DH and I wanted to do something special for our 5th anniversary. We'd honeymooned on the QMII but wanted to try a different line this time around. Frankly, our immediate criteria was finding an embarkation port that was within a drivable distance from our home in Durham, NC. This led us to the port of Norfolk, VA, which in turn led us to considering Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas. After poking around a bit on Royal Caribbean's site, Cruise Critic, and on-line cruise booking sites, we settled on booking EOS for a 9 night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing May 20th 2010.
As it turned out, I also contacted RCI a few times as we neared our sail date with a few specific questions regarding what we could or could not pack; plus, I utilized their web site to check in, print out Set Sail Passes, purchase a wine package, make an RSVP for the specialty restaurant (Chops Grille) and order a bottle of Champagne to be delivered to our stateroom on sail day. Everything turned out as expected. Knowing this, I'll not be quite so anal the next time we cruise ("quite"!)
We stayed in Norfolk the night before we sailed at a B&B called The Freemason Inn (review on Trip Advisor). In short, I would not recommend this B&B but it was close to the pier so that was good. We arrived at the pier way too early; it was a bit chaotic with passengers getting off Enchantment, cars everywhere, porters going to and fro, and other people (like us) arriving, eager to get on board! DH parked the gar in one of Norfolk's public parking garages. This one was directly across the street from the pier (Plume Street). Word to the wise; all of the public garages switch to the same daily rate on sail day. We ended up paying $15 per day and had to pre-pay it (the day before, the rates were $12!)
We were in JS 8562, mid ship. Although it had an infamous pole (people were grousing about poles in the staterooms) it didn't bother us. Plus, it was padded so if we whacked in to it, it didn't hurt.
Fantastic closet/drawer space. The bed was really comfy. Plenty of room for two people (I cannot imagine having a 4th or even a 3rd in there although there was a pull out couch unless it was a small child).
Absolutely loved the balcony. We got a lot of good use out of it. Only problem was a really loud next door neighbor who had an obnoxious, braying sort of voice who sat out on her balcony yakking on her cell phone. We couldn't hear here (too much) when we were inside with the door shut. We barely heard the couple on the other side of us.
The bathroom was a good size and had a bathtub/shower combo. We could both fit in the shower at the same time and both in the vanity area, too (although a bit close).
Only problem we had with the room was that both of our Sea Passes/room keys routinely stopped working. I think I had to have mine replace three times; DH at least twice. Also, it was very hard to get the door open before the lock re-engaged. But, not a huge deal.
We enjoyed San Juan, even though we were only there a few hours. The ship arrived at 2:00 and left at 11:00 but we wanted to make sure we were back on board for our 8:30 dinner time (why spend more money when dinner is already paid for?)
Seriously, we don't cruise for the ports. But, we did want to at least get off at each so that we could at least experience each locale and decide if we'd ever want to return.
In San Juan, it was slightly raining and humid. There were TONS of gnats everywhere. Not San Juan's fault, though.
We walked to one of the forts, Castillo San Cristobal, and wandered around there for an hour or so; it was really interesting; just wish it hadn't been so darn hot.
After, we went to a tapas restaurant in an old hotel called El Picoteo (review on Trip Advisor).
Then, we wrapped it up with a beer at Old Harbor Brewery (review on Trip Advisor).
So, San Juan was just fine. It might be an interesting place to stay a few days to really check it out. Shopping was apparently quite good, too; we stayed away from the shops,though!
Blech. Not for us at all; too many touristy trappy shops right off the bat. We turned around and got right back on the ship.
In fairness, we should have booked an excursion to one of the reputed beautiful beaches nearby.
This was Samana, Dominican Republic. Not much about this place in any of the tour books (like Frommer's) but we went on an excursion (arranged by a fellow Cruise Critic member) with Terry's Tours. We had a fantastic time; not just seeing this lovely, tropical peninsula, but, spending the day with other passengers.
We'd highly recommend Terry Bandini of Terry's Tours! We were picked up at the pier (tendered in from EOS) and taken by open truck (sort of like very nice cattle cars) to his restaurant where we met him and continued on our tour. We went to his personal property, a local church, cigar factory, and then to the beach for lunch and a climb down to waterfalls/swimming area.
Very reasonable at $55 per person (included beer, water, soda, food) and also highly informative and instructional regarding the area and its people.