First cruise with Royal Caribbean. Previous cruises with Carnival. Arrived at the Port of Miami from Alamo Rent-A-Car's depot near Miami International Airport. Free shuttle to port. Arrived at port around 2:00 p.m. A bit of a line to check passports and ID. Then had to fill out SARS screening questionnaire. As we passed through Pearson Airport in Toronto to get to the ship, we and our party were separated from the larger group. Waited about 45 minutes for the nurse, with other Canadians and people who indicated on the form that they traveled through Toronto. When the nurse did arrive, no orderly method was used. A line formed, but not organized. (e.g. those who waited 45 minutes were at the back, those who just arrived were in the front of the line). Nurse took temperature of each individual prior to checking in and informed us that we would have to have our temperature taken each day of the cruise. Only saving grace was that we were able to get on a "priority"line for registration after the SARS screening. Got our Sea Pass and headed toward the ship. Long line for the entrance picture. Finally boarded at 3:45 p.m.
We had an interior "M" cabin on deck 9. Enjoyed the location of this cabin as it was aft, near the Windjammer Café and dining rooms. Size was adequate and had enough storage space with the drawers for small items and larger shelves in the closet for larger items. Enough hangers and area for shoes. The TV was well located. Enjoyed a small love seat, however, the small coffee table seemed to get in the way in the middle of the room; put it to one side. Handy safe. Table with chair was good as was the hair dryer located in one of the drawers of the table. Thermostat worked well. Washroom was large enough for one person to get ready. Shower was very good, adjustable and temperature was well regulated, however, the shower would be small for some people.
Our party of six was placed at a table of eight next to a window in the Carmen dining room. An excellent table which we shared with a retired couple from Florida. It was a great opportunity to share stories and life experiences. We were waited on by Belmiro from Portugal and Joseph from the Philippines. Both servers were excellent! Food was top notch!
Attended the one Midnight Buffet in the Dining Room. Very fancy display of food, ice sculptures, and creative carvings.
Ate most breakfasts on deck 11 at the Windjammer Café or the Island Grill. Took the advice from other cruisers and noticed the Island Grill is usually less crowded than the Windjammer Café and both serve mainly the same food. (However, grab your omelettes from the Windjammer en route to the Island Grill). The Island Grill has a beautiful view from the aft. However, the earlier you are the better seat you get. Most days we were eating breakfast by 8:15 a.m. On the day we docked in Cozumel, we ate after 9:00 a.m. and it was crowded; had to search for a table. Food was hot and usual breakfast fare (eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage) and had low-fat items such as cereals, fruit, yogurt etc. The quality of the food was good. Tea, coffee, and juice were plentiful, and there were many times that waiters were on hand to bring you these drinks.
Ate at Johnny Rocket's on the last day at sea. Waited only 10 minutes for a table. Good burgers and great milk shakes. (Only milk shakes, malts or floats are extra cost).
On the Wednesday evening, after leaving Jamaica, we attended the Caribbean outdoor buffet and dance around midnight. There was an abundance of food, frozen drinks in pineapple shells, ice sculptures, dancing with a band, etc. Lots of late night fun.
While the kids went to Johnny Rocket's for dinner with "Adventure Ocean" the four adults took in Portofino's. Beautiful dining room. We were seated by the window. High end fare and a filling meal. Enjoyed an appetizer, soup, salad, main course, dessert and coffee, followed by chocolate dipped strawberries. Received excellent service over the two hours we spent in Portofino's. Do recommend it once during your trip.
Cruise Director Ken Rush was a high-energy entertainer who enhanced the entertainment value of the cruise. Attended the welcome aboard show in La Scala Theatre and another show for parents in Studio B, where we received a preview of the Ice Show to come later in the week. We viewed the "Welcome Aboard" Parade through the middle of the Royal Promenade. It was a well done spectacle. Music played all related to the sea ("Sail Away" by Enya, "In the Navy" by Village People, etc.). Saw "Rhythm and Rhymes" which was good, with various songs from Broadway plays. Took in the Ice Show in Studio B. Very good show with great costumes and special effects that will dazzle! Attended the final show "Dreamscape". A good show; very "artsy" in nature. Highlight of this show is the "in the air theatrics". The cruise director holds a late-night game show at the end of the cruise called "The Quest"; was very funny but crowded as it takes place in Studio B. Arrive early if you wish to get a seat. Attended farewell show La Scala Theatre. Very good Russian pair of acrobats.
The is THE place to be on the ship. We found ourselves at least once per day at the Café Promenade. The Café is open from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. (with only a couple other closing times around dinner hours). The Café serves Pizza (different varieties), sandwiches and desserts (cakes and cookies) which do not cost extra. Ice Water, Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Milk are available self-serve at the Café. The only time we saw a large crowd here is on the first day when people are getting oriented to the ship. Otherwise, there was rarely a line.
The Royal Promenade features the stores for logo items, liquor, perfumes, etc. They also had costume jewelry for sale here (gold by the inch, cat's eye jewelry by the inch, etc.) which were reasonably priced. You will also find the Pig and Whistle Pub, which was well attended. On the last day at sea, we saw the "Krooze Komics", who did a performance in the middle of the Royal Promenade. A very professional, entertaining group.
What can I say?! Took in the walking track, in-line skating rink, ice-skating rink, mini-golf, and basketball. The men did the rock climbing wall and one of our party played water volley ball. Each time you participate in an activity that qualifies, you earn a "Ship-Shape Dollar". At the end of the cruise you redeem these dollars for merchandise. For example, for $1 you receive a key chain, $5 a hat, $14 a T-shirt, etc. We went ice skating as they have open skating on both sea days. Open skating is at 45 minute intervals, usually characterized by different music styles for each 45 minute span. All the above activities are at no additional cost, however, you have to sign a detailed waiver form to in-line skate, ice skate or to rock climb. (Royal Caribbean's lawyers at work) Staff were great especially Karl and Megan. They encouraged those who were less sports minded to participate and have fun doing it.
Tendered to Labadee. Very hot that day - around 95 degrees F and humid. We rented a floating mat from our TV in our room the day before. There were still many to be had. We parked ourselves at "Barefoot Beach", the next beach over from the pier. Very nice beach. Had lunch at Dragon's Point café. Buffet lunch with ribs (both pork and beef), hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, salads and desserts. Cranberry drink, iced tea and water available at no charge. Very nice set up; not crowded and very clean. Visited the two markets. The Artisan's market was nicer and airy. The Haitian Flea Market was crowded with pushy salespeople. Had to wait to tender back as only two of the three tenders working. (The tenders are named the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria)
Ocho Rios, Jamaica:
We thank all those other cruisers who had recommended Peat Taylor. Booked Peat via the Internet the week before our trip. We saw a guide holding a "Peat Taylor" sign, by the exit to the parking lot. An air conditioned bus awaited us. Peat first took us to Dunn's River Falls and arranged a meeting time. Have been here on two other occasions before. Used a locker for our things. Started at the Beach and worked our way to the top. Had a very good guide. It poured rain half way through our climb, but we didn't care as we were soaked as it was. We took the advice of other cruisers and walked out the same way we came in, therefore avoiding the crafter's marketplace. A security guard tried to guide us to the marketplace, however, we just kept walking toward the exit. Peat then took us for a behind the scenes tour of Ocho Rios, including Fern Gully. We were dropped off at the pier for lunch and met him later for shopping. Visited Soni Plaza. Soni Plaza has some good shops, but the street outside is in a very poor area. We were asked for money by a disabled man and a woman tried to stop us to braid the 11 year old's hair. Just kept walking. Peat then took some of our group to the Taj Mahal shopping Centre. Our friends jumped off, we continued to the ship. Peat's charge is $30 U.S. per adult, $20 U.S. per child, which includes Dunn's River Falls admission. Peat gave us hints along the way to avoid scams and rip-offs and stopped occasionally to point out various foliage, plants and animals along the way. He was a true gentleman and gets a very high rating from our group. He allowed the 9 year old boy from our party to ride up front as his "co-pilot". He enjoyed the special attention immensely. Would highly recommend Peat! Peat's web site is www.geocities.com/peattaylor and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgetown, Grand Cayman:
Tendered out to the pier. Passed the Carnival Conquest, Rhapsody of the Seas, and Carnival's Paradise. Another thanks to the cruisers who recommended private Stingray City tours. We went with Captain Bryan due to our scheduling. We walked 4 blocks from the pier to Captain Bryan's office. They took us via mini-van to the pier for the trip on the catamaran. It was such a relaxing journey to the reef and the Sandbar. There were 16 passengers and two crew on the catamaran, of which 6 passengers were of our party. We passed many boats crammed full with tourists and were glad for all the room we had on board. We visited a coral reef first, while our guide fed a Moray Eel. We did some snorkeling, and then headed for the Stingray City Sandbar. We did this excursion once before, but this was the first time for the 11 and 9 year olds. The stingrays were as gentle as ever and we fed them some squid this time. Had a relaxing time back to the pier. We asked to be let off the mini-van to access Seven mile beach around the Beach Colony Hotel. Used the public entrance to the beach. Beach was beautiful, however, it began to rain (again, who cares when on a beach). It brightened up in no time and got a taxi back to the pier ($3 U.S. per person) from the Beach Colony. Visited the Grand Cayman post office to mail some cards and pick up some unusual stamps. Purchased some Tortuga Rum Cake and back to the tender. The temperature was about 85 degrees F (30 degrees C). Again, Captain Bryan's service was great. The cost was $32 U.S. per adult, $28 U.S. per child. Captain Bryan's website is www.cayman.org/captainbryan and he can be reached at email@example.com . Would highly recommend their service.
Docked around 10:00 a.m. We docked across from the Rhapsody of the Seas. The Carnival Conquest and Grand Princess were at the other pier. Took mini-van cab to Chankanaab Park. Cab ride was $12 U.S. for the six of us, plus $10 U.S. admission, per person. Snorkeled. Saw multiple fish and interesting coral reefs. Walked through the tropical rainforest and viewed the lagoon. Took a cab back to the ship for lunch. Later, took a cab to downtown San Miguel to go shopping. The 11 year old girl got her hair braided ($15 U.S. for a half-head braid, much cheaper than other ports including Labadee. Labadee wanted $60 U.S. for whole head to be done.) Got back to the ship in time for dinner. Military presence was a higher level than one year before.
While back on the ship......
While enjoying breakfast in the dining room on our last day at sea, the waiter asked us if we saw the dolphins that were chasing the ship. We missed them by ½ hour as they were out at 7:30 a.m. We saw others later that day, at 3:30 p.m. from the top deck, however, they were less interested as the ship slowed considerably. We only managed to see them in the distance, playing in the wake. We also saw some Marlin jumping out of the water.
Went to the casino on a couple of occasions. Staff here were friendly and patient with beginners at the tables.
Tips & Extras
-The "Roman Bath", adult only swimming pool was usually not crowded and had cloth covered lounges. A nice touch. -On the last sea day, around 5:00 p.m., a masseur set up his chair in the Royal Promenade, across from Sprinkles Ice Cream. Received a 30 minute massage for $30 U.S. (rate of $1 per minute). Much greater value than found in the Spa itself. -As the Voyager Class ships do not have a coin laundry, they do have laundry and dry cleaning service at a cost per garment. Needed to have one pair of pants washed. Very convenient and excellent service. -Attended an interdenominational Christian Service on the last day at sea (Saturday) at 9:30 a.m., located in the Chapel, led by Julie, a staff member. Very nice touch. There is also a Jewish Sabbath Service on Friday evenings, however, at least 12 participants are needed to hold this service. (There was a sign up book at the Guest Relations desk to register for this service). -View the Peek-a-boo Bridge, at the bow on Deck 11. You can look down on the officers driving the ship and all the computer guided instruments. -Thoroughly enjoyed the video of the making of the Voyager of the Seas, which ran continuously on one of the TV stations.
Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival
Both lines cater to a similar market - young, energetic, fun with both having excellent food. Small differences between the two lines:
-Royal Caribbean has a very upscale design (e.g. display cases with art work in halls), Carnival's older ships are more Las Vegas (neon, bright colours) however, newer Carnival ships (e.g. Carnival Victory) are more subdued, and upscale in decor. -Royal Caribbean and Carnival are very similar in the dining room. Royal Caribbean has some more exotic dishes than Carnival, although the portion sizes of Carnival are larger (but who cares, when you can order seconds). Salads are better on Carnival. -Royal Caribbean does not charge for desserts in the Café Promenade, Carnival charges for specialty desserts outside of the dining room, however, Royal Caribbean charges for a Cappuccino in the dining room, Carnival doesn't. -Entertainment very similar between the two lines. -Royal Caribbean Voyager Class has much more in the way of sports. -Carnival seemed to have more Pool Games and Musical entertainment pool side. -Royal Caribbean seems to "soft sell" their tours and shopping recommendations. Carnival very frequently, had P.A. announcements about the above, which was more "hard sell".
There was a fairly long, slow line to disembark once your colour was called. You then joined another line to wait for U.S. Customs. Afterward, it was quick and very organized. Royal Caribbean uses a carousel, like in the airports, rather than placing your luggage in a warehouse (sectioned by colour) as we were used to with Carnival.
Voyager of the Seas was a very large, beautiful ship with lots of activities and entertainment, in addition to great food and excellent service. Would highly recommend this ship to anyone who wants a fun and active cruise. Both the kids and adults loved this ship!