This was cruise #4 for me but my first time ever with RCI. I am an administrative assistant (29-married) and was travelling with my cousin (23-married). We really wanted to give RCI a try, as everybody was telling us how RCI was upscale compared to NCL and CCL.
My past cruise experience: Destiny - July 2000, Fantasy - Nov. 1999, Fascination - Jan. 1999.
We booked our cruise a month prior to sailing date with our Sears Travel Agent. I was monitoring the rates thru the Cruisematch2000.com (RCCL internet for TA-which I have access). We got a deal at $323.75 USD per person with port charges for a run-of-the-ship rate. We could end up with no higher then cat. F (outside) or the least cat. Q (inside) on whatever RCI assigned us at embarkation or 7-10 days before sailing date. About a week before sailing, our TA called and told us that we were assigned with a late seating (as requested) and in a cat. G (outside stateroom) on main deck, cabin #4538. WOW, could not believe it, what a wonderful start!
ORLANDO We arrived a day early to avoid any flight delays or tropical storm effects. We had reserved an Avis rental car at the Orlando airport. Everything was ready and we picked up our convertible Chrysler Seabring with no delays and hit the road for Cocoa Beach which is about 5-10 mins from Port Canaveral.
We had made reservation at the Best Western Ocean Inn on North Atlantic Rd. The place is nice with a large pool and the beach is only ½ block from there. Lots of people and fun on the Beach. Nice boardwalk too. The in town Surf shop was open 24 hrs for all the sun bathing needs. We did some shopping.
DAY ONE - PORT CANAVERAL DEPARTURE We came by car (our rental from the Orlando airport) and dropped off our luggage at the pier and went back to Cape Canaveral at the Radisson Hotel to drop off our rental car (that is very easy - only Avis has that pick/drop convenience). The Avis shuttle took us back to the pier and got in at around 12H30. We were the next to process for checking-in; nobody was in line. As we were walking thru the lane, two or three times one of their agent asked if all of our paperwork was done and filled-in properly. Got to the counter, took 10 minutes to register (as we are Canadian citizen, they were asking for a green card, do not know what they were talking about, we only had our passport with us) finally everything was OK, got my Super Charge Account opened with my Amex credit card. They told us that only one cabin key is given and the other one should be in our stateroom.
We proceeded to board the Sovereign. Took our embarkation picture just before the gangway, then the photographer said "He Frenchies" because of our French Canadian accent that he recognized. He became our fried Dean for the next four days. He was from New Zealand and a pretty nice gentleman (if you ever happen to see or meet him at the Photo-Shop, tell him that the Frenchies says HI!)
Your first look is the Centrum. Yes it is nice. There was a guy playing piano, very calm, smooth and relax atmosphere. I loved the light colours but it is not as much impressive as what we had on the Carnival Destiny.
We went then to our stateroom. VERY SMALL (IMO), that was my first impression. We managed it though and it worked out well for two girls for only 4 days. You are only there to shower and sleep, not a big issue. The room was not completely ready, we had to wait for Erik our steward to vacuum the carpet. I noticed that there were no bathrobes in the cabin, I asked the steward and he recommended to make a request at the pursers. We left our hand bags and went up to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. After lunch, I went to the Purser for my bathrobe and was told that those were only for past guests or passengers in the suites, but the next morning, my room steward had found one just for me (at the end of the cruise I put an extra 10$ in his tip envelop just for that).
First disappointment, the embarkation lunch was serving only Hot-Dogs, Hamburgers, Pizza or Salad and Fruits. Nothing else but usual fast food and their lemonade, ice tea and cold water. As you enter the Cafe, they are welcoming you with a welcome aboard drink (like if it is free) and ask you right away for your blue card to charge it. I did not like it, it looks like a scam.
The service in the Windjammer was good though. We went on deck 3 to put a cash deposit of $150 on my cruise mate Super Charge Account. We also filled-in the explorations forms for the shore excursions and dropped them in the box at the Purser's corner. We explored the ship and ended-up at the pool, by the time we sat down and looked at our watches, it was the time for the safety drill 4H30. Went back to our room to get our life jackets and met on deck to our muster station. It took about 20mins to get everything organized as RCI take the presence of every passenger.
And it was 5PM for sailing time. All the cruise ships in Port Canaveral leave at 5, so the Carnival Fantasy was first out, then the Disney Wonder and us on the Sovereign.
The sail away party was fun. Their line "Electric Dance" and entertainment was getting almost everyone on deck involved. After the party, the Calypso Band was playing Island music. Went for a nap and got ready for dinner. We were assigned at a certain table, when we came in the Gigi Dinning room and looked at the people seating at our table, we turned around and asked for another table. They have spare tables for those request and we ended up at a table of 8 with 3 other couples. We were two single girls wearing cocktail dresses explaining that our husbands were left home for a celebration of our new marital status (I just got married on July 1st, 2000) and the other married young ladies did not look at us like preys anymore.
Our waiter was Walter, very nice, he met every single need we had, he was very efficient. The assistant -waiter was Susan also very helpful. The Head-Waiter was Mario, called Super Mario - Vroom Vroom Badaboum. He was so funny. He entertained us every night of the cruise.
Second disappointment, not much variety on the menu. I had steak (NY Strip Sirloin) and three times out of 4 dinner. The soup was just lukewarm. The appetizer portion were small, as well as the entrees. We manage to order two appetizers each and two entrees and that was fine to keep us full. We were on late seating and I found out that the service was a little slow there. We never got off dinner before 11PM, except on the Midnight Gala Buffet evening (10H30).
Around 11PM, we went at Disco Man Lounge for the Single party for everyone who is single, wish to be or want to be single (just to look, it was so funny). After, they had music of the 70's with their Village People impersonators. Lots of fun and new dances to learn.
DAY TWO - NASSAU While we were eating breakfast in the Windjammer, the ship was pulling in to Nassau harbour at around 10H30 am. The breakfast was again limited, scrambled eggs, prepared omelettes, bacon, sausages, hash brown and ham (no pancakes, french toast or even toast was served). The usual danish, cereals and fruits were available.
The staff was telling the passengers that we were very fortunate with the hot and sunny weather in Nassau since, they did not have sunshine while the ship was in Nassau since last May.
by the time they moored the Sovereign, we did got off and wave for a taxi hitting the wonderful Atlantis Resort in Paradise Island. (It was my second time in Nassau, as on my last cruise on the Fantasy we did stop there). It was 4$ each and took us in 5 min. to the Atlantis. We visited the inside of the resort and did successfully slip through without paying the 25$ US per person to access their lagoon. We were there just for an hour or so to visit and wanted to take some good pics.
At around 12H15, we went back to the ship and had lunch in the Windjammer. Again same Hot-Dogs, Hamburgers, Pizza, salad and one more variety a stew, (not very tasty). We were booked for the Yellowbird Party boat tour and had to be on the Pier at 1PM. This tour was fantastic. The ride is very smooth, taking you to an exotic island (facing Cable Beach in Nassau) to the sound of their Calypso Band playing smooth island music, very relaxing with unlimited rum punch. Onboard, some locals are selling pareos, tank tops or t-shirts. At the beach, you have more than an hour and a half to enjoy swimming, sunbathing or snorkelling (5$ for gear). On departure, it turns out to be a real party. With again, unlimited rum punch and more entertained music, they do limbo contest all the way back to the cruise ship terminal. They also sell you the picture they took at the boarding of the Yellowbird tour for 6$ or 2 for 10$.
We went to the pool and relaxed until nap before dinner. It was formal night so we went to the Salon for a blow-dry (27$) and dressed-up for the Captain's Cocktail Party in the Folies Lounge. Another big disappointment there, I took about 20 minutes to have some hors d'eouvre (canapes) and had only two each. They had an open bar with limited variety of drinks too.
At dinner, no lobster, just shrimps (but very tiny shrimps) I had the Filet Mignon and another entre of Duck. They were good but small portions again. We did not have dessert because we were rushing to go watch the "Not so newlywed game show" (at 10H15). It was hilarious. We've seen it on every cruise we've been on and every time we enjoy it as much as the first one. We were so tired (I think the unlimited rum punch in the afternoon was too strong) we went to bed early. We wanted to attend the Deck Party but did not make it.
DAY THREE - COCOCAY, BAHAMAS The scenery is awesome, that is the only thing. They only allow you to get off with one small towel each (at least Carnival has their large blue beach towels, especially for shore excursions) and they can sell you a spring water bottle for $2.95.
The first beach was so crowded when we got off the tender (around 10H45), we kept going and walked to the second beach. There was fewer people and we were able to get a lounge chair. We had rented the beach map for 8$ and got in the water when we found out that the bottom was very rocky. We knew it from past passengers who gave us that advice. And nevertheless lots of Jelly fish. WARK!!!! I could not swim, I was afraid that one stick on me. We stayed at the beach under the hot sunrays until lunch. They are well organized for the food on the island. We had ribs, beside their usual hot-dogs, hamburgers and pizza. The ribs were quite good (for those who have tasted the Carnival one's, do not be disappointed). They also offer their local drink: the Coco Loco, very good. I had a couple of them through the week. You can have it at any of the bars of the ship. We went back on board at around 3PM.
From 5 to 7PM in the Viking Crown Lounge, they had the Margarita Madness. I did not drink any of the Margarita's but I certainly had their good nachos and salsa.
Tonight was the Rock'n'Roll night. Our showtime for late seating was before dinner (7H15 PM). The show was good, better than on Carnival (after 3 cruises on Carnival in two years, I've seen always the same shows every cruise), IMO it was new and different from what I've seen. Not very long though, at 7H50 it was over. For dinner, steak again. We went to the Quest which took place in the Disco man Lounge at 10H30. You have to attend this one. It is the highlight of the whole cruise. So hilarious. Could not imagine how people get so involved in that scavenger adventure. We stayed in the disco for the dance music. The only thing is their band "Splash" plays and sings the same thing every night. They had rock'n'roll music during the band was having a break.
We tried to go to the midnight Gala buffet, we could only take pictures, the lines were so long to get there and I heard that tables were hard to find.
DAY FOUR - DAY AT SEA Went to the dinning room for breakfast. More variety there, egg benedict, blueberry pancakes, french toast and usual eggs prepared to your taste.
Hot, Hot, Hot and HOOOOOT! 95°, The pool area was crowded and lots of people were in the pool. The Sovereign of the Seas pool is huge. That is a plus. It is deep also. At 11AM, they were calling people to get some pool games going. It lasted about 20 min. IMO, too short to get everyone involved.
We stayed there from 10H30 Am till 4PM. At lunch we went in the dinning room and I had a pasta (spaghetti bolognese) was standard. They had a choice (in the dinning room) of Monte Cristo sandwich, hamburger, pasta or stew.
Farewell dinner: I had turkey that night. We handed out envelopes to the Waiter, assistant-waiter and Head waiter, as well as the room steward. We arranged to meet every one (dinner mates) in the disco at around 11H30 after setting up our Super Charge account and filling our suitcases.
We had fun that night all together and dance until 2AM. We had to get up early the next morning for debarkation as we are Canadian and we had to go to the Customs Officers to claim our passports.
DEBARKATION We were in the Finian Lounge at 7H20AM to proceed through customs and could only see an officer around 8H00. We had breakfast in the Windjammer and went downstairs in the Finian Lounge to wait for our colour tag to be called. We had booked the Kennedy Space Centre tour (55$, for a VIP tour and it is not worth it at all). If you take this tour you are one of the first off the ship. We were off at around 8H45. Claimed our luggage, passed the customs and boarded the bus for a ride of 10 mins. to the Kennedy Space Centre. There is not enough time (until 12H45) to visit. We only saw ¼ of it. The only good side, is they take care of your luggage, you do not have to worry about it until they get you off at the Airport. We were at the Airport around 1H45 and our flight was leaving at 4PM.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise because we were on a ship, away from home and work, under the sun. The weather was perfect and the cruise was a real deal and we could not say no, we wanted to try RCI. We did not feel any motion of the ship except on the return the last night of the cruise, as Hurricane Debbie was going toward the Florida coast.
I found that the food variety, entertainment (fun ship atmosphere), stateroom sizes was better with Carnival.
If I would have to go again to the Bahamas on a 4-day cruise, I would pick the Carnival Fantasy at anytime.
I would probably want to try one of the RCI mega-ship liner (Explorer or Voyager) to compare on a future cruise, but with the Sovereign, I was not impressed at all. Maybe our expectations were too high.
Carnival is still my favourite cruise line. It is only my personal opinion and there is all kinds of cruise ships for all kinds of people, it's just that Carnival meets more my personality.
I did keep all of the Daily Cruise Compass (daily activities planner), so if anyone would like to get copies of it, do not hesitate to contact me, I can fax or mail them for free. I will be pleased to help if anyone needs more information too.