Please read this review with an open mind. We are writing it from our perspective which might be quite different from yours. The very reasons that we chose to book a certain cruise line and a specific ship, might be just the reasons that you would not chose them for your booking. I will mention a few things we look for and like to do when we cruise, that will give you some idea of where we are coming from.
We are in our mid seventies. I am a retired restauranteur and have been retired since 1973. We have traveled extensively and decided to try our first cruise in July of 1996, aboard Celebrity's Zenith. This cruise experience changed our lives and has made us passionate about cruising. We have made 14 cruises in less than four years. I use the word cruise when I am writing a review but when Mary & I refer to our cruises, we refer to them as honeymoons. We do this because I can't think of a more romantic or exciting way to spend time with ones spouse than on a cruise. We enjoy spending a lot of quality time together and we find for us that there is no better way of doing this than cruising. We will be going on our 15th honeymoon May 7, aboard the Grand Princess, to the Eastern Caribbean.
We like the newer, larger ships because there is more to see and more to do. Most of the newer ships offer the latest in design and technology and creature comforts. The overall decor and appointments of the ship go a long way in creating the atmosphere that we enjoy while cruising. We enjoy being pampered and catered too, therefore the attitude and the desire of the crew to please us, is very important. We enjoy going to an intimate lounge with good dance music, for cocktails and dancing before dinner. In the dining room we look for good quality food and pastries and efficient, friendly service, without our waiter becoming a member of our party. After dinner, we like to once again go to an intimate lounge with dance music, for after dinner drinks and dancing as we wait for show time. After the show, we go to a lounge that we can again dance before retiring for the evening. As you can tell, we enjoy dancing. We also like to get dressed up and aboard ship is one of a very few places that you can get dressed and not worry that you might be seated next to some one in dungarees. We are not very interested in games or quiz's of any type. The ports and the excursions are not important to us to us. If we go ashore, we usually go to a good hotel and pay them a small fee to use their facilities, ocean area, pool, shower and restaurant and etc. If we have a Western Itinerary, we go to the Grand Hotel in Ocho Rios and in the port of Cozumel we make sure to have lunch in Pancho's Backyard. They have a Marimba band playing on the patio, it's a delightful place. We hope knowing some of the things we like and dislike will help you make a better evaluation of our review.
I have read a number of reviews of the Voyager where the writer says the ship has been described many times, therefore I'm not going to go into the details and decor of the ship. In our opinion, whatever has been said about this magnificent ship is not enough because it is near impossible to fully describe its awesome beauty. This was our 14th cruise and in our estimation this is the most beautiful and well appointed ship we have cruised on. It is breathtaking in its design. It has to be seen to truly appreciate the exquisite detailing and workmanship that is evident throughout the vessel. I will first tell you of our embarkation and cabin, and then I will attempt to describe various areas of the ship and our overall impression.
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier at 11.30, dropped off our luggage, and I parked our car in the parking lot directly across the street from the entrance to the terminal. We went directly to the counter, (there was no one in front of us) and checked in. We waited 10 minutes and boarded the ship at 12.00 o'clock. It was the smoothest embarkation we have experienced. We were directed to our cabin, Atrium #6593.
Cabin: Atrium #6593 The Atrium cabins are one of the newer innovations by RC to increase the desirability of inside cabins. They are inside cabins with the opposite wall from the door being a bay window with a love seat, overlooking the main promenade that connects two atriums. The room was tastefully done. There were two love seats. One by the bay window and one to the right of the bed, with a small cocktail table between them. For some reason we can't figure out, when the two beds were put together, it became a king size bed. The lower corners of the bed were round in shape to give much needed room to pass by. This made the cabin appear smaller than it actually was. The closet was decent but the drawer space was very limited. The bathroom was small but adequate. Overall the cabin was comfortable and surprisingly quiet.
Our cabin attendant was very efficient and very pleasant. He often surprised us with towel sculptures which were surprisingly realistic.
The Promenade & Atriums: The promenade is absolutely beautiful. It is approximately the length of two football fields, and about 40 feet in width and is five decks high, joined by two Atriums. A stunning design innovation which I'm sure we will see more of on the newer ships. The promenade can best be described as a main boulevard in a very upbeat section of town. The boulevard is lined with gift shops, the Pig N Whistle tavern (where you can sit outside on the sidewalk and sip a stout as you watch the people pass by,) The Score Bar, (a place where you could get a drink and all the latest scores of sporting events around the world), a small casino with a giant roulette wheel, an ice cream stand that you can help yourself to a ice cream cone any time of the day or night, an all night restaurant the Cafe Promenade, that served pizza, ready made sandwiches and the best cakes, pies and pastry we have had aboard any ship. Above the various gift shops and stores were four stories of atrium cabin windows overlooking the promenade.
This promenade was joined on each end by two truly magnificent Atriums that had floating stairways that encompassed six decks. Each Atrium had four glass enclosed elevators that were very quiet and offered great views of the Promenade when they were in motion. And RC as is their custom, changed the carpet every everyday, telling what day it was. The various views that one glimpsed as they ascended the stairways and the elevators were breath taking. Many times during our cruise Mary & I would find ourselves standing in one of the stairwells remarking what an exceptional job the designers did. There wasn't a detail overlooked.
The promenade was the focal point of the ship. The first night they had a welcome aboard parade along the Promenade that was complete with dancers, singers, stilt walkers, jugglers and the Krooz comics. Both sides of the boulevard were lined with people as the parade came passing by. The captains party was also held on the promenade. Everything was done in very good taste and was truly a party. Champagne and hors d'oeuvres were being served everywhere on the boulevard. The full show orchestra was on one side of the boulevard playing as the people were walking by in their formal attire with a champagne glass in their hand. It was truly a sight to behold. Halfway down the promenade was an overhead walkway. The night of the captains party, Ken Rush, the cruise director introduced the captain and the officers and as each one was introduced they ascended the stairs and took a position on the crosswalk and then made their remarks. It was a great setting and a very exciting prelude to a wonderful evening. Without a doubt, it was the best captains party we ever attended.
They had a number of parades on the promenade. One was a Mardi Gras parade with the participants, (Girls from the shows and members of the entertainment staff and crew), in full Mardi Gras costumes, stilt walkers and etc. Mary & I watched this parade from our bay window in our atrium cabin. They also had a group called the Krooz comics, who would stroll the promenade engaging the people on the promenade in all kinds of shenanigans. They were graduates of the Barnum & Baily clown college and they did a great job. Sometimes it was a little difficult to get through the promenade because of the volume of people and all that was going on, but we didn't mind because it was such a gay and festive atmosphere.
Dining Room & Food: The dining rooms has three levels with the centerpiece being a huge crystal chandelier that is reputed to have cost a half million dollars. I don't doubt it. It is very impressive. The entire atmosphere is one of eloquence.
When we sailed aboard RC's Enchantment of the Sea last year, the food was very good and the service excellent, but we can't say that about the Voyager. The menu, the food and the service were less than mediocre, in fact, it was the poorest of any of our cruises. The Chef had a tendency to use rice with most every dish and the dishes are very inconsistent. Although the food wasn't what it should be, the pastries were the best we have ever had. The last two nights the menu was so poor it was difficult to make a selection. I finally ordered a New York Strip Steak. It was not very good. Our waiter, who knew we were formally in the restaurant business, tried to help us by telling us what not to order, but it didn't help. I told him we were disappointed in the quality of the food and he agreed and said that he gets a number of complaints. He also said that the crew haven't come together as a family and the service isn't what it should be. I can't understand why RC didn't take the top executive chef of their fleet and put him in the kitchen of this magnificent vessel. This is especially true since they own the Celebrity line which has the best cuisine of any of the cruise lines.
Cafe Promenade: This is a 24 hr a day restaurant that is located on the Promenade, that serves Pizza, ready made sandwiches and pastry. The food is excellent, the service very good, and it has a great atmosphere in a very convenient location. Make sure you look at the beautiful workmanship in the treatment of the walls and especially the ceilings. Superb design and workmanship.
Windjammer & Island Grill: This is the breakfast and lunch area. This is in the aft section of the ship and is a very beautiful dining area. It is a well appointed room and offers great views of the ocean. The food is good and tastefully presented.
Johnnie Rockets-Franchise Restaurant: We heard how great it was and we better be sure and get there early because we wouldn't be able to get a table. We made sure we were there fifteen minutes before twelve, there wasn't anyone in line. We were seated at twelve o'clock and ordered two hamburgers and two shakes.. We finished our hamburgers, which weren't that great, and paid our check. It was now 5 minutes to I o'clock. Fifty five minutes and not another person was in the restaurant. So much for this new franchising idea.
Entertainment: Maybe we expected too much. We thought the Voyager, with all the attention being paid to it as being the largest and most luxurious ship afloat, was sure to have the very best of entertainment. This wasn't the case. We were not overly impressed with either the shows or the single act performers. Many people raved about the production numbers. It is very probable that the reason we didn't particularly enjoy it was the fact it wasn't the type entertainment we enjoy.
The Ice Show: In recent years we are seeing more and more ice reviews on our TV's. When I heard there was an ice show aboard the Voyager, I said to myself, no way. We decided to go to show because of a review I read in the Wheelhouse Cruise Review, on the Internet. The writer, Ernest Roller, who has made forty cruises wrote, the ice show aboard the Voyager was the best show he has ever seen at sea. Mary & I agree with Ed Roller, this is by far the best show we have seen during our 14 cruises. From the very opening moments, it had a mystical exciting quality that made you sit on the edge of your seat and just marvel at what these talented performers could do in such a limited space. The big band accompaniment was absolutely sensational. One of the best places to sit is in the center section. It gives you the best view. Don't miss it!
Cleopatra's Needle: Is a very beautiful and elegant show lounge. It is decorated in Egyptian motif. Very authentic and very attractive. This is where the various dance bands played. Unfortunately for us, they played very little of the type music we enjoy, like the 40's and 50's music. It was only on the last two nights of our cruise that we were able to dance to our kind of music. We wonder if the younger people realize how wonderful and romantic it is to hold the one you love close to you when you dance, while listening to strains of a romantic ballad. We wish we were able to dance more.
Aquarium Bar: The thought and details that went into the construction of this lounge is mind boggling. The lounge encompass's the entire area around the stairways of the aft atrium on deck #3. It is what it's name implies, it is a true aquarium. The walls of this entire area, port and starboard, are walls of glass containing 45,000 gallons of water, (I'm pretty sure that's a proper quote), and behind the glass are a colorful array of all kinds of tropical fish. We enjoyed going there before dinner to have a cocktail while viewing the aquarium, and listening to the music of a very accomplished string trio.
Schooner Bar: Another very attractive bar area located forward of the ship, with a very fine piano player, playing and singing the songs of yesteryear. A good place to have drink while waiting for show time. The decor and appointments are superb. Unfortunately, the room never had the activity it deserved
Pool Area: We were somewhat disappointed in the pool area. It was very difficult to get a lounge chair in either the area of two main pools or the spa area. The pools and the Jacuzzi's were overflowing with people. We usually enjoy the pool area on a cruise and spend a great deal of time there, but this was not the case on the Voyager. The band platform was poorly placed. Canvas on its side restricted the view of a very wide area. There was also a needle sculpture that was misplaced and took up a great deal of the dance area.
Photo Shop: The photo shop area was the best laid out photo display area we have seen. It was altogether in one compact area. They set up photo opportunities in really great places and before the photographer took your picture he asked what deck were you on.. When you looked for your photos you went to the area that was marked with your deck number. It made it much easier to find your pictures.
Children's Play Area: We went through the entire children's play area. It is astounding what they have done for the children. Without going into details, we found it to be the largest and most remarkable array of equipment, games, videos, computers, you name it and they have it. Also included is the entire aft section of the deck which is the setting for a large children's pool with a slide which is outstanding. If you have children I would suggest you consider booking the Voyager. I think they will be thrilled.
Summation: We have very mixed feelings about the Voyager. Without a doubt it is the most beautiful ship we have ever sailed. We like so many things about the ship, but the areas that you would expect them to excel at, were far below average. Such as food and service in the dining room. I'd like to think this is going to vastly improve after the crew has some more time together, working as a team. If they do improve in those areas and if the cruise director Ken Rush would see to it that there was a lounge where one could dance to the music of the 40's and 50's, we very well might sail on it once a year. I think there are enough lounges aboard these new ships, that the entertainment director could have one lounge cater to those who like to dance to the romantic music of the 40's & 50's. An example of how this can be done is the way the Princess line schedules the music aboard the Sea Princess, and in particular the Wheelhouse Lounge. They have a terrific duo, a husband and wife team that plays in the Wheelhouse Lounge from 5:30 to 9:00, then another group, a trio from 9 o'clock on. They played a lot of requests, so everyone got to hear their favorite tunes. We went there every night before dinner for drinks and dancing and then after diner we stopped in for an after dinner drink and dancing while waiting for the show to start. The room was packed every night. A great many people are looking for this type of music on some sort of steady basis.. In fact because of the way Princess schedules their music, I researched reviews and found out that the Grand Princess also had a Wheelhouse lounge and had a duo and a trio playing as they did aboard the Sea Princess. This was one of the main reasons we booked a cruise aboard the Grand Princess for this May 7th.
We encourage everyone that has ever cruised to try the Voyager at least once. It is a totally different experience and I believe it is a preview of the cruise ships of the future.
If anyone can tell us anything about the Wheelhouse lounge on the Grand Princess, we would like to hear from you. If we can answer anyone's questions, please E-Mail us.