Voyager of the Seas
by Mary & Vincent Finelli
January 20, 2007
There is an old saying that the third time is a charm and this, our third cruise on the Voyager of the Seas, was definitely charming. We call our January trips "Anniversary Cruises" since we were married January 26, 1969. So this was our 38th anniversary and along with us to help celebrate the occasion were our son Marcello, his lovely wife Paige and their son Marcellino (almost 5 years old). Thus, we were treated to a view of cruising through the eyes of a child. It was a whole new angle for us --- and we learned a lot about how wonderful Royal Caribbean International (RCI) is to the next generation of cruisers!
The Voyager Class of ships includes the Explorer of the Seas, the Adventure of the Seas, the Navigator of the Seas, and the Mariner of the Seas --- all constructed between 1999 and 2003, they were the largest RCI cruise ships afloat until the launching of the Freedom of the Seas in 2006. It is the most innovative class of ships and architect Njal R. Eide has designed contemporary interiors which far surpass the openness and impressiveness of any ships which came before. The Grand Promenade for Mr. Eide is influenced by the "Town Center." Here there is a small town atmosphere where parades, music and shops all meld together to create a "Main Street" effect far beyond any other ship board sensation. The four deck promenade creates an immense open space which is also found in the three tiered dining rooms. Mr. Eide designed these huge open spaces to be awesome and they are. The grand chandelier beautifully radiates golden light over the diners.
During this cruise we met old friends such as the following: Hotel Director Gordon Shenk, Cruise Director Kirk Detweiler, Maitre D' Paulo Alves and Concierge Martin Sanchez. We also made some fantastic new friends including the very competent Captain Charles Teige (Norway) and the youthful Executive Chef Ivo Jahn (Germany). Returning to RCI is always like coming home.
Organization on board is terrific under Hotel Director Gordon Shenk. We first saw this at the Welcome Aboard buffet --- where passengers were directed to areas less crowded, and we avoided long lines and easily found a nice table with a view of Miami. Our grandson Marcellino was tagged with a wrist band as soon as we boarded. He was told that he was part of the Youth Evacuation Program (YEP) and that whenever and wherever he was in the Ocean Adventure Program, he would be taken directly to his parents' Assembly Station. Once he understood the importance of his green bracelet he was happy and proud to wear it. That same evening he was registered to the Adventure Ocean Program. Marcellino was enthusiastic to go to these programs all week long --- mornings, afternoons and evenings were all for free. He enjoyed the crafts, face painting, games and especially loved the "Cars" night and the movie; moreover, he was happy to win some prizes in games and competitions. There was also baby-sitting available. The family ate together at meals, but had independence during the rest of the day and night.
The Voyager was built in 1999 and refurbished in 2004 and she is in excellent condition. She is 138,000 gross tons; 1,020 feet long and has a beam of 158 feet. Her passenger capacity is 3,835 and a crew of 1,179. She is extremely beautiful and loaded with over 4,000 pieces of art. Her Roman style Solarium with pool and hot tubs is decorated with tasteful classic statuary.
FOOD & SERVICE
Executive Chef Ivo Jahn took us on a wonderful private tour of the Galley. This is truly the heart of the ship and daily from here over 15,000 meals are made and served, plus snacks, hors d'oeurves and cakes for parties. On our first night we dined on Deck 3 at a huge table for 12 at the rear of the dining room. We went to our assigned table early, while Mary stopped to see Maitre D' Paulo; he said that he would have a smaller table for us the next night, near the entrance. We don't enjoy disturbing other diners every night going through the dining room with the wheelchair. Paulo was besieged by people that night, including an unreasonable woman who held up the line demanding the impossible, immediately. We had a wonderful meal the first night too, but true to his word Paulo had a table for us the next night, right near the door on Deck 5, The Magic Flute dining room. At table #538 we had excellent service from our waiter Donald and his assistant Lee. The head waiter Sebastiano was both cordial and enjoyed speaking with Vincent in Italian. Throughout the cruise at the next table was Victor our new friend from boarding. Of course, Marcellino was treated like a Prince with special chocolate milk, Jell-O, cookies and even an impromptu puppet show, etc.
As usual the best meal on board is always at the Captain's table. The combination of the traditional walk down the triple staircase in procession with the guests led by Captain Charles Teige and the stately dining room all aglow is very grand. Mary and Vincent took the elevator. Captain Teige is both worldly and marine knowledgeable. Service under the watchful eye of Maitre D' Paulo was tip top --- we had a nicely paced meal and excellent conversation. Maryland Crab Cake, New England Clam Chowder, Captain Charles' Salad (Lobster arranged in a natural avocado bowl and dressed lightly), and choice of Salmon, Lamb or Pork chops were the order of the night. Executive Chef Ivo outdid himself!
Service throughout the ship is friendly and quick. We had breakfast in our suite each morning and it was full American: eggs, bacon, hash brown potatoes, fruit, cereal and hot coffee and chocolate. It was always punctual and excellent. Room service was definitely superior. Marcellino enjoyed eating at Johnny Rockets (the 1950's diner). We did too, the Juke Box music, the dancing wait staff and not to mention the great hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings and chili ($3.95 per person) gave us a trip back down memory lane. There is also Portofino's upscale Italian Restaurant ($20 per person).
Our steward was Zigi Sanchez who made us feel at home and always anticipated all our needs. His service was so outstanding that we never wanted to leave the ship at the end of the cruise.
The highlight of the Voyager Class is the ice skating show. This time it was no different with the "Ice Odyssey Showtime," featuring Russian skating star Marina Karamycheva. Both she and the rest of the cast were terrific on the 30 by 60 foot rink.
There are a multitude of activities from Trivia, Bingo, Casino Games to ping pong, ice skating, in-line skating, golf simulator, volleyball, shuffleboard, basketball, the Rock Climbing Wall, Sports fitness, Spa offerings, etc. There are Exploration Tours in Ports of Call and programs for Aqua Babies (under 3 years old), Children and Teen activities with qualified educators. There is something for everyone --- "Get Out There!"PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Port of Miami Depart 5:00 pm
Day 2. Nassau, Bahamas Arrive 7:00 am Depart 1:00 pm An interesting tour is a visit to the Atlantis Hotel and its beautiful aquarium on Paradise Island.
Day 3. At sea
Day 4. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 8:00 am Depart 6: pm This Island is one of the best shopping places in the Eastern Caribbean. "Mr. Table Cloth" is Mary's favorite for linens.
Day 5. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 7:00 am Depart 2:00 pm A city tour with visits at Fuerte San Cristobal and El Morro gives an historical perspective to the visitors.
Day 6. Labadee, Haiti Arrive 8:30 am Depart 4:00 pm Here the passengers enjoy a picnic on the beach and several water sports: Wave runners, Parasailing and snorkeling.
Day 7. At sea
Day 8. Miami, Arrive 7:00 am
We have now booked two more transatlantic cruises on RCI ships, one in April, from Miami to Southampton, England on the Navigator of the Seas, combined with a three weeks trip to Italy, and the other westbound in October on the Jewel of the Seas. We love the transatlantic crossing with the many days at sea. We expect, however, to book other cruises before and in between these two crossings. Happy Cruising!