Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Sovereign of the Seas
Sailing Date: July 30th, 2007
Itinerary: NOT FOUND
This was our third cruise so hopefully even new cruisers can get some inside information.
Port Canaveral: I only live an hour away from the port so here are some local directions: From I-95 either direction, take 528 East. The port is about 8 miles from I-95 a straight shot and well marked. From Orlando International - some thing - 528 runs right by the airport so about an hour or so after heading East - you'll be there! I suggest trying to get to the port no later than 1:00 p.m. so you can get covered parking - $48 for 4 days - and you prepay with cash OR credit card. From parking the car to crossing the gangway to the ship took about an hour.
The attentive crew have her looking terrific. You'll find crew working around the clock washing windows, polishing wood and brass, cleaning carpets and so forth. At around 880 feet long it's "small" by the newest mega-ship standards but the only thing we found not on this ship that was on other larger ships was a movie theater. If you're a first time cruiser you may think you'll never find your way around but by the end of the first night you'll have a good layout in mind and by the next day, it will feel like home.
The Cabin: We were on deck 9, forward starboard side - literally next to the "private" Captain's entrance. Well away from the elevators and stairs (and late night noise) it was a great location. There were three of us and while the cabin was small, it was perfect considering all we did there was sleep and shower. TIP: It's worth keeping it tidy each day however as even a little suitcase/clothing clutter will make it feel even smaller. The bath area was small of course but scrupulously clean and obviously one of the refurbishments. Our cabin attendant (Dennis) was wonderful and made at least two trips a day to refill ice, pick up towels and of course the nightly turn down/mint on the pillow service!
Gratuities: You can count on your head waiter, waiter, assistant water and cabin attendant. You can put these tips on your Sea Pass card - very convenient and then your last night, you simply hand out your envelopes with the pre-paid voucher inside (so they know you tipped them!) Gratuities at the bars are included in the drink price.
Entertainment: We saw all the shows and while perhaps not 'Vegas quality, they were very good! TIP: The theater fills up pretty quickly so if you're running late finding a seat may be tricky. There is also a casino with a fair number of table games and of course banks of slots (ATM available!); a rock climbing wall on the stern deck (free) is open during certain times of the day and after signing the standard waiver, I only waited about 20 minutes for my turn. Quite a few from the top! There are of course lounges, places for teens, and daily activities (you get a schedule of each day's activities delivered to your room the day prior).
Shops on Board: There aren't as many as I expected but you can buy everything from t-shirts to fine jewelry to cigars and liquor. TIP: Wait until your last day to actually buy as many things go on sale.
Getting Around On-Board: Elevators and stairs are plentiful and the decks are well marked. Each deck has a model of the ship showing where everything is. TIP: The elevators can be crowded with quite a wait so if you're able - take the stairs when you can. Of course climbing 7 or 8 flights of stairs several times a day will help burn the calories you get from the food!
The Food: You can literally find something to eat somewhere any time of the day. We ate in the dining room 3 of the 4 nights and found the menu varied and the food very good considering they're cooking for 2500 people. The wait staff was perfect - remembering everyone's name at the table, what you drink and so forth. It's about the most personalized service you can find. The 6:00 seating worked fine for us but can interfere with the day's outside activities so you may want to choose the later seating at 8:30. If you don't want to go to the dining room, the Windjammer Cafe has every type of food you can imagine and plates the size of serving platters. TIP: Finding a seat can be tricky if you're not there when they open (for breakfast and lunch especially). Getting there when they open guarantees you a table next to a window.
Coco Cay: We didn't sign up for any excursions, preferring instead to take it as it came. The process of getting ashore from ship is via tenders - and while there might be a wait - it's hard to complain about a wait to go ashore to a tropical island! We snorkeled for a couple of hours, rented a kayak (my wife and son rented wave runners) and generally enjoyed the crystal clear water. Lunch is served on the island (by the ships' crew) and was very good: TIP: Get there early (noon?) so you can find a place to eat in the shade.
Nassau: Nassau is first and foremost a tourist destination with lots of local color. We didn't opt for anything pre-planned but you can book island tours, harbor tours, tours of the Atlantis Hotel, snorkeling etc.... We took a cab to the Atlantis Hotel ($30 round trip including tip for 3 people) and while it IS a beautiful hotel, you pretty much just get to walk through it, look at their gardens, the aquarium and so forth. If you must go, do it the way we did - I don't think I would go on the guided tour - we did just fine on our own. Back from Atlantis we strolled the narrow streets (watch for lots of crazy traffic!) and shops. TIP: Whatever you find in a shop, you'll find in another one as well: Jewelry, rum, shirts, cigars, hand made crafts, scented soaps - you name it - they have it. The Straw Market is not to miss: Picture a massive warehouse with dim lights, dozens of local vendors packed inside some making things, some napping - and floor to ceiling with every imaginable craft, beaded handbags, wind-chimes, walking sticks, hats....TIP: It is hot inside and crowded so be prepared to be wedged inside.
All in all it was a wonderful time and if I've missed something you'd like to know about, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Please put "cruise review question" in the subject line so I won't delete it!