Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Sovereign of the Seas
Sailing Date: September 17th, 2004
Pre-cruise and Embarkation:
Let me preface this by saying that we were very apprehensive about this cruise because of all the hurricanes this year. I kept watching the weather channel, accuweather.com, and rccl.com to see if we were actually going to be able to sail. We were able to get our trip in in between Ivan and Jeanne. We also had worries about whether or not US Air was going to file for bankruptcy, although they assured us our flight would go no matter what.
We left Pittsburgh Friday morning in a huge rainstorm, which actually did a lot of damage to many Pittsburgh homes and businesses. Luckily for us, the weather in the Caribbean was beautiful while we were there.
The Royal Caribbean representatives were highly visible (in their bright yellow shirts) at the Orlando airport. We got our luggage very quickly and got on board an RCCL bus that was to take us to the pier. There was a large group of people taking a vacation together on this same bus. One of them decided to get off the bus to look for her sister whose plane had just arrived. She held up the whole busload of people for 50 minutes. We could actually have been to the pier by the time she and her sister finally boarded the bus. This was something I felt Royal Caribbean should not have allowed. Why they didn’t insist that she and her sister wait for the next shuttle is beyond me. I think it was very inconsiderate to everyone else on the bus. The bus driver had many frustrated passengers on his hands. While they were gone, another member of their group decided she was going to go and get drinks for their whole group, since we waiting anyway. The bus driver DID tell her no, that he didn’t want anyone else getting off the bus.
Things improved greatly once we got to Port Canaveral. We had done our boarding documents online, which really expedited our embarkation. There was practically no line. We got our photo ID taken taken, our boarding photo taken, and were onboard in no time flat. Our luggage was delivered to our rooms in less than an hour. This was my 6th cruise and by far the smoothest embarkation of them all.
General Impression of the
I had read many reviews of this ship and I agree that she has seen better days. She definitely shows signs of age, but our cabin was quite roomy for two people. We were on deck 10, which I understand will have balconies after the November refurbishment. Our windows overlooked the lifeboats, but were not obstructed by them. We had a full tub, the first time I’ve ever seen that on a ship. We had plenty of closet space and storage space under the beds. We had a hair dryer and a safe in our cabin, both nice amenities. My only complaint about the cabin is that I noticed a faint, almost chemical odor each morning when I woke up. It seemed to dissipate during the day. Our cabin steward was competent. I would not recommend a cabin on deck 7 as the deck goes all the way around the ship and you will have people walking right by your window. Those cabins lack privacy.
The Kismet dining room was quite lovely. We had a round table near a bus station toward the back of the dining room. Our waiter Anthony and his assistant Agostino were good, but the headwaiter was excellent. He helped us choose wine and was quite visible each night. I’ve been on other cruises where you don’t see the headwaiter until the final night. The food was good. One of our neophytes was pleasantly surprised at the portion sizes. She was expecting to get an obscene amount of food and was very pleased to see that they serve a reasonable portion. I’ve heard so much about people gaining weight on cruises. I don’t think that has to happen. Although food is plentiful, there are always good choices for the health-conscious traveler. Of course, you can always overdo it at the buffet or with the desserts.
By far my favorite public area on the ship was the Schooner Bar. It was a nice cozy place to have a cocktail before dinner. I’m not much of a gambler, but one member of our party won three times in the casino. I visited the library, which was nice, but not nearly as nice as the library on the Enchantment. We took a peek inside the movie theaters, which looked just like any multiplex near you. We didn’t stay to watch any of the movies. The pool area was roomy enough. One thing I’d like to see on the RCCL ships is a pool with a slide like Carnival has.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the changes in the pier in Nassau. The last time I was there you got assaulted by vendors the minute you set foot on the pier. Now the pier is covered, not enclosed, and there are no vendors allowed on it at all. You make it all the way to the Welcome Center before you get bombarded by taxi drivers wanting to take to the beach. Half of our party chose to go shopping and the rest of us took at taxi to Cabbage Beach ($4. ea) near Atlantis. I had read reviews that said this was a wide expanse of white, sandy beach. What we actually found was large, grainy sand that stuck to us even after we showered. The drop into the water was quite abrupt, not the gradual wading in kind of shoreline I expected. The surf was really rough and we got knocked down each time we tried to come back into shore. We were told that the beach had been washed away by one of the recent hurricanes and that sand had been carted in to rebuild it. I found the chair, drink, food, whistle, etc. vendors to be quite annoying. My sister and my niece went parasailing, which they really enjoyed. They went together and got about a 20-minute ride. They both got dipped. They said it was well worth the $40 per person.
We returned to the ship to change and grab some lunch before heading back into Nassau to do a little shopping. Much to our disappointment, the whole town closes at 5:00 p.m. We thought with 3 ships in port on a Saturday night that the stores would be open. The only thing we found still open was the Hard Rock.
Our original itinerary called for a stop in Coco Cay. Due to hurricane damage, that was cancelled. When I called the 800 number an RCCL rep told me we would be spending the day in Key West, which we were all very excited about since none of us had ever been there. We ended up with a day at sea. That was fine for me, but the first timers in our group were disappointed that we didn’t get another port of call instead. As usual, all the poolside lounge chairs were saved, so we ended up on the top pool deck. We were able to get 5 seats together so we alternated going to lunch, bathroom, etc. so at least most of our group could be together.
We went to the Love and Marriage show, which is usually funny. This was no exception. The headline act was El Gaucho. We went with some trepidation, but I advise you not to miss this show. He is quite talented. El Gaucho plays several instruments, twirls bolos (dangerously close to an audience member’s head), tells jokes, etc. It is very entertaining. We also went to the Broadway revue. It was a typical cruise show with the orchestra drowning out the singers. I’m embarrassed to say that I cannot remember our cruise director’s name. He emceed the shows, of course, and was really quite good.
Although we had beautiful weather for our entire trip, Sunday night the sea turned rough. We could hear the hangers swinging in the closet and my sister almost got rolled out of her bed. When we got into port Monday morning the wind was blowing horizontally and it was teeming rain.
After our debarkation fiasco in Ft. Lauderdale a couple years ago, I was very pleased with our debarkation in Port Canaveral. We missed the deadline for Express Departure so we did the regular departure. Our tags were the 8th to be called. We had a very short wait in our departure area, the line through the ship moved quickly, Customs was a breeze, and we were off the ship in no time. I had sworn the last time I would never sail from Ft. Lauderdale again. We had had a terrible experience both in the Customs area and at the airport. Port Canaveral is the way to go. They are efficient and polite. I highly recommend sailing from here if you can.
This was a nice cruise. Everything about it was good – the crew, the entertainment, the food, the ports despite the weather. However, if you’re considering a trip on the Sovereign, I would wait until after she is refurbished.