About us: I am Karen,aged 46 and I traveled with my fiance, Scott aged 40. We live in the Adirondack Mts. in upstate, NY. This was my seventh cruise,all with Royal Caribbean, it was Scott's first (but not last!) cruise. The primary reason for us taking this particular cruise was because my Mom was going to be on board celebrating her 65th birthday and we thought we would surprise her by being on board as well!
01/19/02: We left the dreary,cold mountains in NY and ferried over to Burlington, VT airport for an 11 am flight aboard JetBlue to Ft. Lauderdale with a pitt stop in JFK. JetBlue boasts plush leather seats for all and individual controlled TV's for each passenger...no meals but a great way to travel! I had made previous arrangements for a 2 day pre-cruise stay at the Embassy Suites via Priceline.com and was not one bit sorry I did! We arrived on time at FLL and, after a phone call, the courtesy van came and picked us up. We certainly didn't mind the 15 minute wait in 80 degree weather either!
The Embassy Suites is a beautiful hotel with a spectacular court yard. There are waterfalls and streams with dining tables scatted among them! Too bad the food served there doesn't live up to the ambiance! We proceeded to our room on the 6th floor and I was overwhelmed that we managed to get a room with a small balcony overlooking Port Everglade! Since it was a Saturday evening we were able to watch as the Princess,Carnival and Celebrity ships departed!
Time to change into more appropriate cloths and head for the bar...the Embassy has a complimentary 5-7 happy hour every evening! After this we decied to have dinner in the dining area. As stated before...the food certainly doesn't live up to the rest of the hotel!
01/20/02: We awoke to find that during the night 3 more ships had come into port to take the place of the 3 that had left the evening before. This time there was a Royal Caribbean in place of the Celebrity.
Still wish I had some stronger binoculars so I could read the ships names! We took a nice walk and if you head across the street and behind the shopping centers you will see some beautiful yachts! It was very warm out even early in the morning so we spent the remainder of the day at the pool.
01/21/02: I woke up at 5:30 am to wait for Monarch of the Seas to arrive into port...finally at 6:30 there she was! What a site that was! It had been a few years since last I cruised and I just couldn't wait to set foot on board that ship!!! May sound silly ut I was overwhelmed with emotion!
We arranged with the front desk to have a shuttle van take us to the ship at 11:30 am. We had no problem getting on board...there were many check in spots but no waiting lines at all and we were on board before noon!
We were told our state room would not be ready until 12:30 so we took the oppotunity to photograph some of the bars,casino and showrooms with the absence of people! We then went to our stateroom #2076 and put our carryons away and got swimsuits on! Even though our cabin was down on the bottom floor it was very strategically located! Then up to the Windjammer for lunch. I was very impressed with the food. There was some Rosemary Chicken to die for as well as nice big fresh salads and fixings! After lunch it was time to find our place in the sun on the upper deck!!! Ahhh...that is the life!
As we were sitting there all of a sudden we spotted my Mom and Dad! I kept a close eye on them for about an hour and finally when I couldn't take the suspense anymore I got one of the bar waiters to deliver drinks and a note to my Mom! On the note I had written "Happy Birthday to you,happy birthday to you,you're away on a cruise ship, and we're on board too!" They still had no idea who was there with them and finally I went over and made my appearance! It was great! My Mom was so happy to see me and surprised as well!
Next was the muster drill....then sail away! Boy is it ever fun sailing away from Port Everglades! What a show the local residents put on!!!
We had late seating in the Flower Drum Song dining room so we stayed on the upper decks for a while after sail away watching the sun go down!
Then off to dinner and meet our table mates for the next few days! There was Pauline and John,Chris and Christie and Russell and Lealea all from PA.....and our waiter was Yogi from India and Martin from South Africa was our assistant waiter! What a great combination of people there was!
We had a great dinner and then a walk around the deck before calling it a day!
01/22/02: We arrived in Key West at about 7:30 am. Of course I had to go upstairs and watch as we docked! Always fun to watch! We had decided to have breakfast that morning in the diningroom. Not real happy...but we were trying to get a better cup of coffee than that which we had room serviced..YUCK! Coffee in general seemed better in the diningroom than anyplace else on the ship but the one really good cup was that served after dinner? Anyway, we had made previous arrangements to meet one of Scott's relatives at the pier in Key West. We all took a nice walking tour...stopped to buy some tee shirts and since we were due back aboard at 12:30 that was pretty much all we had time to do.
As we were derparting the Keys we could see that there was a sailboat race going on and there were hundreds of sailboats dotting the ocean! What a site that was!
Oh..and someone missed the boat and had to be rushed out to meet up with us! We never did find out who it was but the captain made a smart comment the next day.
I did want to mention that there were 3 other ships docked at Key West the same time we were..therefore making the marketplace and Duval St. VERY crowded.
That afternoon was spent sunning topside once again until the wine tasting that we attended. If you are a platnuim/diamond member you will find a coupon booklet delivered to your room and one of the coupons is for free entry to the wine tasting! It used to be a much bigger production with all the somliers there and free bottles of wine given away at the end of the presentation. There were at most maybe 12 people attending this...sad to see this happening.
We latter decided to purchase a bottle of Absolute for our room. The cost was $9.95/liter plus $9.50 per bottle to bring it to your room. This makes a total of $19.45 for one liter. Still WAY less expnsive than what we priced out both at home and in Ft. Lauderdale where prices were about $27.00 per liter!
This was also our formal night and the Captain's cocktail party. We did attend the cocktail party but went in the other door to avoid the long line waiting to shake hands with the Captain who's name ( I think!) was Sven Steinmoen. We had a formal portrait done but didn't really care for them.
Dinner that night was excellent as usual! Same with our waiter and asst. waiter! They were right on. Oh...istead of the Somlier's to pour your wine your asst. waiter has that job now.
01/23/02: We had made arrangement with my parents to have breakfast in the dining room this morning. Again...not pleased. The service is inconsistent. The food arrives at various times. Scott ordered a regular eggs,bacon and toast breakfast and recieved his toast (cold) about 15 minuted before his cold eggs arrived. To me it is a waste of time to eat breakfast in the dining room.
Since we weren't scheduled to arrive in Cozumel until 11:00 am we had time for a morning walk and a little shopping on board. We also gathered all our snorkeling and beach stuff for the day! We docked beside the Carnival Fantasy with the Carnival Pride on the other side!!! WOW is all I have to say! Every state room on the Pride must have a balcony! There were also 2 other cruise ships, and later 3, docked at the down town dock. At one point there were 6 cruise ships docked in Cozumel!
We found a taxi and headed to Playa Sol. At first I wanted to go to Playa Bonita but the cab driver told me it would cost us $60.00 round trip! Yikes! So we paid $24.00 round trip to go to Playa Sol. We also opted for the $35 entrance fee for the beach which entitled us to open bar and a buffet lunch. Upon entering you will find a neat little zoo to stroll through as well! The sand on the beach is very coarse. There are rocks upon entering the water and the water was rather cool compared to the Caribbean. I did see a star fish and some other surprises while snorkeling!
The buffet was also good. I would say it was worth the $35.00. Especially once we saw signs being put up that said hot dogs $5.00 USD and hamburgers $6.00 USD!!! On our way back to the ship Scott stopped and bought a Tee-shirt. I looked around the shops and got an idea of what I would purchase tomorrow in Costa Maya.....that turned out to be a huge mistake!
We ran out of time and didn't make it to Carlos and Charlies....but our table mates did! They arrived about 10 minutes late for dinner and only two of the four lasted through dinner! The diningroom was definitly quiet that night! After dinner was the Not So Newlywed Game..FUNNY!!! I was glad we finally stayed up to watch a show!
This night there was also a buffet present by the pool....but rain shortened it up a little.
01/24/02: Well...today we were supposed to visit Costa Maya. I had read so much information and just was so excited to arrive at this port! Really to be the highlight of the cruise....due to large ocean swells our Captain found he was unable to dock the ship. In exchange he gave us an hour open bar and steered the ship into sunshine all day long! Since this was also where I planned to make my Mexican purchases I guess you can say he save me money as well!
Today was my Mom's birthday she and I ventured into the pool which had alot of waves in it! We really had alot of fun holding on to the fencing that is provided and at the same time felt like we were in the ocean!
At 5pm we met in the Schooner bar for cocktails since my parents had the early dinner seating. Later we got dressed for dinner and headed up to the Viking Crown Lounge which is like a secret hiding spot. There is no one there? Why? This is the best place to be in the evenings! After that it was off to dinner again and tonite was lobster tails! I suppose I should mention our head waiter Romeo...who aside from one night taking our shrimps out of the shells...was the invisible man!
01/25/02: This was our scheduled day at sea! So, since we had one yesterday, today was mostly more of the same. I went in and fed the slot machines,bought a watch,found a photo of us to buy and purchased a couple more bottles of Absolute to bring home with us. Well...I had to buy something!
Also being a platnium member we were invited to a special luncheon. If you are a platnium or diamond memeber you really should take advantage of this. There were only about 20 of us on board taking up 3 tables in the dining room. We were lucky and had 2 officers sit with us. Amanda was hotel manager and Levi was head of housekeeping! And I don't know where the food came from but it was superb! We sat and chatted for 2.5 hours! Talk about a great way to spend the day! Afterward I hit the pool for a while and then we headed back to the Viking Crown Lounge to watch the sun set! It was beautiful!
Then time to have the final dinner with our new made friends. This is always a sad time for me!
01/25/02: We headed up to the Windjammer for a final breakfast and then got in line for immigrations. Everone is required to do this before they will clear the ship. Then the waiting for your color tag to be called begins. I did get a little nervous since we had a plane to catch and my parent (who were driving home) got called before us...but we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
One final person who I forgot to mention was Alphonzo our room steward. He was FANTASTIC...although invisible as well! We came home one night to a towel bunny rabit! Another night to a turkey and the final night to a puppy dog! He must have lurked around the corners because we very rarely saw him but his presence in our room was always known after we returned!
Final Comments....first the cons: The music around the pool needs help...except when the band is playing which is only an hour here and an hour there. The music in the Windjammer needs help too. The elevator service at times was a joke...but we got alot of excersize going up and down all those stairs! I just kinda felt sorry for the older folks or the ones with not real good knees!
Coffee.....YUCK. Except as I said the one cup after dinner.
Now for the Pros: The emploeyees on this ship LOVE thier jobs! I have never been on board a cruise ship that had so many happy employees! When they are happy it makes us all happy! The food was really good,so was the entertainment. All areas on the ship are clean. I didn't feel crowded in our room although I have not yet been spoiled by larger rooms or balconies! We didn't even use half the storage space that was available.
I personally would never have chosen a 5 day cruise. This was for my Mom! I felt that our time in ports was very limited and I have always wanted to stay longer even on my 7 day cruises! Next time I will look for 10 days! The Crown and Anchor must have heard members complaints because we had robes delivered to our room without asking,we had a nice coupon booklet out of which we used a few, and the luncheaon is a really nice idea!
In closing all I would like to say is I can't wait to cruise again!