This cruise was our eighth in the last three years, in addition to three transatlantic crossings in the 50's and 60's -- all of them contributed to our addiction to cruising, and to our love for the sea and ships. We have not had a bad cruise yet, and this one was for sure one of the most interesting, mainly for the novelties offered on this great gigaship. The Voyager of the Seas is almost twice as big as the megaships, such as the Century, the Grandeur of the Seas, or the CostaVictoria, and almost two and one-half times the Norwegian Wind and the CostaRomantica, and 30% bigger than the Grand Princess, the largest cruise ship until the launching of the Voyager last fall.
We have cruised on all of the ships I just mentioned, but only one was distinctly different from the rest of them: the Voyager of the Seas. As we approached the port of Miami, we noticed the gigantic dimensions of this ship in comparison to other ships docked on nearby piers. She was much larger, but not much different in her lines and outer structures than the recently-built megaships. The upper decks are lined with verandahs and the lower decks with portholes. The upper structures, the smokestacks and the Viking Crown lounge are similar to other contemporary ships of RCCL. However, upon boarding the ship, it was clear to us that we had entered a new era of cruising, with unprecedented varieties of activities: from ice skating to in-line skating, from wall climbing to full court basketball games and to the 9-hole mini golf course.
Most impressive to us was the Royal Promenade, a four-deck high European style city street, lined with stores, arcade and cafés, linking two startling atriums (centrums) 8- or 9-decks high: the ideal place for strollers and browsers. The centerpiece of this promenade is an antique car, a beautiful red Morgan Spider, which can be admired while sipping a drink, eating an ice cream or browsing for gifts. In this case, "size does matter" as it was eloquently stated, together with the Voyager's logo, on a T-shirt worn by a well-endowed woman passenger. We had a very enjoyable and interesting cruise, but not one of our best cruises. Considering all other aspects of cruising, the CostaRomantica remains our favorite ship, followed closely by the Grand Princess and Century.
The new terminal, specially built for the Voyager of the Seas, is a spacious, modern building with a multi-tent system for roofing, but very impractical for south Florida, where heat and humidity is present most of the year. The tent roof does not allow efficient cooling of the building which, in combination with an overcrowded hall, can make the place oppressively hot. We arrived at the terminal by 1:00 PM, but did not board until 2:30 PM, even though we had priority boarding due to my wife's disability. We sympathized with other passengers who stood in line much longer than we did because of the inefficient boarding system. RCCL should learn from Princess and Costa that boarding procedures can be expedited by having passengers check in at various counters according to their deck and cabin number. We found very short lines when we embarked on the Grand Princess and on the CostaRomantica.
Our cabin #6304 was a midship spacious stateroom designated for disabled people, with wheelchair access to the balcony and bathroom. There was ample storage space in a well-designed wardrobe with removable hangers and plenty of drawers. The bathroom had a large shower and a nice sink positioned in the corner with three large shelves for the storage of toiletry and medicines. The bed was definitely king size (in the brochure, queen size) and the most comfortable one encountered on cruises. The headboard was a beautiful aqua suede panel fixed to the cabin wall. Nice touch!
The balcony was a bit too narrow; there were two chairs and a small table. However, in this cabin for disabled, the balcony was long enough to accommodate a lounge chair which we requested, and it was delivered by the room stewardess. This would have not been possible for the balcony of a normal cabin, since that length is about 2/3 of our balcony.
She is huge, gigantic, breathtaking and more. She is awesome! For the first two days, we toured the ship and were positively impressed by her beauty and elegance. Throughout the ship the prevailing colors are definitely nautical, with aqua, blue and gold decorations. Public rooms and areas are numerous and extensive. They are located on Decks 2 to 5 and 11 to 15. The most impressive is the Royal Promenade, which I have mentioned above. The three main restaurants, Carmen, La Boheme and Magic Flute, make up a magnificent complex on Decks 3, 4 and 5, connected by sets of grand, sweeping staircases, which give a sensation of spaciousness uncommon on ships. The same can be said for La Scala theater, which spans three decks (2 to 5).
Another first for the Voyager is the ice skating arena in Studio B, a 900-seat amphitheater that also converts from a television studio to a conference center. But my favorite place on the ship is the Observation Deck, the most forward location of the ship, on Deck 5, a well-kept secret, since it is not easily accessible. It can be reached either through side doors from the Connoisseur Club and the Cleopatra's Needle lounge, or by small stairs located at the forward end of the outside promenades (portside and starboard) on Deck 4. I went there several times, both daytime and nighttime, but I rarely saw other passengers there; it was secluded.
There I felt complete relaxation and quietness. In contemplative solitude, I looked at clouds and the shapes of distant islands and, at night I stared at the multitude of stars, while listening to the sound of the waves breaking at the bow, and of the wind whistling through the structures of the ship's prow. It is hard to describe; it's suspended animation, between earth and heaven. I did not imitate Leonardo Di Caprio as he stood on the railings at the Titanic's bow. The wind was much too strong for this acrobatic position and there was no camera shooting a movie which would have made the risk worthwhile. (I heard that a passenger had recently fallen into the sea from the bow of a RCCL ship, the Monarch of the Seas. The alarm was sounded by a crew member who noticed the disappearance of the passenger who then was rescued, two hours later, without major injuries).
The three-level main restaurant, with three distinct dining areas, was spectacular. But the food served there, at lunch or dinner, was only fair to good. We were not impressed, overall. However, there were plenty of choices on the menu, and our waiters were always eager to please. We were often reminded that if we desired some dish not listed on the menu, the waiter would ask the chef to prepare it especially for us -- a very nice treatment worthy of generous tipping. There is an alternative restaurant, the Portofino, which has an appetizing menu of Italian cuisine, but reservations are required and, by the end of the first day on board, it was fully booked, except for the evenings of the gala nights. In anticipation of a great gala dinner, we did not make any reservations for this restaurant. Too bad! We should have tried it, since our palates are definitely biased for Italian cuisine.
Our good waiter reassured us that if we would like something from the Portofino's menu, he would ask the chef to prepare it for us. I mentioned to him a very simple pasta dish, "spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino" (spaghetti with garlic, oil and hot red pepper), which was listed on the Portofino's menu, but did not expect to have it especially prepared for me. To my surprise, the day after at lunch I was presented a dish of capellini with garlic, oil and pepperoni (the well known spiced Italian sausage, the one usually used on pizza). The capellini (thin spaghetti) were overcooked, not "al dente," and the dish was not exactly what I meant, but I was thankful for the great service and attention that the waiter offered to us.
Buffet food at the Windjammer [buffet] was also fair to good. The lines, however, most of the time, were long and chaotic. We ate most breakfasts and some afternoon snacks in our cabin, but the room service was very slow at the beginning (about a 45-minute wait), but after a few days it got better. (I think it was due to our generous tipping policy.) The food is definitely not as good as that of the CostaRomantica, Grand Princess or Century.
We were pleased with the variety shows presented in the La Scala, but not overwhelmed by them, since these shows were in essence similar to those shown on other cruise ships. Singing and dancing, acrobats, comedians -- all of them were well performed and entertaining, but not better or worse than any other show we have seen on other ships. What amazed us was the ice skating show nicely performed by a half dozen or so professional skaters. They were fantastic, considering that the ice skating ring was relatively much smaller than those which are usually used for this type of show. But it was a first at sea! Telling from the standing ovation by the 900 spectators present in Studio B, it was the best entertainment of the cruise.
We also enjoyed the Calypso Band, piano melodies, guitar and dance music at various locations: poolside, Cleopatra's Needle, Crown & Anchor, Crow's Nest and the Aquarium Bar. We could have been very busy in enjoying many of the numerous activities continuously scheduled on ship, but we preferred to have our usual restful cruise, so we spent a lot of time in our cabin and on the verandah. In the cabin there is interactive TV, which we rarely used to check our shipboard charges. My wife watched a few movies, but there was a lot of repetition; a printed TV movie schedule should have been available in the cabin to facilitate channel selection.
Ports of Call
The Voyager of the Seas in the Western Caribbean visits three ports: Labadee, Ocho Rios and Cozumel, and sails three days at sea. This is just fine for us, since we have done this itinerary several times and we are interested more in the relaxation. We refer the readers interested in the ports of call to other reviews.
Debarkation was a bit chaotic. It was not as bad as the embarkation, but less smooth than we have experienced on other ships. The signs for the color-coded luggage should have been more prominently displayed to facilitate the passengers in finding their ways.
Another View of the Royal Promenade
This ship is more than a cruise ship; she is an ocean resort. We enjoyed her magnificent public areas and facilities, especially the Royal Promenade. We had a good cruise, but not one of our best cruises. Would we cruise on the Voyager again? Yes, we would. However, by the time I finished writing this review, we had already cruised on our favorite ship again, the CostaRomantica. Happy Cruising!
Photos provided by Royal Caribbean International.
To view more photos of the Voyager of the Sea, visit her new listing in our Cruise Ships Directory.
Vincent Finelli has written many reviews for the SeaLetter and may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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