Tom & Mary Milano
Number of Cruises: 23
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Voyager of the Seas
Sailing Date: May 13th, 2001
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
A REVIEW OR A FEW WORDS TO OUR FRIENDS???
We have come to know so many of you through your e-mails, it feels more like we're visiting with friends than writing a review. For those of you who are with us for the first time, we think there are a few things you should know.
Our main intent is to write a comprehensive review that will help you decide if this is the ship you would like to book for your next cruise. In addition, we also tell about certain aspects of our life that we think will interest you. You might wonder why we refer to our cruises as ‘Honeymoons.' The reason we do is that Mary & I can't think of a more romantic, intimate way of spending quality time with the one you love than when on a cruise. We also tell why we are so passionate about cruising and how it has added a new dimension to our life. Here we are, in our mid seventies, retired for twenty-eight years, and at this age we're having the best time of our life. After trying every conceivable vacation in our twenty-eight years of retirement, it is our opinion, there is no vacation on earth like taking a cruise. For those who have never cruised before, we hope our experience will encourage you to try your first cruise.
Our review is lengthy. It makes for much easier reading if you print it. We invite you to join us as we sail on a magnificent ship, Royal Caribbean's ‘Voyager of the Seas.' We suggest you pour yourself a glass of wine, get comfortable in your recliner, and take a vicarious cruise with Mary & I to the Western Caribbean.
When Mary & I write a review, we write it as if we were doing it for the first time. We sometimes repeat suggestions we have made in other reviews. We do this because we want that person who is reading our reviews for the first time, to get the full benefit of our cruise experience. If you have been a reader of our reviews and you come across something you have read before, bear with us; there is a first time reader who might benefit greatly from that suggestion.
DON'T BE UNNECESSARILY ALARMED:
Don't be unnecessarily alarmed by what you read in reviews. We all come from different parts of the world and have different customs and tastes. On a recent cruise, one of our breakfast companions said the food wasn't very good. We thought it was superb. They didn't like gourmet type cooking. We did. We also heard the ships decor was drab. We thought it was understated elegance. When I asked what ship they liked, they mentioned a ship of a cruise lime that is known for their neon lights and glitzy decor. Some of us like to get dressed up. Others like to dress down. We all have a different viewpoint. We are writing this review from our point of view. We aren't cruise experts. We are cruise enthusiasts just like you. We write reviews to help fellow cruisers by sharing our cruise experience, but please remember, it's just our opinion.
OUR ANNIVERSARY CRUISE:
We cruised on the Voyager Valentines' week, 2000, the Explorer this past Valentines week and we chose the Voyager again to celebrate our 33rd anniversary. This was our 23rd cruise in a little less than five years and our second aboard the Voyager. The Voyager was one of the most beautiful ships we have sailed on, but in our opinion, the food and the service were not what it should be. We're sure this was due to the ship being new and the kitchen and the servers not having enough time to come together as a family. We are anxious to see if they resolved their problems.
OUR 22 CRUISES:
Carnival  Celebrity  Costa  HAL  NCL  Princess  Royal Caribbean 
SUGGESTIONS IN BOLD LETTERS:
If we think there is something that is especially important for you to remember, we will print that suggestion in CAPITAL LETTERS as the last line of the paragraph.
LOOSE ENDS & RANDOM THOUGHTS:
We have a section at the end of our reviews that we call, ‘Loose Ends & Random Thoughts.' It's just what it implies. We tell of some things we might have left out and we also write about things that are close to our heart. When [LR] appears after a comment, it means you can read more about it at the end of our review, in the "Loose Ends & Random Thoughts" section.
PRE CRUISE THINGS TO DO:
For those of you who are reading our reviews for the first time, we suggest some pre cruise things to do, that will greatly enhance your cruise experience. READ: "Before, During and After Your Cruise. http://www.cruisereviews.com/Things2Do.htm READ: "How We Heighten Our Cruise Experience" http://www.cruisereviews.com/CruiseExperience.htm
Prepare envelopes for tipping on first night of cruise: Many of our readers have tried our suggestion on tipping with great results. Following are some examples of the many e-mails we received.
Mike & Pat Ball
I followed your tip suggestion on our last cruise and had the best service of any cruise thus far. I also picked up some gold dollars as well to use for tips. Jay Krueger
I've been on 18 previous cruises and I never had the service or got the attention like I did after pre tipping the crew on our last cruise. Your suggestion worked like magic and it didn't cost any more than I normally tip. Thanks for a great suggestion. Mike Sullivan.
We like to give the suggested tip for the week, to our cabin attendant, waiter and assistant waiter and Maitre`de, the first evening of our cruise. Tipping at the end of the week is like locking the barn door after the horse has run away. We make out [3 x 5] envelopes with a note that reads...This is a down payment on your services, Thank you, Tom & Mary Milano. On our  cruises we have never had service that was poor enough to warrant us tipping less than the suggested amount. By tipping the suggested amount on the first night, you let your servers know that you are appreciative of good service and they can expect an additional stipend at the end of the cruise. [At the end of the cruise we usually give an additional $20 to the waiter, $10 to the assistant and $10 or $20 to the cabin attendant]. Giving an extra forty dollars for the week, is a small price to pay to ensure the very best from your servers. Take our word for it. It does make a difference. MAKE OUT ENVELOPES FOR PRE TIPPING.
Magic of the $2 bill: If what we hear from our readers is true, banks should start running out of $2 in the new future. This again is another low-cost way of getting a high return. We start collecting $2 bills weeks before the cruise. We take with us $20--$30 in $2 bills. I call these our magic potion. I take a $2 bill and keep folding it until I have a small square, with the large imprint of the $2 covering the surface. I use the $2 a lot in the beginning of the cruise. It's important what you say when you give it, otherwise it doesn't have much significance. When I give it to a server, I say to them, give me your hand. When they give me their hand, I take it and with my other hand I show them the folded $2 bill; then I say to them, I want you to know this is a magic $2 bill and I can promise you that during this coming week something special is going to happen to you, something that will make you very happy. Very few servers have ever seen a $2 bill and that alone gets their rapt attention. Then you can see in their quizzical expression that their thinking; it's crazy but who knows. It might work. Who among us doesn't have some form of a lucky piece. A lucky coin, a rabbits foot, a religious medal. All we can tell you is, we have had the most amazing, wonderful things happen as a result of giving out these two dollar bills; not the least is the exceptional service we have received from many servers. START COLLECTING $2 BILLS.
Make your luggage easy to spot: 75% of all luggage is black. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation if you put a colorful bow or luggage strap on your belongings. It makes it much easier to identify them among thousands of pieces of luggage. TIE SOMETHING COLORFUL ON YOUR LUGGAGE.
Join us as we drive from our home in New Smyrna Beach, to the RCL terminal in Miami. Mary & I have made this trip twenty-two times in the last five years. We could take our hands off the wheel and our car could find its way. We're giving you the entire back seat so you will be comfortable. Sit back and enjoy the music as we drive to Miami. But please, no back seat driving, my Mary takes care of that department.
Mary & I did our pre cruise routine; the Island Dinners, our Fashion Week, our Dance Sessions, all the things we wrote about in our article. Our drive to Miami, is the final phase of our pre cruise activities. We find listening to the CD's of the Los Panchos Trio, Pedro Vargas, Edie Gorme, and Julio Inglesias, creates just the right mood for us to begin to feel that tranquil, laid back feeling of the Caribbean. Having my lady at my side as we listen to the soulful, romantic voice of Pedro Vargas is a wonderful beginning for our 23rd ‘Honeymoon.' I begin to feel more mellow and serene with each mile we travel. I can sense that whatever is remaining of Macho man's persona ...is rapidly...fading...into the background. The four hour drive passes quickly and we find ourselves going over the causeway bridge leading to the RC terminal. As we approach the highest point of the bridge, the Voyager begins to come into view. We have done this same exact thing twice before, but we are still awed and speechless at the sight of this magnificent vessel. The first view of the Voyager is absolutely breath taking. As we turn into the terminal area our excitement level reaches new heights. We've made 22 cruises and we still get as excited as if it was our first cruise.
I can tell by the way Mary is smiling at me with her heart...that she knows...the Dr. Jackle and Mr. Hyde thing has happened again...Macho Man is slowly but surely being replaced by her cruise companion Wimpy. She senses he has something special in mind for their anniversary, but she has no idea what it might be. Wait till you read what Wimpy did. Mary's in for a big surprise.
We leave our luggage with the porter and I parked our car in the garage across from the terminal. As we walk arm in arm into the terminal, we are in our full cruise mode...The RC terminal is new and beautiful...one of those tent like structures. We got in line at 12:30, had our documents checked and were ready for boarding by 12:45. Come with us as we enter this magnificent vessel...EMBARKATION DAY COSTS YOU ONE SEVENTH OF THE PRICE OF YOUR CRUISE. GET TO THE TERMINAL EARLY ... PACK A SMALL CARRY ON & MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR FIRST DAY.
CHECK TABLE ASSIGNMENT...PORTOFINO RESERVATION...LUNCH:
Remember to check your table assignment as soon as possible. The alternative restaurant, the Portofino, is on the left side of the entrance to the Windjammer lunch area. They have limited seating. If you intend to have dinner there, make your reservation before you have lunch.
The Windjammer is a very attractive lunch area. They serve a wide variety of hot and cold lunch items; they have a really good selection of fruits and cheeses, and cakes and pastries that are out of this world. They have an egg station on each side of the garden section of the Windjammer. We only had lunch here on the first day. Every other day we had breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main dining room...BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING...REMEMBER TO CHECK YOUR TABLE ASSIGNMENT AND MAKE RESERVATIONS FOR THE PORTOFINO:
As you have probably noticed, the first thing I did when we walked into our cabin was to look for the wall outlets. I reached into our carry on and took out the two Wizard Scented Oil Plug-Ins we brought with us. I hastily plugged them in and in a matter of moments we began to detect the sweet fragrance of Gardenias filling the room. You can say what you want, but Wimpy sure knows what he's doing. With the use of a couple of scented plug-ins he changed an ordinary ships cabin into a veritable Garden of Eden...a fitting atmosphere for two romantics...Now back to the mundane stuff. Lets describe our cabin.
Our cabin was very comfortable. It had a king side bed with two night tables. The bed had rounded corners which gave us a little more room as we walked around the cabin. I really liked the reading lamps. The lamps had two switches, one for overall lighting and another for turning on a pin point light for reading. On the wall opposite the bed was a large desk area with a Mini Bar underneath. There is an empty shelf for you to keep items that need refrigeration. You no longer have to bring your own hair dryer. They have one in the desk drawer. The closet and draw space is just adequate. But it's hard for me to judge because on a seven-day cruise Mary packs enough for ten days and on a ten-day cruise she packs enough for fourteen days. There is no problem slipping your luggage under the bed. The Voyager has one of the better TV setups. They have a very good selection of channels. There is a very interesting channel about the Voyager. They also have a channel that gives you a view of the bow and the Promenade deck. The TV is interactive allowing you to view shore excursions, room service, your account balance and IT also had a good selection of movies. We particulary liked the five channels of great music. The ship's staff did their own radio programming and did it very well. What can we say about the bathroom? It is compact and efficient. A big improvement was eliminating the shower curtains that had a way of getting too familiar. They now have two curved sliding glass doors which give a more spacious feeling to the shower. The water controls are getting better, I only scalded myself twice. I'm going to write a letter suggesting they hang a waterproof instruction card above the controls. It usually takes me until mid week before I know what I'm doing.
As we were leaving our room, our cabin attendant came around the corner. He introduced himself as Wayne. I reached into my pocket, took out my prepared envelope and as I handed it to him I said, "Wayne, this is a down payment on your services. We know you will take good care of us." He looked both surprised and happy. He said, "If there is anything special I can do for you, just let me know."...PRE TIP ATTENDANT...DON'T FORGET A NITE LITE...SCENTED PLUG-INS...AND AIR FRESHENER FOR THE BATHROOM.
Before we take you on a tour of the ship, we want to tell you about some activities aboard the Voyager.
ACTIVITIES ABOARD THE VOYAGER:
Mary & I like the newer, bigger ships. Not only do they have the latest in technology and creature comforts, but there is so much more to do. Before we take you with us to visit some of these sites, we're going to give you a quick run down on the venues aboard the Voyager.
Cleopatra's needle, a very large, beautifully appointed lounge, that has music every evening. The Viking Crown Lounge, divided into four separate areas. A private room for receptions, a card room, the 19th hole bar and the High Notes Jazz Club. This area looks more like the traditional Viking Lounges. You can catch a live Jazz session every night. The elegant Champagne bar, the Schooner bar, the Pig and Whistle Irish pub, the exciting Aquarium bar, the Connoisseur club, a cigar lovers delight. The dark mysterious Vault, the ship's Disco where you can dance to the wee hours of the morning. The alternative restaurant the Portofino, the 24 hr. Promenade Cafe, the Sports Bar, the Magic Flute, La Boheme and Carmen dining rooms, the Windjammer & Island Grill, Johnnie Rockets Diner, La Scala theater, Children's coffee house & disco, the Casino, the conference rooms, the Gym & Spa, the two main Pools and the solarium Pool area, the Peek-a-Boo Bridge, the Wedding Chapel, Studio B, the ice-skating Rink, a Rock climbing Wall 200 ft. above the sea, a 18-hole golf course, a full basketball court, a Shopping Mall and the focal point of the ship, the magnificent Royal Promenade. Although the Voyager Class ships have more activity areas than you will find on most ships, they are so superbly designed that you never feel crowded in any way. After reading all of the above, do you think there is enough to keep you busy? Can you think of anything the designers left out? We can't.
THE ROYAL PROMENADE...THE HEART OF THE VOYAGER:
In a little while we're going to invite you to take a walk with us along the Royal Promenade. We will tell you about the various venues along the way and anything else we think might interest you. We know your going to be awed by what you see. We thought it best if we gave you a short preview, so you won't act like a tourist seeing New York & Times Square for the first time.
Regardless of how many cruises you may have made, the Royal Promenade is unlike anything you've seen on any other cruise ship. It is without a doubt the most innovative, unique design of a public area that the cruise industry has ever seen. It's hard to find the words to adequately describe it but we'll do the best we can.
When you walk onto the Promenade, you feel like your walking along a real street in a fashionable part of town. It is absolutely beautiful. It is 450 ft in length and 40 ft wide. There are various kinds of business establishments on both sides of the handsomely tiled street. You will even see a Cheery Red British Morgan car parked across from the Pig and Whistle Pub. [it was a gift from the designer.] Above the stores and restaurants are three stories of apartments with large bay windows. The bay windows are part of the back walls of inside cabins. This is another first for Royal Caribbean. The back walls, of the 138 inside cabins that face the Promenade deck, have bay windows. This allows you to view all the activity that is taking place on the Promenade deck. It's an innovative way of making inside cabins more desirable. Mary & I had Atrium cabins on our two previous cruises on The Voyager and the Explorer. We found them to be very comfortable and very quiet despite all the activities taking place outside.
Two vertical Centrums act as bookends for the 450 ft. horizontal Promenade deck. They rise from the second deck to the fourteenth deck. They encompass a very broad area that includes a variety of venues and ship services. In the center of each Centrum is a magnificent mobile unit created by a prominent sculptor. The ceiling of the Promenade deck is four stories high and the source for lighting the area. The lighting changes according to the time of day and the activities taking place. When you go to the Promenade, it's like your going into town. As you walk down the street, you get the feeling your leaving one neighborhood and then entering another. This is the hub of all the activity. You meet people coming and going. Many stop for a few words of conversation. If you don't walk the Promenade at least two or three times a day, you feel like you missed something. There are number of private places, wonderful locations where you can do some people watching, while observing the latest happenings in the mall. It's an attraction all in its self.
During the week they have three full costumed night time parades. The show cast and performers, the entertainment group, RC servers and employees from all areas are outfitted in all sorts of imaginative costumes. At least a dozen stilt walkers, dozens of clowns, the Krooz comics and other participants, carrying all kinds of colorful paraphernalia. Mary said they were Disney parades for adults. This brief description of the Royal Promenade will have to suffice until we call you a little later, and invite you to walk with us as we revisit town.
AND YOU THINK YOU HAVE A BAD MEMORY:
I have a very small hand recorder that I use to help me remember what I want to write about. In our Millennium review we mentioned that we saw Val & Bill Kazmir a number of times during our cruise. When Bill returned home and read our review he sent me an e-mail. He wrote, I did neither. I carry a hand recorder called a ‘Voice it' that my daughter bought for me at Office Depot. Its 2" x 3" and 1/4" thick. It easily fits in the palm of my hand. I carry it in my shirt pocket and whenever I want to remember a name or some detail, I whip it out and record. If you were facing me, you wouldn't know I was holding anything. There's a funny story attached to this.
I have a notoriously bad memory. Our daughter Nancy who lives in Istanbul, Turkey, said to me when I pulled one of my famous of-pars, "Dad, I don't mind when you call me Barbara, but when you call me Tommy, that's a bit much." About five years ago an incident occurred that resulted in my daughter Dumille buying me the ‘Voice it.'
Mary, loves to tell this story. She tells it like this. "One Saturday morning after breakfast, Tom is in a dither, scurrying all over the house. Suddenly he grabs his windbreaker and tells me he has to go into town to get something. Before I have a chance to ask him what it is, he's out the door, in his car and off he goes. He rushed into town and parked his car on Canal Street, the main street of our town. He got out and locked the car. Then he turns around and heads up the street and suddenly he stops dead in his tracks. He forgot why he went to town. After spending a good ten minutes, trying as hard as he could to remember why he rushed to town, he went into our drug store and called me. He sheepishly asked me if I remember why he went to town. I told him he was in such a hurry to get to town you never told me. Well, believe it or not, he just couldn't remember why he went to town, so he got in his car and drove home." When our daughter Dumille heard about this escapade, she went into hysterics. A week later she got me the ‘Voice it.' If you're having trouble remembering, don't struggle with it, get a ‘Voice it.'
WALKING THE PROMENADE ON THE WAY TO DINNER:
We have unpacked our things. Now that Mary has a place for everything and has everything in its place, come walk with us as we go to dinner. The elevator loading areas are very large and very well thought out. The elevator doors are clear glass, which allows you to see through to the upper and lower decks. The elevators are a thing of beauty. They look like miniature space capsules flitting about. We take an elevator to the 5th floor, the Promenade deck. On the left side is the Champagne Bar. A truly exquisite lounge. Everything about this area spells elegance. On the far left is the guests' relations area. In the center area is a very attractive sculpture surrounded by, what is called, floating stairways. The architectural design of these stairways is brilliant. The stairs actually look like there floating in air.
As we start our walk down the Promenade, don't you get the feeling that your strolling down the street of a very upscale area of town? The first store on our right features gifts and jewelry. Opposite it is the general store. Next to the General store is The RC Souvenir shop. Across the way is the Score Board Sports Bar. Look at the beautiful cherry red British Morgan Sports car parked out front. Would you mind taking a picture of Mary & I, standing next to the Morgan? I think the folks would like to see it. There is also a marque out overhead, posting the latest scores of all the National sporting events. This was a very busy area with many people following the NBA and the NHL playoffs. Next to the Sports Bar is the Spinners, the largest Roulette wheel in the world. Five cent slot machines cover the circular walls. I know you want to try your luck but if you do we'll be late for dinner. Across the way is the Pig N Whistle Bar. This is a little bit of Ireland at sea. You can drink a pint of your favorite Irish brew as you listen to the guitar melodies of Tony Petra. There are a number of tables outside on the boulevard where you can watch all the people stroll by as you have a pint of Stout. Next to the Pig N Whistle you can see the Island Clothing shop and the Perfumery. Across the way is a serve yourself ice-cream stand that is open 24 hrs a day. Next to it is a stand with all kinds of syrups and various sprinkles to top off your ice cream cone. And last but not least is the Cafe Promenade. This is one of the most popular venues on the Voyager. It's a cafe that serves deli type sandwiches, pizza and an assortment of cakes, pastries and cookies. After you're served, you get your own tea or coffee. You can sit at tables outside on the Promenade deck and be people watchers as you enjoy a bite to eat. This is the cruise lines way of substituting for mid night buffets and it works.
SHIP DESIGNERS AWARD:
Different industries have different awards. Motion pictures have the Oscar's, Broadway has the Tony's and the TV industry has the Emmy's. If there was a best ship designers award, the Royal Caribbean design team would sweep the field. They are in a class by themselves. Not only are their designs beautiful and innovative, they are also extemely functional. The Voyager feels less crowded than ships half it's size. The traffic patterns are so well laid out that it is very easy to get around the ship. You soon learn that regardless where you want to go, you go to the Promenade deck first. Then you walk to the forward Centrum or the aft Centrum and take the elevators to where you have to go. It's so much more fun walking along the Promenade and taking in the sites, rather than walking down a long section of hallway. The designers hit a home run when they designed the Royal Promenade...We hope you have enjoyed our tour of the Promenade deck, now join us as we go to dinner.
THE DINNING ROOMS:
There are three dining rooms. The Magic flute, La Boehme and Carmen. We were assigned the Carmen on the third deck. As we walk into this beautiful room, our eyes take us to back of the dining room. Just in front of the back wall there are two magnificent cascading stairways flowing from the upper balcony to the lower level. There is a plat form area between the stairways at each level. On the lower level, a beautiful gold harp is the center of attraction. On the upper level, are a baby grand piano and room for the Rosario string quartet. (Shades of HAL) The centerpiece of the dining room is a crystal chandelier reputed to have cost a half million dollars. It added just the right touch to this elegant room.
Dinner and Our Servers:
Our waiter was Cetin from Turkey and our assistant waiter was Christopher from Tunisia. RC has discontinued wine steward service. The waiters are also the wine stewards. We didn't notice any appreciable change in wine service but we do think it will cause a problem if they have a large number of people ordering wine. I ordered a bottle of Chardonnay for Mary and after it was served I gave Cetin his pre tip envelope. He was both surprised and happy. I asked Cetin to have the Maitre`de come to our table. He was a delightful young man. His name was Dave and he came from India. I gave the Maitre`de his envelope and he was really surprised. The normal routine on most cruise ships, is that you don't see the Maitre`de till the end of the cruise. He comes around the last couple of nights to ingratiate himself so you will remember to tip him. Receiving a tip on the first night was a very different experience for Dave. But as usual the pre tipping worked wonders. We received exceptional service from all the servers and we developed a very special relationship with our Maitre`de Dave. We are not going to give you a detailed account of our dinners. It should suffice to say the food was not great but it was much better than the last time we cruised the Voyager. The menus are still very limited. They only serve one salad and one type roll. No choices for either. The warm and caring service of the crew more than makes up for the short comings of the kitchen...PRE-TIP THE WAITER...THE MAITRE`DE...THE ASST. WAITER THE 2nd NIGHT.
WIMPY BOUGHT MARY'S ANNIVERSARY GIFT FOR TOM:
I know the heading sounds a bit convoluted, but bear with me and I will explain what I mean.
Some years ago we read something we both thought was very special. I wrote about it in our Splendour review, saying I wished I had read this before my daughters got married. It went like this: Rev. Chalfant tells of a couple who were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. The husband was asked what the secret was of his successful marriage. The old gentleman answered with a story, as old gents are prone to do. [I know, I'm doing it right now.]
He told the Rev. that his wife, Sarah, was the only girl he ever dated. Before he knew it, she had managed to get him to ask her to marry him. After they had said their vows on their wedding day, Sarah's father took the new groom aside and handed him a small gift. He said, "Within this gift, is a reminder of all you really need to know, to have a happy marriage." Within the box lay a large gold watch. With great care he picked it up. Upon close examination, he saw etched across the face of the watch a prudent reminder he would see whenever he checked the time of day....words that...if heeded...held the secret to a successful marriage. They were..."Say something nice to Sarah."
When Wimpy was thinking of how he could surprise Mary for her anniversary, he remembered the ‘Say Something Nice to Sarah' story. The story gave him an idea that he thought would be just as effective.
After dinner, the night of our anniversary, Wimpy reached across the table and took Mary's hand. He placed in it a velvet ring box, with a note. Being we stopped buying each other jewelry many years ago, Mary was thoroughly surprised. She read the note, and was now both surprised and confused. It read, "To Mary from Wimpy, for Tom." Mary looked puzzled as she opened the box. In the box was a plain gold wedding band with five engraved letters on its surface. S S N T M. Mary immediately knew what the initials meant. Yes, it was an abbreviation of "Say Something Nice to Mary." It was Wimpy's way of reminding Tom to never forget how special Mary is and to make sure he tells her so, every single day. My lady Mary's smile warmed my heart as she took my hand and placed the wedding band on my finger...I can swear I heard a voice say...now you may kiss the bride...and I did...I felt like we were getting married all over again. Needless to say, it was a very touching moment, a very special moment. Wimpy never ceases to amaze me. Once he realized Mary gave Wimpy a lot more reason to smile [just look at the smile on Wimpy's face] than Macho Man, he is forever thinking of ways to make Mary happy...we are going to take you to the showroom with us.
THEATER & ENTERTAINMENT:
La Scala Showroom:
This is a huge showroom. The decor is very nice and the views are unimpeded wherever you sit. The stage has the latest in technology and lighting. The effect created with the lighting on stage is very impressive. The Krooz comics entertain while waiting for show time and produce a lot of laughs. Having only one entrance on the lower level causes quite a traffic jam. Not having an entrance on each side was definitely a design oversight.
Jeffrey Arpin, without a doubt, is the best cruise director we have had on any of our cruises. He won over the entire audience on the first night and had them in his corner for the rest of the cruise. He was very funny but at the same time, very caring and thoughtful. He was so entertaining we hoped he would have a show of his own. He could easily be a head liner.
Two Production Shows...Broadway Rhythm...Dreamscape:
The cast consisted of a very talented group of young dancers and singers. The sets and the costuming were exquisite. Both productions were very up beat. It was not our kind of music but then again, there aren't many shows now days that feature the kind of music we like. That doesn't mean we didn't appreciate the efforts of this talented cast. The audience gave them standing ovations.
Very funny man. In a matter of minutes he had the audience in stitches.
A singing group of family members that had built in sound effects. Not only did they harmonize but they supplied their own musical accompaniment. You would swear that there was an orchestra behind the curtain producing all the sound effects. A very talented group with a novel way of incorporating a rhythm section with their voices.
He was featured in the farewell show. He was a riot. He introduced a subject in his humor that isn't spoken of in mixed company and there wasn't one person that was offended. He was a master of his trade. Mary was sitting next to me with a handkerchief in her hand, dabbing her eyes, as she was laughing hysterically. We could have listened to him for another hour. If you see his name on the evenings entertainment, make sure you catch his show. He's terrific.
We were told about the Bingo pot every step of the way. So much so that we thought we were back home at our Catholic Church. The Bingo pot reached $7, 000 dollars on the final day.
The Captains party was a gala affair. Royal Caribbean doesn't spare the horses when they give a party. There were champagne and hors`doeuvres everywhere. Tony Pearsalls show orchestra was playing across from the Cafe Promenade. The Promenade was the place of choice to see and be seen. The ladies looked beautiful in their party gowns. My lady Mary, looked particularly gorgeous in a blue and white evening gown. As I have said before, she is like a rare wine. She gets better with each passing year. The only downer was the music in Cleopatra's Needle. As you know, Mary & I enjoy dancing. We had a room full of people and no one on the dance floor. The musicians as usual were playing for their own enjoyment. They don't seem to get the message. They should realize when the dance floor is empty it means they're not playing the kind of music the people want to dance to. We saw this same thing happen in all the dance venues. It was a very disappointing aspect of our cruise.
THE DAILY BULLETIN...THE CRUISE COMPASS.
When we returned to our cabin, we found the ships information bulletin, the Compass, on our bed. Compared to other cruise information bulletins, RC's Cruise Compass wins hands down. The Cruise Compass has a very nice feature. Besides telling you everything that's happening on board, it includes a smaller bulletin. It is half the width of the normal page and it tells of all the activities and where they take place. You can fold it and put it in your pocket and take it with you as you go about the ship. A great idea. Carry it with you wherever you go. We would like to remind you to bring the cruise line brochure with you. They often have a more detailed plan of the ship than you will find in your stateroom. BRING THE CRUISE LINE BROCHURE WITH YOU.
JOHNNY ROCKETS 1950's DINER...GREAT MALTS & SHAKES
On both the Voyager and the Explorer they have authentic 1950's Johnny Rockets diners. They are noted for their Hamburgers, french fries, and onion rings, but especially for their Malts and Milk Shakes. When we were on the Explorer last Valentines week, we had lunch at Johnny Rockets most every day and we found ourselves doing the same thing on the Voyager. It was like we were a piece of metal and JR was a magnet. Mary at least had some will power and didn't totally succumb to her desires like I did. I had something and a malt most every day. Mary teased me by saying the only reason I booked the Voyager was I wanted to have JR's malts. Mind you, she had the nerve to tell me that while sipping her milk shake.
When you walk into the Johnny Rockets diner, your stepping back in time to the 40's and 50's. There is a Formica counter with stools on one side and on the other wall, red Naugerhyde booths with mini jukeboxes at each table. This is definitely a page out of the past and should be especially interesting for those of you who have never been inside a diner. There is not charge for the food, only for any drinks.
THE ALTERNATIVE RESTAURANT...THE PORTOFINO
We chose Wednesday night to dine at the Portofino alternative restaurant. It was Caribbean night and the dining room menu was rather weak. We didn't find the food to be anything exceptional. I had rack of lamb. The chops weren't cut properly and were overcooked. Mary had lobster tail and they didn't serve drawn butter. An oversight like that is hard to explain in what is supposed to be a class restaurant. The desserts were above average. The Maitre`de Giovanni was very pleasant as was the server Peter. The charge is $20 per person. Is it worth it? We are sometimes over critical about food, so we will leave that decision to you.
The main pool area is massive. The Voyager is so wide it allows the pools to be placed side by side. This is one of the best pool area's you will ever see. It has two saltwater swimming pools, four Jacuzzis and a bandstand in a strategic location. It is huge. On sea days this is the place to be. Cruise director Jeffrey Arpin is the host for the "Belly Flop" contest, the "Sexy Legs Contest" and the ever popular horse racing. We rarely went to the main pool area because we love the atmosphere of the Solarium area.
The Solarium pool area on the ‘Voyager' reminded us of our visit to Pompeii. On a ledge at the far end of the pool area are a line up of six full figure statues, ala natural. The area is interspersed with planters with brilliant green shrubbery. There were two huge Jacuzzis on either side. All the lounges are padded. Over all, It is a very pleasing effect. The entire area was very quiet and serene. It was one of our favorite places to relax and enjoy each other.
Spa & Spa Pool:
The Spa is enormous. I have never seen so much gym equipment in all my life. Clear glass walls surrounded the entire area. And most of the equipment faced the Ocean, which made it an idyllic place to work out. We work out when we're home, but when we cruise we save our energy for better things. The Spa Thermo pool is circular and is approximately 25 ft across. It is three & ½ ft deep and has jets and underwater benches. The water temperature is kept at 95-100 degrees and is absolutely delightful. Most days we would go to the Spa pool about 10:45 and then for a dip in the Solarium pool. After being refreshed and invigorated, we returned to our cabin for a brief spell, then on to the e main dining room for lunch. We really enjoyed our mornings.
We have already described this beautiful lounge.
The Aquarium lounge is directly under the Champagne lounge on deck #4. We can't understand why other reviews of the Voyager & Explorer don't make special mention of this lounge. It is one of the most unique lounges at sea. The entire wall area, on both sides of the floating stairways are floor to ceiling aquariums, containing a variety of colorful tropical fish. The glass enclosed tanks hold some fifty thousand gallons of water. It is a must see.
The Schooner lounge is a very well appointed lounge, with intimate seating areas. This is the domain of a very talented piano/vocalist, Ralph Nichols. A nice place to visit while waiting to see the show.
The signature room of RC. The highest point of the ship with breathe taking views. At night it is a jazz club. The Viking Crown is no longer the disco. This area now encompasses four rooms. A card room, a party room, a magnificent chapel on the upper level. We attended mass in the Chapel and found it a very inspirational experience. It's a beautiful room with an altar with two magnificent bouquets on either side and an overhead ceiling of stained glass. When the sun comes streaming through the large stained glass panels, the room is bathed in all the colors of the rainbow. You know you are in a Holy place. During the cruise, a number couples took their wedding vows in this chapel. Down a flight of steps and you enter the Jazz Club. You are now 14 decks above the sea and the views are spectacular. We tried to spend time in this room but we found the music much too loud.
This is the late night disco. It is a very unusual room in all respects. You enter by placing your hand in a hand imprint on the wall. The room is very dark. The dance area is shaped like a silo. It gives you the feeling your dancing at the bottom of a barrel. If you like a lot of action, this is the place for you.
A very attractive room. This is a good ole boy's room for cigar smokers.
The casino is so constructed that you have to walk through it to go forward or aft. We have never liked to gamble but it was fun to walk through the Casino on the way to the show. At the Schooner bar entrance, you walk over a section of glass flooring with a display underneath that we have seen on many RC ships, but we never tire of it. On the sides of the step down to the casino, are two life size models of Las Vegas showgirls. There are of flashing lights and neon tubing everywhere. It's loud, noisy and gaudy, just what you would expect a casino to be...how about joining us as we go ashore, do some shopping and have lunch at Pancho's Backyard.
PORTS OF CALL...PANCHO"S BACKYARD:
This is the only port we went ashore. We have become more ship oriented with every cruise. The newer ships have so much to do, that it's difficult if not impossible to do it all in a seven-day period. We much prefer staying aboard ship at most ports. An exception is when we travel the Western itinerary. We look forward to going ashore at Cozumel and going to our favorite Caribbean store, Los Cinco Soles, and then having lunch at Pancho's Backyard, which adjoins it. We sit in the courtyard, which has a beautiful setting. Tables are set under graceful palm trees, surrounded by tropical plants. Between the hours of 12 and 2:00, they have a duo playing music in the courtyard. We have written about this in a number of our reviews. Only this week, we received this e-mail from one of our readers.
. left the ship at 11:00 and took a cab [$5] to Los Cinco Soles, our favorite Caribbean store. Adjoining the store is a delightful Mexican restaurant, Pancho's Backyard. We like to be seated in the open courtyard. There are Palm trees and beds of tropical plants everywhere. They have a marimba duo playing from 12 to 2:00. I ordered a Margarita for Mary and while we were waiting to be served, I asked my lady if she would like to dance. I took her in my arms and we danced a couple of slow rumbas, under the swaying palms. It was a delightful interlude. A very pleasurable, romantic moment. We enjoyed a very nice lunch and then caught a cab. We were back on the ship by 2:30. That was the extent of our port activities.
THE PERFECT CHOICE FOR A FAMILY VACATION:
If your planning a family vacation, don't look any further than the Voyager class ships. It's a truism that if the children are having a good time the vacation will be a success. But if the children are not happy, there are bound to make a lot of family members unhappy. The children's facilities on the Voyager and the Explorer are without a doubt the very best at sea. The Royal Caribbean "Adventure Ocean" youth programs, offers the young people something to do every minute of the day. It covers every age group. 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 and 13-17. Teens have their own private coffee house and disco. There is also a huge video arcade with most of the latest and greatest video games that alone would keep a youngster busy for days.
RC has group baby sitting from 10 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. A charge of $4 per child for children three years or more. $8 pr hour for in cabin baby sitting for children one year and older. RC also has a soft drink program for the kids. It costs $20 for a card for all they can drink during the cruise.
Now that we have the kids taken care of, lets talk about Mom & Dad and Grandma & Grandpa. The reason the Voyager Class ships are such a good choice for the family vacation is that there is something exciting and interesting, for every age category. Mom & Dad and Grandma & Grandpa, go back to the part of our review where we tell of all the activities aboard ship. Did you ever think you could ice skate and while cruising in the Caribbean? Did you ever think you could do in-line skating on a track with padded side walls? Did you ever think you could challenge Grandpa to a golf match while at sea? Did you ever think while Grandpa is playing golf that Grandma could be playing Bingo or getting a massage? Or how about you Dad. Do you want a chance to test your mettle at rock climbing or maybe a game of basketball? There is literally no end to the number of interesting activities for all age groups on these floating resorts/recreational centers. If your thinking of having a family vacation or a family reunion, don't look any further. The Eagle class ships have all the amenities for you and your family to have the vacation of a lifetime.
LOOSE ENDS AND RANDOM THOUGHTS:
Arrange a Full Wedding in Port: You can arrange to get married and have your wedding reception on the Voyager while the ship is in port. You can have as many as sixty of your family and friends attend. Of course your guests will have to go ashore before the ship leaves but think what a great time can be had. Just imagine writing your invitations and inviting your guests to attend your wedding and reception on the biggest ship in the world. What a wonderful memory to have.
Let it Idle and it Begins to Rust: Mike Mason, author of The Mystery of Marriage, writes that when most people talk about the "work" of marriage, they primarily mean "precious time." He says, "It is like the amount of fuel that must be fed into a big, powerful, shiny, eight-cylinder gas guzzler that has to be kept constantly on the road."
"You cannot leave a marriage sitting in the driveway even for a day, because the only reason for marriage is togetherness. It is an alliance of love, and love is a spiritual vehicle, a rocket ship, that travels faster and farther than anything else under the sun. Get out of it for a moment, and it leaves without you for parts unknown; let it idle, and it begins to rust; neglect it, and it seizes right up. It can be a full-time job just being a passenger in this thing. But like it or not, you and your spouse are in it together, and in it for life, and the work of traveling in marriage is the most vital work you can do. In the Lord's plans for the world there is no work more important than the work of a relationship, and no relationship is more important than one's marriage." To love and to be loved is the greatest joy in the world.
Happiness: A writer compared happiness to a butterfly; "The more you chase it, and chase it, it will always elude you. But...if you sit down quietly and turn your attention to other things, then...it comes and sits on your shoulder!"
"A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment." Mary & I compiled a column of inspirational meditations that appeared daily in our local paper. They comprised the spiritual writings of the great Christian authors of the past and the present. It was called "A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment." Each evening we send one of these beautiful inspirational messages to our family and friends, so they have it in their mail box, ready for reading in the morning. We find it's a beautiful way to start our day. The following is an example of one of those inspirational messages.
A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment
Compiled by Tom & Mary Milano
JUST ONE DAY
Each of us has all the time there is, just one day. Swiftly it comes, quickly it goes. If we do not see it, seize it, live it, we do not live at all. No one can bring it back. Only today is ours. Yesterday is gone beyond recall; tomorrow never arrives. It is a hope, a dream, or a dread. One day is enough, if we are wise enough to take it and have the wit to live it.
"Live in day-tight compartments," a great physician told us. Do not let yesterday becloud today with vain regrets, or tomorrow with futile forebodings. Live one day at a time. When the day is done, let it go, close the door, turn the page. Easy to say but hard to do? Yes, until we learn the trick of it, which is one of the finest arts of life.
Undress your soul at night, as you do your body. Drop your work, your worry, your weariness, your mistakes, your tears, as you do your garments; throw them off. Only so can we wake up with a new spirit to face a new day. Shut off the future, too, as tightly as the past. Idle dreams, futile fears, empty castles built in the air, are a waste of time. "Why be tired tomorrow?" asks an old proverb of India. When we try to live tomorrow before it comes, we wake up tired, unfit to face it. No, it is today lived intently, earnestly, without fear, that makes the future, and fulfills the past.
Each day is a little life, awaiting our faith, inviting our joy. Why mar it with morbid musings? It will never come again. Li