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Old 08-31-2008, 06:53 AM
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We have just returned from our first cruise! We sailed a 4-night from Port Canaveral to Coco Cay and Nassau on the Sovereign of the Seas.

The weather was perfect, except that at some times, extremely hot and humid, but I guess that’s pretty normal during August in the Caribbean. : )

Although the Sovereign is some 20 years old, she was in beautiful condition and we didn’t find anything that was in need of maintenance or repair. They even drained and repainted the forward pool during the trip to Coco Cay.

The check-in and boarding processes in Port Canaveral was extremely organized and efficient. We arrived at the port at around 10:30, unloaded and parked the car, went through the steps of getting our sea passes, and were on the ship at 11:35. We only had to sit in the waiting area for about 15 minutes. It was a very painless process.

We were told that our staterooms would not be ready until 1:00, but were invited to the Windjammer for lunch in the meantime. The food was set out in a number of “stations”, and despite the large number of people, there were no lines at any of them. The food was varied, well presented, and tasty.

Although we had a JS, when we first opened the door to our room, we just stood there and said, “is this it?” It was surprisingly small. However, after spending some time unpacking and putting things away, the room began to get “bigger”. There was lots of storage area for everything we had packed; in fact we never had to use the long plastic shoe holder we brought along in which to store our small items. By the next morning, we found that the room was plenty big and we completely forgot about our first impression. I guess we learned that staterooms on ships were not the same as rooms in hotels.

In order not to post a ten-page summary of our experience, I’ll just try to list the things we liked and those we didn’t:

Things that we liked:
- The ship was beautiful
- Food was tasty and well presented
- Dining room staff was efficient and courteous
- Shows and entertainment were top notch
- Cabin steward was just awesome
- Balcony is wonderful
- Onboard activities were great
- Lounging on the top deck at 4:30AM is beautiful: watching the stars, enjoying the peace and quiet, and being refreshed by the cool breeze while waiting for the sunrise.

Things we didn’t like:
- The constant “hawking”: if you order a drink, you’ll be asked what seems to be every five minutes if you’re ready for another. I guess there must be a contest to see which waiter sold the most drinks. This was evident in all venues on board (all the various lounges, the Follies Theater, the Casino, around the pool, and even the Viking Lounge). Seems that there was no place to just relax and enjoy a drink without being hassled. Although you politely refuse and tell them not to ask again, they will “forget” or you will undoubtedly be approached by a different server in a few minutes. This was very annoying and we finally ordered a bottle of wine delivered to our room so we could relax for a while on the balcony in peace.
- The majority of the sales associates in the ship's stores seemed almost disinterested when it came to helping you, especially in the higher end jewelry stores and the photo gallery. Their attitude seemed to be that you were interrupting their thoughts. The exception was in the souvenir shop. She was helpful, patient, funny, and had a personality!

All in all, it was a memorable experience and very enjoyable. We are still excited about our adventure and continue to discuss the specifics in great detail.

I am sorry to have waited this long in our lives before discovering the pleasure of cruising and wish we would have started this years ago.
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Old 08-31-2008, 07:17 AM
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Welcome back, and welcome to the club! Glad to hear it went well. I had a fine time on my Sovereign cruise too. The Sovereign is from the days of tiny cabins at RCI. Did you peak in on any inside cabins? I had #3597 and these are 119 square feet.

Drink hawking is a fact of life on many cruise lines. I guess it is more noticeable to new cruisers because it doesn't bother me anymore. I prefer sitting at the bar anyway. Pretty much their entire income comes from the 15% gratuities, so they are motivated to push drinks

The shops are run by a vendor and not directly by RCI. Thus the employees are not RCI employees, so you get whoever the vendor has hired.

The Sovereign does look great for her age. On the lower decks you can smell tell-tale sewage odors on occasion, and their are some plumbing issues in some of the cabins - these are common on older ships.

I had the lamb shank at dinner the last night and it was perfectly cooked. The food in general was very good. A while back someone said their Sovereign cruise had horrible food, but I didn't find that the case on my cruise. I found everything to be quite palatable.

One thing I noticed was that Johnny Rockets was hardly used. I don't think I ever saw more than a dozen people in there. This is a stark contrast to the newer ships where Rockets usually has a line outside.

Have you joined the Crown & Anchor society yet? If not you need to do it and start collecting those cruise credits.
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Old 08-31-2008, 08:01 AM
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Welcome back, johnboy, and thank you for the informative review.

I see you are an early riser, just as I am. I love to be out on deck to watch the sun rise. I usually get a cup of tea and stand by the rail, as the ship slowly awakens.

Now I want to go back...
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Old 08-31-2008, 09:05 AM
 
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Thanks for the review. Glad too see not much has changed there since the last time we were on it. Only 57 days till we sail her again. We are counting the days down.

Johnny rockets was not used by many people the last time we went either and I was surprised since it was during spring break and there was a large young crowd.

I think we will look into booking our next cruise while we are onboard this time. We have never done that but it sounds like it sure has its advantages.
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RCCL Navigator 3/07
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RCCL Sovereign 3/08
RCCL Sovereign 10/08
RCCL Monarch 4/09
RCCL Navigator 3/10
RCCL Radiance 4/11
Carnival Dream 4/12
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Old 08-31-2008, 11:33 AM
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The few times I looked, Johnny Rockets was virtually deserted. One of the couples at our table went there and said that they had burgers, fries, onion rings, and malts - all excellent! I meant to go there, but was always full from eating so much during meals, I was never hungry enough to go. I'm proud to say that I only gained two pounds on the cruise!!! (did walk a few laps around the deck every morning, though)

However, being the pizza lover that I am, did make it a point to go to Sorrento's for a slice. It was really bad - the pizza crust seemed to be premade and frozen, then they just added sauce, cheese, and toppings and put it in the oven. The crust was like cardboard, and I've had cheap, frozen pizza from the supermarket that tasted better. A real disappointment.

I can't imagine anyone saying that the food on the Sovereign was "horrible", unless the only place they ate was in Sorrento's. Everything we ate, including appetizers, entrees, and desserts were well prepared, nicely presented, at the proper temperature, and efficienty served. I found nothing lacking from our dining experiences, especially when considering that the kitchen had to produce some 1,500 meals at the same time!

Just a word about the formal dinner. It was on the second night (after spending the day at Coco Cay) and it was slightly exhausting after getting wiped out in the hot sun all day to have to get into your nice clothes (ladies having to redo their hair) and go to the 6:00 sitting. We posed for our formal pictures at 5:30 and then made it to the dining room. So many people had gone through the effort to look really glamorous - it was really nice. However, once we started looking around, we saw peple in shorts, jeans, tee shirts, and a couple of guys sitting at tables wearing baseball hats on backwards. It really killed the mood. I wish they would either enforce the rules and not allow anyone in the dining room who was not properly attired, or to just do away with the formal dinner. Having a mixed bag destroys the entire atmosphere of a special meal.

Didn't have a chance to see any other rooms except some JS's that were being made up on our deck as we walked to the elevators. Our room was 173 sq ft and after a while, seemed roomy enough for us. I can't imagine how we would have adapted to one that was 54 SF smaller, but if it meant cruising or staying home, I'm sure we would do just fine!

One of the couples at our table had an inside stateroom and said they preferred it to an outside one. In fact, they said that it was great for taking a mid-day nap so they would be able to party into the wee hours.

If I had to find a "maintenance" item, the only one I could see was that the bathtub in our stateroom drained slowly, and a few inches of water accumulated while taking a shower. Not a big issue. Heck, I sometimes get more than that in my own shower at home! It was impressive to see so old a ship in such great shape. This has to be a testament to the hard-working crew.

We signed up for the Crown & Anchor membership while on board and dropped our application in the box at the Guest Relations counter. I thought we would have received an email confirmation informing us that they have received it, but have heard nothing yet. How long does it usually take until we know they have it and it's in process? Also, how long does it take before you get our member number? Can't wait to actually chalk up our first two cruise credits!

By the way Dave, congrats on your Diamond! Must be a good feeling to be able to get all those perks.

I overhead a conversation concerning the "retirement" of the Sovereign, and having it assigneed to a RCI affiliate in Spain, and sailing out of Barcelona. They also said that an assignment to Port Canaveral was the "last stop" for a ship before RCI retires it from service. I guess that means the Monarch is slated to be the next one being put out to pasture.

One more thing to mention, as soon as we were underway, we felt a little dizzy at times. I'm assuming that this was caused by the gentle rolling of the ship when sailing. The sea was relatively calm and I saw no significant waves when looking out. It felt like a little equalibrium problem, not significant and not nausea-causing, just a little discomfort. My wife reacted more than I and she had to hold on to me (or the wall) when walking at times. When we would be in bed, it was not as disturbing. I'm assuming that this was not sea-sickness, as there was no violent reaction. Is this normal or only because we were newbies? The return trip was not as bad, but I'm wondering if it was only because we weren't sailing as fast (< 9kts), the seas were calmer, or we were just getting used to it.
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Old 08-31-2008, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
They also said that an assignment to Port Canaveral was the "last stop" for a ship before RCI retires it from service.
Not true. The Mariner was there and is moving to the west coast, and RCI is moving the Freedom to Port Canaveral.

You need to give them some time to process the C&A application. Actually it probably would have been quicker to do it online once you got home. I'd say at least two weeks or so with the paper application. The ship will send the paper applications to Miami and there they will be processed.

I've never experienced being dizzy on a ship, at least while sober.
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Old 08-31-2008, 11:51 AM
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Thanks for the C&A info, Dave.

I guess the problem was that we did not drink enough! If we did, we wouldn't remember that we were dizzy
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Old 08-31-2008, 12:40 PM
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The pizza on RCI is not a strong point for them. I had three slices at Sorrento's over the course of the weekend and that was just as a quick snack. It is frozen supermarket quality to me too. If you want really good cruise ship pizza, you have to go on Princess or Carnival. They use real dough that they make and shape. It comes out all nice and chewy and good. Princess is the best. I'd say their pizza rivals a good Italian pizzeria.

However, I think Sorrento's on the Freedom and Liberty was better than that on the Sovereign.
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Old 08-31-2008, 01:24 PM
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Meant to ask you Dave, did you have any rain on your cruise? We ran into some heavy downpours from the remnants of Hurricane Fay as we were driving down and wondered if you were getting wet, too.

Also, we were totally impressed with the MC talent of Casey, the cruise director. He did a marvelous job with the Love & Marriage game, the Quest, and the shows. We thought he's so good that he would do well in hosting his own TV show!
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Old 08-31-2008, 01:40 PM
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Casey is a very fine CD. Too many CDs develop annoying egos and I was pleased to see someone who was so down-to-earth.

We had rain while in Nassau for a little in the the afternoon. Coco Cay was fine in the morning but the afternoon was quite wet. For a time it rained so hard you couldn't see the island from the ship (I went over early and came back around noon and missed the rain).
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