Itinerary: NJ - Labadee Haiti - Ocho Rios - Grand Cayman - Freeport Bahamas - NJ
About us - We are in our early 50's with a 22 year old son. We've each been on 11 previous cruises. Only my wife and I went on this cruise. My son was on the June 4 sailing and could not stop raving about the ship and the cruise.
Getting there and embarkation - We sailed out of Bayonne NJ, which is about a 30 minute drive from our house on the south shore of Staten Island. We arrived at the terminal about 12:30 PM and were on board by 1:00 PM. No traffic, no delays - a real smooth beginning! We had lunch at the Windjammer buffet and then went off to explore the ship.
The ship - WOW!!! The Voyager of the Seas is an incredible ship - it seemed like a floating city. This was our first time on a Voyager class ship and we were really impressed. There were over 3,500 passengers on board, yet it never felt crowded anywhere we went. This is now my new "favorite ship." The décor was really nice, and there was a lot of interesting art work all over the ship. There are more lounges/bars than I can remember, a disco, a nice size casino, a 2 level library/internet cafe, a chapel, 2 main pools, an adults only pool in the solarium, several hot tubs, a gym/spa, a truly wonderful promenade, and the most incredible children's center I have ever seen afloat! The main dining room was three levels, and for alternative choices there was the Windjammer buffet, Portofinos - an Italian restaurant ($20pp additional charge), and Johnny Rockets. If you're in the mood for a snack, the Promenade Café is open 24 hours for coffee, tea, cookies, pastries, pizza, finger sandwiches and assorted wraps. For an additional charge you can get some Ben & Jerry's ice cream. There was so much, I feel like I'm leaving something out! The layout and design were very good and getting around the ship was extremely easy, although the elevators could be a little slow at times. The only thing I did not care for was the seating in the La Scala Theater, where the nightly shows are presented. All seats are theater style individual seats with cup holders. Unfortunately, the cup holders are too small to hold any of the glasses the drinks are served in so we had no place to put down our drinks. We prefer the couch/bench style seating with small tables to place drinks on. Also, on the upper level there are several poles which obstruct the lines of sight On the outside, there were plenty of lounge chairs (and the deck patrol took care of the chair hogs) and plenty of area in the shade.
We had a balcony cabin on Deck 8 (# 8630) which was a pretty decent size for the two of us. We especially liked the privacy offered by the balcony. Instead of removable partitions, it was completely enclosed on each side. Even leaning over the edge it was difficult to see in to your neighbor's balcony.
Service - This is an area I have come to expect excellence from Royal Caribbean and they did not disappoint. Everyone we encountered - cabin steward, dining room waiter, assistant waiter, maitre d', Windjammer & Johnny Rockets staff, purser's staff, shore excursion staff, bar waiters, room service, social host, shop attendants - were just GREAT! Service was always quick, courteous, and exceptionally friendly with a big smile.
Food - Food is a very subjective thing, but I thought the dining room food was pretty good. Our waiter and assistant at our assigned table for dinner were superb! The maitre d' also came by every night to make sure we were pleased with everything. At the open seating for lunch, the menu was the same every day, but the food was pretty good.
The Windjammer buffet and Island Grille were good and there was enough variety that we always found something appealing. The burgers and hot dogs were good but the pizza was only fair (not the same as the pizza at the Promenade café).
We did not try Portofinos or the midnight buffets so I can't offer any opinion on those.
We used room service for breakfast most mornings and I give them an A+ for promptness and quality. Breakfast always arrived at the exact time we requested and they called a few minutes ahead of time to tell us it was on the way. With only one exception, afternoon or pre-dinner snacks came very quickly.
The only thing I didn't like was the coffee. If this was "Seattle's Best" I'll have to remember to skip the coffee when visiting Seattle.
Activities - The activities on board were varied, with something for just about everyone. In addition to the usual pool games, art auctions, bingo (final jackpot was $18,000 - won by one person), etc. there is a rock climbing wall, an in-line skating track, an ice skating rink, full court basketball, a miniature golf course, and for an additional charge, a golf simulator. It seemed like there were so many things going on, we couldn't do everything and had to make choices.
We walked through the Adventure Ocean section of the ship which is the area reserved for the children's program. Even though we didn't have a child using the facilities we wanted to see what everyone was talking about. They have an incredible setup including their own pool with a slide.
Special activity - In celebration of our 25th anniversary, my wife and I booked the Royal Romance Vow Renewal package to renew our marriage vows. It was arranged and performed by the social host who treated us just wonderfully and made us feel special. We invited our dinner table mates and a couple of internet buddies who we met face to face for the first time at the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle party a few days earlier. The ceremony was held in the chapel at the very top of the ship (Deck 15) and they reserved the Cloud 9 lounge for us (Deck 14) to have our "reception" which was basically a champagne toast and cake. It was a lovely setting and a very nice ceremony. After doing some traditional vows I read something that I had written specially for the occasion. We both got a little choked up. It was a little pricey, but we will have some wonderful memories which you can't put a price on.
Entertainment - James Andrews may be the best cruise director I've seen yet. He brings such energy and enthusiasm to everything he does and really gets you going!
The entertainment was generally great! From the shows in the La Scala Theater to the music in the various other lounges. Whatever your taste in music it seemed there was something for everyone. The only show I was disappointed with was their Broadway Revue production, but maybe I'm spoiled considering the number of Broadway shows we've seen.
The most unique show, and a must see, is the ice show. These are professional skaters, who have competed internationally, and they put on a performance that rivals the Ice Capades or Disney on Ice.
Some of the best entertainment was provided by our fellow passengers in the Karoake Idol competition, the Quest, the Battle of the Sexes, and the Love & Marriage game.
Fellow passengers - We had a very diverse group of passengers and everyone we talked to was really friendly.
Royal Caribbean set up a Meet & Mingle party for all the Cruise Critic.Com members who registered in advance. Over 90 people signed up, but only about 20 actually showed up at the party. It was fun to finally meet some of the folks we had been exchanging messages with for quite some time.
The ports - Labadee, Haiti - This was basically a beach day. We tendered ashore and headed for the beach farthest away from the tender dock. There were more than enough lounge chairs and we were able to set up in the shade. A barbecue lunch was served on the beach.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - We've been there before and seen most of what there was to see in and around Ocho Rios. This time we booked a private tour with Ionie & Lewis McBeam. Lewis picked us up at the dock and we took a drive through the countryside for about an hour and a half to go river rafting on the Martha Brae River. The rafting trip was also about an hour and a half and it was very relaxing and enjoyable. On the way back, we stopped at Columbus Park, Green Grotto, and a local jerk center where we sampled some of the local cuisine for lunch. We washed it down with a cold Red Stripe beer. Back in Ocho Rios, Lewis took us to a shopping plaza we requested and then back to the ship.
Grand Cayman - We spent the day at 7 mile beach. We went on our own to the Beach Club Colony which is where the ship sends all the people who booked the beach excursion. We got the same exact deal, but for a few dollars less. We enjoyed the beach so much that we decided to stay there the whole day instead of going off somewhere else. We took a taxi back to town and had just enough time to squeeze in a little shopping before catching the next to last tender. There were two Carnival ships anchored on either side of the Voyager of the Seas. It was fascinating that despite being fairly good size ships, they were dwarfed by the Voyager.
Freeport, Bahamas - By the time we got to Freeport we had had a little too much sun so we decided to skip the beach and instead booked a shore excursion billed as a "Coastal Cruise" and shopping trip. The "Coastal Cruise" was nothing more than a ferry ride to the Lucaya Marketplace. There wasn't much to see. So we did some shopping and then we got on a bus back to the ship.
Debarkation - This is one area that could use some serious improvement, although it is not all within the control of Royal Caribbean.. Our color was called fairly quickly, but we were stuck without moving for about 20 minutes in a small corridor by an elevator bank with quite a few other passengers and others were stuck on the staircases. It seems that they were getting wheelchair passengers off ahead of us which was taking quite some time. I felt they should have let us sit in the lounges a little longer and not called our color until they got all the wheelchair passengers off. Once off the ship we were bussed to the terminal and found all our luggage within a minute (I give them an A+ for the setup). A porter help us bring our luggage outside and that was where the scene was chaotic. We were waiting for our son to pick us up and it seemed as though nobody had any control over the flow of traffic. Cars, limos and busses waiting for passengers who weren't there yet were blocking the pickup lanes and the port personnel had a very difficult time getting them to move. It took my son about 30 minutes to get from our house to the terminal and then another hour to get to us in the pickup area. Fortunately it was anice day and wasn't raining, because there is no shelter or cover to stand under while waiting. Next time I think I'll drive myself and leave the car at the port.
Summary - The ship is incredible, the itinerary was great and we had a truly wonderful time. I love the Voyager class ships and I may have a difficult time settling for anything less on future cruises.