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Sue/Mike McCulley\

Age: 33

Occupation:office/clerical

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Enchantment of the Seas

Sailing Date: August 26th, 2004

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Sue/Mike McCulley

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This was our third cruise together, the first being on Royal Caribbean for our Bahamas honeymoon, the 2nd on Princess cruise lines for a fantastic trip to Alaska. We had not planned on taking a vacation this year but to much overtime led my husband to believe I needed a break from work (who was I to argue?!!) so we booked only about a month in advance, quite a contrast from the usual 6-7 months we usually plan around. We enjoyed our honeymoon cruise on Nordic Empress but did not have nearly enough time to spend on the boat (being only a 3 night cruise) so we decided to go with a 4 night for this vacation and when I saw the Enchantment spent one entire day at sea, we were sold!

Our flight down went smoothly and after retrieving our luggage, we were able to easily find the Royal Caribbean personnel around the baggage claim area. Although we chose not to use R. C. ‘s air/sea program and booked our flights separate from the cruise, we did purchase the bus transfers to and from the dock offered through the cruise line. I do not know if a taxi may have been cheaper (transfer cost around $22 roundtrip) but it was nice to sit back and know that for the next several days the cruise lines would take of everything. Let the relaxation begin!

· Try to bring $2 bills along if you can, they work great for tipping your driver, etc.

The embarkation went smoothly as we arrived at the dock around 1:30 to find fewer lines than expected but numerous personnel standing by to prepare for the larger crowds. Make sure to have your cruise documents filled out in advance (you can also do so online up to a few days prior to sailing) to help speed things up. First up was the photo taken for security purposes (a change from our last cruise in 2000) followed by the obligatory “can’t-wait-till-we-get-on-board” ship photo before being issued your sea pass card and boarding the ship.

We originally booked the cheapest inside cabin available and were pleasantly surprised to find we had been upgraded to slightly larger inside cabin (#7123). Although it still seemed small, the location was in a nice spot, two decks below the food, and two decks above the entertainment so it worked out well. The cabin was very clean and plenty of storage space. I also liked the heavy curtain that can be used to split the room so as not to disturb someone sleeping in bed (although it can be hard to find time to sleep!) We had debated going with an ocean view but decided against it, as there were numerous viewing areas around the ship, hard to find a bad spot in which to watch the world go by! We had booked our excursions online (recommended if you really want a particular excursion or time slot—excursions can be booked online up to 10 days prior to sailing) but the tickets were not waiting for us in our cabin like the ships compass (newsletter) stated they should be. A quick visit to the purser’s desk and we were assured they would be there by 7, sure enough, problem solved! They were having “open houses” around the ship, letting you see the salon, gym, etc. and giving mini tours. If you have any interest in getting a massage, getting your hair done, etc, sign up a.s.a.p. as slots fill up fast! We signed up for a “partner massage” class where you each learn a few basic techniques to use on your significant other. Relaxing and they give you a free bottle of oil to take home.

We had signed up for the second seating but chose not to eat in the My Fair Lady dining room so we cannot comment on the food served there. We ate all our meals in the buffet style Windjammer Café, with the exception of grabbing a cheeseburger once at the solarium grill. My husband and are not fancy eaters and I tend to eat very bland foods so my concern was finding items my finicky taste bids could be happy with. Not a problem! The windjammer served a variety of foods ranging from soups, salads and chicken to lamb, beef and pasta. Even my picky taste buds were encouraged to try new things (although most I admit, were from the desert tables!) I thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast buffet in the mornings but we mostly ate by the pool as the main dining area filled quickly.

In Key West we had signed up for the parasailing. At this point I must reveal that I am terrified of deep water (although being on a cruise ship does not faze me at all!) so I was ok until we got up 400+ feet in the air and all that below was the beautiful blue-green ocean. To late to change my mind! It was fun however and a gives you a great bird’s view, even if for just a few minutes.

· Make sure to take a camera (disposable only) up with you when parasailing for some great aerial shots.

· Wear your swimsuits under your clothes (shoes, etc are left in the boat), as you will get “dipped” in the water as you are pulled in. If you do not want to get wet, just make to tell your guides so they an accommodate you—otherwise enjoy the warm water!

We roamed around Key West and visited the Mel Fisher museum (a good stop for any one interested in treasure hunting) and hit several stores, including one specializing in just flip-flops/sandals. Key west is very easy to negotiate and pretty laid back with the boat dock within sight of the main street. Just keep an eye on your watches. The cruise ship had to leave 6 people behind in Key West, as they did not board in time!

· You will always need your sea-pass card when exiting the ship. Upon reentering you will need your sea pass card and a photo id or you will be denied boarding!! This is done for security reasons and they will check these cards!

The next day we went to Cozumel where I had booked us on the Tulum/Xel Ha combo tour. We had seen the ruins of Chitzen Itza several years back and really enjoyed them so I was looking forward to seeing the picturesque Tulum. Xel Ha looked to be a refreshing break from the heat so booked the combo tour even though we knew from other reviews our time would be limited at both. After taking the ferry to Playa Del Carmen, we walked about five minutes to an air-conditioned bus. They were selling sunhats and baseball caps for $5 USD at the buses and in hindsight should have purchased one. The bus did make one stop at a souvenir shop along the way. Many interesting items and they did sell small bottles of water for $1 USD in case you forgot to bring some. It was extremely hot at the ruins; even with a good breeze there was little comfort. (The heat index was 110 degrees at Key West so I did not even ask what it was at Tulum!) Our tour lasted about 45 minutes, which only left about 15 minutes of free time before you had to walk back to catch the bus. Again keep your eye on your watches! The ruins were interesting and the water gorgeous blue green and tantalizingly close. You can walk directly on the beach but unless you have your swimsuits underneath your shorts, you will not have time to enjoy it. On the way back to the bus, the sweat started to roll into my eyes so I headed for the restroom to wash up. Surprise! They charge to use the bathrooms (.25 USD) and they even had a limit of two paper towels per person. Interesting.

· Wear light comfortable clothing and make sure to bring plenty of water. A small towel or washcloth on your person might not be a bad idea wither. A sun hat would help prevent sun burnt faces and scalps.

· It is roughly ½ mile walk from the parking lot to the ruins. There is a trolley that will take you (one way) for $2 USD

On to Xel Ha! We lost about 15 minutes of our time at Xel Ha due to a young couple not boarding the bus at the ruins. The driver waited as long as he could but did not want to put us any further behind schedule. (Fortunately the couple did reunite with our group later after having to borrow pesos from a tour guide at Tulum to pay their way to Xel Ha). Xel Ha was nice, pretty easy to get around and lots to see. Unfortunately for water-phobic me, it took my supportive husband a good 20 minutes for me to even get a few yards from the shore, even with the life jacket on. That, along with the delay getting there, plus needing time to shower and change meant our time at Xel Ha was over far to soon. The water was wonderfully clear and easy to see the variety of fish swimming about. In the water, even at just a few yards out, you could physically feel the temperature change difference between your head to your toes, the result of fresh water against ocean water. I would really have liked to see more of Xel Ha and if we were to take a trip to Cancun sometime, I would try to arrange for a day trip.

· You can rent the snorkel, mask and fins separately, or as a package for $10 USD per person. You must leave an id (driver’s license, etc) as a deposit. You get to keep the snorkel tube and you are welcome to use a life vest for free.

· You can rent a locker (big enough to hold two person’s belongings) and two towels for just under $10 USD

· The lockers are wooden but they are sturdy, (our locker key was worn on a necklace) and there are several attendants walking the locker area to keep an eye on things and make sure you are only using approved suntan lotions.

Upon boarding the bus we were offered refreshments (water, soda or beer) to go along with our box lunches. The box lunch contained a sandwich, cookie, muffin and crackers. We then returned to Playa Del Carmen to board the return ferry back to Cozumel. The ferry ride was a little choppier in the afternoon than it had been in the morning but still manageble and we were treated to a gorgeous sunset along the way. While we were at Tulum, a photographer (working for R. C.?) took our pictures in front of the main castle. The same woman magically appeared on the return ferry, glossy photos in hand available for purchase. It would have been a nice souvenir if I did not look like I had just spent an hour walking in 100-degree heat! Since the combo tour took pretty much the entire day, it does not give you any time to wander through Cozumel.

- If you plan on shopping in Cozumel, make sure to hit the shopping lectures given on board the ship, or catch then replayed later on your TV. Often times you will get coupons on board the ship to hit certain stores or they will tell you certain sales going on. I don’t know if these stores “partner” with the cruise lines but at the very least they will have information regarding stores that are not so reputable, best to know before you make that jewelry purchase so you don’t get “burned” 3000 miles away at home when you’re getting that “bargain” appraised.

The next day was spent at sea. My husband climbed the rock wall (again) and I made myself slow down enough to catch some sun out on the deck. As long as you don’t have to sit by the main pool, there are plenty of deck chairs to relax on. There are always numerous activities to do, so check out your cruise compass to see what's available or carry a copy with you.

· They give you a mini map of the ship when you board, however it is only a side view. More detailed maps showing all decks from the top as if you were floating above them (similar to what you are shown in the R.C. cruise catalogs) can be found in a rack attached to the wall across from the purser’s desk. You can also pick up extra copies of the daily cruise compass there as well.

· Bring some comfortable sandals or light shoes for just wandering around the ship. You can wander barefoot of course around the pool but it can be hot!

I guess my only complaint would be the size of the two pools. The main one was only quiet in the early morning or late evening. The pool in the solarium was not as crowded but often time’s parents would bring their children over even though there is a sign stating it is for adults only. Both pools were saltwater and they did not seem to have any set operating hours that I could see.

-Make sure to see as many shows as you can for they are top-notch. The comedians on our ship included Carl Strong and jugglers Howie and Bert. Try to see both at least once! Excellent! The singing/dancing shows were great, very talented groups all around. On the last night I lost my cruise pass card. I was done buying all my trinkets but I knew I would need it to exit the ship for the final time so I went to the purser’s desk where in about a minute I was issued a new one.

The morning of departure (sigh) we had to exit our room by 10. We went to our designated waiting area (Carrousel lounge) but the doors were locked so we waited outside for a few minutes. Promptly at ten, a gentleman unlocked the doors and we sat down to wait for our departure color to be called. Around 30 minutes later we exited the ship, were reunited with our luggage, and boarded our transfer bus to the airport. Our flight did not leave until almost 1:30 and we were in the terminal shortly after 11 so plenty of time to wander and grab a bite to eat before the flight home. Overall a very pleasant cruise and would do it again.

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