etc), but it was hard to read and was obviously ignored by many. With other options available to passengers, it was hard to understand why some people felt compelled to disregard this polite request.
Based on past reviews, Service was consistently rated highest over all other categories, so our expectations were relatively high. Overall service was very good. Our cabin steward made a point to call us by name. We felt let down by our service the first night in the dining room. Afterwards, when our waiter asked if we liked our dinner, we were silent for a moment and looked at each other. Then we shared with him that we felt they had dropped the ball on the service. We had expected hovering and we felt more like an afterthought. Subsequent dining room experiences were vastly improved. The wait staff re-doubled their efforts and we shared with them how much we appreciated it.
My husband is taking on-line college courses and required Internet access. He has a wireless card in his laptop, which saved him $10/day. It wont work in your room but the ship has six hot spot areas, one of which is in the Library where he did a lot of his work. The nominal charge for Royal Caribbean Online was 50 cents a minute. He ended up buying a $50 and another $25 block of time and I think it broke down to 33 cents/minute. He reported that the access is SLOW and added that if they cant increase the speed they should decrease the price. There is also a frequent problem logging off. If this happens to you, notify guest relations right away so they can credit your account.
Demographics We seemed to be in the middle. Some people were younger and some were older. It was predominately couples. (One family was celebrating their parents 60th wedding anniversary.) Very few children onboard. We saw both active types taking advantage of the activities and excursions (just as portrayed in the RCCL ads), as well as heavyset people loading up multiple plates in the Windjammer. Economically speaking the group was middle class. Mostly Americans. Again, a very casual group.
In summary, we loved our experience. The good outweighed the not so good. We liked being able to do as much or as little as we wanted, depending on our mood that day. Our experience was enriched by many of the people we met. In the future we might look for something with a little less party atmosphere and just a few more amenities. The ship was a good size (2400 passengers) and the length of the cruise (5 night) fit our schedules. We are looking forward to booking our next cruise. Read Less