The following contains our personal reflections on our experiences, and do not necessarily represent another's perception of the very same set of circumstances.
Two sailings on Enchantment of the Seas, Jan. 20, 2002 and Jan. 27, 2002, back to back. I am 38, my wife 31, and we sailed this time with both our mothers (in their 60's) in tow, it being the first cruise for my mom. We are all from Montreal, Canada.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before, arriving at 7:00 pm. Everything moved smoothly, and we were at our Hotel/Motel by 8:00 pm. Note the music they play during the baggage carousel start-up... the Macarena & ship's horns, gets you into the mood. We had heard of "incidents" with the local taxi drivers, so we checked for ID inside the cabs, but couldn't find any. All four cabs we took ran the meters, and didn't rip us off. We stayed at the Airport Travelodge (actually nowhere near the airport), and were not expecting a classy establishment. We were not disappointed. It is not a very clean place. Walked and ate dinner at Wendy's, 2 blocks down.
Took a cab to the ship at 10:30, boarded at 11:15am, very smooth process, no incidents.Others in line with us were held up by unfinished paperwork. Fill it all out, folks! Apparently the ship was late clearing that morning due to passengers not showing up for customs inspection.
The Enchantment is very impressive in size and in the amount of glass and window area. Open spaces abound, and the windows eliminate any feeling of confinement, giving the ship a very airy, natural feel to her. It's like the ship belongs on the open water. We really like the Vision-Class ships, as my wife and mother-in-law are prone to motion sickness. The Enchantment was extremely stable, like our previous cruise on Splendour of the Seas. Sea conditions varied to as much as 10 foot swells, but no medication was needed. A bridge officer commented that our approach to San Juan harbour was "the roughest he'd seen in some time", and the ship took it in stride.
The ship has been some time since a significant re-fit, and it showed. Many carpets are torn, stained, and loose from their fittings in some places. Our cabin carpet was somewhat stained, and burned in spots. Lots of light bulbs were burned out, notably the ones inside the lounge tables, where you put your drinks. Many elevator buttons didn't work, or needed to be pushed with force. The mountings around some elevator buttons were worn and badly scratched. One button for floor number 9 was replaced, and was installed upside down. Nobody could figure it out, and there were two deck sixes for that particular elevator. The flaw was not corrected during the 14 days we were on the ship. The deck numbers are also worn off the elevator buttons, and quite a few up/down arrows and floor indicators do not light up.
There were walkers in our group, and we chose this ship for the wrap-around jogging deck on deck 10. This deck turned out to be impossibly windy on sea days (due to the absence of windbreaks found on other ships) and hot as Hades when in port. The walkers chose to use deck 5 instead, and this turned out to be fine... however they do close the bow are off often, making a complete circle of the ship impossible.
The solarium was a nice tranquil spot to sit and read, or swim & sunbathe, and the children only frolicked in the main pool hot tubs. A few notes. Pools are saltwater, jacuzzis are fresh. Main pool area closes at 8 pm, solarium pool & hot tubs stay open till midnight.
The ship is kept very clean, glass is shiny and all is spic & span. Pool decking needs new coat of paint in areas. There are many comfortable chairs indoors to just sit at, and lots of deck chairs available. Internet service is available at .50 cents a minute. The ship also has an ATM. A Seattle's Best coffee kiosk (charges apply) is located off the atrium on deck 6.
We were in inside cabins 3051 and 3535 on deck 3 forward. No upgrade this trip. The cabins are small but well-laid-out, with plenty of storage. Soundproofing is good. New features are a hair dryer at the vanity table and a shampoo dispenser in the shower.
Royal Caribbean is known for strict safety procedures, and this ship was no exception. We stood in the blazing sun for almost 30 minutes (twice) while the last passengers were rounded up. An elderly woman passed out during the second drill, and was carried away. The starboard side was more fortunate, being in the shade for the drill. Customs inspections moved smoothly at St. Thomas, and Fort Lauderdale (twice). Being Canadians, we were inspected in the Carousel lounge. I cannot speak for how smoothly it went for the Americans in the Orpheum theatre.
The food on the Enchantment ranged from fantastic to abysmal. Their strengths are the seafood dishes, fresh-baked breads and the desserts (Key Lime Pie is awesome!). Weaknesses are the beef dishes, excluding an excellent Filet Mignon and an acceptable Prime Rib. I had to send the sirloin steak back twice, and swallowed several other tough ones, because the chef had no idea how a medium steak was supposed to be cooked. The flame was up way too high. Most of the soup choices were pretty bad as well, and served lukewarm. We did like the cream of broccoli and Mulligitawny (Indian) soups. Salads were fresh and crisp, with three dressing choices.They also need more overall food variety, and more chicken dishes on the dining room menu. The Windjammer Cafe was acceptable in most aspects, having five hot choices daily, as well as a variety of fruits, cold sandwiches and salads. Desserts were mostly left over from the night before, but still fairly fresh. Frozen yogurt and cookies were served daily (except embarkation day) from 4 to 5 pm. There are times on this ship where the only food available on the ship consists of burgers, hot dogs, fries and pizza: 2:00 pm - dinner and anytime thereafter. Burgers & Dogs were good (ask for burgers well done, otherwise pink in center), pizza was the worst I've ever seen anywhere, just disgusting. There are no longer any hot foods served in the Gala buffet, however, the Caribbean deck buffet had several. The Taco station held up the deck buffet, because the meat was located after the fixings in the lineup. Stupid.
The entertainment this cruise was quite good, albeit over-employed. Juggler Billy Prudhomme was quite good but started to wear thin, as he appeared three times the first sailing, and was on the second as well. The comedians were passable. The Platters were good, and a real treat for the older folks. I could have done without the Motown filler-material and the "God Bless America" encore. A cheap pop from a legendary group who need not stoop to such things for an ovation.
The two shows, "Sweet Dreams" and "Flashback" were well executed, with acceptable dancing (some practice needed) and strong vocals, although a lot of the singing & music was pre-taped. Staging & multi-media were superb. The second show "Flashback" is somewhat abbreviated, with a break for a headline performer in the middle. For us, this was the second appearance (of three) of juggler Billy Prudhomme, now starting to wear a bit thin.
The pool band Mega Four, were very good, with a wide variety of material. However, they overextended themselves on a few occasions, notably on a reggae version of "Maria Maria" by Santana. Just Awful. The pool area and sound system allow you to find a seat where the volume is just perfect, and the older ones in our party were happy to sit and listen.
The disco on deck 11 was well-equipped and quite loud. However, here is my pet peeve: A disco is called a disco for a reason.. IT IS NOT THE PLACE to request rock and roll, oldies or other stuff that is played in abundance in the other six bars and lounges aboard the ship. We sat through 45 minutes of Rock-Around-the-Clock stuff one night, just because some drunk woman hollered from the dance floor for some "rock and roll music". Geez lady, go to the other lounge. The DJ did not have and/or did not play any of our requests for music from the present millennium. Other nights he played eight slow songs in a row (ZZZZZZZ ). What could have been really good was really bad instead. One good point is that security prevented the teenagers from entering the disco. The elevators were blocked from going to deck 11.
Crew and Cruise Staff:
The crew on this ship are very friendly and engaging to a man. I suppose it is the ship's policy for all crew to acknowledge and greet passengers when encountered. Several crew stated that the Enchantment was a happy ship, and they liked serving aboard her. Our cabin steward was very good, and adapted to our varying unpredictable schedule quite well. Our dining room waiters were very efficient, but still working on their english, so were not as friendly as others. The assistant waiters learned to keep bringing us soda by the second evening. Brownie Points earned.
The cruise director was just OK, not as engaging or funny as others we have seen, and his assistant, Phillipa was downright abrasive and annoying. The shore excursion director was one of the most boring individuals I have ever seen (monotone voice) and the Shopping Queen, Mandy was as perky as Kathie Lee. Other service personnel were polite and efficient.
Ports of Call:
We stayed aboard ship for the most part, as the ship's excursions were now prohibitively-priced for a group of four with Canadian dollars to spend. We did go ashore in Costa Maya, as it was a new stop for us, but only found the usual shops and trinkets. The beach here is 100 ft. long and full of seaweed. Needless to say, no-one was in the water. The rest of the shoreline is rocky. They have a tram on the pier to drive the truly lazy the 100 yards to the ship. We used it. There is also a big saltwater swimming pool in the middle of the shopping complex. If you are not into shopping for the usual mexican souvenirs, stay on the ship for this one.
RCI tends to attract upper-middle-class college-educated passengers, on this sailing aged from 40 to 70, with the median age around sixty. Most people are polite and talkative, with a few exceptions. The younger ones have yet to learn to say hi when encountering another passenger in the hallway. The Jeckel-and-Hyde thing happens on debarkation day, when everyone snaps it seems. We witnessed a woman literally yelling at another passenger because she wouldn't give up her table of four in the Windjammer. ("No saving tables!!!!"). The victim's family sat down 2 seconds later. It takes all types to cruise I guess...
Soft drinks are free in the main dining room only, not in the Windjammer. The soft drink card is $35 per week for adults, so you have to swill a lot of soda before this becomes worthwhile.... The soda card is cheaper for children. RCI also offered a frozen drink card, and a cocktail card, each limited to 10 drinks or so. An unlimited bar card was also offered at $37 a day (pick and plan your days to get hammered.... I suppose). Also, the fruit punch is no longer served in the Windjammer. Only Lemonade, Ice Tea and water. My mother is a water afficionado, and found quite a difference in drinking water quality at the Windjammer compared to the main dining room, the dining room tasting much better.
Drink prices have risen steeply since our cruise on the Splendour 4 years ago, so make sure you use the 2 for 1 coupon in the value booklet given to past cruisers. The bar staff applied the coupons to whatever we ordered, a big mix of drinks usually. Incidentally, the bar staff mix a mean Mai Tai. Bar service varied from smothering to spotty. In the dining room, we had to all stand up and wave frantically to get the bar waiter's attention for an aperatif. Bottled liquor on board: prices are up a bit. A liter of Bacardi is now $9, and was $7.50 on our cruise on Princess last year. Bailey's is 2 for $30.00, same as on shore.
The ship's staff was very adept at leaving junk mail (and of course, tip envelopes) in our cabin, and stuck on our door, however, they were not good at leaving unimportant stuff, like say, our final statement, our repeater's coupon booklet, the guest survey, and most of our hors-d'oerves & chocolate plates. We had to line up and get those at the purser's desk. Priorities........... One good point about this ship is that you can shut off the annoying announcements from being broadcast in your stateroom (sorry Mr. Bingo). However, if you like to sleep in, you will be shocked out of your bunk at 9am by a crew drill (that cannot be shut off) at least once during the cruise. And I defy anyone to sleep through that 15 minutes of alarm bells and announcements. The entire ship's menu was the same for both cruises. Considering there were a lot of back-to-back cruisers on this ship, this was a bit disappointing.
Speedy and smooth, however, a disconcerting note: quite simply put, we just walked off the ship, unchecked and unchallenged. Considering Sept. 11th and all, I was amazed at the security lapse. I could have had a kilo of cocaine or a rocket launcher in my carry-ons, and just walked away with them directly into downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Quality on RCI remains constant, even with the fluctuating rates, however, I feel it has slipped a notch overall since our cruise on Splendour of the Seas, 4 years ago. This is happening while the competition, namely Princess, are improving their product. If the cruise line maintains the low rates, I have no complaints, however, had I paid full price I would have a few issues. Would I sail RCI again? A qualified yes. They would have to offer more food choices and open a 24-hour lido restaurant before I go back. Perhaps the Voyager-class ships might be a better choice for us. Another more telling indicator is I gained 10 lbs. last year on Dawn Princess. This year on Enchantment, I didn't gain a thing.