EMBARKATION: Finally got to the port and were frustrated by the confusion and inefficiency: though several RCL folks held up signs that pointed us in the terminal direction, they were too busy chatting with one another to advise us that ... Read More
EMBARKATION: Finally got to the port and were frustrated by the confusion and inefficiency: though several RCL folks held up signs that pointed us in the terminal direction, they were too busy chatting with one another to advise us that the luggage had to be left off at a totally different building (which we had passed by already), so up the escalator, down the escalator, stand in some more lines . . .then come to find out we could have gone to the front of that line b/c we had already affixed our RCL baggage tags all over our luggage, but none of the helpful RCL folks that had seen us on the way mentioned this either.
Finally checked in at the terminal and got our cabin keycards; they punched two holes into the kids' cards (to prevent their buying any alcohol on board) but then, when I asked for a hole to be punched in my card to allow me to put it on a lanyard, they said it might prevent ME from buying alcohol!!? Why not have another shape punch for the kids? Don't many folks put their cards on lanyards?
SHIP INFO: The Voyager is a very nice ship with lots of space, but a few areas are not used to their full advantage. For example, there is a lounge/bar on Deck 14, which on other ships is prime real estate, as the views are tremendous and nearly 360, but this space was to my knowledge NEVER mentioned in the daily Cruise Compass (the daily flyer re happenings onboard). We did visit there one evening and there was a live low-key band, so that was a pleasant surprise. The lounge near the guest reception desk had live music, but I felt sorry for the performers b/c it was used more as a space to pass through rather than to linger. The Aquarium Bar had what looked like fish tanks lining the walls, (and my husband thought they had perhaps recently been drained for cleaning due to a persistent odd smell in that area) but there were no glass walls, just fake coral and such, so I doubt that they were real aquaria. As stated, the smell lingered all week and we didn't care to frequent it. The Schooner Bar with live piano music and singing was VERY popular every evening. The two-tiered disco named the Vault was decorated in retro fashion and suffered only due to the DJ (DJ Amir) who tended to play what he seemed to like more than to cater to his audience. For example, one evening there was a 70s theme and he was to play 70s music from 10:45-11:45p, but he stopped 10 minutes early (with a full dance floor no less) and started playing songs that I'd never heard of (and I have teenagers at home!). The dance floor pretty much cleared out and I'm relatively sure the bar lost money and customers. We doggedly stayed, though, hoping for a reversal of fortune; finally "Low" by FloRidA came on (and we were rocking it) and MIDSONG he cut to an unknown song. We turned our faces up to his booth and gave 4 thumbs down and left the Vault; no surprise, the Schooners Bar was hopping, with people dancing in the very limited carpeted space between the piano and seats (there is NO dancefloor in Schooners) and not to live music, but to the running track from the piano player's laptop!! We later told him he was a better DJ than the paid DJ.
ACTIVITIES: Activities-wise there was plenty to do, especially given the limited time we had on board due to the port-heavy itinerary. We were glad that bingo and horse-racing were NOT pushed and assume that is due to the more international crowd on European cruises, and regret there wasn't more nighttime karaoke as the evening at the start of the cruise was a lot of fun (with Amy from Wales). My kids didn't join the kids' clubs, largely b/c of limited time and b/c we always have them with us in the evenings for dinner and shows. My 13yo son loved the rock-climbing (I even tried it!) and ice-skating, and mini-golf and ping-pong and shuffleboard are always enjoyable. The "destination talks" were disappointing in that they were geared primarily to tell you where to shop, and didn't really give much helpful info as to sights in port. The main pool deck was always crowded and lively, but it seemed one of the pools was always covered with netting (never found out the reason) but had it been open, the crowding in the other pool would have eased. Hot tubs were routinely full. There is an adult-only pool, which is great to have, but quite a small area for swimming and the minimum age for an "adult" was never really clarified (or enforced).
I found it a bit strange to walk into the fitness area and find the largest hot-tub on the ship be there, but it grew on me. Plenty of exercise equipment, free weights, machines, etc, though it's disappointing that the days of FREE group classes seem to be over (spinning, Pilates, etc are all for-fee now). We didn't purchase any spa packages, so can't speak to that. Had only one day at sea, so didn't honestly use the fitness area much, but the bathroom was well-stocked with showers and towels and would have been a nice place to freshen up outside the tiny cabin space.
SERVICE: Our dining room attendants were great, attentive, friendly, addressing us by name after the first night, and a pleasure to interact with. OUr stateroom attendant (Celso) was wonderful as well: quiet and nearly invisible, never getting underfoot but always available (though I must say that we're pretty undemanding). My 16yo asked, "When does he sleep??" He tried to get our fridge fixed, the fact that it still didn't work after replacement wasn't his fault. We never asked for an ice-bucket in the room but could have, and he kindly sprayed my daughter'sstinky backpack that she'd thrown up on with some Febreeze stuff at my request and at least tried to make it better. Only interacted with one casino dealer (Lutecia from Uruguay) who was very nice.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment on board varied from great to so-so. The absolute highlights for us were the ice show (went twice); the Beatle-Maniacs; the Russian gymnasts the first night; the Argentinian Gauchos las Pampas on the last night were really funny; and Mario DeAndrea, the guitarist who was a consummate entertainer especially for a somewhat older crowd, but my kids enjoyed the entire evening too. The band that played in the Cleopatra Lounge was OK, but the ship lacked one band that could really do some rock and get everyone on the dance floor. The RCL singers and dancers were hot-and-cold, and the lead black woman was their strongest singer. It was a bit unusual in our experience to have the female dancers so outnumber the male dancers (by 2:1). As previously stated, the Schooner Bar pianist was very entertaining and never failed to get the crowd going, and Ian Miller, the guitarist in the Pig & Whistle Pub was a stalwart regular. The best price on beer was here too--only $4 for a Kronenburg, a veritable steal compared to other drink prices!
KOPER: Previously, I had never heard of this port, and it seems the fact that cruise ships stop here is still a novelty and seems appreciated by the general populace (unlike at another port I'll mention later). The ship docked amazing close to the old city area, just a short steep walk up some steps and we were in the old city, which is pedestrian only. A live band was playing in Tito Square and local women graciously offered us pieces of what looked like coconut cake (free!). The general air was festive and welcoming, and even though it was a Sunday, most of the shops seemed to be open (certainly only b/c of the cruise ship in town). We walked the streets/alleys and were enchanted by the sights and sounds of a small town: the clinking of glassware and smells of cooking, wash hanging on clotheslines outside buildings. The old town is small and easily seen in short shrift, even after visiting the church and museum in the square and viewing a short informative film there, so we headed to see about a local bus to Piran. PIRAN was mentioned in several of our references as even more quaint than Koper, so we awaited the bus, which would have taken us 45minutes and cost 3.70Euro pp, but a taxi van stopped and the driver offered a fare of 4Euro pp and the ride was only 20minutes! The drive along the coast was quite enchanting and we drove through Isola and one other town b4 getting to Piran. Piran, once the trafficked outskirt along the harbor is negotiated, is also primarily a walker's town, with narrow alleys and steep streets. The "lighthouse" at the end of the promontory was anticlimactic, but rounding the bend from the protected harbor, our breath was literally taken away by the change: wind whipped our hair and clothes, waves crashed over the concrete walkway along the edge, an entirely different feel on the ocean side of the town. We saw a young girl tourist sitting on a rock holding a freshly caught sea sponge the size of a football. Trekked up to the church and bell tower and had a look down the cliffs and then climbed further to the city walls, which afforded a breathtaking view (and time to regain our breath from the strenuous climb). Everywhere there were fig trees, which my son tried to harvest. Looking down at the town, it reminded me of Portofino, but with less cliff and more walkable area. So glad we made the detour outside of Koper to see more of the short Slovenian coast, but then headed back with the same taxi driver at a predetermined time to get back on board. Were astounded to see, as we pulled out during dinner,that the entire seaboard was lined with Koper inhabitants and they were waving at us as we departed! My cynical thought was whether they were getting paid to do so, but it certainly seems that the town, at least for now, appreciates the influx of cruise tourists and their $. RAVENNA: Was amazed that the Italian town of Ravenna, the mosaic capital of Europe, was not on the port list as yet. Decided to head out on our own, despite dire warnings of a 15km distance to town, and soon saw a local bus (#90) that took us to center city for 2Euros each (rather than the 15Euros pp cruise transfer). Were glad we didn't hoof it, since it was quite a long ride through malodorous industrial areas. When we got to Ravenna, walked along pretty much following everyone else until we reached the pedestrian-only section of this city and got oriented. The mosaics are amazing in their detail, luminescence of color, and overall condition and at our first stop we paid the all-inclusive price (15-19Euros pp) to see most of the recommended ones. Dante's Tomb is free, but we saw about 3 different places where he supposedly lay, so he must have moved around a lot! True, there are downsides to not taking an organized tour, but we prefer our independence (and the savings) to being minimally educated on a tour. In fact, we had taken many copied references with us, particularly from Rick Steves, but rarely took the time to read all the details, as the entire atmosphere too evocative. Read Less