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Cruise Ship Review
Enchantment of the Seas
By
Mike Guiltinan

Enchantment of the Seas Route of the Vikings September 1997

Enchantment of the Seas

THE SHIP:

What can I say other than "gorgeous"? Enchantment of the Seas is truly a beauty inside and out. She absorbed all of the 1850 passengers on this sailing with no problem at all, never seeming crowded except during the times people were trying to get on and off. Lots of wood, granite, and marble were used in the decor of the ship giving it a warm and luxurious atmosphere. The "My Fair Lady" dining room and the "Orpheum" theatre were given very beautiful retro looks. The dining room staircase reminded me of photos of a beautiful staircase on the Titanic. Surprisingly, the 11th deck Viking Crown lounge was given a rather bizarre treatment with neon blue and chartreuse colors that I didn't care for. Additionally, the Viking Crown doubled as a disco late at night and had extremely loud blaring music, strobe lights, etc. You could hear the throbbing of the music in the elevator all the way down to the 2nd deck. I only went up there once after dinner. After being blasted back into the elevator by the loud music and being blinded by the flashing strobe lights greeting the opening elevator door, I didn't want to go back, at least during the after dinner hours. I certainly wished that there had been a separate disco like I've seen on most other ships.

My favorite place turned out to be the Solarium, a pool area surrounded by glass with a retractable glass roof. The weather during this trip was such that the roof was kept closed. It is a wonderful place to swim, sit in the jacuzzi, read, play cards, read, or snooze. The sounds of the fountains and the sloshing of the pool made it very peaceful and relaxing.

Another feature I like was the "Star Gazing" deck, a darkened area raised up from the bow end of the 10th deck. We were treated to a couple of good chances to view the Aurora Borealis. The darkened area was perfect for that.

Schooner BarI've always enjoyed the Schooner Bars on RCI ships and Enchantment's was just as delightful as those on the others. The casino was lively and fun and quite large. (And I actually cashed out with more than I started.) Other public areas, the Champagne Terrace in the centrum, the Carousel Lounge, the Casino Bar, Library, Card Room, and various other lounges clustered around the Centrum at various levels were all inviting and beautiful. The main outdoor pool area was pretty standard and had no unusual or remarkable features except for a large kinetic sculpture that stopped working after the first of two storms we encountered.

The Centrum went from the 4th deck to the 9th or 10th deck. Its lower level was subdivided into three levels, all with white marble floors. Large plexiglass "crystals" were made into sculptures on the 4th level and suspended in front of the glass elevators all the way up to the top of the Centrum. At each level there were large windows to the outside making wonderful views wherever you look.

There was a nice assortment of shops on board, but I found the selection of items to be a bit lacking. I didn't spend much time (or money) in there. The Fitness Center was large and impressive.

My accommodations, a standard outside cabin, were a surprise. The cabin was significantly larger than other RCI standard outside cabins I've used in the past. Like the others, it was very efficient and had plenty of room to hang clothes and store luggage. It was equipped with telephone, cable TV, and an individual thermostat.

THE ITINERARY:

Enchantment of the Seas sailed from Harwich, England to Invergordon, Scotland -- Lerwick, Shetland Islands -- Thorshavn, Faroe Islands -- Akureryi, Iceland -- Rejkyavik, Iceland -- Halifax, Nova Scotia -- St. John, New Brunswick -- and Boston. Six days at sea were scheduled, four of them between Rejkyavik and Halifax.

We went directly to the ship without a pre-cruise stay in London. Harwich is a two-hour motor coach ride from Gatwick. Although we arrived on the morning of Diana's funeral, we encountered no significant delays getting to the ship.

There really wasn't one single outstanding port in this itinerary. Scotland and Iceland were perhaps a bit more impressive than the others, but all the ports we visited were fascinating and beautiful. Due to high winds, the ship could not anchor or send out tenders at Lerwick, so we spent the day gazing at the Shetlands from the sea.

We sailed through waters with many whales and were treated to a number of Minke whales, dolphins, and (I think) one Humpback whale.

The weather was varied, ranging from warm and balmy to snowy and windy. The seas ranged from glassy to 42-ft. Anyone planning to take this itinerary should be prepared for cold weather (the route crosses the Arctic Circle for a brief time) and the strong possibility of impressive storms. When I went up on deck to watch our arrival at Akureryi, I found the decks covered with snow. (This is a real treat for a south Texan who hasn't seen a snowfall for about 15 years.) The tour coaches used tire chains for driving in the mountains that day. Although the temperature wasn't bad, about 31 degrees, the wind was fierce up in those mountains. It was *cold.

The first of the two storms took place between the Shetlands and the Faroes. Winds were about 50 MPH and the seas were about 30 ft. The other storm took place during the 2nd day out of Iceland with winds of 70-75 MPH and seas up to 42 ft. I thought it was all great fun, but lots of other passengers weren't so lucky. There were plenty of sick and/or scared folks.

 

THE FOOD:

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the food on Enchantment was improved over previous RCI ships I've sailed. This was most apparent in the Windjammer buffet area. In the past I've been very critical of the Windjammer food, but not so on this trip. It was varied more than I've seen in the past and generally of better quality.

The main dining room food was consistent with what I'd experienced on RCI in the past. Some nights were better than others, but it was generally quite good. After a number of cruises, I still find it hard to believe that they can prepare so many dinners of good quality each and every night. In addition to all the regular entrees, there are low-fat and vegetarian entrees available each night. Also, grilled steaks or chicken breasts are available if none of the menu entrees are appealing. (I didn't have that problem!)

Pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers are served in the Solarium for most of the day and then again from midnight until 6:00 AM. Enchantment has instituted the "Windjammer at Night" program of casual dining in the buffet area for those who want a break from the more formal dining room. I didn't make use of this, but I seem to remember that the menu was an abbreviated version of what the main dining room served each evening.

Other food service consisted of an elaborate afternoon "snack" each day in the Windjammer, the midnight buffet, and 24-hour room service. Caviar and other canapes were available in the Champagne Terrace.

There was also an after dinner cigar bar in one of the 8th deck Centrum lounges.

THINGS TO DO ABOARD:

I can't begin to list all the activities available, so here's a sampling. Port lectures, art classes, photography classes, cooking demonstrations, art auctions, slot machine tournaments, blackjack tournaments, bridge lecture and tournaments, oodles of fitness classes, massages, sauna, steam, all sorts of beauty salon treatments, bingo, shopping, .....etc. There was a beautiful and well-stocked library. Movies were available at any time of the day in the rooms and in the Orpheum Theater during days at sea. The well-stocked gameroom had a variety of board games to borrow. Somewhere on the ship there was a video game room that I never saw.

There were shows in the Orpheum Theater every evening and big band music and dancing in the Carousel Lounge. Some of the shows were excellent, some didn't appeal to me very much. One of the Wave Revue shows was a knockout, another was a dud. The "big name" entertainer was Maureen McGovern. There was an assortment of various comedians, magicians, jugglers, musicians, etc.

KUDOS:

Laurence, the most knowledgable and attentive sommelier I've encountered on any ship.

Aldana, my sunny, cheerful, delightful, and extremely fine room steward.

The Schooner Bar staff.

Michael, the only member of the Tour Staff who seemed to realize that the passengers were guests, not school children.

IMPROVEMENT NEEDED:

The Windjammer Cafe is managed very poorly. I won't bother with the details. I will say that if I were the hotel manager of Enchantment I'd find another Windjammer manager ASAP.

The main kitchen sometimes encounters some sort of roadblocks. The worst was one evening when many of the second seating (8:30) tables weren't served entrees until after 10:00 PM.

The Tour Staff is a mess. They don't communicate among themselves or with the passengers. For example, one morning nobody from the tour staff showed up at the appointed meeting place for one of the shore excursions until 20 minutes after the group was supposed to have disembarked. There was a delay in getting the ship docked and cleared that morning, but they didn't inform the passengers about it or suggest that folks go about their business and return to the holding area at another set time. Once cleared, they always tried to get the various groups off the ship faster than the gangway or tenders could handle people. The result was annoying (and rather dangerous) long lines in the stairways. I was among a large majority who felt that the tour staff was inadequate and their performance was unacceptable.

Gifts ordered from RCI by our travel agent were never received.

I understand that it is pretty standard to expect certain "bugs" in the operation of a cruise ship during its first six months. Enchantment had been in service for only two months prior to this trip. Hopefully she'll soon have these problems cleared up.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?

Yes, yes, yes!! In fact I'm seriously considering a very similar itinerary next September when Vision of the Seas makes its North Atlantic crossing.

Line

Mike Guiltinan is a cruise enthusiast from San Antonio, TX and can be reached for questions or comment at: mikemggm@delphi.com.

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