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Royal Caribbean InternationalSovereign the SeasBahamas ReviewMichael Woler

Age: 50

Occupation:Electronics Technologist

Number of Cruises: 4 (including this one)

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Sovereign of the Seas

Sailing Date: October 28th, 2005

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International
Sovereign of the Seas
Bahamas Cruise Review

Michael Woler

My family and I had cruised a couple of times in the past, the most recent being a four day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas last April, to Key West and Cozumel. Therefore, we had something to measure this cruise against.

Embarkation Flawless. We boarded about 2:00, so we were able to drop off our carry-on luggage in our rooms (room access begins at 1:00) and go to the Windjammer for lunch. Good buffet, great variety, but on this occasion seating was tight. The only other time we had trouble getting seats was the morning we returned to Port Canaveral, when just about everyone on the ship is in the Windjammer. Hint: Find seats first, leave the quickest eater in your group at the table to hold it, then get your food.

The Ship Itself: Having seen the entire six segment show about the recent remodeling of the ship on the Discovery Channel (I actually recorded it) I was very interested in seeing the ship up close. Unfortunately, having cruised before, and on RC’s Enchantment of the Seas, the Sovereign was a disappointment. It should be said that none of the disappointment was the fault of the crew or staff, they were always attentive. We had Ocean View (porthole) cabins on the Deck Three. The cabins were much smaller than what we were used to on previous cruises, but we were able to get over that quickly, the only problems caused by size were the need of my wife to climb over me (waking me up) to get in and out of bed, and some minor mutual damage we inflicted on each other with flailing arms getting dressed for dinner on formal night. As a plus, the bathroom was actually larger that the one on the Enchantment, you didn’t need to take a shower half in and half out of the shower stall. A minus, there is a definite (but mild) odor of sewage in many of the passageways and cabins. Forewarned, we brought a can of Glade with us, problem solved. Discussing the size of the cabins with a couple of crew members, we received what must be the stock answer each time: “This was, when launched in 1980, the largest cruise ship in the world. It’s now the smallest in RC’s fleet. One of the crew told us that before the remodeling a couple of years ago RC had two choices, remodel or sell the ship to one of the smaller European lines that still operate smaller ships. RC remodeled. My wife, tongue in cheek, suggested that sinking the ship would have been a good third option. This didn’t go over very well with the crew member.

The Trip: I must first mention that this cruise was a birthday gift from my wife, it was with one other couple, no kids. I always had one rule about cruising, NEVER book a cruise during hurricane season. For some reason my wife thought the season closed at the end of October. As we all now know, it doesn’t. No actual hurricane for us (that was the week before our trip), but even if a hurricane is a few hundred miles away it effects the seas and the weather. Nassau was rainy, cloudy, and muggy. We’ve been to Nassau before, so we just did a tour and dropped many $$ in the straw market (still a temporary affair since the building burnt down a couple of years ago.) Nassau is much nicer in good weather, the beaches are great.

The real fun started after the ship left Nassau. Most of the time on a cruise ship you can’t even tell you’re on a ship. Remember that hurricane that we just missed? It left a calling card, ten foot seas. The next day the seas were too rough to allow the use of the tenders necessary to get to Coco Cay, so the ship spent the day at sea. The Captain took the ship up to the waters off of Grand Bahamas, so as to cruise in the lee of the island. This did cut down on the swell, and we actually saw some sunshine during the afternoon. Additional activities were planned for the day as everyone had to spend it on the ship, and it went quite well.

Food: Lets face it, no matter what anyone says, food is a major part of any cruise. The food, in the main dining room or the Windjammer, was very good. For me the best part of all the dinners was the appetizers. Excellent, and you can order as many as you want. However, if you are expecting at least one lobster or prime rib dinner, find another cruise line. RC doesn’t provide either, on this cruise or our previous one on the Enchantment. The wait staff, however, are top notch. Make sure you get a table that has Jerry as a head waiter. He’s the best entertainment during the entire cruise. He’s everywhere, he even stopped by to say hello on the mornings we ate breakfast in the Windjammer, which isn’t even his responsibility. No matter how much RC is paying him, it’s not enough. The only failing in the food was lunch in the Windjammer the afternoon we were supposed to be in Coco Cay. The food was prepared in advance on the ship for the barbecue on the beach, then refrigerated. It was supposed to be reheated on the BBQ at the beach, but instead was inadequately reheated in the ovens in the ship. Many items were cold, below room temperature, like the ribs, chicken, and hamburgers. Also, the sign above the ribs said BBQ beef ribs. They were definitely not beef, they were pork. A significant error to this Jewish passenger that religiously avoids pork.

Excursions and Other Things You Will Be Spending $$ For: Because of the weather, we were only able to do a tour of Nassau. Previously, we have done other excursions and found them worthwhile. Take heed of RC’s (and most other cruise lines) suggestion that you do NOT rent mopeds. In Nassau the drive on the “wrong” side of the road, and as you will be constantly distracted by all that is going on around you it’s definitely not a safe thing to do. While waiting for our tour van to board we watched a fellow passenger drive into the side of another van. She wasn’t hurt, but the van was, and we watched her taken away by the friendly local police. I’m pretty sure she was responsible for the cost of repairing the van, maybe even the moped. On a previous cruise I was told that the ship usually leaves a few passengers in Nassau on each cruise due to moped injuries.

Internet access was down and not available at all during the cruise. The only reason I wanted it was to get boarding passes for the flight home, so it wasn’t missed much.

None of our party actually got sea sick, but the trip back to Port Canaveral on Sunday night was very rough. We all had trouble walking in the passageways. As we were traveling parallel to the waves, most of the motion was roll from side to side. As the ocean view cabins are the farthest from the long axis of the ship, we felt the motion the most. I went up to the pool deck around midnight to get some air. It was really weird, it was completely deserted and the motion of the ship was creating really big waves in the pool, causing much of the water to slosh out. Made a really good couple of pictures. Although we’ve never needed to use them, I think it’s always a good idea to take Dramamine (or, better yet, patches) along in case you need them.

Disembarkation. All your luggage (except carry-on) needs to be in the passageway by 12:30 the night before you disembark. It will mysteriously disappear overnight, to re-appear in the cruise terminal the next morning on an airport-type belt. Everyone needs to be out of the cabins by 8:00 in the morning, most go to either the Windjammer or dining room for breakfast. Luggage tags, provided the day before, are color coded, you disembark when your color is called. The order the colors are called is determined by the time of your flight home’s departure, or by any excursions you have purchased for Port Canaveral. Don’t be nervous, you’ll get off the ship with plenty of time to get to the airport (just don’t book a flight before noon.)

Disembarkation went as smoothly as embarkation. It was mentioned by a crew member at the beginning of the trip that Customs occasionally allows one of their very talented canine agents to wander among the luggage before it is placed on the belts for you to claim. If doggy shows an interest in your luggage, Mr. Customs Man will show an interest in you when you claim it.

If you take into account that this is an inexpensive cruise, you will have a very good time. I admit that my opinion is probably tainted by the bad weather we experienced. The crew was great, food good, and I had a very good time. However, knowing what RC and other cruise lines can provide on newer ships for a little more money I’d recommend a different ship for your cruise. Even with all the remodeling that was done to the Sovereign, it’s still a ship that’s past it’s time. RC did itself a disservice by not retiring the Sovereign, it does not approximate the cruise experience that RC provides on it’s newer ships. I fear this will cost them repeat business if new cruisers think this is what they can expect on other RC ships.

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