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J. Stoltz

Age: 48

Occupation:Paralegal

Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Sovereign of the Seas

Sailing Date: January 10th, 2005

Itinerary: Bahamas


I’ve just retuned from sailing in Sovereign of the Seas – January 10-14, 2005. This was my fourth sailing in Sovereign, and I believe it was the best. I recently read some reviews that certainly addressed the not-yet-ready-to-sail issues this ship had after undergoing extensive dry-dock and makeover service in November 2004. I boarded with a critical eye and was delighted with what I saw.

Checking-in was without difficulty. The baggage handlers were quick (don’t forget to tip them), and parking was a breeze ($10 per day, as of this writing). I arrived inside the terminal at 12:15 p.m., and the lines were not very long. There were perhaps ten or twelve people waiting, with the check-in counter serving double that number. A customer service representative challenged my Diamond/Platinum status, which was quickly resolved with a sincere apology after seeing my cruise tickets. (If you planning to cruise with RCI in the future, sign up for the Crown and Anchor society; it’s free and the eventual benefits are worth it. Celebrity also honor’s your C&A status).

You cannot check into your cabin until after 1:00 p.m., so enjoy the ship until then. I normally do this by having a light lunch in the Windjammer or sitting poolside. Cruisers on this ship for the first time should also use this time to walk around to get their bearings before getting underway and before the activities start. Be sure to pick up a copy of the Day One Compass right away, and you can get a copy on Deck 4 near Explorations. This will let you know what’s in store for your evening’s entertainment. You will also receive a copy in your stateroom.

As I wandered throughout the ship prior to leaving port, I noticed the crew is back to their smiling, caring, “it is my pleasure” attitude, and nearly everything seemed to be in working order. While you can still see signs of the vessels age, if you choose to look for them, the refurbishment did wonders to bring this vessel back to life. Overall, the décor has been upgraded and modernized. The ship has new carpeting throughout which contains upbeat designs. I even noticed the forward elevators did not have the previously slow motion action. Another first for me was that all six elevators were working at the same time. The Centrum’s glass elevators were very popular, as they always are. I’ve not noticed a problem with speed of service at the four aft elevators, but less people use them.

The cabins remain quite small in comparison with those found on other, newer ships. However, they are quite comfortable. (I was on Deck 8, forward). I have learned not to over pack, so the limited closet and dresser space is not an issue for me. The reworked bathroom is neater, and the new shower controls are eaiser to work than the old ones. Plastic replaced the metal shower enclosure, and my shower had a nicely anchored curtain, which didn’t stick to me when I ran the water. I mention this only because of how tight (small) the shower space is, and when you have to fight with a sticking curtain, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

My cabin steward was warm, friendly and attentive. He went out of his way to introduce himself and to tell me to just ask him if I needed anything. He also greeted me by name each time he saw me. More importantly, he kept the room neat and clean. I’d leave for breakfast, and when I returned, the room was spotless. He worked the same miracle again at dinnertime, this time turning down the bed, leaving the chocolate mints on the pillows, and creating the entertaining the towel animals.

The redesigned Windjammer Marketplace has “islands” where you help yourself to your food selection, any of which was an excellent choice. These islands replaced the four steam line stations and offer typical buffet-type breakfast fare in the morning. Lunch and Dinner offer choices from a salad bar; carving station; baked/fried foods; southwestern; soups; and, oriental style entrees. (Of course, how can you pass up the dessert bar?)

Unfortunately, the new design detracted from the “flow” of the previous design, and moving from island to island was often difficult. People were milling about like lost cattle, and you took your life into our own hands when you approached the aft refreshment island at the busiest time. Avoid this area, and use the forward stations when possible. Although this is a busy place at each meal, the wait staff was quick to remove unused plates and glasses and clean the vacated table as soon as possible.

Upstairs, above The Windjammer, now includes Sorrento’s (serving pizza until 2:00 a.m.) and Johnnie Rocket’s (50’s style hamburger/fries and shakes joint and a $3.95 cover charge). The junior cruisers I saw at Johnnie Rocket’s were obviously enjoying themselves so I would recommend parents take or allow their children to dine there. My spouse believes these are wasted spaces, but I disagree. Previously these areas were extremely underutilize, overflow seating areas for the Windjammer. At least these spaces are now being used regularly and are often filled with younger cruisers, who always need a place to get away from their parents (and vice-versa).

The decorations and colors in the two refurbished (and renamed) dinning rooms are warm and inviting. Service the first night was impossibly slow, and I noticed that at least a third of the tables were not finished until after 8:15 p.m. (How do I know? Dessert wasn’t served until 8:25 p.m., with the second seating starting at 8:30 p.m.). I suspect some issues in the kitchen caused this delay, and this was not a problem at the next dinner. The dinning room service was exceptional for the next three nights. Our waiter and assistant waiter were superb, funny, and attended to our ten-person table as if each of us was the only person in the dinning room. (How could you ask for more?)

The food is not necessarily five-star, but it is very good and you will not go away hungry. Typically, the daily dinner entrees offer a three choice variation between fish/chicken; pasta; beef/pork; and, one daily special. To round out the meal, chose an appetizer, salad and dessert. Heart smart and vegetarian dishes are also available. The lunch menu is the same throughout the cruise and is worth checking out.

The modernized Purser’s Square (deck 4) looks quite nice as you enter the ship. The Shops on Board (deck 5) now include Latte-tudes (Seattle’s Best coffee and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream). There are also chairs and tables at which you can sit to enjoy yourself. Conference rooms replaced the champagne bar on Deck 7. “The Music Man” is renamed “Voltage,” and it appears that this night club has also increased in popularity. Follies Lounge has been refurbished, with better seating on the lower-level. Casino Royale is slightly rearranged and a few more slot machines have been added. Additional interior staterooms replaced the cinemas on deck 2. The Schooner Bar and Viking Crown appeared unchanged, and each are a great place to sit and relax..

The area for older children The Living Room and Fuel (Deck 11, aft) appears to have been redone. This includes what appears to be a “kids only” area, “The Back Deck.” (Of course, this was from my outside looking in vantage point).

“Bolero’s” has been added on deck 7. This is a lively, latin-style nightclub, to which you should treat yourself least once on the cruise. I must honestly say I have never seen so many people using this part of the ship until now. (This was the former dead-zone “Finian’s Rainbow Lounge” which was used by passengers only as a place to gather for life-boat musters and end-of-cruise departures).

There are two, unheated, salt-water pools on Deck 11. The forward one is for adults only, and the aft one is for everyone. Also, be sure to get your pool chair on the “at sea” day early. (No, 9:00 a.m. is not too early). There’s lots of music and activities poolside throughout that day and the chairs go quickly, even those on Deck 12. Do not miss the men’s belly flop and sexy-legs contests. The pool’s bar staff are very busy shuttling drinks to the guests, and can be quite entertaining. I strongly recommend the Mango Tango (with or without alcohol), and you get to keep the glasses! My daughter, who told me she hated sweet, frozen drinks, couldn’t get enough of these delicious concoctions.

There are also two hot-tubs on Deck 11, which are located between the pools. During this cruise, one of the hot-tubs did not “bubble,” but this is a mechanical problem I am sure the ship’s maintenance crew will address. I’ve learned the best time to enjoy these tubs is while the ship is at Cococay, at Nassau, or during dinnertime (or much later in the evening). I don’t mind sharing a tub with others, but I prefer a more intimate setting.

The ship continues with its two great port calls. Cococay, RCI’s private island, was definitely hit hard by the two hurricanes that struck the Bahamas in September 2004. RCI has done a wonderful job getting the island back in order, and you soon won’t notice anything’s amiss, if you notice anything at all. Be sure to try the island’s special drink, “Bahama Mama.” Read RCI’s shore excursions comments about Cococay, either on line or in the cruise pamphlet, to lean about what activities are available on the island. I enjoy walking to the south side of the island where there’s fewer people, grabbing a hammock under a palm tree, and just relaxing. I won’t comment about Nassau since you can find so many wonderful reviews of that town elsewhere, but I strongly recommend you find something to see or do in town while the ship is there.

Leaving the ship is on a color-coded basis. Be prepared to wait since this could take as much as two hours (if the last color called is yours). The best thing you can do is find a nice location to sit, and be prepared to wait. Once you are off the ship, and you have cleared Customs, the baggage handling area is very efficient, with the baggage set aside in the color coded areas or moving on the carousal (like in the airport). (This is why you must wait until you color is called to leave the ship. Otherwise, you’ll be standing around in the luggage area with no bags to pick up.)

I was extremely pleased to see Sovereign back in shape. If you are a first time cruiser, I must recommend Sovereign’s four-day cruise. You will be able to experience nearly all the amenities offered by other ships on longer cruises, at a price that fits your budget. You’ll be hooked after the first night and will want longer cruises that are more varied.

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