Enchantment of the Seas May 1998 Western Caribbean Cruise
We were a group of six traveling together consisting of myself (Betty), my husband (Rick), our daughter (Dawn) and three of Dawn's friends: Dana, Richard, and Jeremy. First cruise for Dana, Richard and Jeremy, second for Rick, Dawn, and I. The kids were 17, 18, 19, & 20, so where appropriate I will try to interject some of their experiences and discoveries.
Travel & Embarkation:We booked Royal Caribbean's Air/Sea package. We left Houston at 10:55am and arrived Miami at 2:15pm, taken straight to the bus and driven straight to the ship terminal. Having experienced this two years ago, I knew what to expect as the bus crosses the bridge and your ship is in view. The Enchantment of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas were docked stern to stern and made an impressive site. We were off the bus, through security and right up to the counter for check-in. Everything was prepared ahead of time, all documents in order, cruise cards given out, up the ramp, official embarkation photo and we were on the ship by 3:20pm. No lines, no waits, no hassles!
Not sure if I'd do the Air/Sea package again. Since tickets aren't issued until 30 days ahead, the choice of seating on the plane left a lot to be desired. Another inconvenience was our arrival at the ship so late. We did avoid the lines, but last time I had enjoyed arriving around 12:30 and getting a chance to explore the ship some before the activities began.
The Ship:Several reviews have already described the ship and it's interior in detail so I'll just hit the high points. The centrum is gorgeous rising clear from deck 4 to the Viking Crown Lounge on deck 11. It is made of light woods and chrome with a plexiglass prism sculpture hanging several stories high. My husband liked the brass staircases on the Majesty better. Everything was conveniently located off the centrum which was nice. We especially liked the seating areas on either side on decks 5 & 6. We are not sun worshipers so found these comfortable, air-conditioned areas quite pleasant on the sea days.
The Explorer's Court and Crown & Anchor Lounge on deck 8 seemed to be a waste of space as we never saw them used. The layout of the Fascinating Rythums Lounge is poor. I think it is supposed to be a conference center and lounge combination. Used mainly for supercharge check in and karaoke. On karaoke nights, we couldn't find a seat and had trouble seeing the singers because of the layout. We liked the Blue Skies Lounge on the Majesty much better. We did use the library and card rooms on deck 7. Both were very nice.
The My Fair Lady dining room is beautiful and we liked it much better than the two dining rooms on the Majesty of the Seas. The Windjammer has a nice buffet layout that is better than the cafeteria line on the Majesty. Although we did enjoy the upstairs dining in the Windjammer on the Majesty. This has been replaced with an Observation Deck on the Enchantment of the Seas, and again I think is a waste of space. We never saw anyone there.
The Viking Crown Lounge is probably put to better use here. Although we didn't partake of the after hours activities there, the kids did and all enjoyed them. The Solarium area is great. I laid out here (in the shade) one afternoon and found it very pleasant. There are several fountains and the sound of the running water is very soothing. I liked some things on the Majesty of the Seas better, but found some things much better on the Enchantment of the Seas. Maybe the newer ships will have the best of both!. The Cabins: Rick and I had cabin 2596, deck 2, starboard side, mid-ship, outside cabin right off the stairwell. I liked the convenience of the stairwell and elevators nearby. The girls bunked with us. There was plenty of storage space for all four of us. The only problem here was three females trying to get ready at the same time and hubby either having to get ready two hours ahead of time and wait for us in a lounge area, or given the last ten minutes before dinner to get ready and having to rush. He did both throughout the trip and fortunately he enjoys reading and would be found in the seating area on the 4th floor or sometimes sitting on the stairwell reading waiting for us.
Jeremy and Richard had cabin 2107, deck 2, port side, inside cabin, just a little aft of mid-ship. This was a handicapped cabin, which gave the two of them plenty of space - wide doorways, large bathroom. The girls were envious and wanted to trade, but I enjoyed the view from the outside cabin.
The lower deck has a slight hum. I considered it more of a hum than a vibration although it may have been a vibration, and did not hinder sleeping. The beds were comfortable, and normally sleeping on a waterbed, that says a lot. We had the lower beds made into a queen the first night and left that way the entire trip. The girl's bunks dropped out of the ceiling. They said they were comfortable and they must have been as we had to drag them out of bed each morning. The only problem with our cabin was you could hear the gangway door being opened on deck 1 for debarkation in the ports. We didn't need an alarm clock, but the girls still slept through it all.
The Service:Reuben, from the Phillippines, was our cabin steward. He did an excellent job all week of keeping our often-cluttered cabin clean. We asked for extra pillows for my husband and I, and arranged to have the bed put together as a queen that first afternoon. After the first night, the girls wanted extra blankets. I like to sleep with the temperature cool and it was a little too cool for the girls. Reuben responded to all requests right away. We didn't keep the most normal of routines, us up early, the girls up late, or the girls early, us late, but Reuben managed to work around it all. One of the boys had gone back to his cabin one morning for something and noticed Reuben cleaning our cabin and jumping from upper bunk to upper bunk to get the beds made. We weren't the most accommodating guests, but Reuben provided excellent service.
Bond, from Thailand, and Emiel from The Netherlands, were our waiter and assistant waiter. Both provided excellent service also. Bond has been working on cruise ships for eleven years and knows what the customers expect. He had a slight accent and great personality. His suggestions were usually right on target. The guys often ordered multiple entrees for dinner and when I couldn't decide on which desert I wanted, Bond said no problem and brought me both of them. Emiel was only 20 and had only been working on cruise ships for about three years, if I remember. The girls drank Sprite every night for dinner, with the rest of us drinking iced tea. Emiel anticipated our arrival and would have the drinks served as soon as he finished filling the water glasses. He was tall, blond, blue-eyed and the girls took to him right away. I'd have adopted Emiel and took him home if I could. You really get spoiled with the service.
Ken Rush the cruise director was very good. A little too syrupy for me, but he did his job well. Another good looker and the girls were hooked. They especially liked seeing him dressed at the toga party. The rest of the staff was great. We used the shore excursion desk several times and each person there was very accommodating and pleasant. The bar staff in the Orpheum theater were fine. One particular waiter, knew that the kids all drank virgin daiquiris and would check with them each night before the shows and take care of them. The attendants in the Windjammer and the pool areas were pleasant and none too pushy.
The Food:The topic of food has been an often-discussed subject. Let me interject two comments here. Anytime I can be served and don't have to cook or do the dishes is good. Second, Dawn is our last of five children, so meals at our house have never even been close to being gourmet. Hot dogs, spaghetti, and hamburger patties are general fare. That said,. I found the food on the Enchantment of the Seas delicious and enjoyable. We ate one breakfast, two lunches, and every dinner in the dining room. The remaining breakfasts and an occaisional lunch were in the Windjammer.
Breakfast in the Windjammer was repetitive with eggs, sausage links, bacon, hash browns, oatmeal, fruit, cereals, cheeses, pastries, and alternating between pancakes and french toast. There were omelets made to order and you could get a toasted english muffin or bagel also from the service area. My only complaint was not being able to find a large glass for ice as I'd bring my own Diet Coke to breakfast (I substituted a coffee mug.) The food for breakfast in the dining room wasn't much different. They had flavored pancakes, eggs cooked to order, and eggs benedict. Having main seating, 7:30 breakfast was tooooooooo early to breakfast in the dining room most of the time.
Lunch in the Windjammer was ok. We only ate there twice for lunch as port time and shore excursions caused us to skip lunch three different times. They had sub type sandwiches available, a pasta dish, fish, barbeque, and a full salad and fruit bar, as well as a nice assortment of desserts. The kids ate in the solarium and said the hamburgers and pizza were good. Lunch in the dining room was nice. We ate there both days at sea and had fresh pasta prepared one time. The guys said the grilled pork chops were good. I had a very nice roast beef plate one day.
Dinners were the highlight of the day. We had a round table for six to ourselves next to the windows near the back on the port side. Every night had a different theme with the appropriate food. We were adventuresome and tried some of the different appetizers. My husband liked the smoked salmon and different seafood appetizers. My daughter liked the fruits. The chilled soups were mostly good. Every evening the choice of dressing for the salad became an ordeal. The kids are used to plain ol' ranch dressing. Emiel had his work cut out for him as he'd bring the different dressings out each night and try to explain them. Sometimes Dawn would get hers first and Dana would have to taste it before she'd choose and then sometimes vice a versa. One night I made a bad choice, something with garlic, and they brought me another salad right away and let me choose a different dressing.
My favorite entrees were the grilled sea scallops and the filet mignon. The guys said the prime rib was good. My husband said several of the fish dishes were good. The lobster was a little dry. The desserts were to die for. The chocolate fudge cake and the chocolate velvet cake (more of a creme pie) were a chocoholic's dream. Cherries jubilee was a favorite. Dawn ordered a dessert one evening and also wanted a side of ice cream with chocolate syrup. She didn't get the ice cream but had forgotten about it because she was stuffed. The next night as Bond brought the dessert menus he brought her the ice cream and syrup. She said, "What's this?" and he replied, "Your leftovers from last night." We all had a good laugh.
We only ate at two midnight buffets: the galley night and the oriental buffet. It was amazing to see the galley. The oriental buffet was in the Windjammer one evening when the seas were a little rough and being that high on the ship was a unique experience. We filmed the gala buffet with all the ice sculptures and food carvings, but didn't stay to eat. It was beautifully set out in the dining room and they had you enter via the staircase from upstairs. Absolutely gorgeous!
The Entertainment:Besides the entertaining waiters every evening at dinner, the entertainment in the Orpheum Theater was very good. Sunday night's welcome aboard was ok, nothing spectacular. Monday night we arrived early as I wanted a good seat to see Jay Johnson. He's a ventriolquist and a very good one. I saw Jay back in the mid 70's at Six Flags - Astroworld, back when the saloon shows were live. He must have just been starting out back then. He later was on the sitcom "Soap". He did a fabulous routine with his dummy "Bob" and also with a monkey puppet. Very entertaining. I don't know if he's on every week, but is a must see.
Tuesday was Maverick, a magician. We sat in the second row and watched very very closely and were still amazed. If you like magic another must see. We skipped the Wave Review show "Sweet Dreams" on Wednesday night as we had an 8am shore excursion on Thursday. Heard comments from other passengers that it was good and that the ship's singers and dancers were very talented.
Thursday night was a double feature with Dave & Dania, illusionists and Ralph Achilles a comedian. Dave & Dania did a routine where she changes outfits eight or ten times in just seconds. The last change came while a spray of confetti was falling around her. I don't know how they did that. Dawn and Richard had seen them at the half-time of a Comets game and said they didn't know how it was done either. The comedian was ok, pretty funny and mostly clean. Friday night was "Flashback" with the Wave Review singers & dancers who were very talented and we enjoyed the songs from the past. Saturday night was Kelly Monteith and Kurt someone, a comedian and a singer, both very entertaining.
The evening activities planned after the theater shows were very entertaining also. Monday night's Battle of the Sexes played liked Family Feud was fun. They separated the guys and the gals in the Carousel Lounge and the gals won. Tuesday night 50's and 60's trivia was fun as that was our era. My team didn't win but had a good time. We didn't attend the Liar's Club, but did attend the Not So Newlywed Game. Hilarious. I know it depends on the participants, but this is a must see. The audience chooses three couples: one married one year or less, one married one year to 25 years, and one married 25 years to eternity. We had a fiftyish couple that had been married 10 months, a late twenties couple married 2 ½ years, and a couple in their eighties that had been married 55 years. The older couple won, but they were all hilarious.
We watched karaoke two nights and Dawn sang the second night. She's performed at church and at school so she was pretty good. A couple other folks were real good and some were reeeaaaall baaaaaad. But that's the fun of it. We only danced a couple nights in the Carousel Lounge and once in the Centrum area. The kids went to the Viking Crown almost every night, where a DJ played current pop stuff. I missed the Blue Skies lounge on the Majesty of the Seas where you could usually find some more gentle music to dance and listen to.
My husband and I didn't participate or even see any of the daytime activities. The kids hung around the pool some and saw some of the pool olympics and went to the toga party and pool buffet one night. They said it was all a lot of fun.
The Ports:We did almost the same itinerary two years ago so we were prepared for most of the ports. Monday at Key West was a new stop. We got up late and didn't go into town until around 10am. The ship sailed at 1:30pm so we didn't do any shore excursions but just took the train to town, shopped, explored the downtown area, bought some soft drinks, took some pictures and came back to the ship. Pleasant area that I'd like to visit if I had more time.
Tuesday was Cozumel where we did the Island Tour shore excursion which visited the ruins at San Gervasio and then went to Chakannaab National Park. The ruins were interesting but very hot. The park area was very clean and laid out very well. Snorkeling was available but not included so we just swam at the park in the beautiful clear cool blue water. Next time I'll take a taxi straight to the National Park and spend the day there. We shopped at the ruins, at the park and at the area near the pier. Remember I have two teenage girls with me and the key word is SHOP!!!
Thursday in Jamaica we did the San San Yacht shore excursion. Very nice. Boarded the yacht right at the pier, went to Dunn's River Falls, climbed the falls, back aboard the yacht, sailed to James Bond Beach, snorkeled here, sailed back up the coastline, and then back to the pier. Orange juice and coffee served early. Soda served after the Falls, and fresh fruit and drinks served after the snorkeling. Very nice. The kids enjoyed the Falls. Dana got her hair braided on board. The snorkeling was good - clear water, good views of fish and coral. That afternoon we caught a taxi to the Sony shopping area. It was ok, but I just don't like Jamaica, but of course the girls had to shop. My husband did buy me some perfume, so it wasn't a total waste.
Friday, our last stop was Grand Cayman. We did the Sting Ray City Snorkel tour here. Had done the same tour last time but wanted the kids to have the experience. A must do. Of course we went ashore a little early for shopping time and shopped some more after the tour. Nice area, nice people, I could spend more time here also.
Debarkation:Somehow got everything packed Saturday night and the luggage set out before midnight. Us old folks turned in, but the kids had to close down the Viking Crown Lounge, so they didn't get in until after 3am. We didn't make it to breakfast in the dining room on Sunday morning as main seating was at 6:45am. We did make it to the Windjammer by 8am and then went back to our cabin to wait. We left the ship close to 9:30am, found our luggage in the sea of suitcases, checked our luggage in with the Continental Airlines agent right at the pier and boarded the bus for the airport. Arrived at the airport a little after 10:30am and had to wait until 3pm for our flight. We stacked our carryons together in one area, hubby read, I roamed and the kids sat on the floor and played cards until time to head for our gate. We waved at the new cruisers being escorted through the airport and wished we were going with them. Left Miami a little late due to rain, but the pilot made up for it and arrived in Houston on time at 4:45pm. The vacation was over.......
Summary:As this was the second cruise for hubby and me, we realized we didn't have to do and see everything. We were on vacation and the world wouldn't stop if we didn't participate. We enjoyed being out to sea and away from the day-to-day rat race. Didn't enjoy quite as much as we may have had we been alone, as we felt responsible for keeping up with the kids and all. But overall had a great time and we are definitely planning to cruise again!
Betty Brown manages the Computer Network Operations Center for a large hospital in Houston. She and her husband first cruised two years ago on the Majesty of the Seas with friends and were hooked. Unfortunately or fortunately ( all a matter of perspective), the Browns have five children and nine grandchildren scattered across the United States from Hawaii, to Seattle, to Dayton, OH, to Texas and spend alternate years trying to visit them. So cruising will have to be a bi-annual thing. They wanted to change that after this last trip and plan another one for next year, but their oldest daughter just informed them she is engaged and will be getting married next June. So there goes next year's cruise money! Betty can be reached for questions or comment at: BBrown@tmh.tmc.edu.
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