Enchantment of the Seas
by Rob J
September 21, 2006
We are a (fairly) young couple (me 40, my wife 38). We live in Overland Park, KS and are the proud parents of 17-month old twin girls. Between the two of us – we have been fortunate to have cruised several times. Cruise lines we have experienced either individually or as a couple include: Windjammer ("Flying Cloud"); Carnival ("Imagination"); Princess ("Sapphire Princess") and RCI ("Rhapsody of the Seas", "Voyager of the Seas").
About the Review:
We arrived at the pier at approximately 1:45pm. We were immediately greeted by the porters who tagged our bags for transfer to the ship. As most travelers know – tipping baggage handlers is customary – if not expected. While there are signs posted on the main terminal building stating that the porters are salaried - and tipping is not necessary – it was our experience that the porters are not shy in asking for "a little something to help the poor". So make sure you have some $1 bills in your pocket when embarking and debarking the ship.
We had booked our cruise directly online through Royal Caribbean's web site – and also had taken advantage of online check-in prior to the cruise (aka "Set Sail Pass"). I highly recommend doing this as it greatly speeds the embarkation process. We entered the terminal - completed final processing - received our Sea Pass card (room key/charge card combo) and were onboard the Enchantment in about 10 minutes.
While our cabin was located on deck 2 and in the "bowels" of the ship – it was part of the new section that was added to Enchantment when she was stretched in 2005. A plus was that we enjoyed circular shower doors as opposed to the "stick to your body" shower curtains that I understand are still employed in the original cabins on the ship. And while the cabin was cozy from a space perspective - the cabin itself was organized efficiently and we found we had enough room for our clothes and storing our luggage. But fair warning: if you book this class of cabin – and you and your cabin mate aren't already "intimate" – you will be after your cruise!
I am also sorry to report our overall disappointment with the dinners served in the My Fair Lady dining room. Using my previous experience aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas and the Voyager of the Seas – I observed a considerable decrease in both the quality and variety of offerings for the evening meal. Not to say that the food was unacceptable – it was not. In fact 2 of the 4 dinners I would rate as good/very good (the lamb chops being very good). However, it just seemed that overall – the dinners have dropped a few notches in quality, options and appeal when compared to our previous cruise experiences with RCI.
Paul Rutter was our Cruise Director and did a good job overall. However – the member of the entertainment staff that most stood out in my mind was Joey Jack (or Jacks, or Jacques). This guy led a variety of entertainment activities – making them more interesting with his dry sense of humor (read: satirical) and timely delivery. Very funny guy.
Other noteworthy entertainment we enjoyed included karaoke in the Spotlight Lounge (MC'd by Joey) and an appearance by the "almost" Village People during the 70's disco party in the Viking Crown Lounge. Of course – no cruise aboard an RCI ship is complete without witnessing the game "Quest" – billed as the "wildest 30 minutes on the high seas" (and I believe it). We also enjoyed the Bon Voyage show featuring the magic/comedy of Levent.
Activity poolside included the obligatory belly-flop contest (kicked up a notch with the addition of a diving platform to maximize the "pain" portion of the contest). Conspicuously missing however was the horse racing that I had come to expect on RCI cruises during the day(s) at sea. Not sure if that has been removed from all cruises or just those with shorter-length itineraries.
Excursions and Activities Ashore:
Although the temperature and humidity in Key West were approaching unbearable even at 7:30am – I managed to coax myself out of the air-conditioned ship for a morning run. For those of you who are interested – it is approximately 1.5 miles from Pier B (where the Enchantment docks) to the Southernmost Point marker (at the end of Whitehead Street). Thus a roundtrip to the marker (via Duval Street and Whitehead Street) is approx. 3 miles. If you want to add another mile or so – you can run around Mallory Square and a few other places. I took this opportunity to "scout" places to visit before the hoard of cruise passengers descended onto shore.
When we arrived in Cozumel – there were two other Carnival ships in port. However, Enchantment was the only one that had access to the International Pier. For those of you who recall – Hurricane Wilma passed directly over Cozumel in October 2005. The devastation is still very apparent in the fact that 1 of the 2 international piers was completely destroyed and the remaining pier (where the ship docked) was heavily damaged and is still under repair. But the lingering damage is evident all along the coast as well – and you can see where locals are working hard to repair structures and replace sand on the beaches that was lost to the storm.
Fortunately – my favorite local restaurant Ernesto's still survives – albeit after a complete rebuild following the hurricane. I have been enjoying the authentic fajitas served at Ernesto's since 1994 when I began coming to Cozumel for scuba diving – and it has now become my wife's favorite place to eat when we are on the island. If you are looking to sample authentic Mexican cooking – I highly recommend Ernesto's. The restaurant is just a short walk from the pier (towards town) on the ocean side of the highway.
Following lunch – I returned to the ship to gather my dive gear and meet the others on the pier for our 2-tank dive in the afternoon. RCI contracts its scuba excursion (cost was $80 US) with Sand Dollar Water Sports. Sand Dollar did a very good job of organizing the group (there were 8 divers total from the ship) and getting us onboard the dive boat. Emmanuel was our dive master and Jonathan was the official videographer (in the event you wanted to purchase a DVD of your dive). We enjoyed two nice dives that afternoon; the first being a wall dive at Santa Rosa and the second a shallow drift dive at Paradise Reef.
As an FYI for those thinking about diving while in Cozumel - another well known dive operator "Dive with Martin" was located on the pier and was also offering a 2-tank dive that afternoon for $70 US.
Both the Windjammer and the dining room served breakfast from 6:30 – 8:30am the morning of departure. The Schooner Bar was open from 7:30 – 9:00am and the Pool Bar open from 8:00am – 9:00am for those wanting to purchase one last cocktail or as the case with my wife – a Diet Coke to enjoy with breakfast. As we had done the entire cruise – we made our way to the Windjammer for breakfast. Available was the usual fare – and although it was crowded with passengers – there was seating available without a wait. We completed breakfast around 8:30 and spent the remainder of our time onboard relaxing at a table by the pool. Around 10:30am – our group was called and we debarked from the ship.
Once off the ship – there was a brief wait before we were allowed into the terminal to collect our luggage. It was here that I experienced the only "hiccup" of the cruise. Because FAA regulations at this time did not permit liquids to be carried onboard the aircraft - I had packed 2 bottles of Kahlua and 1 bottle of premium tequila that we had purchased duty-free in Cozumel. The 2 bottles of Kahlua were packed snuggly into my rolling duffle bag – well cushioned by my clothes. The bottle of tequila was packed into my not-so-well cushioned dive bag – along with all my scuba gear. During the luggage transfer process – the tequila suffered a terrible fate as the bottle was broken when my dive bag was apparently thrown onto the concrete floor of the cruise terminal. Despite the fact that I had placed all of the bottles in a 6mm thick ziplock bag (as a precaution for this very event) – the bag did not contain the spilled tequila. Consequently – I arrived to discover that my entire dive bag (and its contents) had been soaked with Sammy Hagar's "Cabo Wabo" tequila. Bummer!
So the lesson here – CARRY your duty free liquor off of the ship – THEN pack it (snug and secure I might add) into your suitcase.