Returned from a 5 night cruise on Enchantment of the Seas [2/19-2/24] with stops in Georgetown, Grand Caymand and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This is the first cruise for my family and I. I had been on a cruise with my parents about 20 yrs ago so I have limited experience cruising but other than that we travel pretty often.
Boarding was very quick and easy. The Royal Caribbean rep's are waiting down at baggage claim in Ft. Lauderdale to check you in if you've gotten the airport-port transfer through RCI [royal caribbean international]. We hadn't gotten the transfer and I chose to use a taxi instead. The taxi fare for the three of us was 7 or 8 bucks total and we didn't have to wait for the bus to fill up with the other passengers, we just got in our cab and left. Something weird though, the RCI people at the airport kept telling us not to bother going to the port so soon because we couldn't get on the ship and we'd have to just sit and wait. So they wanted us to sit and wait in the airport instead??? Anyway after we got our bags and the cab we were at the port by 11am. Went through port security very quickly as I had filled out all our boarding paperwork online at www.royalcaribbean.com ahead of time and we were on the ship by 11:30am.
First thing RCI does is hit you with "would you like a welcome drink for 5.95? comes with a free [plastic] glass!" We explored the ship and hit the Windjammer buffet which was open already for all the passengers. Food was most excellent. Sandwiches, wraps, and hot items. You aren't allowed into your rooms until 1pm so we took it easy, hung out on deck with most of the other people and waited until 1 to see our room. Our bags didn't get to our room until after the life boat drill at 4:30, no problem though because some people waited longer than that. Our dinner waiter told us they have to handle 4000 pieces of luggage! We brought a small bottle of hooch and mixer with us [official ships policy on this is 'no' but they look the other way] and had cocktails on our cabin deck [we had a junior suite deck 8, cabin 8060] and watched the boarding process and the other ships in port. We also visited the spa and made appointments for a seaweed wrap for my wife and a hot stone massage for me. If your interested in them book early because all the good dates times fill up quickly. You could always cancel your appt. with 24 hr notice. Lifeboard drill is no big deal to talk about. All the ships in port do it at the same time at 4:30 then it almost seemed like a race as all 4 or 5 ships in port hit the gas and left port at the same time. Our cabin attended introduced herself to us during that time. She filled our ice bucket twice a day, made up the room in the morning [actually late morning for us :) ] and turned down the bed at night. After the first day she got used to our schedule, when we got up in the morning, when were in the room to get ready for dinner and adjusted her coming and going accordingly. We tipped her well at the end of the cruise.
Also on the first day we visited the restaurant where they were confirming dining assignments. Our table had been preassinged and they showed us where it was, if the location was ok. AFTERTHOUGHT - I would've asked who we were sitting with kids/no kids .. because I'll get to that later.
Dinner was a very nice experience. Food was great. Our 14 yr old always found something she liked. She's probably going to prefer cheeseburgers and pizza by the pool grill but we encouraged her to try 1 new thing each night that she'd never had before and she found quite a few new dishes that she enjoyed (duck, escargot). Our waiter, assitant waiter and head waiter were wonderful. I can't praise their service highly enough. I hope everybody that reads this tips for good service! Don't be a cheapskate!
SUGGESTION: If you don't like your table mates, ditch them! Seriously, if you end up with people who are boring, loud kids or what I think is the worst, Complainers talk to the Head Waiter [discreetly] and ask for a reassignment. Having fun, outgoing interesting people at your table can really enhance the whole cruise experience because you've got instant friends onboard and after the cruise too!
The day at sea wasn't bad, just darn windy all day. The only place where the wind wasn't too bad was by the pool which was packed. Even though there are signs everywhere saying "don't reserve deck chairs" I think alot of people must've gotten up at 7am and put out their towels on the chairs by the pool. The nightly entertainment was OK, our daughter liked it. Its not Vegas but the dancers/singers had a lot of heart. The casino was fun. My wife loves slots and she said they were very tight, not alot of payouts. I like the tables and there were plenty of low limit tables each night. 1 dollar roulette, 5 dollar blackjack.
Jamaica - we wanted to shop for 2 items, coffee and rum. Buy the coffee at that Taj Mahal shopping plaza thats right by the port, we got a pound of coffee for $14 U.S. dollars ($50 a pound in U.S.!) The booze shop right by the cruise ship, its right next to where you go through security to get back on the ship has the cheapest liquor prices, 6 bucks for a bottle of Appleton dark rum. Speaking of booze, I'm used to all inclusive resorts where drinks are included and on a cruiseship you've gotta keep your Sea Pass practically glued to your forehead because your always pulling it out to pay for a drink, get on the ship, get off the ship at port (sometimes two or three times in a row) and buy stuff in the ship gift shops. We'd been to jamaica before and I'll tell you duns river falls is a both boring and a rip off. I did some searching of my own on the .net and found an all inclusive resort that has day passes that was Cheaper than the similar version offerred by RCI's excursion people. We took a cab to Beaches Boscobel in Ocho Rios and got day passes there. Beautiful resort.
Cayman Islands - we did the wreck and reef snorkling excursion , BYO towel!. Had an excellent time, Stingray city is quite a cab ride away and keep in mind you've only got a limited # of hours on this island. After the snorkling was done at about noon we took a cab to 7 mile beach which was about 2.5 miles away from the port (the cabs, and basically everything is very very expensive in the caymans, they charged 4 bucks per person for a 2.5 mile cab ride in a mini bus - each way!) 7 mile beach is BEAUTIFUL. Its a huge slightly horseshoe shaped beach with perfect white sand and aqua colored water. Its a public beach but there are beach grilles, bars and chair/umbrella rental stands every quarter mile or so.
Another day and sea and the next morning your back in florida. The last night on the ship is sort of a washout because you've gotta have your bags packed and outside your cabin door by 11 or 12 midnight. Getting off the ship didn't take long, they let you off according to how soon you need to get to the airport.
Here in NY the kids had a week off from school and there were a ton of kids on the ship 500 our of 2000 passengers, but they never bothered us. We chose the 2nd seating for dinner and there were practically no kids at that time. My SeaPass bill (onboard account) was pretty high. Drinks on the ship weren't cheap, plus they tack 15% gratuity onto everything. Food was free though, plenty of it and good quality. We had breakfast buffet once, breakfast in bed once, and breakfast in the dining room once (you order off a menu there). Lunch was a burger, pizza, fries by the pool. I noticed some people didn't go to dinner in the dining room every night. Your option but how often do you get the chance to dress up and try all those different kinds of foods.. lobster, steak , filet mignon, home made pasta and deserts?
Sorry if this is long. If you have any questions or comments feel free to hollar, Kevin from Rochester NY email@example.com