We're in our 40's (ok, wrong side of 45) and this was our 14th cruise, 8th with RCCI. We always fly to the port a day ahead, but this cruise sailed from Cape Liberty, NJ, and was within driving distance from home. Leaving a day early was unnecessary. We left home about 7 AM for the ride to Cape Liberty, only 3 hours away. This was one of the easiest cruises we've ever embarked on. RCCI provides good directions to the port where there is easy and affordable ($12 / day) parking. In fact parking is so close to the terminal that we parked and pulled our luggage. We checked in right away (10:45 AM) and waited in the separate area that is for Diamond and Platinum members. We didn't see the other waiting area, so can't compare. Cookies and water came just before we got on the shuttle to the ship.
Due to extreme hurricane damage, our itinerary had been changed from the original western itinerary of Labadee, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica to Labadee, San Juan, St Marteen, and St Thomas. This suited us fine because 3 out of the 4 new ports are big favorites with us.
Day 1, Friday
A little after noon, the shuttles started transporting passengers to the ship. You are not supposed to go to your cabin until 1pm, but we always go anyway just to drop off our carry ons before going to the Windjammer for lunch. Our cabin was done. We were booked in balcony cabin 7318 originally, a great hump cabin that we had booked a year ago. I normally check open cabins and prices up until sailing and about 10 days before, I found that RCCI had released all their handicapped cabins in the same category (E2) as ours. It was very easy to simply switch cabins. We knew from a previous sailing that these spacious cabins are about the same size as a junior suite. The only thing missing was a bath tub. We were quite hungry by now, so on to the Windjammer for lunch. We've noticed on previous RCCI sailings that the Windjammer has really cut back from say 4-5 years ago. Seems to get worse all the time and this cruise was no exception. My wife's fish was cold and hard and I settled for roast beef from the carving station. One good thing about the Windjammer is that you can sit down after getting your food and someone will ask you what you'd like to drink. Your choices are lemonade and lemonade. Soda and bottled water are also available for purchase. After eating we went to our cabin and changed for a hot tub visit. My wife's back had been extremely bad for the last week or so , so this was a very anticipated visit. We usually head for the hot tub anyway the first day because there is never a crowd. The hot tub was great for her back and she stayed in a full 2 hours. Not cured, but much better. About 3, we headed back to our cabin and were pleased to find our suitcases had arrived. We unpacked and then headed for mandatory muster drill at 4:30pm. Sailing was scheduled at 5, but was delayed by some late arrivals. Early seating was at 6 this sailing and we both were hungry and ready to go by then. Sat down and met our table mates that soon arrived. Joe from Denver and Reese and Carol from New Zealand. Wife and I both had the Rib Eye and although not as hot as it could have been, was still very good. Later we went to the welcome aboard show and our cruise director Richard Spacey introduced himself. He told some jokes and introduced "one of the top comedians from India", Ed Regine. He was pretty good. Had a late night drink in the Viking Crown Lounge and headed for bed.
Day 2, Saturday
Up and atom at 6:30am. Well my wife was anyway. She read while letting me sleep until 8 and then we headed for the Windjammer for breakfast. Wife had the cold potatoes and eggs. OJ seemed to be watered down and not the standard we would expect from Royal Caribbean. I decided to have the French Toast when I saw a new platter being placed in the serving area. Not too bad. At least it wasn't cold. Most everyone complains about the coffee, but I think it's fine. Not as strong as in previous RCCI cruises. Back to the cabin. Wife read and I napped till it was time to eat again. Back to the Windjammer and more of the same. Wife tried a different fish this time, but it was still cold. I settled for a hot dog. They are always at least warm. Also hit the carving station again too. Walked around a bit afterward. Checked out the shops etc. Not really into bingo and trivia so avoided at every opportunity. Sunny today, but very windy and chilly. We stayed in the solarium enjoying another nap and the hot tub.
The first formal night is tonight. All dressed up and ready to eat more. Tonight we met Joe's wife Mae and another couple Bob and Sue who transferred to our table from the late sitting. (I think they couldn't stay awake). I had the fillet mignon and found it to be good, but nothing special. My wife had the duck, a favorite of hers for many years. She was unimpressed with her selection this time, since it was not cooked well enough and was difficult to chew. Her escargot was only lukewarm and my shrimp cocktails ( I always get 2) were really cold. Oh yeah. They're supposed to be. The strawberry cheesecake and the Grand Main Soufflé were good. Off to the Captain's cocktail party and then to the show.
Tonight is the first of 3 production shows, Vibe*ology. Not bad. Singers tonight are excellent as is the norm for a Royal Caribbean Cruise. After the show was the first of 3 Karaoke Idle nights. We've watched karaoke on occasion on previous cruises, but this time we heard some very talented people. The winner on this night and 2 others went to the final competition on the last night of the cruise. Hit the sack by 11:45pm.
Day 3, Sunday
This morning we find that although today is overcast it is now nice and warm and very humid. Real Caribbean weather. YES!!! Seas are quite rough today as they were yesterday and there is some rocking, but not bad. We decide to have breakfast in the dining room today. Asked for a table for 2 and were quickly seated. We both ordered the French toast and as usual, was very good. RCCI makes the best. Finished and on to the solarium hot tubs. Much more crowded today. Chair hogs out in force. Found a suitable lounge for a nap and didn't disappoint myself. Wife reads, I nap. Today we decided to try out Johnny Rockets. Have mixed reviews on previous visits on other ships. We were the first in line when they opened and were surprised that we got steaming hot onion rings, but only a luke- warm hamburger and chicken. We both had shakes at $3.60 a pop -very good. Back to the cabin for reading and a nap. You can guess who did which.
At dinner, we both ordered the Thai Shrimp. This was excellent. For desert I had the white chocolate gateau and my wife had the mango pie. Very Good!
Tonight's show is Herb Reed and "The Platters". We've seen them 2 other times on previous RCCI cruises and decided to see again. Herb Reed is the only original member performing. Along with the new members, they were excellent at singing the original songs- as they sounded in the 50's. After the show, we happened to be walking by the Champagne Bar and were invited to a champagne with 4 of our table mates. Chatted awhile and then retired for the evening.
Day 4, Monday
Today we stop at Labadee, Royal Caribbean's "private island" and a real favorite with us. After a fast breakfast in the Windjammer, we find that it's a beautiful warm sunny day with some large waves due to Hurricane Jeanne which had passed through a couple days before. We head straight for our favorite spot, Hideaway Beach. It's farther along and the last to get crowded. Found a great spot under shade and stayed until well after lunch. Ocean was warm as bathwater. Lunch was good today on Labadee. The usual barbeque items to select from. Returned to the ship around 1:30 and hit the hot tub for awhile. Then up on deck to relax and have a drink.
Today before dinner (smart casual night), RCCI had their Welcome Back Party in Cleopatra's Needle. Had a few drinks. Wife thought that there were fewer choices of hors d'oeuvres served than on previous cruises. For dinner we both had the rack of lamb. Really good. Should have ordered extra. Next time maybe. Wife also had the Thai Lemongrass soup that she doesn't recommend after trying. Tonight's show Dreamscape was very good. Tonight from 10:30 to 12 was another karaoke competition. More good singers too. 12:15 was the late night comedian Ed Regine who we saw on a previous night. He let out a little secret about his act that I can't tell, so if he is on your cruise, he is worth seeing.
Day 5, Tuesday
Slept late this morning after the busy late night. Had breakfast in the Dining Room and had the French Toast. Wife had a mushroom omelet and we thought that they were both good. Wife went to the gym for awhile and I checked email. Still 50 cents a minute. Our Platinum Crown and Anchor coupon books each include a 15 minute free coupon for internet service. Paid almost nothing for online service for the whole cruise. Good Deal!!!
Arrived San Juan around 11:00AM. Had to go to immigration. All you have to do is walk through the dining room with your cruise card and your passport (birth certificate). You have to do this even if you are not getting off the ship. Not organized very well this time as on previous cruises. Took at least 1 ½ hours for everyone to go through the line. Ate in the Windjammer again and on to the hot tub and pool for a relaxing day. We don't usually get off in San Juan, especially when arriving so late. (We have been there a number of times before and have seen the fort, etc.)
Tonight we decided to try Portofinos. Wanted to see what's worth $20 per person. Our server Marina from the Philippines was very nice and very anxious to make us happy. A bread basket was brought to our table before being served. I had the filet mignon ,and my wife had the spaghetti with lobster, after a shrimp rosalto appetizer and the asparagus soup with smoked trout. For desert I had the flourless chocolate cake. I like chocolate, but this was just so rich I couldn't finish it. Wife had the tiramisu which came with a shooter of Baileys and Kahlua. Although this was a very good meal with super service, we don't think we'll do it again. We enjoy the dining room just fine.
There is no main show tonight, so we attended the "Ice Jammin" Ice show in Studio B at 9pm. To attend any of the ice shows, you'll need to get free tickets when availability is announced. There were several choices of show times. The skaters did a short show and then did a small competition for single men and women and for pairs. Total show is about 1 hour long. The first time we've seen the skaters do this. In the other skating shows on previous cruises there was no competition. We enjoyed the change in format.
After the show we went to the Love and Marriage Show. We learned some new words tonight. Our cruise director had some really good come backs from the contestants answers. Very good show. Unfortunately we skipped the deck party tonight. Just too tired. Looked at the full moon from our own balcony.
Day 6, Wednesday
Today we port in St. Maarten. We love it here!!! This morning at 8am, it is 86° and sunny! A fast breakfast in the windjammer and on to the beach, but which one? We've always gone to Orient Beach, but today we decide to try a new one. Someone working with the taxis recommends Guana Bay. He says it's much quieter. Boy is it! We were the only ones on this beach for at least an hour. Then a small tour from the ship showed up. Wonder what that cost them? Our total cost was $8 for the taxi each way and $15 for 2 beach chairs and an umbrella. The waves here were huge. At least 6-8 feet. Many on the tour were brave and didn't hesitate to go in and get knocked all over the place. For awhile we were wondering how we were going to get a taxi. We were told we'd have to call one. Didn't like that. As we were picking up to leave, a taxi came by to drop off some folks, so we got back to the ship easily today. We'll prefer Orient beach for future visits I think.
Back to the Windjammer for lunch and had a hot dog (it was hot). Wife found something even though this is more difficult each visit. Had soft serve ice cream for desert as there were no other appealing choices in the desert section today. (Back in the good old days there were too many good deserts to eat them all). Afterward, we headed up to the top deck for a short nap.
Tonight's show featured a juggler (Jeff Harris) and comedian Carl Strong. The juggler was ok, but we've seen better comedians. I think he talked about his mama too much. Skipped Battle of the Sexes tonight. Just too tired. I guess the nap wasn't long enough. Checked out the full moon and retired.
Day 7, Thursday
Today's port is St Thomas. Another big favorite with us. We docked around 7am and immigration boarded immediately to begin clearing the ship. After a room service breakfast on our balcony, we headed for the immigration line and were pleased to find that there was almost no line. Took only about 5 minutes to go through.
We changed for the beach and headed to Morningstar, a small beach that is right next to Frenchmans Reef (Marriot). It's much closer to the pier than Megans Bay and others. Cost was $5 pp each way. We paid $10 each for lounge chairs. We knew we were on a tight schedule because the ship needed to leave at 3pm to make the long trip back to Port Liberty, NJ. We stayed from 9 to 12:30. Back to the ship for a fast shower and lunch. Out shopping for only about an hour. Nothing caught our eye, so back to the ship.
Tonight is the second formal night. Dressed and on to dinner. We had the Chateaubriand and the Salmon. Both were excellent! Wife had the pecan tart and I had the chocolate bread pudding. Instructed wife not to let me get that again.
Tonight is the final production show, "Rhythm Rhyme". Great show with excellent singers and dancers. Later was the final karaoke competition.
Day 8, Friday
Up very early this morning for an at sea day. Went to the Windcrapper for breakfast and was in the hot tub by 8. Stayed in the solarium all morning. At 11:30 this morning was the Crown and Anchor Platinum and Diamond member party in Cleopatra's Needle. Open Bar and a great lunch. Ton's of shrimp, lamb chops, shish kabobs, fruit, choc covered strawberries, and more. Afterward, I went to the casino for awhile while my wife sat on our balcony and read.
Tonight was lobster night. For some unknown reason, it was not very good. Not sure if it was just overcooked or what.It came with shrimp, which were good. I also ordered the prime rib as backup and that was also good. Had the crème brulee' and that didn't seem to be as good as in the past either.
Tonight's show features Domenick Allen. On the Cruise Compass he is listed as a "Foreigner" Rock Group member. I was disappointed that he sang only a couple songs by Foreigner. Upon further research when I got home, it turns out that he is a seasoned tour musician-singer that has toured with the likes of Stevie Wonder (L.A. Forum), The Buddy Rich Big Band (Carnegie Hall), Petula Clark, Carole King, Helen Reddy, Annie Ross, Liberace, Barry Manilow. He is not an original Foreigner group member. A little exageration in the cruise compass I think. He is an accomplished actor with many appearances on television and stage. He sings very well and put on a very good show although not what I thought I was going to hear. I would see his show again though if given the opportunity. Wife thought he was just ok.
After the main show tonight is the "Quest". If you've never seen it played, you must not miss. Because it has become such a popular event on the RCCI ships, this has to be played in Studio B rather than Cleopatra's Needle. There was standing room only this night and it was very funny. Be sure to go see it on your cruise and better yet, get involved. Don't forget to prepare by having a few drinks first.
Day 9, Saturday
Well this is our last day at sea. End of cruise depression is beginning to take hold. We know tomorrow is going to be the end of our 9 night Voyager cruise. The balcony isn't warm anymore. The cool northern air is taking hold. This isn't good.
We decide to eat a good breakfast in the dining room this morning. Table for 2 and French toast for both of us. Very good. One last visit to the solarium hot tub for the morning. Lunch in the dining room today (took us 9 days to learn where the decent food is. Won't happen again). I had the Philly Cheese Steak and the wife visited the pasta bar. She wished we'd done this the very first day. Me too!!! We usually prefer the Windjammer because we are in our bathing suits and changing is a pain, but the better food is worth it, at least on this ship.
Tried to sit out up on deck, but a little too windy for us. We decided to sit near the main pool for the afternoon.
Dinner tonight was very good. I had the sirloin steak and the wife had the Mahi Mahi. Had the brownie with chocolate mouse and wife had the banana nut parfait, both very good. We say goodbye to our waiter EdMichael (I think there must have been an argument naming him and there was a compromise) from the Philippines and our assistant waiter Troy from Costa Rica. We won't be missing our head waiter ( Asif from India) who made rude comments each time someone walked out without giving him a tip. We saw at least one person stuff his would-be tip back up under his hat after hearing him. Very unprofessional, especially from someone who did nothing at all for our table and promised help he did not deliver. We have tipped good headwaiters in the past, but our tip money went happily elsewhere this time around.
Farewell Showtime tonight featured the same two entertainers as on day 6. Same opinion. Some of the "Cruise in Review Video" that you can purchase was also played. After the show we met up with Joe Mae and Reese Carol for a final drink at the "Pig and Whistle". Joe and Reese's treat and we thanked them for being such interesting table mates. The karaoke finals were almost ready to begin so we headed to Studio B. Very good competition and we approved of the person that won. Wife enjoyed the balcony one last time then hit the sack, and I headed to the casino until 1:30am or so.
Day 10, Sunday
Never much fun on the last day of a great cruise vacation and this was no exception. It was a little worse this time because we didn't dock until 10am or so. Before docking I took some good pictures of the ship going under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. According to the captain, there is only 10 ft clearance between the bottom of the bridge and the highest point on the Voyager going under. We waited in the priority debarkation location which was in the dining room from around 10 until 11:30 when our lavender colored tag was called. We headed out of the ship and onto the shuttle bus to the terminal. There, we quickly found our luggage and were loaded up and out of Bayonne in no time. Wife says she wants to do it again instead of flying to a port. Have to think about that for next September.
Overall, we had very few complaints except for the Windjammer food. The lack of new selections and quality was the main reason for this. I believe that the food is usually hot when you put it on your plate, but since you may not sit down with it for 5 minutes or longer, it cools considerably in that time.
The Voyager is in great condition overall. There is some wear here and there, but certainly nothing to take anything away for your cruise experience.
The staff is very friendly and more than willing to help you in any way.
The cruise director, Richard Spacey was very good although little too silly for me. My wife liked him more than I did. I'd rate him a 7-8.
Hot tubs were not always warm enough.
Drinks are still not too expensive. $4.75 for a frozen drink and $3.00 for a beer.
Embarkation and debarkation could not have gone better. RCCI has worked out the bugs in this department and Cape Liberty is going to be even better in the future. In 2005, RCCI will add the Enchantment which will do 4 and 6 night Canadian Cruises. Also the Celebrity Zenith will sail to Bermuda on 7 night cruises and of course the Voyager will be back for 9 night Caribbean and 5 night Bermuda cruises. Hope RCCI adds more choices here in the future.
I'd estimate at least half or more of the passengers aboard the Voyager on this cruise were within driving distance, so it compares to a cruise from San Juan. You cruise with a lot of "locals".
After a family cruise on the Radiance in the spring, we will be exploring options on non-RCCI cruises. RCCI's new pricing policy where the hands of the deep discounters are tied is a partial factor in our decision. Time for something new anyway.
Any questions, email me and I'll try and answer. Cruisinfanatic@aol.com