My wife and I called this trip our ‘let’s give this cruising thing one more shot’ cruise after our last (and first) cruise just didn’t meet our expectations and boy, did this cruise change our minds. The difference? On board ... Read More
My wife and I called this trip our ‘let’s give this cruising thing one more shot’ cruise after our last (and first) cruise just didn’t meet our expectations and boy, did this cruise change our minds. The difference? On board activities, entertainment, and just the general vibe on the ship. This cruise was a celebration from the time we left port until we got back, our last cruise was just a classy means to get to some nice ports of call, but nothing in between. We’ve learned that line simply catered to a different clientele.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale from Tulsa, Oklahoma the night before and stayed at the Hampton Inn North due to its proximity to the airport and because they provided free airport transportation. After calling them for pickup, we stood outside in a very chaotic pickup area in a thunderstorm waiting, and waiting, and waiting. After half an hour we called again, the receptionist transferred us directly to our driver, and we were told he was 10 minutes away due to traffic from the storm. Hmmmm, 40 minutes to get there from 2 miles away? He finally arrived, loaded us up, and got us back to the hotel in about 5 minutes so where he was for that other 35 minutes I have no idea. Otherwise the hotel was great ($120) including our transport back to the airport in the morning (which again took only 5 minutes) where we met our transport to the port on Miami Port Express ($19 PP). Transport down to the port was seamless, arriving around 11:45. Embarkation was also seamless, we were on board by 12:15, maybe 12: 30. All told, flying down to FLL the day before plus the hotel and transport cost was about equal to flying into Miami the day of the cruise and in our opinion much less stressful and more restful than getting up really early and traveling the day of the cruise.
We were told all rooms would be ready around 1:30pm so we had lunch in the Windjammer Café, explored the ship front to back and bottom to top, and then hit the pools with the stuff we had packed in our daypacks. One note, towels cost money on Royal Caribbean! They charge your sea pass card $25 per towel and then refund it when you return it. We had an ocean view room for this cruise, definitely a down grade from the balcony we had on our previous cruise. I had received an offer to upgrade to a balcony if one became available for $200 total a few weeks prior to sailing and signed up for it, but never got the call. It didn’t matter, though, this cabin was a bit small but was fine. We did notice that the stateroom category of Large Oceanview was a much larger room and also came with a mini fridge, something worth considering when booking this class of ship.
Enchantment of the Seas is a nice, mid-sized, ship. It’s very clean and well appointed and my wife, who is prone to motion sickness, appreciated that the main dining room, the windjammer café, and the theatre were all somewhat mid ship. We weren’t impressed with the food. We ate all of our dinners plus one breakfast in the main dining room and the remainder in Windjammer. I thought the layout of Windjammer could have been better, there was no start or end point to each station and the food offerings didn’t seem to vary much from day to day. Same with the dining room, it seemed like the menu was quite similar every night and there was nothing special about the menu on the one formal night. The Windjammer was definitely the place for breakfast, we expected a rather lavish spread in the main dining room but found the menu only had 3 or 4 offerings, any of which you could get at the buffet. Service in the main dining room was very good. One night my wife thought her beef was undercooked and she had a new plate in front of her in just 2 or 3 minutes.
Our 4 night cruise made stops in Nassau, Coco Cay, and Key West. The Nassau stop was the longest, arriving at 8am and not leaving until midnight. We chose to create our own walking tour of Nassau over a shore excursion as most excursions included time at a beach and we were due to be at Coco Cay the next day. We then took a sunset harbor tour excursion that evening, which was very pleasant. If anything, it was too long as we cruised around the back side of the island at the same speed as the front side without much to do or see. Coco Cay would have been a great beach day, however we had some thunderstorms roll through that caused us to retreat back to the ship after the beach BBQ. The improvements they are currently adding to Coco Cay will make it a simply fantastic destination by the end of the year and it will eliminate the use of the tenders back and forth to the ship. Key West was fantastic, once you were allowed to get off the ship, and we thought that they should take some of the time spent in Nassau and allocate it to Key West instead. You simply can’t take see much of it in the 6 hours you have. That brings me to the issue of getting off the ship in Key West. US Customs and Border Patrol required an ID check of every single passenger prior to anyone leaving. You are directed in the morning to one of the dining rooms where you wait to dock and for CBP to board, set up in the theatre, and then check you one by one. They took their sweet time to get started and then every single passenger stands in a long line going up and down stairs and winding through nearly the entire common area of the ship until you get to the theater where the agent checks your ID and a cruise employee punches your room card. It’s a ridiculous, time consuming, frustrating process that, in my opinion, could be performed at any time after we left Nassau. Once finally off the ship, we went on an Everglades Kayak Tour which was fantastic and then we hurried down Duval Street to the butterfly museum and the southernmost point marker. Again, a later departure time would have made our day much better as there is so much to see and do in Key West. Given we were only 120 miles or so from the Port of Miami, it sure seems like they could depart later and still arrive at 7 the next morning but even with our 5 pm departure, we didn’t dock back in Miami until exactly 7am the next day.
As I mentioned above, from the very beginning, this cruise is a non stop celebration. From the departure party, to the 70’s music show led by the cruise director, to the celebration of the cruise staffs national heritage, to the recognition of the chefs and meal staff, there is always something to celebrate and cheer for. Entertainment was also very good from the theatre performances to other activities throughout the ship. The Newlywed show was a real hoot. I attribute a lot of the fun to the attitude of the cruise director, he simply has just as much fun as the guests regardless of how many times he’s done the same thing.
Disembarkation was another pain point for me, probably more due to our inexperience with the process on this cruise line than anything else. Everyone is assigned one of 16 departure groups, those having earlier flights in the higher groups. Our instructions were to meet in the theater at a specific time based on our group number and that each group would then be called to disembark. We went to the theatre at the appointed time, sat with maybe 50 other people, and waited, and waited, group time slots came and went with no announcements. Finally someone came in and announced all remaining passengers, at which time we went and stood in a line that wrapped around the ship. It was painfully obvious at that point that everyone that had done this before just went and got in line whenever they were ready to leave. Lesson learned! Read Less