Enchantment of The Seas October 11, 1998 Western Caribbean Cruise
Enchantment of the Seas docked in Cozumel
January 1998. Photo by Sharon Jackson
This was our sixth cruise, all on Royal Caribbean, and our daughter's third. This makes my wife and I "platinum" members in the Crown and Anchor Society, which in our case actually proved to work for us. We are not ones to take tours in all of the ports: we would rather pick and chose when and where. We look at our cruise as a form of relaxation, to do what we want when we want. And most of all, we do not have unlimited funds, so we are rather picky in what we chose to see and do.
As per our normal arrangements we opted to take the day before and let RCI make all of the travel arrangements; our only requests were to leave via Milwaukee Wisconsin, an outside stateroom on the 2nd deck with room for three near the middle of the ship, and main seating for dinner. Yes, we realize that we could probably save a little money by making some of our own arrangements, but sometimes trying to get them all to match at the right time and then arranging our own transportation almost turns out to be a wash. Let Royal Caribbean make all the arrangements and save time and aggravation.
The Enchantment of The Seas was put into service in July 1997, and holds approximately 2100 guests. In our case, there were just under 2100 on board. It is a large vessel, but yet not so large that you felt tired from walking around. And to answer one of the most asked or most talked about subjects, yes I did find a couple of marks on the carpeting, but if you had 2100 people walking on you every day spilling drinks and food, I think you would have a mark or two on you. We did not find this a problem, but I did notice that every day I saw someone replacing sections of the carpeting on the stairs, painting the sides, washing windows, refinishing wood work, and the like. If you are that interested in finding faults, then I wonder why you take trips like this. Overall the ship is in wonderful condition.
Our room, 2096, was located mid-ship, right off the stairs, and only 10 steps from the elevators -- this was not a problem and no additional noise was noticed. Since there were three of us staying in the cabin this meant that one of the upper bunks had to be pulled down for our daughter. In comparison to the rooms we have had on the Nordic Empress and on the Song of America, they seemed to be larger, not by much, but probably about 10 inches. This room was not crowded in any way: there was plenty of storage space in the closet and in the drawers. The bathroom and shower also seemed to be larger. All in all, the room was plenty large enough for the three of us. If there was one complaint, there was no cold water out of the tap, the best you could expect was luke warm. Our room steward, Jamie, was excellent (we never saw him), yet our room was always perfect . . . well except for one little thing. My wife always saves some of the chocolates for our trip home, and they disappeared the morning we were leaving.
Since our last cruise, RCI has instituted a new policy: they will only change your towels when you leave them lying on the floor. There were a couple of times that we forgot to leave them on the floor. But once we remembered, it was easily corrected. Since we are "platinum" members we received free use of the terry cloth robes; they were nice; too bad we had to leave them in the room.
The dining room, My Fair Lady, located on Decks 4 and 5, aft, is a spacious room, with plenty of room to move between tables without bumping into other people. The staff was excellent, as was the food. We were seated at a table for 10 near one of the windows. The first night we were the only ones at the table, the second night another couple, who had changed from second seating, joined us. We were told that the table was listed as full, but the others never joined us.
The Windjammer Cafe is located on Deck 9, forward, on the Pool Deck. We actually found the food to be very good. It was always fresh, not greasy, and very plentiful. On some of our previous cruises we had found that some of the food lacked flavor or seemed dry. The staff was always present to assist when needed and the room was always neat and clean.
On this ship there are two pools, one forward, that is open to the weather, and the second in the "solarium," aft, which is under a movable glass canopy. When the canopy is closed, it can get warm and humid, but when it was open, it was a great place to sit. The pool areas never really seemed crowded and there were always open seats somewhere. If there was a complaint, it would be that the pools were not always open when they were supposed to be and the TILE floor was always slippery. Why would anyone ever put tile by water? It looks nice but can be very slick.
The Orpheum Theatre, located on Decks 5 and 6, forward, was the best yet: the seats are affixed to the floor with built-in lighted drink holders and no tables. The room seated 900 and never felt crowded. By having the seats permanently affixed, this prevents people from moving them to "save" them or group them together for their friends. There really isn't a bad seat in the room, but the first row or two in the upper section sometimes has the rail and Plexiglas interferes with your sight lines. The shows were all very good; they had changed them since our last trip, although we saw two of the same performers that we had seen on previous trips, but still they were enjoyable.
The Viking Crown Lounge is located on Deck 11, aft. It is only accessible by two elevators or by a hidden staircase. Sometimes it can take a while to get an elevator, but once there, it is a very spacious area and the views are wonderful: you can see all around the ship and out to sea for miles.
Deck 10 is where the beauty shop and the exercise areas are located, it also has the jogging track and some observation areas. While in port it is a great place to look and see the sights, but once under way, it gets to be a little windy.
The other lounges, all located on Deck 6, aft, all seemed to be spacious, with plenty of seating, although the Carousel Lounge had rows of chairs with the backs facing the stage and dance floor. When in use as a lounge that is fine, but they used this for the return cruisers party and lots of the games and special events -- if you sat in these chairs, you would have to turn to see what was happening. What a pain in the neck and the back!
The casino is nice, located on Deck 5, amidships, however, as is normal, it took our donations and failed to return any profits. The gift shops and photo gallery are located on Deck 6, again amidships, are very nice, but when they have the "sidewalk" sales, the aisles do get a little crowded. Unfortunately, they had sales every day, so it always seemed to be crowded by the shops.
Since we are "platinum" members, we are entitled to a 10% discount on purchases in the shops, and they actually apologized when we bought some items that were not available for discounts. However, the discount does NOT apply to the purchase of photos or drinks in the open areas of the ship. When we arrived, we received a letter welcoming us to the ship as "gold" members, yet our boarding cards stated "platinum"; a simple visit to the Purser's Desk resolved this and they placed a sticker on our ID cards to show our proper status.
We also purchased a "Coke" sticker for our daughter. As long as she would go to a bar, she would generally get her drink, however, when she would order in the theater, she would sometimes never get her drink. We did bring this to their attention at the Pursers Desk, but we did not see any improvement. Also the drinks are dispensed from the fountain and as such have a funny taste, and they are served in a small bar glass with lots of ice. As a result, I would suggest to Royal Caribbean to either use bigger glasses or issue a regular can of coke; next time I will think twice before I would purchase another one.
Something has changed with the coffee. It has always been strong, but now it almost tastes like instant, and is very strong and bitter. They also used to have dispensers for ice tea and water; if these are still present, we did not find them. Who wants to drink coffee when it's 90 plus degrees? I wish that they would put those dispensers back out in some of the areas by the pools.
We had been trying to get our Crown and Anchor Society ID cards for over two years. I did get our numbers two years ago, but never got the cards. It wasn't until we actually booked this cruise that we actually received our cards, along with a certificate for $100 dollars off on our next cruise and a free cruise video if we booked a cruise. When we went back to our travel agent, we got the discount on this cruise and the video, so it actually worked in our favor.
We heard many, many times about the "new" ship being built that would be twice as big as the Enchantment of The Seas. It was nice the first time, but it gets a little old after hearing about it almost every day. Yes, it will be a great ship, but once is enough. Funny thing, some of the staff are wondering how this new ship will really work out. The next series of new ships will be smaller and more "homey" feeling. Yes, I do want to see the new toy, but I'm not sure that I want to sail on it. I will wait and see how it works.
My wife and I have decided that we take cruises to relax, and that port visits are purely secondary in our itinerary. We do not take in much of ports or tours.
This was a short visit to a very small place, and really not enough time was spent to enjoy it. You have to remember that they were hit with a hurricane just two weeks before we arrived. There was some damage apparent by the beach area, but the town was in very good shape considering what had happened. I would have preferred to spend a couple more hours in port, but it was a nice visit.
This is really a stop to let passengers off who have booked tours in this spot. The next stop is across the bay at Cozumel. We did not book any tours in either place, but did go into town do see the sights and do some shopping. Cab rides are $4.00 regardless of the number of people in the cab. The ride into town was uneventful, but I'm not sure that the driver even spoke English. I'm glad that I had brought even money for the ride, as I'm not sure that I could have got change from him. He didn't even thank me for the $1.00 tip.
Unfortunately, the shops feel that they must try to make you come into their store; you get tired real fast of saying "NO". We did find a couple of nice stores, with a good exchange rate. (One note: it seemed that the individual stores all seemed to set their own exchange rate. Since most sell the same products, check out the rates before you buy.) The return trip was better -- that driver spoke English, and when I gave him the $5.00, he offered me $1.00 change. When I told him to keep it, he was extremely thankful. We had to fight through the gamut of shops on the pier to return to the ship. One other word of note, if you take your video camera on any of the tours that include any of the Mexican parks, they will charge you and additional $5.00 to use the camera.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I think one of the other guests on board stated the obvious. Why does Royal Caribbean even stop here? One of the first things that they inform you on the ship, if you are not taking a tour purchased on board, is that they do not recommend that you venture off on your own. I do not know if it's the luck of the first come, first served, or if Royal Caribbean has no choice in the matter. But we were tied up to the pier in what was obviously a commercial pier, while behind us a Carnival ship was tied up to one that walked to a beach and what looked like a shopping area.
Enchantment of the Seas docked in Ocho Rios
January 1998. Photo by Bob Jackson.
There was nothing that made us want to leave the ship. We had not purchased any tours, and we were not close to any shopping that was in the near vicinity; to go anywhere, we were informed that we would need a cab. We took advantage of the day to rest by the pool and people-watch. We did talk to some people who had taken some of the tours and definitely heard some mixed reviews. We also talked to people who had ventured off on their own, and did not have any warm places in their hearts for the area. So we figured that the initial warning was well founded.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman
This was the spot that we had picked to take a tour and visit the shops. We had picked the "Island Highlights": Turtle Farm, 7 Mile Beach, and Hell. It turned out to be an excellent tour. The tour includes a short stop at the "Conch Shell House" and the "Oldest House on the Island". Both very picturesque. The next stop is the town of "Hell." Granted it is a tourist trap, but we enjoyed it and spent plenty of money there. If I had one problem, it's that we only had 20 minutes; I could have spent another 20 easy. From there it's a short drive to the Turtle Farm. I had my doubts, but I found it to be very enjoyable, and I would return.
Then it was on to the world famous 7 Mile Beach. Our tour driver seemed to relish the fact that the beach is only 5 miles long, but again, it's a ten minute stop where we could have easily spent more time. Then came the return to town for shopping or returning to the ship. Shopping in town, or on the island as a whole, can be very expensive: the exchange rate was $.80 American to $1.00 Cayman. But we still found some good deals, and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that no-one was pressuring you to come in and buy. "Shop 'til you drop", see the sights, and take in the Cayman Islands. I think that if we ever get the chance we will return to Georgetown, Grand Cayman.
We were met in Miami by a cruise representative. Although she was friendly, she did lack some knowledge of the procedure. We had to ask her to repeat herself and we had to ask her to stop so that a few people could use the restrooms. This time we were taken to a special area and loaded into large charter style buses rather than using the "Super Shuttles" as in the past. It is definitely easier -- you don't have to worry about trying to squeeze everyone onto the smaller busses, along with the luggage. We were driven to the hotel, in our case the Hyatt. It is a very nice hotel, we have used it many times, but they no longer offer a "family" type restaurant. Both of the restaurants are now a little "higher" class and have prices to match. Next time we will look at other hotels offered.
One nice thing about the day-prior hotel, is that RCI has an area where they issue your boarding passes on the day of your cruise. This eliminates the need to stand in line at the ship to check in. If you have all of your documents filled out, it only takes about 2 minutes to complete this procedure. As I stated earlier, this was our 6th cruise, so we are a long way from being rookies, and know the system pretty well. But it always amazes me how many people DO NOT read the documents in advance or were not told by their travel agent what to have done before they arrived. In our case, our agent explained to us what we needed to do in advance and what to expect. This can help get your trip off to an easy start.
The loading of the buses for the trip to the ship can still use a little work. Especially when they are loading buses for more than one ship. None of us ever heard them call us for our ship, we just figured that it was our turn when all of the other people had left. Check in on the ship was a snap: show your boarding pass and pass through the metal detector. Once on board, we were directed to our room, not escorted. Each floor has at least one check in area to pick up your room keys.
As I said earlier, the rooms appear to be larger. Each room has its own safe built in that is activated by your own credit card, and it's free. The rooms have plenty of storage and the beds are very comfortable. In our case we had to use one of the pull down bunks for our daughter. It really doesn't take up any more room in the room, and we really didn't feel crowded. However when my wife and daughter were doing "their thing," I would usually leave and get some coffee or go out on deck. Overall, the cabin was just fine, and we had no problems with it.
We were also able to sign up for the tour of the bridge. This was enjoyable and insightful to learn about the workings of the ship. Did you know that they have guards making rounds of the ship and must check in at pass stations? We didn't, but did find it to be rather comforting. The ship has thousands of smoke detectors -- shows in the theater, and hot showers, can set them off. They must check out and log each instance. This ship is well controlled and maintained. We were fortunate enough to be on the bridge while the weather was picking up; the wind was a strong gale and waves were up to 20 feet. You could see the ships controls correcting for the wind and waves as the ship traveled.
The food and service was excellent, as usual, although as I stated earlier, the coffee had a taste of instant and was bitter. The Coke card is not worth the money. The coke was served in small bar glasses and came from the fountain which had a "funny" taste. Unless you or the person you buy this for drinks a lot, we believe that you are better off paying by the can. They now have cold cans, which eliminates the need for the glass and the ice. They now offer a 24-ounce glass of soda, but I would believe that it would also come from the fountain and would be filled with ice. However I did see some people ordering cans with the large glass. As I also stated earlier, we did not find any ice tea or water dispensers. This was a little disappointing; you could get hot coffee any time, but nothing cold unless you ordered bar service.
The "special cruise video" is touted all week as a way to leave your camera in your cabin, and let Royal Caribbean take your video. Well we succumbed to the hype, and believe me it's not worth the $25. It is about 15 minutes in length, using some obvious canned footage from earlier trips, and shows maybe 10 seconds of some of the different sights on and off the ship.
We had purchased a video camera just for this trip. Yes, sometimes we are a little slow to get on the bandwagon, but we took almost two hours of our own video, and maybe three minutes is duplicated on theirs and ours. Take your own and resist the urge to buy theirs. Sorry Royal Caribbean, but you really missed the boat on this one.
Our daughter is 14 years old, and was looking forward to joining the teenagers group on board. The counselors were outstanding and did a great job keeping them occupied. If there is a problem, it has to do with the times of operation. They did not start until 10:00 P.M. and would go until 2:00 A.M. My wife and I found this to be a little late, especially if you had plans in the morning, and not to mention the fact that good old mom and dad had to either stay up or get woken up when she would come in. We fully understand that there are times and schedules for all of the kids, but it can get to be a little late. We have used the "kids" groups in the past when she was younger and she just loved everything that they did for her. Do not hesitate to bring your kids if you are so inclined: they will be treated well.
If Royal Caribbean has a problem it would have to be with the debarkation process. They do so well on bringing luggage and people on board, it is a shame that something can't be done in reverse. I know the people all want to get moving on their way home, but some better form of luggage and crowd control is definitely needed, especially with the bigger ships. We met some people at the airport who had missed their flights because of delays in getting to the airport. I'm sure that it wasn't all Royal Caribbean's fault, but we were late in getting off the ship, and the crowds by the luggage trucks were almost unbearable.
Not only do you realize that your vacation is over, but if you've cruised before, you know what's coming next. In all honesty, they have improved the Customs part if you are a U.S. citizen: fill out the form and turn it in to the agent as you leave the ship. No more agents down by the luggage as you try to leave the dock area. There seemed to be some delay in clearing the ship: they kept paging people to contact the Purser's Desk, and in the meantime no one was allowed to leave the ship. Since they do not want you in your room, and the center portion of Deck 4 is closed off for Customs, it gets rather crowded, and people were getting anxious to leave. We were finally cleared about 10:00 A.M., with the tours and those with early flights leaving first.
When we were finally called, it was about 10:45 and it looked like the start of a grand prix race. Everyone with the colors called were off and running. In their unknown wisdom, the color tags on the bags presented by Royal Caribbean were not in the color-coded areas on the dock; as an example, our tags were yellow and we were in the blue section. The next task is to find all your bags: they are never next to each other. Then try to find a porter to take your bags out. Now I try to be as polite as I can and not to cut in line or cause other problems. The porter picked up our bags, asked us which airline and told us to follow him. He then dropped our bags next to the truck and told us to stand by the bags and we would be taken care of.
From there he directed us to the appropriate bus for our trip to the airport. Unfortunately, the driver told all of us that we could check in at the area set up in the parking area that he was going to drop us off in. It turned out that you could only check your luggage -- you still needed to find your airline and check in. We finally made the check-in counter and got our seat assignments and gate and managed to find the end of the line for the metal detectors. You can't blame the cruise line for the airport and you have to realize that there were at least two or three other ships that arrived that morning, and with that many people converging on the airport it's bound to get crowded -- the crowding is only to get worse when the ships get bigger.
Finally, yes we will cruise again, we are already starting to save and dream about the next one. We would take the Enchantment of The Seas again, and I wouldn't mind taking the same cruise again. Royal Caribbean continues to be our line of choice, but we are always looking at other reviews of other ships, cruise lines, and itineraries. To us, cruises continue to be the vacation of choice and an excellent value.Any questions can be directed to me at the contact information below.
Glen Hubert is a previous contributor to the SeaLetter, an experienced cruiser and can reached for questions or comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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