zwanzig Posted August 29, 2006 #1 Share Posted August 29, 2006 Background This was my 20th cruise (10th on RCI). I am in my late twenties and travelled from Denver, CO to Florida to meet up with my parents at their home near Daytona, from which we drove to Port Canaveral. This was our first cruise on a Voyager class ship, and my first cruise on RCI since the Grandeur in 2000. My most recent cruises were on HAL and Princess, so I was interested to see how the Voyager class experience compared to my experiences on the other two lines. Embarkation Driving to Port Canaveral from just north of Daytona Beach took around an hour and a half and was a straight shot down I-95. The convenience of the port and not having to deal with South Florida congestion was a large plus in and of itself, but we found the whole embarkation process once we arrived at the port to be the easiest and smoothest we had ever experienced. We arrived in Port Canaveral around 11:30am and were on board by noon. Driving East on FL-528 towards the port, we caught our first glimpse of the Mariner, which dwarfed the other two ships in port: the Carnival Sensation and Disney Wonder. The roads to the port were well-marked and there was no confusion finding the correct terminal. RCI's terminal was well-designed, and had some nice touches - for instance, I loved the large oceanlife murals on the sides of the parking garage. The longest wait we had was for a place to park while we unloaded the car, and that wait was only a minute or two. Everyone at the terminal was exceptionally friendly and helpful. After going through security and going upstairs to check in, we entered the priority line to check in, but at that point it was unnecessary - there was no line and therefore no wait to check in. A few minutes later, we were walking up the gangway and on to the ship! Lunch was of course being served at the Windjammer, so we went there to grab a bite to eat while waiting for access to our stateroom. We finished lunch shortly before 1pm and were pleased that they opened the doors to the stateroom hallways a few minutes early. Stateroom Our stateroom was 9606, a port side Junior Suite just forward of the "hump" and not far from the aft staircases/lifts and Concierge lounge. We loved the location of this cabin and had no complaints about the room. We found it to be more spacious than we could have imagined (we joked that our very first staterooms ever on the Nordic Prince could fit inside the JS twice! :D ), and it very comfortably accommodated 3 adults. The bathroom was a standard cruise bathroom, but it was a bit larger than usual because of the full-sized tub. It was nicely appointed with shampoo, soap, body wash, a body scrubber, shower cap, cotton balls, and q-tips. The walk-in closet was a definite plus, since there were three of us. We had plenty of shelf and hanger space, and there was room in the closet to store my large suitcase without interfering with access to the shelves or taking up otherwise usable space. (My parents' suitcases stored under their beds.) The balcony was long and had two deck chairs, a small table, and a lounge chair. The balcony felt mostly private, but when standing by the rail and looking aft, I could (and did :) ) wave to the folks on the hump cabin balconies. The room itself was very comfortable - the chaise lounge with the ottomon was a wonderful place to sit and nap or read. I slept on a fold-out sofa bed, and it was more comfortable than the ones I slept on on the Caribbean Princess and Zuiderdam, but still was not terribly comfortable. There was a small curtain that could be pulled to offer a tiny bit of privacy between the main beds and the fold-out sofa area. Our stateroom attendant was Odir from Costa Rica, and he did a great job of keeping the room clean and of leaving towel animals on the beds to greet us when we came back from dinner. Food After reading reviews on this board, I was a bit unsure of what to expect in the food department on this ship. I went in with low expectations and found that they were unnecessary: the food was great! We ate in the Windjammer every day for breakfast and lunch, and I was impressed by the variety and quality of the food there. On past cruises we would try to eat lunch in the dining room, but we found the Windjammer to be more enjoyable because of the variety and the fact that you could sit at your own table every day, rather than being placed at large tables in the "open seating" dining room format. The lunch offerings always included several hot meat dishes, vegetable sides, hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, pizza, Asian selections, and, most importantly, several different desserts from which to choose! We found that it was best to eat lunch at 11:30am - especially on sea days - because it was not as crowded as it seemed to get around noon. We had the C&A coupon for Johnny Rockets, but we liked the food and variety in Windjammer so much that we didn't make it and didn't miss it, either. Every evening we ate in the Rhapsody in Blue dining room. When we embarked, we were assigned to a table of 6, but on the first day we put in a request with the maître d' to be re-assigned to a table for 3 (check the Cruise Compass on the first day - it will tell you when/where to meet the maître d' to request table changes). On the next day, we received our new assignment of table 274, a table for four near the Melodies overflow room. Our waiter was Nigel from Grenada, assistant waiter was Agung from Indonesia, and head waitress was Elena from Romania. The dining room experience hadn't changed much since my last cruise with RCI. The waiters still sang on certain nights, and on Caribbean night we were given the opportunity to dance the dreaded Macarena. :rolleyes: Overall, I was very pleased with the food and dining experiences onboard, and as I write this, my stomach is asking me why I'm not in the Windjammer feeding it lunch! Entertainment We only made it to a couple of shows: the welcome aboard show, the Platters, the ice show, and the Pure Energy 80s review. The first three shows were very entertaining, and I meant to go see the adult comedian, Don Gavin, at his late night performance, but I sadly didn't make it. The routine he did at the welcome aboard show was very funny. The ice show was, by far, the best show we saw all week. I do not know enough about ice skating to critique the performance from that aspect, but as far as performances, choreography, music, and costumes go, this show was top notch. The performers were in character throughout the whole show and displayed a fabulous level of energy. I won't give anything away about the show itself, but I will say that this show is an absolute must-see, and not just for the novelty of watching ice skaters at sea. The Pure Energy 80s review was the weakest of all of the shows that I saw. Granted, the performance we saw was the very first performance of this show, but overall the show ironically lacked the "energy" its title promised. Choreography was out of sync, soloists were flat, and the background vocals were canned. I think that even if this show had been better broken in, I would have found it to be weak. Usually these types of shows, unless the singing and dancing is really great, don't do much for me at all. Next to the tight, crisp performance of the ice skaters, this show has a long way to come. Activities Here is a summary of some of the activities I did while onboard: Trivia: My parents and I played trivia twice while on the ship (our team name was "Friends of Henry"), but we found it to be a bit uninspired. At least three of the same questions were asked in both sessions that we attended. Usually we are big trivia players, so maybe if we had gone to more of the games we would have gotten in to it more. Gym: While onboard I used the stationary bikes in the gym and attended the Early Morning Stretch, Aerobics in Motion, and Walk-a-Mile activities. The gym equipment was plentiful and in good condition. I would have preferred that the bikes had a better view through the windows, but the treadmills were given that luxury instead. :D The Early Morning Stretch classes I attended were conducted by Ross. They were a light version of some yoga poses and a good way to rejuvenate my back after sleeping on a fold-out sofa bed. Aerobics in Motion was lead by Ursula for the session I attended, and I found it to not be extremely challenging, but it definitely got my heart pumping and was a good workout. Crayola Art Workshop: My mom and I didn't know what to expect here, but all this was was a "coloring" session for big kids like us. We were presented with a photocopy of a drawing of a gecko, given a box of cray pas, and told to stay within the lines. The cruise staff who lead this activity told us she thought it was stupid, and was really very "ho hum" about it. We loved Becky on this cruise, but overall we thought some of the cruise director staff were not a lot of fun. Sure it's kind of silly to lead adults in "coloring", but with the right attitude, it could have been turned into something more entertaining and fun for everyone. Explorer Academy - Learn to Play Steel Drums: This activity was actually kind of neat, in my opinion. They set up 4 tenor steel drums in Ellington's and gave you a sheet telling you which notes to hit to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." While it was obviously not a comprehensive lesson in steel drum technique, it was a neat experience to get to play the drums and to make some music. I didn't make it to the "Learn to Play Keyboard" session that was held later in the cruise, but I like this sort of activity and wish there were more of them on the daily planner. Bingo - Another disappointment. Cards were $25 for a kids pack (a pack of three cards per game) and $35 for a pack of 6 per game. With daily non-snowball jackpot payouts at only about $200, this didn't seem like a very good deal. On the back of the ice show ticket, you get a coupon for a free bonus ticket with the purchase of any pack. Well, be warned that a "kids pack", despite its name, does not count as a "pack". So to get your bonus ticket, you have to purchase one of the $35 packs. Maybe I would have liked Bingo better if I had won. Heehee. Captain's Corner - This was a really neat event. Capt. Johnny, Becky, and the heads of Hotel Operations and Food Operations held an informal question and answer session in the Savoy on the last day of the cruise. I love hearing about the behind-the-scenes stuff, so it was great to have such an open discussion of life and operations onboard the Mariner. I highly recommend going to this session, whether you have questions or not. Disembarkation Disembarkation was quick and painless. There was no line exiting the ship, and while I wasn't in a hurry to leave, it sure beat the long lines I was used to from my last Princess and HAL cruises. It didn't take long at all to go through customs and get to the luggage carousels. But all of that great time we made in the first parts of the process was wasted here: we spent an hour waiting for our luggage to appear on the carousels! I don't know what the hold up was, but our suitcases were not together and it took at least 30 minutes for the first one to show up. Despite the long wait, I still felt that the disembarkation process as a whole was very smooth and, as with embarkation, was far better than any other we had ever experienced. Miscellaneous - My 400 speed film got ruined by going through the x-ray machine at the terminal on embarkation day. If you bring film on board, see if you can have them inspect it by hand. Some of my photos came out, but most are very grainy and some completely grey. - I got one of my rolls of film developed on board, and it was $3 to have the film processed, $15 to have the photos burned to a CD, and $0.40 per print. I got one of the CDs, but I was not impressed with the quality of the scans. They are what you would expect if you got a CD made at a one-hour shop at Walgreens, and in my opinion it was not worth the $15. - My Sprint phone had a signal for most, if not all, of the cruise. I have free roaming, so I was able to use the onboard roaming service for free in St. Maarten and at sea (didn't try at CocoCay). St. Thomas has excellent in-network Sprint phone service, including their Vision data service. I was able to use my phone as a modem and had faster-than-dialup speed access to the Internet from the comfort of my own balcony. Sweet! - Though I really liked the free Internet access that Princess gives its higher-level Circle Club members, I felt that RCI did a lot more to make the Diamond-level C&A members feel welcome and special during the cruise. While on board we received a coupon booklet, a plate of petit fours, a picture frame, and a postcard book. These are all little things, but the constant attention really reinforced their appreciation of the repeat guests. Even Captain Johnny made sure to stress that it is because of us that Project Genesis is underway. RCI seems to really do a good job in this department. Summary In all, this week was a very relaxing and a wonderful way to spend 7 days. The food was excellent, the cabin accomodations were comfortable, and the ship's staff was incredibly - and genuinely - friendly. As far as ships go, I think I personally prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers and more aesthetically-pleasing decor. I found the crowds during peak lunchtime at Windjammer, in the Promenade, and at the Gala Buffet to be daunting. Also, I don't need alternative restaurants for $20/night, Johnny Rockets, Ben & Jerrys, etc. to have a good time. I love being on a ship and at sea for what it is, and none of those "extras" really help me to feel that closeness to the sea and the experience that makes cruising so special to me. But I am glad that I tried a Voyager class ship, very happy to have met Capt. Johnny and Becky, and am still two-days later suffering from major cruise withdrawal - the true sign of an excellent vacation. :) Thanks for reading my review - I hope you're still awake! I'll try to answer any questions that anyone may have... Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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