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Royal Caribbean Sovereign the Seas7 Day Bahamas"Sea Dawg" Holcomb

Age: 56

Occupation:retired

Number of Cruises: 12

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Sovereign of the Seas

Sailing Date: December 12th, 2005

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean
Sovereign of the Seas
7 Day Bahamas

"Sea Dawg" Holcomb

Parking:
If you drive your own vehicle to Port Canaveral the parking fee is $10.00 per day payable upon entrance. You will reward yourself later to park near the elevator.

Embarkation:
Having a printout of the SetSail Pass (complete online) and filled out our Bahamas Immigration cards in advance (mailed with travel documents) really sped up our processing. With SeaPass cards in hand we were onboard by 11:35 a.m. Our suitcases were in our stateroom a few minutes later. Once the afternoon rush begins, you might find your suitcases stacked outside the elevators on your deck awaiting delivery to your stateroom. A buffet lunch was being served in Windjammers (Deck 11) - and the feeding frenzy began. Then we relaxed in poolside lounge chairs. We relaxed until we were blasted out when megawatt 110dB music began! It honestly hurt our ears!

Photographs:
You should know in advance that these photographs are not complimentary or cheap. But you are not obligated to buy. If interested, stop and pose. If not, say, "no thanks" and be on your way.

Welcome Aboard:
Sovereign of the Seas, though older and smaller than others in the RCCL fleet, is still a grand lady that manages to dazzle new cruisers. The gangway entrance puts you on Deck 4 in the glitzy centrum. You will see the Explorations desk and the Guest Relations desk there when you come aboard. You are wise to sign-up for shore excursions if you didn't do it online because the popular ones fill up fast. You may have learned that sodas, bottled water, beer and alcoholic drinks are available for a price. Unless you can be content with free coffee, tea, lemonade (and a few other non-carbonated drinks) you may want to purchase a soda package ($27.60 p/person). We packed our own sodas in our suitcases. If you are keeping track - parking fees ($10 p/day), shore excursion expenses and soda packages ($27.60 p/person) are quickly adding to the cost of this cruise you thought you had already paid for - and we haven't left the port yet! As you will learn, RCCL will nickel & dime you at every turn.

Cabin:
Ours was an oceanview stateroom on Deck 7. We found it convenient to everything. Deck 7 is the Promenade Deck - the walk/jog/lounge chair deck. (3.5 laps equals 1 mile) There's a lot of pedestrian traffic day and night, so we had to keep our curtains closed for privacy. We are not ones to spend much time in the stateroom anyway. (Deck 8 stateroom windows may be blocked by orange covered lifeboats.) Oceanview staterooms on Deck 6 or 9 might be the better choice. Our stateroom was quite small but efficient. There were 6 cans of soda and 2 bottles of water on the dresser available for purchase ($2.60 each) and a tiny ice "bucket". Carpet, furnishings and bathroom were showing their age and heavy use. Two people had to be considerate to navigate the tiny floor space. One person standing in front of the closet could be caged in between the entrance door by another opening the bathroom door. The bathroom was something like an airplane restroom with a mini-shower. Sorry, no bathtub. (RCCL should consider a "Roman Bath" addition to the spa…for a fee.) Be forewarned - our hot water was either scalding or lukewarm. We found that we keep a small stateroom neater than a larger one…have too or else the accumulated clutter immobilizes us. A Day 1 Cruise Compass listing all the ongoing activities, information and suggestions was on the bed. (The Cruise Compass is printed in advance of sailing, is subject to changes, and may contain errors and misprints.) The lifeboat muster stations are on Deck 7. That should have been convenient. But we discovered that our assigned lifeboat was quite far away during the mandatory drill.

Around the Ship
We had time to explore the ship. Yes, there still are mild musty odors and sewery smells wafting down the hallways on Decks 2 & 3. To us this indicates chronic problems hard to fix. If this might be an issue with you, book staterooms on higher decks.

We met the Maitre 'd and got information on our table seating, attire and meals. Illusions and Mirage are the main dining rooms and offer the same menu. At this time of year, the sun goes down before dinner begins so there's not much advantage to getting a window seat. Windjammers usually has the same entrée as the main dining rooms at dinnertime. We had second ("late") seating. This was not a good idea for us because we were too full to partake of the midnight buffets and we missed some shows we would have liked to have seen.

We found Latte-tudes (Seattle's Best Coffee) and took note of the coffee prices as coffee is not complimentary there. Free coffee is available in Windjammers and at the drink station poolside (Deck 11).

Next door was Ben & Jerry's ice cream - not complimentary either. Don't turn your young child loose with a chargeable SeaPass card here! We found a free soft serve ice cream dispenser over the poolside bar.

We toured the spa and fitness center. Treatments are not complimentary and, compared to prices ashore, a bit pricey. As a rule, learn if there is a price before you say "yes".

For those with children, tour the Adventure Ocean Open House youth facilities. And check out the Rock Wall and game activities available.

New cruisers might "get in the know" at the First Time Cruisers Club orientation.
There's a Johnny Rockets but you'll pay a cover charge to enter and will have to purchase drinks and shakes.

Right across is Sorrento's that offers complimentary pizza - but not made to order.
Deck 5 has the onboard shopping. Think of the pricey little shops at upscale hotels and you'll have the right idea. Resist the temptation and don't pay "retail" just yet. There will be "sales" throughout the cruise and a few good values can be found. Take careful note of the retailers' names - especially jewelers - you will see them again in Nassau.

By far the largest cash intake comes from the gaming in the Casino Royale. House odds are higher than at Las Vegas. So consider money lost gambling the cost of entertainment. To that end there are free gaming lessons offered.

Try to locate places where events happen: Follies Theater, Voltage, Bolero's, Schooner, Centrum, Viking Crown, and Movie Theater. You should at least know where the medical facility is (Deck 1). You might want to inquire if your medical insurance covers you - in most cases it won't.

As you explore the ship and more passengers come aboard you will probably experience "elevator rage". The waits can be very long. When the elevator finally arrives, they can be full. Sovereign of the Seas (1988) is a "stretched" shipped (she was cut in half and staterooms were added). Now there are more passengers aboard than the elevators were designed to handle. Like many passengers, we found the stairs quicker at peak times.

Dinner
We met our fellow tablemates - all new to us, about the same age and cruise experience, and truly wonderful company. Kudos to RCCL table assignments.

I've read some Cruise Critics comments about dinners and I have to reply that it is completely unrealistic to expect 5-star dinners at RCCL's moderate prices. We found the quality and quantity of the prepared food consistently very good. No, it's not the best culinary offerings the cruise industry has to offer. Those who want 5-star cuisine should book luxury cruiselines and pay their premium prices. For the rest of us, this is a chance to sample cuisine we don't often enjoy. With that said, go ahead, "get out there" and try something new. If it's not to your liking, your waiter will bring you something else. No, we weren't offered filet mignon or whole boiled lobster. But duck, lamb and tiger prawns were.

Dinners are an event that isn't rushed. If you are in a hurry, do your table mates and waiters a favor and eat at Windjammers. If you want to know the chef's secrets you will be able to purchase the recipes at the end of the cruise.

Waiters come from all over the world. Their English proficiency varies but is generally functional. Most try very hard to please you and really do earn their tips. They sign-up for 6 months and we learned that this cruise date is among the first for many, including our waiters. Our waiters were nervous and their table service required patience, understanding and a pinch of humor. Fortunately, this was in ample supply at our table and any pretense of formality fortunately disappeared the first night. Dinnertime became a highlight of this cruise.

Dueling Pianos
Steve and Cindy put on quite a show in Boleros. Their show is built around requests from the audience. Their piano playing, singing and interaction with the audience is very entertaining. This is not a show for children. Sadly, as the show went on they interacted more with the crew bartenders and maids and less with the passengers. We (along with others) left when we felt we were being left out of an inside joke.

Dancing Under the Stars:
Romantic sounding isn't it? The weather was a bit cool and breezy. But the music was hot - hot - hot and loud - loud - loud! This was party time by the pool. Think Caribbean Spring Break, mon. No romantic slowdancing here. And because of our late dinner seating we had no appetite for the food. The Chocolate Buffet is worth just seeing. The feeding frenzy that follows is worse than store openings the day after Thanksgiving.

DAY 2 - Cococay:
Cococay is a lovely private island reserved for RCCL. There are beautiful white, sandy beaches and a protected lagoon. Our weather was sunny, breezy and a "cool" 77 degrees - but the water was chilly. There are lots of activities (for a price): waverunners, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba, kayak, etc. The prices here are generally more reasonable than in Nassau.
There are free lounge chairs, towels and hammocks around. Live music, bars and entertainment, too. We preferred to get away from this and found paradise under coconut trees on an uncrowded and hopefully never-to-be developed stretch called "Wanderer's Beach”. We hiked around the island and found a grave marker for "Black Beard" beside some old ruins.

RCCL served an impressive free lunch considering the locale and the challenges.
We caught the tender back to the ship just ahead of the rush. We took a dip in the lukewarm waters of the hot tub (usually occupied by unsupervised youngsters) and again lounged blissfully poolside. But once again we were blasted away, this time by earsplitting 110dB of Mr. Megawatt, D.J.Terry.

Strange scheduling, considering the day spent in the sand, seaspray, sun, and suntan lotion, but tonight was the formal dinner. Yes, there were quite a few passengers in formal attire. The rest were in suits and dresses. The dinner proved to be the best served on the cruise.

After dinner we found slow dancing during the "romantic dance hour" at the Voltage. I hope RCCL keeps this going, but unless more people take advantage of it I fear this will get replaced by something more popular.

The Show - Flashback:
We caught the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers presentation of "Flashback" featuring music from the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's at the Follies Theater. Let's just say the quality is somewhere between good high school production and major theme park show. My guess is that this is a new show with new performers that will improve with cruises. But there are flaws no amount of rehearsals will correct. Oddly, for a show featuring highlights of each decade there were no songs from the Beatles, BeeGees or Johnny Cash. Worse, the canned soundtrack updated the old tunes. The soundtrack is homogenized - Elvis soundtrack has the same "sound" as Madonna; the Stones "sound" similar to…Hank Williams? Throw in prop malfunctions, wigs falling off, costume problems, choreographic (dancing) errors, bad lip synching, and the Jackson 5 looking like the Jokers 5, you have a show that promises to be entertaining in an unintended way. But I have to say, the solo and duo performance of R-E-S-P-E-C-T is worth a standing ovation.

Day 3 - Nassau:
We got up early and watched Sovereign ease backward into her berth. Nassau is an old tourist destination. Language is English. Currency is U.S.Dollar. Weather sunny, breezy and 75 degrees ("cold" to Bahamians who could be seen wearing windbreakers). You will need to take a photo ID along with your SeaPass to clear Bahamian security when you return to the ship.

We left out early. We dodged the photographers and got on the ferry (across from the tented straw market & Senor Frog) to go to Atlantis Resort. (The ferry advertises it keeps a schedule - it doesn't.) The "Historic Harbor Cruise and Atlantis Beach Day" shore excursion ($78 p/adult) or "Historic Harbor Cruise and Discover Atlantis ($54 p/adult) is one way to do it. Or you can ride the ferry ($6 round trip p/person) and purchase an Atlantis Day Pass at the Atlantis Beach Tower ($29 p/person) for a total of $35 p/person. Atlantis is a mega-resort that thinks it's a marine theme park. If you haven't seen Atlantis, then don't miss this opportunity. Expect a lot of walking. Atlantis fed the fish at the Predator's Lagoon at 10:00am. Be forewarned - meals can be expensive. I'd recommend Platos in the Royal Towers for a more reasonable meal price.

Nassau Shopping:
We did a little shopping in Nassau. Prices are not cheap here. The cruise lines partner businesses Diamonds International, Tanzanite International, Columbian Emeralds, Solomon's Mines, etc., are all here. (Honey - are we in Costa Maya again?) My advice - if you think you might be in the market for jewelry then price it in your hometown before you take this cruise. Don't be shy - bargain for a lower price. Never pay the asking price or the first offered price. You're getting close when the manager joins the negotiations. Your best price may be offered as you start to walk out the door. Armed with this information you will have some idea whether you are getting a good deal or not. Even so, you are still at some risk because you don't know the quality of the stone. If you do buy jewelry, get it appraised by a trusted jeweler as soon as you get home. In our experience, the Bahamas do not offer the great bargains that can be found on other Caribbean Islands.

Your alcohol purchases need some common sense information, too. Know the price you would pay at home - on sale - take along an advertisement. Duty free applies to only 2 liters p/adult. My advice - buy alcohol you can't get in the States. You should also be prepared for this - RCCL will take your alcohol purchases from you when you board the ship and hold it to be delivered to your stateroom at the end of the cruise. RCCL wants you to continue to purchase your expensive alcohol drinks from them. By all means keep the receipt and make sure your cabin number is clearly marked on your liquid liabilities. This suggestion is not guaranteed and from time to time fails, but you might succeed in smuggling your booze aboard if carefully wrapped in a towel and hidden in a large beach bag. The bag will get scanned when you come aboard. But maybe at a busy time the scanner may decide not to relieve you of your burdens. Remember - brown bags and delivery boxes will surely be taken from you - ahoy mateys, the pirates of royal caribbean are alive and well - arrggh!

Nassau Shore Excursions:
At dinner our tablemates discussed pros and cons of their shore excursions. The Close Dolphin Encounter, SeaTrek sailing and snorkel and SUB were recommended. The Thriller powerboat, Yellowbird party and Ardasta Gardens were not recommended.

Love and Marriage Game Show:
Take the concept of the Newlywed Game but have the most recently wed couple, the couple married the most years and a couple in between as participants and ask some zany (and adult) questions and you have a recipe for a lot of laughs. Highly Recommended. Another fun game is the Quest.

Day 4 - Lazy Day at Sea:
There is a lot going on aboard as RCCL makes an all-out final effort to part you with your money.
Jackpot's gotta go!
Items go on close-out sale!
Book your next RCCL cruise now and save!
Haven't climbed the Rock Wall yet?
Haven't eaten at Johnny Rockets yet?
Haven't taken your lady dancing yet?
Haven't seen Dueling Pianos yet?
Well…"get out there!" while you still have the opportunity!

Well, we decided to try Johnny Rockets. I went to an outside "place order here" window. We planned to eat outside. I was directed to come inside. Once inside they demanded a cover charge. I had to go back outside and get a complimentary admission I had received. Then they wanted my SeaPass to get some numbers off of it. I went back outside again and got my SeaPass. I finally placed my order . After a pretty long wait, I received my order. It had not been prepared as ordered. No apologies or regrets. But once they realized their error they prepare it as I had ordered. The cook misread the ticket. One waitress offered to bring our order out to us…until she learned we were lounging in chairs half the deck away. The burgers were great, but not worth the hassles.

Haven't been to an art auction yet? Lured by the promises of "free champagne, free raffles, free art" we made the mistake of attending an art auction. Here it's the art expert versus you the art novice. We were quoted one price for the opening bid for a print, but the actual opening bid was $100 higher. Add to any winning bid price a steep auctioneer's fee, shipping and handling fee, optional appraisal fee and optional framing fee. Needless to say, we didn't bid. We found the same print available at Art.com for much less when we arrived home. We received a small, poor quality print as "free art" and the free "must be present to win" raffle would be drawn later. We had to run down the waiter serving just a little glass of champagne. We strongly caution Buyer Beware and know your art and its real value before you buy. If nothing else, we urge you to check the value of art prints on the internet before you bid or buy art aboard.

Oh, internet is available…for a steep fee.

You'll have received your envelopes to stash your cash for tips to your cabin steward, waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter. RCCL's suggested tip guidelines for all of the above persons total $39 p/passenger.

You'll receive a comment card tonight. My thinking is that if you mark everything "excellent" then RCCL will have no incentive to improve anything. But what most want RCCL to improve is not even on the comment card. You'll have to write in comments like "need more elevators", "enforce your rules", "need more crew checking SeaPasses", etc. yourself. You will also fill out your customs form tonight.

Check your SeaPass account for charges and accuracy at Guest Relations before the crowd forms a long line tomorrow. You should get a statement of account in your stateroom tonight. That's when many discover their bar tab, purchases, casino gaming and excursions cost more than the stateroom!
Consider express departure if your car is parked in the garage. Don't leave your luggage outside your stateroom door. Plan to carry your luggage off of the ship yourself. You will need to vacate your stateroom by 8:00am tomorrow.

Back in the States an ice storm struck the deep southeast and snow blanketed the midwest, midatlantic and northeast. On the Sovereign the sky got cloudy, chilly (58 degrees) winds blew and the seas got choppy causing some minor rolling during a little rainstorm. This is the only time we felt movement on the ship during the cruise. But it serves as a warning. If you are prone to motion sickness then you are well advised to be prepared to medicate. In rough seas this ship will definitely rock-n-roll.

Departure:
We ate a final breakfast in Windjammers then got our luggage from our stateroom.

Departure went well. There were the usual rude line-breakers trying to beat the system and too few crew members assigned to stop them. I can't figure out why line-breakers think they're the only ones in a hurry or why they are more important than anyone else in the scheme of things. This is one area I fault RCCL - too few personnel assigned to handle so many passengers. This should be an "all available hands on deck" situation. There were handicapped passengers needing more assistance than they received. There were people who didn't know which line to get in (one went to Guest Relations - not the exit). Nor do I comprehend why everyone must pass through only one exit.

Given the recent bad press RCCL has received regarding poor security and crime coverup, we thought we might see more security patrolling the decks and enforcing the rules during the cruise. Not so. Know what you are getting into. You are taking certain risks on a cruise. U.S. law does not apply on the high seas. Maritime law does, or if in territorial waters, Bahamian law applies. Besides, Sovereign of the Seas is registered in Nassau, Bahamas. From what I have experienced, RCCL security is all about minimizing RCCL liabilities and protecting their interests (and casino profits) and not protecting passengers or their belongings.

We used express departure - and rolled our own luggage off the ship. We have learned there are many advantages to packing light. We sailed through customs and security. We were in our car and out of the parking garage by 8:05am.

Should You Take This Cruise?
Cruise lines would have you believe cruising is for everyone. It's not!
Are you willing to…
…eat and converse with people you have never met?
…tolerate long, slow lines to most everything? Line-breakers?
…listen to loud music and noisy, rude, often drunk people?
…tolerate unsupervised teens all over the ship?
…be herded like cattle here and there?
…accept you're getting ripped off paying high prices for sodas and alcohol?
…be comfortable in cramped quarters?
…tolerate people who smoke anywhere they please?
Do you like seeing new places and doing new things?
Do you function well in crowds?
If so, then cruising may be for you. If not, then it wouldn't take much to ruin your vacation. As for us, we are ready to go again.
Sea Dawg

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