Royal Caribbean InternationalSovereign the Seas ReviewBahamasJoe Bisti
Occupation:Information Technology Analyst
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Sovereign of the Seas
Sailing Date: April 17th, 2006
Itinerary: NOT FOUND
Royal Caribbean International
Sovereign of the Seas Cruise Review
I guess I’m a bit spoiled. My prior two cruises were
on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas and Carnival’s Valor, two rather
large ships. By comparison, the Sovereign of the Seas was somewhat smaller, and
so I probably should have tempered my expectations a bit. Nonetheless, our
recent cruise to the Bahamas on the Sovereign was quite enjoyable.
My wife and I – celebrating our two-year anniversary – left on Monday, April 17th for a 5-day, 4-night cruise to the Bahamas, specifically Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean’s private island) and Nassau. The Sovereign is an older ship that was recently refurbished. If anyone has seen the “Drydock” series on TLC or whatever cable network ran it, the Sovereign is the ship portrayed in that series. I know this because one of the ship’s TV stations played this series nonstop 24-7.
We arrived at Orlando airport at around 9:30 AM on Monday, the 17th. At the baggage claim, Royal Caribbean had folks there to meet us, tag our luggage, and escort us to where our transportation was waiting. We had purchased shuttle transportation when booking our cruise because it is about a 45-minute ride from the airport to Port Canaveral. It was about 30 to 45 minutes before our shuttle left for the port. The ride was smooth, although the driver asked us to “remember him” a bit much at the end of it. Check-in at the port was extremely quick and mighty smooth, including getting through security. (I think it helped that we were probably one of the first major loads of passengers to arrive.) We think that this is one of a few things that Royal Caribbean does more effectively than Carnival – getting people on and off the ship.
Once we were on the ship, we learned that our cabin would not be ready for about another 90 minutes, so we headed up to the Windjammer Café and had a bite to eat for lunch. The food was pretty good. (Note – you will find that the lunch food won’t change very much – in other words, what they have for lunch when you get there is what they will have for lunch everyday, except for some variety in the desserts.) We then explored a bit and headed to our cabin.
We had an oceanview cabin on Deck 7. Our first disappointment was that we had more of a view of the promenade deck outside, where the muster stations & life boats were, than we did of the ocean. Our second was that the cabin was significantly smaller than cabins we had on our previous voyages, but again, we had been somewhat spoiled. After a one-day adjustment period, the cabin proved to be an adequate size. We were disappointed by the bathroom – it did have a bit of a smell when we got there, as if someone hadn’t flushed. That went away by the second day, but we still detected a bit of a moldy or mildewy smell in our bathroom. Also, about halfway through a cruise, a pipe burst beneath Deck 7. We returned to our room on the third night to find a large Air Rover fan sitting on the floor, drying the carpet which had been wet by the leak. The following night, a similar fan was in the hallway drying the hallway carpet. I think these are the problems that likely occur with an older ship, but it was still somewhat disconcerting.
The ship itself, other than our cabin and bathroom, looked quite good for an older ship. The dining rooms, theater, etc. were all in great shape. The photo gallery area on Deck 3 was a little too small and closed in for my taste. I also was not impressed with the Internet service – we tried two PCs before finding a third that worked well, then when printing our boarding passes for the return flight, had to wait for someone to arrive with more paper for the printer that was locked up. We enjoyed going up to the Viking Crown lounge in the afternoon on Deck 14 for a little air conditioned relaxation and a drink. The pool deck was also quite nice, although this ship like many others doesn’t really enforce the notion of not saving deck chairs. The ride each day was pretty smooth, although it did get quite rough on our last night (Day 4 – at sea) right around dinnertime. We were swaying quite heavily and my wife actually got a bit seasick, which is unusual for her & caused us to have to miss the final production show.
One thing that we noticed is that booking a cruise at this time of year is somewhat risky because you tend to have to deal with spring breakers. In our case, it appeared to be that a high school had used this cruise as their band trip. So there were quite a few teenagers on board which was disappointing to us because it made things a bit rowdier and more immature than we had expected. However, on the plus side, the casino was never all that crowded. My wife and I each played a bit of video poker and slots & were happy to find that 5-cent slots were available. I played blackjack, craps, and Caribbean stud and lost at all of them but still had fun, with just a $5 minimum bet on each. Some words of warning: The blackjack tables all have automatic shufflers and no surrender, and the craps table only pays single odds. Also, don’t bother asking for Texas Hold’em – as with many other cruise ships, it’s not on this one either.
Let’s get to the ports. Day 2 was our stop in Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island, and it was by far the best day of the voyage. The cruise line did a great job with this island – LOTS of beach chairs all around the island for wherever you wanted to relax, quite a few hammocks & shady spots, places to snorkel, use kayaks, use Wave Runners, a big water slide (plastic), and bar stations strategically located about. We rented water mats to relax in the water, but due to the current, we didn’t use them much because we kept drifting away from our home base location. Royal Caribbean also provided free lunch in the form of burgers, hot dogs, salad, ribs, and other good stuff. There was a straw market selling souvenirs, but we didn’t buy anything there. The day proved to be very relaxing and quite enjoyable. We wish another day had been scheduled there. You do have to tender from the cruise ship out to the island, but the ride is very short and the tenders rather large, so it didn’t really delay things much to tender.
Day 3 was our stop in Nassau. We did not explore the downtown area, so I can’t really say much about that. We signed up for the “Historic Harbor Cruise and Discover Atlantis” shore excursion. The “harbor cruise” was not much more than a tender from downtown Nassau to Paradise Island, no more than a ten to fifteen minute ride, so don’t expect much from that. We then walked from the tender to the Atlantis, which was about a 15-minute walk through a little village that was part of Atlantis with shops and restaurants – cute little place. When we got to Atlantis, our excursion group was split up into smaller groups for our tours, and we were led through Atlantis to the two major aquariums in the resort. The entire excursion lasted about two hours and ended in Atlantis, after which we were free to either explore further or head out & wherever we wanted. Although Atlantis is quite a place with many areas to explore, we decided to head back to the ship because we could lounge out on the pool deck for a few hours with relatively few people around. The boat stayed docked in Nassau for the entire day, which was surprising because I heard that most of the shopping closed in the late afternoon, so our only logical conclusion was they wanted folks to have time at Atlantis.
Food on board was great. I personally think that Royal Caribbean does a better job with food than Carnival. Our wait staff in the dining room was quite pleasant and went out of their way to accommodate requests to leave things out of dishes (i.e. no mushrooms) or bring extra food and/or desserts when we asked. Even the bar server, once he knew what people wanted to drink after the first night, brought it right away the following night without asking. As a drink on any cruise, I recommend a BBC because I find that folks on the mainland don’t know what it is – it’s Bailey’s, banana, and colada mix (a frozen drink) that is quite tasty. By the way, when you book a cruise like this, if you don’t get main seating right away, get on the waiting list. That’s what we did when we booked it, and a couple of weeks later, we were informed that we got into the main seating after all – quite a pleasant surprise.
On-board entertainment was average at best. The highlight was Johnny Thunder, former member of the Drifters, on the evening of Day 3. I went into his show with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised – for a 73-year old, he really did a nice job and he even got the high-schoolers in our audience to go up on stage and stay relatively peaceful while doing it. Great show. The welcome show was okay – we enjoyed the comedian, although I can’t remember his name off-hand. The “Flashback” show on the second night was the singers and dancers doing different songs from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. It wasn’t bad but just average as production shows go. One thing that disappointed us was the schedule for the “Dueling Pianos” entertainment. This has gotten good reviews from other cruisers, and so we wanted to see it. However, it always started at 11:15 PM or 11:45 PM, and this was too late for us because we tended to have early morning excursions. The activities schedules were pretty good in terms of having a variety of things to do available. We also played BINGO twice, and personally we think that Royal Caribbean gives you much more bingo for your money than Carnival does. We didn’t win anything but still enjoyed ourselves.
Our debarkation on Day 5 was very smooth also. We had booked the Kennedy Space Center shore excursion, so we were in the first group of people off of the ship. Once we recovered our luggage, we were easily led to the bus for our excursion to Kennedy. The bus held our luggage while at Kennedy, then at about 2:00 PM in the afternoon we left Kennedy and headed to Orlando airport for our departure. Advice is that your flight leaves at 4:30 or after if you decide to do the Kennedy excursion. We enjoyed Kennedy and our tour guide did a great job, but we probably wouldn’t do it again, although it was neat to visit once.
Overall, this cruise had a few shortcomings, but it was an enjoyable cruise and we would probably sail on the Sovereign again. I think the biggest learning for me was that if you typically travel on bigger ships, you need to adjust your expectations accordingly.