But First, Some Impressions
This was a wonderful cruise, but then again, out of the 12 we’ve been on, we haven’t hit a bad one yet. We had lots of sunny warm days (not too hot, except for Curaçao), comfortable nights, and only a 15-minute shower in Cozumel. The seas were the calmest we’ve ever experienced, but this shouldn’t be taken as the norm. Both the staff and entire crew were very friendly and cooperative, with no false airs about their pleasantness toward the guests. Even the captain had a touch of humor in his daily messages, albeit a very dry sense of humor. There was a good age mix among the passengers; the shore excursions went smoothly and were worth repeating. This ship and cruise would be ranked right up there as "one of the best" and we’d strongly consider repeating it.
Our cabin (C8048) was on the port side, so on the way out we had shade in the afternoon, which we wanted, because we spend lots of time on the balcony in the afternoon. We also spend an equal amount of time at night on the balcony, after the shows and casino, enjoying the stars and the moon and the sound of the Caribbean Sea rushing beneath us. The balcony for category C is approximately 6 1/2’ X 11 1/2’: large enough for two chaise lounges, a small straight back chair and a small table, with plenty of room to move around. On the way back to Miami (the last two days at sea), we did have sun most of the day out there. The cabin was roomy with lots of storage space, some of which we didn’t even use. Like the balcony, there was plenty of room to move about in comfort and relax, with two easy chairs, two hassocks (also used for storage) a sleeper sofa, coffee table, two beds that made into a queen, a refrigerator, safe and generously-sized bathroom with tub. We could have called this cabin "home" on a longer cruise; it was that nice.
This definitely wasn’t the geriatric group we had heard it would be. There was a good mix of ages: probably 45% seniors, 35% middle-aged, and 20% younger families and younger couples, and we’d guesstimate 30+% were not from the States; a goodly number came from throughout Canada and a sizable group from Germany. RCI used to publish and distribute a passenger list, but didn’t on this cruise. For the most part, it was a friendly, cooperative group of passengers. One of the exceptions: some kids, or those acting like them, kept changing a lot of "make up room/do not disturb" signs on cabin doors, which made it difficult for the room stewards to complete their work in a timely fashion.
The age-old problem still exists of people saving lounge chairs first thing in the morning (6:30am - 7:00am) and not using them until later in the day. Pool attendants put towels over the lounge arms every morning; however, people are quick to take them and place them on the back, and one or two more on the seat to make them look used and/or reserved. One man saved nine chairs every day (three towels per lounge) and when we left the pool area around 11:30am, sometimes most of the chairs still hadn’t been used. We were very tempted to run around and remove towels from chairs that had been vacant for an hour, but resisted the urge! The days at sea are tough in that everyone wants to be poolside. If everyone who wanted to be by the pool occupied chairs while there and vacated them when they had enough sun, there would be more than adequate space for everyone, even if they later chose to return.
The noise (vibrations, people, whatever) was nothing we could say we found truly bothersome. Yes, there was vibration on board, but it seemed to be just as much, or just as little, as on other ships. We could, on just a few occasions, hear the TV or the drawers slam in the next cabin - not an everyday thing, and it didn’t interfere with anything we were doing. The only noise that was a little annoying came from the fact that our cabin was directly below the Solarium, and we did hear the thumping of feet later on in the evening. The port side of the Solarium is where they serve pizza, burgers and hot dogs - we knew where those little/big feet were going! But, after the full days and nights we had, we didn’t lose any sleep over it.
We attended most of the shows and found them very enjoyable, and the entertainment was varied. We had heard from past reviews that the shows were geared toward the older crowd; however, there was a good mix of entertainment with both young and old enjoying it. There was a full house or nearly-full house for most of them and almost no one left early - all those we saw were lively and entertaining. We’ve skipped a lot of shows on recent cruises, so it was nice to get back to them and find them fresh and professional. Among the acts we enjoyed were: Day 1 - comedian/juggler; Day 2 - comedian and a singer; Day 4 - the ship’s entertainers, The Wave Revue doing "The Beat Goes On,"; Day 5 - variety show; Day 6 - Wave Revue doing "The Swingin’ Singin’ Years," Day 7 - Wave Revue doing "Starstruck," Day 8 - another variety show; Day 9 - Charo; and Day 10 - Rave Revue doing "Welcome To Our World."
Because our main dining room service was so enjoyable, we found the food to be so also - there was not the wide variety of entrées perhaps found elsewhere every night, but we could always find something to order and enjoy, and the quality was right up there. We only did lunch in the main dining room once, choosing to skip that meal or have a hamburger in the Solarium other days (the days were hectic - almost like work!). But we did do breakfast in the main dining room every day - no one does Eggs Benedict as well as RCI!! The dining room has open seating for both breakfast and lunch. It was a pleasant surprise to find the wait staff so friendly and accommodating, even though they weren’t our "regular" waiter and assistant.
We ate in the Windjammer Café (buffet) for lunch once, but found the buffet menus weren’t very exciting to us. However, they must have been for others, because there were constant lines, but no real crowding and shoving.
Having already been to all the ports of call in the past (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Aruba, Curaçao) we decided to try two new excursions and repeat one other. In Cozumel, the "Beach Break" took us to the Reef Club. It started with a sadistic taxi ride (and extra $12 for 4) in a car(?) that might have been smaller than a Ford Fiesta, barely holding 5 adults, including the driver, with no shocks, springs, a.c. and very little seat cushioning; we seemed to aim for every pothole in the road (how do they get potholes in the Caribbean?). Once there, we had a great day - we had a choice of places on the beach, which was fantastic, two pools, and lots of other amenities. It was a wonderful place to explore and a definite "return to" at another time.
In Grand Cayman, we did the "Stingray City Snorkel and Swim." This was the best, and something everyone has to experience at least once. It was a great half hour boat ride out to the stingray sandbar, the water was warmer than a bath and only waist deep, and the time in the water (45 minutes) with the rays was most enjoyable.
Curaçao was the repeated excursion: another "Beach Break" - out to the Seaquarium Beach (by cab). There’s plenty of sun and shade, and lots of beach lounge chairs and nice calm, warm water. There are restrooms, various watering holes, a few little shops, etc. - a great beach and facilities. But one should go to this beach early, because by late morning/early afternoon it gets busy.
Having been to these islands before, these choices worked well for us and we would do each one again. As a footnote: RCI was wise in making people aware (via the shore excursion booklet or the shore excursion talk on the closed circuit TV) about the beaches in the Caribbean - some are "clothing optional."
If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask. Now we have to get busy planning for our November, 2000 cruise.
Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
Wes & Barb Carter are very experienced cruisers and are known to most of us old time internet users. They can be reached at email@example.com.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please