Background - My wife and I are RCI diamond members and this was our first cruise as diamond members. We are in our mid-forties with two boys' ages 5 and 11. We normally take two cruises per year. This was the first time that we flew to a cruise with the kids and it was also our first repositioning cruise. RCI is our favorite line. We also like Cunard. This was our 16th cruise and 8th on RCI. We booked this cruise only 3 weeks before embarkation as RCI had discounted it dramatically. It was an 8-day cruise leaving from Colon, Panama and ending in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We stopped in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, Cartagena, Colombia, Santa Marta, Colombia, and Oranjestad, Aruba. We had only been to Aruba before, so most of the ports were new to us. This was a great and memorable trip. We met many great people and made some friends. Pre-Cruise - RCI did not offer any pre-cruise hotels or excursions, so we were on our own. We flew into Panama City, Panama the day before the cruise on Continental Airlines. We had a direct flight from Newark, NJ, which was nice. Unfortunately, Continental's service was very disappointing. This was a 5+ hour flight with no audio or visual entertainment. We had bought a portable DVD player before the cruise and it came in very handy. We only got a hot sandwich for dinner and one beverage. Continental Airlines still charges for bags from the 2nd checked bag per person on flights to Central and South America except for Brazil. We made sure we only had one checked bag per person to avoid the $25.00 extra bag charge per person. The plane was full and it was also very warm. Not a pleasant flight. We landed in Panama City at 9:30pm local time and made it through the airport in good time. We paid $35.00 for a cab ride from the airport to the hotel. We stayed at the Veneto a Wyndam Grand Hotel in downtown Panama City. The hotel was very nice, but the casino attracted many call girls that the hotel seemed to allow. The room was nice and the beds were comfortable. We paid $139.00 for the one night. The next morning we had a great breakfast at the hotel and walked a little. The area around the hotel is dirty and smelly like any big city. We did not take a tour of the Panama Canal and opted for the transfer to Colon directly. We used a tour company called My Friend Mario. They were very cheap ($20pp) and provided reliable air conditioned transportation. We met some nice folks from other hotels in the tour bus and we arrived in Colon about 90 minutes later. Colon is awful. It is very poor and fairly unsafe for tourists in certain parts of the city. The cruise lines call at Colon since it is so close to the Gatun Locks. We boarded the ship relatively fast since we had priority embarkation as diamond members. Ship - The Enchantment of the Seas is 12 years old and went through a major renovation in 2005. The ship is showing some wear on the hull and on the balcony railings, but is in good condition. It is scheduled for a 10-day yard period later this year. The public rooms were nicely appointed and used natural light very well. RCI has well designed ships and this one was easy to navigate and ship maps are easily found in the elevator and stairway areas. Some elevators did not work properly and were continually being fixed. This presented a problem on embarkation day, but not after. There was some odor in some of the bathrooms, but not bad. The bathrooms were clean, so I attribute the odor to some plumbing issues that need correction. Accommodations - We had a balcony stateroom on deck 7. It was very nice. It was 190 square feet with a 36 square foot balcony. We had a queen size bed and a sofa bed that slept two. It also had a pull-down bed, so the room actually slept five. The storage space was plentiful and the closet was pretty big. The bathroom was small and the shower was very tight. Overall, the stateroom met our needs and was comfortable. Dining - We had the main seating in the My Fair Lady dining room. RCI paired us with another married couple a little younger than us who also had a six year old daughter. The kids had fun eating together, which helped us enjoy our food. The food on RCI is usually good, but not great. This cruise was no different. Our waiter, Raj, was great. He made our time at dinner very enjoyable and we usually took 90 to 100 minutes to eat as the kids and adults talked and the time just slipped by. Raj also had some magic tricks that also kept the kids entertained. It was a lot of fun. RCI does need to do something about the lobster. It was again very bland and tasteless. The either need to get some better quality lobster or spice it a little better. The Indian food, which was the vegetarian option every night, was very good and spicy. Just as it should be. I enjoyed that on three of the eight nights. We also ate breakfast at the main dining room as the Windjammer Marketplace was very crowded. We enjoyed the breakfast food and did not seem to be rushed. We usually ate about 9:30am each morning. We used the Windjammer at lunch and the food was good, but it was a bit crowded. We also ate lunch once at the barbeque at the pool. It was also good, but again very crowded. We did not go to Chops Grille on this trip. Adventure Ocean (kids club) - This was terrific. We could not get our five year old out of there. He wanted to spend all day there. The staff was very friendly and enjoyed kids very much. They had activities that were fun and educational. The kids learned about cooking one afternoon and made chef's hats. There were science experiments like making alien slime. They also had a kid's talent show on the last day of the cruise, which was a lot of fun. Overall, I would highly recommend this program. The kids are split by age group and the activities are age appropriate. Pool Area - This was expanded by 50% during the lengthening of the ship in 2005. There is now plenty of room to swim. All of the pools are salt water. The whirlpools are fresh water. There are two main pools with four whirlpools and a kid's splash area. There are also plenty of deck chairs and we never struggled to find one, even on crowded sea days. The adult-only solarium is beautiful. When the kids were at Adventure Ocean we used the solarium. It has one pool and two whirlpools. The adult-only policy was enforced on our cruise. RCI also enforced the policy of no kids with swim diapers allowed in the pools. This did upset some parents, but it is a CDC (Center for Disease Control) requirement. Ports - I won't spend much time on the ports. It is best to hire your own tour at the pier as they are cheap and plentiful. We got a 3 ½ hour city tour in Cartagena for $30.00 total. It was really good. The ship was charging $35.00 per person for the same tour. We also really enjoyed the ship tour in Santa Marta to the Irotama Resort. It was expensive, but it included 5 ½ hours at a high end resort with lunch and a drink included. It was a good value. The food was excellent and the pool and beach areas were fantastic. Beware of the vendors on the beach. In Colombia the beaches are public, so the resort cannot restrict the vendors once you make it onto the beach. Service - The service was impeccable. Everyone was very friendly and performed wonderfully. We have always received very good service when cruising with RCI, but this was one of the best service experiences we ever had. Our stateroom attendant, Jasmine, was wonderful. We always had clean linens and she always had a smile when we saw her, which was usually two to three times per day. Our waiter, Raj, assistant waiter, and head waiter were great and really took care of us. Royal also rolled out the red carpet for the diamond members. We had three member parties, plus we had free drinks in the concierge lounge every night from 5 to 8pm. I have never scored as many free drinks on a cruise before. It was great. We also got to have brunch with the Hotel Director, Michael Rasmussen, at the member brunch on the 7th day. He is a really nice guy and gave us an insight to some of the member changes that RCI is implementing on 9/1/09. We did tell him that we missed the chocolates on the pillows at bed time and he explained to us that 80% of those chocolates were thrown away as people did not eat them, so they were cut-out to save on costs. My wife suggested that RCI give people an optional package they can buy to get the chocolates on the pillows for $1 per day. We will see what happens. Debarkation - I will only say this. We carried our own bags off at 7:15am as we had a 10am flight home from Ft. Lauderdale. We were off of the ship, through customs and at the airport by 7:35am. Unbelievable!! Well done RCI!! Overall - A fantastic cruise. One of the best we have taken. RCI should be proud of the wonderful crew on the Enchantment of the Seas. The cruise was truly enchanting.
We had a balcony stateroom on deck 7. It was very nice. It was 190 square feet with a 36 square foot balcony. We had a queen size bed and a sofa bed that slept two. It also had a pull-down bed, so the room actually slept five. The storage space was plentiful and the closet was pretty big. The bathroom was small and the shower was very tight. Overall, the stateroom met our needs and was comfortable.