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Sail Date: October 2008
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time ... Read More
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time crossing for this ship and I thought it would be fun seeing all the new stuff RCCL has put on this basically English market outfitted ship. The Independence is very large but so well designed that you do not notice the large numbers of people. It is a new ship with large flat screen TV's and unique to the Independence, a very good hot water kettle in the room with tea and coffee. I do wish RCCL would put such a quality kettle in all the rooms on their ships. I had a rear facing D1 balcony cabin which was just wonderful. The same size as most D1 cabins, the rear facing cabins have, generally, a balcony three time the size of traditional balconies. I was on the 10th floor and right next to me were two wonderful regular RCCL travelers from Florida. We enjoyed talking a lot on that crossing. The advantage to being a Diamond on RCCL is that they do a lot for those who are loyal to this ship line. No other cruise ship line does as much as RCCL for in the mornings they have a lounge open specially for Diamonds and those Plus which has a great breakfast. The two concierges they have on the Diamond level try to work issues out and do the best they can when sometimes very arrogant Diamond members make unreasonable demands. RCCL also has a cocktail time from generally 5-8:30pm where Diamonds and Diamond Plus members can meet and have a good time while having a drink or two provided by RCCL. No other Cruise Line comes even close to doing this for their loyal customers! I so hope RCCL never changes this policy for it is the primary reason so many of us return to RCCL given some of the manifest other issues they do not seem to be able to address such as the lesser than average food in their dinning rooms, etc. The primary reason I am writing this is to send along a compliment to RCCL for so many times all I hear are stories finding problems with the cruise lines. On this crossing the ship stopped in Vigo, Spain, and against better advice I ate oysters on shore. I thereupon, a day later, became so ill that for the first time, ever, I called the medical facility on the ship at 2am and said I was so bad I could not ever walk down to their facility. They immediately sent someone up with a wheel chair and brought me down to see the nurse and the Doctor. The nurse was from Romania and was just wonderful and the Doctor was Canadian and really knew his business of taking care of very sick travelers. They gave me fluids via intravenously and a shot, etc. After a period of two hours I was well enough to go back to the room and because RCCL is very conscious of the virus that can become a problem with other travelers on the ship, I was quarantined for two days. I was fine with being quarantined because even though I thought my problem was food poisoning the Dr. wanted to make sure I had nothing else that could cause problems with everyone else on board. For the next two days they sent my meals to my room, called me regularly from the infirmary, from guest services and from the Diamond lounge to make sure I was ok and doing better. They sent free of charge all the gatorade, bottled water I needed and gave me free Internet wifi in my room for my laptop and I watched all the movies I wanted as a gift from the ship. I am somewhat discerning about medical care and I can tell you that rest easy if that is something that causes you concern about going to sea. If you are on a RCCL ship, their standards are very high and they take that responsibility seriously. RCCL also sent me a cruise credit for a future cruise because I missed part of my crossing being quarantined. Cruise credits are nice things to have for you keep being rewarded by RCCL the more credits you receive. So, what started out as a short note seems to have gone on but if anyone wants to ask me any questions, please just email me at: rennyga2000@yahoo.com Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Observations on this cruise: • Our waiter was just not up to par. We never really got to know him very well. He brought breakfast to our room on day 7 and did not even recognize us! In the past we wanted to take home the ... Read More
Observations on this cruise: • Our waiter was just not up to par. We never really got to know him very well. He brought breakfast to our room on day 7 and did not even recognize us! In the past we wanted to take home the waiters/waitresses. This time we hardly know them! • Our assistant waiter was never introduced and we still do not know his name. • All food seemed to be a lower grade than before. • Very little variety in food. • Food only marginally good. • Food better in Windjammer. • We were always last to be served. • Cold coffee was served to the entire table. • Once I ordered a steak medium-it came raw! They offered to bring me another but by the time they brought it they had all left to go off and dance for everyone. Of course, that meal was a total disaster. Three times I ordered beef-all three times it was chewy and lacking in flavor while the menu said it was Black Angus. It certainly was not the Black Angus I am accustomed to. • Window in dining room creaked continuously so loud that sometimes we could hardly talk. • Too much begging for approval rather than more attention to service. "Give everyone a big hand!" When the applause was not good enough they said we are giving you another chance for applause!!! I feel applause is earned not begged for. When you see a good show or receive good service praise becomes automatic. • Entertainment was only mediocre. In the past the shows have been wonderful, some even spectacular. This time we felt as if were in a local night club-very routine... • Our room temperature was perfect until the 7th night of the cruise. Then suddenly it became so cold we could hardly sleep. We had NOT touched the temperature dial but it was frigid. We called maintenance and they came to work on it. After that it became unbearably hot! We called again and they returned and worked on it. It was operational for about 12 hours then turned to cold again. We had no ability to adjust it... Finally, after five trips to our cabin they informed us that it was a problem with the door switch and they would not be able to repair it until the next day-our day of arrival in Tampa!!! • It was very difficult to get the daily news paper. The USA version was out within a few minutes; however, if you wanted a Canadian or British version there were always stacks of those. After a couple of days you would think someone would start to see a trend or maybe, just maybe someone would realize that this ship was full of US citizens... • Each morning the cleaners would start work around 5:00AM. Our cabin was directly below them and it was very noisy. We spoke to the desk about this and their reply was to get up and call us the next time it happened and they would speak to the cleaners. Why not just speak to them? Why did they want us to get up and call? Our overall observation was that this was a "watered down" version of RCCL-at least that is what we hope. It certainly was not what we had become accustomed too. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ... Read More
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ages (albeit skewed towards retirees), from a diverse group of backgrounds (ethnic, geographic, and political), and with a variety of family structures (couples with an elderly inlaw, newlyweds, and GLBT families alike).. A few areas for improvement are noted below. Embarkation Embarkation was smootheven better than our experience boarding the Majesty of the Seas at RC's homeport in Miami. The staff was friendly, the embarkation facility was comfortable, and the process was efficient. I especially appreciated that I wasn't feeling like the baggage handlers were pressuring passengers for a tip situation that I felt when I embarked in Miami. All of our baggage arrived just a few hours later. Stateroom We did a guarantee rate, and was in an inside stateroom on deck six. The beds were comfortable and had enough blankets to keep us warm. Though we had requested that the beds be put together, we found it to be separated on our first day. We ended up rearranging the beds ourselves. Being relatively low and centered made the rocking less noticeable (good because I was prone to sea sickness). We packed light (considering it was a 15-night cruise) so there were adequate storage for both of us. However, some of the doors for the storage were beginning to get loose and sagged. It rarely felt crowded, even when we ordered room service. The cabin attendant was not as friendly as others we've had (though he wasn't unfriendly either), but he was responsive. When we asked for the clothes line to be replaced, it was done by the next time we were back. Also, when we asked him not to leave the lights on after making the bed, he made sure not to do so again. Shows We greatly enjoyed the performances by the ship's singers and dancers, as well as the performances by the ice skaters. The ice skaters were phenomenal and it was just amazing what they could do in such as small space (especially while the ship was rocking). We only wished that they had more musical reviews by the singers and dancers since they only did two. They did also perform during the parades, but it can be hard to see the performance because there usually were so many people in the Royal Promenade and the performers were usually on the bridge. Food As usual with Royal Caribbean, we liked the food on the ship. It wasn't the best that we've ever had, but it was very good for the price. And although we were on for 15 days, the food had enough variety that it didn't get old. We frequently indulged by having multiple desserts during dinner. On a typical day, we went to the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch, and then went to the dining room for dinner. We wished we knew how good the lunch options (especially the salad bar) was in the Carmen dining room sooner. The midnight buffet was not as impressive as past cruises I've been on (where they've done "chocolate extravaganzas"). However, I did appreciate that there were a lot of fruits, which made it healthier. One complaint is that the soft serve ice cream machines on deck twelve were frequently out of service (a significant problem since one of us has a sweet tooth for ice cream). Though we complained to the manager, he did not seem to really care and gave us a somewhat flippant response. During the 15-day cruise, the soft-serve ice cream was probably only available for a few days. We especially appreciated late night (up to 2 am) availability of the Cafe Promenade, which served pizza, sandwiches, fruit, and desserts. When we stayed up, this was a great place to get a small snack so we're not starving late at night. Activities Going on a transatlantic cruise, I thought that I may get boredI was wrong. There were plenty of activities on the ship and at the end of each day, we often wondered where all the time went. We worked out, played in the sports court, learned a dance, listened to lectures, ice skated, or mini-golfed when we were on the ship. As much as we can, we went to see Mimi (one of the lead singers) performshe just had such a great voice. Our one complaint would be the movies hosted in the screening roomthe facility was way too small and it was just too frequently packed. Though we tried a couple of times, we never were able to make it inside. It was surprising since the screening room was hard to find (just below La Scala). GLBT-Friendly Atmosphere There was a sizable contingent of GLBT passengers (and staff) who were all welcomed and made to feel at home on the ship. We were surprised how many passengers showed up for the FOD meetingsthere ended up being three different times to accommodate everyone's varying schedules and preferences. Other passengers were very welcoming and we had no problem presenting ourselves as a same-sex couple. Even during the dance lessons, we slow danced together and no one batted an eye. At Port We made a point to engage in sightseeing at each port. Not everyone does (we were guilty ourselves of having slept through a port on our last cruise). This time, we walked quite a bit around each of the cities (and helped burn off all the extra calories we were consuming). None of the ports were boring. The ship had ports of call in: Cartagena (Spain), Funchal (Madeira), Canary Islands, Nassau (Bahamas), Miami, and Galveston. Cartagena - a great city with very interesting old ruins. We highly recommend seeing the roman amphitheater and going to the old fort for great views of the city. A large family of peacocks also reside in the old forta nice treat if you've never seem peacocks. While docked, there was a renaissance fair going on, so we were also treated to medieval music and folks in period garb. Madeira - a great place to sample and buy Madeira. It was our first time trying Madeira and we found it to be robust and delicious. Well worth the time to sample and buy some to take home and enjoy. The honey cakes make for a good item to bring to the office. A little dry by the time we got back, but it was fine if you dunk it in a little coffee or milk. Canary Islands - We initially intended to the beaches, but we didn't end up spending too much time exploring the Canary Islands since it was somewhat rainy and cold. Here we found an interesting monastery that was celebrating its 500th anniversary by displaying art and antique instruments and tools. After a few hours, we went back to the ship and stayed (since there was a long walk back to the dock). Other guests told us later that the other side of the island was sunny and had amazing landscapes. I suppose we'll have to catch that next time we take this cruise. Nassau - We ended up visiting the straw market and snorkeling while in Nassau. We also recommend going up to the old fort, where you will be treated with a view Nassau's cruise docks. It's possible to walk to the fortplan for a 20 minute walk. Miami - Unfortunately, getting through customs was a big hassle and there was a lot of confusion because it was unclear if people who were staying on needed to fill out forms. We were givin conflicting instructions by members of the crew, but also saw customs officers giving conflicting instructions. Moreover, it was clear the two hadn't coordinated with each other. We were supposed to get off around 8:00 AM, but we didn't get out until 11:00 AM due to the confusion. Some friends of ours ended up being 4-hours delayed, so they stayed on. Galveston/Houston - We ended up signing up for the ship organized excursion for a tour of Galveston. During the excursion, we drove through parts of Galveston, saw the rocket center, and parts of Houston. Hurricane Ike had just hit a few months prior and it was clear that the community needed more help and had more work ahead of them to fully recover. At Sea Captain Patrick Dahlgren did a great job and made key decisions that made the 6-day voyage across the Atlantic more pleasant. A storm front in the northern Atlantic and we would have crossed through parts of it had we maintained our planned course. The Captain took us further south and because of that, we enjoyed relatively calm seas and warm weather that was conducive to relaxing on the ship's pools on deck 12. We definitely appreciate the Captain's decision for it made the cruise much more pleasurable. Activity-wise, I've explained what we ended up doing already. So I'll just leave this with a few suggestions: (1) participate in the Olympics - it was a good way to meet others and it's a lot of fun during the ocean crossing; (2) do the walk-a-mile - it's a nice workout, you get to enjoy the seascape, and you even get rewarded if you do it often enough; (3) wake up early - try to catch a sunrise and you'll be rewarded with a majestic view; and, (4) stay up late - go to the helipad in front of the ship late at night, and you can see so many stars. Also, note that during the ocean crossing, you'll gain an hour on most nights (at least going westward). So feel free to stay up a little, maybe go to the disco, and know that you'll get about an hour back anyway. Disembarkation Disembarkation was pretty easy, though expect to wait. Keep a book or a magazine with you to keep you entertained while you're waiting. And the airports are pretty far from Galveston so make arrangements for a shuttle ahead of time. Taxis can be very expensive. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ages ... Read More
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ages (albeit skewed towards retirees), from a diverse group of backgrounds (ethnic, geographic, and political), and with a variety of family structures (couples with an elderly inlaw, newlyweds, and GLBT families alike).. A few areas for improvement are noted below. Embarkation Embarkation was smootheven better than our experience boarding the Majesty of the Seas at RC's homeport in Miami. The staff was friendly, the embarkation facility was comfortable, and the process was efficient. I especially appreciated that I wasn't feeling like the baggage handlers were pressuring passengers for a tipa situation that I felt when I embarked in Miami. All of our baggage arrived just a few hours later. Stateroom We did a guarantee rate, and was in an inside stateroom on deck six. The beds were comfortable and had enough blankets to keep us warm. Though we had requested that the beds be put together, we found it to be separated on our first day. We ended up rearranging the beds ourselves. Being relatively low and centered made the rocking less noticeable (good because I was prone to sea sickness). We packed light (considering it was a 15-night cruise) so there were adequate storage for both of us. However, some of the doors for the storage were beginning to get loose and sagged. It rarely felt crowded, even when we ordered room service. The cabin attendant was not as friendly as others we've had (though he wasn't unfriendly either), but he was responsive. When we asked for the clothes line to be replaced, it was done by the next time we were back. Also, when we asked him not to leave the lights on after making the bed, he made sure not to do so again. Shows We greatly enjoyed the performances by the ship's singers and dancers, as well as the performances by the ice skaters. The ice skaters were phenomenal and it was just amazing what they could do in such as small space (especially while the ship was rocking). We only wished that they had more musical reviews by the singers and dancers since they only did two. They did also perform during the parades, but it can be hard to see the performance because there usually were so many people in the Royal Promenade and the performers were usually on the bridge. Food As usual with Royal Caribbean, we liked the food on the ship. It wasn't the best that we've ever had, but it was very good for the price. And although we were on for 15 days, the food had enough variety that it didn't get old. We frequently indulged by having multiple desserts during dinner. On a typical day, we went to the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch, and then went to the dining room for dinner. We wished we knew how good the lunch options (especially the salad bar) was in the Carmen dining room sooner. The midnight buffet was not as impressive as past cruises I've been on (where they've done "chocolate extravaganzas"). However, I did appreciate that there were a lot of fruits, which made it healthier. One complaint is that the soft serve ice cream machines on deck twelve were frequently out of service (a significant problem since one of us has a sweet tooth for ice cream). Though we complained to the manager, he did not seem to really care and gave us a somewhat flippant response. During the 15-day cruise, the soft-serve ice cream was probably only available for a few days. We especially appreciated late night (up to 2 am) availability of the Cafe Promenade, which served pizza, sandwiches, fruit, and desserts. When we stayed up, this was a great place to get a small snack so we're not starving late at night. Activities Going on a transatlantic cruise, I thought that I may get boredI was wrong. There were plenty of activities on the ship and at the end of each day, we often wondered where all the time went. We worked out, played in the sports court, learned a dance, listened to lectures, ice skated, or mini-golfed when we were on the ship. As much as we can, we went to see Mimi (one of the lead singers) performshe just had such a great voice. Our one complaint would be the movies hosted in the screening roomthe facility was way too small and it was just too frequently packed. Though we tried a couple of times, we never were able to make it inside. It was surprising since the screening room was hard to find (just below La Scala). GLBT-Friendly Atmosphere There was a sizable contingent of GLBT passengers (and staff) who were all welcomed and made to feel at home on the ship. We were surprised how many passengers showed up for the FOD meetingsthere ended up being three different times to accommodate everyone's varying schedules and preferences. Other passengers were very welcoming and we had no problem presenting ourselves as a same-sex couple. Even during the dance lessons, we slow danced together and no one batted an eye. At Port We made a point to engage in sightseeing at each port. Not everyone does (we were guilty ourselves of having slept through a port on our last cruise). This time, we walked quite a bit around each of the cities (and helped burn off all the extra calories we were consuming). None of the ports were boring. The ship had ports of call in: Cartagena (Spain), Funchal (Madeira), Canary Islands, Nassau (Bahamas), Miami, and Galveston. Cartagena - a great city with very interesting old ruins. We highly recommend seeing the roman amphitheater and going to the old fort for great views of the city. A large family of peacocks also reside in the old forta nice treat if you've never seem peacocks. While docked, there was a renaissance fair going on, so we were also treated to medieval music and folks in period garb. Madeira - a great place to sample and buy Madeira. It was our first time trying Madeira and we found it to be robust and delicious. Well worth the time to sample and buy some to take home and enjoy. The honey cakes make for a good item to bring to the office. A little dry by the time we got back, but it was fine if you dunk it in a little coffee or milk. Canary Islands - We initially intended to the beaches, but we didn't end up spending too much time exploring the Canary Islands since it was somewhat rainy and cold. Here we found an interesting monastery that was celebrating its 500th anniversary by displaying art and antique instruments and tools. After a few hours, we went back to the ship and stayed (since there was a long walk back to the dock). Other guests told us later that the other side of the island was sunny and had amazing landscapes. I suppose we'll have to catch that next time we take this cruise. Nassau - We ended up visiting the straw market and snorkeling while in Nassau. We also recommend going up to the old fort, where you will be treated with a view Nassau's cruise docks. It's possible to walk to the fortplan for a 20 minute walk. Miami - Unfortunately, getting through customs was a big hassle and there was a lot of confusion because it was unclear if people who were staying on needed to fill out forms. We were givin conflicting instructions by members of the crew, but also saw customs officers giving conflicting instructions. Moreover, it was clear the two hadn't coordinated with each other. We were supposed to get off around 8:00 AM, but we didn't get out until 11:00 AM due to the confusion. Some friends of ours ended up being 4-hours delayed, so they stayed on. Galveston/Houston - We ended up signing up for the ship organized excursion for a tour of Galveston. During the excursion, we drove through parts of Galveston, saw the rocket center, and parts of Houston. Hurricane Ike had just hit a few months prior and it was clear that the community needed more help and had more work ahead of them to fully recover. At Sea Captain Patrick Dahlgren did a great job and made key decisions that made the 6-day voyage across the Atlantic more pleasant. A storm front in the northern Atlantic and we would have crossed through parts of it had we maintained our planned course. The Captain took us further south and because of that, we enjoyed relatively calm seas and warm weather that was conducive to relaxing on the ship's pools on deck 12. We definitely appreciate the Captain's decision for it made the cruise much more pleasurable. Activity-wise, I've explained what we ended up doing already. So I'll just leave this with a few suggestions: (1) participate in the Olympics - it was a good way to meet others and it's a lot of fun during the ocean crossing; (2) do the walk-a-mile - it's a nice workout, you get to enjoy the seascape, and you even get rewarded if you do it often enough; (3) wake up early - try to catch a sunrise and you'll be rewarded with a majestic view; and, (4) stay up late - go to the helipad in front of the ship late at night, and you can see so many stars. Also, note that during the ocean crossing, you'll gain an hour on most nights (at least going westward). So feel free to stay up a little, maybe go to the disco, and know that you'll get about an hour back anyway. Disembarkation Disembarkation was pretty easy, though expect to wait. Keep a book or a magazine with you to keep you entertained while you're waiting. And the airports are pretty far from Galveston so make arrangements for a shuttle ahead of time. Taxis can be very expensive. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We decided to splash out on an Owner's Suite for this crossing and paid a significant premium for the privilege. Perhaps I should say up front that we had a really good time aboard Navigator, despite the somewhat critical comments ... Read More
We decided to splash out on an Owner's Suite for this crossing and paid a significant premium for the privilege. Perhaps I should say up front that we had a really good time aboard Navigator, despite the somewhat critical comments that will follow! For us, the lesson was that if one wants a cruising experience commensurate with an investment of some $6000, then Navigator (and RCI) is not the appropriate choice. For a fraction of what we paid, we could have had just as good a time in comfortable balcony accommodations. Check in was effortless, and very efficient. We were very impressed that RCI was able to process almost 3000 passengers without long delays. Arriving on board, there was no assistance offered in finding our suite; neither were any welcome drinks offered. The ship is beautiful, and well maintained. Despite its size, it is easy to "navigate" one's way around without getting lost. Our suite, the Fiji Suite, was nicely appointed, and really spacious. There is enough closet and packing space for a household! The bathroom was stocked with premium toiletries, and a bowl of fresh fruit was awaiting us on the dining table. A bottle of complimentary mineral water was placed on the bar counter. Neither the fruit nor the water were replaced during the duration of the 12 day cruise, and on one afternoon, we received a cheese plate that was available from the room service menu. We received an access card for the small concierge lounge on Deck 9, and an invitation to the daily complimentary cocktails and snacks in the Ixtapa Lounge on Deck 5. This was the sum total of the privileges we received for booking an Owner's Suite. Our greatest disappointment was the level of indifference with which we were treated. We most certainly did not wish to be fawned upon, but some personal interaction with senior crew members would have been welcome. The "concierge service" throughout the cruise was lacking. One one occasion, we entertained guests in our suite, and asked the concierge to arrange some snacks (from the complimentary room service menu). We were informed that this would cost $350, despite the fact that we ordered wine and drinks from the ship's bar! Eventually we called room service ourselves, and our order was delivered at no charge! The concierge, Xavier, seemed disinterested and not inclined to make any effort - maybe fatigue from a season of cruising in the Mediterranean. Food...The food was of a reasonable standard (but not remarkable), in both the Windjammer Cafe and the dining room. We never had difficulty finding a table in the Windjammer during breakfast and lunch. The lunchtime menu and made-to-order salads in the dining room were excellent - perhaps the best meals we had on board. Dinner menus were somewhat repetitive in the dining room, but the food was palatable. Our waiter and assistant waiter (Glennifer and Serdar) were excellent,and were willing to go to great lengths to please. The Head Waiter, Ashton, was also wonderful. Standards have slipped, though - but quite understandable given the massive global food price increases over recent times. Getting tea and coffee outside Windjammer opening hours was a challenge and an irritation - getting early morning coffee meant a trek to Deck 5 (if we did not make our own in the suite). The star of our cruise was the bar waiter in the Ixtapa Lounge, Mark Lyttleton, who is a shining example of outstanding service. Activities and entertainment...We saw all three production shows, which were good. The highlight, though, was the special performance of "Ice Dancin'", the ice show, for Platinum and Diamond Crown & Anchor members. Wow! It was great. We enjoyed the gym facilities. Other activities were quite low-key, and influenced by the awful weather conditions across the Atlantic. (For "operational reasons" RCI decided to change our route from what was originally advertised when we booked, and the more northerly route resulted in a cold and windy crossing). We found the Cruise Director and his Assistant to be rather indifferent, and the daily video clips advertising activities on board to be reminiscent of a Butlins Holiday Camp (UK members will know what I mean). The activities staff didn't show much initiative or innovation in tailoring activities in the light of the bad weather. On a positive note, The ship's master, Captain Bang, was visible around the ship throughout the crossing (including in the gym), and communicated regularly. It would have been good if his officers had followed his example. During the cruise, it transpired that our rather bumpy ride was exacerbated by the fact that one of the two stabilizer sets on the ship was out of action. The motion caused one of the large closet doors in our suite to come off its hinges, and we were kept awake on several nights with drawers banging. In conclusion: we had a very enjoyable 12 days, but mainly due to the company of great people, and the hard work of a few outstanding crew members. It was most certainly not value for money, and although I steadfastly refrain from making comparisons with other cruise lines, RCI's premium category services are very poor indeed, by any standards. It lacks finesse and attention to detail, despite pricing that compares with premium cruise lines. Maybe a mid-priced balcony cabin in future, but never again a suite! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Background There was 5 of us on this cruise, myself, my wife and 18 year old daughter, plus my in-laws. This was our 5 cruise and third Transatlantic cruise. We had a outside stateroom on deck 2 mid ship and my in-laws had a balcony ... Read More
Background There was 5 of us on this cruise, myself, my wife and 18 year old daughter, plus my in-laws. This was our 5 cruise and third Transatlantic cruise. We had a outside stateroom on deck 2 mid ship and my in-laws had a balcony stateroom on deck 6. Travelling & Embarkation We travelled from Edinburgh to Barcelona via London City airport. It was a very early start with a 6:30 flight out of Edinburgh, but we all seemed to get up with spring in out step as it was holiday time. We arrived in Barcelona at 12:30 and were met just outside baggage collection by the RCI rep, who pointed us in the right direction of porters; this was the last we saw out luggage until we were on the ship. There was a short 20 min bus ride to the port where we were sped through the check in process. Having now attained Platinum status we were very lucky to join a very short queue and within 30-40 mins we were on the ship. After a getting slightly lost, we found our stateroom which was still in the process of getting ready. Sammy our stateroom attendant met us, what a nice guy. Nothing was a problem for him, and always seemed to be smiling as we met him coming and going. The Ship & Crew Having been on both the Mariner and Explorer; we all had a basic idea of the layout so it didn't take us long to to figure out where everything was. We knew that the Windjammer was going to busy so we headed for the Promenade Cafe on deck 5 for a few snacks. The ship it's self is still looking like it just came out the dock. Everywhere we looked someone was polishing or cleaning something. We can't praise the staff and crew highly enough, everyone we passed in the corridors had a smile or a nod to acknowledge we were there. I'll give a special mention to our Waiter, Judith and her assistant (who for the life of me I can't remember his name), plus Ray our Head Waiter, honestly the best Head Waiter we've ever had. Normally in the past we've found they only show face, smile and move on, but this guy took the time to speak to all of us. We would regularly meet him in the Windjammer always taking the time to chat. I'll also mention the bar tenders we got friendly with. Richard in the Theatre, who only after the second night knew what we were all drinking. One more was in Vintages (and I'm truly sorry I never got his name). Again he knew what I was drinking and before my bum was on the seat he was over handing me my drink, now that's service. At this point I'll mention our Cruise Director and his staff, Kieron Buffrey was for me just about right. Not in your face and subtle, which I don't think went down well with our American friends. Once again thank to the CD staff who after my wife wrote to Kieron arrange for my daughter to do a backstage tour as she is studying stage management and lighting in the theatre at collage. He had a great partner in Cuddy who managed to bounce off Kieron just nicely. I hope he makes a CD in the future. For me the only cloud on the silver lining was Captain Bang, for us he was as dully as dish water. His daily announcement were tedious, all we seemed to here was hear was his name then a became garbled with long periods of silence. I'm sure in person he's a very interesting person but on the stage of pubic speaking a small improvement is needed. Ports We didn't have many ports of call on this cruise, which is one of the reasons we choose it. The first up was Cartegena in Spain. The ship had never been docked here before so it was bit of an adventure for guest and crew alike. We did manage to get on an open top bus trip for €13 each, taking about an hour for the tour. Very nice and condensed city full of naval history. After the tour we took a stroll up to the shops. After 2 days at sea we arrived at the port of Ponta Delgada in the Azores, where we had 16 hours to kill. We've never organized a tour via the ship as we can normally find something to do. With this port we really struggled. The tourist information desk should be done under the trade descriptions as they weren't helpful at all, telling us most of the buses were off or broken. So we had to fend for ourselves. The town it's self is very compact and we managed to wander through the small streets taking in the all the sites and sounds. After returning to the ship for some lunch and a change we went back off the ship and struck lucky. It seemed we were there on the day all the Christmas lights were being switched on. It truly magical place, full of marching bands, Santa and kids playing. Our last stop came after 6 days at seas and we arrived in the port of Nassau in the Bahamas. After a small delay waiting for another ship to dock we got off and headed for the hotel Atlantis. Having been to Nassau in the past we knew where to go and how to get there so no time was wasted. We wandered round the hotel checking out the aquarium and casino, then headed back to the main town for a drink at the local Hard Rock Cafe. It was then back to the ship and prepare for the big off load at Fort Lauderdale the next morning. The Sea Days As I've said before we choose this cruise because of the amount to days at sea, which for us the must relaxing time you can have. In total out of the 12 days 8 of them were spent at sea. The only down side to this was the weather wasn't the most favorable, it was warm but for the most part overcast. To say the sea was lumpy would be a small understatement, for at least 2 days it was pretty rough, so much so when we looked our stateroom window it wasn't unusual to see the sea hitting it. We did spend this time doing all the stuff around the playing golf and roller blading and ice skating etc. The rough waters didn't stop us have a great time; sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. We were just lucky on all the port days the sun was shinning. Entertainment This was a real mixed bag for us. We though the RCI dancers done a good job working under the conditions they do. However some of the star turns were a bit poor. Darren Day was really bad and never seemed to connect with the audience. Brenda Cochran tried very hard and has some real talent but I don't think the theatre was big enough for her voice. The real star turn was Mr Nobody (Yacov Noy). His three legged man was just classic. We did manage to see 3 showings of the Ice Dancing and we all still watch with open mouths how these people to do the things they do. With leaps, jumps and back flips it's all very cool. We just managed to stand up on the ice when the ship was moving all over the place how they do it is beyond me. Food I can't really do a review without mentioning the food. Overall it was really good. The choice within the Windjammer is amazing, if you can't find something you like you must be a very picky eater. Somethings could have been hotter. I do feel like people behave extremely badly and can be very rude within the Windjammer. Pushing in when queues have been formed, loading plates up like all the food is going to run out. I've always subscribed to you can go up as many time as you like, don't waste good food. We ate every night in the main restaurant, and there wasn't a night gone by that I couldn't find something to eat. The steak was always done the way I like it. I never walked away thinking hmm I need more to eat. In fact most nights I thought that was a lovely meal, and I don't have to do the dishes. Disembarkation We were very lucky that managed to be one of the last one off the ship, and also being Platinum member we had access to the our own waiting area, which was in the restaurant on deck 4. This made for a more pleasant experience than sitting in the theatre. By the time we got off the ship there were only a few cases left in the hall so we could spot our luggage without any problem. Clearing immigration was only a problem as some people seemed think it was a good idea to fill in their green cards when they arrived at them immigration officer. On the whole we were on our way to the airport within an hour from getting off the ship. Overall In conclusion this was a very enjoyable cruise, well worth the money we spent. Will we be doing another cruise, you better believe it, and will we choose Royal Caribbean, most defiantly yes, they tick all the right boxes for me. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We cruised from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale on this mega-ship's first Transatlantic crossing. The Independence had been in Europe since being put into service in May '08, and was still as good as new. Our midship balcony ... Read More
We cruised from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale on this mega-ship's first Transatlantic crossing. The Independence had been in Europe since being put into service in May '08, and was still as good as new. Our midship balcony stateroom on deck 8 was fine, with the practical and pleasant layout and abundance of storage found on most newer ships, kept tidy by a friendly attendant. In general, it's a well laid-out ship, and despite its huge size easy to move around on. It's fun to walk around the multi-story center "mall", which provides a community feeling, no matter how temporary it may be (although the shopping opportunities are not better than on less extravagant vessels), and it's also a nice stage for some of the cruise staff's elaborate evening parades. The ship offers very good sports and workout opportunities; I especially loved the Flow-Rider surfing machine and couldn't get enough of it. (I'm 61 and had never surfed before.) However, the dance floors are much too small, especially in comparison to Princess and Cunard ships with the exception of the temporary dance floor which sometimes covers the ice skating rink; it's of good size but very sticky and, therefore, uncomfortable to dance on. This was a shame because there was a decent band playing ballroom music as well as a good Latin band. Also, far too few dance lessons were being offered by the excellent professional Russian dance couple (3, on a 13 day cruise with 10 days at sea). Dinner service as well as room service were good, food quality average. We attended a Crown & Anchor wine tasting, and I would strongly recommend against it: The four wines presented were of sub-par quality, and the wine steward must have been the worst presenter on board; he dragged out for an hour what could have been explained in a few minutes. My wife and I consoled ourselves by digging into the accompanying cheese platters. The variety shows in the theatre were uneven two excellent ones, others less so. Both ice shows were very good, with highly professional skaters who, to our surprise, also doubled as rink attendants during passenger skating hours as well as support personnel in the ports. The cruise director was possibly the best one we've experienced over the 13 cruises we've taken in the past dozen years; all his people were very personable, and there were plenty of activities for every taste, including the famed Quest, which we, contrary to our preconceptions, enjoyed enormously. There was only one truly weak spot on this ship, at least for us: Customer / purser service did not live up to our expectations and was considerably below what we've experienced on other cruises most recently a Transatlantic crossing on the QM2 and a Transpacific crossing (Alaska to China) on the Sapphire Princess. Calls to their "0" number were often not answered (ring-ring-ring forever), and several times we were given outrightly false information worst in Funchal, Madeira, concerning car rental opportunities: We were advised to purchase RC's bus tickets from the dock into town, where there would be car rental places nearby. This proved to be completely wrong: After taking that bus and losing nearly an hour asking around ("no, there is no Avis or Hertz or you-name-it here"), a rare cab driver who did not try to convince us that he was the only "car rental" in town ferried us from the city center in the opposite direction to the Lido area (which we could have gotten to from the ship's dock in under 5 minutes by cab or maybe 20 minutes walking), where one can find every car rental agency imaginable, all near each other and priced very reasonably. When, upon our return to the ship that evening, I complained about the wrong information that had caused us to lose time and spend extra money, the person at the purser's desk (not the same who had given us the faulty info to begin with) told me they hadn't known, and she would see to it that we were at least reimbursed for the unnecessary bus trip into Funchal's city center. The reimbursement never materialized (and I didn't want to lose more time by again standing in line at the purser's desk to follow up with a complaint). Also, their feigning ignorance with regard to the location of car rentals in Funchal is not very believable, considering that RC and the Independence of the Seas have been regulars in that place. Otherwise, we enjoyed the crossing, including the three first days of cool mist and rain (Southampton to our first port: Vigo, Spain) and, of course, the magnificent weather and mostly calm seas from Madeira to St. Maarten and finally Ft. Lauderdale. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
Starting with boarding the ship, everything went smoothly. When we entered the ship we went to the Windjammer for a delicious lunch, which was the start of all of the wonderful meals we had on the ship. Maybe they no longer have lobster ... Read More
Starting with boarding the ship, everything went smoothly. When we entered the ship we went to the Windjammer for a delicious lunch, which was the start of all of the wonderful meals we had on the ship. Maybe they no longer have lobster but everything they did serve was high quality and prepared as if we were in a 5 star restaurant. Before we came on the ship we talked about trying the specialty restaurants but the food was so good in the Minstrel that we ate all of our dinners there. Our server Paola and her assistant as well as the head waiter Agosto were wonderful. It was the first cruise of the ten we've taken where we saw the head waiter every night and he always came with valuable information. He even arranged a tour of the kitchen for us although none was scheduled for this trip. If you chose to partake there were plenty of activities for the sea days. The weather was cool and damp so most people stayed indoors making the indoor pool and some of the lounges crowded, but if you looked you could always find a place to sit and read. Service was outstanding. Every worker on the ship greeted you with a smile and was always available to help you with all of your needs. There was a bombing in Cairo the night before we were to dock in Alexandria. Of course, everyone was concerned, but no matter how many times the staff were asked what was going to happen they answered with a smile and didn't make anyone feel they were bothering them. Our stateroom was small but well organized. Manuel our attendant was always there to help us and the room was clean and orderly. Because of the weather we didn't get to use the balcony much but it was nice to have, even for the few times we did use it. We have always had some good entertainment on our cruises but never every night. This cruise was an exception, every night had a terrific show. Even the Brilliance of the Seas singers and dancers were a cut above other cruises. I think the RCL policy of not keeping an entertainer on a ship for more than one show is excellent. That we you get a better variety of entertainment. We only took two RCL shore excursions and they were equal to other cruise line's excursions. Egypt was very good and it was the only way we could see the pyramids. Cyprus was okay, but almost everything was closed on Sunday which limited us. In Athens and Rhodes we used private drivers who were superb. Dennis in Athens and George in Rhodes made the excursion for us. All in all, you can see we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and we would take it again in a minute if we had the chance. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
We booked with RCL through a travel agent. We booked air through RCL and stayed at their designated hotel, The Grand Hyatt, is Santiago. We flew on American Airlines, flying from Dulles Airport near our Fairfax County home in the late ... Read More
We booked with RCL through a travel agent. We booked air through RCL and stayed at their designated hotel, The Grand Hyatt, is Santiago. We flew on American Airlines, flying from Dulles Airport near our Fairfax County home in the late afternoon of Friday, Jan. 30 to Dallas-Ft. Worth to connect to Santiago, Chile. We had good economy seats on both flights. We took Benadryl and slept much of the night to Santiago. Entering the country for the first time, Chile charges a reciprocity tax (which means they charge us because the U.S. government charges them when they come to the U.S. The tax was $131 for U.S. citizens, $132 for Canadians. They make an entry in your passport, so you can reenter with no new charge as long as you have that passport. Entry into Chile went smoothly and there was no problem finding our bus to the hotel, although we were not met by anyone associated with RCL until we reached the bus. Santiago is a beautiful city with many modern areas and numerous parked. Even in high summer, snow capped Andes peaks are clearly visible from the city. The city has small, muddy, rushing rivers lined by parkland and mountain parks with great views. Like most of the World, the recession had hit Chile, and over-extended real estate building and speculation is a big problem. Nevertheless, the shopping malls and impressive and full of shoppers. We went from winter to summer from cold to hot and from the middle of a school year to back to school sales getting underway in Santiago. The parallels to California are striking. Traveling around, I sometimes thought I was approaching Livermore or Santa Rosa. However, we went up to Portillo near the Argentine border, up above 9000 feet. The mountain valleys have lush farmland along the rivers, but there is no region of pine forest on that trip. This area is more barren than the Sierras or Cascades of California. I'm sure that further south in Chile that is not the case. The Grand Hyatt is a true 5 star hotel. We knew from trip advisor reviews that we'd wait for a room, since we arrived in the morning. Our wait was unusually long, but we got in around 3:30. They need to set up a smoother process and guide people into city tours or mini-tours in this time period. Our room was beautiful, and the hotel service was great. I enjoyed the fitness center and the pool, but we ate out except for the included breakfasts. We did not ride their excellent subway system, but, because of summer vacation, many local residents were away, and traffic was lighter than normal, so touring the city went well. On Tuesday morning, Feb. 3, they transported us to Valparaiso. It is not a particularly attractive port city, but Viña del Mar, the wealthier town next door, is quite lovely. Getting processed for boarding in the terminal was a snap, and there were concession booths there. We were able to buy 2 bottles of vodka (Stoli) and 2 bottles of Chilean wine and take them on board with us. One couple we knew from the hotel, came back to the terminal from the ship to do it again, after taking a taxi tour with some other friends, so they ended up with 4 bottles each. Our balcony room on level 6 was fine. A few design flaws. Shelf access in the closet could have been designed better. We had some minor plumbing odor backup in the bathroom at times - minor. The shower was adequate. I weigh 210 pounds and could move around okay, stout as I am. I could even pick up something from the shower floor, like a razor, if I dropped it. In one of the ship's couples games, one couple confessed to having tried to have sex in the shower and admitted that did not work out well. The Mariner of the Seas was transpositioning from Port Canaveral to Los Angeles. About 850 passengers did the entire 46 day transpositioning trip. The major leg was from Rio in Brazil around the horn to Valparaiso. A lot of Brazilians joined for that segment. People told us that even around the horn the trip was mainly smooth water sailing. A lot of the time if was hard to know you were at sea when inside. The Mariner was the largest cruise ship to ever visit many of this trip's ports. In Buenos Aires, reporters were out in boats and helicopters to cover the visit. Nothing like that happened in Valparaiso. This final 16 day leg of the transpositioning carried only about 2200 passengers, including only 20 children. I can report on this cruise, but it is unique and cannot be used to talk about the 7 day Mexican Riviera cruises the Mariner of the Seas will be running out of Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo. Having previously cruised with my older daughter and two of her kids on the Explorer of the Seas, I happen to love these huge ships. We were all in a mini-suite on that trip, but I was quite happy on this trip in a regular balcony room. I don't need a tub, but I did use the big walk-in closet in the mini-suite as a dressing room, sharing a cabin with three women. (I showered and shaved up in the Fitness Center on that previous trip.) My wife, Lynn, was not happy with the food. I, otoh, found the food to be fair to good. I don't have any complaints. Lots of the wait staff is Indian. Our waiter, Yoghit (Yogi) was Indian, as was our head waiter. There were always decent Indian dishes available and they pushed some of their favorites on us, even when we ordered other main dishes. Our dinner companions were excellent. We were at a table for eight right by a starboard window. Yogi was the best waiter I've ever had on a ship. His lovely assistant, Adriana, Brazilian, was terrific. Three of our table mates were born in Brazil and spoke Portuguese and Spanish, as well as English. Lynn and I just speak Spanish and English. We had two seas going from Valparaiso to Arica up by the border with Peru. We took the Altiplano tour. Our entourage consisted of 3 passenger busses, a back-up bus, an ambulance, and a police escort. We saw a long irrigated valley, some of the World's driest desert, fox, an animal like a rabbit that isn't a rabbit nor a hare, some people saw a condor. We saw guanacos, alpacas, llamas and vicuñas, villages and churches. We saw perfect cone volcanoes, lakes and streams and went to an elevation of over 4500 meters, 15,000 feet. Some people had trouble breathing and some needed supplementary oxygen. Near Arica, we saw giant petroglyphs. It was quite a day. We had one sea day to Callao/Lima. We hired a taxi with a Canadian couple and toured and did some Indian market shopping. We saw a lot, but skipped museums, except the gold museum. All their exhibits were awesome. Their armaments, swords, and guns exhibits were incredible. The NRA should run tour groups to Lima just to see that museum. Three wonderful sea days. They had a film festival on board. After "Young Frankenstein," Cloris Leachman discussed making the film. Another day, she did a one women show on her career and life. It was fabulous. They also showed "Dirty Dancing" and "Gotta Dance" and the producers discussed it. I give the ice show a ten. In Punta Arenas, Costa Rica, we toured the town and went on an eco river cruise, seeing crocodiles and at least 35 species of birds. They fed chicken to the biggest croc. He was named Tyson, and was over 16 feet long. Two sea days to Acapulco, where Lynn and I revisited sites from our honeymoom (luna de miel) from decades ago. Then a sea day to Cabo, being entertained by Marty Allen and his wife. She is one great singer. The film festival showed "Thoroughly Modern Millie," and Carol Channing discussed the filming of that movie. Cabo delighted us with Grey whales, pelicans beyond counting, barking sea lions and wonderful weather. From our balcony along the way (many days) we had lots of dolphins, sea turtles and flying fish. Leaving Arica, the dolphins were performing, jumping high out the water. The grey whales of Cabo would breach, lifting close to a third of their bodies out of the water. On our final sea day, Carol Channing did a show covering career highlights. She even sang for us both times she was on stage. We got t-shirts and a visor for our fitness activities. Disembarkation was flawless - except for passport clearance on board, and our flight back to Washington was fine. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We aren't those lucky cruisers who generally take several cruises a year. In our mid-fifties we are still many years from retirement. We hadn't cruised in more than 4 years when we were on the Solstice in February. It was a ... Read More
We aren't those lucky cruisers who generally take several cruises a year. In our mid-fifties we are still many years from retirement. We hadn't cruised in more than 4 years when we were on the Solstice in February. It was a stunningly lovely ship, we had a great time, and somehow we found ourselves looking for another cruise in April. We chose the Enchantment mainly on a great repositioning price point, with an itinerary that was all new ports of call for us. We were a bit concerned that an older ship would seem dated and worn out after being on the 2 month old Solstice. We flew directly to Panama City the day of the cruise, so we had no opportunity to explore Panama. We hopped on the Royal Caribbean bus (after a bit of boarding confusion) and took the long bus ride (about 2 hours) to Colon. Despite all the travel (Boston to Miami, Miami to Panama City, Panama City to Colon) we were quickly on the ship, no later than 4. We were delighted with our room, a balcony in the very front of deck 7. It was clean, tons of shelves and drawers for storage, lots of hanging space. The bathroom is of course tiny, but the adjustable hand held shower head helps, and the shelves in the medicine chest area held a lot. Our stateroom attendant, Hazel, was the finest we have encountered in our 13 cruises. We were never without the proper towels, she always did our room while we were at breakfast or dinner, any request or question was taken care of with the warmest smile and excellent conversational English, as well.Plus she seems to really enjoy making those towel animals - or at least enjoyed our amusement! The bed was very comfortable with excellent quality sheets. The ship in general was very well cared for. We especially loved all the windows and light in the Centrum area, and the pool deck, with its 2005 stretching, is just vast! With over 2000 aboard we never had to fight for a deck chair near the pool. (Not so on the Solstice, by the way, which is shy on pool deck space.) Costa Rica was all that we had hoped, with sloths and butterflies galore. Cartagena was a lovely Spanish influenced town. Santa Marta got mixed reviews, and the RC shopping agent went so far as to suggest it was unsafe to get off in the port unless you booked at RC excursion. Everyone made it back to the ship successfully with no major adventures, but there wasn't a great deal to do there. Aruba was a fun sailing and snorkeling stop and we had never been there. But what made the cruise outstanding was the excellent staff. They had many exceptional events. The meet and mingle for Cruise Critic was great, with lots of tasty appetizers and waiters serving mixed fruit drinks. (It was a morning event.) The typical "Captain's Party" was very well run - lots of champagne! And they went all out for past guests. There was a Crown and Anchor party early in the cruise, a Crown and Anchor sailaway party (with drinks) later in the week. For platinum and up members there was a fantastic champagne brunch (yes, I do like champagne!) toward the end of the week. All of the officers sat with the guests, the Captain chatted with everyone, and we sat with the very personable cruise director, Rico. He really has a funny, more contemporary sense of humor. We received a couple of "How is your cruise going?" calls. I filled out a mid-cruise questionnaire, and the officer in charge of hotel operations called to personally thank me. I always wondered if anyone actually read those things, and I can tell you on this ship they do! The entertainment was good. We especially loved the Buenos Aires Tango production show, which featured the regular singers and dancers and a professional tango couple. It was a refreshing change from the typical Broadway tunes packaged up. The lead singers were exceptional vocalists. We wished there was a bit more dancing, maybe a group with a vocalist in the spotlight lounge. But if you are a bingo fan (we're not) that's what you'll often find there. We chose My Time Dining and it worked wonderfully for us. Narissa, the hostess, was very accommodating, and we sat with the same excellent waiter and assistant waiter throughout the cruise, at a lovely table for two somewhere in the balcony on deck 5. The food in the dining room was nicely varied, attractive, and fairly imaginative. Food in Chops was excellent, service less so, but they made it right with a complementary bottle of wine. We just had an outstanding time. We met lots of Cruise Critics and participated in several excursions with member of the group. This is the first time we did that, and it really enhanced our cruise. I would highly recommend this ship, and we will be cruising with RC again based on this very positive experience. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
This cruise was our April school vacation week in New Hampshire. We liked the idea of this repositioning cruise because it stopped in Bermuda where we spent our honeymoon. We flew into San Juan a day early and hung out at the Conando ... Read More
This cruise was our April school vacation week in New Hampshire. We liked the idea of this repositioning cruise because it stopped in Bermuda where we spent our honeymoon. We flew into San Juan a day early and hung out at the Conando Beach. Its was nice to warm up after our cold New England winter. We took a taxi to the new ( 5 yr old) Pan American pier. Checkin began at 11.30, went smooth, and was in the Windjammer for lunch at noon.  This was our seventh cruise and second time on the Grandeur.  Looking around, the ship hadn't lost its luster as bad as some other folks said.  The central Atrium  is quite bright and sound quality for the musicians were excellent.We are in our mid fifties now and wanted a good mix between relaxing and action.  The Solarium was definitely the quieter of the two pools but sometimes a bit crowded.  The sun was really effective at the outdoor pool and the reggae band did many tributes to Bob Marley.We ate breakfast and dinner in the dining room and lunch and evening desserts at the Windjammer cafe.One comedian said it is your God given right to eat as much as you want ... so we kind of took him up on it and really ate well on this cruise. The food was 4 to 5 star and the desserts were incredible. If you see Campanos at the dessert bar in the Windjammer, have a dance with him before you chow down.The shows at the Palladium Theater were pretty standard cruise ship fair. The singers and dancers really performed well and the Broadway show numbers they selected were quite appropriate. John and his wife Katrina did a good job on their respective parts of cruise direction and activities. Neither of us drink alcohol, so we were quite pleased that our table mates also didn't drink. It certainly made for a more relaxing cruise. Our waitstaff did not "push" any booze on us  nor did they hurry us along. Dinner usually took from 6 - 7.45 (main seating).RCCL has a pre-pay gratuity option. It bothered us at the beginning, but we decided to use the option.Check out was not as efficient because it was the first time the ship had been to Norfolk so customs was a little slow. Besides, we didn't really want to go home anyway.  Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
This was my first repositioning cruise so I didn't know what to expect. The ship had come up from Australia, arriving in Honolulu then going on to the Hawaiian islands for five days and across the Pacific for five days to Vancouver. I ... Read More
This was my first repositioning cruise so I didn't know what to expect. The ship had come up from Australia, arriving in Honolulu then going on to the Hawaiian islands for five days and across the Pacific for five days to Vancouver. I have sailed on the Voyager class of ship and therefore I thought I'd find this ship to be less desirable, however that was not the case. The Rhapsody is older but is impeccably maintained, every public space and the cabin were spotless. I loved all of the glass used, especially the Centrum. The two story dining room was nicely set up and the Windjammer Cafe was easy to access. For this particular cruise all of the inside spaces were non smoking, including the casino. Smoking was allowed on the outer starboard decks only. I found the non smoking casino to be such a pleasure I spent more time than I expected there,  happily playing the many penny slot machines. This was the first on board casino I've seen with so many new video penny slots, and they paid off in a reasonable manner. There were many places on the ship to curl up with a book, or just watch the water go by. I had an inside cabin, which was more than adequate in size, including a small loveseat, and plenty of storage.The crew and staff were the best I've encountered on a cruise, starting with the captain (who just took over the ship) and down to the cleaning crews. The captain was very visible around the ship, including at the CC Meet & Mingle. I never passed a crew member without them smiling and saying hello. My cabin steward was a young woman who was so bubbly and energetic it was contagious. Dining room service was superb, the waiter and assistant waiter learned your preferences within a day and always provided your favorite drinks. Food was excellent, both in the main dining room and on the buffet. My only complaint (which I mentioned to the chef) was that the pizza and other Italian dishes were not very tasty. Entertainment was the usual production shows, plus some very talented comedians and singers. The five sea days were filled with a reasonable amount of activities, including recent movies. Embarkation in Honolulu was fast and efficient. It was a little odd to not get under way the first day, we stayed over until 11PM on the 2nd day.  However, Vancouver was chaos, never seen such a messed up port. The various cruise lines were all merged into one long line, with baggage check in at one central point inside the terminal, would be a miracle if your bag made it on the right ship. Waited 2 hours to get a cab. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We arrived at the cruise terminal in Galveston by car at the designated time for boarding to begin. Traffic was barely crawling into the terminal area. It turned out that the Voyager of the Seas had been delayed several hours by fog, so ... Read More
We arrived at the cruise terminal in Galveston by car at the designated time for boarding to begin. Traffic was barely crawling into the terminal area. It turned out that the Voyager of the Seas had been delayed several hours by fog, so when we arrived at 1:00, passengers from the last cruise were still disembarking. After 2+ hours in line, we were on board and our cabins were ready. There were 5 of us traveling together, my wife and I were on our first Royal Caribbean cruise, we have cruised 3 times on NCL, and our grown daughter and her 2 friends were on their first cruises. Our cabin was a Promenade cabin. It was very comfortable, quiet and clean. Our cabin attendant did an outstanding job. Daughter and friends had a regular inside cabin which was a little crowded, satisfactory.The ship is beautiful, spacious, and clean. There is always something to do and space is always available.The ship has a lot of very talented musicians, in addition to the entertainers who perform in the theater. Cruise director and his staff were by far the best we have ever encountered and they were not driven to making announcements every 10 minutes.The food was available in several venues and was always good, if not excellent. Service was always excellent and friendly.One feature we enjoyed especially was the Solarium, a partially covered area aft of the main pool area on Deck11. The Solarium included a pool and 2 large jacuzzi tubs, as well as a bar and plenty of seating along the sides and around the pool. The Solarium is an adults only area, although on this cruise there were almost no children.The ship stopped in 4 ports, King's Wharf, Bermuda, Punta Delgada, Azores, Cobh, Ireland, and Cherborg, France, with the final destination being Southampton, UK. We made a big mistake in not booking excursions in advance. It was very difficult booking any onboard as there were so few left to choose from. We did go ashore in each port and enjoyed our visit in each place. Cherborg turned out to be our favorite as well as a very pleasant surprise.Disembarkation was very quick and easy as we took the express, carry your own luggage off the ship option.For all of us this was a very good, very enjoyable cruise. We were impressed with the ship and with Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Background Mid-60's, 30th cruise overall, 8th on Royal Caribbean which includes four trans-Atlantics, one Panama Canal, and three one-week cruises. Pre-cruise Flew into Ft. Lauderdale a day early and stayed at the Red Carpet ... Read More
Background Mid-60's, 30th cruise overall, 8th on Royal Caribbean which includes four trans-Atlantics, one Panama Canal, and three one-week cruises. Pre-cruise Flew into Ft. Lauderdale a day early and stayed at the Red Carpet Inn.  Reviews were mixed and leaned towards negative but we found it fine for our purposes.  Free airport shuttle and port shuttle, clean, free internet, and had a reasonably priced restaurant attached to it which was good as there is nothing else around it other than a sports grill attached to the hotel next door—I think it was a Best Western.  Although in the flight path of the airport, we were not disturbed by the planes at all. I think they limit take offs and landings at night.  Largest pool I have ever seen for an establishment of that size. Embarkation We had heard that because the hotel's port shuttle was first come, first served it was advisable to line up early which we did at 10:30 a.m. for a 11:00 shuttle.   However, since we were leaving on a Thursday, there was no line, just one other couple and a lady waiting.   First they took the lady to the airport rental car location to pick up a car and then took us to the port.  The driver remarked how easy it was leaving on an off day.  It was around 11:30 when we got to the port and handed our luggage over.  We were directed to a large waiting area and told that the computers were down, and we would have to wait until they were up again to process our boarding. When the "hostess" made a remark about how clean the ship would be with the wait, I got suspicious that maybe they were cleaning because of the virus.  Especially since they were still cleaning cabins when we got on.  However, our cruising friend got there before the computers went down and he got right on. There was seating for everyone in the waiting area and employees who would ordinarily man the check-in counters circulated offering  water or juice. There was no separate area for Platinum, Diamond, etc. Every 15 minutes or so they would tell us that they computers were still down and thank us for our patience.  Around 12:45 they started boarding.  It was done in an orderly fashion with people being released by rows from the seating areas to the check-in area in the order they arrived at the terminal..  Check-in went efficiently and we were thanked for our patience by every employee we encountered.  We got on the ship and dropped off our things in the cabin before heading for lunch. After lunch we returned to the cabin to find our Diamond Value books and concierge lounge pass key but no ice in the bucket yet.  We had a balcony cabin on Deck 6 very near the front.   A few minutes later the room steward dropped by to introduce himself and I requested four things:  1) two Compasses a day; 2) ice put in my six-pack thermo bag which would be on the shower floor because it "sweats;" 3) empty the mini fridge and  4) see if he could hustle us up an egg crate mattress which he did do. By 3:00 p.m. luggage had been delivered and unpacking complete.  That is a record.  All contents of the suitcases were intact if you get my drift. The muster drill for our section was held in the Ixtapa lounge rather than outside.  Much preferred this to standing in the hot sun, cheek to jowl with other passengers.  It went quickly.  I liked that the closet had a "cubby" for life jackets storage in the cabin.  Let the cruise begin! We are "discarded" Diamonds on our first cruise as Diamond members.  The overflow lounge was full to be sure but very organized with no problem getting drinks (either at the bar or ordered while seated) and very nice appetizers. We requested late dining because the eastbound TA cruise  we took last year had early dining at 5:30 rather than the 6:00 we expected.  Couple this with moving the clocks up an hour at noon several days at sea (making our dinner at 4:30 "stomach time") and port calls that lasted until 5-6:00 p.m. we switched from our usual main dining time.to late.  However, on embarkation, we found our late dining would be 8:30 which is a little late for us and early dining would be 6:00.   So I asked the concierge (hey, I'm Diamond now if only for a few minutes) if he could assist us in changing to MTD and, basically, he blew me off.  If he had politely told me that he wished he could help but this could only be handled by me in person or some other words to that effect, I would have understood.  Instead, he told me to go down to the desk at the dining room and see if I could get it changed.  I did and after waiting 20 minutes for the lady who could handle it, I was told to come back at 9:30 the next morning as the lady was "unavailable."  So, we went off to the dining room the first night  to discover we had been assigned a table with great people.  A family and friends group from Canada who warmly welcomed us into their circle.  We decided we didn't want a change after all.  Things do have a way of working out. Our cabin was a D2 which we got on a guarantee.  The only difference I could see between that and an E2 (which we have had before) is the sofa was longer so I guess the cabin was longer, too. It was still just as "skinny."   There was a shampoo dispenser in the shower but no soap dispenser.  If you have a  "soap on a rope" stashed away, now would be a good time to use it.  The little bars provided slip through the wires on the soap holder and good luck picking it up without getting out of the shower. The shower had solid, curved doors rather than a curtain that "loves" you.   The cabin steward emptied the mini-bar but put all the items to the side of the fridge inside its "cubby.".  As the cruise progressed, the fridge "moved" over and one of the soda cans got punctured by the door hinge.  So we took everything out and put it on shelving on the side which was not being used, telling the room steward why.  He offered to take the things away but we told him no need to.  We did not get charged for the soda.  Another thing I liked about our balcony was it was glass below the railing vs. steel that we had on the Voyager.  Three previous trans-Atlantics have been on the Voyager so this review will make inevitable comparisons between the two ships.  The layout is the same other than different names for the venues except the Sports Bar was replaced by a wine bar. To me, the crew was much friendlier.    Not that they weren't on the Voyager but I felt more so on the Navigator. There seemed to be better organization throughout the cruise particularly in the area of port calls and accuracy in the Compass.  They had separate gangways for the ship's tours so that alleviated the crowding to get off.  We only disembarked one time with the "masses" to catch a private tour and walked off the ship with little or no delay.  Other times, we waited until later as we didn't have any tours lined up other than the HOHO.  There were fewer announcements.  I can only remember one or two for Bingo or the Art Auction.  The ship offered shuttle service into town centers but it wasn't heavily hawked with words like "you are miles from town and you need to buy our service because cabs are not readily available or more expensive (pick one).  In fact, you weren't that far from town and, if you shared a cab, it was cheaper than four individual shuttle tickets.   If you got off and decided to hoof it after seeing how close you were, you could get your unused shuttle ticket(s) refunded.  We are big time trivia players.  The prizes were much better than on the Voyager which seemed to only have key chains, pens, and water wallets. We got backpacks, shoulder bags, photo albums, hats, t-shirts, halfway useful stuff.  It  probably helped that they are doing away with their Vitality Program so they had items you traded for tickets to get rid of.  However, I heard on the Voyager TA at the same time, it was water wallets, pens, and key chains for trivia.  The hosts were more congenial and their English easy to understand.  On the Voyager there seemed to always be a confrontation at every game over one or two questions and some passengers getting quite ugly to the entertainment staff.   Did not happen once on this cruise.  There was one question that clearly had the wrong answer to it on the paper and the host  discarded it as even she knew Beethoven did not die in 1927 (lol).   There were three or four games a day, although, the 8:00 p.m. one usually involved a music theme trivia as in "name that tune/artist/movie" which was not our strong point. They had a trivia marathon which kept a running score for the 10:00 a.m. sea-day trivia sessions with the final held on the last day.   Unfortunately, the last day trivia was evicted from our usual meeting place at 10:00 a.m. by the art auction so the final was at 10:15 p.m.  The art auction had been a "problem" on most of our morning sessions trying to set up and this severely limited seating.  All the teams seemed to make it to the late hour for the final session.  All the trivia games were held in the Schooner Bar other than the marathon which was in Ixtapa.  However, the Schooner is too small a venue for trivia and seats went fast so people were pulling stools out of the casino and from the bar.  I did not think the production shows were as good as on the Voyager. The dancing was good but the sets minimal and the songs were for the most part ones we were not familiar with.  Husband and I had a running argument over whether the music was live or recorded.  It was probably a little of both.  The main singers may have been live and the orchestra was on the stage in the background during one of the shows.  However, on another show they were in the pit at the beginning which was lowered when the show started but not covered and I didn't see any tops of heads showing (we were in the balcony) nor were they bought back up when acknowledged after the show was over.  The third show I never saw the orchestra either before or after.  The Cruise Director was missing in action unless on stage.  At the M&M for our cruise critic group the staff had a few raffle prizes one of which was a small stuffed seal which I won.  The Activities Director hosting the M&M told me to bring the seal  to Bingo because there were some bonus things that went with it.  He was late getting there and when he got there, he had to chase down the sheet of paper which took awhile.  Turned out it was worthless stuff for me like 10 percent off at a gift store or something off spa treatment, or extra jackpot card for Bingo.  Anyway, while waiting, the card sales were going on, I did some calculating.  It was $32 for six cards for each of four games.  They had an electronic thingee for $67 that had 30 "cards" on it.  You just sat and held it and it did all the work keeping up with the numbers.  Other things was a strip of somethings (scratch offs???)  that if you bought you got a t-shirt, and you could buy my seal for $12 that came with the sheet of discounts.  If you bought  two "packets," you got an extra jackpot card of three games.  A lot of ways to separate you from your money.  When the game started, I counted about 80 people there.  Say they paid an average of $50 a person (and I think that is conservative) that would be $4,000.  The first game was straight bingo, around 10 numbers called, three winners split $76.  Next game was four corners, again about a dozen numbers called, think that one was worth $92.  The next game was "postage stamp" winner(s) got $102.  The last game was coverall and if all your numbers were covered in 44 pulls, you got the jackpot of around $1,500.  If not, then the game continued and the winner got $128 or thereabouts and some money was put towards the last session "jackpot must go" coverall.  Now you do the math.  $4,000 minimum taken in, and $400 paid out plus maybe $500 held back for the final day jackpot unless someone covered up all the numbers earlier with the allotted pulls.  That's $3,000 in their pocket each of the six sessions they had.   Out of curiosity, I went down to a couple of more games and the number of players participating were down (they can do math, too) so the payoffs were even less and split many times. The last coverall game where the jackpot would be given away had maybe 100 people there and the jackpot was $3,600.  They called 60 numbers before someone got it.  $67 electronic handhelds won most of the prizes—doh.   I figure the cruise line made about $18,000 on that little venture. The M&M was well attended with the Activities Director emceeing it with some helpers. They had punch and appetizers.  Raffle prizes were given out and everyone received a bag with a water wallet in it.  The helper facilitated the gift exchange by handing out drawing tickets to those that participated when they turned in their gifts and then delivering the gifts after their number was called.  Food I would like to say it has improved.  Not.  I've learned on the TA's that once the menu gets to Steak Diane, it is going to go downhill from there in my opinion.  They did have lobster twice—once on the Fisherman's Platter and again as "surf and turf." Unfortunately that night they had a special showing of the ice show for Platinum, Diamond, etc. people at 8:00.  Since our dinner hour was 8:30, we went to the Windjammer to eat prior to the show.  However, before the show started, they told us that it would be o.k. for late seating to go late to dinner.  Wish we had known that beforehand.  Both lobster dinners were on a formal night.  If you like salmon, fish, pasta, chicken then you are in business.  No one at our table availed themselves of the $15 steak so I can't comment on that.  It really saves me from myself because I don't agonize over which appetizer, entrEe or dessert to order and end up ordering multiples.  I've never left the dining room hungry, there is always something even if I make a meal on appetizers, soup and dessert. We ate lunches in the Windjammer and could always find a place to sit either by ourselves or asking someone at a large table if we could join them.   I noticed some people would come in and get their silverware and place it on a table to save it while getting their food.  I usually just had soup and dessert but husband filled his plate and there seemed to be a good selection.  The plates have shrunk from the large oval ones to regular dinner plate size.  No trays.  Service was pretty good with clearing tables and getting drinks if you asked. We ate all our breakfasts in the MDR.  On the Voyager, the MDR had an "express" breakfast buffet that had fruit, bread, eggs, bacon, etc. your basics every day.   You could, also, order omelets, pancakes, etc. from the menu.  On this ship, they had a buffet some days or maybe just a fruit bar or a pancake making bar or nothing at all a few times.  So I can't address how the seating was at breakfast in the Windjammer. Casino They only had about seven penny slots and one was down the entire cruise.  Two of them paid off enough to keep you entertained for a half-hour or so with a dollar at a penny a pull.  The others just sucked up your money faster than a tornado through a trailer park so you had no trouble at getting a seat at those.  Usual table games but I did notice the minimum at BJ was $5 rather than the $6 on the Voyager.  On formal nights, it was non-smoking in the evenings. I didn't happen to go through there so I can't comment on whether the attendance was up or down.  I do know that non-smokers were very pleased, though.  Cost Cutting/Amenities No chocolates, towel animals some nights but not every night.  On the good side, the Compass was not loaded up with all the inserts as in the past.  The Art Auction one was always there but I suspect Park Galleries supplies those and they had the half "strip"of  promotions but that was it.   Gift is slated to go in September.  We got the ever popular baseball hats this time. No daily "newspaper" was a real bummer because on a TA you are in a vacuum as far as news goes.  CNN on the television was reruns of what we had already seen four days before and Fox News didn't provide much either. We got bits and pieces about the Swine Flu.  ESPN equally worthless—taped reruns of long ago played games—usually soccer.  I did go to the concierge lounge twice to see what it was like.  I didn't stay more than a few minutes each time.  Neither time was it crowded (11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.)  Not being a coffee drinker and wanting more than a danish and juice for breakfast, this is one amenity I won't miss come September 1. Because of the length of a TA cruise, you are bound to have a lot of older, retired, multi cruised RCL people.  This was no exception so an overflow lounge was utilized in the evenings.  I know people have said it is not about the drinks but, trust me, it is about the drinks.  I made a mental note of people around me and for every glass of wine/champagne I saw poured, I saw five or six mixed drinks.  I saw people downing several mixed drinks in an hour.   I will be interested to see how that ratio works on our return TA in November when the mixed drinks are 25% off and wine/champagne is free  The service was outstanding in the lounge and the appetizers plentiful and good.  There was a lot of socializing when people would come into the lounge and spot friends and join them or made arrangements to meet there at a certain time.  If seating was "tight" (like right before the first dinner seating when you have second dinner seating people coming in before 1st seating people have left), people were not shy about asking to join you if you had seats at your table and always welcomed.  It really is a good perk to get together with fellow cruisers and I am glad that Royal Caribbean is keeping it in some fashion. They had a section by the pool roped off for suites but I never saw more than three or four sitting there.  Since the weather, for the most part, was windy and cool, there was no problem getting seats elsewhere.  No chair hogs this cruise!  In the show room they roped off the first two rows of the balcony for the suite guests.  However, I heard some people just stepped over the ropes and sat down.  Maybe they were suite people. We were laughing because the first row of the balcony is not that desirable because the railing obstructs the view.  I did not see either the pool or the theater area being "monitored" to make sure it was only being used by suite guests.  We never had any problems getting a seat in the theater even coming at the last minute.   I have no ill will towards the suite guests getting these perks any more than against those that ride first class in an airplane while I am crammed in the back.  They paid a lot more than I did for the cruise so they deserve more than I get.  The Value Booklet has been gutted for all practical purposes.  Wine is a BOGO, JR has a BOGO for a milkshake only, coffee, same, percentage off things of like 10 percent—just about everything required you to buy something to get something.  They did still have the $5 match play at the casino and the slot pull coupon.  Has anybody ever won anything with that other than a key chain or t-shirt? Admittedly, the service is not as good as in the "old days" but that is due to cutting back on the staff not the staff not doing their job.  They can only do so much in the time allotted to them.  Our room steward was as good as we have ever had.   Our dining waiters were, also, satisfactory. Our waiter was new so there were some "whiffs" but still better service than I have had on many cruises.   I noticed we saw the head waiter much more frequently now as he/she is pitching in to take up the slack when necessary.  In the "old days" about the only time we ever saw him was when he was "trolling for tips."  A quick "how is everything" while looking past you  plotting the move to the next table.  Hence, I was never quick with a tip for them if I didn't ask for anything from them.  Now, I feel they earn the tip because they are so visible and helpful. This is a review so I am not going to editorialize on my opinions of the new policy of not allowing OBC/discounts being combined or the Diamond loyalty program cuts other than to say the playing field as been leveled in our choosing future cruises.  Library It was as pitiful as it is on the Voyager.  Bring your own reading material.  On the last day, I was taking up a paper back I had finished planning to put it on the shelf.  As I entered, there was a lady doing "dumpster diving" in the box that you return books in.  She had placed some of her books in there.  I know because she pointed out one she said she had finished by the same author of ones I was putting in there.  There were many paper backs which the library doesn't have.  I was wondering how one would distinguish what hardback was a donation and what was the library's when husband pointed out the library had "dots" on the spine to facilitate shelving them.  So, if you get desperate for reading material, do some dumpster diving.  It seems to me that Royal could dedicate some shelves for a "book exchange" since a lot of their shelves are empty.  Sick Bay Unfortunately, I had to visit the medical facilities.  My ears stopped up—probably a combination of air pressure flying in and build up of wax.  While it didn't seem that crowded when I went to the waiting room (maybe a half dozen people there and some were waiting with companions), it was still over an hour after I signed in to be looked at.  Once  the doctor saw me, he was very professional but English was definitely a second language and I had trouble understanding him.   Boy, am I glad I had insurance. $70 to walk through the door, $82 each ear to treat it, $35 for "medication" which was some ear drops and peroxide. I think I'll come out about even paying for insurance vs. charges.  I heard a broken wrist was over $3K.  Buy that insurance!! When checking in, the nurse went over the $70 charge to be seen and said that there would be an additional charge for services and medication.  So it is not like she didn't warn me.    I noticed a vending machine for OTC medications outside the door.  Didn't check out the prices, though.  Smoking As a smoker, I found the smoking rules very acceptable.  As I mentioned before, no smoking on formal nights in the casino.  I was surprised that smoking was allowed in the Two Poets Pub because on the Voyager, I heard, they don't have it in the Pub there anymore.  I never smoked in the cabin to begin with as a courtesy to those that would occupy the cabin after me so this was not a problem for me.  I did smoke on our balcony when the balconies on either side were not being occupied.  Early in the cruise, when my neighbor was out on the balcony at the railing, I did ask him if my smoking on the balcony bothered him and he told me it did not.   In the Schooner Bar, they have taken the smoking away from the "main" area but there is smoking allowed by the casino entrance.  Smoking allowed on one side of the Bolero Lounge separated by the stairs in the atrium.  Smoking was allowed on the Starboard side of the pool deck.  There were no ashtrays on the tables but a lot of "standing" ashtrays scattered around.  I was glad I had my Altoids tin to use.  Overall, I think their smoking policy is very fair for smokers.  While I am sure the many non-smokers would like to see the entire ship non-smoking or smokers relegated to the top deck by the smoke stack, that is not going to happen.  I think Carnival's Paradise showed this not to be an economical option.    I think Royal Caribbean has a good balance accommodating both smokers and non-smokers. If smoking on balconies bothers you, then you can cruise Celebrity which does not allow it.  Disembarkation On past cruises, there was always a paragraph in the Compass about how you should buy their transportation to the airport because cabs could be a two hour wait.  I assumed they meant they weren't plentiful.  When we disembarked last year in Barcelona, we carried our own luggage off as we arranged for our own transportation to the airport with pick up at  8:30.    I saw plenty of cabs there but, keep in mind, this was 7:30 or so in the morning.  This time, we were spending the night in Barcelona so we were not in any hurry to get off the ship as our hotel room would not be ready.  I, also, noted this time we were not asked to vacate the cabin by 8:30 as we have been in the past.  Aside note:  Our cabin steward knocked on the door at 7:30 and started to come in the cabin.  So, put out the do not disturb sign the night before.  When they "kicked us off the ship" around 9:30 a.m., we got in line for the cabs.  Good news is that there were plenty of cabs.  As fast as they could load them, they were leaving with another one waiting.  The bad news, it was over an hour by the time we got in line until we got to the front of the line. I think this is where the up to two hour wait sentence came in.   I'm sure we got in the line when it was at its longest. because there were many spending extra nights in Barcelona.  I did not hear anyone boo-hooing they were going to miss their flights because of the lengthy wait.  I don't think our cab driver was happy we weren't going to the airport because to make up for it instead of going around Las Ramblas to our hotel, he went down Las Ramblas which was very slow going and the meter was ticking.  Miscellaneous Notes No hand sanitizers.  The reasoning I heard was that they aren't that effective for Norovirus to start with and that people were depending on them rather than washing their hands which is the most effective way to protect against it.  As far as I know, no one got the virus or the swine flu.  However, lots of coughing, colds, etc.  I think it is due more to being in a confined environment than lack of "sanitizing."  I do a heavy dose of building up immunity before leaving home and while flying/cruising with Airborne, Cold FX, and a few of those awful tasting zinc tablets.  So far, it has worked for me.  I could set the clock of being sick 48 hours after any long-distance flight or commencing a cruise before I started being pro-active.  The clocks were moved up at noon every day (7 of them) except for the last advancement which was done at night.  Did not have any major problems with getting elevators except during those times you would expect it—dinner, leaving the show.  We think the ones that don't go to decks 13 and 14 were quicker to arrive, though.  When reboarding after spending a day in port, if you keep on walking past the first bank of elevators you come to, you will come to a second bank and there was never a wait there for one.  No iced tea except in the Windjammer between lunch and 9:30 when it closes.  I make my own stash by putting a tea bag in a water bottle and fill it with water for those off times. Husband liberated a coffee cup from the Windjammer because he said the paper cups in the Promenade were flimsy and too hot to hold even with the thingees there to put around them. No yellow mustard—French's type.  The only mustard husband will eat.  On the Voyager you could get it in packets in the Promenade Cafe but not on this ship.  They only had Dijon type. Ports I won't go into them much as the TA's are one time stops. Tenerife One of our fellow CC members lined up a private tour which took us to the volcanos.  Very good tour and half Royal Caribbean's price.  The only downside is you must walk off the pier to get to the transportation as no cabs or tour buses other than RCL's are allowed on the pier.  It is about a ¾ mile walk.  I think what surprised me the most was I wasn't aware of how "stark" part of the island is around the volcanos.  In fact, our driver told us that movies are filmed there (and we saw one was being filmed) because it resembles moonscape and "old" West.  Reminded me of Monument Valley.  A lot of beautiful vegetation in the lower levels. Lisbon We did the HOHO bus there. Having never been to these ports, we decided to get an overview so when/if we return, we will have a better idea of what we would like to concentrate on.   I purchased all our HOHO tickets from Expedia before leaving so I would not have to worry about having Euros or finding a kiosk or whatever to purchase them once in the port.  As it turned out, you can buy them from the bus driver but they want Euros.  They may take dollars but I'm sure the exchange rate would not be good (lol).  We bought shuttle tickets from the ship but it turned out the HOHO bus stopped right in front of the terminal so we got a refund on the ship's shuttle tickets.  Those that took the shuttle were let out with a five minute walk into town. Cadiz In Cadiz, we couldn't dock where they had planned; we were put in a cargo terminal instead.   We were delayed getting off so the port call was extended an hour.  When we got off, numerous crew members (including the Captain, I heard) were deployed to direct people around the containers to the end of the pier. Again did the HOHO route.  We had to walk about ½ a mile to get into town.  The reason why we were shifted to the cargo port was because the Ruby Princess beat us to our docking place.  Once it town, we went to the tourist information office to find out where to pick up the bus.  In front of Burger King  right across the street.  Unfortunately, the stop before this stop was right in front of the Ruby Princess.  So, when the bus got to us, it was mostly full—maybe only a dozen seats left.  The first bus came and some people shall we say, were not very orderly.  Being told that it would be half an hour (it seemed longer) until the next bus came (Cadiz does not usually have that many cruise passengers in town at the same time so they were overwhelmed) we got a little more "organized."  A line was formed and people politely told where the end of it was.  After awhile a HOHO employee came over to direct people to the end of the line and keep things organized.. Malaga HOHO.  About a ½ mile walk to the bus stop along a promenade by the beach.   This is where I came to the realization that ear buds are not designed for my ears.  No matter how I pushed, shoved, twisted, they would not stay in my ear.  In Lisbon, the driver spoke over a PA system (good English, easy to understand).  In Cadiz and Malaga they had the ear buds which you could hook up and choose a language.  Mental note to self, next TA when I plan to do the HOHO, bring some el cheapo ear phones with me.  Continental Airline's won't work because they have two prongs instead of one.  You need a one pronged ear phone. Additional Notes In Tenerife, our first European stop, we tried to get Euro's.  For some reason, our cards would not work in the two ATMs we tried.. We had some Euros with us so this was not the end of the world.  If push came to shove, we had a friend who could get euros off his card for us.  In Lisbon, we again attempted to get some Euros from an ATM with no luck.  It appeared the ATM wanted  a six digit pin and we have a four digit one.  However, at a second machine, we noticed that in addition to buttons running down the side of the machine which we had pressed to "confirm our transaction"  after using them to set the transaction up, there were some buttons on the base of the machine where we could "confirm our transaction."  That worked.  For some reason we cannot fathom, we were invited to dine with the Captain.  We were in an el-cheapo balcony guarantee cabin, just made Diamond, our ship board tabs on previous cruises have been practically nothing due to OBC (on the last TA cruise got $100 back), don't wear designer clothes or expensive jewelry, don't gamble, didn't suck up to any officers, but we do clean up nice.   Dart board?  We were extended the invitation on a Monday evening at dinner and told an invitation would be forthcoming.  Tuesday evening the Head Waiter discreetly told my husband he needed to speak with us after dinner.  We figured they were going to tell us that a mistake had been made and give us a bottle of wine for our disappointment (lol).  Nope, just wanted confirmation we were coming and to give us the official invitation.  Needless to say, it was the highlight of this cruise.  The Captain and his wife were there and an officer.  The other couples invited to round out the 12-man table were just Plain Jane people like us—or appeared to be.  I was worried husband didn't have a tux with him but we were told a suit would be fine.  Only one other male guest had a tux on and he was "apologizing" saying it was all he had bought. We had a special menu, signed by the captain and wine was flowing.  They took a group picture of us from the balcony and presented it to us after dinner.   I am passing this on not to "brag" but to give everyone hope they, too, might get an invite. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to e-mail me at whitlock@alumni.utexas.net.  It was a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We booked this cruise fairly late.. six weeks prior to sailing, and got an excellent rate on an outside cabin (no balcony). We flew to SanJuan the night before (4/17) and stayed one night at the Sheraton OSJ using 11,000 Sheraton points ... Read More
We booked this cruise fairly late.. six weeks prior to sailing, and got an excellent rate on an outside cabin (no balcony). We flew to SanJuan the night before (4/17) and stayed one night at the Sheraton OSJ using 11,000 Sheraton points for a free oceanside suite.  Took a flat-rate cab to the RCI pier at noon, and despite recommended boarding at 5PM we were able to get right on board to start our vacation. I was poolside aboard the Serenade by 12:30, and that included a stop to sign up for the "soda package" (basically, a $90+ donation to RCI profits). I agree with the reviewer who thinks this is a stupid program, but can't really complain because the cruise itself was dirt cheap. I was somewhat surprised to see that the median age of the cruisers was far older than the last cruise (2008 12 night Med cruise on the Brilliance) - I'm 56 and think the average age was a good 15 years older than me. Ship staff said that relocation cruises and long cruises both attract an older crowd, and the timing (April) was during the school year, limiting "family cruisers" - makes sense after you think about it! There were only 24 out of 2100 cruisers aboard that were under the age of 18, according to the cruise staff, and I'd say another 50 or so under the age of 50.  Our cabin, which was booked as a "Guaranteed cabin" (no cabin number assigned until after booking) was on deck 3 stern. This was lower and farther to the stern than I had ever stayed before (on 6 other cruises) so I was somewhat suspect of it, but it turned out to be just fine. The 14 night itinerary was San Juan - 2 sea days - Cartegena, Columbia - 1 sea day - Panama Canal Crossing - Puntarenas, Costa Rica - 1 sea day - Huatulco, Mexico - Acapulco, Mexico - 1 sea day - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - two sea days -  San FranciscoHowever, this got a bit altered due to the swine flu outbreak in Mexico. After our 4/26 stop in Acapulco (complete with 5.6 strength earthquake, but more on that later), the captain announced that we would be canceling our Cabo stop and replacing it with a San Diego stop instead. Oh well. no Cabo!I'll cover most of the ports in the port review section, but these weren't covered there by CC so I'll cover them here: The canal crossing was very cool. The history of the canal and the mechanics of it all were very interesting and was presented all week long on in-cabin TV specials, so you had a chance to understand the background and significance of the canal.  As we were going under the Bridge of the Americas, gunfire broke out on the north side of the canal. Sounded like automatic rifle fire. We headed indoors from our perch on the helipad where we had been watching the bridge crossing. Someone said it must have been a drug deal gone bad. I guess real bad :( Puntarenas - We took a rafting/float trip on a river - 90 minutes by bus to the push-off point - lots more paddling and whitewater than advertised, but an excellent time with Howler monkey, crocodile, iguana, and other wildlife sightings, as well as seeing the local (very very poor) people living riverside in wooden shacks and using the river for food, water, bathing, and laundry facilities. Huatulco -Beautiful littletown where we  booked a snorkeling trip that had one good snorkeling site, one not-so-good site. good experience overall. Would like to come here again and spend some time... nice beaches and friendly people. Cabo- canceled due to the swine-flue. San Francisco - Went under the Golden Gate bridge in the dark at 5:15 AM but many of us were on deck photographing it! Cool deal. We were docked at 7 and got off around 10:30AM (US Immigration again!). Spent the day in town and flew out on a redeye that night.Weather - EXCELLENT (80's and 90's, clear skies, cooler nights) until Acapulco, then cooler and some rain from Acapulco to San Francisco (50's and partly cloudy). Food and Service- Excellent in the dining room (cheers to Royston and Budi, our waitstaff); food suffers a bit in the Windjammer. Got mixed results at the seaview - good wings and Cuban sandwich, but inedible fish and chips and terrible brownie dessert. We ate one night at Portofino (get the seafood skewer!) and one at Chops (Ribeye for me...) both with excellent food and service, but I have to wonder if these will last because both were mostly empty when we were there. Excellent food and service, but I can't help thinking that it USED TO BE like this every night in the main dining room (back in the 70's and early 80's). Oh well. Worth the extra $$. In fact, I would consider booking an entire cruise's dinners in these restaurants.. it would cost you an extra $300 or so per week for a couple to to do that. Entertainment - nothing great, but nothing terrible either. We avoided many of the extra-fee deals (bingo, art auctions, gambling) and took in the free shows when they fit our schedule. Also took in a couple of movies in the cinema during the chillier part of our trip (the end) when I couldn't be in the sun.Cost - we paid $2000 for the cabin for 2 of us, an additional $600 in taxes and fees, $450 in excursions and restaurant upgrades, $600 airfare (booked separately, RDU to SJO; SFO to RDU on AA) $650 in on-board expenses (bar, spa, shopping), and about $600 in cash shore-side spending for a total of $4900 for 2 people, 14 days, and a hell of a lot of fun! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2009
Aha - cruising, something we enjoy from the beginning of the planning to the last cruise day! We plan on cruising 3 to 4 times a year, 2 fairly long (14 day) cruises to something we call "filler cruises", 7 days. This time ... Read More
Aha - cruising, something we enjoy from the beginning of the planning to the last cruise day! We plan on cruising 3 to 4 times a year, 2 fairly long (14 day) cruises to something we call "filler cruises", 7 days. This time we cruised on IOS with 3 ports and 9 sea days. Oh, wonderful cruise sea days, the true delight of cruising. Of course, the ports are super and we truly enjoy visiting other places but the sea days are really our cup of tea! This was a somewhat different experience in that the IOS is such a monster sized ship.She is really beautiful with something for everyone. She is absolutely a vacation destination in herself. Rock climbing, boxing, flowrider, basketball, golf simulator, miniature golf, shuffleboard, table tennis, swimming, movies,fitness center, gambling, dancing and some I never saw. The entertainment was a notch above other cruises I have experienced. One night headlined "Your Three Tenors" which was a thrill to all in attendance.Trivia players had many opportunities to test their memories and brain power. The cruise director is Graham Seymour, probably the best one at sea! The promenade is something very special and home to many snacking venues and shops. One of the clothing shops sells women's clothing with a designer label, which is greatly appreciated. Our cabin filled the bill for us, a tad larger than most balcony cabins in our past and this small extra amount of space made a big difference.However, I was surprised at the amenities no longer available in the cabins. There are no make-up mirrors and only shampoo in the shower dispenser and 2 bars of soap. We also missed a DVD player and the pillow chocolate at night. Nothing earth shattering but things that were missed! There is a coffee maker in the cabins, flat screen TV with decent programing and plenty of storage. Extra nice was the fact that the closet door opened all the way to the wall which gives great access lighting has been improved in the newer ships as well. The Library is adequate but needs a spot for the trading of paperback novels. The dining room is lovely and the waiters are marvelous. The food was tasty and well prepared. Most of the time we preferred to dine in the windjammer. The food was plentiful and attractively displayed. I enjoyed the grits for breakfast and the salad bar at other times. I do wish they would have another tea besides Lipton and take lessons on cooking potatoes. They serve beef, pork, fish and chicken every meal with turkey occasionally. Lots of pasta and casserole type dishes with a shortage of green vegetables. All the desserts have a beautiful appearance but seem to lack something.The food was adequate but a little short of special. The biggest problem in the windjammer was the crowds of people. Many times you would have to wander around with food getting cold until you could find a seat. It did not help that people save tables (books, sunglasses, etc) placed to keep one from using and others would sit reading for a long time after they finished their meal and yet some would be playing cards. I think trays would also be helpful as it is hard for some to carry a plate, silverware and drink. All the ports were lovely and interesting. We stopped at Ponta Delgada,Azores Funchal, Portugal and Vigo, Spain. Vigo was the only port that was new to us and we found it to a really nice city, large and friendly to visitors. The port is either new or recently upgraded with a large, modern shopping center right at the pier. Considering the number of passengers, disembarkation was quick and orderly but the problems began with the luggage claiming. Southhampton just does not have enough room to cater to this tremendous number of passengers and it was one big snarl of a mess! This review is titled "Things Learned" and things were definitely learned! We always use the stairs instead of elevators and the ship size made for some strong legs. No matter the larger size of the ship, it gets too crowded at times so we now know we prefer a somewhat smaller ship! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
I need to start off saying that we booked this cruise on a spur of the moment decision. As we were already booked on the Indy's westbound TA in November, the price drop on this cruise was too good to let go. As Diamond members, we ... Read More
I need to start off saying that we booked this cruise on a spur of the moment decision. As we were already booked on the Indy's westbound TA in November, the price drop on this cruise was too good to let go. As Diamond members, we were able to take advantage of additional discounts. This is also the first time we ever jumped on a cruise after final payment was due. We always book them well in advance. This was our 5th transatlantic cruise, although we have sailed with various lines to various parts of the world. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before using US Airways. They have the only non-stop from Phoenix. We did have to pay baggage fees as they charge for every piece of luggage you check. Arrived in Ft Lauderdale Saturday afternoon and rented a car from National. We always stay at the Hampton Inn in Plantation (#1 in tripadvisor.com) pre and post cruise. They offer a free shuttle to/from the port and airport, which we don't take advantage of because we always rent a car. We are from Plantation and always visit old friends.  We got to the port around 10:30am by taxi, after returning the rental car. The port was a little crazy as there were many ships in and everyone was coming off. We found out where to drop off our luggage and went in to register. Registration was very quick and efficient. As Diamond members, they sent us up to a special waiting area. We did not wait long as they let us on the ship at 11am. We went to the Windjammer for lunch and had the usual first day lunch of "honey stung" chicken and mashed potatoes. It was nice getting onboard early. No crowds. The Windjammer is set up very well. There are several stations set up around the whole area. There were plenty of tables, all with excellent views. We did eat many of our lunches and a few dinners in the Windjammer. They staff was great and was always cleaning off the tables or offering you something to drink. THE SHIP: The ship is huge but never seemed to have that "crowded" feeling. The only time we saw large numbers of people was waiting to be seated for the shows in the ice rink. She just turned one year old while on this cruise. This was the first time we have been on this class of ship and she is beautiful. We really enjoyed the mini golf almost daily. The Promenade was very interesting. We enjoyed the various venues it offered. I enjoyed going out to the helipad at the front of the ship. There were benches out there for you to relax and enjoy the view. Our most favorite place was the Diamond Lounge. It had the most magnificent views. We played many games of scrabble up there. THE CABIN: We had a D2 balcony, just aft of the hump. It had plenty of room to move around as well as great storage space. The bathroom was typical and functional. Our room steward, Stevie from Goa, India, was the best room steward we have ever had on any line. He did everything we asked of him and never forgot one thing, always with a smile. Our room was always ready for us whenever we returned. He was extremely pleasant and quite a gem. RCCL is lucky to have him. He will be moving to the new ship, Oasis of the Seas. DINING: This is always subjective. We find the food on RCCL to be not as good as Carnival. We did have some very good items and some not so good. There were nights we ate in the Windjammer because we couldn't find anything on the menu that we liked. Our servers were Jessie (waiter) from India and Christian (assistant waiter) from the Philippines. Jessie did a decent job but Christian did an outstanding job. He anticipated every need. Our drinks were always there as soon as we arrived. He really hustled. One funny thing we need to mention is that the ship was running out of items. The first was the iced tea concentrate. They stopped serving it unless you asked. By the end of the cruise, we were making it from hot tea over ice. The next was Sweet and Low packets. They were never replaced. They were also running out of Splenda, too. We did try Chops one night. In Chops, they prepare the Caesar Salad tableside. When she brought it over and placed it in front of me, there was a large dead fly on top of my salad. I about died. They did whisk it away, but I did not want it replaced. I was not able to finish my meal as it did bother me. The manager asked us to come back and give them another try. We did a few days later and all was fine (I did not order a salad for the rest of the cruise). ENTERTAINMENT: We did not go to the production shows, but the rest of the entertainment was very good. The Ice Shows were spectacular. This was not to be missed. They did two different shows for this cruise. PORTS: We enjoyed the ports we went to. We took an excursion in the Azores as it was Sunday and many shops were closed. The excursion was fine except when we went up the mountain to view the blue and green lakes, it was too foggy. No one can control the weather. In Funchal, we took the shuttle into town. We headed straight for Blandy's Wine Lodge, a favorite of ours. We did walk around the town and then took the shuttle back to the ship. In Vigo, there is shopping mall next to the pier. We did not take any excursions at this port. We spent two days post cruise at the beautiful Sofitel Hotel at T5 at Heathrow. From there we would take the tube into London. TRANSPORTATION: We arranged a private car with Woodford Chauffeur Cars from Southampton to Heathrow. We have used them many times in the past and they are very good and always reliable. This time we shared the car with two others from our cruise critic group. I would highly recommend them. CRUISE CRITIC GROUP: This was a very roll call with many activities organized by Mary and all of her helpers. She worked very closely with the RCCL staff to make this memorable. SUMMARY: We were blessed with really good, warm weather and calm seas. Probably the most perfect crossing we have ever had. We loved the ship and the whole experience and are looking forward to sailing the Indy on the westbound in November.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
I traveled with a group of 15 from the United States.  we all arrived in London a few days prior to the cruise. We all flew Delta from CVG-LGW.  We stayed at the Hilton Tower Bridge. In London we toured the Tower of London, Tower ... Read More
I traveled with a group of 15 from the United States.  we all arrived in London a few days prior to the cruise. We all flew Delta from CVG-LGW.  We stayed at the Hilton Tower Bridge. In London we toured the Tower of London, Tower Bridge,St. Pauls cathedral and a few pubs. We also visited Wesley Chapel. We arrived at the ship around 12:30. It took us about 15 minutes to board. Once onboard we dropped of bags and headed to the Windjammer for lunch. Our group had a sailaway party in one of the cabin suites. The ship had just come out of a refurb in Germany. The ship looked good; the staff was putting carpeting in some of the cabins and stores onboard during our cruise. Since this was a re-positioning cruise, the staff were trying to get eveything ready for the arrival in Barcelona, which was ten days down the road. Our cabin steward was ok.  We didn't see him that much. Our cabin was a grand suite and it was nice. There was plenty of room, since we were at sea 11 nights.  The size of the room was great.  We had plenty of closet space, and plenty of drawers to put our clothes in.  The bathroom had a double sink, and bathtub.  We had plenty of drawers in the bathroom for storage.  There was a makeup area with a counter and seat, and also a mirror and hairdryer.  The balcony was double size.  it went from the bedroom across to the livingroom.  The tv was hooked up to a bose system with speakers hung up on both sides of room.  The location was a little forward of the hump.  We had to walk about two hundred feet to get to the elevator and stairs.  We were on deck ten, so we went up one flight to the windjammer, and one flight down to the conceirge loungs.  The room was quiet,  we never heard any noise from neighbors of the pool area above. There were no rooms directly across from ours.  Location, space, size, and comfort, were great.  We also had a large couch with two arm chairs.  Our balcony had a table with four patio chairs. We did use the concerige lounge and concierge service more than usual. Martin (pronounced Marteen), was great. He got our entire group ice show tickets, made appointments for use, and even changed shore excursions at the last minute. The cruise director Jill Tasker, was just ok. She was not that involved with the everyday things; in fact I didn't see her that much. Not like other cruise directors whom seemed to be everywhere on the ship.  Same with the Captain. He stated on Day one that he doesn't do dinner with select guests. He says' he would rather walk around the dining rooms each night, that way he gets to meet more people.  In 11 nights at sea, our group never saw him in the dining room.  The shows were good; there were a couple of performers, mainly the comedians who were very funny.  The food in the dining room was excellent. The had plenty of choices, and over the 11 nights, I only say two items that were repeated at dinner. Desserts were good.  We ate one night in Portifino's and I have to say it was excellent, and worth the money.  Went to Johnny Rockets twice and both times had a great time. Saw the ice show (Ice Oddessy),  it was an amazing show.  All the bartenders were nice; I visited every bar on the ship and talked with the bartenders.  Most have been with Royal Caribbean for over ten years and they like the company.  We had a meet and mingle on the first sea day.  There was about 60 people;  got to meet face to face with all who were on the Best of Europe thread for the past year.  We had three formal nights on this cruise.  I rented a tux and shoes. Everything fit perfect. I was amazed; didn't need any alterations, and the shoes were a perfect fit. Never attended the art auction. Did not attend bingo, although members of my group won at bingo and won in the casino. My wife visited the spa and was pleased, I went to the fitness center on day and gave up. PLayed shuffleboard a couple times, and also play mini golf twice.  Did not climb rock wall, but members of my group did. All in all I was pleased with everything on this cruise. It was relaxing, the shore excursions were good, the food was good, the crew were nice; and our head waiter, tablewaiter and ass't table waiter were excellent. Junior, Olivia, and Ignohr, did a superb job.  The royal singer and dancers did two wonderful shows.  The royal promenade was great, and the staff at the windjammer did their best to make us feel at home.  The weather on this cruise was great. We had one bad sea day.  that was on day two from Southampton-Vigo.  We were in the Atlantic Ocean and it got bumpy.  The rest of the cruise was like sailing on a glass lake. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
One year ago, we were on the RADIANCE of the Seas for a 2 week Panama Canal, from Fort Lauderdaleto San Diego.  This year, we returned to San Diego for the re-position cruise to Alaska.It was a wonderful cruise.We arrived in San Diego two ... Read More
One year ago, we were on the RADIANCE of the Seas for a 2 week Panama Canal, from Fort Lauderdaleto San Diego.  This year, we returned to San Diego for the re-position cruise to Alaska.It was a wonderful cruise.We arrived in San Diego two days before the cruise and, stayed at the Hampton Inns,very close to the terminal.  Our cruising buddies were staying at the Holiday Innacross the street from the cruise terminal.  Our rates at the Hampton were reasonable,we got HH Points, and, warm cookies each evening, to get in practice for the cruise.On cruise day, we schleped our bags 2 blocks to the Holiday Inn to catch up withour friends...then, we crossed the street for our check-in.Our check-in in San Diego was fairly smooth, but, somewhat dis-jointed, however, overall,it went pretty smoothly.  Our 2nd day at sea we all had dinner at CHOPS.  I had the T-Bone and, the others hadfilets....dinner was EXCELLENT..and, certainly worth the price. Plus, we had somefantastic California Merlot.  One of my cruising friends loves PORTOFINO's Tiramisue, and, CHOPS complied with his wishes so, he had a PORTOFINO's desert and, he loved it.We had our first port-of-call in San Francisco. The weather was perfectand, we spent our time mostly on a cruise around San Francisco Bay and,eating lunch at "The Wharf".  Very easy walking from the ship pier.Two days later we arrived at Icy Strait Point, or, Hoona Alaska.  Zip-Line country.We had perfect weather..and, although we did not zip-line, we watch those that didand, it is a very popular attraction.  This is a nice port-of-call. I was disapointed to finoutthat crab season starts June 1st...and, thus, I was not able to get some more Alaskan crabat th is port...after June 1st...be sure you try this great seafood...I had it the LAST time,2 years ago when we were there and, it is fantastic...Our next visit was at Hubbard Bay glacier.  This was another perfect weather day.The Captain of the RADIANCE got us within about 1 mile from the 76 mile long glacier.We saw many "calving" of the ice bergs falling off the glacier...and, the associated"white thunder" that goes along with this.  We spent several hours in the bay...and, we hadlunch in the buffet, with the glacier as a backdrop. The food was excellent...what a GREAT day.Skagway was tremendous..a blue sky and, sunny day...lots of cruisersas there were several ships in port with us.  Visited all the shops thereand, of course the "Red Onion Saloon".  I liked the girls that worked there smilingat me and, calling me "Hey Handsome.."  Next was Juneau. We went on a Salmon Bake cook-out.  It was cheap.. $42.00 each.This was GREAT.  Again, perfect weather.Fantastic fresh Salmon, with all the "fixins", waterfalls, and, a real gold mine (closed off)Although we had an excellent Salmon Bake excursion, our friends went on a Whale watching trip,and, they saw an incredible amount of both Orca whales and, Humpback whales doing what whales do.We were sorry we never took this excursion, but, we did see whales from the ship.  The Captain announcedtwice about seeing them from the bridge...once, even during his 12 noon position report.Ketchikan is an excellent port-of-call.  Our Captain arranged 2 extra hours by leaving Juneauearly...that was a real treat...the Captain should be commended for this...He even "arranged"perfect weather here for us too...As in every port of call on this cruise we had literally Chamber of Commerce weather.Blue skies, calm winds and, cool temperatures to slightly warm temperatures.I heard some locals in Juneau talking about it being "too warm" there right now.Of course we were in the "Red Onion Saloon" and, this is where we heard this...Our cruise to Vancouver B.C. was so spectacular ..again, perfect weather.Everyday of this cruise was wonderful.  We met many Cruise Critic members and, arenow our friends.  Each evening, we would go to the Concierge Lounge at 5 P.M. to meetand, mingle, drink and, have fun.  That is my only complaintwith R.C.C.L., as we are Diamond members and, awhile before becoming Diamond Plus members.We will not be allowed to go to the CL after September 1st.  To us, this really takes awayfrom our cruise experience, on R.C.C.L. And, not only us...alot of grumbling about the cuttingof services...even one good soul was on the ship passing out macadamia chocolates, sincethe cruise stopped that practice.  We also, really missed the newspapers we used to read daily onthe ship.  Finding newspapers even on shore is not easy anymore.  USA Today had appearently stopped delivering to Alaska. One drug store managersaid he has not seen "any this year yet.."We had super MDR table mates.Our waiters there were incredible...with Aysun, from Turkey as our Head Waiter.She is a real treat and, hopefully, you can meet her sometime. If you meet her, you will for sure remember her.Our cabin steward was Anthony from Costa Rica..He was an excellent attendant.Our only complaint about the ship was the smoky casino.  They had 2 NO SMOKING nights.We were only able to go to one of those.  The dis-embarkation in Vancouver went pretty smoothly.No complaints.  But, the Vancouver airport, was another matter.I don't know if I EVER want to go through there again and, that process.Someopne told us, it was a holiday week-end, and, FOUR cruise shipsleft off passengers on that Sunday morning, May 22nd.  One can do the mathon how many passengers must have went through that terminal that morning.Our UNITED airlines check in was over an hour between, check-in, customs and, TSA.That was alot of shuffiling in line and, standing there.Our flight out of Vancouver was was smooth and, sunny...anotherperfect day....like the 11 before that.  We truly had perfect weather that cruiseand, it made for a wonderful holiday. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Since I have never experienced a repositioning cruise before, nor ever cruised with Royal Caribbean, I hope I am not unduly unfair to Royal Caribbean in the following comments, as I am not sure if this is the result of it being a ... Read More
Since I have never experienced a repositioning cruise before, nor ever cruised with Royal Caribbean, I hope I am not unduly unfair to Royal Caribbean in the following comments, as I am not sure if this is the result of it being a repositioning cruise or just normal operating procedure for RC. Repositioning cruises are the best deal - and if you are budget conscious or just like to get the best deal for your money, this is the way to go!  Serenade of the Seas was a great ship for Alaska - with so many places to sit and watch the scenery without freezing or being outside. Mother nature was the real hero on this cruise - once we departed Seattle, we had sunshine EVERY day - a more beautiful experience could not be had. Even the captain had to comment on the amazing weather.  Overall my husband and I found the food wait service & food quality of both the main dining restaurant, Reflections, and the self-service restaurant, Windjammer, up to our discriminating standards and what we would expect of a decent cruise line.  We were disappointed with the wine selection, however and five days into the cruise, there was yet to be an offering of an identifiable chocolate dessert at dinner!  I made this complaint to our waiter and he personally took it as his mission to bring me a chocolate dessert each evening from that point on  (and from where it came I have no idea - don't ask don't tell) - no matter if I ordered a different selection - my table mates were jealous! We spent the extra $54.00 pp dining charge to experience Portofino's special Wine course dinner as a celebration of experiencing Hubbard glacier that day, and unfortunately, the wine selection from Italy was once again very disappointing, although the special menu, service, food quality & taste was excellent.  Overall cabin service was excellent - the steward met us on the first day and asked us our preferences for delivery of ice to the room, etc. She was very attentive and surprised us on occasion with towel animals on our bed... I gather this is a RC tradition as they offered a class on creating towel animals on one of the sea days.   Three areas I was really disappointed with in comparison to other cruise lines I have used was the entertainment, port talks, and disembarkation procedures.  Given this was a 14 day cruise and a natural paradise, we had a lot of port days, eight in total not counting the disembarkation in Vancouver.    There was a single port and shopping talk for Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan - and it basically amounted to just a sales pitch - make that a sales push - to buy from the stores like Diamond International and others they had listed in the port guide.  Never a mention of the ports - in fact the gentleman leading the talk told us to look up the port info in the books in our cabin (which by the way only had the Caribbean ports listed - not Alaska or Canada). Everyone I spoke to thought this was a waste of time and many walked out of the lecture. RC even had a naturalist on board, and while the lectures were interesting - the facilities in Safari Club were not conducive to accommodating the people interested and seeing the slide presentation.  The lecture on glaciers was in the Tropical theater and was a much better environment to listen and see the slides.  As far as the entertainment goes, overall I could only give it at best a fair rating. There were only 2 production shows for the 14 days, the shows were good but the quality of the singing was just OK.  All the other evenings were solo performers, including Marty Allen - yes - he's still around at 86 years old.  The entertainment for the first 7 days was all solo performers - I guess that was to give a break to the production singers and dancers or they were new and learning the shows ... not sure which.  Also - the shows would sometimes be late - after the second seating at 10:30 pm or before at 7:00 pm  ... not sure why that was the case.  The cruise director was OK - he seemed to get involved in a lot of details and he never introduced his cruise staff onto the stage until the last day of the cruise.  Regarding general disembarkation procedures, they had a lot of trouble with the first tender operations in Hoonah or Icy Straight Point - it was extraordinarily time consuming - but they did seem to get their act together for the second port we tendered to - Sitka.   The final disembarkation was a mess. We had early flights and should have left the ship at 8:05 am - We did not leave until 9:30.  We waited for the PURPLE tagged luggage call, holed up in the Safari Club. The team there did not know what was going on and while there were departure colors called that were due to leave after us, they kept telling us that we could not leave since our luggage would not be in the customs hall... Well, we got so frustrated after waiting so long, that we left anyway - and lo and behold, ALL the PURPLE tagged luggage was there - the lounge people obviously missed the call to send us out.  Luckily we had decided to take a taxi and got to the airport in time for our flight back to the US.   As you can surmise, we prefer to make our own travel arrangements being seasoned travelers.  It saves us a lot of money. For example - the cost of the taxi to Vancouver's airport from the port was $36 CAD.  RC charges $36 per person USD to get to the airport.  We also found it best to set up our own port excursions if you want to save money, with the exception of Icy Straight Point, there were plenty of tour companies available as soon as you arrived at both Alaskan and Canadian ports.   07-May-2009: Ketchikan This was actually the first Alaska port we sailed into on this repositioning cruise. We docked by 7 AM and departed Ketchikan by 3 PM - enough time if you decide on a self-tour option. Waking up to the picturesque town right there in front of us was pretty neat.  The RC staff really pushed buying your excursion before you left the ship, but honestly, the prices were much cheaper by 25 - 50% if you bought your tour off the ship in the visitor's bureau.  As soon as you reached port there were plenty of tour companies right in the bureau, including many options to get to Misty Fjords - the must do tour from the accounts of people we spoke to who paid up to $300 per person fee for the float plane experience.  We chose to be economical on this Alaska trip - so we took advantage of local transport and our own two feet to tour Ketchikan.   Saxman village - the place where all the historical totem's are and which still houses local native artisans that carve totems - is an easy 2.5 mile walk on a paved walking path along the water.  On the way, we discovered a drive-thru espresso convenience store, which was perfect since we were craving a good cup of coffee - we walked up to it and the folks there made a great latte.    When we got to Saxman Village, there was a $3 charge each for access to the grounds, contrary to info we read about in the 2009 Fodor's Alaska Ports of Call book. We went into the gift shop and the gentleman behind the counter was kind enough to lend us a handout about the historical purpose and meaning for each of the totems.  We took the city bus back into town, leaves every 30 minutes- for a nominal charge and then walked around Creek Street and took the Funicular up to the Cape Fox lodge for some beautiful views of the snowy mountains. We then trekked down to the town following some of the paved paths, including the married man's path along the creek.  Since we were there in early May, no salmon were running - but I can imagine how cool it will be in the summer to see the place brimming with the fish.  We sampled some amazing jam in one of the stores - a fruit I never heard of - Salmon Berry - looks like a yellow-orange raspberry.  We bought the jam - and an Ulu knife - best prices for the Ulu knives were found in Ketchikan - with quite a variety of wood handles to choose from.  For the photography enthusiast - the town was a delight to photograph and the walk to Saxman Village also offered some beautiful sites.   08-May-2009: Juneau -  Our key interest in Juneau was to hike the trails near Mendenhall Glacier and catch the sites in that area, and we did!  WOW!  We took advantage again of the local shuttle bus service for $7 per person one way - so it gave us the time to do what we wanted for as long as we wanted.  Where the bus drops you off is a set of trails, a Creek trail and the Moraine Ecology Trail.  We were the only two people to get off the bus and take the trail right there and to our amazing luck, we encountered a young black bear within 40 feet of the trail head!  It was really exciting and we took a ton of pictures until he moseyed away following the creek under the trail ramp. The ecology trail is a very easy hike - but since we were early in the season, there was a lot of snow on parts of the trail, luckily our hiking boots are water proof. The cool part was seeing the animal tracks and skat evidence that was so visible in the snow and sound of silence, that is until we encountered a robin attacking a Bluejay. We came upon the front of glacier from the lakeside then walked the lake bed to the visitor center and the falls, and we also followed a piece of the East Glacier loop that was not closed.  We took advantage of the visitor center to watch the films and exhibits, speak with the rangers, use the restroom facilities, and see a family of mountain goats through their telescopes. There was a charge to the center - $4 per person.  We were going to take the Mt. Robert's tramway to get a better sense of the scenery from the mountaintop - at a cost of $27 each - but decided not to - as it just seemed to be a very high cost.  Instead we went and had a beer at the Red Dog saloon, a well deserved rest for our weary feet from all the hiking and walking in the town that day. 09-May-2009: Skagway -  - This was one of two ports where we selected an excursion in advance through the ship.  Since we like to be active when we vacation, there was a hike that let us experience the White Pass & Yukon Railroad for a 20 minute train ride to the Denver trailhead.  The hike was supposed to be about 3.5 miles round trip, but given it was a tour off the ship, there were persons unable to trek the terrain very swiftly, rated as moderate, since we had to be back at the trailhead within three hours to catch the train back. In fact, two people wore sneakers which were pretty slippery given the terrain and misty conditions.  The trail was interesting and well groomed - the guide knew his flora and fauna and told some fun stories on the way. The trail took us through the temperate rain forest with some old growth forest. We ended up hiking about 2 miles round trip - a little disappointing to my husband and me. The tour operator, Packer Expeditions associated with a retail store in town - The Mountain Shop, was great and split us in two groups after a while so we could move at a faster pace.  Even so, we did not hike as much as we would have liked, since we have to get back down the mountain to meet the train.  I would definitely try this again, perhaps organizing a private hike with others I know that would "keep up". When we returned to Skagway, we learned of some other hikes in town, so we had a quick snack in town and went on the trails that started off second street by the train tracks.  The visitor center in town had trail maps and the staff were very helpful. We ran into a lot of employees from the ship on the lower lake trail. It was a beautiful day, the sun was full out and the long range pictures of the snow-covered mountains were just spectacular.  The lake was crusted over with an ice layer that was melting with the intense sunlight. As the wind blew, and broke up the ice layer, it sounded like glass chimes tinkling in the wind. Very peaceful!  10-May-2009: Icy Straight Point -  The real name of this town is Hoonah - In reality - this is a created "port" for cruise lines to make money by selling  Zip lining tours - while zip lining is fun - on this cruise so early in the season,  they really were not ready for us - the cruise lines overbooked the time slots - the retrieval system for the lines was not operating. People got really annoyed waiting - we did not book this tour but wanted to try it - and we did watch people come down the lines screaming... it was hilarious to watch. Hoonah is a mile, easy walk from the port - not much to the town BUT we encountered bald eagles en mass near the little Lutheran church on the harbor side of the main street. The eagles were feeding and hanging out in the trees - some spectacular photo opportunities.  One of our table mates that evening told us they chartered a float plane ride from one of the few shops in Hoonah that had tours advertised on their storefront window and that it was an incredible experience.  We were jealous!  At this port you must tender in, and again - the excursions are limited, the only tour worth taking is the ZipLine (unless you can make your own arrangements in advance) - the other tours offered at the cruise facility generally got a thumbs down from the people we spoke with that went thru the cruise line.   There are some lovely walks along the nature trails and the beach trail at the facility. All are paved trails except if you go to the rocky beach area with plenty of benches and places to rest or contemplate.  12-May-2009: Sitka  We tendered into Sitka without any particular plans for the day. As we arrived at the pier, another ship, the Carnival Spirit was visible, and many tour operators were meeting passengers as we disembarked the tenders.  Unfortunately, Sitka was a short day - we had to be back at the tenders by 3 PM, so that limited what you could do as far as tours if you scheduled them yourself.   We ended up having quite the full day.  It started when we decided to join a party of 4 to charter our own private whale watch tour. Captain Rich and his dog Eva were great. We were lucky to see gray whales in the waters off Sitka and lots of cormorants, sea lions, sea otters and a small rock outcropping filled with at least 50 Bald eagles nesting... that was incredible.  The captain poked around the waters to get us the best vantage point possible for the wildlife. It was a three hour tour, cost us $120 per person and it was well worth it as there were only 6 of us on the boat.    After returning to the marina, Captain Rich recommended some places to walk to, the fish hatchery, and the Sitka National historic park. This park is the site of a memorial to the Russians who died fighting during the Tlingit-Russian confiict.  The park was filled with birds singing and was really peaceful. The paths were easy to follow and offered many options to enjoy the park.  There was a visitor center there, and we took advantage of the restroom facilities, but did not enter the center.  My only regret is that we did not have more time there, once we got back to the tender port at about 2:30 PM we had to stand and wait in line a long time to leave.  We were finally on the tender at 3PM. . Some people did see sea otters off a drainage ditch on the way to Hoonah (we did not) but we did see plenty of interesting sea birds (apart from the amazing bald eagles) and sea lions in the water.  15-May-2009: Victoria -  - SAVE all your whale watching excursion $$ for Victoria - AMAZING!  There are resident pods of Orca's (Killer Whales) there and plenty of opportunity to take all kinds of excursions. While I made our excursion plans from the ship's excursion desk, in town there were tens of whale watching companies that were much cheaper (plus you can pay in Canadian $$ and get the advantage right now of the positive exchange rate).  Royal Caribbean charged $118 US per person with the Whale Watch operator picking us up in their busses at the pier - but we found plenty of 3 hour tours with the local operators off the main marina & pier in town for $90 Canadian. That was a short 15-20 minute walk from where we were docked.  The operator we used had two naturalists on board, students completing their degrees or recently completed.  They pointed out a lot of the sites, wildlife, etc and were very knowledgeable about Orca's.  We encountered Orca's almost immediately once out in the open water and we actually exhibited some tail slap behavior and some breaching. Unfortunately, we were a bit too far for any interesting photographs, however the captain did well by us by inching closer and anticipating where the whales would go.  The most spectacular moment was when we encountered the clustering of the entire whale pod, about 25 or so whales in the J-pod, as they began entering their resting state. The naturalist told us that Orca's rest about 10% f the time, and cluster together to protect each other. As they are resting they rise above and fall below the surface of the water together. It was amazing to see and it also happened that the captain guessed right on where to move the boat, allowing the whales came within 20 feet of our boat as they passed down the channel in behind us. This action resulted in some great photos of the whales.  Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2009
  This was our first Alaska cruise and after being on the Serenade of the Seas, it will not be our last. We are not sure if the ship is that smooth, or the captain is that good. Probably both. I would think we were in port still and look ... Read More
  This was our first Alaska cruise and after being on the Serenade of the Seas, it will not be our last. We are not sure if the ship is that smooth, or the captain is that good. Probably both. I would think we were in port still and look up to discover we had set sail already. We have been on approx. 18 cruises, by  all different lines and this ship wowed us totally.  Our cabin was the best handicapped room we have had so far. The door opened without any help from anybodyall I had to do was push a button. That made it so easy to be independent on my buggy. The cabin was well appointed and very comfortable. I had room to recharge my moblilty buggy each night in the room. The shower had a seat and was well set up for handicapped use.     I had very little trouble getting anywhere on the Serenade.  Mayber getting out on deck 12 to go to the Seaview for a bite to eat was a little bit of a challenge, but I did it and alone several times.   The staff is Royal as I expect on RCCL. We had a cabin crawl and allowed the use of our cabin as an example of a handicapped room. Our room stewart made a monkey for me at my request and added an elephant for good measure. I felt special and that's one reason I love to cruise. The staff always make you feel so good.   Now for the only slight disappointment of the cruise. The menu was without imagination and became boring. Most items I ordered were prepared and presented in a somewhat lack luster way.  The curry dishes were very tasty but caused discomfort long into the night. I had to stop ordering them.  But the main problem in the food department-BEEFnot of good quality. I feel RCCL could save money by purchasing good beef and cooking it correctly and serving smaller portions. If somebody wants more, they will ask. I saw so much food sent back for various reasons, but mostly it was tough, dry, and tasteless. AND I eat my beef rare so it will not be tough,dry or tasteless. But with the exception of the prime rib-I could not eat the beef dishes. The duck was always great , as was the lobster. The Windjammer buffet was like most buffets with both good and bad selections.  That strawberry soft serve ice cream is a sin! I'll miss it until my December cruise on the Voyager.   The entertainment this trip was lacking but that is just my opinion and most people didn't seem to mind.   Being handicapped kept us from doing some tours that were said to be too hard for us. Whale watching was the only one I wish we had done in Victoria. I heard it was fabulous. Oh well, next time.   To summerize If you haven't been to Alaska but are thinking about it GO. The most beautiful scenary and what a great ship to see it from. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
We had read great great things about the Jewel before arriving for our cruise and for the most part the ship and it's crew exceeded our expectations.  Physical layout and ship amenities are great.  Lots of activities ... Read More
We had read great great things about the Jewel before arriving for our cruise and for the most part the ship and it's crew exceeded our expectations.  Physical layout and ship amenities are great.  Lots of activities (although heavy on Bingo).  Great use of Centrum area for events and music.  Organized excercise opportuniites were limited.Casino was nice and offered inexpensive slots.  Very smoky in casino though and the smoke was not contained in this area - filling the nearby movie theatre to the point it was difficult to adjust to the smell inside). Smoky also in some bars.  And it seemed as if the smokers were given the best viewing areas to sit and relax in.Carpeting showing it's age and wear.  Musty smell in the bathroom that the steward could not do anything about.  I thought the ship was very stable even with 18 foot swells.  My wife who is very prone to motion sickness only had one bad day (however, the captain told us we were lucky - the Atlantic can offer up much rougher crossings than we had).  Great entertainment on this ship.  We looked forward to the show each night.  We would rate the ship highly on appearance, general cleanliness, staff performance and entertainment.  Food quality was good/very good.  But a big problem exists with the management of the kitchen, the dining room presentation of meals (as prepared in the kitchen) and the cooking of the food.  We returned several dishes at our table that were undercooked; overcooked or cold.  Even the head waiter was disgusted. The favorite food presentation was to place the entree on a bed of mashed potatoes and serve it.  Bakery was very good (especially the hard rolls).  The Windjammer cafe was often better that what we were getting in the dining room.  We did not try the specialty restaurants as we were trying to keep our expenses down.  All things considered a great cruise and if the food situation could get straightened out (in the dining room) this ship could remain one of the best we have experienced.  We will continue to sail with RCCL for the time being but will not become loyal to it unless the improve the food significantly. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
My wife and I decided to take a vacation to celebrate our anniversary.  We looked around for ideas and then we found this transatlantic cruise on the Jewel of the Seas.  We had never cruised before and thought we would give it a try.  ... Read More
My wife and I decided to take a vacation to celebrate our anniversary.  We looked around for ideas and then we found this transatlantic cruise on the Jewel of the Seas.  We had never cruised before and thought we would give it a try.  We also found crossing the Atlantic by ship an intriguing adventure.  We arrived in Miami early in the morning the day the cruise embarked.  We live in Florida so we weren't very interested in hanging out in Miami.  We traveled to the dock and boarded the Jewel.  The crew processing the Set Sail Passes were pleasant, but not outwardly friendly.  I will say they moved the line along very well.  We boarded the Jewel and were greeted in a much more enthusiastic manner on board the ship.  We found our cabin and unpacked and then headed to the muster drill.  The drill was handled efficiently and we were soon enjoying the cruise.  It was a beautiful day as we pulled out of Miami.  The Sun was getting low in the sky and the Florida sunset was very pretty.  We had an interior cabin, but it was plenty roomy for the two of us.  We did not spend much time hanging out in the cabin.  We enjoyed the amenities of the ship.  Our stateroom attendant was wonderful.  She was very friendly and took care of every need.  On a cruise of 13 days we did spend some money on laundry.  We planned on it.  It was not cheap, but it was cleaned well and pressed well.The first evening we explored the ship.  We ate second seating dinner and met our table mates.  They were quite friendly and Royal Caribbean did a good job of sitting us with couples in our age range (20s and 30s).  The food most nights was quite good as was the service.  Our assistant waiter was especially good.  A couple of nights in a 13 night cruise the chef seemed to run out of new dishes, or the new ones he introduced were probably third string.  The last evening they served lobster in the dinning room and it was very good.  One evening they served a New York Strip, but it was average.  It wasn't bad, but it was not a great steak.  The desserts were very good.  One evening I ordered fish and did not feel well at all after eating it.  It was about 9 or 10 nights into the cruise and maybe it had been on board in the freezer too long.After a full sea day on our second day, we arrived in Bermuda.  We really enjoyed Bermuda.  It is a beautiful Island (Islands really).  The people were friendly and it had a wonderful atmosphere.  In Bermuda we took a ship excursion.  We booked a bicycle tour that went up to Fort Scaur.  Our guide was quite knowledgeable and helpful.  The drawback of the tour was the beginning.  We met our guide at the dock and then he departed without us.  We stood around for almost an hour where he told us to wait for him.  During that time we found the excursions director from the Jewel and they had to call him to come back to get us.  He was very apologetic, but it was an inconvenience.We spent the next five days at sea.  We enjoyed the sea days they were very relaxing.  The shows were hit and miss.  The quality overall was slightly above average.  However, we simply enjoyed relaxing and reading.  I also spent some time in athletic activities.  I played soccer and basketball.  The mini golf course was very enjoyable (and challenging).  We also used the fitness facility regularly.  It was clean and well kept.  It had a good selection of dumbbells and resistance machines.  There were not enough pieces of cardio equipment.  There was often a wait for a bike, treadmill, or eliptical.  During the cruise we ate in the dinning room, the Windjammer (buffet), and the Sea View Cafe.  The Sea View was OK.  It was typical fastfood quality.  The Windjammer was convenient, but nothing to brag on.  It was like Golden Corrall at sea.  The Dinning Room was usually very good.Our first port of call on the European side of the Atlantic was Lisbon, Portugal.  We decided to explore the city on our own.  We enjoyed the city and did not have much trouble communicating with taxi drivers.  It was significantly less expensive that other parts of Europe.  We especially enjoyed the shopping and the Alfama.The next day we visited Vigo, Spain.  We decided to take the ship excursion to Santiago de Compostela.  It was a very good excursion with a very knowledgable guide.  I don't think we could have pulled that excursion off on our own.  The city was beautiful and very interesting.  I am not Roman Catholic, but I found the Cathedral fascinating and beautiful.  It was also interesting to see the pilgrims making their way to the cathedral.  We were surprised to see bagpipes being played.  I guess the Galician region of Spain has a Celtic heritage like Scotland and Ireland.The following day was a sea day and by this point we were getting bored with the ship.  It is a huge ship, but 7 days at sea were quite a lot.The 12th day we visited Cherbourg, France.  It was very pretty and we enjoyed a ship excursion to the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.  We ate lunch in Bayeux at Lyon d'Or (sp?).  It is a famous restaurant in the Normandy region.  It was a great experience eating french food.  Our tour guide was very helpful and really emphasized how much the French appreciate what the Americans did at Normandy in liberating France.  The excursion was good, but I would have liked to have seen more of the beaches.  If I had it to do over, I would take a private tour of the Normandy beaches and spend less time in Bayeux.The 13th day we landed in Harwich and traveled to London from where we flew home.  We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and we would gladly sail Royal Caribbean again.  We would even go out of our way to sail on the Jewel again. 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Sail Date: August 2009
Having read various reviews about the Independence, I felt compelled to write about her. I am not sure if some of the critics could have been on the same ship as me. All I can say is I am glad I did not see all the reviews before my first ... Read More
Having read various reviews about the Independence, I felt compelled to write about her. I am not sure if some of the critics could have been on the same ship as me. All I can say is I am glad I did not see all the reviews before my first sailing!! it might have put me off, thank goodness we sailed on this fantastic ship. SHE IS AMAZING,and so are her crew. I have nothing to compare her with, so my opinion is completely unbiased, and I wonder if some seasoned cuisers are to nit picky!! you can find a problem or complaint anywhere if you are looking for it. First the transatlantic crossing from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, when I boarded the ship, her magnificence overwelmed me, I felt the tears of joy. The D2 STATEROOM 7666 was the same stateroom, (but opposite side of the ship to the 7366 on our return) The size took me by surprise, it seemed large, there was a large studio couch that makes into a bed if required, enough room for 4 people to sit on. a coffee table in front of it, an adequate desk/dressing table, with chair, a real kettle!!, flat screen TV, a large bed, lovely private balcony with a table and chairs, where I spent many a happy hour, on both journeys. An adequate bathroom with shower, yes, we were very happy!! Oh! I nearly forgot our fantastic cabin attendant, nothing was to much trouble. DINING, we do not like formalities, and enjoy very casual dining, the beauty of this on the cruise is, you choose, we dined just two evenings in the MDR, on the ship going to Fort Lauderdale, which was very enjoyable, but found ouselves being drawn back to the windjammer, and on our return to Southampton only ate in the windjammer. I have to say, the food was excellent, so many choices, beautifully prepared and presented, the quality was first class. The staff were very helpfull, and did their best to provide anything special you asked for, eg. my husband can only have soya milk. Our food was always hot, reading some peoples complaints about just warm food we noticed some people pick up a plate and wonder around the food stations, deciding what to have, so food cools down quickly when removed from hot plates etc. We walked around first, having decided what we wanted, we then picked up a plate, and went straight to our choice, then immediately to our table, so the food had not had chance to cool down. We really enjoyed the Windjamer, it was huge, and nicely decorated, with magnificent panoramic windows all round. PUBLIC AREAS, We enjoyed walking around the ship, even though the ship was full to capacity, with so many passengers, we were amazed the ship never seemed crowded, the pool deks were always busy, but I found a lounger or chair somewhere, the same on deck 12 above. We walked around deck 5 many times, and hardly ever saw anyone else. for us it was lovely not to feel crammed into spaces with lots of other people. The inside areas, are all beautifully decorated and furnished, and we enjoyed sitting in the various lounges throughout the ship. On deck five, the inside promenade deck was lovely to walk through, with shops and cafes, it was quite a social gathering place for a lot of people. I saw some of the shows, not all, but those I saw were very enjoyable. The ice skating shows were fantastic. COMING from Fort Lauderdale, on the first day at sea, in the Alhambra theatre the Captain introduced his officers, and asked if anyone knew where the first port of call was to be, someone shouted out don't care, everyone clapped and cheered, because to be honest with you, I didn't care either, I was on my floating bit of paradise, in the middle of nowhere, mentally totally lost in paradise. I loved the 6 days at sea, in the middle of the ocean, and almost felt sorry as we approached the Azores, Madeira, Vigo, and back into Southampton. We were very pleased the Captain was the same on both our transatlantic voyages. Captian Teo, we found him to be amusing on his daily announcements. He always spoke to people when he wondered through the public areas, and was very approachable, we spoke to him on several occasions, throughout our trip back to Southampton, and he was friendly, accommodating, and was willing to answer any questions, but gave the impression of always being very much in charge. A Captain who gave us confidence, who ran a tight ship so to speak!!, and whos crew seemed to speak very highly of him. Finally, I am very disappointed she is going back to Florida so late in November, otherwise we would have booked on her. We are booked on the Celebrity Equinox. But we have booked on the Independence to come back to Southampton in April 2010, sadly that is her last transatlantic, she is staying in Europe. Hopefully in the future she may be required to do transatlantic again, I will be the first to book on her if she does. I absolutley love her, and all she had to offer. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
We are Josie & Al, mid-sixties, essentially retired, living in Houston TX. This was our fifth cruise together in just over two years; the previous four were with Princess. I've been on approximately 40, although my last Royal ... Read More
We are Josie & Al, mid-sixties, essentially retired, living in Houston TX. This was our fifth cruise together in just over two years; the previous four were with Princess. I've been on approximately 40, although my last Royal Caribbean voyage was in 2002. Now that they've become more competitive, we were anxious to try them. We booked the cruise a year prior to sailing, and anticipated this adventure from that time on. We had always wanted to experience a transatlantic cruise, and at under $1000/pp including airfare, it was an offer we couldn't turn down. This will be a pretty comprehensive review, so please bear with me. Each component will be rated from * to *****. EMBARKATION ... ****. With approximately 3700 passengers to process, the terminal at Southampton was large and well-staffed. We arrived about 3:00, two hours before departure, and snaked through the line in about twenty minutes. We were a bit apprehensive about leaving our luggage outside virtually unattended, but it all got aboard, and was delivered to our stateroom promptly. The cruise was essentially sold out. THE SHIP ... ****. The Independence is a Freedom-class vessel, one up from the Voyager class, and below the new Oasis of the Seas. It was launched last year, and is in pristine condition. Despite its size, we found it easy to get around, and had it figured out in about an hour. The Royal Promenade (Deck 5) makes it feel less crowded, although passengers were really packed in during scheduled events there ... you can only disperse such a mass of humanity so far. There are two quaint eating establishments, the Promenade Cafe (pastries, sandwiches, etc.) and Sorrento's (pizza, Italian salads and desserts). Coffee, tea and snacks are available 24/7, and there is no additional charge for food. They're both wonderful. The pool deck (11) is massive and very pleasing aesthetically, including two cantilevered hot tubs extending 12' beyond the ship, and a large area dedicated to children's use. We discovered two glaring omissions, however. One was the lack of an indoor pool (or at least a retractable dome), which precludes use in cold and inclement weather (Europe in November certainly falls into this category). The other was no outdoor food venue, save for a self-serve frozen yogurt machine. With the adult pool area forward and the Windjammer Cafe (buffet) aft, one has to traverse the length of the ship in order to grab a bite, then take it all the way back. The Sports Deck (12) contains the rock wall, mini-golf course, basketball court and the new Flo-Rider. OUR STATEROOM ... *****. We booked an inside guarantee (generally a Cat. Q, the least expensive accommodations) and were pleasantly surprised at an upgrade to a Cat. N ... still inside, but in a terrific location. We were in #3615, on Deck Three, mid-ship, close to the art gallery, the main floor of the dining room (where sit-down breakfast and lunch were served daily), the ice rink (Studio B, also used for other activities ... the ice is covered with a removable floor) and the On-Air Karaoke venue. We were concerned with the proximity to these potentially noisy places, but heard absolutely nothing. It's a great area (just a few staterooms, in a location where the ship's movement is minimal) ... and it connects to 3613 (again, we heard zero). So if you're planning to travel on the cheap, and will have need for adjoining staterooms, book these! They're away from the rows and rows of cabins on the upper decks, and just a few steps from pretty much everything. We often walked the two flights up to the Promenade and theatres. THE PASSENGERS ... *****. Americans were definitely in the minority. The majority were British, with significant numbers of Canadians, Asians, and Europeans. It was an exhilarating experience sailing with such a diverse group of people. This being both a lengthy trip, and a time when children are in school, the number of kids was limited to 128. Most were pretty much invisible, and those who were seen were hardly heard ... a total non-issue. THE STAFF ... *****. I've excluded the dining room employees here, as I'll cover them when I address the food-related matters. We found everyone to be congenial and eager to help. The folks at Guest Services were as good as I've ever encountered, and our stateroom steward(ess), Desena, a lovely Jamaican gal, was absolutely perfect ... available when needed, in a stealth mode when appropriate. No complaints whatsoever with any of these folks. The Cruise Director can play a huge role in the overall enjoyment of a voyage. Ours was Joff Eaton ... probably the best I've ever come across (the memory is fading, but I don't remember anyone quite as good ... perhaps Graham Seymour; but if there's any difference, it's minimal). In addition to the usual qualities, we found him quite approachable, eager to please, efficient and very much in charge. We saw him every morning at our progressive trivia contest, and continued to return solely because of him ... we had absolutely no shot at winning. He actually made losing fun! His staff likewise performed flawlessly. If there's something that needs a bit of work, it's the daily telecast that runs continuously from midnight to noon. Joff and the Activities Director, Katie, summarize the day and preview what's ahead. Granted, they both have a sense of humor; but their schtick is just plain silly and immature ... this comment coming from a fan of The Three Stooges. It was an effort to watch it. ENTERTAINMENT ... ***. We've never been fans of cruise ship productions, and none of the three programs did anything to change our minds. The singers and dancers are talented kids ... but the content of all the shows was inane, as usual, probably in an effort to please 3700 passengers. The scenery and costumes, however, were dazzling, and their creators deserve high praise. As for the guest performers (lots of them ... remember, it's a 13-nighter), this is as subjective a topic as food. A quartet of tenors known as Teatro was adored by the crowd. We thought their voices were thin, the repertoire stale, and the harmony (what there was of it) elementary. By contrast, the impressionist, Sean O'Shea, received many negative comments ... we really liked him. The other entertainers were the usual nondescript singers, comedians, hypnotists, etc. There was also a pianist, Tian Jang, who brought down the house. Josie thought he was wonderful; my impression was that the masters didn't write their concertos to be backed up by a big band. If you liked Liberace, you'd love this guy. But in any event, we had something to see each evening. Unlike cruises in warmer weather, there was no Calypso/Reggae deck band ... with winds up to 108 mph across the bow, that's understandable. But those musical groups on board were outstanding, especially a Latin trio called Clave. The house orchestra (10 pieces) was excellent. There were also two ice shows, both really great. It still amazes me how those kids can work so well on the "small ice." DINING ... **. As usual there was plenty to eat in many venues. The Windjammer buffet was by far the best we've ever come across, both in terms of variety and quality. There are two mirror-image serving areas, each divided into many components ... meats (including a carving station), cold, hot, a "burgerama," desserts, salads, all with many choices. Adjoining each side is Jade, food with an Asian flair, including sushi, fried rice, stir-fry, curry ... pretty good stuff. After being introduced to such an array in the self-service area, one would expect it to carry through to the Main Dining Room. Unfortunately, such was not the case. We're veteran cruisers, and know full well that dinners are not the "gourmet feasts" as advertised, but rather good banquet-quality food. Still, we were disappointed. With an exception here and there, we found the menus very limited and lacking imagination. Preparation and presentation were at best ordinary, with most dishes exceptionally bland (which might explain why the wait staff was pushing the "fresh-ground pepper" whenever possible). Even the signature lobster dinner (actually a tail, served with shrimp) was subpar ... overcooked and delivered at close to room temperature. We actually had to ask for drawn butter. Desserts lacked creativity, and we often found nothing appealing enough to order. Ice cream was largely vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, most likely a concession to Ben & Jerry's, which has a shop on the Promenade. Service was inconsistent, at times bordering on the inept. Even when the station was not at capacity, there were inordinate waits between courses, salads brought before appetizers, soups and main dishes served lukewarm, long waits for tables to be cleared, staff whizzing by the tightly-packed-in tables, which proved very distracting ... in short, hardly the "Gold Crown Service" touted by Royal Caribbean. We were informed by a travel agent/passenger that about 40% of the staff was moved to the new Oasis of the Seas prior to this cruise, and that much of the kitchen personnel were new. Based on what we experienced, this would seem correct. Breakfast and lunch menus in the Main Dining Room were identical each day, but a buffet table was available at breakfast, and a manned salad bar was present at lunch. The augmenting of the rather ordinary daily menus with these selections is a nice touch ... if not for the fact that they kept running out of the more popular lunch choices such as shrimp, it would have worked perfectly. It's a great concept, but the execution needs work. PORTS OF CALL ... *****. I'm not going to devote much space to the stops. After all, what could be bad about Paris, other than the two-hour ride each way? But the tour was wonderful, and we did get that fabulous panoramic view from the Eiffel Tower! There was an issue upon our return to Le Havre, which literally and figuratively put a damper on the day. When we arrived back at the ship (along with at least 25 other coaches) we found exactly one gangway open ... and that was a pretty steep climb. There were people with physical disabilities who could not even attempt the embarkation. To make matters worse, it had become cold, windy and rainy. Only after a half-hour or so did two other gangways open. We did fill out a complaint form, and were credited with half the cost of the excursion ... a fair compensation; but it never should have happened. Our visits to Cherbourg, France and Vigo, Spain were lovely. We got to see the major attractions, and learned much about the cultures. But by far, the biggest surprise came at Funchal, Madeira. This is a Portuguese island, west of Casa Blanca, Morocco and north of the Canary Islands ... roughly the same latitude as Fort Lauderdale. If you think that it's tough driving in St. Thomas, it will feel like a straightaway in comparison. But every hairpin turn, curve, and close call with oncoming traffic was worth it. The views were absolutely incredible, the people as accommodating and welcoming as possible ... just a wonderful day. We stopped at a mountaintop restaurant to sample local wine, cheese and bread ... magnificent ambience. Madeira is a vacation destination for Europeans ... we can certainly understand why. The stop was an appropriate prelude to the upcoming six consecutive sea days. ABOUT THOSE SEA DAYS ... ***. If anything, it provided the opportunity to readjust from the jet lag, as we gained back an hour for five days, passing through the various time zones. We just wish that there were a few more activities ... but the weather gradually became warmer and calmer, and the deck was alive and rocking by the time we reached Fort Lauderdale. There was one huge nighttime party up there, which we enjoyed very much. The late-night buffet was spectacular. DISEMBARKATION ... *. There's nothing like enjoying a wonderful cruise, then having to wait over two hours past your scheduled departure time, with pretty much nothing to do. It does wonders for those with flights to catch and excursions to take. Royal Caribbean assessed total blame on US Customs, citing, (1) a necessary thorough health inspection, since the ship had not been in US waters for over 6 months, (2) the large number of non-US citizens needing to be processed, and (3) only ten agents on duty. I can accept all of that ... but this is hardly the first time that an RCI ship has encountered this set of circumstances. A simple caveat about possible delays for these reasons would have at least mitigated the anxiety experienced by many. We were being picked up by a dear friend ... thankfully, he's still that, although he was seriously inconvenienced. For the record, we were due off at 9:00 and reached our luggage at 11:15. CONCLUSION ... This deserves a mention: kudos to Royal Caribbean for its policy on smoking. In addition to the usual places, it is prohibited in staterooms (except on balconies), open bars (i.e. those direct walk-in venues), and even the casino (there's a small area of slot machines where puffing is permitted on certain days from about 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., but that's it). We often had to pass through the Casino Royale on our way elsewhere, and it was wonderful not to breathe in that stench. Overall, the trip was a marvelous experience, and we'd certainly do it again ... although likely with another cruise line. Royal Caribbean has brought us the concept that bigger is better ... but they need to tweak some procedures, all related to the number of passengers they attempt to accommodate at any given time. Lines for shore excursion assignments and ice show tickets (complimentary and ultimately unnecessary) were interminable ... and with a little thought and advance planning, these issues could easily be resolved. There were also two bookkeeping errors that took what seemed like an eternity to rectify. We opted for My Time Dining, which requires that all gratuities be prepaid, since RCI does not add them to your account as other lines do ... not a problem, except that they had no record of us paying them (about a year in advance, I might add). Only after I showed the Guest Services Supervisor the invoice from my travel agent did they notify corporate (everything goes through Miami) and correct the problem. The other involved a charge of $4.54 for a bottle of water from the mini-bar. We never took a thing from the fridge, and filed a dispute with Guest Services about five days before we disembarked. As of our leaving, the charge was still on our account. We were far from the only ones with similar problems ... inexcusable, given today's sophisticated accounting programs. Add to this our disappointment with the dining room food and service, and a look at another carrier is certainly warranted. If you've gotten this far, thank you. I trust that you've gleaned some valuable information ... but if you need more, please feel free to e-mail me at ... al@duffey.net. Smooth sailing! Read Less
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