Enchantment of the Seas Cruise Review by colewade
- Sail Date: August 2012
- Destination: Bermuda
BALTIMORE CRUISE TERMINAL -- EMBARKATION
Here is a tip for those that are taking a hotel shuttle to the port. If you travel lightly as we do, with carry-ons only, make sure to tell the hotel shuttle driver that you want to carry your own bags onto the ship. They will put them on the shuttle last so that you can get to them at the port. For most people the fact that larger luggage is processed directly onto the ship is a real advantage.
It was hard not to notice that several lines were almost empty or empty. These were dedicated to the Diamond or Diamond plus members, while us regular folks stood in fairly long cues. Being a mostly drive-in port, it seemed like the whole ship showed up at 11:00 am. Unlike in Fort Lauderdale with HAL, you are seated again after check in and then called one row at a time. Boarding seemed to be very controlled in that way. I was soon to find out why.
Rather than a genuine greeting and escort to your stateroom, you are herded around the Centrum for an introduction to at least six ways RCI can make more money off of each passenger. I have never been hit in the face with this tactic as I stepped off the gangway. Spa services, wine and soda packages, art auctions, specialty dining, tuxedo rentals and flower sales, and even the make your own stuffed animal thing, are given the hard sell with coupons or enticements to every oncoming passenger. This creates an unnecessary bottleneck during one of the most stressful times of any cruise. A wee bit of taste and decorum could go a long way here. Thankfully this approach tempered somewhat as the cruise went on, but talk about bad first impressions! I see nothing wrong with any of these extra services. We had pre-booked the tuxedo rentals and dinner at Chops. Hurray for the stockholders! Someone likely got a bonus for this brilliantly stupid idea.
After what felt like running the gauntlet around the Centrum we schlepped our bags up to the Windjammer for our first lunch. As with most of RCI and Celebrity, rooms would not be ready until 1:30 pm. I am not sure how HAL does this in Ft. Lauderdale, but if you show up at 11:45 am you are likely to wait only very briefly, then proceed directly to the ship where you are escorted directly to your room. That is my idea of a perfect embarkation. The Baltimore port staff members were very nice and welcoming. It wasn't the worst embarkation, but certainly not best I have ever seen.
THE ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS -- THE SHIP
In spite of a few negative reviews about being outdated and needing the upcoming dry dock badly, I felt that the ship was very well maintained overall. It is a more traditional design than those newer ships with the inner promenade. The ship has a great art collection, especially along the stairwells. I cannot confirm any of the rumors of worn carpets, dated fabrics, holes in the walls. I just did not see any of this during my cruise. This is a famously stretched version of a Vision Class ship was kept in great order as far as I could tell. The addition of Chops Grill, The Schooner Bar, and the beautiful Boleros Lounge are true advantages to the ship having been stretched. These are some of the best venues on the ship. The addition of the big architectural arches mid ship on the pool deck also add an interesting two-hill twist to the mile long Vita Track. The big disadvantage is that the ship can seem downright noisy and crowded at times with all those additional cabins and passengers. This was especially true during the big one-of-a-kind events like the deck party on the first night in Bermuda. Overall I think the activities staff did a good job of spreading events around the ship. In fact, almost every inch of this ship is well used. Perhaps I have a bit of a bias since I recently sailed on HAL's Westerdam, which is 3000 tons larger and has 400 fewer passengers.
THE CENTRUM is quite stunning - bordering on fierce at first impression. It reminds me of a cross between a Marriot Hotel and the Escher drawing with stairs soaring in different directions, multiple marble landings, and a giant prism glass mobile. I did warm up to this giant space after seeing it turned into a six-level arena on at least three occasions. They even stopped the glass elevators so that they could be used as suspended stands for dancing girls during a 70s dance party. Similarly, the staff show with a parade of flags was a colorful reminder of just how international RCI really is. The Champagne Bar on Deck four in Centrum is a posh and comfortable space. Also by the Centrum, the library on Deck 7 had scant offerings but a decent collection of board games. Many seem to carry a tablet or Kindle these days.
THE LOUNGES were all in great shape. There was not a single public space that I did not like. The Orpheum Theatre looked much better in person than in the pictures. Though it may be slightly small for the number of passengers, I did not see huge crowds standing at the rear that some have reported, and we sailed with a packed ship. The Schooner Bar is the only piano bar that I have ever seen that sets the piano against a wall of windows with a beautiful view of the ocean. Unfortunately it also served as the hallway to enter the larger Spotlight Lounge at the aft of the ship, as Boleros does for the Casino -- a minor complication of the addition that I really didn't think was a big deal. Surprisingly, the least utilized space seemed to be the Viking Crown Lounge. We enjoyed this space every evening before our late dinner seating. The views were absolutely stunning. This was also our favorite place for sail away. We saw three whales on the evening we sailed out of Boston. Part of the lounge allows smoking, though amazingly it never seemed smoky. Sometimes we would get impromptu entertainment from fellow passengers on the baby grand, though it always seemed to be in addition to a disco or 70s soundtrack that was at times overbearing.
OVERBEARING OVERHEAD MUSIC was a recurring theme on this cruise, and I am a true music lover. Michael Jackson's "Beat It" somehow just does not go with sunset whale watching in the Viking Crown. Similarly, being an early riser, I nor any of my other fellow coffee drinkers are used to hearing HOT! HOT! HOT! at 6:00 am on the pool deck. The same applies in the Centrum -- almost constant music, even in the middle of the night. Cruise staff, please give us a few breaks in the music, we will enjoy it so much more in context and at the right time of day. It is just not a good idea to let the playlist run 24 hours a day. If you feel the need to keep it going at least turn the volume way down in the off hours or choose a more relaxing play list. This does not create enchantment; it is just irritating and disturbing.
If you need a quiet respite, head to the deck five PROMENADE DECK and grab a chair. This is the best place on the ship to read and a feature that is very important to me when I choose a ship. The views are even better from here if you want a quiet walk to watch for sea life. The very wide deck gets unusually narrow at the bow, but it is a great place for the walkers to avoid the runners on Deck 11. Thankfully, we found it open all the way around on sea days. It was blocked at the bow at almost every other time. You can still make your laps. You just have cut across the forward stairwell lobby. I don't quite understand why they chose not to do the whole thing in teak. The front half of the ship is covered in a red rubber surface. It seems like a terribly obvious place to skimp if you are going to redo a ship from the inside out - as they did in 2005. Clearly this non-revenue generating space was not treated as a priority during the 2005 refurbishment. It was however kept impeccably clean and freshly painted.
We chose a Category L LARGE INSIDE STATEROOM 4577 on level four. In spite of being close to the Centrum and below Boleros, the room was amazingly quiet. It was not amazingly large. If you are debating whether to make this upgrade yourself, my vote would be no, if I had it to do over again. Six additional square feet does not make a very small room a large one. One desk chair and one small-scale overstuffed chair is all that the little room would accommodate other than two single beds. Being in the new section, the modular bathroom was clean and very functional. The shower had great water pressure. Amenities include wall-dispensed generic shampoo, which is very drying, and unscented bar soap that is on par with Super-8. Robes, lotion, conditioner, refrigerator, ice buckets or fruit baskets were not provided in any of the rooms below the balcony categories. There was a cabinet that looked like it was built for a refrigerator. Use this to store the overpriced food and hot drink items that clutter the tiny dresser/desktop. They will bring you an ice bucket if you ask. Storage was perfectly adequate for two people. The mattress was a bit soft for my taste, but serviceable. For those that expect a flat-screened TV, you will be disappointed until after the upcoming dry dock. Our cheerful room steward Jose did an impeccable job of keeping our room clean. In spite of being small, the room was in good shape.
THE ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS -- THE SERVICE
This ship has a fantastic staff and crew. The level of service is, without a doubt, this ship's biggest asset. Our room steward Jose, our waiter Frederick and his assistant Arturo, Dr. Love on the Pool Deck, Rudolph in the Casino, and the lovely and genuinely kind Marsha in the Viking Crown all remembered our names, anticipated our needs, and delivered a stellar level of service that could be a role model for some premium cruise lines. You will never lack for drink service on this ship. Our late afternoon coffee order from room service was always offered with a smile and they always asked if we wanted cookies as well. It was every bit as good as the service I received nine cruises ago as youngster on the much smaller Song of Norway in 1987, and even better overall than that of a recent experience on a more premium cruise line.
THE ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS - ACTIVITIES
The Cruise Compass outlines a busy schedule from 6am to 2am. The belly flop, hard rock, disco, and newlywed thing are merely spectator sports for me. These sorts of things are good for laughs, but sometimes the shows and activities bordered on cheesy and loud, and you wished that a few people had had one less cup of the free Seattle's Best coffee or one less Bahama Mama. We really enjoyed the trivia games.
The cruise director did a great version of the Neal Diamond hit list. The pool band was an absolutely top-notch reggae ensemble. Bernie Martini was a top-notch piano player and crooner. The Trio Royale did a perfectly classy performance of Edith Piaf and several other easy listening standards. They had an amazingly full and rich sound for only three members. I also appreciated the string music performances. Some of the nightly shows were better than others. The shows felt like church at times: introduce yourself to your neighbor, massage your neighbors back, etc. I understand the ice-breaker concept, but did feel terribly familiar to those that have a thing about personal space. We can laugh and smile without putting our hands on our neighbor.
The Activity Manager, Katrina, was a standout. This lady had the ability to light up an entire room when she walked in with her magnetic personality and almost star appeal. When she led the sail-away dance party on deck, it set a smiley upbeat tone for the whole cruise. They proved right up front that every member of entertainment staff really did know how to dance. It was a perfect high-energy sail away that set an upbeat tone for the rest of the cruise. The Baltimore crowd is a fun-loving crowd.
I do wish that there were more of an enrichment approach to some of the activities, or least a few that were free of the added upcharge. Sometimes you just need to bring it down a notch and learn something new or hear a good story to feel good about your day. During the one cooking demonstration that was held in the Centrum, you really couldn't see what was going on. I found it a bit irritating that several of the daily events came with substantial upcharges: pathway to yoga, bingo, with a $26 minimum entry, Martini Master Class, and Wine Tasting, etc. Look out for the $ sign beside several activities listed in the Cruise Compass. Speaking of the Cruise Compass, the back two pages of The Cruise Compass are not in bold type, yet these hard to read chronological parts of the Cruise Compass were really the only useful parts. The first two to three pages are just another opportunity to upsell in beautiful bold Technicolor. For those RCI loyal fans who like to think that RCI is far superior to Carnival, I think this cruise line may be the worst offender in the business for the hard- sell approach. While the approach certainly lacks subtly, it is always done with a smile.
THE ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS -- THE FOOD
THE MAIN DINING ROOM operated with surprising precision and grace. Some nights were better than others, but I never had a bad meal here. The food was very good to excellent overall, and the waiters were eager to please if you were dissatisfied in any way. The courses were served at the same time every night. The waiter knew every person's name. Everything was served hot. The lobster tails came on the second formal night. True to form, you can pay extra for the Chops Grill version of steaks and lobster on any night in the main dining room. We didn't find it necessary. The main menu offered plenty of tasty options.
CHOPS GRILL is very much worth the $30 upcharge for at least one night of your cruise. This meal was not good - it was excellent in every way. This may sound odd, but if you like cream of mushroom soup, you must have it as a starter. Five different kinds of wild mushrooms in a creamy vegetable based broth that is without a doubt the best I have ever had anywhere. My ten-ounce filet was on par with the very best steakhouses. This is another room on the ship that the pictures just don't do justice. When lit for night dinner service, the room just glows with red velvet and candlelight. It is a deluxe experience that is worth every dime.
THE WINDJAMMER CAFE is a bit of a mixed bag, but mostly good. While I love the front of the ship location with spectacular views forward, the layout and design definitely lack efficiency. Everything is laid out in a big circle. Everyone circles once to see what is available. They circle again to get what they are sure that they want. They circle again to get what they forgot or saw on someone else's plate. Then they cross the circle to get drinks if they are not lucky enough to get drink service as they sit down. There are no serving trays, so you simply can't do it all in one trip. It was crowded, but we always found a table.
The staff seemed very good at drink refills, but just can't be all over the big room at one time as people seat themselves. Even in this room, the staff was actually very good. Food ranged from quite good to bad. The starchy and imitation crabmeat - she crab soup - was downright bad. Southerners who grew up near the coast know just how good this dish can be. The burgers were small and bland everywhere on the ship. RCI should invest in a proper grill. Asian specialties were hit or miss. The salad bar looked very good and fresh. Breakfast was consistently good except for the powdered eggs. You can always get real eggs if you willing to wait in another line, although it was short. There is a good variety; you can always find something good here. Just don't expect the lido buffets like Holland America or Celebrity.
THE ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS -- PORTS OF CALL
Please refer to the port reviews for very detailed information on how to use public transportation and perhaps enjoy a better and certainly less expensive way to see far more for less money in each port of call.
In Baltimore I share the following:
1. Pre-cruise lodging option that won't cost a fortune
2. One of Baltimore's best crab cakes
3. Three absolutely worthwhile free attractions
4. Directions to one of Baltimore's best pub-crawls in Fells Point
5. How to use hotel shuttles to downtown and the cruise port
In Bermuda I share the following:
1. The best one-mile beach walk that the little country has to offer
2. How to visit a sea glass beach from the Royal Naval Dockyard
3. Using the buses and ferries in Bermuda
In Boston I share the following:
1. A little known bus route that will take you to the Old North Church
2. An easy time saving way to walk the best of the Freedom Trail
3. Negotiating the subway and bus back to the port from Boston Common
In Newport I share the following:
1. Why it is important to get early tender tickets.
2. A good place to get a fabulous lobster roll
3. Taking the public bus out to the mansions
4. A jaw dropping walk along the Cliff Walk
5. Two absolutely stunning mansions that should not be missed
BALTIMORE CRUISE TERMINAL - DEBARKATION
This was the easiest and best debarkation I have ever experienced. We finished breakfast. We picked up our carry-ons. We walked down the gangplank. Handed the man our customs form. The man nodded. We got in a taxi. Gone! That is no exaggeration. There is something to be said for traveling light and renting formals. It also is much less of a hassle than the Port of Miami.
IN SUMMARY I have few regrets about this cruise. It was far better than an average cruise. In fact I would sail this ship again if it fit my plans.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
BaltimoreA taxi from BWI to downtown or the cruise port cost around $30. The free Charm City Circulator Buses and hotel shuttles can be very helpful for independent travelers without a car. We overnighted at the HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BALTIMORE AT THE STADIUMS. It is not on the Inner Harbor, it is in a warehouse district south of the Inner Harbor and the Stadiums. This less than ideal location that is close to the inner harbor by shuttle is really what makes the hotel much more reasonably priced pre-cruise hotel. It also cost $100 less than many of the Inner Harbor hotels, which are of similar quality. It offered just what we needed, a nice clean room, a very decent breakfast, and free shuttle service. The shuttle drop off in the Inner Harbor is in front of the Aquarium. Upon your return trip from the Inner Harbor, use the local hotel phone number and they will add you to the return trip roster.View All 350 Baltimore Cruise Port Reviews
We had a great attraction packed day in Baltimore. Arriving just after noon at Holiday Inn Express, we were able to check into our hotel room immediately. We started the day at FAIDLEY'S SEAFOOD in the somewhat sketchy but very interesting LEXINGTON MARKET. Faidley's did offer one the best whole lump crab cakes that I have ever tasted, and I am a crab cake snob. The Reist Plaza Bound #27 city bus will take you directly there from just behind the hotel at Haines and Warner Streets. Upon leaving the market, just walk three blocks east on Lexington Street and north (left) on Charles Plaza, which becomes Cathedral Place to get to three very worthwhile FREE ATTRACTIONS in the much more upscale Mount Vernon Neighborhood.
If you are leaving from the Inner Harbor, the northbound Purple Route on the Charm City Circulator buses will take you on a free and quick trip from the visitor's center to three of Baltimore's best attractions in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. Hop off at Hamilton Street stop #306 to walk one block south to THE BASILICA OF THE ASSUMPTION, America's oldest cathedral, is a magnificent unusually light and airy place of worship that was designed by Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the US Capitol. Walk just one block north on Charles Street to Centre Street to visit the WALTERS ART MUSEUM. This museum offers a world-class art collection that rivals some of the best museums in Washington and New York. Even a very abbreviated tour of the Walter's is worth your time. Just up Charles Street, take a right at the nation's oldest Washington Monument. The magnificent and historic multistoried library of the PEABODY INSTUTUTE LIBRARY is truly a "Cathedral of Books". To return to Baltimore Harbor, just take the Purple Route back from stop # 315, just one block south at Centre Street and St. Paul. Taking just a couple hours out of you day, these three free attractions, are arguably better than anything the that the very touristy Inner Harbor has to offer.
As for the INNER HARBOR, the repurposed architecture and waterfront scenery is really it's best attraction. After having been to many large aquariums, I have decided that am not particularly into aquariums. That being said, The National Aquarium at Baltimore is the single biggest attraction in the Inner Harbor. The Historic Ships of Baltimore is the only other thing here that I think that could qualify as an attraction. While others may disagree I do not consider Hard Rock Cafe, The Cheesecake Factory, and Barnes and Noble scenic attractions at all. Added together the harbor does offer a fantastic photo-op that would be an absolute crime to be missed by any Baltimore visitor. We simply used it as a hub to get to even better sightseeing north in Mount Vernon or East in Fells Point.
FELLS POINT is a scenic and truly historic neighborhood for a pub-crawl and dinner. It is only about a mile walk - each way or a quick cab ride from the Inner Harbor. Weaving your way across the footbridges that connect the Inner Harbor, take Aliceanna Street East down to South Broadway. We especially enjoyed Bertha's Mussels and the really old Horse You Came in On Pub. The attraction here is the very old row houses, taverns, and cobbled streets that make up this very scenic almost spooky seafaring neighborhood. This is where the famous Baltimore Clippers were built. With a one-mile walk back to the Inner Harbor, we waited for about thirty minutes in front of the aquarium for the last hotel shuttle of the evening at around 10:00 pm. This was a great day in Baltimore.
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BostonBOSTON turned out to be a fantastic and inexpensive port for a one-day cruise stop to walk the Freedom Trail. Having never been before, we were lucky enough to get the # 4 commuter bus from Dry Dock Avenue at Harbor Street and take it to the old north end to Hanover and Commercial Street. From the cruise terminal turn left out the door. Right on Design Place. Left on Dry Dock Avenue. It is the second bus stop about a block away on the right. The last one leaves at 08:34 am so you have to get off early to make this route. The alternative is the Silver Line # 2 Bus from The Design Center across the road. We returned from the Freedom trail this way.View All 666 Boston Cruise Port Reviews
We started our Freedom Trail from the Old North Church, which opens at 9:00am. We meandered down the red line, which marks the Freedom Trail where we found Modern Pastry and Mikes. Both famous Italian Bakeries were open with no crowds, no lines, just locals. We then saw the Paul Revere house as it opened at 09:30 and headed on through the Holocaust Memorial and the wonderfully scenic meeting hall upstairs at Faneuil Hall. You can then walked through Quincy Market to go over to the Long Wharf Ferry. We had hoped to visit the USS Constitution at Charlestowne and get a super cheap harbor tour in the process for $2. Unfortunately the ferry was leaving as we walked up.
Fearing time constraints, we continued south on the Freedom trail to Boston Commons and wound up with plenty of time to spare. I think we would have had time even if we had waited on the next ferry thirty minutes later. We took the Red Line Subway from Park Street to South Station and connect to the very strange Silver Line #2 partially underground bus service directly back to the cruise port. I think we spent $15 between the two of us for the transportation and attractions. This was a wonderful and cheap day in Boston.
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HamiltonBERMUDA was every bit as beautiful as I expected. With only a day and a half in port at Royal Navy Dockyard, we thought it best to stick to Hamilton and the West End. Those that ventured on to St. Georges spent a large part of the day on the bus and little time at there destination. The St. George's Ferry does not operate on the weekend. If you are there during the week, the St. George's Ferry makes that trip perfectly doable by cutting the travel time in half.View All 199 Hamilton Cruise Port Reviews
The public transportation system really does work here. We each got two-day passes, which covered the bus and the ferry for $20. On day one we took the ferry over to Hamilton, and enjoyed the Gombay Dancers in Queen Elizabeth Park. From Hamilton we took the #7 bus to Warwick Long Beach. Any #7 bus departing Hamilton will get you to the south beaches. Just tell the bus driver up front where you want to get off. These have to be some of the most beautiful beaches in Bermuda. After hot dogs from a stand at Warwick Long Bay Beach, we hiked an absolutely stunning coastal trail to Horseshoe Bay. It was also about the hottest mile I have walked in my life. The beer at Horseshoe was a welcomed reward. Upon leaving you can take the $2 shuttle up the short but steep hill or just walk it. The bus station is just on the right as you leave Horseshoe Bay. Here you want to take only the #7 bus that says DOCKYARD if you are heading straight back to the ship. Some #7 buses stop at Barnes Corner or in Somerset.
On day two we walked to the Sea Glass beach a mile or so down the road from the Dockyard near the Convict Cemetery. Just walk out of the Dockyard toward Somerset. Take a right at the Y just beyond the bridge. Follow the road down behind some old bight blue project houses. Take a right and walk through the Convict Cemetery toward the water. The beach is absolutely covered in Sea Glass. Take a plastic bag with you.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the Royal Navy Dockyard. So the second day of our transport pass was pretty much wasted. It really is a beautiful and historic place that is worth your time. The Dockyard is full of re-purposed buildings and hulking ruins. It is a huge place. Have an Amber Ale at the Frog and Onion. It is a delicious cold local brew with a kick. We sampled the rum cake and watched the glass blowers. If had had more time, I would have visited The Bermuda Maritime Museum and the Commissioner's House up on the cliffs. The heat and a back ache from an already long walk, made the Amber Ale much more appealing than climbing the ramparts of this huge place.
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NewportNEWPORT may have been my favorite port on the route. You absolutely should line up as early as possible for your tender tickets or you will find yourself getting off the ship in the mid afternoon. You have to tender from the middle of Naraganset Bay to the Newport Waterfront. The captain even extended our departure to 07:30pm because this is a long process. We headed straight to the visitor center and brought a Breakers Plus Ticket which allowed us to See the Breakers plus one other mansion of our choice. This was worth every dime of $25 ticket price. Next we had an absolutely delicious but pricey lobster roll at the Brick Alley Pub. Then we spent $2 each way on the #67 bus to Bellevue Avenue from the bus station behind the visitor center. Hop off at the first stop for the Cliff walk. Enjoy the stunning views as you walk along the Ocean to the Breakers. If you enjoy beautiful Mansions at all, the Breakers is the queen bee of Newport. If this house doesn't make your jaw drop, you numb to beauty. Next we walked the road to tour The Marble House, another gloriously overdecorated Vanderbilt confection that is also very worthwhile.View All 220 Newport Cruise Port Reviews
Catch the #67 back from The Marble House or points south or north rather than The Breakers. The buses were full when they got to the Breakers, which always has the biggest crowds. If you are lining up for the tenders around 4:30 pm as we did, expect a wait. Newport is a wonderfully old New England Village with lots of Colonial area houses, and plenty of other worthwhile attractions in town. I wish I had more time here. I understand that Newport may be discontinued from the route because of the tendering logistics. What a shame. No word on what port may be substituted when the Grandeur assumes this route next year.
View Cruise Critic's Newport Cruise Port Review