Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Voyager of the Seas
Sailing Date: July 13th, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was my wife's first cruise and my second. Since my wife is five months pregnant we knew ahead of time that we weren't going to go on any excursions. Thus, I decided on a large cruise ship and my first choice was Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas.
Saturday (Pre-Embarkation day)
I didn't want my pregnant wife to be rushed and herded like cattle so we arrived in Miami one day prior to embarkation. We stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay hotel near the cruise port. The hotel is great and only 10-15 minutes from the port by taxi. Upon checking in to the hotel and washing up, we spent the afternoon and early evening at the harbor which was walking distance from the hotel. The harbor was great fun with lots of shops, restaurants, and street performers. If anyone is from the DC/VA/MD area, the harbor is similar to the Baltimore Harbor. My wife and I ended our beautiful evening at the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. Than it was a nice leisurely stroll back to the hotel to prepare for embarkation Sunday. Wonderful start to our vacation and we weren't even cruising yet.
Sunday (Embarkation Day)
We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel around 9:00am. Around 10:30am, we checked out and grabbed a taxi to the cruise port. After having a porter (remember to tip) take care of our luggage, we strolled into the high port terminal for embarkation. Inside, we were checked for deification and headed up escalators to a large waiting area. We were early (around 11am) so there were only 50-70 people there before us. We grabbed a couple of chairs and filled out SARS related forms while waiting for Royal Caribbean to commence embarkation procedures. Around 12:15-12:30, the main waiting lobby we were in with chairs were sectioned off and any new passengers arriving had to wait in line. A little before 1pm, people in the main waiting lobby were allowed first to commence with embarkation procedures. Embarkation went quite smoothly and after obtaining our SeaPass, we waited in another line to board Voyager. About 45 minutes later, we boarded the ship. We headed directly to our cabin (with a balcony) to wash up. Afterwards, we proceeded to explore the ship a little.
Voyager is a beautiful ship. It's basically a floating resort town. The Royal Promenade reminds me of Georgetown back home in DC albeit much smaller. The main dining halls are elegantly decorated with hanging chandeliers and its decor exudes elegance. We even found our dining table and was happy to have a table for two because we booked real early and requested it.
We had the early sitting for dinner (6pm) so even though we discovered the Windjammer and Island Grill buffet restaurants, we decided to wait it out for the main dining. We were back in our cabin around 3:30pm. Our cabin steward dropped by and introduced herself. Our luggage arrived before 6pm so we were able to change up for dinner. The remainder of the evening comprised mainly of dinner and evening strolls around the ship.
Monday (Day at Sea)
Wife and I spent most of the day eating and people watching. Breakfast at the Windjammer and Island Grill buffets were the standard fair of Omelet's, sausage, pancakes,...etc. We headed to the Island Grill since it usually have less people lining up to get food. Overall, the Island Grill would become our daily morning haunt for unlimited breakfast fair.
On the first day, it seems like everyone couldn't wait to get a tan. Sun bathers were out in full force as evident by the mass of bodies lying on lounge chairs by the two main pools. For people who don't know, the pool water is sea water and thus is salty.
Can't quite remember what we exactly did the remainder of the day aside from eating lunch, sleeping, eating dinner, and more sleeping. It was perfect for my pregnant wife. I was already starting to feel small traces of a spare tire around my waist and it's only been two days.
Ladadee is a beautiful private peninsula (part of Haiti) owned by Royal Caribbean. The beaches are beautiful and it's a great place to take pictures of swimmers with Voyager tendered in the ocean in the background. Royal Caribbean caters lunch (hamburgers, bbq ribs, cole slaw, ..etc) at different spots on the beaches so you don't have to go back to the ship after a nice swim.
As for Haiti itself, you won't get to see the "real" Haiti. There are a couple shops where the Haitians bring souvenirs for you to buy. For the most part, Labadee is a protected area strictly for cruise passengers, as far as I can tell. Aside from that fact, the beaches are beautiful and great for a relaxing afternoon of swimming and soaking up the sun.
Wednesday (Ocho Rios, Jamaica)
My wife and I took a scenic stroll around the tourist shopping malls near the port and a little inside Ocho Rios. Most of the merchandise didn't seem attractive to us, particularly in the shops catered specifically to cruise passengers. Walking thru a little part of Ocho Rios itself, the taxi drivers are extremely persistent and annoying. Solicitors for all types of shops hawk at you non-stop from braiding hair to buying music CDs. I was even solicited for some "smoke", which I suspect meant marijuana or other forms of drugs.
We really didn't enjoy Ocho Rios that much. Granted we didn't go on any excursions nor beaches. I'm sure if you decide to go on the excursions, your experience would be totally different. Dunns River Falls is suppose to be absolutely gorgeous and if it weren't for my wife being pregnant, we most certainly would have gone on that excursion. We would've liked to explore Ocho Rios on foot a little more but the constant barrage of solicitors for business just took it's toll on us. Plus, the part of the district near the port just didn't seem that safe for on-foot explorations. We headed back to the ship to relax and spend sometime around the pool. The added bonus of coming back to the ship early was that very few people were on board thus we had the run of the lounge chairs and swimming pools. Overall, being able to lay next to the pool and get some tan without anyone around really made up for Ocho Rios.
Thursday (Georgetown, Grand Cayman)
Grand Cayman was wonderful. We took a taxi ride to 7 mile beach and spent a really beautiful and relaxing afternoon soaking the crystal clear water. You can snorkel right off the beach as many people were doing. You can see fishes swimming around you as you tread around in the water. 7 mile beach consist of private and public areas. You can sign up for a 7 mile beach excursion which costs more since you'll be at one of the private areas but have access to hotel amenities. You can save some money and just take a taxi (which is available everywhere) to the public areas. In the public areas you'll have to pay for lounge chairs if you need one. After lounging and swimming on the beach for a couple hours, we took a taxi back to the port town and did some shopping before heading back to the ship.
Grand Cayman is a nice and beautiful place. The locals are friendly and it's a safe and nice place to rent a car or scooter and explore the island. 7 mile beach is just beautiful and shouldn't be missed. This would be a great island to fly into and spend vacation; beautiful, safe, and friendly.
Friday (Cozumel, Mexico)
The day for us consisted of souvenir buying for friends and family. We took a readily available taxi ride downtown and strolled all over looking for various gifts. Note that some shops you can bargain and some you can't. I was able to bargain some really good deals on sterling silver jewelry for my wife. Walking along the costal city, you can see kids swimming right off various piers which made for some great picture taking opportunities.
Cozumel was the best port for shopping. Although there were the usual solicitors seeking business, it's not on the terrible level as Ocho Rios in Jamaica. We didn't seek out any beaches since this was the last day at any ports and we needed to do some serious souvenir shopping.
Saturday (Day at Sea)
Not much happen as the whole day consisted of me walking around taking the usual tourist pictures of the ship. My wife spent the day eating and sleeping but she was totally content, which is a good thing for a pregnant wife. Light blue color tags (we had a 1:30pm flight) and tipping envelopes were sent to our room around noon. We packed up late in the afternoon and placed our luggage outside our cabin around 8pm after coming back from our dinner. Of course we handed out our tips to our waiter, assistant waiter, cabin steward, and head waiter. We tipped a little extra for all since they really deserved it.
Morning started early at around 7am as we needed to clear out of our cabin by 8am. We had breakfast in the main dining room and proceeded to wait in the La Scala theater till our color was called. Around a little after 11am, our color was called and it took us about another half hour to clear immigration, customs, and pick up our luggage. Took a taxi to Miami Airport and home.
Things to point out
- Voyager is a big ship and there are plenty to do and enjoy on board. Some of the shows are good and some are not. It really depends on your own personal taste.
- A cruise is what you make of it. We certainly didn't do any excursions nor catch all the shows but yet still had a wonderful vacation. The cruise staff can only do so much for you. It's still comes down to your own attitude. Relax and just enjoy.
- The food was great in the main dining rooms. You must realize that over 3000 people are being served each night. With that in mind, the meals are still very nicely done and the deserts are great. If however you prefer casual buffet dining, head over to the Windjammer and Island Grill restaurants. As usual with any buffets you'll get quantity over quality but it's still not bad at all. Overall, the food was quite good and certainly no complains from me nor my wife.
- Go a day or two earlier prior to embarkation so that you can enjoy Miami. You'll spend a little more but it would be a waste not to experience Miami especially since you are there already. Another reason is that you can head to the port early so you and your family will have less of a wait to embark onto the ship.
- Be generous in tipping. Our waiter, assistant waiter, and cabin steward worked very hard. I'm still amazed at how good spirits they're in every time we see them considering they have to work almost non-stop. It's also refreshing that they are all international workers thus you can meet people from other parts of the world.
Overall, we had a wonderful time and wouldn't hesitate to go on Voyager again. I hope everyone enjoys Voyager as much as we did. Happy cruising.