Christmas Cruise Dana Bland Age: 33 Occupation: Administrative support, clerical Number of Cruises: 1
This was my first cruise, I cruised with Mother (age 61) and sister (age 39), also their first cruise. We decided on a cruise for the holiday as an alternative to the usual holiday happenings. This was the best vacation I have ever had in my life! I have very few gripes, but will include them. We really enjoyed this cruise so much that my sister and I have already booked another cruise for April 27 on this ship.
We had a air-to-pier transfer with RCI and we found the RCI representative right after getting off the plane, just about. This was an exciting moment, but the reps did not do the best job at telling us exactly where to go, and though they said for us to look for "the man in a blue shirt," the man had a black coat on, so it took us a while to find him and we did a lot of walking outside the bus/pick-up area looking for the right bus, there were no signs for RCI or our ship at the bus terminal. That was no big deal, though, we found it. Our bus driver was entertaining and gave us many laughs on the hour long ride to Port Canaveral. We had done our embarkation forms online and had the Bahamas forms filled out in advance. We arrived at the Port at about 2:30 and were told before getting off the bus to have our forms out and ready, we had a VERY long line to wait in, it took about an hour to get through that, but with all of the people I was amazed at how efficiently the whole thing went. The three of us wanted separate Sign & Sail charge accounts, I was not sure if that would be okay, but it was fine and just took an extra few moments of filling out the short forms. You can also request a cash account. After we made it through getting our stateroom keys and such, we went through security, then to have our pictures taken, and then we were on board! After dropping off my carry-on to the stateroom, I went to the Windjammer for a snack, but it was obvious that they were getting ready to close, but I was able to have a snack. Over all, the Embarkation process was smooth. I'm certain that had it not been Christmas, things would not have been quite as busy. Our flight for the April cruise will get there much earlier! If you can manage with a pre-cruise hotel stay, that would be a good thing, I have to work the day before the cruise so it is not an option for me.
The stateroom on the Tween Deck was small. I mean, really small. I expected small because I read all of the reviews for the ship, but wow! It worked out well for the three of us though. I packed light and there was plenty of room under the beds for luggage. I was also pleased that there were more than enough clothes hangers in the closet for us to use, as well as several shelves to store shoes and such. I did not see a hairdryer, so I'm glad we had packed one. They did have a shampoo/conditioner dispenser in shower, and plenty of soap was provided. The view from the ship was great, too, we had a great view of Co-Co Cay. Our stateroom attendant was nice, we only met her once, though, so we did not get to know her. She left us with a few cute towel animal creations, which was very nice. We were rarely in our stateroom, but every time we were there, the room was tidy and well organized. This room was equipped with the pull- down bunk bed for the third person, which I took. Even after having had several drinks each evening, I never had a problem with this. But then again, like I said, we were not in the room much, I think I slept only a few hours each night. Here is my only gripe about the stateroom: Deck 7 is above deck 6 and people do running around the ship on deck 7 and you can really hear it and feel it. When I returned from the tour of Nassau & Paradise Island, I wanted to take a short nap because I had not gotten any sleep, but that was just not possible. Like I said, I was rarely in the room, but in the morning getting up and dressed, you could hear it, and the same goes with getting ready for dinner, it sounded like the running of the bulls at times. Again, not a big deal and certainly nothing RCI can do about it, and I'm sure that there are little things like this anywhere you chose to reside on a ship. It is possible that if you book an inside stateroom on deck 6 you will not hear the thunder of runners.
The ship was decorated with a Christmas theme, which was elegant and traditional, very classy and not overdone.
I was somewhat nervous about this ship after having read so many different reviews. This was my first cruise and I'm not spending vacation time nitpicking about the carpet, etc, but let me tell you, this ship was beautiful, clean, and I saw very little signs of wear and tear. The only time I saw anything unkempt was in a ladies room near the Windjammer on the pool deck, it had been neglected, but I was not surprised because of its location, it is probably the most used facility with the exception of the restrooms near the casino. The only reason why I remember this is because I was so shocked because every restroom I had been in had always been so clean. I do not gamble but went to the casino to watch people play, I did play a little on the slot machines. I think I broke even. I spent a lot of time in Finian's Rainbow lounge, they had a great band and several activities, like the Quest game, which was very funny. They also had adult Karaoke every night. My only problem was that the bar service was not the best on Christmas Eve, I sat in the non-smoking section and there were many people waiting for a bartender to come around. Well, they were all on the other side at the smoking sections, after about a half hour, I left. I guess because it was Christmas Eve, maybe the staff thought people don't like to have a few cocktails? I even went to the pool deck and to the Schooner Bar and lounge and no one asked me if I wanted anything. Finally I went to the Viking Crown Lounge and bar and was almost immediately asked if I needed anything. To me, it was a mere annoyance, but I was okay because I enjoyed walking all over the ship. The Music Man lounge (disco) was great, too, plenty of staff chairs and good crowds of people, not overly crowded at all, probably because this was a very family theme cruise because of it being Christmas. The elevators are slow, yes, but for me that was okay, I have lost over 100 pounds in the past year and a half and welcomed the activity. When I was alone I took the stairs everywhere without even trying to hale an elevator, I feel like I "got to know" the ship better by doing so. If you are not into taking the stairs, this could be an annoyance, but relax and just be patient about it. Your biggest problem with the elevators might not be the actual elevators, but the people who are rude and don't keep the elevator doors open while you run across the lobby to try to get a ride, or try to just push you out when the elevator gets to their floor. All-in-all, I think Sovereign of the Seas is a great ship, She is beautiful, not neon and flashy.
Co-Co Cay and Shore Excursion -
We booked our excursions online as soon as we received our travel documents, which came about a month before the trip. You can book excursions on the ship, too, there is a video about excursions that plays on the TV in your stateroom and the Shoe Excursion Desk hours are listed on the Compass.
Since we were up early Monday morning and had our breakfast in the dining room, we lucked out and made the first tender to the private island. There were an abundance of lounge chairs and the beach never felt crowded. The weather was partly cloudy and was about 82°F and the water temperature was said to be about 72°F. My personal goal for this cruise, being my first, was to try snorkeling for the first time in my life. I was happy that the snorkeling was all day and included the necessary equipment. I was not 100% impressed with the "lesson" we received, but the "instructor" was accommodating when a few of us stayed with him to ask a few more questions. He also knew a lot about what kind of marine life we could expect to see, and even explained to us how the equipment is cleaned, sanitized, and maintained. The water was cool at first, but once submerged, it was nice. For me, the snorkeling was awesome, I love to swim and be in the water, I was in total awe when I started seeing sting rays and several different types of fish, the water was very clear and there was a "ship wreck" and an airplane where a lot of fish congregated. I was in the water for about 2 hours and then later for another 45 minutes or so, I did not see as much the second time in, I think the earlier you get there the better the view. There was a barbecue lunch buffet that was terrific, the ribs were great and there was a lot of fruit and other side dishes available. They also were serving cheeseburgers and hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, a variety of salads, and there was plenty of tea, water, punch.being offered. There were some dessert breads and cookies, as well. I am a big water drinker and I found a water cooler in one of the bars, so I was able to stay plenty hydrated. Co-Co Cay is a beautiful island, this was one of the best features of the cruise.
Nassau and Paradise Island Tour -
Since I had heard that Nassau was a bit disappointing to many, we planned only the Nassau & Paradise Island Tour and Glass Bottom Boat excursions. We were somewhat happy with the Nassau & Paradise Island Tour, but if you are not comfortable with riding in a small van (seats 10 passengers) in some scary traffic, you will want to pass on this. The tour guides were friendly, but repetitive. If I had it to do over again, I would have passed on the tour. Glass Bottom boat was okay, nothing special. I'm glad we did it though, I enjoyed seeing the views of the Ship and some of the nice homes and hotels from the boat. If I had it to do over again, I would have skipped the Nassau & Paradise Island Tour and go for the snorkeling instead.
We had the first seating in the Kismet Dining room, table 77. We were happy with this, as it was just the three of us at the table. We were unsure of being seated at a large table and so this worked out fine for us. The breads were all amazing! I rarely eat bread at home or at the restaurants at home, but I could not resist the breads with that fabulous French butter! The menu offerings were wonderful. You could choose from the main menu dinner offering, an alternative menu offering, a Ship Shape menu, or a vegetarian menu. If you have small children, I believe there was a children's menu, as the table next to us had a young child who we saw eating chicken tenders. Our waiter was Ahmet Sakli (from Turkey), and our assistant waiter was Dusan (from Yugoslavia), these gentlemen were an amazing team! Their service was exceptional and far exceeded our expectations. Sakli always described to us the offerings and the chef's recommendations, which was very helpful. I don't drink tea or soda, so I just drank water, and my glass was never left even half empty, Dusan was always there to tap it off and was just the sweetest and most handsomest young man. He refreshed our bread for us even if we had only had just a piece or two between the three of us. Coffee was also offered to us each night, we never had to ask for anything, we were completely spoiled! The food was fantastic every night with great presentation and small portions, usually I had a salad, appetizer, soup, and the main dish and dessert. The dessert offerings were very good and included some low fat and sugar-free alternatives. The portions were small, too, which I liked. The chocolate mousse on Christmas was exquisite.
You could have breakfast and lunch and dinner in the dining room, or at the Windjammer. Windjammer food was pretty good, especially the breakfast foods. They had a variety of yogurts, cereals, fruits, eggs, omelets, waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausages, toast, bread, rolls, danishes. Lunch and snack foods included sandwiches, vegetable spring rolls, buffalo wings, pasta, cakes and cookies. I had breakfast in the dining room on Monday and Thursday, and had lunch in the dining room on Wednesday. Lunch in the dining room was very good with quite a variety of things to chose from, it was hard deciding what I wanted. I was so busy on Tuesday that I forgot all about lunch, but I had a yummy snack from the Windjammer late in the afternoon, took my plate to the pool and had me a nice cocktail with it, perfect. During the day, the Windjammer has self-service soft serve ice cream that is very good, and at the Mast Bar near the pool you could get pizza and hot dogs until late at night. I only shared a small piece of pizza with someone, it was thin crust and pretty good. The Windjammer also has snacks until 3AM, their fries are very good! Also, there is a 24 hour coffee bar located at the rear of Finian's, cookies were available there, too.
Here is my only dining experience gripe. The bar attendant came around and asked if we would like anything with our dinner and later returned to try to get us to buy shooters each night. Why not have the waiter or assistant waiter, on the first night, ask us if we want bar service, rather than having someone come around trying to sell us shooters every night? Other than the Christmas Eve experience, for the most part you can't go to a lounge or bar without being asked if you want a drink, it would have been nice to not have to deal with this at dinner.
Dining room Attire -
Sunday was casual, Monday was casual, Tuesday was formal, Wednesday was Smart Casual. Most people complied with the recommendations for dress, but I don't know if that is typical on this cruise. Since it was Christmas, I think most people really wanted to dress up. I have read reviews, though, that express that many do not always dress as suggested. On Formal night I did not see any man in a tuxedo, but the women dressed up very nicely. There were only a few people in the dining room who were dressed very casual on Formal night and I think they were asked to leave, they were in shorts and sweatshirts and there were there one moment and gone the next. The Compass, the daily planner, was very clear that shorts are not acceptable in the dining room.
Shows and entertainment-
I did go to the Follies lounge for a few shows, the first night there was a great comedian, Rick Corso, He was very funny. I really enjoyed the "Rock on Broadway" show on Monday night. Mostly I enjoyed going to Finian's Rainbow lounge, the Christmas concert with Rosario Strings was lovely. I went to the Music Man lounge the last 2 nights for some dancing. Visiting the photo gallery was always fun, too, we bought a few pictures, but it was neat to see the pictures of everyone having a great time. Overall, entertainment was very good, mostly of the amusement park/theme park quality of shows.
Onboard Activities -
There really is something for everyone on this cruise, there are always activities going. I don't know much about the children's program, but at the Captain's Holiday Reception, the kids did a skit and it was really cute! There were walkathons, stretch classes, ping pong, art auctions, gaming lessons, singles mixers, skin care clinics, ice carving and cooking demos, trivia games, bingo, the list just goes on and on. They have a library, too, you can check out books and games. There was a Catholic Mass and a few Interdenominational Services.
On Wednesday afternoon, we were asked to have our luggage put out in the hallway no later than 11PM on Wednesday night, they gave us the colored tags for our luggage (and the envelopes for tipping came at the same time) we had our luggage put out by about 9PM and went off to enjoy the last night of activities. In the morning we were up by about 7AM and got all ready to leave, packed the final things in our carry-on bags, then headed to breakfast. We were so happy to be able to see our waiter again but missed seeing our assistant waiter! After breakfast we went and sat in the Follies lounge and waited for them to start calling colors. I think the way it works is that if you have an early flight, you get the colors that are called first. We had yellow tags and were of the later colors to be called. Disembarkation was swift and painless.
Overall, this was an awesome cruise experience! I had a terrific time, made a few friends, and the service (especially in the dining room) was mostly exceptional. I gained 5 pounds, but I am sure it was the alcohol, I normally do not drink, but I sure enjoyed it on this trip!
If you have any questions or comments, please e- mail me at WWdana32@aol.com You can see pictures from my cruise here: http://www.picturetrail.com/gallery/view? p=999&gid=1501628&uid=91115