This is our review of the 9/14/96 sailing of the Sovereign of the Seas. This was my 20th cruise overall, Eric's 19th. This was our first cruise on RCCL, with prior cruises having been on NCL (3), Carnival (4), Dolphin (2), Celebrity (2), Princess (2), Regency (2), Costa (1), Star Clipper (1), Crown (1), and Cunard Crown (1). In a nutshell, the Sovereign is a classically elegant lady who appeared in great shape, with small cabins, good service and decent, although not great, food. We sailed on the 7 day itinerary, although very shortly she will be switched to 3 and 4 day cruises.
We arrived at the pier at 1 P.M., and it took fully an hour to board the ship. Too long, in my opinion, but this is a very large ship. We boarded on Main Deck and were NOT escorted to our cabin. Since it was just around the corner from the embarkation point, we were able to find the cabin with no problems. After dumping our carryon's, we headed for the welcome aboard buffet in the Windjammer Cafe.
We were impressed with the physical facilities at the Windjammer Cafe. There are two inside buffet lines and two outside buffet lines, all serving the same selections. Often, although not always, there were waiters to carry our trays to the tables. One very good idea that we have not seen on other ships, is that there were trays of poured drinks available--iced tea, lemonaide, fruit punch and water at lunch and juices for breakfast--so all one had to do was to walk up and pick up the glass. There was also a fellow who worked the coffee machine for you. This worked much more smoothly than having to pour it yourself. Salt and pepper and sugar were available right on the tables already. We generally eat outside on ships but on this trip we found that we didn't miss sitting outside, as the Windjammer was such a comfortable and attractive place to eat. There is technically a very small outside section to the Windjammer, but the design of the ship somehow made this a very WARM place to sit, so we only ate outside on one occasion.
We ate at the Windjammer every day for lunch and every morning except two mornings and there were almost never any lines of any consequence except at the welcome aboard buffet. Luncheon the first day consisted of cannelloni, fish sticks, pizza, salad, fruits, german potato salad and desserts.
Since the Sovereign is kind of "the old gal" of the RCCL fleet, being 8 years old, I kind of wondered what kind of shape she would be in. In general, the ship was in great shape. Public rooms were, except for the Finian's Rainbow Lounge (which seemed rather more Carnival-like to me) were classically elegant. I thought most of the ship seemed somewhat isolated from the sea, with much less use of glass in public areas than is popular in the newest ships. The only places we noted some signs of wear was in some of the carpets and in the cloth on some of gaming tables.
Our captain ("Here's Johnny!") has apparently missed his calling as a comedian. We were "introduced" to him at 5 P.M. on Saturday, by an announcement for the loudspeaker. "This is your captain from the bridge. As you can see, it is 5 P.M. and we are still docked in Miami. Unfortunately, there are still 5 crates of luggage sitting on the dock. We have determined that most of you would prefer to sail with your luggage rather than sailing on time, so we shall be here for around another 30 minutes." And, as we were sailing out of the port of Miami our captain acted as a tour guide, pointing out items of interest to the left and right of the ship. This was a first!
We booked a category G cabin on Main Deck, and if I were to sail the Sovereign again, I would probably book again on the same deck. Main Deck proved very convenient for us. Our dining room was one deck down, the casino was one deck up, and the purser's desk was right on the same deck. Being close to the purser's desk was a much bigger deal on the Sovereign than on many other ships because there are no safety deposit boxes in any of the standard cabins. We are quite used to having a safe in the cabin, so we used the ones at the purser's desk for my jewelry and our cash.
Our cabin was RCCL small but functional. The beds were arranged in an L-shape, and were placed together in a king bed configuration at our request. They were left in that configuration for the week, which reduced the floor space to a negligible amount. There was plenty of room under the beds to store our large suitcases. Storage was adequate, but not extravagant. The closet contained about 2 dozen hangers, 2 half length hangers and one full length hanger. However, the full length hanger was almost unusable, as it made the wire racks in the closet impossible to reach if there were long clothes hanging there. There were 4 wire shelves and 1 wood shelf in the closet for clothes. The desk contained 4 drawers and 1 paper drawer, plus 4 small open shelves next to the mirror. There was also one small storage shelf beside the bed. We had an oval shaped window with a small ledge that one could sit in to watch the sea go by--not as large as your Carnival Fantasy class ship windowsills, but adequate for the purpose.
The bathroom was a decent size for a ship and had a good lip on the shower stall, which enabled me to take a shower all week and only soak the bath mat on one occasion. A true accomplishment. The shower itself also was larger than most. We had no problems with hot water except on the day we came back from St. Thomas (at the same time as the entire rest of the ship), but our tablemates had no hot water all week. I would have made them move me to another cabin, as the ship was not full.
We were surprised at the complete lack of any ship diagram in our cabin materials. This was the first time we ever remember not receiving a ship layout in our cabin. There were lighted ship diagrams on each floor near the elevators and these served the same purpose, I suppose, but I like having that ship diagram in the cabin to look at. Signage in general was very good and there appeared to be plenty of public bathrooms. But I guess that you already know that by now, heh, John?
Saturday evening we made contact with our favorite bartender for the week, who was the bartender in the Viking Crown Lounge. We spent quite a bit of time there over the week. For those not familiar with the Viking Crown, this is the hallmark lounge of RCCL, which on the SOS, completely encircles the smokestack. It provides a great view of the sunset, as well as of the pool decks.
Saturday evening we also met our tablemates for the week, our waiter, busboy and head waiter. Unfortunately, even though we had requested a large table, we again ended up with a table for 4, which has seemed to be our lot for the past few cruises. After we saw the dining room, I think that our table had originally been set up as a table for 8. However, all the parties at the table next to us spoke French as their first language, so I think that the tables were separated. In any event, we had a good time for the week, but could have wished for a larger table.
Our waiter (Wilbert) knew the menu by heart, and recited the menu to us, along with his recommendations regarding the entre. He also showed us both the appetizers and the desserts every night, a service which is greatly appreciated. He made very few mistakes over the course of the week, but seemed very nervous throughout. I suspect that he was recently promoted from busboy to waiter. We never really could figure out our busboy's real name. He called himself various names over the course of the week, including Boom Boom and Bam Bam. Whatever his name, he was a real joy for the week--an unending source of fun and seemed to enjoy his job. Actually, a couple of nights he was kind of slow with our coffee, but his sparkling personality made up for some minor deficiencies. Our assistant head waiter was very personable, stopped by our table every night, and often helped bus our table. He was a definite asset to the week and the Cherries Jubilee he fixed were the best we had ever had--possibly due to the very large amount of liquor that he used.
Saturday evening at 10 P.M. (which was actually still during our dinner), they started giving out tender tickets for Labadee and CocoCay. We arrived at the shore excursion desk around 10:15 and received tender tickets number 5 for Labadee and number 6 for CocoCay. By that time, there was no line for tender tickets at all.
Sunday was a day at sea, and as was often the case for the week, breakfast in the main dining room was open seating from 8 A.M. to 10 A.M.--a good idea especially for those of us on second seating. We ate luncheon on Sunday, as usual, in the Windjammer. Along with the normal offerings of hamburgers, hotdogs, french fries, fruits and desserts, on Sunday they served a mexican buffet, including chicken fajitas, and tacos.
RCCL makes a good effort towards menus serving the health conscious cruiser. In the dining room, there was always a complete light and healthy menu, from appetizer to dessert. The Windjammer also served some light selections daily. At breakfast, there was always turkey sausage available, as well as the standard variety. At lunch, there was a rather abbreviated salad bar always available, plus a good selection of fruits. Also, the hamburgers were not 100% beef. I'm not sure whether this was a cost cutting measure or whether it was part of their attempt to offer lower fat selections, but they were either part turkey or they contained fillers. As a person who grew up eating beef 6 days a week at home, trust me, these weren't 100% beef.
Sunday evening was the captain's cocktail party, which on the SOS is held in two separate lounges for each dinner seating. This made for a much less crowded event than normal. As usual, we elected not to stand in line to have our picture taken with the captain. We had intended to go for a drink late, but there was no food and the drinks were the standard whisky sour variety, with even champagne being a special order item, so we skipped it altogether except slipping in at the last moment to view the captain's speech. We had had much luck in the casino prior to the party, winning at caribbean stud and blackjack, and thus had not been in too much of a hurry to get to the party anyway.
Prior to dinner, photographers were taking formal pictures in three different locations; therefore, lines were very manageable. Dinner Sunday evening was French dinner. Nothing particularly memorable here, except a very good French onion soup.
Sunday's show was the only show of the week we attended, but we were very happy that we did. The show was The Fifth Dimension. They gave a 1 hour and 15 minute show, without any breaks. It was a great show and I found myself singing along with many, if not most, of the songs. Considering they were popular in what the early 70's, it made me feel rather old!! After the show, they held an autograph signing, which we did NOT stand in line for, although we regretted it afterward. Apparently they signed autographs for over an hour after the show.
Monday was Labadee, RCCL's private island which is located on Haiti. Frankly, I had thought that there was much more separation of Labadee from Haiti than what there is. There is a village which is just around the corner from Labadee, and there would be no problem with someone coming around the corner in a small boat and having access to Labadee. That is not to say that we saw any locals in the area, except those that were running the shops around the main dock. Haiti is moutainous, as opposed to the private islands of most other lines, whch are generally flat islands in the Bahamas. Therefore, Labadee is a very pretty place, with green mountains for a backdrop.
RCCL uses some big local tenders to ferry people to Labadee, which are larger than standard ship tenders. The first tender left the ship around 8:20 A.M. and our number 5 tender left the ship around 9:25. The trip to shore is around 5 minutes. While we were waiting for our tender to be called, the Captain announced from the bridge that the crew would be running a fire drill while we were ashore and that we shouldn't be alarmed if we saw members of the crew "running around in funny clothes". Such a comedian.
As we left the tender, we saw a beach off to the left which was jam packed with bodies and deck chairs. We decided to keep walking and we kept walking and walking and walking! Labadee is a huge place, much larger than what 95% of RCCL passengers find out, I would wager. The beach right to the left as one left the tender looked to be a nice enough beach, but there was absolutely no breeze there at all and it was HOT! There are two restaurants on Labadee, the Cafe Labadee and the Dragons' Rock Cafe and Bar. The Cafe Labadee looked to be closer to the main tender dock than the Dragon's Rock. Technically, you were supposed to go to a restaurant based on your dining room on the ship. However, this was not enforced at all. We kept walking and walked to the beach next to the Dragon's Rock Cafe and Bar, which was our assigned restaurant This was probably a quarter mile walk. There is a little shuttle bus affair which many used to get to and from the restaurant.
The beach in the area of the Dragon's Rock was not crowded at all. We found a space under the accumulated shade of three palm trees and drug our chairs there and had about 30 feet of beach to ourselves. There was a lovely breeze there and it was a most relaxing day on the beach. There were many signs on the beach in that area stating that it was unsafe to go in the water there. There was a strong undertow and some coral in the water, but we were certainly able to get in the water far enough to get wet. Even though Eric laughed at me, I took a bar to the beach!! We always take a little tiny collapsible cooler with us on cruises. We took a couple of cokes, I took some rum, and we both took our sipper cups with us to the beach. Eric went to the Dragon's Rock Bar, asked for a Tangueray and Tonic in one cup and ice in the other cup, and we were good to go!!
Lunch was served from 11:30 to 1:00 and consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken breast sandwiches, beef BBQ, slaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, fruit cup, gingerbread, iced tea, water, fruit punch and lemonaid. The bar at the Dragon's Rock has a great view and a nice breeze. We sat there after lunch and had a drink at last call, shutting down yet another bar for the week, this time at 1 P.M., which is kind of early, even for us.
We had gone directly from the tender down to the Dragon's Rock area, and thus didn't get around to the area of the Cafe Labadee, or to the shops right by the tender dock. We did make one last minute purchase, though, purchasing a beautiful little hand made doll with a lace dress for $10, as we stepped into the last tender back to the ship. A most successful day.
As we were leaving the dock we saw a boatfull of locals leaving with items which apparently had been given to them by the ship's crew--cushions, sinks, a bathtub and a sliding glass door.
As we arrived back in cabin from Labadee, we noted with surprise the balloons adorning our room. We thought that perhaps the stewardess had decorated all her cabins. When she asked us, we said that we thought it was nice. Then, as we came back into the room to change for dinner, we saw a nice cake proclaiming our anniversary, complete with plates, forks and napkins. Silly us--we have always celebrated our anniversary in JUNE, not in September. Somewhere that night, I suppose SOMEBODY was upset that they didn't get their anniversary cake. Who ever provided the cake should have provided champagne also, though, don't you think?
Monday evening we lost a little money in the casino, then headed to the Viking Crown for some hot hor douvres prior to dinner. Monday evening was American Dinner. We had an excellent prime rib, and a crab appetizer. This was the baked alaska night, but thankfully, since we don't really like it, they didn't push it like they do on many ships, where you end up with baked alaska, whether you want to or not!
Tuesday we were supposed to arrive in San Juan around 1:30 P.M., but arrived early at 12:30. Our captain announced that we had arrived by stating "The Eagle Has Landed!". (!!) We had determined that, since this was the first time in quite a while that we had been to San Juan in daylight hours, we wanted to visit the Bacardi factory. The ship's tour costs $18, but we figured that one could do it on one's own, cheaper and better, so we did!
We arrived at the ferry pier (which is just down from the main ship docks a few hundred feet) at just after 1 P.M., thus missing the 1 o'clock ferry. Word to the wise--ferries leave every hour, and run pretty much on time, so plan your arrival at the ferry accordingly. We purchased our ticket for the 1:30 ferry--50 cents each (each way). The ferry which goes to the Bacardi factory area is the one to the right, with the name being Catano, I believe. If you're not sure, just ask the fellow in the ticket booth which ferry goes to the Bacardi factory. The ferry ride is maybe about 10 minutes.
Once you've crossed the harbor, as you exit the ferry terminal, turn right and walk about one-half block. This is where the mini-busses sit. Fare is $6 for the van (which comfortably sits 6-8 people). We hooked up with 2 other couples for the ride to the factory, and thus paid $1 a piece. The two other couples were both off the Sovereign, which was the only ship in port early this day.
The tour of the factory is free. The actual tour portion takes about 45 minutes or so, then you are free to visit the shop and pick up some free drinks at the pavillion. The shop has several Bacardi logo items, so I picked up 2 plastic glasses that said Bacardi Black on them. Great for the hot tub! By the way, prices for liquor at the factory are higher than in either downtown San Juan or St. Thomas. There is an outside pavillion bar which serves free sample drinks to those interested. (And, who isn't? Why would one take the tour otherwise??) You can get most anything you want to drink that Bacardi makes, even the 20 year old Bacardi reserve, which I was somewhat surprised at. We had about 4 drinks and had a great time chatting with our other shipmates about various cruises taken over the years. We noted that the people on the arranged tours got about 1 drink, if that, because some that were in the shops didn't even get a drink at all, before they were whisked off to their waiting busses. Another vote in favor of doing tours on your own!!
We had determined that we wanted to make the 3:30 ferry back across to the ship, so we sought out a mini-bus driver for the 6 of us. Unfortunately, there were only regular taxis there, who wanted $6 for the cab to get back to the pier and refused to take all of us, at least initially. Which meant, heaven forbid, that one couple would have had to pay $3 per person to get back. Well, the rest of us stood back as the one 60-something gentleman haggled with the taxi drivers, who claimed that they would receive a $250 fine for carrying 6 people. While he haggled, the time was getting close to 3:30, and we suspected that we were going to miss the 3:30 ferry arguing over $3 a piece, but he eventually convinced the fellow to take us all. We ended up paying $1.50 a person and just making the ferry with about 30 seconds to spare before they took off. We saved $1.50 a person though!! G!! We laughed all the way back to the dock.
After arriving back from the ferry, we decided to check out RCCL's Crown and Anchor Club. They give out maps onboard which show the location, which is about 3 blocks from the ship. There are restrooms, lockers, information desk and a bar there. They give out free shots of rum there (no mixer, just straight shots!!), so we made good use of those also, and were feeling really good by that time!!
After the Crown and Anchor Club, we checked out the free bus which travels around downtown Old San Juan. It doesn't go all the way to Cristobal or to El Morro, but it is an interesting little ride that you can get on and off at your whim. By the time that we rode it, it was close to 5 P.M., and the bus was packed with workers getting off work. We needed to find some reading material for Eric, so we made a stop at the rather large Woolworth's that is on the route of the bus.
As we arrived back at the ship to go onboard we noted a sign advertising Bacardi cheap, so we went into the store which is located within the cruise pier for the Sovereign. We purchased liters of Bacardi Black for $6.50, a better price than we had even seen in St. Thomas.
Arriving back on the ship, we headed to Schooner Bar for chips and salsa. There were several nights that chips and salsa were available there, usually from 6-7 P.M. Dinner that evening was Italian. Eric had shrimp scampi, which he pronounced good. I had a distinctly unmemorable pasta dish.
Wednesday was St. Thomas. The Sovereign arrives around 7 A.M., and we got up around that time, determined to get around early, as we were going to head over to St. John for the day. Each morning at the buffet there had been cheese and fruit, so we had intended to grab some to take with us to St. John. Of course, you're not supposed to take fruit ashore and RCCL had done this route a few times before, so, mysteriously, this morning, there was no fruit and no cheese. It took us over an hour to get around and eat breakfast (already on island time, I guess), then we headed out to catch a taxi to Red Hook. The taxi to Red Hook was $5 per person and the trip took around 20 minutes. The ferry to St. John leaves every hour and costs $3 per person. The trip is about a 20 minute ride and fairly smooth. Once on St. John, we took an open air mini bus for $2 per person to drop us off at the National park for Solomon Beach.
Solomon Beach is a semi-official nude beach on St. John. It is relatively difficult to get to, at least for those only interested in sightseeing, not participating!! It is accessible only by water or by a trail, which is about a 20 minute walk. The trip down to the beach was actually more difficult than the trip back up, as it is mostly in the trees and was pretty muddy, and I was worried about falling on the muddy trail going downhill.
Once we arrived at Solomon, we discovered a very pretty small cove, maybe around seventy five yards wide, with some shade, but no facilites, of course. The water is shallow with no waves and very few rocks or coral in the water. There were maybe 10 people there all day. We had heard in the past that the park rangers sometimes hassle people at Solomon. However, on this day they came past twice in a small boat and just kept going, so I guess they were in a good mood. One fellow approached Eric on the beach and asked if Eric had seen the paper today. Eric said no and the fellow handed him the paper to read. To be polite, Eric read it. We didn't have the heart to tell the fellow that we generally come on vacation to ESCAPE the paper and the news! Seems this fellow was in St. John on business and had been so for around two months so far, and at least another month to go. A tough job. Think that I should have asked what company he worked for and sent in my application. Oh well.
After a few blissful hours on the beach, it was time to head back to St. Thomas. We climbed the hill, this time only in around 15 minutes and waited maybe 2 minutes for a taxi to come by to take us back to Cruz Bay. We were a little early for the 1:15 ferry back to Charlotte Amalie, so we had a drink in the bar by the ferry dock, then scurried across to the ferry, as it started raining. The ferry directly from Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie takes about 45 minutes and costs $7.
After arriving back on St. Thomas, I did some shopping for some junk jewelry at the craft market downtown, picked up some more Chanel and headed back to the ship. The Century was also in port that day.
Wednesday night was Caribbean night in the dining room, complete with some excellent lobster and later on, the whole dining room dancing the macarena. I missed the latter expedition, as something I had eaten the day before, I guess, didn't agree with me, and I spent most of Wednesday night in the cabin. I didn't feel really ill, but was a little leary to leave that bathroom too far behind, if you know what I mean! I watched quite a bit too much of TV that night, watching the RCCL commercial channel and checking out the beginning of "Babe" in Spanish.
Thursday was a day at sea and apparently not too memorable, as I don't have any notes about Thursday!! There was, as always, the standard activities, including the art auction, which was not very well attended all week. As I was making my pass through the public lounges taking pictures for my album, I saw maybe 15 people in the room for the art auction. The art auction was one of the many activities which were blasted, ad infinitum, over the loudspeakers. I thought there were entirely too many announcements on this ship.
Friday was supposed to be CocoCay and we had been considering not even getting off, as we had been scheduled to be there for only 5 hours, which including tender time, would offer very little time there. Around 11 A.M., "Captain Johnny" announced that "he had good news and bad news". The bad news was that we were not going to be able to go to CocoCay. With being late and with the time required for tender service, we would have had very little time in CocoCay. The reason we were late was allegedly because there were strong currents which prevented us from making normal headway. Since the seas had been dead flat calm, we suspected that this was a lie, as we knew that the Sovereign had been having engine troubles all summer. In any event, the captain announced that we would be going to Nassau instead. The captain made the announcement of the itinerary change around 11:00 A.M. and within around an hour the cruise line had arranged around 6 different shore excursions for Nassau, as well as, of course, issuing refunds for all equipment booked for CocoCay. This was a pretty excellent job of changing plans on the fly by the shore excursion people.
Normally, we are not interested in Nassau at all, having been there numerous times on other ships, but this time, we were excited with the possibility of checking out Atlantis, which is the most exciting thing to happen in Nassau in many years. Atlantis is a hotel/casino which was totally redone within the past couple of years, and includes a huge saltwater lagoon that you can walk underneath and observe through huge windows. A taxi to Atlantis was $4 per person each way. There is no fee to look at the underwater viewing area and it takes maybe 45 minutes to tour the lagoon and the grounds, which are beautifully landscaped. As with most all other resorts, chairs at the pool and on the beach are for guests only, but can be rented. However, I would assume that no one rents chairs at Atlantis, other than the independently wealthy, as they cost $15 PER PERSON for the chairs! Yikes! We spread out our (measly) RCCL towels on the sand for a couple of hours of sun. We tried to get a drink at one of the bars before heading back to ship. However, after waiting about 10 minutes to be served and finding out that a beer was $5.10, we decided that the bar on the ship was a fine place for a drink. Especially for kids (and those who don't like to get their hair wet to observe fishes), the tour of Atlantis is a great way to spend some time in Nassau. You just can't afford to buy anything to eat or drink there! G!!
Other ships in port on this day were the Century, Big Red Boat, and one of the Fantasy class Carnival ships. As we were headed back to the ship from Atlantis, we shared the cab with another fellow who was on the Century. He said that there were only 1400 passengers onboard. I told him that there would have been 1402 onboard, if Celebrity had run some specials on the ship, instead of charging $1000 per person cruise only.
I do not play bingo on ships or at home. However, RCCL roped me into it on the Sovereign, with their claim of a final game worth over $9,000. So, I think for perhaps only the second time on a cruise, we bought bingo tickets for the final night. Of course, we did not win. Two little old ladies (who else!!) ended up splitting a little over $8,000. Wonder if I could sue for false advertising?? We didn't get anywhere close in any of the six games played, but we did enjoy "Captain Johnny's" farewell address. After we had been rooked out of our $30 on the false claim of $9,000, we headed down to the casino to lose some more serious money.
Saturday morning we had breakfast in the dining room for only the second time of the week. Being on second seating, our breakfast was at a somewhat bearable time of 8:15. As we headed back to our cabin immediately after having finished breakfast, we were dismayed to find our cabin door standing open, and our cabin stewardess nowhere in sight. My purse, my jewelry and our camera bag were thus sitting waiting for someone to steal them. Fortunately, everything was there, but it certainly ruined my impression of our cabin stewardess, who had provided excellent, cheerful service throughout the week. If she had not been such a good cabin stewardess for the week, I would have lodged a complaint with the purser's desk.
We had booked our cruise cruise only, flying in and out of Fort Lauderdale, instead of Miami, as the tickets had been $50 per person cheaper than flying into Miami. We rented a car from FLL to Miami to reach the ship and had planned to buy bus transfers from the ship to the airport. However, the printed disembarkation material we received said that we could NOT buy bus transfers from RCCL. Being a slow learner, I went to the purser's desk to ask about same. The friendly lady said "Sure, you can buy them from us, and you can charge it on your cruise card". The cost was $15 per person and, as it turned out, we probably should have purchased transfers from one of the vans instead. We sat on the bus from 9:45 (when we disembarked BEFORE our color was called) until 10:45, when the last passengers finally disembarked.
MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS OF INTEREST--
Like some other cruise lines these days, RCCL sells liquor in the shop for onboard consumptiion. The prices are not quite as good as in St. Thomas, but certainly make it not worth bringing any alcohol from home.
The Sovereign was not full the week we sailed, with only 2242 passengers onboard. Of those, approximately 800 were foreign nationals. We did not particularly notice the presence of so many foreign nationals, except in the dining room. One whole side of our dining room was reserved for a very large group of foreign nationals. This did not particularly bother us, except for the fact that their tour package included free wine with dinner. We looked over with envy on many occasions as they happily downed bottle after bottle of vino.
Prior to dinner each evening there was special entertainment for the large Latino contingent onboard. I don't know if this was the reason why we never found any of the lounges playing music to our liking or not. On a couple of different nights, we checked out each one of the lounges in succession and found big band music, fifties/sixties stuff, disco stuff and kareoke, but never found any 90's type music to listen to. We generally don't spend much time in lounges anyway, so that didn't really bother us too much. On this trip, as on most cruises, we spent most of our evenings in the casino or in one of the bars.
We spent quite a bit of time, and more than quite a bit of money, in the casino. There were two roulette tables (NO quarter roulette, darn it!), one craps table, one $3 blackjack table, one $25 blackjack table, and about six regular blackjack and five Caribbean Stud tables. There were several blackjack and Caribbean Stud tables that were non-smoking. The casino was often packed during the week. Some nights it was so crowded in the casino that it was difficult to even walk through it. I SAW several people win large jackpots on the slot machines, and even though I donated several nights to the one-armed bandits, I personally saw very little return on my money.
I found the bar waiters too pushy. I personally prefer if they stroll by and I have to ask them or look at them to order a drink. There were many times when we were sitting on deck or in a lounge and bar waiters came by every five minutes, each asking if we wanted a drink. And, as I stated before, there were too many announcements on deck, announcing bingo and art auctions and miscellaneous other stuff I wasn't interested in.
Food in general was good, although quality and selection were not up to Celebrity standards and some items were not even as good as Princess. Beef, in particular, was not of particularly good quality and selections lacked imagination. There was no New York strip offered for the week, and prime rib was served twice. Lobster was offered one night and was very tasty. The appetizers were often somewhat uninspired, and shrimp cocktail was offered as an appetizer on at least on 4 nights and possibly 5. Desserts were generally unspectacular. Coffee was good and served in coffee cups with handles that were actually large enough to put one's finger through.
Even though towels in the cabins were a nice peach color, as opposed to your standard cruise ship white, beach towels were a disgrace. They are the size of a standard bath towel, which makes it very difficult to use on the beach. Beach towels were provided by the gangplank to go ashore in Labadee, but NOT for the other destinations. There were always plenty of towels available on the pool deck, however.
CONCLUSION--I can see why RCCL has such a loyal following of dedicated cruisers. Service is attentive, fun and competent. Decor is classically beautiful. We will be on RCCL again soon.
Carol & Eric in Virginia
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