Voyager of the Seas - April 5 - 12, 2009
This is my thirteenth cruise, fifth on Royal Caribbean, second on a Voyager class ship and first on the Voyager of the Seas. I selected a PR (promenade view) cabin because I've never been in one before. Since my fifth cruise, as a result of a request for more information, I have been writing my review while on the ship, while it is still fresh in my mind.
I signed up for this cruise about one year ago to join a friend who I met on a ship tour. This will be our first cruise together.
Our roll call has been going strong for about one year also, and has over 10,000 posts. We will all finally get a chance to meet tomorrow and the next day. There are over one hundred people signed up for the Meet & Mingle.
Galveston is not the easiest port to cruise out of. The airport is in the north end of Houston and it is quiet a distance to the port. There are no rental car agencies on the island, which makes it hard on those that fly in. In fact, it is costing me as much to go from the hotel to the port as it is to go from Los Angeles to Houston by air.
When I have to fly to the port, I go a day early (just in case). The day started at 5:00am when my alarm when off. By 6:00am I was driving to the airport. I was actually at the gate before 7:30am and decided to look for someone from the roll call. I didn't see him, and didn't feel like walking around calling his name, so we will meet up tomorrow or Monday on the ship. He took the 8:00am flight to Houston; I took the 9:00am flight (both flights were on time). After landing I took a taxi to the Sheraton - Galleria in Houston (about $70 including the tip). I booked this hotel via Hotwire for under $100 per night. Not bad for a suite. Hotels in Galveston are $200+.
After putting my bags in the room I walked over to the Galleria (about two blocks away) and walked around. It seems to be a fairly high end mall. Then back to the room, upload the photos and started on this review.
And now that I am all caught up, photos uploaded, checked in by posting on the roll call (thanks to the free wireless Internet access) and finished my review up to this point; it is time for a nice steak dinner. I am in Texas after all, and there is a very nice steakhouse downstairs in the hotel.
Day one - Sunday - embarkation day
Because of the distance involved, and the lack of any rental car agents on the island, I decided to just hire a limo to take me to the ship. The cost was $135 plus tip, or about twice the cost of the trip to the hotel, and about three times the distance (which means it is less expensive than a taxi and far more comfortable). Originally I arranged for a 10am pick up. However, I was warned about construction delays along the route, both by on line posts and via an e-mail from Royal Caribbean to my agent. So I moved the pick up to up to 9:30am.
The driver was a little early, and I received the call in the room just as I was getting ready to leave (good timing). Check out was quick, since I incurred no additional charges beyond what I paid Hotwire. Of course there were no delays and I arrived at the pier at about 10:30am.
There is no one directing traffic, and there are two large ships in port, totaling over 6000 passengers coming plus 6000 passengers going. Nonetheless, I am surprised that there is a line this early to board the ship. First I have to find a porter. Then just as I am about to get in line, the door opens. As easy as that would have been to just walk in the door, I decide I am not going to cut in line. I walk toward the end of the line. About half way there the line develops a big gap for some reason, so I make a quick U turn and soon I am inside the passenger terminal. Since I am platinum, I have priority check in. I am the only one in that line. In minutes I am checked in and being served champagne in the waiting area. I decide to pick a chair close to the entry door and wait.
Shortly before 11:30 embarkation begins. I believe I was the first one on the ship (the new and gold members embark from a different area). I and the others who are platinum or better end up boarding through the crew entrance. In fact, because that is how we embark while on a ship tours, I recognize it as the crew entrance and assume I was directed to the wrong location. Even security seems surprised. However, it is soon confirmed that they are starting the boarding process, and that I am in the right place. A few seconds later I am aboard.
Again, because of the ship tours I have been on I know how to get to the cabin even before the official time. I have opted for a promenade view cabin only because I have never had one before. With this I can say I have been in all categories of cabins, inside, ocean view, balcony, suite and now an inside with a window.
I find my room steward and tell him that I am just going to drop off my carry on and then I head to the Royal Promenade to take pictures. A few pictures here, and few pictures there, and soon I am outside on the sun deck. I call someone who I know is on the way and tell him the captain is calling his name and he has five minutes to get on board or the ship will leave without him. It is still only 11:40am (about five hours before the ship is scheduled to depart) and my friend doesn't sound too worried about it.
With a few photos under my belt, I decide to head over to the Windjammer to eat. I am surprised at how many people are there. It is too early to be crowded, but it is also before noon and there a lot of people here.
After a quick lunch I head back out to take more pictures. I was on the Navigator of the Seas in August 2004. That ship does not have an Aquarium Bar. This ship does. It is on deck four near the aft elevators. However, at the time I was there I did not remember if it was near the forward elevators or the rear elevators. I walked right through it without realizing it was there because not only were there no fish, there was no water in the aquariums.
Only when I reach the forward elevators and don't see any fish do I realize what has happened. I back track to the Aquarium Bar and verify that indeed the aquariums are empty. I see a crew member just outside and ask if this is the aquarium bar. It is the cruise director and he verifies that it is the Aquarium Bar. So then I say, "Shouldn't it have some fish?" At about this time he sees my shirt and realizes I am one of the many passengers that is a member of an online cruise forum. I invite him to our Meet & Mingle, however, he does not know if he will attend (it depends on his schedule). He does confirm that he goes online to see what is being said about him. We chat awhile and then I go off to explore the ship some more.
Soon it is 1:00pm and I head over to the cabin. My checked luggage has not arrived yet. So I just splash some cold water on my face. Then there is a knock at the door. I open the door to see who it is, and it is my checked luggage. I drag it in and go back out for more pictures.
About 180 photos later, it is about 2:30pm. Some of us from the roll call are going to meet at the pool bar at 3:00pm. So I head back to my cabin. Splash more cold water on my face and unpack. I put my passport and extra money is the safe (it is the enter your own code type). Then it is off to the pool bar to meet some of the people from my roll call.
I bring four coupon books with me (three from prior cruises and one from this cruise) and hand out coupons that I am not going to use. I don't get them all handed out, so I'll bring them to the meet & mingle tomorrow. It is good to finally put a face to those I have been chatting with for the past 50 weeks on the roll call.
Soon the announcement for the muster drill is made and I head to my cabin. Just as I get my lifejacket the alarm sounds. Though fairly quick, the muster drill is a little disorganized. As I exit the door on deck four, the first group is C6. I am next in C8. However, the two groups seem to be encroaching on each other's space. Eventually room is made for all. Then at the end the captain speaks. He announces that as soon as he finishes talking the drill is over. I hear people unbuckling their life vests and decide to do the same with mine. So I am not paying attention to the C6 group. However, I do hear the people in charge of our group saying you can't leave yet. As soon as the captain finishes I turn to leave and see that the entire C6 group is gone.
Up to the cabin, drop off my lifejacket and then back down to the helipad for sail away. A very strong wind is blowing the ship toward the dock and I am honestly surprised the ship was able to move away from the dock. Soon it is 5:26pm, and although we have not left the harbor yet (we have turned 180 degrees and we are heading for the open sea, we just have not exited the harbor yet). Dinner is at 5:30 and I don't want to hold anyone up. I arrive at the table only to see that it is empty. I figure everyone is coming when I realize that two of the people standing in front of me are talking about our table (there are eight of us). When one of them says something about changing tables I figure I better let my friend know that I am standing right behind him.
It seems Royal Caribbean got half of the reservation wrong. Four of us are at one table and four of us are at another table. So we are all reassigned to one of the Anytime Dining tables and we are all together in a prime location.
Everyone at the table orders the prime rib except the teenage girl who is a very picky eater. The prime rib is very good.
After dinner I decide to upload my photos to the computer and then do a little shopping. I run into my friends and we talk about one of the people on our roll call. I am getting a little tired (too much sun) and decide to go up to the cabin and rest a bit. I wake up at 10:30pm and decide to work on this until the parade begins at 11:00pm.
I leave the drapes open (the windows are not mirrored, so the drapes have to be closed if you want any privacy). Interestingly it is not the noise (which I can not hear) that alerts me to the beginning of the parade, but rather the flashing lights. So, anyone concerned about noise in a promenade view cabin need not be.
Unfortunately, not being able to hear anything makes viewing a little dull, so after a few pictures I am back here typing. The cabin is a little smaller than most, at about 152 square feet. All the Voyager class PR cabins sleep only two. The cabin seems to lack some of the drawer space that I recall from my balcony cabin on the Navigator. Otherwise it is very similar to ocean view cabins, except that the view is of the interior Royal Promenade. It also has the switch for the bathroom outside the bathroom and on the hinge side of the door, which means if you enter the bathroom and forgot to turn on the light, you can not just reach outside the door and turn on the light. You have to exit the bathroom, close the door and then you can turn on the light. If they cannot put the switch on the inside of the bathroom, then why can't they at least put it on the latch side of the door?
Well, it is a little after midnight, so it is time to close the drapes and get a little sleep.
Day two - Monday - day at sea
I wake up and I am immediately greeted by the problem with all inside cabins. There is no way to tell what it is like outside without physically leaving the cabin. The bridge channel (all bridges all the time) states that we are moving at over 21 knots. This seems a little fast, since Cozumel is close, until I remember that it is actually closer to Miami than it is to Galveston.
I can feel a little movement of the ship. The bridge channel (what I call the travel channel) says the wind is blowing at 30 knots. No wonder the seas are rough (7.5 to 12 feet). The last time I was in seas this rough was on a 90,000 ton ship. The Voyager of the seas is about 50% bigger and does feel like it is moving less.
I miss the connection with the sea. Besides being able to go outside and get a good feel for what the weather is like, I enjoy sitting on the balcony in the evening and typing my review. My next cabin, on the Mariner of the Seas in about two months, is one of the prime hump balcony cabins.
At any rate, I get up and find that the shower is both hot and full pressure. Then it is off to the Windjammer for a breakfast of consisting of eggs, bacon, fruit and juice. However, after breakfast I explore the rest of the Windjammer and come across the cook to order omelet station at the rear of the Windjammer - with no line. This is too good to resist, so I end up having a big breakfast.
After breakfast I decide to add to my picture collection and to do some souvenir shopping. Soon it is 10am and time for our cabin crawl. We get to see an inside, my PR cabin, a D & E balcony cabin, a junior suite and a grand suite. I knew that the junior suites had walking closets, but was surprised to learn that the grand suites do not.
At 11am it is time for the Meet & Mingle. The CD is there. When he asks if there are any questions, I cannot resist. I ask when Los Angeles is going to get a Freedom class ship. In case you don't know, about six weeks ago Royal Caribbean moved a Voyager class ship (the Mariner of the Seas) to Los Angles.
The CD tells us that he checks the online forums frequently and is well aware of the current hot button issues, including the Royal Champions and change in the perks for Diamond members.
After the M&M we go for our slot pull. Each person puts in $20 and at the end we end up about $1 ahead (we split the winnings and won enough for $21 per person). After the slot pull I join my friends for lunch in the dinning room.
Shortly after lunch it is time for the ice show. As in the past, the ice show is something special. The tickets are free and I would rate it a must see.
Shortly after the ice show it is time for our first formal dinner. Once again, dinner is very good and after dinner I get my picture taken with the captain and pose for one photo. Then I meet up someone from the roll call for drinks before heading to the show. The show tonight is Knight Magic, and he is fantastic. Another must see.
Well, tomorrow I have an early morning date to walk on the ocean floor, so good night for now.
Day three - Tuesday - Cozumel
I wake up in time for sunrise. However, it is too overcast, and the sunrise is not very photogenic. A quick scan shows that we are following the Carnival Ecstasy and ahead of the Carnival Fantasy. The Carnival Triumph is already docked. We dock on time.
Unfortunately it is very windy and most of the water activities, including my helmet dive are cancelled for safety reasons. So I decide to head over to Chankanaab Park to take pictures, then I'll go to downtown. This is my third time here and I've never been to the downtown area.
I see someone from the roll call and ask where they are headed. They are headed to the same place I want to go. So I ask if we can share a cab, and my $10 taxi fare is reduced to $5. The cost to enter the park is $16.
I explore the park and discover a lagoon where there are fish. I go to the nearby restaurant to see what breads I can buy. I don't see anything on the menu that is going to provide me with the fish food I am after. When the waiter asks me what I would like, I tell him all I want is some bread to feed the fish. He tells me to wait and comes back with some crackers. He is willing to give them to me for free, but I give him one dollar anyway.
Soon I have lots of fish swimming around where I am throwing the crackers, and I get some good fish photos, as well as several photos of the park. I also decide to take advantage of hammocks and relax for a while. The red flag is out, so no one is swimming in the ocean.
After a few hours I take a taxi to downtown, which costs $10. I walk around downtown for about thirty minutes, and then I take a taxi back to the ship, which cost $7. At this point I am hot, tired and hungry. So I decide to head to the pool for a quick dip. The pools are also most empty, and I have the pool all to myself.
After a quick dip I am just hungry and tired. Unfortunately this ship does not have a pool side grill and the Windjammer has a dress code. I need shoes and I didn't bring shoes to the pool. So it is back to the cabin to get dressed, then back to Windjammer for a pasta lunch, including a stop at the cook to order pasta station.
Unfortunately my allegories are acting up and it is making me very tired. So I decide to rest until the welcome back party at 4:45pm. Then after that it is time for dinner. And, since the ship has left the dock, the general store is open and I can buy some Benadryl. The side effect is that it makes me sleepy. However, that is preferable over having a stuffed nose.
Dinner is at 5:30. I decide to opt for the optional $15 steak. This is actually a $13 steak plus a $1.95 tip. It is a Chops quality steak (there is no Chops on this ship). Of course everyone wants to know what I thought of the steak. Well, it was very good. However, I don't think it is worth $15 more than the free steak because the free steak is also very good.
Now, because of my allegories and the medication I was taking, I was very tired, so I just lay down and rest until it is time to go to sleep.
Day four - Wednesday - Roatan, Honduras
Today we (I and four others from the roll call) have arranged a private tour with Victor Bodden. The tour we have arranged is very similar to the Pirates, Birds & Monkeys of the Caribbean ship tour. However, this tour is about 30% less than the ship's tour. In fact, at some of the stops we ran into some of the people that were on the ship's tour.
We had a tour of the island, stopped at an iguana farm, where the iguanas are so used to people that you can pet them (the wild iguanas at Chankanaab Park would run from people). But my favorite was the monkey refuge. The monkeys are not shy about jumping on people and checking out what is in their pockets. One in the group got a great picture of me making a face while a monkey used my nose for a foot hold.
The tour was about four hours, cost $25 per person, plus $8 per person at the iguana farm and $2 per person at the monkey refuge. It was a small group or five people and we could control the itinerary. For example, since it was overcast, we skipped the beach stop. You don't have this kind of control with a ship's tour.
When we return I am still battling the effects of the Benadryl and decide to grab lunch and then rest up for the Murder Mystery Dinner, which begins at 7:45pm in the High Notes Nightclub on deck 14. We meet the soon to be victim and the suspects. Then we walk down to deck 11 and have dinner at Portofino. The menu is scaled down, with only two choices, steak and seafood. I had the steak which was very good.
During the dinner we learn who got shot. Each table gets to ask one of the remaining suspects one question. All the people who name the correct suspect are put into a drawing and nine names are drawn. The winners get a prize. I didn't name the correct suspect. However, for reasons not explained, everyone at our table received a bottle of champagne.
The dinner is limited to people who are 13 and older. The reason is obvious. The dinner takes three hours. One adult got tired of waiting and just left, leaving his wife to enjoy the dinner alone, and confusing the wait staff.
After dinner I would have like to stay up for Fountains. However, when I return to the cabin I realize I have signed up for a 7:15am ship tour. I am still tired, so staying up late with an early morning tour is not an option.
Day five - Thursday - Costa Maya
I am signed up for the ATV Jungle & Beach adventure. Many of my firsts are done on ship tours. The first time I rode a jet ski was at Labadee. The first time I ride an ATV will be here at Costa Maya. And the reason I choose the early morning tour is that I did not want to be doing this in the heat of the afternoon. As it turns out, that was a wise choice.
While waiting for everyone to show up I see someone with a couple of squirrel monkeys. For $5 he will take my picture using my camera with the two monkeys on my shoulder. Sounds good to me. He seems to me trying to get the monkey's attention, so I wiggle my finger in front of the monkey. My reward is a bite. The photos session continues without any further injury to me.
We get a quick lesson on how to drive the ATV and then off we go. We start on a public road, which is good, as it gives me a good chance to get a feel for the vehicle. When we go off road, I am expecting sand and dirt. Instead what we get are rocks and tree roots.
I would not want to ride on a horse on this "road", let alone a small powerful vehicle. I seem to be going up and down as much as I am going forward. The throttle is controlled by the right thumb. Each bump means a sudden change in the throttle setting. A smooth application of power is impossible. I finally shift to second just to cut down on leverage the motor has which at least smoothes it out a little bit. Nonetheless, I end up with blisters on both hands as a result of the death grip I have. My right arm is taking the worst of it because I also have to control the throttle with my right thumb. Simply put, I am very happy when the off road portion of the trip is over.
We end up at a beach. Some people take a quick dip. I decide to check out the hammocks until it is time to go.
When we get back I pick up a couple of souvenirs and eye the pool that is available to cruise ship passengers. However, I finally decide that I don't really want to go out to the pool with shoes that I would then have to keep an eye on, and I wasn't going to walk out to the pool without shoes. So, once back on the ship I grab a quick lunch and then head out to the pool. However, I decide that I would rather soak in the hot tub (which was more like a warm tub) then cool off in the pool.
To my surprise the little kids in the hot tub (I would guess four or five years old) are very friendly. Unfortunately they only speak Spanish and I don't. However, for some reason I am very interesting to one little girl. She gets her father to translate. She wants to know where I live and what my name is. I have no idea why I was so interesting to this little girl, but I didn't mind. Even her father seemed a little surprised when he tells me that his daughter asked him to translate for her.
I finish up the warm soak with a cool dip in the pool (the pool temperature is 77 degrees). Then get ready for dinner. It is Italian night, so I go with the pasta. Toward the end of dinner the waiters and waitresses sing to us.
I've been off the Benadryl for about 24 hours now, so while I am not as sleepy, but my allergies are starting to come back. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that I will not need to take the Benadryl. Tonight's show doesn't interest me, so I decide to get plenty of sleep.
Day six - Friday - day at sea
Because I went to sleep early, I wake early. I am on deck at 6:30am, however, the sun has already risen, so I take a few pictures just to prove I was up early and head off to the Windjammer for breakfast. Actually the Windjammer is not even open yet, so I have to walk all the way back to the Island Grill, which offers the same menu plus it has a cook to order egg station. Today I decide to get to eggs easy over. Being a day at sea, most people are sleeping in and the pool deck, sun deck and Windjammer are mostly deserted.
Back to the cabin to wait for an important phone call. The occupants of the Royal Suite are going to let me come over and take pictures. Soon the call comes and I get plenty of pictures of the Royal Suite. There are two others from the roll call also in the Royal Suite. We talk a while and then they head off for BINGO.
I head back to the cabin to get my last two BINGO coupons and give them to the people playing BINGO. Meanwhile I head off for some more shopping. There are lots of good buys because in nine days the ship is headed for Europe.
Then back to the cabin to store my new found bounty, upload my pictures and bring this review up to date.
With my allergies acting up, my early rise and this being a (lazy) day at sea, I decide to just rest and watch a little Discovery Channel. Then I head up to the pool deck to cool off. After a nice swim it is time to return to the cabin for the last formal night.
We are treated to another delicious dinner. In fact, the quality of the food has been the best I have had of my five Royal Caribbean cruises. Most at the table order lobster, however, I'm a steak kind of a guy. After dinner I decide to get in more photographs, as I only posed for two after the first formal dinner, and one of those never showed up.
Then it is time for the production show. It is a musical tribute to prior Oscar winners. It is good, but I prefer a little more energy. Then it back to the cabin to rest up for the final full day of the cruise, a second day at sea.
Day seven - Saturday - day at sea
This time I am in no hurry to wake up. Basically my goal is to just take it easy and pack. Unfortunately the cruise ends tomorrow morning. I booked a tour, so I'll have priority debarkation (which means getting up early) and a fairly inexpensive ride to the airport. I have booked a late flight so that I can take the tour. The two hour time difference works in my favor and I'll arrive back home at a reasonable time.
One of the things I did was to check out Adventure Beach. This area does not exist on the Navigator or the Mariner. The reason is that it was under used. Basically it is a water play area for the pre-school crowd (the water is eight inches deep), and sure enough, there are not many using it. On the Navigator and Mariner this area has been turned over to the teenagers, who have a back deck all to themselves along with a separate Fuel (teen disco) and Living Room (a place for the teens to just hang out).
So, what do I think of the cruise? Well, as I said, I booked the PR cabin just so I could say that I have been in one. However, I miss the opportunities a balcony provides for going outside and just relaxing or finding out what the weather is like. So for now on, except for the short cruises, I'm going to book a balcony. The food and service were fantastic . I just wish my allergies had not acted up so much. Next time I'll bring some over the counter stuff from home.
I liked the itinerary. Not being able to go in the water in Cozumel was not a big deal to me. I wanted a chance to explore Chankanaab Park and I took advantage of the change in plans. I really enjoyed the monkeys, and if I am in Roatan again, I'll visit them again. I'm glad I had the chance to experience an ATV, but that will be the last time. I can see where this would be fun off road in sand or dirt. But bouncing up and down on rocks and tree roots was not fun. Unfortunately because of my allergies I did not do as much on the last two days as I would have normally, but then again, one of the reasons I enjoy cruising and sea days is the relaxation it affords, and I did get a chance to relax. I just wish it had been more by choice rather than by how I physically felt.
Overall, I would give this cruise four out of five stars.
Day Eight - Sunday - debarkation day
Debarkation did not go well. Apparently this was Easter vacation in Mexico. About one third of the passengers on the ship were from Mexico. Of course there is nothing wrong with that. However, non-citizens take longer to process than US citizens do, and since many of the Mexican citizens opted for self debarkation, things started out bad and remained that way. I heard stories of people not clearing customs until early in the afternoon and people boarding the next cruise starting boarding much later than normal.
Fortunately I was on a ship sponsored excursion and so I was given priority. In fact, they cleared the way for all of us on the tour. The looks we received from some of the passengers still waiting in line was not what one would call a friendly look. We visited NASA and a museum in Houston plus received a driving tour of Houston on the way to the airport.
Not only was it an inexpensive way to get to the airport, but the tour was pretty good also. If you can take a late flight out of Houston then I recommend this tour. If you can't take a late flight out of Houston, then I recommend that you don't take this cruise during Easter week.
As I look back on this review, it is not as long or detailed as usual. Also, it does not normally take me six weeks to finish something that was ninety percent complete before the cruise was over. However, I was Sneezy most of the cruise which made me Sleepy and Grumpy. I feel like Dopey for not going to Doc earlier. But I'm doing much better now, so I am Happy and a little Bashful about admitting that I waited four weeks to get my allergies taken care of once I got home. Read Less