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Bob Rulapaugh

Age: 60

Occupation:Sales

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Mariner of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 17th, 2005

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Sailing Date: April 17th, 2005

Boarding at Port Canaveral is truly a pleasant experience. We drove up to unload our luggage and were met by a porter who efficiently whisked away our bags and we were directed to the covered parking garage. How nice to have the car under cover and not out in the elements for a week.

Security checks do take considerable time but that is a small price to pay for a safe voyage. Once past the checkpoint we made our way to the counter where we signed in and received our sea passes. Royal Caribbean did a very efficient job of getting us through this procedure and allowed us to board in a rapid fashion.

Once aboard, we went to locate our cabin on deck 9. It was a Junior Suite and was one of the “hump” cabins (299 sq. ft.) which allowed great views from the spacious (65 sq. ft.) balcony. The cabin was quite large with a walk-in closet that was more than generous and had plenty of room for hanging clothes as well as shelves for folded clothes, shoes, etc. And there was ample space for the luggage to be stored out of the way. The bathroom was spacious and contained a tub with shower. Again, ample storage space for toiletries, etc. The cabin included a queen size sleep sofa, cocktail table, club chair and ottoman in addition to the bed and dresser area which contained a small refrigerator, a TV and a safe. The cabin was well lit and a large mirror over the desk area was helpful for dressing. There was also a hair dryer in one of the drawers. There was plenty of drawer space and more shelving. Our room attendant introduced himself and gave us complimentary robes to use for our cruise and helped familiarize us with the cabin’s amenities. We did give him a “down-payment” on his tip for his services and thereafter he took very good care of us.

The luggage had not yet reached the cabin so we took a tour of the ship to get our bearings. We discovered the promenade which is truly amazing. It is like walking down a city street with shops, a wine bar, an English Pub, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and a café that had bar service as well as sandwiches, pastries, pizza and beverages that were available 24 hours. This was a great place to grab a light snack, sit and people watch.

All throughout the ship there are various artworks which we found to be a bit strange and not up to par with the artwork we enjoyed on the Grandeur last summer. Continuing our tour, we found the library, internet room, cigar lounge and other areas while making our way to the dining room to find our table. It turned out to be a table for two which is pretty rare. We were assigned to the very elegant Top Hat and Tails dining room which was on the second of three tiers. While we enjoyed having the table for two, we missed the camaraderie with our fellow shipmates.

There is so much to do and see inside and outside on this vessel. There was an ice-skating rink, a rock climbing wall, in-line skating, miniature golf, a basketball court and jogging tracks for all the sports fans. Not to mention the swimming pools, whirlpools, fitness center and day spa which had a steam bath and sauna, styling salon, and fitness seminars as well as a staff of masseuses and masseurs for luxurious massages. The Casino offered blackjack, craps, roulette and various slot machines. We found so many bars of differing themes on the ship. You are never very far from a bartender offering you all kind of exotic drinks as well as your own favorite libations. We checked out the Windjammer Café which offers a variety of buffet style meals throughout the day and night, found the alternative restaurants, Chops steak house and Portofino Italian restaurant. We made reservations for Chops for Sunday night and Portofino on another night later in the week.

Having found our way around we returned to the cabin. Our luggage had arrived so we unpacked and stowed away the luggage and had the attendant take our tuxes and jackets and formal shirts to the laundry for pressing. Surprisingly, the rates for the pressing were on par with what we would pay back home.

Our wonderful travel agent had sent us a bottle of champagne and a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries to enjoy on our balcony as the ship set sail. We too had ordered a bottle of bubbly for sailing along with a tray of hors d'oeuvres. What a pleasant beginning to a wonderful week. It was extremely windy the day we left Port Canaveral and the seas were quite rough. Neither of us suffers sea-sickness and enjoyed the rolling and swaying that makes you know you are on the high seas. After finishing our champagne, we dressed for dinner and went to the Martini Bar in the Viking Crown Lounge on the 14th deck for cocktails where we met and made friends with Archie who became our favorite bartender. Archie was very efficient and very entertaining. We had never seen so many bar tricks. He was quite the magician. After being entertained we went on to dinner at Chops. We were treated with complimentary glasses of champagne to enjoy with our appetizers. The food was very good and the service was excellent, but we discovered that the food and service were just as good in the main dining room. We canceled the reservation we had made for later in the week at Chops since we didn’t think it was worth the extra charges. After dinner we went back to see Archie and had night caps then returned to the cabin to get a good nights sleep. The rocking and swaying of the boat enabled getting to sleep quickly.

Monday morning we arrived in port at Nassau. Having been there before, we opted to stay on board and take advantage of the day spa. We had made reservations on Sunday to have massages while in port. You get a $30.00 discount for scheduling while in port. The massages were fabulous and make you feel like a million bucks. After the massages they recommend a brief time in the warm Jacuzzi. After that you are ready for a nap! It was hard to believe that something so soothing could leave you so sore the next day and for days to come. We had done the massages last summer on Grandeur and had forgotten how you feel later. We probably will not do this again. We found that the prices for massages had about doubled since last year.

After a relaxing afternoon, we had a light snack at the promenade café before heading to the cabin to don our tuxes as this was a formal night in the dining room. The little sandwiches were quite delicious and just enough to hold us over until dinner. We had a formal portrait taken on our way to dinner. The dining room service was very good. We had a great waiter and assistant waiter and bar server. After ordering martinis this night, the server had them waiting for us every other night when we arrived there for dinner. The food was varied and ample and everything we ate was delicious. Having chosen the second seating at 8:30 we could enjoy a relaxed dinner without having to hurry through the various courses. Being on vacation, we shelved the Atkins diet and totally enjoyed eating all those things we normally would not have. Rediscovering bread was fantastic. And the desserts were to die for!

We had eaten breakfast on the balcony that morning. Room service was very gracious and the food was wonderful. You can’t go wrong with scrambled eggs with salmon and caviar to top them with. Other mornings we ate in the dining room and since this is open seating we were able to meet a lot of nice folks. Only once did we eat breakfast at the Windjammer. The buffet can be like a zoo and we found the dining room much more to our liking.

Lunches, like breakfast are open seating in the dining room, once again giving us the opportunity to meet more passengers. Lunch menus were very good and again the food was wonderful. One afternoon we ate at Johnny Rockets which was a real treat. Cheeseburgers, fries and malts. We were in heaven! And to add to the fun, the waiters and waitresses put on a song and dance show that was quite entertaining.

Having sailed with Royal Caribbean before, we had become members of the Crown and Anchor Society which afforded us with a coupon book that had lots of good values and a welcome back cocktail party with the Captain. That was very nice. There was good entertainment and plenty of waiters passing trays of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Also we had signed up for a Meet and Mingle with members of CruiseCritic.com. There was a reception given by Royal Caribbean with refreshments and entertainment and drawings for door prizes. We each won something so that made it even more fun.

When we arrived at port in St. Thomas we were among 6 other ships. When we left Port Canaveral we sailed behind a Disney ship and a Carnival ship. We saw them at various times during our cruise. We had signed up for an excursion tour. Our driver met us at the ship and took us in to the older downtown section for a couple hours of shopping. We had never seen so many jewelry and liquor stores in such a small town! Seemed funny to be so far from home and yet see chain restaurants we are so familiar with. We browsed through a few shops and stumbled on a shop that sold Waterford crystal. There was a rep there from Ireland and he was signing and dating pieces. We bought a pair of martini glasses (what else?) in the Lismore pattern that is difficult to find at home. They were kind enough to have them signed for us and then sent them home by US Priority Mail.

Turned out that they actually arrived home before we did! We returned to the town square where we met up with our tour group and went on a two hour tour of the island.

The driver was very informative and we learned a lot about the island. We were taken all the way to the top of the highest mountain which was over 1500 feet above sea level.

There is a tourist trap on top of the mountain that has gift shops and a bar, food concessions and viewing deck from which you could see so much. The driver would stop along the way for photo shoots so we got some really good pictures. They also stop at three different beaches where one could swim or snorkel. This made for a fun day. It was 86 degrees and very sunny. Having taken in the sights we were returned to the port where we were ready to shower and change for the evening. The biggest problem was getting off the ship once in port. We had to go through Customs since we had been in a foreign port and once off the ship we had to go through a gate with a turnstile that allowed only one person at a time to get through. Needless to say this slowed down getting hooked up with our tour guide.

Our next port was St. Maarten. The port here was designed specifically for cruise ships and was quite pleasant and very clean. There were very modern shops and hotels near the port. We had reserved an excursion here aboard the Lord Sheffield, a square rigged sail boat like a pirate ship. There were several others on board. We were motored out of port and then they unfurled the sails and we were swept away by the trade winds. Our Captain and his crew were very accommodating. They served rum punch, two kinds of beer, sodas and ice water. They passed trays of cheese and French bread and Buffalo wings. The wind was quite strong and one of us lost a straw hat to the sea, which later resulted in a bad sunburn. We had already lost one straw hat in the wind at Port Canaveral while walking from the garage to the Port. At any rate, the Captain sailed along the Dutch side of the island until we reached the French side. We had sailed past the airport and saw several planes land and take off. Once on the French side, the Captain dropped anchor and they had snorkeling gear on board for those who wanted to explore and several folks got in the water for a swim. We did not have our swim suits on so we did not partake of these festivities. We were anchored in front of a hotel which we were told is the most expensive on the island, $1500.00 a night! Their guests include personalities like Johnny Depp. After the swimming and snorkeling and all were back on board we set sail back to port. The winds were blowing in the wrong direction so we had to motor back to shore.

Without the sails providing some shade, the sun burns got worse. We had both worn sandals and even though we had slathered ourselves well with sun block, the sun was so fierce that we got burns on our feet as well. These things will help us prepare for our next journey! We were happy to get back on ship after having walked from the Lord Sheffield back to port. We both had really healthy glows from the sunburn but it wasn’t hurting too badly. Soothing showers prepared us for another evening enjoying onboard life.

The shows on the ship are amazing. Imagine the Ice Capades appearing on a moving ship! This was most entertaining and enjoyable. We also saw variety shows with singers and dancers, comedians, jugglers, clowns and the like. There is a movie theatre that is used for various activities besides full length motion pictures. We played BINGO there one afternoon. We did not win a nickel but had a good time anyway. We saw a cooking demonstration and bought a cookbook which contains recipes for much of the food served onboard. And we got to sample the fare that was prepared before us. Another afternoon we watched a crew member do a napkin folding demo which was very heavily attended. There were not enough napkins on hand to go around so we just watched. Probably wouldn’t remember how to do some of them anyway!

One evening we ate at Portofino. We really enjoyed this experience, the food was totally different and very good. The service was outstanding, better we thought than it was at Chops.

One afternoon we discovered the Peek-a-boo Bridge which has windows overlooking the Captain’s bridge. We were able to see some of the officers doing their duties and some of the equipment used to navigate the seas. Pretty amazing stuff! Also we were able to walk all the way to the bow of the ship where one can do the scene from Titanic! It was very windy there and we had to hold on to our glasses so they would not be blown off our faces. There is a heliport on this part of the ship but we did not get to see it being used.

Our Captain had a great personality and wonderful sense of humor. One afternoon he hosted a question and answer session that was indeed informative. In answer to one question he replied that he was really not a Captain but had stayed at a Holiday Inn Express one night. That’s the kind of humor he exhibited.

The crew on this ship is very international with staff from all around the world, unlike the Grandeur staff which seemed mostly to be from the Caribbean islands. All in all, we would have to say that the week was a complete joy for us and overlooked the annoying things that can happen. Our Loyalty Ambassador had talked us out of going in March because Easter was early and that meant spring breaks so she talked us into mid April. Who knew it would be spring break in New England? The ship was loaded with kids on their spring break. Even though the ship provides plenty of entertainment and activities for them, they seemed to become restless after the first couple of days. It was often difficult to get up or down on elevators because the kids would ride them, push all the buttons and just drive you crazy. They would gather on the stairways making it difficult to get past them. I can only blame the parents who let their kids run loose and unchaperoned.

Once back at Port Canaveral we arose early, showered, dressed and went off to breakfast in the main dining room. Our debarkation color tag was called while we were eating and once finished gathered our belongings and proceeded to disembark. We were met at the luggage carousel by a very efficient porter who swiftly found our bags and loaded them on a cart. We figured he would take us to curbside but he actually wheeled our luggage all the way to the car in the garage. Great service. We were on our way by 9:00 a.m.

We have already booked our next cruise on Royal Caribbean sailing out of Baltimore on the Grandeur of the Seas on September 2 for nine days with our destination being Cozumel. We are looking forward to that cruise since we have not been to Mexico before and this cruise has more sea days which we truly enjoy.

 

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