CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews


Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Voyager of the Seas Western Caribbean April 11, 2004

When I decide on which cruise to take, I usually opt for one of three types. One is the cruise with wonderful food and lots of pampering; for this I would go on an upscale line or the Celebrity Mercury. The second is destination-oriented. For this I might choose the Universe Explorer to Alaska or a Windjammer Barefoot cruise to Caribbean islands. Another type of cruise is the floating resort experience. The Voyager of the Seas (VOS) is a perfect choice for this last type of cruising.

My nine-year-old granddaughter and I chose the VOS to have a week of fun. We flew from California to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed in the La Quinta Hotel near the airport. Free airport shuttle service and a very nice buffet breakfast were included in the room rate. Royal Caribbean has a shuttle from Fort Lauderdale Airport to the pier in Miami, so we could fly into that airport to get more reasonably-priced flights without inconvenience. The embarkation was about average. The lines were not especially long, but the service at the desk was quite slow, considering that we had already supplied all needed information to the web site months before.

The Cabin

We had cabin 8583 overlooking the grand promenade, in the middle of Deck 8. This location was perfect. We never had to go very far to get to a desired location. There was a Plexiglas diagram of the ship in the corridor right outside our door, and I frequently consulted it to find my way around. The window at the far end of the cabin gave the feel of being an outside cabin at the price of an inside. I did not care for the color scheme of aqua, beige, and orange with yellow printed drapes, but Hannah thought it was great. There was a very nice sitting area on the promenade end, with a loveseat in the bay window and another one perpendicular to it. The sofas had attractive and comfortable throw pillows, and a small glass-topped coffee table completed the furnishings. The king-size bed was made up of two twins, which we left together to have more room in the sitting area. One mattress was comfortable, but the other was too soft and felt worn out. It "bottomed out" when laid upon.

Luckily a nine-year-old is not as fussy about the mattress, so we just switched beds. The cabin had the best lighting I have seen on a cruise ship, and plenty of storage space along with all of the usual amenities. A clock that you could see from a distance would have been useful, as the only way to tell the time was to walk over to the phone and look down. The bathroom was one of the nicest I ever had on a cruise. The shower was big enough to take a comfortable shower, the storage space was adequate, and the colorful painted tiles on the backsplash of the vanity were a nice decorator touch. The triple mirror gave the room a feeling of spaciousness as well as being useful. Bathroom amenities were minimal: bar soap and a shampoo dispenser in the shower. (Bring your own conditioner, shower cap, etc.) I had read in earlier reviews that the clear windows to the promenade were a problem. We found the window to be no trouble at all. We just closed the drapes or turned off the lights when dressing. It was fun to watch the parades from our own cabin. The sound was greatly muted from inside the cabin; in fact sound from the promenade was no problem the entire week due to the thick, double-paned glass in the bay window.

Dining

The food was the biggest disappointment on this cruise. I did not expect gourmet cuisine, but I did expect better than we got. The meals were pretty much banquet food. The rack of lamb and one steak were very good and cooked perfectly. Unfortunately, that was the exception. One morning we ate in the dining room to have my cruise favorite, eggs Benedict. It came with hard cooked eggs under lukewarm sauce. When I asked to have soft cooked eggs, I was told that was the only way they fixed it. The next day we decided to try room service. It was delivered 10 minutes after the designated 30-minute window for serving time. Everything was there, but lukewarm sausage and eggs were unpalatable. Next we decided to try the Windjammer for a buffet breakfast. When I asked for brown sugar for my oatmeal, the server said there was none on the ship. (Wrong. He just did not want to get me any. I had brown sugar if I ate in the dining room.) The Belgian waffles on the buffet line were quite good although limp instead of crisp.

I was really looking forward to the formal night dinner when lobster was served. But it came so salty that it was inedible. My tablemates said theirs were fine so I guess the salt just got spilled on mine. Our server and his assistant were very accommodating and friendly at dinner, but service in the dining room for the open-seating breakfast and lunch was definitely not the same.

Requests were often either ignored or handled with an attitude. The food was generally edible, and the people at our assigned dinner table were a pleasant group to dine with. We definitely did not lack for enough food; mealtimes were just not something to look forward to. The lunch menu in the dining room was the same every day, so after a couple of days Hannah and I ate in Johnny Rocket's. The hamburgers or bacon and tomato sandwiches were not gourmet fare, but were well prepared and tasted as I expected them to. We also enjoyed their milkshakes. I had expected lots of problems with lines on a ship with so many people. This did not happen. The only long lines we encountered were for lunch in Johnny Rocket's and the Windjammer after shore excursions, and for cooked-to-order omelets for breakfast in the Windjammer. The Promenade Café was just below our cabin, so Hannah made good use of their pizza at all hours to tide her over before our 8:30 p.m. dinner, or when she was hungry in the evening. She also enjoyed the convenience of the frozen yogurt dispenser just down the promenade from the pizza.

Entertainment

The shows in the La Scala showroom were standard cruise fare. The best shows were the ice skating in the Studio B ice rink. Be sure to get the free tickets when the daily paper gives the time. The shows featured champion skaters and well choreographed routines. The parades in the grand promenade were also fun. During the day on sea days there was a wide variety of things to do.

Hannah's favorite was ice skating. She skated during several sessions. Skaters must wear long pants and socks and a parent or guardian must be present when a minor is skating. Bring a good book or get one from the well-stocked library. There is no charge for the skating, or for the skates and optional helmet that are provided. Hannah also enjoyed climbing the rock wall on the top deck. Again, there is no charge for climbing shoes or the necessary rigging. The crew on the ropes was exceptionally cheerful and helpful. She was thrilled to make it to the top twice. I was surprised that there were never more than four people ahead of her waiting to climb. My special favorite was a real promenade deck that goes all the way around the ship. On this deck were two well-waxed shuffleboard courts that we enjoyed in the evenings during our walk. Since the week of our cruise was often cold or windy there were plenty of deck chairs and the pools were not crowded.

There is no fee to charge money to your sea account to play in the casino. The craps table was never open when I wanted to play so I just donated to the slot machines a couple of times. My favorite activity was the "team trivia". I joined two gentlemen to make a team. Our areas of expertise were completely different so that as a team we came in second. The prize was a very nice RCI folder for airline tickets, passport, and other important papers -- a nice change from the usual keychain.

Children's Program

The children's program was generally good. The kids are divided into groups according to age, each with its own facilities and staff. They earn credits for each activity. These credits are spent on premiums at the end of the cruise. The children could sign up for dinner with the staff on three nights. They were told to sign up before noon, so Hannah hurried down. Only a few children were allowed to participate, and she never got there in time. It would be better to have a dinner where more children could participate, such as in the Island Grill, instead of the small Johnny Rocket's venue.

The gaming arcade in the middle of the children's area is very expensive. We paid $2 for a short 7-point game of air hockey. The minimum amount that can be put on the arcade card used for the games is $10. One boy did not understand that he was charging his parents' account each time he added to his arcade card. He spent more than $60 in less than an hour. Luckily the parents saw what was happening when they checked their account on the TV in their room.

The long, winding pool slide is also in the children's area. It is open at designated times. The $5 per hour fee for child care after 10 p.m. is promoted as late-night "party time". I haven't seen child care pushed this way on any other ship. Since it was Easter break, about 1,100 children were on the ship. They were not a problem except in the elevators, and with some running in the halls. Some parents seemed proud that they turned their kids loose for the week with no supervision. The kids may have been safe, but I suspect that these were the kids pushing all of the buttons in the elevator and then leaving.

Shore excursions

Since the weather was windy we couldn't go ashore where tendering was required, as the big waves made it dangerous. I had reserved my shore excursions on the RCI website months in advance. My account was automatically credited for the snorkeling tours at the places we did not stop.

I have climbed Dunn's River falls at Ocho Rios, Jamaica before, so I signed up for the Martha Brae River rafting on this trip. The bus ride was very long with little information about the local area. The river rafting portion was beautiful and relaxing. Each raft has a seat for two persons and is poled along for about two miles by the "raft captain." I was not sure that Hannah would enjoy this type of excursion, but she did. I noticed that on some of the rafts the captains were sitting while the passengers were trying to pole the rafts. I was perfectly content to just enjoy the ride. Our captain told us that 94 men take turns poling the rafts down the river. Each man makes his own raft, a new one about every six months because they get waterlogged. On a busy, warm day all men get a turn, but sometimes they wait a day or two for another turn.

The ship did not stop at the line's private island or at Grand Cayman. In Cozumel, I had signed us up for the Dolphin Encounter. This was definitely not worth the $99 per person. About 30 persons lined up along a large tank of water, and a dolphin swam past the line fairly swiftly twice. This was the opportunity to touch or pet the dolphin. After this each person was "kissed" and got to shake flippers quickly with the dolphin while a photographer took a photo and tried to sell it to you later for $15 each. There was no informational commentary about the dolphins. After everyone had a turn, the dolphin did a few tricks -- again, with no explanation of training methods or anything about the dolphins. After the demonstration of fast swimming and jumping we filed out. I think that this was the most overpriced shore excursion I have ever taken.

Random Observations

I had a rip in a pair of slacks. The guest relations desk supplied me with a nice little sewing kit to repair it. However, when I needed a bucket or pan to soak an infected toe, nothing was available and I had to wait until the infirmary opened. Luckily Hannah noticed that the plastic trash bin in the bathroom could be removed from its cutout, and it worked fine if I pointed my toes. The next day a plastic disposable basin was available from the infirmary for $5. The people staffing the guest relations desk were always courteous and helpful for all the questions we asked and situations encountered.

In Cozumel and Jamaica, several tours ended at about the same time. A lot of hungry people came onto the ship to find the dining room and Island Grill closed, and only one line operating in the Windjammer. This led to long lines at both Windjammer and Johnny Rockets. I would expect the dining staff to know when tours are returning and to plan accordingly for hungry passengers.

The computer area was convenient and easy to use to send emails home. The fee for a quickly written three-line email was $4.50 one time and $3.50 the next. I used my own email account via the earthlink.com website.

Debarkation took more time than usual because we had to wait for our luggage at an airport-style carousel instead of looking in a group for our cases. The RCI bus back to the Fort Lauderdale airport was very convenient.

Overall we had a lot of fun and met some very nice people. This was my favorite inside cabin, but not my favorite cruise. Good food is an important part of my cruise experience. Hannah liked the variety of activities and the pizza. She preferred the children's programs on the RCI Vision of the Seas, Disney Magic, and the Windjammer Legacy.

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