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Age: 46

Occupation:Domestic Engineer aka At Home Mom Who is Never Home

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Voyager of the Seas

Sailing Date: February 19th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

I just want to let you know that it has taken me four long months to get this trip review completed. I may have forgotten some details, but I wanted to submit this since I got so much help before my cruise. The anticipation was almost as much fun as the actual cruise and the tips I got were so helpful. I’m the type that likes to plan to the nth degree, no spontaneity here, and felt I succeeded completely.

Day 1 Saturday, Feb. 19, 2005

12:00 – After staying overnight at the Downtown Marriott Courtyard which is a 5 minute cab ride away, it’s time to leave for the ship – the Royal Caribbean Voyager! This trip includes myself, my friend Karen and our two 16 year old daughters. I attached the luggage tags to our bags as directed in the Cruise documents. We took a quick cab from the Marriott and got dropped off right in front at the Port of Miami. Our luggage was collected from a porter while we carried a backpack full of anything we might need since we have been warned that we might not get our luggage until later tonight. We brought 2 ½ gallons of water onto the ship which saved us a ton of money. It worked very well.

We then got in a long line that moved very efficiently to register for the ship and to collected our “Seapass” after we gave them our credit card information. The Seapass was used as our cabin key, for access on and off the ship and as our money to pay for anything we wanted pertaining to the ship including souvenirs. This was continually tallied on the TV in the room so you can watch your accounts add up. Good idea to keep an eye on it - if there’s a problem you can address it right away rather than in the end when EVERYONE is in line doing the same thing.

On the gangplank we were greeted with photo ops of boarding the ship, security and just before we step on the ship, the hand sanitizer machine. I think, “Oh, good, they are doing everything to protect us from that virus I have been hearing about on the TV.” But, that was the one and only time it was used on the entire cruise. We did see it periodically on the ship, but not so urgently as this one time.

We get on the ship and are handed the first “teen” daily schedule and a glimpse of the Promenade. Ends up the teens didn’t really participate in any of the teen events. My two teens met up with several other teens and created their own meeting places and music, etc. Didn’t seem to be any curfew at all for them even though it is highly recommend they return to their rooms 1:00.

First I get a virgin strawberry daiquiri because you can keep the cup ($6.84 tip is automatically included and I give him another dollar). Let the spending begin! Right away we take a tour of the spa and are encouraged to sign up for the discounted spa treatments which you have to sign up for immediately after the tour to get the discount. It appears that those that have arrived way before us are the “models” getting treatments during the tour which was in groups of 8-10. I sign up for the Seaweed Wrap and Kathryn signs up for the Microdermabrasion AND then we are told it’s a final sale! I found it well worth every cent. Total elegance in a relaxing, luxurious space. Tip: Great place to take a long hot, spacious shower rather than in your tiny cabin shower.

We went to the dining room as recommended to ensure that we are happy with the location of our table. We find our number #276 placed on a wonderful table for seven by the window and are very pleased so there is no need to find the Head Waiter. Unfortunately when we went down to our first meal, we found the numbers had been switched and we are not by a window and it’s a small, private table for only the four of us. No mingling gonna happen here, BUT it ends up exactly right since Karen can’t handle the water view which made her seasick at dinner time! She had to sit with her back to the windows.

We find our cabin #8630 and the Hammonds are next door at #8632 and are thrilled with the balcony and size of the cabin (category D2). Lots of cabinets, shelving and drawers in addition to the bathroom cabinet. Our steward comes in to say hello and I give him $20.00 right away hoping that will ensure the best treatment. I hang my $1.00 shoe hanger on the inside of the bathroom door for organization (vitamins, hairbrush, soap, q-tips, etc.) and love it! Our luggage has been efficiently delivered to our cabin (not the late evening wait as expected). I plug in my extension plug to charge my digital camera and ipod. The extension is a “must have” on the list. It’s quite cool and breezy in Miami at this time and we are due to depart at 5:00 BUT that is the time that Kathryn has signed up for her spa treatment so she has missed the departure from the port. I am unpacking and then look up to find that we have left the port several minutes ago, and right on time!

Ship departure from Port of Miami: -- 5:00 pm

We are due to go down to dinner at 6:00 and find that the table number has been moved to a round table for four away from the window. I was very disappointed at first, only to be very glad in the end. Karen is quite seasick and it would have been hard to look out the window at every meal. We used the seabands and found great relief from wearing them. She suffered far more than I did. I also enjoyed the quiet dinners shared with my daughter rather than having to chat and socialize with others. Might be anti-social, but it worked for me this trip. I really savored my dinner time with Kathryn. We meet our same three servers for every single dinner. Head waiter is Abdullah. Waiter is Godfrey and his assistant is Rohan. They are wonderfully efficient in serving the excellent meals and making each meal seem like special dinner out. We dressed smart casual for each meal except formal night. As a teen, Kathrn did not wear any prom gowny type attire, just an elegant top with a few sparkly sequins and a layered short, flowing skirt with dressy sandals. I wore a long skirt with a matching top and dressy sandals.

Rohan served us various choices of breads each and every night. He also brought us our drinks and any condiments we needed. We did not buy the soda package ($42.00 for the week) as we just couldn’t imagine drinking that much junk over the week, so water, ice tea and lemonade was just fine for us.

Godfrey takes our order and you can have as many appetizers, entrees and desserts as you wish. Very nice waiter with a thick Indian accent and has enthusiasm and sincere enjoyment of his job. He and Rohan have two tables to serve so you really do get very efficient attention. I remembered to ask for a souvenir menu.

Abdullah was in charge of a whole section of tables and periodically would stop at our table to ensure everything was fine. Early seating was perfect for us for a few reasons. 1. I can’t sleep with food digesting in my stomach. 2. I enjoyed the show before bedtime. 3. Didn’t have any problem with rushing back from an excursion. 4. Didn’t feel rushed by the waiters at all. 5. No problem with little kids being whiney or cranky. 6. The teenagers were a bit disappointed as their new friends all had later seating.

It’s a good idea to bring along a lanyard to hang your SeaPass on. Especially handy for the kids.

The front desk will punch the holes in it for you (they are used to it) as well as give you seasick pills!

Going back to the cabin, the bed is turned down with chocolate on the pillow. Life is good.

Day 2: 2/20 02 Sun Nassau, Bahamas 7:00 am 2:00 pm

The twin bed was surprisingly comfortable as I have a chronically sore back. You think it is a cot when you first walk into the cabin, but it’s so much better.

It’s time to get off the ship but we chose to take our time which was a mistake as the time in Nassau is so short. I agree with many people that it is not worth it to go to Paradise Island to see the Atlantis Hotel. I was not impressed at all and you have to pay to see the aquarium; we had a plan to head to the public beach at the Sheraton next door to the Atlantis (sharing the same beach) but like I said, got caught up in the hype of the Atlantis. Catching a cab was tough and time consuming as they would not leave unless they had a full van of 7-10. We were a group of four and waited more than 15 precious minutes and got out deciding to maybe walk the straw market only to get caught up again by the calls and solicitations of promises to take you right away. So we got into another cab to experience the same thing having to wait for a full cab! This took about 5 minutes. After a quick ride to the Atlantis and the disappointment, we ended up walking to the Sheraton and only had 45 minutes on the beach. It was 45 minutes of heaven. The shops are plentiful and full of your typical Caribbean fare, but my favorite junk souvenir shopping was Labadee, Haiti and I’ll talk about that more later. I never made it to the straw market.

Day 3: 2/21 03 Mon At Sea -- --

What a great day to check out the ship and schedule your first spa treatment. It’s also a great time to try to read up on all the papers they leave nightly in your room. The Cruise Compass is the daily newsletter which tells you anything and everything about the events of the next day. I brought my highlighter and used it every day as there is an overwhelming about of listings and events to keep track of.

The weather was not what we had hoped as it was windy and quite cool. Our anticipated first days in the sun were squashed somewhat, but I chose to wrap myself in towels and at least get some sun on my face.

Bingo was expensive. A quick $35 for 5 games held in the LaScala Theater. Cash prizes were pretty heft and accumulated each day. Great casino, although smokey.

I had a great time on the ship enjoying the shows. The cruise director Becky was a hoot. Some have said she is over the top and almost obnoxious, but I found her a very talented, energetic entertainer. She made me laugh a lot all during the week at the various programs. She seemed to be everywhere. There was a show called the Quest which was probably the funniest and most entertaining of all the adult participation shows. (The Caribbean Singers were only okay in both of the shows, but still something I would recommend you see.) There is no urgency in rushing to get seats, there seemed to be plenty. Personally, I am the type that needs to arrive early, get my particular seats, relax, people watch and wait. Karen always dashed in at the last second, but I had a seat waiting for her. Worked out just right.

Day 4: 2/22 04 Tues St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
8:00 am 6:00 pm

St. Thomas is the island for jewels and gems. “The” place to shop if you are looking for something special which I was not. I also wouldn’t buy the $20 coupon book that they tease you with. Save your bucks for some other shopping unless you “love” a scavenger hunt and the cheapo “free” items. My daughter went to the talk where they “give” you a free diamond bracelet which we fell for. It is a coupon that you get if you go to St. Thomas to cash it in for the junky bracelet from Diamond International. There is a DI logo charm hanging from the bracelet and I have a girlfriend named Di, so I’ll give it to her. I have read that you might like to leave your left over coupon book in the safe, but I think they clear it out along with anything else you might like to leave behind.

This is the one day you do all your extra tours without rushing. Scuba Diving, parasailing, hanging out on Sapphire Beach, etc. We booked the Scuba Diving excursion at the last minute on the ship and it was wonderful. They tell you exactly where to go and there is no question about anything. This was a perfect experience for the girls to get a taste of Scuba Diving for $100/person. A short lesson on the boat, another short lesson in shallow water, the ratio is one to four, and then an instructor right by your side. The best part is that Karen and I got to ride on the boat for $25/each for the four hours and take all the photos we wanted, not to mention feeling good about staying with the girls. An added bonus is that we got to snorkel at this time.

Day 5: 2/23 05 Wed San Juan, Puerto Rico 7:00 am 2:00 pm

Loved PR. Kathryn and I had a nice breakfast and then got off the ship to find Senor Frogs to buy t-shirts. Karen and Kat went horseback riding (at some ungodly early hour of the morning) which was another highlight of their trip. Kathryn and I walked to the Old San Juan Cathedral where we went to Mass. My daughter got extra credit at school for going to a Mass said in Spanish! We ate at Barrachina which was a wonderful restaurant known for their shrimp. I wasn’t feeling excellent, so we shared a roast beef sandwich and it was excellent. I guess it was a blood sugar thing because I felt fine after eating. Walking around Old San Juan without a tour guide was fine; we used the guidebook and directories. There just isn’t a heck of a lot of time to do much but browse some shops and grab a meal. We headed back and ended up not buying anything in the Duty Free Shops right at the boat terminal. The thought of hauling the heavy bottles was just too much for me to deal with.

Day 6: 2/24 06 Thur Labadee, Haiti (Hispaniola)
9:00 am 5:00 pm

My favorite stop of the entire cruise. Labadee is a private beach owned by Royal Caribbean and only RC guests can go there. We caught the first boat out at 8:00 which was a very smart thing to do. The girls were scheduled to go parasailing at 9:00. There is no dock there, so we are tendered by a smaller boat (holds 200) which goes back and forth all day long. We got on the first one and then headed to the farthest beach which is the best, least crowded. Because we were so early, we got dibs on a couple of hammocks which you needed because the sun was so hot as the day went on. There is hair braiding nearby, a kid’s water playground and lots and lots of beaches. There are about five main beaches to settle on, but you have to be careful what you choose. One side is very windy and the sea is extremely rough, but if you want the white caps, this is for you. The side where the ship docks is the calm, smooth side which is where we camped for the entire day. From 9:00 until 4:30. The shopping is your typical bartering experience except the natives are brutally aggressive. This is where you should plan to buy your cheapo souvenirs. It’s the last stop of my trip, so what did I know? Cheap, cheap, cheap. BUT don’t buy the pastel colored necklace and bracelet sets shaped like leaves. They break so easily, are not comfortable to wear and that’s if you can get the stiff wire to lay flat on your neck. Looks great in your hand, but I didn’t try it on my neck. These sets seem to be everywhere. I did get a wonderful woven pocketbook for $12. Lunch was a BBQ that they brought off the ship and set up for you near the beach. It was nothing elaborate, but did the trick. You could always go back to the ship and eat in their many restaurants. Anyways, Kathryn hated that Labadee shopping experience and went back to the ship around 3:30. Karen and I were one of the last to get on the last tender! This is the night that the girls asked to stay out and they certainly did! Until 2:00 am!

Day 7: 2/25 07 Fri At Sea -- --

Time flies when you’re having fun! Time to pack up and put our luggage out by 10:00 pm so they can collect it. At 1:30 am, my luggage was still in the hallway, but you never know. Girls were out late again tonight and as a very protective Mom, I felt very comfortable with them doing so. They connected with some other teens, found an empty piano lounge, pushed some chairs together and hung out enjoying playing the piano (one of the boys was extremely talented). According to Kathryn, one of the staff peeked in to see what was going on and saw they were just hanging out and kept going. Such great memories. We really lucked out with our cabin/balcony/location. Each port we came into, the port was right outside our balcony! Amazing, just amazing.

Tonight is the night you pass out all your tips. There is an opportunity to give a global tip $68.25 from Kat and $68.25 from me on your SeaPass as well. We also chose to give a bonus to each of our dinner waiters and our steward.

Day 8 2/26 08 Sat Miami, FL 8:30 am --

A very sad day, but very well run. They say for you to totally vacate your cabin and wait for your “color” to be called in the LaScala Theater. We were lucky and our steward told us that he had plenty of other rooms to clean and we could leave a bit later. Maybe that first $20 tip worked? We packed up and rather than sit “inside” the theater we savored the last minutes on our balcony. We also didn’t wait to hear our color to be called (apparently things were running so smoothly, an officer told us we could just get right in line), walked off the ship through customs (we are warned not to bring any fresh fruit off the ship or you may be fined) and found our luggage on the carousel. What isn’t told to you is that there is an American Airlines Terminal to check your luggage right at the dock if you have a later flight which we did (8:00 pm). By the way, Karen and Kat walked right off the ship with their luggage so they didn’t put anything out the night before, didn’t have to anticipate “color” coded disembarking! So pack light if you can! We then took a cab to the Marketplace where we started our trip and met my sister and two little nieces. We saw people sitting/stuck at tables watching their six pieces of luggage killing time while we were lightweight and fancy free! Huge bonus to fly American for that reason alone. We had quite a trying time getting back to Boston with weather issues and a two hour delay, but we were still on a kind of high – nothing was going to get us down.

The compare it to, of course.) Easy to maneuver without getting lost. Loved the library for a quiet place to read at night, but not shut up in your cabin. Situated so it was a wonderful place to people watch as well. For 3000+ people on board, it was never an issue for me. And be sure to use the stairs rather than the elevators to burn off some of those calories. The elevators could have been a serious pain, but I didn't use them.

Cabin: Balcony cabin was plenty big for two females with lots of stuff. Would never want that for a family of four even though the couch pulled out.

Dresscode: Anything and everything goes.

Food: I thought the food was excellent on the ship. Never did pay for Johnny Rockets ($4.00 all you can eat) or Portofino ($25.pp) as I found the quality and service wonderful in the dining rooms.

Tipping: About $200.00-$250.00 by the end of the trip. $140 of that was automatically added to my SeaPass with my permission/choice. Then I wanted to give my steward and my three regular waiters a bonus. Add in all the miscellaneous tipping. I spent a total of $802.00 on the ship for excursions, drinks, bingo, spa, a watch, casino, postcards, tips and pictures. My friend spent $3,000.00.

Entertainment: Becky the Cruise director was excellent, too. The productions were well done for the most part. Don’t miss the skating show, the passenger- participation game shows or the art auctions.

Would I go again? Yes. Highly recommend this trip to any lucky person debating on a cruise.

We did meet up with some of the cruise critics I met on line. I was great to finally put a face to the people I'd been talking to for months!

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