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Fred Renller

Age: 33

Occupation:Health Care consultant

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Voyager of the Seas

Sailing Date: January 28th, 2006

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Voyager of the Seas Cruise Review
Western Caribbean

Fred Renageller

Planning

I’d been thinking of going on a cruise with my parents for a while and decided to try out Royal Caribbean International. Went with the cruise line air deal as it included transfers to and from the airport and saved me from looking for airfare – plus if the plane had problems, the cruise line would get us on the ship eventually. Ideally, I would prefer to get to Miami the day before the ship set sail but my work schedule didn’t allow that.

We flew into Fort Lauderdale at 1pm ish, met the RCI cruise line guy who sent us on the Greyhound shuttle to the ship. 45 min. While waiting for the shuttle we stuck on the luggage tags so that our luggage would be taken to our room.

Embarkation

Having preregistered online at home with the SetSail pass in hand, check in was a breeze. After showing our passports and my credit card to the desk person, we were given our Seapass cards and walked toward the ship. Our Seapass cards, like a credit card, were used to enter our stateroom, pay for wine at dinner and jewelry and alcohol at the on board stores so cash was almost never needed (except to tip the occasional waiter in the buffet dining room).

We immediately went to Deck 11 where the Windjammer Café was serving lunch, buffet style until 3pm. I was disappointed by the food there but I am not a fan of buffets. Since I had eaten on the plane I wasn’t too hungry. Plus, dinner was in 3 hours.

Chaos ensued. Our Seapass cards didn’t work. We couldn’t get into our assigned stateroom. One of the room attendants told us that someone had already moved into our (inside, windowless) room on Deck 8. In the end, the customer service manager bumped the 4 of us, who were supposed to share a room and its 4 bunk beds into TWO rooms on Deck 6! A much better deal. Considering that we only were saving a total of 300 bucks to have 4 people in a room, it woudn’t have been worth the savings. I would never book like that again. Each room should only have 2 people unless the others are small children.

The rooms we were reassigned to didn’t have balconies but did have a window. Alas it was still inside but the view was to the promenade. We looked across and had an excellent view of the Expeditions desk and the Customer Relations desk.

Our room was very small but the space didn’t feel so small at the end of the cruise. Same thing with the bathroom. At the end of the cruise it seemed big enough. We had 2 small couches and a chair, 2 single beds, a TV, closet. All in 160 square feet I think. I can’t imagine sharing the same space with 3 others and am glad for the initial delay.

Food

Having dined with Holland America this is not as good. I’d still rate the food served in the main dining room as good food. Overall, I was happy with the quality of the dishes served. Quantity wise, these are American sized portions, i.e. regular=jumbo. No wonder Americans have such large BMIs. At times, I didn’t finish all the food on my plate. Just too much.

We tried to eat in the main dining room as much as possible (as opposed to the buffet style meals in the Windjammer Café on Deck 11, or room service food).

There is a 3 level dining area on the Voyager and we were assigned to a table on Deck 3: the Carmen Dining Room (after Bizet’s Opera). The other 2 rooms were named The Magic Flute a la Mozart and la Boheme a la Puccini.

Our waiter was from Jamaica and he said to call him Strawberry. My dad’s friend said, well then, you can call me Banana. The assistant waiter Jessie was from the Phillipines. Both were good. I ended up giving them their tip on the 2nd night with a little extra on the last day. Both were surprised at getting the envelope on the 2nd day.

Breakfast: the same menu every day. I often had the fruit plate, granola cereal, yogurt and tea. Had omelettes twice and eggs once but you can’t eat huge breakfasts like that every day. Tried the herring and the smoked salmon at breakfast on the first morning but not after that because I ate huge amounts at dinner during the cruise.

Lunch was usually eaten on the cruise ship because we didn’t want to take chances with ship made in the ports. Like breakfast, it was open seating so we didn’t get to sit at our regular table with our regular wait staff. Their lunch menus varied and were quite good. The sorbet, a different flavour each day, was not up to snuff the 2 times I ordered it. Maybe on Costa cruises they have gelato…..hmm.

I usually had 2 or 3 appetizers each night at dinner. The was our favourite meal of the day because we were at our own table with waiters that knew our juice/tea/water preferences. We were a party of 6 at a table of 8. Unfortunately, 2 ladies that met my dad’s friends on the airplane joined us. They were fine at first but one of the ladies really hasn’t stopped talking since that day long ago when she learned how to speak. Sheesh.

Soup: Lots of different soups sampled on the ship. Much of it was salty. Their bisque had fake crab. Usually not so hot. What is good for the vegetarians is that there was a veggie soup each night. Actually it was more fruit like. The first night I tried the Watermelon Gaspacho. It was cold and more like just Watermelono juice than anything else. I also tried their Strawberry bisque, and their melon soup before giving up and giving thanks that I’m not a vegetarian.

They had a prosciutto appetizer one night that I ordered 2 of in the end. Overall, I was happy with their assortment, variety and quality of appetizers – except for the soup.

Salad: usually everyday at dinner. Not a lot of vegetables other wise. Get salad each night (plants are mainly water anyway) and/or the fruit plate to help with motility.

Main Courses: Usually about 5 to choose from, including the Chef’s Recommendation, and another 5 back up dishes in case you don’t see anything you don’t like on the main menu. I had Atlantic cod the first night. Newfoundland’s is much better. This was a flavorless chunk of fish. The second evening I had the most tender piece of steak ever. It wasn’t filet mignon but was super soft. Flavor wise, it’s not as good as my dad’s roast beef. Day 3: Fish again. Not bad. Day 4: Lamb shank. Yuck. I am not a fan of lamb and don’t think I will ever get it. Tried my dad’s rack of lamb one night and while it was good, all my previous experiences with baby sheep have taught me to be oblivious to it in the future. The only time I’ve really enjoyed lamb is at this takeout Turkish place in downtown Halifax. Had lobster tail the night it was offered. Not impressive. I don’t think these lobsters were alive that day. Dinner on the cruise usually consisted of all of us eating double our usual dinner allotment of food. What a feast every night. They say that people usually gain 1-2 pounds a day going cruising.

Dessert: Fancy. Sampled a lot of their desserts. Their crème brulee was coffee flavored. Yuck. Very rich sounding creations that I usually ate half of. Usually I was stuffed from dinner so I didn’t have much more room for the sweet stuff. They had a raspberry panna cotta one night that I ordered and their version of this cooked cream isn’t even as good as the PC frozen kind. They mixed in the raspberry as opposed to having the fruit on top. Oh well.

Windjammer café: came here for lunch one day because we wanted to get back to Ocho Rios. Open seating dining is very slow in terms of service. You get a nice view of the water outside the ship from most places in the café. Its usually very easy to get a window seat when the ship is in port. They had fresh fruit, a salad bar, roast turkey or beef at lunch and dinner. Sushi, burgers, hot dogs, the same desserts as served in the dining room. Like elsewhere on the ship, milk, juice, water are free but you have to pay for pop, 1.50 a glass (or 40 bucks for unlimited pop the entire cruise). They do have unlimited and free glasses of lemonade and ice tea on Deck 11. This place closes at 9pm so if you need a snack after, get room service or go the Deck 5.

Deck 5, Café Promenade. Snacks: You can get the ship’s regular coffee, tea, milk, and much on sandwiches, cookies, oranges, kiwis, and bananas in the 50’s style booths here until early in the morning. I think they close at 3am. My parents and their friends would go for late night coffee here. If this isn’t good enough, you can pay for Seattle’s Best brand coffee, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and those Italian style cookies here.

Other dining options: Portofinos. Italian cuisine. 20 bucks a head and you need reservations. Didn’t feel the need to pay more having spent big bucks already for the vacation and really, how good could the food be. I was happy with the dishes served in the dining room and I had been in Italy not more than 8 months ago feasting on real Italian food.

Johnny Rockets: a 50’s style diner where you can have milkshakes and burgers. 3.95 a person. Didn’t try them at all. They’re on Deck 12 towards the back.

Smoking: unfortunately many people in the world still smoke stinking cigarettes. The cruise ship has designated smoking areas but really, the smoke and the foul odors go everywhere. One of my first impressions of the ship was that it smelled like an ashtray. I don’t remember this stink from my previous Holland American sailing. The ship was also populated with many South Americans who love puffing their way to emphysema. I tried to avoid most of the bars, the casino, and the promenade as much as possible because I hate smoking.

Art: This ship is loaded with mostly cool art. There are sculptures, paintings, photographs and other artful touches throughout the ship: on the floor, on every stairway landing, in the elevator, in your cabin, in the bars and lounges. I think the painting I remembered seeing the most was a pink and green painting, Nordic water in one of the elevators. There are also several art auctions where you can buy lots of original art. They serve champagne at these auctions. Free booze.

Entertainment. OK. Their ice skating show was good (listen for the announcement on when to pick up tickets. Also get there 45 minutes before it starts because many people were standing). There was a group of 6 brothers who did musical numbers from a wide variety of American musicians 60s-80s. The stand up comics, 2, were ok. They brought in a Michelle Something who starred in Cats on Broadway on Grand Cayman Day. She sang 3 songs and was great. The onboard group of performers doing musical numbers were talented but the 2 shows they did weren’t great. The overall musical show consisted of bits of songs that would have been better if they performed fewer songs instead of trying to give the boat an abbreviated look at many different productions. Maybe I’m a musical theatre snob, as I see several productions each year and have seen lots of shows in London, Broadway and Toronto, so the quality wasn’t up to what I usually get. There was a ventriloquist who was hilarious. There was a Quest scavenger hunt game show that I’m glad I didn’t participate in. The Married People show was very entertaining. Overall I was content with the nightly entertainment. The nightly schedule was feast, the sit down and be entertained.

In order to stay active, I was usually doing some swimming each day, either off the beach or during my snorkel trip, or doing laps in the tiny main pools on 11. I also visited the gym to do the stationary bike and weight machines a few times. I would have preferred to jog a bit but the track is small and the ship is super windy when in motion. They had a few free exercise classes each day with aerobic type stuff. Mainly attended by women. I would have preferred a bigger pool to do laps. Their pool is filled with salt water. Got to do some practice snorkeling in it. Also several hot tubs on 11.

Ports of Call

Labadee, Haiti.
Going to a place where no government has been in place for the last 18 months wasn’t thrilling. We didn’t end up doing anything organized by the ship such as sailing up in a parachute think pulled by a boat or going SeaDooing. Not a great beach. Murky water. But it was warm and no snow! Not much to see on this bit. A crappy private island if you ask me. We left at lunch to go back to the ship and didn’t return after.

Ocho Rios. Our waiter knew a guy on the island, Corey, who had his own bus with Corey Transportation, and drove us all over Ocho Rios for 30 bucks a person. We had him for the whole day. In the morning, we visited the rainforest, Fern Gully, climbed the 5-600 foot waterfall at Dunn’s Rivers Falls (a dangerous thing to do for someone in shape like me, I would recommend you NOT do this at all. If you do, buy or rent water shoes because some of the rocks are really slippery and the water flow rate is fast. Me and my dad’s friend were the only ones in our group stupid enough to try this. We didn’t join a guided tour because they were only big lines of people who were standing around most of the time. I saw several old people, like 60s or older, I hope they made it back without needing a pin in their hip. Also saw a women with a baby on her back attempting to climb the falls. After lunch, mom and friends went jewelry shopping and we went swimming at a free beach. Saw some fish and got to splash a bit but then had to hurry back to the boat. Not much time in each port. Ocho was a bit better as there was a pier to walk on and off the ship, not having to wait for tender boats was better. Our driver, Corey, said “Ya Mon” and “No problem” a lot.

George Town, Grand Cayman. This is the only port I visited where I could consider living for a year or two. There weren’t people hawking their cheap stuff at you. This was the big snorkel adventure that I booked through the internet with Captain Marvin’s. We had Captain Marvin, an almost 90 year old dude driving the boat. For 40 bucks, we got on a boat, were outfitted with snorkel, mask, flippers and optional air vest and visited the coral gardens. Crystal clear blue water, 10-15 feet deep with coral and sand. The coral was darker and browner than I’d imagined – not the funky red and orange stuff you see in National Geographic Tonnes of fish to see. All you had to do was get in the water and put on your mask. It was like you were dropped into an aquarium. There were many dark blue fish that I’d never seen before. The fish didn’t seem scared but they seemed to know when I was trying, unsuccessfully to catch them. I wish we had stayed here longer. Our second stop was at the barrier reef, a 5 minute ride away. Here there were fewer fish but I saw an eel. We were told not to get near the coral because they die if you touch them and you get cut by the coral. I remember trying not to sink down onto the coral but discovered that with the salt water I didn’t sink. This never happens to me at the regular pool. Last stop was the much visited Stingray Sandbar where we saw several stingrays, got to touch and possibly kiss one (for 7 years of good luck). One of the ship’s workers held onto the stinkray for 3 minutes so we could all take photos of it.

My dad’s friend got sea sick after the first stop unfortunately. He got to see his smoked salmon breakfast return to the sea briefly before being eaten by a fish. A unique viewing opportunity.

If you are going with the ship’s excursions, I’d recommend the 35 dollar 2 stop snorkel trip. You won’t see stingray but you’ll get awesome snorkel with fish time. This is supposedly the cheapest place for alcohol. The recommended shop was Tortugas.

Cozumel, Mexico. Last port. The ship got in late . 10am. We decided to have lunch then briefly look around the town in the afternoon. Visited jewelry shops and then went to free beach 13 clicks away via taxi. This place got whacked by the hurricanes a few months ago and all their palm trees have haircuts. Brought my own snorkel (you really should go and get an inexpensive set, 20 bucks) if you plan to do any snorkeling. Saw some fish but the water at the beach was murky. If I wasn’t with a big group that didn’t snorkel, I’d have hired a boat and gone to a reef to snorkel.

Deck 1. Medical facility. You can buy some over the counter stuff in their vending machine. You’ll also come here to board the tender boats or walk off the ship in Labadee.
Deck 2. Pitiful movie theatre.
Deck 3. La Scala theatre. Dining room. Skating rink. Photos of the guests from the ship’s photographers displayed.
Deck 4. La Scala upper deck. Access to outside. You can walk around most of the ship and play shuffleboard. Casino
Deck 5. Promenade: bars, stores, info desk.
Deck 11. Gym, pools, Windjammer.
Deck 12. Spa, mini golf, roller blading, basketball court, track, suntanning.
Deck 13. Rock climbing wall.
Deck 14. Chapel.

Overall, this was a fun vacation. 7 days was long enough. Good food, good entertainment, good value. I’ll probably try a different cruise company next time. Maybe Costa or Princess. If only they could get rid of the smokers………….

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