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Sail Date: December 2009
It is a pleasure to recommend this cruise and highlight the fact it has been one of the best short breaks we've ever had as a family.

Food: good variety and high quality. Being a vegetarian family, we thought we'd be limited by the ... Read More
It is a pleasure to recommend this cruise and highlight the fact it has been one of the best short breaks we've ever had as a family.

Food: good variety and high quality. Being a vegetarian family, we thought we'd be limited by the options, but to our pleasant surprise, during the seven-day cruise, there was a carefully prepared menu including fresh vegetables and salads, fresh made soups, variety of pastries, fruits and desserts. For those guests of meat and fish, there was also a good variety. Restaurants, Windjammer (informal) and My Fair Lady (casual in most cases and with a couple of formal dinners), have a pleasant decor and offer a friendly atmosphere. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are not included, except lemonade and iced tea which are complimentary. The waitresses are the best, thanks to each one of you!

Cabins: we booked an interior family cabin, the cheapest of the boat, with a queen and a bunk bed for our child of 05 years. The cabins are impeccable. Currently, to minimize the risks of influenza and other viruses, the cabins are receiving cleaning services in the morning and afternoon. Bed linen and towels are of best quality.

External areas: Although the swimming pools are small for the size of the boat, in general the facilities are nice, clean and safe.

Service: on average 80% of employees onboard for the maintenance and restaurant areas is Hindu or Filipino, with a unique vocation of service and willingness to help unconditionally. The wages of these workers are minimal and their income at the end of the month is determined by the tips. Although gratuities are at guests' discretion, be generous when giving your tip at the end of the cruise, the team that makes your experience onboard the Enchantment of the Seas unforgettable, deserves it.

Entertainment: A fun and entertaining musical billboard has been professionally developed with a talented international cast. The tango music show deserves special mention, the show that we had to witness was the height of the famous international productions. The kids' activity centre is well managed and an exciting and entertaining variety of activities is offered. Children are involved on a daily basis in an educational and stimulating variety of activities. Our son looked forward to his daily timetable at the activity centre.

Itinerary: In Cartagena and Santa Marta taxis are expensive. If no language barrier, in the case of Cartagena, not worth booking a guide. You can order a taxi to take you to the entrance of the colonial city and walk the entire historical site by yourself; it is safe, clean and fun. In most of the cases, the guides who offer their services at the port have no vehicle. Most guides outsources a taxi that drives them to the entrance of the colonial city and then make the guided walk with you. For your safety, check the official rates for taxis with port authorities. Colombia deserves our respect for their focus on making their guests feel at home. Like any tourist city in the world, Cartagena and Santa Marta require some level of arousal, but the consistent and continuous presence of the police force allows that trips like ours can be described as a unique and enjoyable experience. It is a lesson for the rest of our countries in Central and South America. Bravo Colombia! This is a good example to follow by the region.

Aruba: In Oranjestad upon arrival, facing the harbour, there is a station of organized and clean public transport buses with low rates that cover a good portion of the main attractions of the island. If you want a quiet day without much activity on the beach, we highly recommend visiting Palm Beach with green and warm waters, public toilets and access to restaurants.

Curacao: In our case we took the short stay to visit the Marine Aquarium, which is located 20 minutes from Willemstad. It is a valuable experience for families with children. Just at the entrance of the aquarium there is a small beach, with a beautiful and healthy coral reef where if you bring your own snorkelling equipment, you can have a special time. There is a minibus station, public transport, in the centre of Willemstad, where you can take a unit that will take you to the Aquarium. From the port of arrival to the public station is about 15 minutes, walking distance.

Bonaire: From the entire itinerary, Kralendijk is the destination where the cruise spends fewer hours, so it is important to efficiently plan your visits to the island. Again, if you prefer to spend only few hours in the tranquillity of the beach, we recommend Eden Beach, a small resort located just 20 minutes from the port. Admission is free. This beach offers a beautiful reef. The waters are deep and if you have children, it is important constant supervision of parents. The local tourism authority has staff ready to arrange public transport at reasonable prices from and to the port of embarkation of the cruise. Kudos for The Enchantment of the Seas, its service team and each of one of the destinations included in its itinerary.

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Sail Date: April 2009

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 ... Read More

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.

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Sail Date: April 2009
This was our 12th cruise with RCCL; our second as diamond members.  We were looking at various cruise itineraries a couple of months ago with friends and this one was a "late bloomer"...not one of our initial choices.  As ... Read More
This was our 12th cruise with RCCL; our second as diamond members.  We were looking at various cruise itineraries a couple of months ago with friends and this one was a "late bloomer"...not one of our initial choices.  As fate would have, this one worked out the best, and it ended up being just the two of us.  We could not have asked for a better cruise experience!

We traveled from Tulsa, OK (TUL) to MIA on American Airlines Saturday afternoon in order to catch a few stone crab claws at the Catch of the Day restaurant.  We had also booked the MIA - PTY transfer through RCCL and our Miami Air charter flight departed early Sunday morning.  The flight was very nice (they even served breakfast!) but it became apparent that the cruise was going to be "top-heavy" with diamond and diamond plus members.  This led to a decision to change our dining room table to a small "Just for 2", which made the cruise even more special, as will be seen.  The arrival in PTY was uneventful...NOT!  Absolute chaos was an understatement!  We had already filled out two forms on the airplane, and ended up filling out at least two others.  Some of us were shuttled into a holding area to await a bus, then were almost forgotten and told to board immediately.  Our bags (including our carry-on) were literally torn from our hands and tossed into one bus, while we were told to board yet another.  It was an adventure that had to be experienced to be believed!  Somehow, we successfully navigated the 60 miles of well-littered countryside and made it to Colon.  After a bit of a tussle at the pier we found an angel in a Royal Caribbean uniform who spoke English, which enabled us to get our bags retrieved and finally tagged to our cabin.  We walked through to the doors into the embarkation hall, took a deep breath, and started our vacation!

At our first stop in Puerto Limon we were too tired (and didn't feel like another bus ride) so we passed on our plans to go white water rafting.  We strolled around the town, picked up a few souvenirs, and headed back to the ship.  Our decision to go with the small table worked out incredibly well, as our waiter ended up with only two couples at the main dinner seating...us!  We got to know Gonzalo and Efrain pretty well, and enjoyed the "personalized" service.  They were the best wait staff we've ever had in all our cruises.  "Crazy Gonzo" from Chile and his knowledge of Carmeniere wine was a lot of fun.  We hope he'll one day get his bowl of onion soup from Michael Jackson.  Hasta la Vista!

Our second stop in Cartagena, Colombia was an absolute gem!  We took one of the city tours and it was well worth it.  The Old City was both clean and beautiful!  Our Tour Guide, Edgar, was knowledgeable and versatile, and made the excursion very interesting.  His talk in the cathedral of his mission to serve others was inspiring and blessed.  The Palace of the Inquisition was truly sobering, and the bargaining at the shops was a lot of fun.  Edgar's final words as we returned to the pier was that he hoped that the "mental picture" we all had of Cartagena of 10 - 20 years ago had been changed for the better.  It was indeed, and we'll be back.

Santa Marta, Colombia was a small port surrounded by towering mountains.  Picturesque and beautiful!  We took the Irotama Resort Break and ended up in one of the prettiest swimming pools we've ever been in.  We wandered around, sunburned, and bargained for some souvenirs.  The lunch was so-so, and the language barrier was a challenge (even with the Tour Guide), but the weather was perfect.  It was rumored that Santa Marta will not be on the itinerary for next season so we were glad we got to see it.  After returning to the ship, the Diamond sail-away party on the forward deck was a nice touch.

Oranjestad, Aruba was the final stop, and we again chose to wander around the town for some last-minute gifts.  After trying a couple of local beers at Senor Frog's we felt rested enough to walk the remaining distance to the ship.  The last two days were at sea, which capped off the cruise with some extreme relaxation.  We both visited the spa...myself for a massage, while my wife tried the acupuncture treatment for some lower back pain. Highly recommended!  The "Tango Buenos Aires" show was also very good.  The Crown and Anchor events were thoughtful and fun.
 
What ultimately "made" this cruise for us was the crew.  Never on any of our previous cruises had we experienced such friendly crowd!  At one point, I jokingly told the Hotel Director, Michael, that I had never spent so much time speaking with a ship's officer before.  I talked to him at least twice after that.  All of the crew we met seemed to go out of their way to greet us or be of assistance.  Special kudos to Alejandra (the Loyalty Ambassador), Winston (our Room Steward), and Diego (for putting up with the people in the Concierge Lounge).  Thank you, crew of Enchantment of the Seas, for such a great time!  

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Sail Date: April 2009
This was the repositioning cruise from Colon to Ft. Lauderdale.  Flew to Miami, overnight, then on to Panama City the next morning.  After going through customs in Panama, there was a lot of Chaos and confusion in trying to get ... Read More
This was the repositioning cruise from Colon to Ft. Lauderdale.  Flew to Miami, overnight, then on to Panama City the next morning.  After going through customs in Panama, there was a lot of Chaos and confusion in trying to get onto the RCCL transportation to the ship.  Since they don't send luggage tags ahead of time if you do electronic documents (I won't do that again) there were about 300 people trying to get luggage tags from 3 RCCL staff/crew members - it took longer to get luggage tags than it did for the luggage to come out in baggage!

However, once luggage tags were located and put on luggage, jumped on board the bus to Colon- it's about a 2 hour drive on sometimes questionable "roads", but the scenery was interesting to look at, not all of it pretty.

Arriving in Colon, I'd say the boarding process was pretty ok.  Got through check in without much trouble, but for some reason they stopped people from going onto the gangway for quite a while - probably letting traffic move on so it wasn't overcrowded.  Found my room with no problem, then headed up to the Windjammer for some Lunch, though it was already after 4 pm, and hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast at the airport - UH OH - Buffet closed at 3 pm and no food available until 6:30 when the Windjammer opened for dinner - Not used to that - Princess does have a 24 hour buffet - and it's 24 hours!

My balcony room on deck 7 was huge!  Great Balcony, lots of closet and storage space, even in the bathroom!

TV programs repeated a little too often, a few more programming choices or different programs would be better.  At one time they were showing Benjamin Button, in about 6 different languages, and not one of them was English!

Walked along the pool deck to check things out - it was a little overcast and cool, and surprisingly not many people out on deck yet. 

We were scheduled to leave at 7 pm, then 8 pm, and we did leave at 7 pm.  About 120 people did not make the ship in time to get on board for the first night.  There were some weather problems in Houston, and that flight was delayed enough so they missed the ship.   Those with insurance were taken to Puerto Limon/San Jose Costa Rica and joined the ship the next day.  Those without insurance, I'm not sure what happened to them!

The staff was more than friendly and made the trip a delight.  The ports were very good too, though I did not get off in Santa Marta - none of the ship excursions looked too interesting, and being by myself, I just wasn't comfortable taking a taxi anywhere.  Cartegena Colombia was the surprise of the trip for me - it's a beautiful old city, well kept up, but hot, hot, hot on the day we were there.  I was never so happy to get back on the ship and into my air conditioned cabin.

The food in the dining room was pretty good to excellent.  Sometimes the beef dishes were just dry.  Any fish dish however, was always excellent.  Food in the Windjammer, was pretty good, but the variety never seemed to change.  Every day at 4 pm you knew it was going to be nachos!  Oh, the soft serve Ice cream machine on the pool deck was a huge hit!

The ship itself is really great - well kept up, lots of windows and chairs inside on several decks, and usually not too much trouble finding a lounge chair by the pool - even though the ship was full.

This trip was probably 1/2 Americans and 1/2 Latin America - I came to the conclusion that Latin AMericans congregate more than Americans do!  They were always everywhere in large groups - but still only had trouble finding someplace to sit right before dinner (second seating for me).

I enjoyed this so much, I think I'm going to take the same cruise (backwards - from Ft. Lauderdale to Colon) in November!


Past Cruises

1977 - Caribbean - Nordic Prince
1982 - Caribbean - Song of Norway
1985  - Some NCL ship
1994 - RCCL - Mexico
2006 - Dawn Princess - Mexico
2008 - Sea Princess - Alaska
2009 - Enchantment of the Seas - So. Caribbean
Next ?

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Sail Date: February 2009
We are a family of 4. 12 and 15 yr. old kids. Travel quite a bit to odd places, not your typical 5 star all-inclusive resort style family. We also speak "enough" Spanish to get by. Not fluently, but enough. Would highly recommend ... Read More
We are a family of 4. 12 and 15 yr. old kids. Travel quite a bit to odd places, not your typical 5 star all-inclusive resort style family. We also speak "enough" Spanish to get by. Not fluently, but enough. Would highly recommend knowing at least your basics. Gracias and Por favor and perdon go a long way. We got great Continental Air tickets from Detroit to Panama for $258.00 a piece. Arrived into Panama and took a taxi to the Country inn and Suite Panama Canal for the first night. Taxis will try and get you every time, just say, "Oh, muy karo" (very expensive) and then they'll come down. The going rate from the airport to anywhere in the city is $35.oo. I believe Royal Caribbean will transfer you from the airport all the way up the canal for a good fee. We opted to go a week ahead of time and play around in Panama. It was wonderful. When it came time for us to head up to Colon to take the cruise we went to the city bus terminal and caught the express bus to Colon. (1 1/2 hr.) $2.50 per person. Ask them to drop you off at the Puerto de Cruises. Not port of Colon, we made that mistake. If the bus driver doesn't get you all the way there, don't ask questions, just hail a taxi and pay them the $5.00 and GO. Colon is a horrible town. Of the 3 weeks we spent on this trip in and around Panama, nothing came close to Colon, terrible. If you are only going for the cruise and don't like the adventure of seeing the sights and doing things on your own AND are wearing lots of gold jewelry DO THE ROYAL CARIBBEAN TRANSFERS. They'll door to door you.

Now, keep this following information in mind regarding my review: Our ship was only half full! They never gave us a capacity number but the dining rooms were 3/4 empty and you could find a pool chair anytime, anywhere. No line at buffets nor to get off the ship at ports. We had many conversations with the ship workers (because their second language is English not Spanish so they LOVE Americans) and they informed us that the bookings have been dwindling and so far they have not lowered the fares. At some point they will began lowering fares and the workers were very worried about that. The city of Colon is ranked #1 for crime in all of Latin America. When they lower the prices they will get infiltrated with the residents of Colon. Sadly, I would not want to be on that cruise. If you're considering this cruise, wait till the last minute to see if that happens. I personally would not go if it did.

So, the RCI cruise port ran to perfection for us. We boarded at about 3:00 for the 7:30 sailing. Probably took us 20 minutes from being dropped off at the cruise terminal to stepping on the ship. Very friendly RCI agents. Onboard lots of greeters to answer questions and point you to your rooms. Bought kids soda packages for $32.00 for all week. Found rooms on lowest floor (2nd) large window, 154 sq. ft. ($459.00 p.p. two rooms) Room felt larger than our last 190 sq.ft. balcony room on Celebrity because it had a great layout. As far as the cruise stops. We, unlike most cruisers, never do the ship excursions. We do our own and must say that we were sitting ducks in both the Cartagena and Santa Marta ports. The "free" shuttle RCI boasts about only takes you from the boat to the building where you are swarmed by nice, blood thirsty taxi drivers. One wanted to charge us $80.00 just to drive us to the old town in Cartagena. Sadly, we ended up seeing the old dirty parts and returned to the ship. Ended up watching all the activities happening in the shipping port from the pool deck of the ship. Amazing. Best advise would be for you to wait awhile to get off the ship, when the taxis are willing to lower their prices. Or, if you've got the guts, walk out of the port where you can get a normal taxi that won't gouge ya. Didn't do much in Santa Marta. Didn't go near the water, because the beach bathroom appeared (and smelled) to run right into the ocean. No thanks.

Aruba, walked across the street jumped on the public bus for $1.30 headed to Palm Beach near the RIU hotel. Played on the beach and dove with Roberto's Divers for an expensive but neat one tank dive on the Antilla. (they were by far the cheapest we found) $250.00 for 4 persons including all equipment. Curacao, we walked around the very busy city, got over charged for coke because they see us white folks coming. Took a city bus way west to the Sunset Waters Dive resort and did a $10.00 per tank shore dive. Decent dive, lots of dead coral though. Gear rental expensive. We had to find a local to drive us from the bus stop to the Sunset Waters Resort, too far to walk.

There was lots to see and do in the cruise port of Curacao. Don't need a taxi just take a right when you get off the ship and keep walking. Bonaire, loved it. Take your snorkel gear and jump in the water absolutely anywhere. Safe, walkable, lovely island.

So, I would highly recommend this cruise for an American family for a great taste of a different culture. Everything is in Spanish with some English interpreted after. Cruise staff loves English speakers, they don't speak Spanish. Your fellow cruisers will be Panamanians, Costa Ricans, Columbians and they are so kind and friendly. Many speak English. My kids made many friends and exchanged e-mails. They danced in the kids club till 2:00am. Lots of tiny bathing suits but no one topless. AND, do me a favor, tip! Tipping is not high in the Latin culture (according to a Panamanian and the ship staff) and the dining room was empty on the last night of the cruise when the tipping envelopes were supposed to have been paid to your staff. The casino and bars were also a ghost town for the entire cruise. We only met a couple of Americans, if you include the big bellied one that blew the competition out of the water when he entered the belly flop competition! Leave it to an American. Loved it all but still wouldn't trade it in for the good ole USA....... yet.

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Sail Date: February 2009
We decided to cruise out of Colon, Panama, because it was so different than the other Caribbean cruises. We figured we'd already BE in the Caribbean and wouldn't spend extra time traveling TO it. Flying into Panama City on Copa Airlines ... Read More
We decided to cruise out of Colon, Panama, because it was so different than the other Caribbean cruises. We figured we'd already BE in the Caribbean and wouldn't spend extra time traveling TO it. Flying into Panama City on Copa Airlines only cost about $400 each, the same amount it would have cost to fly into Florida. Panama City is good for a trip to the Miraflores Locks to see some ships go through the Panama Canal, and a tour to the Embera Indian Village (fabulous!). Other than that, there's not too much to see or do.

We took the local express bus to Colon to catch our cruise - $2.50 each, one way. Taxis wanted $80 one way. This was not a school bus, it was a large bus with decent seats, although completely filled with locals who use it for weekly travel. We got "looks" as we carried on our luggage!

Embarkation was very easy and fast - we boarded around 12:30. Lunch was in full swing. All the food on Enchantment was wonderful. There were different offerings for each meal, both in the dining room and in the buffet. Desserts were gourmet, and plentiful, with always some sugar-free (which tasted sort of chemically). The buffet tended to be very crowded, and at times it was hard to find an open table. We thought we were booking at a time when children were all back in school, but January/February is summer vacation in the southern hemisphere!! So we encountered yelling, screaming, running children frequently on the decks and in the buffet.

Spanish is the primary language on the cruise, which nobody told us about. If you think it's hard hearing loudspeaker announcements in English, you should hear them in heavily accented English; we never knew what was going on. We tried to play a game of trivia, run by a "bilingual" speaker - questions were fast and only read once, and we could only catch a word here and there. We couldn't make heads or tails of it at all. So we really couldn't partake of many activities; we ended up playing Scrabble most nights, to wonderful music in the Centrum - classical guitar, classical strings, big band, occasional singers in English and Spanish. The Scrabble games they had were all in Spanish - don't you think they could have provided ONE in English? They had 15 backgammon games available, 4 Spanish Scrabble games, 15 chess, 15 checkers, and a dominoes game. That was it. Couldn't they diversify and provide a few less of each of these, and add Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Battleship, and some other varieties, in both languages? So we played with a Spanish Scrabble board and did our best.

The two "Broadway" type shows were fabulous, and in English. I had thought the singing/dancing shows would be lame and Lawrence Welk-ish, but they were modern and taken right out of contemporary shows - energetic, fun, and up-to-date. They became our favorite activity! But on subsequent nights there was a comedy show and a magic show, and they were in Spanish, so we couldn't really participate, and left. Out of 2200 passengers, there were only 160 who spoke English. Wish we had known! We did okay, as my husband speaks Spanish fairly well, and I speak a little. We got along, but not enough to understand comedy shows.

The cruise staff was great - always helpful, always smiling, willing to do anything at all. Top rating to them! The dining room staff was also terrific and got to know our preferences quickly - very sharp! Beware in the buffet - they like to clean your table while you are still eating, and will take away anything that looks like you are done with it. If you leave to get more food, your silverware, napkin, and glass will be gone. We ended up always having one of us "guard" our table so that we still had one! Our stateroom was immaculate, with crisp, clean, white linens and a clean bathroom - no complaints there.

The ports of call were all very interesting, and were great for a cruise, as you probably wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in any of them. Colon was very scary, by the way - very poor and dilapidated. Go straight to the cruise ship when you get there.

The first port was Cartagena, and the Old Walled City is really interesting - lots of churches, old buildings, and the Palace of the Inquisition, with many old items of torture. It was $6 US entrance fee, and was great to walk through. The new city is very nice and modern. Great city! You will get hounded in the Old City to buy tshirts, sunglasses, jewelry, etc. every time you come out of a building or turn a corner. They will negotiate, however! (As an aside - for some reason, the purser doesn't change US$ to Colombian pesos, so you have to go through the trouble of finding a place to change in town and then change back, which is a hassle. In Panama and the ABC Islands, US dollars are either used or accepted.)

Not too much to do in Santa Marta, the second port of call. We did an excursion to Tayrona National Park, about 25 miles north, and walked through the rainforest to a beautiful overlook of the ocean. It was an hour or two of walking, though, so be aware of that. Very pretty.

The third port was Aruba. Very touristy town. We did an excursion to the Atlantis submarine, which got down to 131 feet. We saw a barracuda, many fish, and several reefs.

Curacao was our absolute favorite place - Willemstad is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and it absolutely delightful - great Dutch architecture; like a beautiful painted Dutch town transplanted to the Caribbean. It was very European and had some great deals.

On Bonaire, we took an excursion out to Klein Bonaire Island and snorkeled. It was a sand beach with lots of fish that came right up to you; as a protected preserve, they weren't afraid of being fished, so they were very calm and friendly. It was beautiful.

The last day is spent cruising all day back to Colon, and we just hung out and walked around. The gym is very well-equipped; we worked out several days, and it was great (the staff just needs to remember to unlock the doors when it is opening time!). There was a "cooking demonstration," but it just consisted of a guy making animals out of pineapples and other fruits (decorations). None of their quizzes or demonstrations lasted more than 15-20 minutes (the trivia quiz was cut short to "hurry along") - I guess they wanted to let you get back to drinking (drinks were expensive) or gambling.

All in all, I would recommend this cruise highly, and I would recommend Royal Caribbean in general. I would definitely cruise with them again. We got a great deal on the price.

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Sail Date: January 2009
If you have the opportunity to take a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Central or South America ... take it.

My wife and I were on the January 10, 2009 Enchantment of the Seas cruise from Colon, Panama to Cartagena and Santa Marta, ... Read More

If you have the opportunity to take a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Central or South America ... take it.

My wife and I were on the January 10, 2009 Enchantment of the Seas cruise from Colon, Panama to Cartagena and Santa Marta, Colombia and the Netherlands Antilles. When booking the cruise we weren't told that the ship's language for everything would be Spanish, or that two thousand of the twenty-two hundred passengers were going to be Spanish speaking Latin Americans. A few weeks after booking, Royal Caribbean did offer us the chance to cancel without penalty, but having made our air reservations, the offer could not be taken. Not that we would have. As a former bilingual educator, (I am not Hispanic), I speak reasonable Spanish and my wife has some facility with it. So off we went.

I'm not Pollyanna. There were culture clashes and you have to be able to either tolerate or enjoy them. The talking, the obstructive milling around, the physical closeness and crew relations come to mind. Large numbers of people never stop talking. Loud and rapid, all at the same time and never seeming to stop: in the pool, on the pool deck, in the bars and the photo gallery, during dinner, on the elevators and during the shows. Why go to the theater if you're going to talk through the entertainment? At first you are angry. Then you get included. Just because you don't understand is no reason not to join in. No one's in a hurry. Six or seven members of a family may sit down in the stairway. Every thing is blocked, nobody moves, no one gets excited. Eventually you get to go on your way. The same at a buffet line where time must be taken to choose among ten different items. The line waits. At first my New York City blood boiled. But I learned to enjoy the expectation. After all, what could I do about it? Eat in the Dining Room, or breakfast at 8:00 am when only the 150 Americans are awake? Latin Americans don't have the same sense of personal space as English speakers. Conversations are held at close range, inches away. And ten people climbing into and out of (mostly into), a six person hot tub, does challenge our Anglo-Saxon sense of propriety.

We enjoyed our neighbors to the south. Bathing suits come to mind. The pool deck was paved with acres of cream-colored breasts, and when everyone is aboard, the full extent of the fabric shortage in Latin America becomes obvious. But why make bathing suits out of dental floss? Go figure?

The Colombians are the nicest people I have ever met. These are warm, friendly, intelligent people who naturally like Americans. The Colombians are confident, communicate easily and have great pride in the recent accomplishments of their nation. The Panamanians are somewhere up there with them. Two words will make friends with any Panamanian, "Mariano Rivera". They will include you in everything. On entering a Name That Tune contest we were teamed with two Colombians and a Panamanian. We would get the American music, and they the Latin. The whole crowd cheered us on. It was a great time that we could not have envisioned with any group of foreigners.

Royal Caribbean deserves a lot of credit. From the beginning, the ship's rules were enforced. This is something the crew had to do from day one, or lose control of their ship. Unlike a recent experience with Princess, a cruise through the Panama Canal, there were no small children running unsupervised at all hours. There were no diapered infants in the hot tubs. No children in the adult pools. No disruptions of dinners by guests throwing objects in the dining room ... and smoking restrictions were enforced. Our Princess cruise's passenger list was about ten percent Mexican. Most of these were actually Mexican born "upper class" Europeans, (very different than the Colombians and Panamanians, who are beautiful people of every conceivable racial blend). When complaints were made by American passengers to the Princess crew, our motives were questioned and we were reprimanded. That is something that we bear in mind when planning vacations.

Colombia was astonishing, not at all a nation of drug dealers and kidnappers. We found it safe, friendly and clean, (well, cleaner than other places) with beautiful mountains, beaches and coastlines. Cartagena's Gold Museum and Santa Marta's Ethnographic Museum, while not exactly the Met are worth the time. And you will hate yourself if you miss the Museum of the Inquisition in Cartagena.

Visiting Aruba, the world's most up scale t-shirt island means a day on the ship. An empty ship! Curacao is much more interesting. Spend time in town and get back to the ship early. Bonaire, the last of the Dutch islands, rated number one by our friends for snorkeling. We spent much of the day at the Donkey Refuge. Take our some bread and a herd of donkeys will instantly show up and make you feel like a kid in the middle of a litter of puppies. The locals say it is what Aruba was twenty years ago.

We chose to spend an extra day in Panama City. When there, get your self a good taxi driver and go through the Casco Viejo, the old city. It was worth every sweating foot step.

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Sail Date: December 2008
Be warned that this cruise is primarily in Spanish due to the fact that 80% to 90% are Spanish speaking passengers from Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and other Central and South American countries. There are plenty of English ... Read More
Be warned that this cruise is primarily in Spanish due to the fact that 80% to 90% are Spanish speaking passengers from Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and other Central and South American countries. There are plenty of English speaking passengers and the staff is excellent in English. Most of the entertainment is in Spanish. The music was very latin in flavor. The food also takes on a latin flair as well. There are printed materials in English and the major announcements including the life boat drill are also spoken in English as well as Spanish.

With all that said, if you are tired of the old Caribbean cruises that do the standard Eastern, Western islands or the standard Southern out of Puerto Rico, this is a great cruise that will provide you with different islands and a totally different feel on the ship.

Since this was the first cruise that debarks out of Colon there were a few wrinkles.

This is a brand new facility and staff. Panama did not really have the boarding process ready. They did have a lot of staff from Miami that help start new ports. One other thing that hurt is this is a new area for cruising. There were only 24 diamond/diamond plus members. Most cruisers where latin American and this was their first cruise. They did not know or understand what documents needed to be ready before arriving and where to go. This is no a criticism. It is just a fact that there was a large portion of the cruisers compared to Miami or Lauderdale cruises.

As normal they tell you that you cannot board until 1 or 2 p.m. Yeah right, I know how this works. We were there at 11:30am and dropped off our luggage outside the pier. There is parking there and it was free. I think this was because it wasn't 100% ready. Since we live in Panama now, we drove (yeah no flying) and parked in the lot.

We entered the terminal building. Got our immigration forms and showed that we had our forms preprinted and signed. We were directed to the Diamond passenger line. We were first in line and waited 5 minutes mainly waiting on the staff to learn how to check in people and plus many of the people there where suite people and was their first cruise so they had to fill out documents.

Once we got there, we had the main RCL person from Miami that was there to help. Took us all of 3 minutes to get our cards and go to the waiting area. There are bathrooms, snacks and drinks in the waiting area. At 11:50 am they started to board. We where 6th on the ship. They scan your card and take your picture and on you go.

They let you on the public areas. They block the room areas off and don't open the rooms until 1 p.m. The Windjammer opens at noon for lunch.

One note, this is the last day of the cruisers that board in Cartagena, Colombia so they will be touring and eating and using the ships services.

The public areas are very clean and classy. Chairs in the Windjammer are hard to come buy. Since these are newbies to cruising, they would get food eat and just hang out waiting on their room thus keeping the tables occupied. This was an issue through out the cruise.

The food was excellent for the entire cruise. We enjoyed the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch the entire cruise. The quality was very good and great variety. The dinning room service was good, not great. The food was excellent in the dinning room. We did eat at Chops one night and was excellent and well worth the $20 a person in my opinion.

This ship is very large for this class. It is as long as the Radiance Class ships. There are two large pools, kids sprinkle pool, two nice bars on the pool deck. Then there is the covered sun pool that they can open and close the roof on. There where many deck chairs and we could almost always find a chair in the shade.

I recommend that you look at the deck plans on the RCL web site for more information. Again, the ship was clean and new looking even thought it is a 11 year ship that has been refitted. The staff where excellent and eager to please.

If you are a suite, Diamond, or Diamond+, they have a concierge lounge on deck 8. The concierge was average but did help me out by getting me cuff links for my tux which I had forgotten. There were very few of us so we had the run of it. Free drinks/cocktails from 6pm to 9:30 pm. We really enjoyed this (the drinks) and meeting the great people that came there.

On the dinning side, early seating dinner is at 7 pm because of the Central and South American culture of eating late. The late seating was 9:30 pm. There were 2 formal nights and they are the 3rd and 6th nights. One semi-formal night was on night 5. The rest where business casual.

The ports of call were Cartagena, Colombia; Santa Marta, Colombia; Aruba; Curacao; Bonaire; Sea Day.

Santa Marta was a tender port and the seas where so rough that we could not stop there so that turned into another sea day.

In Cartagena, we just go get a taxi there. Taxis start at $15 to take you to the old city to shop or the old Fort. You can find some that will take you all around and wait. The Monastery is a good stop as well. They are forceful when trying to sell you things but I always felt safe every time I've been there. Many places will accept US Dollars but some will only accept Colombian Pesos. Make sure that you understand this before buying with cash or negotiate the price.

Aruba we booked a ship snorkel tour. It was cancelled so we just walked the city. It seems a large number of tours are cancelled throughout the cruise. Also be aware that many tours will only be in Spanish. Make sure you understand this before booking or boarding a bus. Please note that right off the ship is the public bus system. It is excellent. You can take a bus round trip to Palm Beach area for $2.30 a person. You just go to the bus and pay when you get on board. When you get to where you want to get off, just pull the cord or push the button and the bus will stop at the next stop. Coming back there are marked bus stops along the way. Just give them your return ticket or buy another one way and off you go. I like to use the Holiday Inn bathrooms by the casino. There are places that rent chairs along the beach and there are plenty of food and drink stops.

Renting a car is a good option. We have done that in the past. You really want a 4x4 because some of the area is kind of rough.

Curacao

This trip we docked at the Mega pier and just walked over to the city and walked around. Taxis are prevalent and Avis has a rental there at the Mega pier. Just make sure that you are going to be docking there. If a bigger ship is there with you, you might be at the city pier.

Again, if you want a great change, I recommend this cruise. It only goes out from December to mid-April. They will be back in 2009-10. If you want to take this and want the details of how to come in to Panama, email me and I will be glad to help you.

Happy cruising - John

"What is my favorite cruise and cruiseline??? - The one I'm on...

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