Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Voyager of the Seas
Sailing Date: July 13th, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
What a great ship!!! You should most definitely book this cruise. I do have a few suggestions that would make your experience even better. I definitely think reading these reviews before going on our cruise was a great idea, so I decided to contribute my own review. Here goes…
We had a long day of traveling the first day, as we were flying from Los Angeles on a red-eye and had to connect in Atlanta, then fly to Ft. Lauderdale, then take a 45 minute bus ride to the port in Miami. Royal Caribbean handled our flight arrangements, at $199 each we didn’t complain much about the long day. Just have a little patience when you arrive to the port, there’s a bit of a wait, to sign all the forms you need, etc. But once we got on the boat (around noon), we were able to go to our stateroom right away and figure out what to do next. Be sure to have a few items of clothing, bathing suit, cosmetics, toiletries with you as carry-ons, because it takes the crew some time to deliver your luggage to your room. Ours came later that evening around 6-7pm.
So then we explored the ship. It’s amazing, it’s huge. There’s two swimming pools, one main one where all the activities happen, kids can go in that one. And then there’s the Solarium, an adult pool and lounge. My boyfriend and I enjoyed that area, surprisingly serene for being right next to the main pool. They have areas to lounge in the sun as well as shade. And the lounge chairs are covered in canvas. It’s got a very Roman villa feel. The main pool is fun for watching and participating in various activities from the Cruise Director staff, like the Bellyflop competition, Men’s Sexiest Legs, pool volleyball, and more. Fun stuff. And contrary to popular belief, we didn’t have a problem finding lounge chairs for sunning around the pool areas. There’s a bunch of them, levels of them. And we totally got there late. Just make sure you bring enough sunblock! I managed to just keep a tan the whole week, but some others got a real bad sunburn the first day which didn’t look like much fun.
There’s a fitness center that’s pretty great. I like to take classes, but didn’t manage to get there for any of them. To my surprise, about half of the classes made you pay $10 a class, like yoga, ball sculpt, etc. There was a step, aerobics, and kickboxing class I would’ve liked to attend (all free), but they were always offered at 8am, so I was either A) sleeping in, or B) off to an early excursion at port. I do wish they offered more of those classes in the afternoon after you got back on the boat, but they didn’t. They have a great whirlpool in the gym as well as steam and sauna rooms that I took full advantage of. Contrary to popular belief, I actually lost weight on the cruise. Sure- there’s a lot of food, but if you don’t go crazy (like midnight buffets!) there’s lots of things to keep you active both on board and on shore.
We did the rock climbing wall, which was scarier than I thought, but still worth a try. There’s mini-golf, basketball, ping-pong, shuffleboard, ice skating- all of which are free. Be careful to ask what’s free and what’s not, they like to get you with the particulars, some things are an additional charge. Like we never did rollerblading, but I think they charge for skate rental.
Also- read your Compass! It’s a newsletter thing that your stateroom attendant leaves in your room every night. It tells you everything that’s going on all day long, activities, shows, what the dress is for dinner, etc. I really enjoyed reading through that every night and planning the next day. Again- there’s lots to do, so make sure you don’t miss out!
Food and Drink: We had some of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had. Definitely go every night to the dining room. Our servers were fantastic, so sweet and friendly and happy to be there. Since everything’s included we would try 2-3 appetizers, entrees, and multiple desserts. I tried things I’ve never had before, escargot (snails), lobster, various soups I’ve never had, almost always delicious and a great adventure. Dinner was something we’d look forward to all day, you get all cleaned up (after a long sweaty day) and eat fabulous food and share stories with your tablemates. We had a great table, met some great people, we all got along great. And boy- do I miss those desserts!!
As far as other dining options, we would order room service in the morning often. It’s free, except a few bucks for gratuity at the time of service. There’s a door sign you can put in your order just by leaving it on your door by 3am the morning before, tell them when you want to deliver it, and then when you wake up- voila! We often used that as our alarm clock! Also- we had a stateroom with a balcony. I really really recommend that. We could eat breakfast on our balcony with the ocean breeze, or watching the ship arrive at a port. It really was worth it!!
For snacks, we always went to the Café Promenade, they had little sandwiches, cookies, fruit, ice cream… and free ice water (which we would fill our water bottles with), coffee, and tea. Johnny Rockets we went to once, but we have that at home, so nothing too different. We didn’t waste our money on The Portofino, which is $20 a head for dinner. Why? When you can go get a gourmet dinner at the dining room for free.
On drinks… that’s where they get you! Ice water, ice tea, lemonade, coffee, and tea are free, though hard to find. Soft drinks, bar drinks, cappuccinos (or other fun coffee drinks) you have to pay on your Sea Pass card. So keep it to a minimum if you don’t want to pay extra. Again, Café Promenade is the place to get ice water whenever if you’re a water freak like me.
I really liked Labadee. This was the only port we hadn’t planned any excursions. It was our favorite, probably because of that. We got off the ferry and there were a lot of people. My boyfriend and I kept walking away from all the masses. The more we walked the more quiet and serene it became. Finally, we stopped at Hideaway Beach (the name drew us in) where there were minimal # of people. We stopped under a palapa and one of the Haitians brought us a chair. We tipped him a buck. Then I got one of those floating mats for $10, a guy was sitting nearby renting them. You can put that on your Sea Pass account. And then I floated on the warm crystal waters relaxing while my boyfriend snorkeled nearby (with his own equipment). It was the perfect relaxing day. I felt like I was on Gilligan’s Island or something. The peninsula they own is very small and very uninhabited. The only Haitians there are working. So perhaps we were shielded from the real Haiti, but nonetheless a great experience. They provided lunch at various huts along the beaches, which was nice, we grabbed food and ate under our palapa. Ahh- heaven! Then later we packed up our stuff and walked around exploring. We walked the entire length and width of the peninsula (only a couple miles or so) and then we went to the Marketplace. I bought painting which I love, they were a little pushy, not the kind of shopping I like to do because if you look at something for 2 seconds, they think you want it and start asking what you’d pay for it. But overall, a nice little island.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I feel like I didn’t get a real idea of what this country or town was about. To my chagrin, I booked an excursion with my sister to go swimming with the Dolphins and Dunns River Falls. Not that I didn’t want to swim with dolphins, I just didn’t think it was going to be worth the $99. Well, I don’t recommend this. Yes- we were in the water with the dolphins for about a half hour. But the trainers are calling out orders for everyone, “swim in a straight line… line up shoulder to shoulder,”etc. and the dolphins do certain tricks for you. It all just felt very controlled. There’s one 5 minute interaction with the dolphin where you get to pet the dolphin for a little bit, which is nice. But then they ruin it by telling you to smile at the camera. Yeah- everything’s a photo op. They tell you you can’t bring water cameras or video cameras, but it’s not because it’ll upset the dolphins (like they say), it’s so that they can sell you a picture for $15 and video for $40. Such a rip-off! The whole Dolphin’s Cove thing felt a little too Disneyland for me. Just didn’t seem like an organic Jamaican experience. So then we went to the Dunn River Falls. It’s actually very confusing, no one knows where to go. You can pay for lockers to store your stuff and clothes. Best to wear only your bathing suit as you’ll get totally wet. There were hundreds of people at the bottom starting to go up. Very chaotic. And again, the bain of my existence, there’s a Royal Caribbean photographer taking people’s picture at the bottom where the most people are. So you’re freezing your butt off under cold water, pissed off, and they tell you to smile for the camera! Seriously people, ever hear of candid photography? Anyway, once we got up a little ways, it was actually pretty fun. It’s pretty challenging climbing the rocks with the water rushing down, I was surprised more people weren’t falling or getting seriously injured. Definitely wear WATER SHOES, they are a must!! It’s about an hour climb, I definitely do not recommend this for people that aren’t physically fit, can be sorta challenging. But if you like to climb and can be patient with crowds, go for it!
A friend of mine did the horseback riding excursion on Jamaica and said she had a wonderful time. That they drove inland a bit and got to see part of the country before getting on the horses and riding on the beach. They even had time to go to a local bar for a Red Stripe. That sounds like a better experience to me if I were to do it all over again.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman was very beautiful. Reminded me of Hawaii in many ways. We booked the kayaking/snorkeling excursion. This was okay. I actually got quite a workout rowing for such a long time, many times I thought “this feels more like work than fun!” Anyway, we kayaked a bit down Seven Mile Beach. Then we stopped and rested and got on our snorkeling gear. We swam out a little ways to a reef where our guide had food for the fish. So I took some pictures with my water camera. There was even a barracuda hanging out with us, which kinda freaked me out. But then the guide said he’s completely tame, hangs out at this reef all the time, his name is Barry. So I made my peace with it. I got a bunch of pictures of Barry. Unfortunately, when I got back home, the pictures didn’t come out because the film was exposed. Here I was so careful to make sure all my cameras didn’t go through any x-rays at the airport as they will fry your high-speed film. But I think it was the x-ray going back into the ship… I pointed out I had a water camera and they insisted the x-ray wasn’t strong enough to affect it. Well, that’s the only x-ray it went through. And my pictures are gone! So INSIST that you bring your high-speed film and/or cameras through the x-ray by hand. Or else you risk losing your memories.
We booked the Tulum Express excursion. I really wanted to see the Mayan Ruins, but I knew it would involve a lot of traveling. This excursion says it’s about 6 hrs long, and most of that time is spent getting to & from Tulum. The actual time spent there was only 1.5 hrs. First you take a ferry from the ship to Playa Del Carmen, which looked absolutely beautiful. I wished we could’ve stopped there and jumped in the water, it was so turquoise! But alas, we got on a bus that took us south about an hour to Tulum. Our guide was very informative, I enjoyed all the little tidbits of information about the Maya culture. Once we got there, it was very interesting, very HOT… but I was a little disappointed in that we couldn’t climb the ruins or go inside anywhere. I mean it makes sense because they’re trying to preserve the ruins, so they rope ‘em off so you can’t walk on ‘em. It was still pretty cool, but I guess I was expecting more. There’s a beautiful beach and water there where people were going swimming, but with only 1.5 hrs to see everything, we didn’t want to change into our swim suits and be sticky and wet the rest of the time. So we head back on the bus, get back on the ferry, which took us to downtown Cozumel. We were looking forward to a little time to explore the island before getting back on the ship. Well, we had maybe an hour to race through downtown. I wanted to do some shopping, but found only little trinkets, knick-knacks, nothing too substantial. We ended up at Carlos ‘n Charlies, which we heard was the place to go. It was a fun atmosphere, but frankly nothing too different than our beach city bars in LA. But at least I walked out of there with a good buzz, so it’s all good!
I heard of some other people that didn’t book excursions that just rented a scooter and explored the island all day. Again, something I maybe would’ve done if I could do over. And then maybe I’d go to a bigger city for Mayan Ruins like Chichen Itza (but of course that would have to be a separate trip of its own).
In general, if you’re the adventurous type who likes to get an organic feel for a country, I suggest perhaps saving your money and not booking too many excursions beforehand. It’s very easy to go through that menu and go crazy on the excursions. But sometimes, I think the best part is exploring a country for yourself, and finding little treasures along the way. And with such a short amount of time at each port, every minute counts.
Also- just so you know, all the ports accepted American dollars. They may give you change in their money, but it’s definitely widely accepted. So don’t worry about changing over anything. Also- Jamaica, Cayman, and Mexico all accept major credit cards too. Labadee is very much the isolated island, so if you want to buy something from the marketplace, they accept cash only (US dollars are fine), no credit cards here.
And at no time did I feel like I wasn’t safe. As a woman, I’ve traveled many places in Europe, like Italy, where I had to be careful of pickpockets or people treating me with disrespect. All the people were pretty friendly, even those trying to sell you something, you just tell them you’re not interested and they’ll leave you alone for the most part.
A few last words about the ship…
The Staff, what more can I say about the Staff!! They’re wonderful. I’ve never experienced such wonderful customer service. Of course, not one person we met was an American. A very international staff, they’re so happy and friendly and helpful. Not a grouch in the bunch. Our dinner waiters Sorin and Lauraun were delightful. They were so cute! And can you believe these people work for 6 months straight, not one day off? Make sure to show your appreciation at the end with a great tip, they all deserve it. In fact, after we left the ship we arrived at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale and were reminded of the disgruntled nature of American workers all too fast. We all wished we were back with the happy, friendly staff on the ship. They treated us like kings and queens.
The Entertainment was real fun too. I was real impressed with the Cruise Director, Richard Spacey, he’s such a ball of energy, does he ever sleep? He was great, at every event, making people laugh, what a tough job he must have, and he does it with great ease. Be sure to catch the Love & Marriage show, totally hilarious. There were a couple shows with stand-up comedians that were pretty classic too. And don’t miss the ice-skating show. And the game show “The Quest” was pretty funny too. Also- if you like to dance late into the night, The Vault is for you. 18 & over dance club, all the staff ends up there around midnight or so, lots of fun dance music.
Overall, the Voyager of the Seas was a great ship and a great experience!!! I wish I was there now. Enjoy your cruise!!