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Tom Doran

Age: 30

Occupation:Firefighter

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Enchantment of the Seas

Sailing Date: NOT FOUND

Itinerary: Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
the Seas
Sailing Date: January 26th, 2003


Having cruised with RCCL twice before on Sovereign of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas we decided once again to sail with RCCL. My wife and I had decided to see the western Caribbean this time so we booked our cruise on Enchantment of the Seas. I would like to mention that we are Crown and Anchor Society members (Gold) and highly recommend to everyone who has sailed with RCCL at least once before and considering sailing with RCCL again to join the Crown and Anchor Society for their incentives they give for returning members. Other cruise lines, so I’ve been told, have similar membership programs. The Crown and Anchor Society designates those members with 1-5 cruises as Gold members, 6-10 as platinum, and greater than 10 cruises as diamond. Obviously the more you sail the greater the benefits given. The benefits include drink coupons (only water, iced tea, and lemonade are free on the ship), gift shop coupons, casino coupons, incentives for buying pictures that are taken of you throughout the cruise, and on and on. Also, members are exclusively invited by invitation to the “Welcome Back Party” that is thrown where, believe it or not, FREE drinks are handed out during this one hour party where there is live music and hors d’overs. The Master (captain of the ship) introduces all the big wigs on the ship and answers questions about RCCL and the ship itself. It actually is quite interesting and they profusely thank everyone for their return business on RCCL. It is a very nice event to attend. And a side note for all those who are already Crown and Anchor members, I was just informed that within the next two years you will be credited a cruise towards the next level of membership whether you sail Celebrity or Royal Caribbean….keep your eye out in future newsletters.

EMBARKATION:
My wife and I favor arriving the day before the cruise sails to avoid the hassle of beating the clock to get to the airport and gamble on flight delays the day of the cruise. Arriving the day before allows you to relax and get a good night sleep, have a good breakfast, and take your time getting to the cruise terminal.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale and was quite pleased with the hotel. We were given free drinks, dinner, and breakfast with the cost of the room. Also a free shuttle was provided from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the cruise terminal. Our book that we received from RCCL informed us that boarding time was 2 pm, though in actuality they started the boarding at 1130 am. We left on the shuttle from the hotel at 1:45 and arrived at the cruise terminal shortly thereafter. To our surprise there weren’t any lines and we walked directly to a window to complete the necessary paperwork and receive our “SeaPass” card. This card is your key to your room, what you use to board on and off the ship, and for ALL purchases on the ship (drinks, pictures, bingo cards, gift shop items, etc.). Also, don’t be surprised what the bill states at the end of the week. We also tried what RCCL refers to as a category X booking. Category X simply means that you are guaranteed the category room you purchased with the possibility of being upgraded if the category room you purchased is completely booked. The catch is that you are not guaranteed where on the ship your room will be. We spoiled ourselves on Adventure of the Seas and booked a balcony room. We promised ourselves that from then on we would have a balcony room and that is what we booked on the Enchantment. At the window the agent, who might I add was very friendly and helpful, informed us that there were still rooms in our booked category available and that we would not be upgraded this cruise. We were ok with this because we were already aware that this might happen and knew that we still would have that balcony room. We completed the check-in process and boarded the ship. We found our room and it was great with the exception that it was the last balcony room in the back of the ship and there was a storage closet that was quite unappealing and the partition separating the balcony of the room next door was loose. We went to the pursers desk and were informed that to make a room change we would need to get off the ship and start the check-in process again. Well…as you can imagine this was a headache but the agent was accommodating and reassigned us to a much nicer area of the ship. The only hassle then was trying to get our checked baggage delivered from the room on the tag to our new room. It eventually made it a couple hours later.

The ship hosted a “Sail Away” party and though it was quite cool outside it was fun. After that the ship had a Super Bowl Party with TV’s setup and in the Schooner Bar and Carousel Lounge with hot dogs and hamburgers.

Ports of Call:
Day 2 (Key West) Though the shore excursions can be pricey I think they are fair and the tour operators are well picked. Standing on our balcony in the early am we watched the ship dock pier side and though it was cool outside it was sunny. We chose the nature kayaking tour and after a twenty minute bus ride from the pier to the excursion point we boarded a 2 person kayak. We spent almost 3 hours following our guide through the mangroves and learned quite a lot about nature and the keys. We enjoyed this excursion and headed back to the pier where we browsed through many stores before returning to the ship.

That night was the first of two formal nights and we decided to skip the formal nights this cruise and eat in the Windjammer Café. It is probably the best Windjammer that we have seen so far and that goes for the service and décor as well.

Day 3 (Cozumel) We chose to do the Tulum/ Xel Ha excursion. On the tickets it said there would be a 40 minute boat ride from the pier to Playa del Carmen and the seas could be rough at times. That was an understatement because 90 percent of the people on board the craft were bringing up breakfast and then some. I was impressed though that the staff on board the craft was prepared and handed out bags and paper towels to those prior to getting sick. I am was pleased that the tickets had the forewarning about this.

Once on land and when everyone had there bearings straight, we were led to several buses that took us on an hour trip to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. We had a guide on our bus by the name of Caesar that was phenomenal. His English was excellent and you could easily tell that he had a passion for his job. We made a bathroom stop along the way and were given bottled water and box lunches. We arrived at Tulum where Ceasar took us on a tour of the ruins. It was great. We were then left on our own for 45 minutes of exploring and picture taking of the ocean and ruins. I’d like to note that a shuttle is offered to and from the parking lot to the ruins for a dollar fifty round trip. If you are unable to walk a half mile then take the shuttle. Otherwise it is a nice walk. IF you are a returning visitor to Tulum, you are no longer able to climb on the ruins.

After our enjoyable time at Tulum we boarded the bus for Xel Ha (Shell-ha).Xel Ha is a huge lagoon where you can Snuba (snorkel/scuba), swim with the dolphins (with prior reservations), lay out, or snorkel. The cost to snorkel is 10 USD and is NOT included in the cost of the excursion. It was very nice but I’ve snorkeled in better areas. It is a very clean park and is privately owned and the staff is very accommodating. We were then bused back to Playa del Carmen and brought to a boat to take us back to Cozumel. You should’ve seen the look on people’s faces with the thought of having to go through with what we had this morning on the boat ride. Surprisingly, we were placed on a catamaran boat and the ride back was fine. With the exception of the terrible ferry ride from the ship to Playa, I highly recommend this excursion.


Day 4 (Costa Maya)
Costa Maya is a relatively new port for cruise ships and there is pretty much nothing to do with the exception of a couple of restaurants and shops. I kind of like this though because it is one of the few ports that is not commercialized. (Unfortunately this will be a different story in 10 years). We chose the Dune Buggy Beach Adventure Excursion. (This excursion fills up fast so book early). The group was led to the dune buggies and groups of four were assigned to a buggy. Sheila and I were paired up with a very nice couple and they said we could drive (by the way you need your drivers license to drive). I haven’t driven stick in a while and of course these were not the best dune buggies that money could by. That on top of first gear being worn out made driving very interesting. We were informed that we would have and hour trip down a bumpy dirt road along the coast and would see old houses and a fishing village. Sure enough the road was bumpy and we saw plenty of old houses with no water or electricity. The people were very friendly with a wave as you passed by. I gave up driving half way and let the couple we were with finish the driving. That was fine because I was able to take in the view and cam cord. We arrived at the beach where free refreshments and food were offered along with sea kayaks, hammocks, volleyball, floating mats, and chairs. The temperature was about 80 and very relaxing as Sheila and I slept in the hammocks. We then returned to the dune buggies and drove for 45 minutes on a desolate concrete road back to the pier. Again, I highly recommend this excursion unless medical problems prevent you from doing so. There are very few excursions at this port of call.

Day 5 (At Sea)

Day 6 (Grand Cayman) I always make an attempt to Scuba Dive at least once during the cruise and it was a toss up between Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Sheila wanted to go to Stingray City (a very popular excursion) so I chose to dive here. As most of you already know, the Cayman Islands pride themselves on their beautiful waters and reefs and have chosen to not allow a cruise ship pier to be built. (I can’t blame them.) Therefore, to reach land you need to take a short ride via a tender. The Enchantment has several life boats that are designed as tenders to do this. I commend them on the continuous tender service they provided that day. Sheila loved her excursion to Stingray City. I boarded the tender to shore and was met by a representative of the dive operator that I was going to be with that day. A dive boat arrived and we boarded the boat on the beach. A crew member began filming us as we boarded the boat and informed us that she would be filming us during our dives. I was pleased about that and noted that I was interested in purchasing a copy. We were informed by the dive masters of the days agenda. The name of the dive operator is Red Sail Sports and I highly recommend them. Of course to do any dive excursion you are required to posses an open water dive certification and sign a release.

We dove Great House Wall and the Wreck of the Ora Verde. Both dives were excellent, the crew very professional, and the equipment and the boat in excellent condition. The visibility was 70 –100 feet and the water temp. was 82 degrees Fahrenheit at 80 feet. I chose to dive without a wet suit and was fine. Several of the people I dove with that day also dove in Cozumel an stated that Cozumel was a much better dive. *** For those planning to dive, I highly recommend Nassau Scuba Centre in Nassau and do the Tongue of the Ocean dive but do NOT recommend the dive excursion in Curacao (the dive operator in Curacao was extremely unprofessional with poor equipment and terrible organization). The above are dive excursions I’ve done with RCCL in the past.****

After my dive excursion I returned to the ship, changed clothes, and Sheila and I went back ashore to browse the shops. I highly recommend trying the Tortuga Rum cakes. Every store you go seems to have plenty of samples for free. It is excellent. Grand Cayman is beautiful, clean, and friendly and I can’t wait to visit again.

Day (6) At Sea

Dining:
As I said earlier the Windjammer aboard the Enchantment is beautiful, clean, and the food is great. The service is excellent especially in the evening when things are quiet. The formal dining room named “My Fair Lady” is as gorgeous as the other two ships we’ve been on and the professional service and exquisite food is highly noted. We were fortunate to sit with three other couples that were very friendly and interesting to talk with.

Excursions:
As you read above, we were very happy with the excursions we booked. On that topic, I highly recommend that you book all of your excursions online on the RCCL website. By doing so, you guarantee yourself that you will be able to get that excursion rather than risking the excursion being sold out by waiting to book on the ship. Now, you can only book the excursions online prior to 10 days of the ship departing. The RCCL website will not allow you to book excursions within 10 days of the ships departure date and you can not book excursions over the phone with RCCL.

Casino:
If you’re like me and have to be in the casino every night then read the following. The slots are not loose at all and I have yet to see anyone win big on any of the three cruises. Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud Poker though fun to play are sucker games. Craps dice can be swayed with the gentle roll of the ship so I stay away from it though I love craps. Blackjack is the game of choice for me with 5 and 10 dollar table minimums. Though Roulette has terrible odds, I played and did very well. The casino bar and wait staff is accommodating. The dealers on this cruise were very friendly unlike the crew on Sovereign and Adventure. If you are considering to cruise your first time beware that the casino is closed while in ports of call.

Shows:
The bands, shows, guest stars, and musicians throughout the ship were excellent.

Rooms:
The room was very nice except this time it seemed the walls were paper thin and we could hear everything from the rooms next door unlike Sovereign and Adventure. Maybe we just had very quiet people the last two cruises. And of course the state room attendant was friendly and performed as expected with room turnover and evening bed turndown.

Crew Professionalism and Ship Cleanliness:
As always the crew was very professional and the staff very accommodating whenever we had an issues. The ship was immaculate and cleaning staff could be seen in the late evening and early am cleaning the ship throughout. The pools areas were clean and pools and Jacuzzis were drained and cleaned each evening. The shipshape center was proportionate to the ship size and the spa offered numerous services. Steiner, the contracted spa company, has a monopoly on all the ships and their personnel can be stuck up at times. We utilized their services and were happy with the exception of them to push their products during or after a service is provided. The photo crew did not seem as pushy to get a picture every five seconds this cruise and when I kindly stated that I was not interested in a picture without my wife in Grand Cayman they kindly obliged.

Overall:
Though sometimes RCCL contradicts themselves, we have been pleased with all three cruises and will most definitely recommend Royal Caribbean to anyone. Every cruise we take we are saddened the last day of the cruise and immediately start researching and anticipating where we will go for our next cruise as soon as we get home.

*** I would like to add that after reading multiple reviews on web sites and books and talking with many long time cruisers, all the cruise lines have their pros and cons and the experience that one may have on the same cruise as another will differ greatly simply based on expectations and time and place incidents. For those of you considering your first cruise, keep an open mind and remember that the staff on the cruise ships work very hard to please all but at the same time are human beings that work long hours and work contracts of years at a time. Also, even though the atmosphere of a modern cruise ship portrays that of a resort please remember that it is still a ship on the open water and will react as one. We are considering the Alaska cruise, Eastern Caribbean, and Europe as future possibilities. Any Questions please feel free to email me at Irishff14@aol.com

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