Occupation:Energy Acct. Tech.
Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Sovereign of the Seas
Sailing Date: September 20th, 2004
This was mine and my husband's 4th cruise aboard this ship. (My sister got married on the ship in 2002 and we were hooked.)
We have read a lot of cruise reviews and have learned a lot from experience. I am not going to give a day by day review, but rather tips to help you. I hope that this review is helpful.
The port was easy to find with the new digital signs along the toll road 528 (Beeline expressway).
The first place you will come to is luggage drop-off. They are pretty nice and helpful if you have any questions. Tip the baggage guy. We usually give $5. That seems to be the going price. (Remember these guys have your cruise wardrobe in their hands.)
Parking charges are $10 a night in a secured parking area. We find this to be worth it since we live in Orlando. If you stay at one of the hotels in the area before the cruise, they will usually let you stay parked at the hotel and shuttle you to the port. Parking in the hotel lots usually at your own risk, so keep that in mind.
We arrived at 11:45 am and were on board at 12:15pm. The rooms on the lower decks do not open until 1:00pm so keep this in mind if you arrive prior to that time. We usually book on deck two or three so I do not know if the staterooms on the upper decks open earlier. The Windjammer is open for lunch on the first day until 2:30ish, so we generally try to board the ship in time for lunch. (more about the food in a minute.)
TIPS FOR THE FIRST DAY:
If you plan to board before your stateroom opens, keep your carry-on luggage light. You will have to tote it with you. The rest of your luggage should be in front of or in your stateroom prior to dinner.
Bring air freshner. We usually bring a glade plug-in for the room and a spray can for the bathroom. Trust me. Cruise food is rich, if you know what I mean. :)
There will be a mandatory drill at approx. 4:30pm. The procedures will be playing on the TV in your stateroom when you arrive. Don't worry, it's easy and fairly short. The staff will guide you to where you need to be. My tip here is to wait until the exact time to go to your station. If you are an early bird, you will be stuck in the back and it will seem longer. On the last two cruises we waited and it was much better.
When you get your luggage, hang up anything that needs it and check for wrinkles. They do not have irons in the room due to safety issues. I brought my own on my first cruise and found it nearly impossible to do a good job in such limited space. The second cruise, I used the ship's service and had the few items that needed it pressed for about $7. It was very reasonable and they did an excellent job. For the last two cruises I brought along a handheld garment steamer. Rowenda (spelling?) is the brand. It was great and I recommend it. (Black and Decker has one called "gizmo" but it is not as good for ease of use.)
Explore the ship. Use the stairs, as everyone will be trying to use the elevators. If you have trouble climbing stairs or are wheelchair bound, the wait for the elevators is longer on the first day, but eases up during the cruise. We never waited longer that 3 to 5 minutes. Be patient, you are on vacation. :)
My favorite places for departure:
If you want to kick back and see the scenery - Viking Crown Room on Deck 14
If you want to kick up your heels, they usually have a party thing around the pool (weather permitting) - Deck 11
If you are prone to motion sickness, Target has a really good generic brand (hense inexpensive)for motion sickness and it is made by Dramamine. If you do not have a Target where you live, NON-DROWSY Dramamine or NON-DROWSY Bonine are great. Remember to take it one hour before sailing. It works great.
ABOUT THE SHIP:
The ship is 16 years old. There is some signs of wear. The ship will be going into dry dock for refurbishments in November and will be ready to sail Dec. 13th. They are redoing the dinning rooms and adding a Johnny Rockets and a Seatle's Best coffee house. Deck 10 will be getting balcony rooms. My husband and I are already booked for February 05. We can't wait to see the changes.
The staterooms are small, as on most cruiseships. You wont be in there much anyway. If you must have more room, book in the suites.
Oceanview on the lower decks is a porthole. I recommend oceanview so that light will filter through in the mornings. Interior rooms are totally dark and you could sleep the day away. :) (but hey, you are on vacation)
Deck 7 - you can walk around the perimeter of the entire ship.
Deck 5 - Shopping and Casino! (while in international waters)
I won $50 on this cruise.
Deck 4 - Purser's desk/shore excursion desk/internet access (50 cents a minute)/Loyalty Ambassador (to book future cruises like we did)
See the shows. They are pretty good. We one saw one this time, because we have already seen them 3 times prior. The headliners change few months so that is what we go see now.
TIP FOR THE MOTION SENSITIVE:
Book on deck 2, 3 or better 4. Book in the middle of the ship. The crew says deck 4 is the best. The higher you are, the more the ship moves in rough waters. We sat in the Viking Crown Room (deck 14) as the ship passed through the remnants of IVAN. (It crossed back over South Florida as a depression) The ship was ROCKING! But, thanks to our Target brand dramamine, we were fine and kind of had fun with it.
Eat in the dinning room for dinner. The wait staff is excellent. The food is very good. (Although, I do not recommend any of the pasta dishes - they taste warmed over.) My husband made a special request to get the normally battered/fried Mahi-Mahi blackened instead. Another person at our table wanted it that way too. They did it. We were very impressed.
If you want healthy food, they have selections each night to choose from and they are very good.
Switch it up. Eat in the dinning room one day and then the Windjammer the next. Or do both on the same day...you're on vacation aren't you.
DINNER TIMES: If you are into doing many activities during the day, the Second seating may be for you. It is at 8:30pm. One drawback to that is that there is not much on board to eat right before your seating. We did the 2nd seating thing on the 1st cruise and were usually starving by the time dinner came around. BUT, it is good because you do not have to rush back from activities to get ready.
We always have Main seating now. We sometimes feel rushed, but I think it is better than being hungry. You choose.
IN COCO CAY:
We have heard that the parasailing is awesome. My husband just had back surgery this year so we haven't tried it yet.
Get a coco loco. You can get it with rum or virgin style. It's a frozen drink and it comes in a soveneir cup. I wait until I have been in the sun for a while and then it's totally refreshing.
**top secret tip** in Coco Cay. Get there early (before 9:30 or 10:00) and walk around the island to the right after you get off the tender. Keep going right and follow the path. You will come to a place with hammocks hanging in the trees, and very little people. There is a bar (beer and coco loco's only - maybe coca cola too) and a restroom so you are all set.
This is the same place that the kiyacks leave from and return to.
If you want braids - know how much you are going to spend before they start your hair. They usually charge $2 or $3 dollars PER BRAID. Settle the charge up front.
If you want to go shopping - check out the shopping information session on board the ship. This is usually the day before you arrive in Nassau. They have excellent advise and prizes too.
If you want shore excursions - book them in advance before the cruise. The lines are long at the shore excursion desk on the ship.
If you want organized tours, take the ship sponsored excursions. If you are adventureous, take taxi's or ferries. Do not rent scooters unless you are familliar with the area. They can be dangerous or even deadly.
The Bahamians have hectic driving style. One taxi ride should show you. :) Don't be afraid to take a taxi...the drivers know what they are doing.
See Atlantis. It is beautiful. We take a taxi over instead of doing the organized tour. You have more time to enjoy the scenery and it's cheaper too.
TIP'S FOR THE LAST NIGHT:
Bring elastic waisted pants - you'll find that all of that wonderful cruise food is making your clothes shrink. (See, you don't actually gain weight...the salt water air has a mysterious effect on your clothes and they shrink.<wink,wink>)
You will have to have your luggage packed and outside of your stateroom between 8 and midnight. DO NOT FORGET TO LEAVE YOURSELF SOMETHING TO WEAR OFF THE SHIP. :)
Well, I have rambled on and on here. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. I love the Sovereign, even though she is showing her age. The ship is still beautiful and the staff is excellent. Any problems we have had have been fixed to our satisfaction. (We even had to have our toilet replaced due to a leak on our 3rd cruise. It was done quickly and we hardly remembered the problem when they were done.)
Most important - have fun and do not worry about the little stuff.
DO NOT FORGET TO LEAVE