If Royal Caribbeans intention was to build the first truly floating resort, than with the launching of the Voyager of the Seas they more than succeeded in this effort.
After having been on 14 cruises in last 15 years I consider myself a cruise aficionado and after reading the reviews on all the cruise boards concerning this ship I must admit I was expecting just another cruise albeit a significantly large one.
First I want to say that I don't intend to describe all the features found on board this vessel (other reviews have described the ship endlessly and better than I can) but rather add my insight as to the intangibles and nuances that I observed. If my comments and observations can aid anyone booked or is planning to book aboard the Voyager , than I consider this a job well done.
When you first enter the Port of Miami , you realize the only ship visible is the Voyager. Towering some 20 stories tall it truly is a massive structure, and stands out from all other ships in port, how massive she really is will be described later.
The terminal is reminiscent of the Canada Terminal in Vancouver, complete with canvas sails, and is quite large inside with many passenger embarkation personal to aid in the pre-boarding procedure. This was the fastest I have ever been cleared to embark taking approximately five minutes. And this was taking place at 1:00 in the afternoon with no crowds, or lines. Two comments I have to make here, first, the embarkation staff are extremely helpful and friendly. Second , they will ask you for a birth certificate , unusual for me since this was first time I was ever asked to produce one.
The gangway to the ship is well designed and very wide affording lots of room to maneuver carry-on luggage. It deposits you on deck 4 where you enter the ship at the Aquarium bar. There are ship personal to greet you and direct you to your cabin but you do not get Celebrity Cruises white glove service personal escorts. In all fairness to Royal Caribbean, with 3000+ passengers this attention would be very draining on the staff and I can understand why it wasn't provided, but by the same token this is a very large and somewhat intimidating ship (especially to the elderly passengers) and on a case by case basis they should consider aiding some of these passengers.
The hallways leading to the cabins are brightly colored and wide and you will feel as though you were on a land based hotel rather than a cruise ship. After getting acclimatized with Port and Starboard I arrived at my cabin on deck 9 (inside).
The doors to the cabins are very much like hotel doors in that they are textured in a sea scallop shape and are tropical pink in color (very Caribbean) and very nice touch.
The cabins are traditional Royal Caribbean, small yet acceptable, although I must comment that there was barely enough draw space and I was traveling alone. Had there been two or more in a cabin this size it would have been quite a challenge. On other cruise boards I have read comments that R.C.I. doesn't supply amenities such as shampoo, soap, or hair dryers. This is not the case. The hair dryer can be found in the top draw of the vanity. There was a comment about the lack of cloths hangers . Again this was not the case, in fact there were more hangers than on any other ship I'd traveled on. (I counted 30 in my closet) There is a personal safe, although it is not mentioned in any of the cabin or suite descriptions. The interactive television .has been discussed in other reviews and the only comment I can make here is that it always performed well and accurately. If you are interested in knowing the time of day I would suggest you bring a travel clock that lights . The only clock in the cabin is located on the telephone and is not lit a minor detail that R.C.I. could easily correct.
When first discovering this ship you are immediately overwhelmed with its beauty and the dedication of the architects to make sure no detail was overlooked.
Individual descriptions of the public spaces have been done before and the one comment that comes to mind is that this ship has to be seen in person to truly be appreciated , as words alone cannot do it justice.
I will attempt whenever possible to point out the minor details and touches that added to my experience on board, for instance while waiting for the Centrum elevators there is inlaid woodwork above you and marble and brass floor indicators that add just that extra touch of class.
Although this ship is remarkably beautiful and luxurious the underlying feeling on board is one of light hearted whimsy. This is evident from the down to earth attitude of the Captain , Johnny Faevelen , ( the most entertaining and personable ships captain I have ever cruised with, he genuinely enjoys what he does and his attitude reflects on the entire staff ) to the comical interplay of the "Krooz Komics" ( four talented graduates of Ringling Brothers clown college, who can be seen throughout the cruise in various parts of the ship performing mime acts, juggling, and comedy routines that occasionally involve unsuspecting passengers in good natured mayhem.)
Which brings up the subject of entertainment. I thought I had seen great performances in the past especially aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines Norway, and Seaward, but as good as those acts were nothing compares with the entertainment found aboard this ship. It is extremely varied from classical to jazz, eclectic comedy to fantastic acts of acrobatics on ice. Special note must be made to the ice shows held twice a cruise and by all means should not be missed . They were so well performed it was the only show I had to attend twice. The shows are held in the ice arena ( Studio B located on deck 3) This room is unique in that it is a true arena with stadium seating . This room also acts as a concert hall when the ice is covered. ( A sockhop is held here complete with rock band and light show M.C.'d by non other than Austin Powers) The ice show incorporates ten competition skaters doing intricate choreography set to inspiring music accompaniment and spectacular lighting effects. The highlight of the show is when two skaters lit only in black light are attached to cables and transfer from ice to the air above the audience doing flips and spins. It was very emotional and amazing to see. After the Ice-Capade portion is done there is head to head Olympic style competition done with television coverage shown on jumbo- trons located around the room. Being in the television business I was very impressed, it was comparable to the coverage you would expect to see on ABC's Wide World of Sports. The competitors perform routines difficult for full sized land based ice rinks and when you consider that triples and somersaults are attempted and successfully done on a moving cruise ship, it is nothing short of miraculous. Of all the acts and shows performed on board during the cruise in my opinion this show was the weeks highlight . A hint for future passengers, the arena seats on three sides but the best seating is in the center. Arrive 15 minutes early and you'll have no problems getting the seat you want. This also holds true for the La Scala Theatre as well. The Voyager has scheduled all the shows and events in such a way as to not over-lap. You never have to leave an event early to be able to attend something else, and being able to get to the shows early assures you of getting good seating.
Seating is very important in the La Scala Theatre where the sight lines in the balcony are poor in some locations. The two wings of the stage are also used by the performers so the best seating in this theatre is definitely center either orchestra or balcony avoid the sides.
The best show in the theatre is "Dreamscape", a song and dance extravaganza yet done with a fresh approach and performed by a great cast of singers and dancers.( Not just another revue).
During my cruise I got to see the performance of comedians Mario and Daniel and they were absolutely hysterical. Other acts included Tony Tillman, a high energy song and dance man as well as various Ed Sullivan type performers.
Another highlight of the Voyagers barrage of entertainment not to be missed takes place in the Royal Promenade where two parade spectaculars take place. The first night is a welcome aboard parade with all the entertainers on the ship participating in fabulous costumes. This is also where the captain and his crew are introduced. There is a laser light show and the parade in very much like being in the Yellow Submarine cartoon. The actors get the passengers involved and the feeling at this parade is truly magical. ( Make sure you get a position on the Pubs side of the Promenade bridge to get the best view)
During the day the Promenade is the stage for the Krooz Komics and they are great fun. All the descriptions of this space have been reviewed but when you walk through be sure to notice the center ceiling area. There is a round mirrored tube that has tiffany lighting as is very unusual and can easily be overlooked . And don't forget to say hello to Bridget, or check on the painter.
When I first decided to book my vacation on the Voyager I had read disparaging comments concerning the food and service. This could not have been further from the truth. My last three vacations were aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines and although R.C.I. is not in their category I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of the food served. The service in the dinning room was first rate, with service being prompt and efficient. The deserts were some of the best I've eaten, and the wine service was professional and extensive.
The dinner in the Portofino restaurant was very good and the service there was also prompt and efficient. The deserts served in this restaurant were even better than in the main dinning room the Tirimasu being scrumptious. Another hint here is to make your reservations as soon as possible as there was no availability by the end of the week. (The best days are Wednesday and Friday.)
Other events worthy of noting are the Captains welcome aboard party. This is held the second evening and is not your typical meet the captain take a picture event. This cocktail party is held in the Royal Promenade where all the bars are closed and as far as you can see , champagne glasses are prepared and served along with hot and cold horsd'oeuvres . It is amazing that a true cocktail party can be arranged For 1500+ passengers and still have it feel like an intimate party.
Another party that was very impressing was the repeaters party held in Cleopatra's Needle, the largest lounge on board. An open bar with music and food complete with ice carvings greeted over 1300 repeat passengers (a tribute to R.C.I.) This party culminated with the appearance of the captain who spent a good amount of time with his guests. Few repeat parties have compared with this one.
Not to let anyone feel left out the captain addressed the entire ship on the last night when he held stage for a good 15-20 minutes at the good-bye show in the main theatre. It seems that this crew from captain to room steward is determined to ensure all guests are treated as guests not as customers.
In summation I have to say this was a great cruise experience and one I was not anticipating. This ship is the ultimate cruise ship which all others must be measured against, not just in size but in what it has to offer. It rivals any land based resort and surpasses most of those.
I would be remiss if I didn't comment on a few of the things that I found could be improved upon : First again let me state that this a very large ship. You really appreciate its size when you are tendering ashore in Labadee and from the tender you can't see the top of the ship, the front of the ship or the back of the ship. This size is also evident when navigating from place to place, it takes time and the elderly passengers were making comment that the ship was too big for them to negotiate. Perhaps a people mover of some sort could be implemented in future constructions.
The pool deck though huge, seems somewhat chaotic and the placement of an artistic glass pyramid seems to take up the space a dance floor could occupy.
Another small personal point was the lack of outdoor casual eating. I always enjoy having breakfast and lunch in the sun and to do this you would have to take your food out to the pool deck which would have been very inconvenient.
One last point concerned the English Pub "The Pig and Whistle", Guiness Stout on tap is really a great treat but it was unavailable after the first night do to lack of gas to operate the tap, this was very disappointing and was properly addressed by the staff.
Royal Caribbean has a winner of a product with this ship and I hope my experience is not a result of the fact that this was only the 12th cruise of this ship. It seems that what I had read on the cruise boards are listened to by Royal Caribbean and problems corrected thus improving cruise by cruise. Believe it or not you do have a feeling of intimacy on this ship even when you are surrounded by 3000+ of you closest friends. I am glad I was aboard this ship and proud to be among the many who can say they sailed her inaugural season.