Voyager of the Seas - 150th Voyage of the Ship
This is our first cruise so this review is done from that perspective. We have no previous 1st hand experiences; only comments from others about other cruises they have taken. We will tell it like it was in here, no sugar coating. There were many, many wonderful experiences we had and a few that RCCL may wish to review. We will throw our suggestions and tips in where we feel it may benefit you. This review is very detailed and should assist the cruise experience for any first timers or those looking at this ship for the first time. We are also writing this so we remember what we did right and wrong and what we liked and did not for the next cruise we take. We delve into the personal side of our trip somewhat (pre-cruise and Miami) but that is for us and for you if you wish to share it with us.
The General Experience:
Impeccable. These folks work so hard and deserve so much more. I found the staff to be so polite, helpful, energetic and willing to do whatever it took to make you happy, and at all hours of the day. Our room attendant, Finster was so efficient and made a towel elephant one day for us with my wife's sunglasses. The bed was turned down when we left for 10 minutes one day. It was like there was a linen ninja working on our floor. As our cruise Director put it, they must attend Towel Origami College or something because this was neat. Our waiters were both from Turkey and knew all of us by name and what we drank, beating us to it every time we sat down. Even our head waiter came by every day but the first to introduce, say hi, tell us about what was going on the next couple of days and even sang Karen a Happy Birthday complete with cake. Yes, we were officially the first Happy Birthday in the dining room this cruise! Nice touch! I was just thrilled that I got to eat a whole birthday cake myself becaus Food
At 17,000 meals per day, it is amazing the quality of food that they put out. We were told that they have over 200 people working in the galleys every day. I was hard pressed to find a better meal elsewhere and I truly did gain my 10 pound quota. My T-shirt had a bulge on the front of it when I was done the trip which scared me silly but boy, was it worth it. Now I have to come home and pay at restaurants. I hope I remember to or this review will be posted from the local jailhouse computer.
The Cruise Director. Why Jeff is not on the comedy circuit is absolutely beyond me. I have seen thousands of comedians in my life and he certainly ranked in the top 1%. It made videotaping without a tripod very difficult as I kept laughing too hard to hold the camera still. He has the sweetest job; gets to perform on stage and be funny, gets to visit different places all the time (or in his case, the same 4 places for several years.I know, bad example). He lives in Naples, Florida and I wonder when he has the time to enjoy his new pad? Jeff, hats off to you and your staff. Great shows and a great time. (Fresh Ground Pepper Mister Jeff?)
The only real bummer of the trip were the shore visits. Overpriced from RCCL and limited to a few types with everyone hitting Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica at some point. I will dive into these in more detail in the daily recap portion of the review. We also missed Grand Caymans which was really disappointing since it was the one island I wanted to see and experience and swim with the sea kittens (Stingrays).
The entertainment aboard Voyager was mixed. I found the comedians to be as non funny as they come and the dancing and singing to be very hokey. "Going back to Miami?" What were they thinking??? That was so lame and the dancers really could use a choreography lesson or two. La Scala is a good venue to see performances and the audio in the theatre is excellent. Anything Jeff Arpin was in (except the Rockin' 50's) was great. He had a killer comedy routine about shopping in Jamaica (you can't miss this one) and the Love & Marriage Game Show is a laugh riot. Get there early because the best parts are when he is picking the contestants.
We did not see Dreamscapes in it's entirety but saw snippets of it throughout the cruise. You make your own judgement call as others we talked to were mixed (very) as were we. We did not make it to the ice shows (tickets were gone) but heard great things from others. There was some extremely annoying show in the middle of the promenade one night with some girl screaming (and I mean literally screaming) into the microphone in the most annoying & whiney voice. It drove most people away from the show and didn't help the Excedrin headache number 5 we both had that night.
This review is coming from an audio and video enthusiast's take so I am somewhat critical when things aren't right. RCTV played the same things over and over again for a whole week on about 15 of the 22 channels. I now have memorized how the ship was built and can fluently fill out immigration papers in 5 different languages. Don't even begin to ask me about Shopping Shelby and the attempts to push diamonds and the like on shore. It was a very good idea to have this on TV but it felt so labored and I felt as though I was being pressured somewhat to buy, buy, buy!!! There also was an extremely lame "Crocodile Dundee" type character trying to push the Jamaica shopping experience. There were mainly Caucasian actors in the video and it must have been shot on a Sunday morning after a hurricane because Jamaica was deserted if you went by their video. It came off so K-Tel, it was really pathetic and did not make me want to go there any more. Also, the audio engineers onboard could not get the audio levels co I did like the view from the webcams and the report from the bridge. I thought that was interesting and usually had it playing in the background when we were in the room.
I can't get over how well laid out the ship is. You would expect for a ship this size to see fake walls or encasements everywhere for plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc. but no. Everything is so well hidden and the use of space of this ship and still allowing for a promenade is just amazing. It has been said before in every review but with 5000 people aboard the ship, it does not feel crowded in the least, unless you are waiting for an elevator. Although staff are not permitted in the passenger areas when off duty, it still feels very open with 3500 passengers. We were able to navigate around with little problem (it is after all a 14 floor tube) and were able to easily remember the short cuts to favorite destinations onboard.
You really can't do without reading this. Each day, the next days activities, times for food service and other interesting points are compiled into the daily COMPASS and delivered to your stateroom. There are also good shopping maps enclosed and offer up stores that RCCL has partnered with on-shore. Technically, all of the stores in the brochures have paid to be there so it comes down to ethics vs. business. RCCL makes this clear at the bottom of the shopping guides. There is and was no guarantee that you would be treated any better by hitting these locations vs. others not on the maps. They paid to advertise, simple as that.
The Ship in Review:
Front elevators only go to 12 from Deck 1 to the Spa Treatment Area
Rear Elevators (port) go to 14 from Deck 1 to the Viking Lounge
Rear Elevators (starboard) go to 12 from Deck 1 to Deck 12
There are fourteen 20 passenger lifts on the vessel
There are huge atriums at both elevator areas (10 floors + high)
The elevator has a British accent. Too funny. Should be Jamaican, Mon.
Are abundant and are near all elevators at the front and aft
Often faster than waiting to go up or down 3 floors by elevator
Where there are elevators, there are washrooms, front and back on the public floors.
We did not see public washrooms on 6,7,8,9 & 10 but could be wrong in this.
The ladies rooms are on the starboard (right) side of the vessel. The mens rooms are on port (left) side.
Men - go to the 11th floor washroom beside the Windjammer. It has the best view you'll ever experience while going number 1!
Never before have I seen such attention to detail. It was everywhere. In the $12 million dollar art collection on the walls to the wooden slats in the ceiling of the aquarium bar to the coins in the glass floor of the casino (which Karen thought she was falling into) to the room numbers that doubled as letter holders. What an amazing job and I am sure the craftsmen and women are so proud of their accomplishments. It just has to be seen in person, bottom line. No pictures can do it justice.
The ship was immaculate and I felt very comfortable eating or lounging anywhere on the ship. There were always maintenance workers painting or sanding or doing routine things to keep it going and it is amazing that this vessel travels 24x7 for three years and looks as good as it does. As one would expect, the carpets are starting to show some wear but, all things considered, this ship is moving 24x7 and has a lot of people traffic.
A few points of note. Clear is not quite clear and cold is not quite cold. The water in our room was slightly brown. (slightly being a carefully chosen word). I was concerned about it and voiced it to the ship so they could look into it. The dining room water was good and with their own desalinization tanks onboard, it was nice to not have to rely on bottled water at US$2.75 per bottle. They do recommend bringing water to Mexico which many did but those bottles were $3.50 a pop so I advise you to bring your own from home in your luggage as we did.
The shopping onboard was pretty weak for the size of it and they could have had more variety of items for sale. Souvenirs were the typical ones found everywhere and I would have like to see more specialized ones. I found there were minimal deals and the quality of the sale merchandise lacked. They also really could use a proper pharmacy or at least a good section of one of the stores, stocked with over the counter medications for colds, sea sickness, etc. They were very limited in this regard and we recommended that RCCL really consider fixing this. I advise you to bring your own Nyquil or equivalent if you feel you may need it.
I also want to know if and where I can buy the model of the Voyager that is outside the 4th floor of La Scala in the glass case. Chances are I can't buy it but if you get onboard, you must see the detail on this. It is phenomenal and must have taken months to create.
Formal night is very over-rated. It is fun to dress up for dinner but with no irons in the room, it makes packing a wrinkle free suit a challenge. Plus most folks just lose the suit after dinner. For our formal night, a suit or a dinner jacket was fine with a shirt and tie. There were minimal tuxedos and I bet you will see those disappear very soon from cruises as it is way too expensive to do this and not really necessary.
The Ship Itself (A Tour):
Medical Facility (Aft Elevators) Tendering Decks Crew's living quarters
Not too much to do here. You just get on and off the ship when in ports and receive medical treatments & dialysis here if you need it. Tip, there is a vending machine in the lobby of the medical facility (open 24x7) and you can buy (for 50 US cents) individual packets of medications such as sinus, headache, allergy, etc.
Crew's living quarters and some cabins
You may spend some time here as most shows are in the theatre and if you are a late night reveler, this is where you will end up most likely.
La Scala theatre entrance (front) - Lots of shows here and win-big bingo.
The Vault Nightclub (11pm to 3am) - Late night with theme music nights.
Studio B - Ice Rink (middle) - Great shows and a neat concept of ice at sea.
Photography Centre and Photo Displays (aft) - Lots of pictures to go through. Photo developing costs are through the roof. Wait until you get home unless you can't.
Carmen Master Dining Room Floor (aft) - Watch for the Grand Buffet on Thursday at Midnight.
The main dining floor is here. The dining room; Spectacular! There is a master stairway that connects all three at the back and the dining room is absolutely gorgeous. The staff are the best and I didn't have a bad meal the entire trip from here. Kudos to a great crew. Oh yeah, and the ice sculptures on the GB night, amazing! Go at 11:30pm to see the whole thing presented and take pictures before anyone eats the food.
Muster Stations - Lifeboats drop top here and the "go to station" in case of emergency.
La Scala Balcony - great for videotaping the shows and is usually not too busy.
Schooner Bar - Nice relaxing place to have some drinks and listen to live music.
Casino - great way to donate money to the ship. We only dropped about $30 in the casino and played mostly nickel slots to pass time one evening. Games were not bad and the smoke level was high. There is access in the middle of the casino to the 5th floor promenade in front of the Scoreboard Sports Bar.
Aquarium Bar - Fishes at sea? What a concept. Nice lounge with live music.
Embarkation and Debarkation Decks - For coming and going the ship.
LaBoheme Floor Dining Room - our dining room floor.
Deck 4 is the only deck where you can go from the front of the ship to the back and around. At the front of 4, you go up a set of stairs to the front of 5 where you can do the Titanic King of the World. It is mega windy here so watch your hat and sunglasses or some dolphin will have a new toy. The sanitation area of the ship seemed to be at the port side of 5/stairs to 4 so there is a bit of a smell when you come off that side of the ship.
We only lost one shuffleboard puck over the deck and into the drink during the trip. I am surprised more people don't do this. They need to make the bottom rails a little higher around the shuffleboard courts cuz it is way too easy to lose something.
You must go to the back of the ship during the day when it is moving quickly to see the swells created by the AziPod engines. Pretty wicked pattern and I could watch it all day.
Deck 5 is the hub of the ship. It feels like a shopping mall and not a ship.
Cleopatra's Needle - Lounge where karaoke and shows are abundant
Connoisseur's Club - Cigar and smokehouse lounge. Didn't use this as I am a non smoker. We did pick up our passports here though on Thursday. Café Promenade - Pizza, Coffee, Tea, Cookies, Desert
Pig & Whistle - English Pub - Good Shanty's & Draft Beer. We spent most of our time at the Pig & Whistle to people watch and met Bill and Delores from Maryland here. They are in their 70's and have taken 46 cruises so far. Wonderful couple and we ended up hooking up with them throughout the cruise at various points. It was really great to get to know them and to share in their cruise experiences as well. We also met several other Canadians on this cruise and some from as close as 20 miles from home. Others we met live around the corner from friends in other cities. It was a laugh riot meeting people so close to home in such a far away place. We found the staff at the P&W to be very friendly and helpful and when Karen left her Sea Pass and Drink Card (Yes!!! Drink Card!!!) on the table of the P&W, they returned it to Guest relations and called us to tell us we left it.
Jewelry Store - Watches, Rings, Diamonds
Two General Shops - Various Souvenirs
Guest Relations & Pursers Desk (aft) - The guys at the guest relations desk were a hoot. We were expecting to get in proper s*** for leaving our SeaPass card around and all they could do was bug us about leaving the drink card. As they put it, you can always get another SeaPass but the drink card? Are you crazy leaving that around? They were pretty cool.
We prepaid our tips up front and were the first in line to do this on the first day. Quick and easy and you get vouchers for each person to give to the crew to put in your envelopes. Came to USD$68.25 per passenger. Expect to drop at least an additional $500 on the trip on your SeaPass card as well over and able the cost of the trip for drinks, tips, excursions, shopping, spas, etc.
Explorations Desk (Shore Excursions) - We visited them once to book our excursions and found them to be helpful. You can do most of your booking on the TV but you will be locked out after 6pm for the next days excursions. After 6pm, you need to go to the desk to book the next days excursions.
Champagne Bar - specialty drinks and the drink card cannot be used here.
Scoreboard Sports Bar - had the game on when you needed it. Often loud with Denver Fans cheering on the game against Miami (Poor Denver.)
Magic Flute Dining Room
6th Floor Cabins & Library & Internet Access & Business Services
7th Floor Cabins & Library & Internet Access
8th Floor Cabins
9th Floor Cabins
10th Floor Cabins
The peek-a-boo Bridge is at the front of the ship. Access it from the 11th (front). Here, you can watch the captain and the pilots drive the ship. You can see all of the navigation equipment and instruments. Pretty wild. Bridge tours are not done anymore for security reasons.
Windjammer & Island Grill (aft) - Great food & quick service. We ate B'fast and Lunch often at the Windjammer/Island Grill. The IG serves the same food as the WJ so keep going past the lines and go to the IG for food where there is no line. In the evening, only the IG is open. Tip - when in Cozumel, eat in the IG instead of the DR for dinner if the ship is pulled in nose first to the island as the view is phenomenal from the back of the ship. We grabbed a seat at the window at the back port side and watched 3 ships leave port from the dinner table. It was really quiet as well so it was a good time to do this as we weren't hurried. Ships leave port at 7pm. Carnival, another RCCL and the Grand Princess were all in port that day.
Portofinos - Italian dinner for $20 per person. Did not go here.
Pools & Whirlpools(All ages) (middle) - There is a glassed in area with view of surrounding ocean with windows that open all around the pools.
Towel Exchange Station
Pool Bar (walk up)
Adult Pools (Solarium Pools) (front) - no kids from what I saw the whole trip.
Solarium Pool Bar
Health Spa & Fitness Centre (front) - pretty nice facility with a whirlpool in the middle. Good equipment and the nicest view you will ever have on a climber.
Peek-a-boo Bridge Access
Scuba Shop - pick up some scuba lesson info and merchandise here.
Adventure Ocean (Kids Playhouse) - looked busy. We don't have kids.
Johnny Rockets - JR is good and the shakes are good as well. I have had better and worse. The apple pie and Ice Cream is great here.
Arcade Games - Arcade games are average and they use a prepaid card that you can charge set dollar values to your SeaPass.
Sun Deck with loads of deck chairs
Jogging Track (goes from front of ship to the middle)
Spa Treatment Area - The spa treatments are priced through the roof ($109 USD for a massage!!!!) There are very expensive here and they should lower their prices. There are sales at the end of the week so hold off if you must have treatments here.
Sports Deck - mini golf, rock climbing, basketball, inline skating track
Inhabited by mostly teenagers and a few select adults. This was a fun area but it was busy and hotter as it is enclosed somewhat. We met a guy from Guelph, Ontario who worked in the back golf and skating area. The first Canadian we met who worked there.. (there weren't many that we could find)
Sunbathing Deck (front)
14th Floor Viking Lounge, 19th Hole, Notes, other bars, stairs to the chapel on 15.
Great views of the pool from the 14th and we spent a considerable amount of time hanging out and watching the world go by here. Drinks were OK and the company was cool. A little smokey but you can't avoid that in a bar. The chairs were comfortable and the privacy shears in between the tables were a nice touch.
We booked through our TA five weeks prior to the sail date for a good price and scored a seat sale on Air Canada so the overall vacation price was right. We followed a lot of advice online as to packing lists and we overpacked of course. I will give you my take.Pack less than you think you will need. You will wear things over again (like that favorite green jersey that this one teenager onboard felt compelled to wear EVERY night!!!). Fresh & clean understuffs aside, you won't need as much as you think you will.
Miami (Saturday Before):
Karen and I departed Pearson in Toronto early Saturday morning after parking the car at work and taking a cab over (perks of a Mississauga head office). Of course, it was colder when we left Canada so were very overdressed when we arrived. The dumbest part was thinking that just cuz I wear this at work in 90º weather, I would be OK in Miami. NOT! Wear shorts when you get there. Even if you are going to South Beach for dinner. We changed in the hotel and headed out.
We were fortunate to have friends (Kevin and Nicole) living in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. Nicki helped us score our hotel in Miami and Kevin picked us up at the hotel after arriving. We had an unfortunate dirty shirt packing incident that was not noticed for some time in Miami. My wife had grabbed a dirty shirt in the confusion of packing and I spent the first 2 hours in Miami asking, "What is that smell???" After some sole searching (literally), I discovered the source and headed out to buy a new shirt. After some brief touring (Orange Bowl, Beach), we headed off the Aventura Mall for some shorts and shirts shopping (something that is impossible after like June in Canada unless you are a size 29 or 30 waist). With the smell issue remedied, we wandered the mall for a while and had a Cuban sandwich for lunch (a must if you are in that mall). Was this ever good! We then headed through the beaches of Miami/Ft. Lauderdale taking the back alleys along the way (saw my first thong of the trip). My wife South Beach:
What an interesting place this is. Ocean Drive and Collins were jammed and there were interesting & good looking people and high end cars & limos EVERYWHERE! We wandered by where Versace was killed in front of his estate (not that night) and must have walked 5 miles that evening. We had dinner at a restaurant that I couldn't pronounce and of course failed to write down the name of. Food good, somewhat pricey but this is South Beach. Tip was included in the bill (Surprised). There were entertainers with snakes around their necks playing music, a quiet angry fellow in a shop where my wife bought an "OBEY ME South Beach" shirt. We spent 30 minutes in the Kennedy Art Gallery (they had air conditioning) and saw a different side of "culture" with people hanging out in the gallery watching an artist paint a flamingo and offering their 2 cents on what to add. Nicki gave a homeless guy the rest of her pizza and that wrapped up the South Beach experience.
Day 1: (Sunday - Boarding Day)
Woke up early and headed off for a big breakfast (a strong recommendation). We grabbed a cab at the hotel and it cost us $18 from the airport hotel to the pier. We arrived at the terminal around 10:30am and they were still unloading passengers from the previous cruise. A point of note here is that as a result of 911, there is no photography, videotaping or cell phone conversations allowed in the terminal and on the property or they will confiscate it. You are not allowed to do this until you board the ship. Apparently, terrorists were videotaping where guards were, how many, etc. so you are not allowed either.
Now the process, we exited the cab and our luggage was already being walked away by a porter. I had to chase him down and tell him to wait until we figured out what was going on as there was mass confusion here of people coming and going. Watch your bags closely or carry-ons and your other bags will walk away. General rule of thumb here is $1 per bag tip that you give the guy who grabs your bag and puts it on the ship. Once we were reminded three times by some other guy that we wouldn't see this guy again and that we should tip him now (high end pandering if you ask me), we did and walked into the terminal on the far left side. We showed our tickets to the guy in the terminal and went up the escalator to a holding area where a couple hundred people were already. We were again reminded to shut off cameras. This is where security checkpoints are and the x-ray scanners. Security is far easier than at the airport so this is quick. Tip - be at the front of the pack so you can fly through the next stage. Registration is a breeze if you pre-register your customs documents on-line. I would strongly suggest this as it makes everyone's life easier here, not just yours. Do this at:
You receive your SeaPass Card here (this used to be called a SuperCharge card). RCCL takes your credit card information to charge all of your weeks purchases to and assigns your dining room seating and table number here. Also, they take your passports and keep them at this point. I did not wish to do this but had no choice. We surrendered them and later received them on the ship. As we were first in line, we got to the lounge holding area first at the back of the terminal. There was coffee, lemonade and cookies there and we were assured it would only be until noon and we would be on the ship. It was actually after 1:30pm before we started to board and during that time, several hundred passengers crammed into a holding area that had minimal seating and was roped off. You are assigned a group number when you enter this lounge and you board based on the group number received. There were at least 8 groups that I saw, possibly more. They really need to get some plastic folding chairs for people to sit o Your picture is taken once you enter a gangplank close to the ship and this will be a part of your SeaPass card that security will use to verify that it is you coming and going from the ship. I found that having the ship's photographer on the gangplank taking pictures and holding up the line even more was bad positioning and bad timing. People were already irritated after waiting for 3 hours on the floor and now were asked look thrilled for the picture. If you didn't want one taken, you just had to say no thanks (which you will get lots of practice doing throughout the week - Read: Jamaica).
You enter on Deck 4 (Embarkation and Debarkation Deck). You will be overwhelmed by the size of this ship the first time you walk it. We went straight to our rooms to drop off the carry ons, do personal business (#1) and grab cameras. This can be a quiet time on the ship (depending on how early you get on) and is a great opportunity to wander around and get to know your home for the next week. If you are there before 3pm, they have a raffle in the Promenade for free bingo, art work, general prizes, spa treatments, etc. It is not bad but they do use it as a commercial for advertising the different parts of the ship and it takes about a half hour to do from a french speaking guy. You need to get your tickets by wandering through the Promenade around 2pm.
We had our muster drill at 5:00pm (postponed) and we donned our lifejackets and headed to D21 in the dining room. We listened to the 7 short and 1 long blast of the horn (loud) and went through the drill of what to do in case of emergency. We all returned our lifejackets to the rooms and headed outside with drink in hand. We watched the Carnival Victory and NCL ??? leave in front of us at 5:30 and 4:30 respectively and then watched the world go by including Miami's South beach and the Multi-million dollar homes along the port as we left at 6:00pm. We were delayed as some passengers had not arrived yet. Spent the majority of the evening eating, meeting our tablemates and touring the ship. We turned in after 1am.
Day 2: (Monday - At Sea)
Watched the world and lots of water go by. This is a nice quiet day with loads of activities to do. We spent most of the day eating and reading by the pool. This is the first formal night and we looked good I must say. Photos were done and purchased and we spent most of the evening at the P&W. We turned in after 2am after munching cookies, pizza and tea.
Day 3: (Tuesday - Labadee, Haiti)
100º in the shade. What a great day and a beautiful island. It was interesting to note that Labadee is a compound so to speak with a huge retaining wall and armed guards at the gate. We also noticed the chain link and barb wire fence keeping locals out.. Anyone wearing a pink shirt worked there and was from the island. They were very pushy here and if you wandered into the market building, you were trapped, no question. They had you on all sides and pushed you to buy stuff. Just say no thank you and by all means, talk them down on purchases as they start very high and are used to bartering. It is so unfortunate to see the state that their economy has gotten to and making a sale means eating or not tonight. We did buy some things from the island and did so outside, not in the market itself. The same stuff is outside with less pressure. Saw some locals (reptiles) and videotaped them doing their thing. Great place to get shots of the ship for the first time. You don't get many opportunities to do thi Day 4: (Wednesday - Ocho Rios, Jamaica Mon)
With the national elections going on today in Jamaica, I was surprised they stopped at Jamaica. It also poured rain all day so it was a bit of a bummer. We went to Dunn's River Falls (who didn't???) and I took the stairs and videotaped the rest of our group going up. I couldn't be bothered making the hike so the stairs did just fine. Karen hiked it and really enjoyed it. We came back from the tour around noon, grabbed food and fell asleep until 5:30pm. It was raining anyway and with the hassles of Jamaican locals pushing drugs and other items, it was not high on my list of things to do. We saw the falls and enjoyed it. If you cruise to it, you avoid the locals hassling you to buy stuff as you enter at the base of the falls on the water. All the shops are at the top where the parking lot is. We enjoyed the Love & Marriage Game Show this night with Jeff Arpin as host. What a riot and I encourage you to see this and get there early. Balcony seat if you are videotaping it. The Mardi Gras Party was to Day 5: (Thursday - Grand Caymans)
Awoke to the captain announcing that the waves were too high to tender a boat to us and that we were moving on to Cozumel. I though something was odd when I woke up, turned on the TV to see us moving at 14 kn. I was deeply disappointed as this was to be the highlight of my trip swimming with the Rays. Had the underwater camera and the tickets already. Oh well, it's an excuse to go back again someday. We did see dolphins swimming beside the ship for a while and they were keeping up, no problem. That was neat. We skipped dining room dinner tonight and had a late seating at Johnny Rockets. I was in need of a break and I can't eat that much big food with desert every night. JR's was so good tonight and was well needed. We spent most of the night at the P&W after spending an hour or so in the Casino. We turned in early as we were catching a cold.
Day 6: (Friday - Cozumel, Mexico)
We arrived early in Cozumel thanks to the missed Cayman day so we had a little extra time on the island here. We really enjoyed Cozumel. We walked the 3-4 miles to the downtown and beyond from the International Pier. Got myself a Hard Rock Cozumel shirt (XL is a small XL - try it first!!!) and went to the infamous Carlos and Charlie's. There is a great deal of hype for here so it was a must see. The food was good with a great atmosphere and a wild bunch of people. I would have enjoyed spending some serious drinking time here if I was so inclined with some buddies but today wasn't that day for me. It was a lot of fun and worth visiting. Scored some souvenirs here and took a cab back to the pier for $6.00. When we came back, we slept for a few hours and missed dining room dinner yet again. We ate at the IG and watched the boats leave and then turned in for bed. This by far was the best meal of the trip for us as the view was great, we weren't rushed and the food was excellent. I think I will eat at Day 7: (Saturday - At Sea)
Total unwind. We did nothing but pack, eat, lounge in the sun, hot tub it and use up the drink card. We were in bed by 11pm. It was a cool day outside and very windy with rough waves. Today was tip day. We handed our envelopes over to the crew and thanked them for a job well done and a great vacation.
Day 8: (Sunday - Debarkation)
When you go to debark, they will call you by color. A couple days before, you submit a form indicating which time you need to be off the ship. You then receive colored tags in your stateroom and you are to attach them to each piece of luggage you are checking. * If you are driving, I suggest leaving as early as is possible as there is nothing to do on the ship this day but watch them refuel on the port side. * Incidentally, smoking is not allowed on this side of the ship this day.
* Remember to keep clothes out and your carry ons or the next day unlike one drunk passenger on our ship who last minute packed all of his clothes and woke up naked the next morning with nothing to wear.
Then you are called by color to the gangway and into the line for customs. Canada and International passengers were on the left side of the line and it was fast for us - 5 minutes (mid morning), U.S. were on the right side and longer. The speed of the lines will depend on how many cruisers are from where and how many agents are working what lines.
You should wait near a lounge to get off the ship. I suggest the 4th floor aquarium bar near the back ship (you depart from the back as well as the front). There seemed to be less people at the back of the ship waiting as RCCL suggests you go to wait in the big theatre at the front until your number is called (there are 1200 people in the theatre). Just be up early so you get a seat in the lounges. It gets easier to find chairs of course as more people are called. You have to leave your stateroom by 8am at the latest which is also when they stop serving breakfast. *EAT A BIG BREAKFAST as it may take some time to get off the ship.
Customs was a breeze and our agent was cool. If you didn't have tobacco, alcohol, other stuff, then you did OK. You are not allowed to bring food into the US so don't try it. Remember, it is a $50 fine for each piece of food you bring back into the US (no exception).
Once through customs, you head down the elevator and to a huge carousel where your luggage is making the rounds. Grab it and get out to avoid the confusion. We grabbed ours and were in a taxi to the airport in less that 2 minutes.
There was a 10½ hour wait at the airport (we booked our own flights) because Air Canada was sold out for the earlier ones and we were confirmed anyway on a late flight. I would recommend that if you cannot get an earlier flight than 7pm, stay over in Miami Sunday evening and go out the next day. Don't waste your whole day at the airport like we did. At least have some fun and unwind and then go out early the next morning.
Summary & Overall Impressions:
Will we go again?
Yes! Definitely. It was a lot of fun and a very different experience from a land vacation.
What will we do differently?
Go with another couple we know well. Although it is nice to meet people on board and do things with them, it is fun to enjoy the experience with friends that you can reminisce with after the fact. You can't always expect your tablemates to be of the same age with the same interests so this becomes important (at least for us) to be able to hang with others. Also, when Karen and I wanted to do separate things, we didn't want to feel bad about leaving each other on their own or missing doing things that we really wanted to do but shouldn't do alone (different shore excursions for example).
Go with a later seating (8:30pm) for dinner. You are not rushed this way when finished dinner and you can take your time coming back from ports before eating. We assumed up front that we couldn't wait that long to eat dinner and should take the early seating (6:00pm). We soon realized that there is 24 hour food on board. If you're hungry at 6pm, order a 6 pack and 2 pizzas then go eat the big meal at 8:30pm.
Book shore excursions ourselves (except Jamaica). RCCL overprices the shore excursions and unless you do not want to deal with the locals in a particular port, you may wish to consider booking your own tours with reputable hosts in port.
Don't wait 6½ years to go away again. Never again will I wait that long for a real vacation.
We hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we had experiencing it. We went into this vacation with little expectations and came out really enjoying the trip.
We are going to try Alaska and the Eastern Caribbean for sure and possibly a European tour in the future. Have a great time on your trip wherever it takes you.