This was a family vacation consisting of parents (54 & 53) and daughters (20 & 16). The primary reason for picking this cruise was that it fit a compressed holiday schedule. This was our eighth cruise (4 RCI, 3 Celebrity & 1 ... Read More
This was a family vacation consisting of parents (54 & 53) and daughters (20 & 16). The primary reason for picking this cruise was that it fit a compressed holiday schedule. This was our eighth cruise (4 RCI, 3 Celebrity & 1 Carnival). My wife and I enjoy drinking and prepaid for the Deluxe Drink Package. I also bought the internet Surf & Stream package for 4 devices (cheaper to buy with one log-in for four devices vs. 4 individual packages). We had My Time dining and I pre-registered for our seating time well in advance. I also prepaid tips.
We drove to Galveston the day before departure and stayed at the Tremont. I booked this hotel because they had a deal where you could park your car and take a shuttle to the cruise terminal on embarkation morning.
The Tremont is a pretty nice hotel with very high ceilings. My wife and I scored an upgrade to a one-bedroom suite while the girls were just around the corner in a standard two-queen double.
We ate dinner at Riondo’s Ristorante. This restaurant was a simple walk just around the corner. We had an assortment of appetizers, entrees and desserts and found everything quite tasty. The Tremont is in the Strand district of Galveston and there is a load of dining, drinking and shopping options. The Tremont is close enough to simply walk to either the RCI or Carnival terminals if one so desired.
The trick with using the park and cruise option is that you need to get your car from the Tremont to the Hotel Galvez. I did that first thing Monday morning while the rest of my crew slept and took an Uber back to the Tremont rather than wait for the complimentary shuttle to start at 9:00 am.
We had breakfast in our room and headed downstairs for check-out and the shuttle to the ship. We had pre-booked the shuttle for 12:30 pm. We were the only people going to Enchantment. There was a Carnival ship with their own shuttle that had a bit more action.
At the port, we were met by a porter who took our checked bags and headed to the terminal.
Embarkation: This was the smoothest thing ever. I had used the app and website to fill and print everything out. We entered the terminal around 12:45 and were onboard by 1:00. Not a line for anything. I packed two bottles of wine in my carry-on and had no issues.
Upon boarding, we caught an elevator (no line) to deck 9 (pool and Windjammer deck). We were not particularly hungry after the breakfast and had barely set-up right next to the pool before they announced our cabins were ready.
Rooming: I had booked 7170 for the parents and had 7165 right across the hall for the daughters. We were immediately met by our cabin steward, Bertino, and collected our Seapass cards. 7165 is an inside cabin is fairly compact. 7170 is an aft-facing Junior Suite. The room is slightly wider than a regular room and balcony is much deeper. We had two loungers a small table and two regular chairs with another table. We did have some soot on the balcony most days, but the Bertino cleaned it 2X per day so it was not really an issue. In fact, it was quite the joy to sit back and watch the wake.
We did not hear any noise from Deck 6 and felt minimal rocking during our time on board.
The bathroom had a tub in it.
There was plenty of storage for two.
Bertino kept the cabins spotless. Nothing like having beds made twice per day.
Chops: Chops is the only specialty restaurant on this ship. We ate dinner the first night with a promotion Day 1 discount. My wife and kids love this venue far more than I do. It was full and we were seated at a table that had a full-on pole which separated me from my wife. It was really an odd arrangement. We joked about it, but it was “off”.
We had the various apps including the seafood tower, steaks, desserts and a steady stream of wine for the adults. We had a good time (despite the pole) with attentive service and so it was worth it, but I would not call this fine dining.
Windjammer: My family never made it to Windjammer for breakfast. I am an early riser, so I had breakfast Days 2 & 4. I had no wait and found the usual assortment of buffet items plus eggs to order. I might say the food was better than I remember. I think just being able to get through the line so quickly and get seated while your food was still warm had much to do with it.
We met for lunch on Days 2 & 4 and were able to find something for everyone.
Never an issue finding a table or dealing with crowds for lunch.
Solarium: This is kind of a hidden gem. They have a made to order salad station and served some Roast Beef sandwiches made to order as well. They had an assortment of four pizzas and other sandwich choices. Never really had a wait and it did stay open late into the evening for a quick bite.
Room Service: Day3 was our Cozumel Port Day and Christmas Day. We had Christmas Breakfast on our patio. I placed the card out the night before and the food came right on time with a warning phone call. It was all just fine, and I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed all sitting out on the balcony.
My Fair Lady Dining Room: We ate here Days 2-4. We had Robert and Kadek and a strong assist from Ajay. The serving crew rocked! They were prompt and attentive and spent time talking to us and playing games. They had a special Holiday Feast on Christmas Eve with a few special menu items. The special menu did not have lobster, but one can order steak and/or lobster any night from Chops for an extra charge. My girls did this on Day 4 and enjoyed it.
Day 3 – Cozumel - Christmas Day: As I mentioned, we had a leisurely breakfast on our balcony and let the first wave of passengers disembark. We walked through the shopping zone and had maybe a 5-minute wait for a taxi. We took a $15 cab ride to Paradise Beach. The was out third visit to this venue and it did not disappoint. I went with the pay as you go option and that really worked out well. It was $3 each to get in and I believe $15 each for the girls to get a band for the inflatable toys in the water. We were asked to spend $10/per person the rest of our stay. The all-inclusive option ran something like $64/person and did not include the water sports.
We were seated to a set of four loungers in the shade equidistant between beach and pool. Our waiter, Saul, met us promptly and got the first round of drinks and apps ordered. We were not crowded at all and thoroughly enjoyed the food and drinks. There was a bit of seaweed floating around. They tried to clean one section of the beach and water, so it was not too bad. We spent 4 hours or so and easily met the spending requirement for the pay as you go option and likely saved ½ over what the all-inclusive option was charging.
Another $15 cab ride back to the port. Some simple shopping and back on the ship by 3:30.
Drink Package: I pre-purchased the deluxe drink package. I do it partly to budget and because my wife & I tend to drink a fair bit. I would say we were a bit tamer this year, but I would not hesitate to do it again. I found the staff in all bars and in Chops and My Fair Lady to be prompt. We were able to find enjoyable wines and liquors within the $15 price point and we did buy a bottle of wine to enjoy in the room one evening and received a discount. We drank a ton of bottled water and had specialty coffees once or twice per day. I had a drink in every bar and never waited in line or felt like they did not want to take my order.
Teen Club: Daughter came away a little underwhelmed. Maybe she is just older (16) or the mix of kids on the ship was different, but she never really found a rhythm with the program.
Internet: As mentioned earlier, I purchased the Surf & Stream package for 4 devices. By and large it was fine. We did not really stream all that much and we had a couple of issues getting reception on our balcony at the very back.
Random Note: Cozumel is one hour ahead of ship time and all our phones reset automatically. It took us a bit to figure that little nugget out but no big deal.
The App: The ship is supported by the RCI App and this was quite handy. It showed the Cruise Compass and the daily food menus. It made check-in a breeze.
Overall Ship Thoughts:
I want to stress we had a wonderful time on this ship. The crew was awesome, and the passengers never intruded upon our enjoyment. However, the ship is tired. This has been documented before and I knew this ahead of time. There is an abundance of rust, a fair amount of faded and lumpy furniture (in the stateroom and public areas) and some places where you noticed something not working. The ship was kept very clean, but it is dated. The value in a site like this is to alert people to these issues. I did hear people complaining about things like lack of slides or how small it was and I felt they really could have researched it. That being said, I did feel RCI was doing their brand a real disservice by having a ship out there with so many glaring cosmetic defects.
Random Note: based upon some reviews of overly hard/firm mattresses, I purchased four cheap bed toppers from Amazon. We left these in the boxes and let our room steward have them because we found the beds just fine.
The Centrum was very nicely decorated with a tree and lots of garland and such. It was the real hub of activity throughout the cruise.
They had a full schedule of things, but the weather may have dampened some of the outdoor activities. It was a very good cruise for a more sedate experience. They had the belly flop contest, Quest and other RCI mainstay events, but perhaps the holiday crowd made these types of things seem less crazy and a bit more formalistic. The 70’s party on Day 1 was a blast. Dancing under the stars was rained out. They had movies outside on the big-screen. Things did seem to shut down early.
Important Note: The crew seemed quite close and largely happy. I spoke to one bartender who said that the smaller ship equals a smaller and much closer crew. It really did seem to be true. We have always felt our crew experiences were positive, but this one did seem a bit happier. There was a crew Christmas party is full force when we got back to our cabin on Day 3. We sat out on our balcony, shared some wine and listened to their party. We joked about trying to sneak downstairs and join.
I am not sure we sailed full. We never saw chair hogs on the pool decks or had any issues finding seats in the Windjammer.
I loved the closeness to the ocean. One could stroll outside on deck 5 and there were many places elsewhere to sit or stroll inside or outside and see the ocean. I sometimes feel that it is easy to lose the connection to the ocean when I think back to our two Voyager class cruises.
Smoking: Personal preference: hate the smoking in the casino. No value judgements. It just does not work for us. There were times when the smoke was quite noticeable in Boleros (located right outside the casino on Deck 5). People would step just inside the casino boundary and light up. I don’t blame them. It is allowed, but it just lessens the experience for us.
This was about as easy as it gets. We were called right on time, walked off the ship with no line and grabbed our luggage right away. We cleared customs in 5 minutes. I gave up on waiting for the hotel shuttle after 45 minutes and seeing a line of waiting guests and grabbed a $10 cab to the hotel. We got our car and were on our way off the island by 10:00am.
As we were driving off, we asked ourselves a few questions.
1) Did we have fun? Absolutely.
2) Would we do it again? Sure. Galveston is an especially attractive departure point.
3) How did it compare to other trips? Right up there with our other RCI cruises. Clearly better than Carnival, but not quite as all-around enjoyable as any of our Celebrity experiences.
4) Ship comparisons. The lack of water slides and things was no big deal. The ship was easy to navigate, and we really liked having views of the ocean. As mentioned earlier, we never felt crowded and could find seats in any of the venues. We feel that the Solstice class ships are a big step above anything we have been on, but even the Summit was a bit better with the various venues (aft bars, Martini bar, etc.). I thought MDR was just fine and do not think they give away much to Celebrity on this. One big plus for Celebrity is the smoking policy. We have found the prices to be very comparable if you shop carefully and factor in the various perks.
5) What did we like best? Having family together, all staff but especially MDR staff, aft balcony, Centrum and generally being on a cruise.
6) Least? Smoking in casino and age of ship.
7) How was a four-day cruise? For this trip, five would have been perfect. Sometimes we have come home from a 7-day cruise worn out after factoring in pre/post travel.
8) Best line: From the Love & Marriage Game Show – Newlyweds. Host to groom: What is your favorite condiment (she said ketchup)? Groom: Trojans Read Less