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Voyager Review from 9/10 Hurricane sailing – the good, the bad and the ugly! VERY LO


marciemi

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We’re back from the 9/10 sailing and I finally have a few minutes to get all my thoughts on paper/computer screen! I’d like to point out first of all that I’m not a “one post wonder” like so many posting reviews with negatives, and this was my 10th cruise, although first with Royal Caribbean. I’ve spent nearly 2 years now on these boards researching, preparing for, and getting excited about this cruise. Rather than post a day by day review (do you guys care what time I got up, etc.?), I thought I’d break this down into 3 posts within this post: The Good, The Average (this includes some things that had some goods and bads), and the Bad.

 

Overall, I’d say that it was a good cruise, especially the cruise itself part of it. The ports were more than a little disappointing, especially for 3 kids who’d been looking forward to dolphins and stingrays for over a year since we’d booked. Even before we left, we knew this was unlikely and prepared them accordingly. But to go to nearly all replacement ports with virtually no shore excursions available (or that went due to weather) and effectively sit in pouring rain and lightning/thunder all day each day really wasn’t what I was looking for in a Caribbean cruise! Please don’t slam me. I realize it was hurricane season, I realize RCCL has to do what they can, I realize the only ones to blame are Ivan and Jeanne, I’m not asking for any compensation, I’m just sharing our disappointment!

 

Just a little info about us. We’re a family of 5 with 3 boys ages 12, 11 and 9. They’d been on 2 short (3 day) cruises before with Big Red Boat and Disney, but it’s been almost 4 years since their last one. After each previous cruise I’d felt that I wouldn’t take the kids on another, but thought the 3 day just wasn’t representative enough. But after 9 days this time, I probably won’t take them again. It’s disappointing because DH & I love cruising so much and my kids just seemed so unimpressed. It’s just not worth paying more than twice as much to have 2 cabins to bring them when they’d all rather just stay in their cabin and play gameboy or watch the one cartoon channel, even though it was in Spanish half the time (guess that’s educational!). They were sad when the cruise was over, but I think missing the parts that would have been the most fun for them (ie shore excursions) made the overall experience quite a bit lower. DH & I probably wouldn’t have cared nearly as much if it was just us, but the amount we spent for all 5 of us is not going to happen again, and since we live in Michigan, sorry, but no dolphins or stingrays around here! Contemplating driving to Orlando next summer (NOT during hurricane season – maybe mid June) for dolphins at least!

 

Overall, before the cruise, I had 3 main hopes. The first, which I prayed/hoped/wished for during the entire preceding year, was simply that everyone was healthy for the cruise. I’d just heard too many horror stories about confinement, etc. Luckily, we all were, barring some minor motion sickness that last day at sea (we definitely weren’t the only ones!) The next 2 were hopes once we knew effects from a hurricane were likely. Secondly, I just wanted to sail south – didn’t care where we were going, as long as it wasn’t north to Canada! Just really wanted to go to the Caribbean, plus I had nothing warm packed for anyone! Third, I hoped we’d get one beach day where the kids could actually enjoy swimming in the ocean. This we definitely had at Labadee. So…all 3 of my goals were met; I got everything I would have wanted going into the cruise, so I really should be happy!

 

Before anyone picks on me or my criticisms for being too negative, please read all my follow-on replies. There was a LOT of good. I’ll go into detail about all of it, both good and bad. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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No slams from me as I am hearing you.

We were on the Sept 12th sailing,on Rhapsody.We still had a great time,and it was nice to see some different ports,although I will never willingly go to Belize ever! :cool: ..

We had great weather except for Tuesday..the Captain and staff did a great job!But we definitely had a saddness about not swimming with the Rays.

Not quite as bummed as you,as we live right by the port of Galveston,and only have one little one...So we know we should be able to "get back out there" soon,and have one booked in May...I just have a tiny empty spot from this one,and a lot of it has to do with how many people,lost so much.Here I am being sad over not swimming with the Rays,and thousands and thousands...here and so many our favorite places don't have a home,or anything to eat.These hurricanes have touched and effected soooo many people...Its gonna take me a while to get that happy cruise feeling again!

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Thanks for the support so far! Now for the good - and there really is a lot of it!

 

--The waitstaff. Without a doubt the best waiter, assistant waiter, and head waiter we’ve had on any cruise. I’ve read the boards for years with people talking about how wonderful their waiters were and wondered why it had never happen to us. We’ve never had bad waiters, but usually ones who just did their jobs and that was about it. This time was different. Our head waiter knew us by name and came to the table daily to talk. Our waiter was a bit formal, but would bend over backwards to get us what we wanted (ie on lobster night, the lobster entrée included 4 shrimp. My kids loved the shrimp, not the lobster as much. He went back and brought each of them a plate of about 20 shrimp.) He always brought us extra things to try that he recommended, even when we’d ordered something else. Our assistant waiter was so much fun, that the kids refused to go to Johnny Rockets with the kids’ club because they didn’t want to miss seeing him. Overall, just a wonderful experience.

 

--The Windjammer. This was an excellent setup. Excellent food, excellent variety, excellent service. Make your own chicken noodle soup – how fun. Different things to try from day to day. Omelet station. Food always hot, rarely crowds. We loved the Windjammer.

 

--The Balloon Lady. On our cruise, there was a passenger who’d been given a “significantly reduced” fare (no I don’t know how much) in exchange for offering classes on the ship. She had classes in balloon making (we learned swords, dogs, a few others), money folding (made suits and bow ties), regular origami, and magic. All were very interesting and a lot of fun, both for adults and the kids who came. Even more fortunately, she ended up sitting at the table behind us and brought balloon creations each night to dinner – some really elaborate. After the first night she brought extra creations for each of my boys, as well as the 2 girls at her table. Lots of fun, lots of funny pictures. I definitely wrote about her on my cruise comment form, and got her email for follow up. Really glad she was on our cruise.

 

--Lack of lines/crowds everywhere. I could not believe how many people were on the ship, yet we rarely, if ever felt crowded or that we had to wait. Going to a show? Get there a few minutes before it starts and still no problem getting a seat. Tenders? In Labadee we’d scheduled the water park at 10am, so we decided to get in line for tenders by 8:30. 15 minutes later we were laying on a lounge chair on the beach. No lines, no crowds, no pushing. Hardly ever had to wait at the purser’s desk except the very last evening. Just amazing!

 

--No problems with people smoking. This was one of my main fears about RCCL, due to the number of threads I’ve seen about this. Guess I was expecting people smoking everywhere, being rude, etc. Smoking doesn’t really bother me (any more than loud music, unattended pets, etc.) – mainly it’s people being rude that bothers me. I never encountered this. Never had problems inside anywhere, our cabins were fine, on the pool deck or outside people seemed to smoke on the side they were supposed to, although this may be my perception because I never actually figured out what side allowed smoking, and even if I had, I never could usually figure out what side of the ship I was actually on (even looking down at the water when we were moving, I had a hard time figuring which way was forward – I’m directionally challenged). So if people were smoking, I moved somewhere else and never had any problems. Thanks everyone for being so considerate!

 

--Cabin 7387 had 2 hidden bunks! This is not shown on any of the ship maps anywhere. We had 7388 (corner aft) booked for 3 of us (DH & I & 9 year old), and 7387 across the hall booked for 2 of the kids. We’d hoped to put the youngest in with his brothers at least a couple nights, for some alone time, but weren’t sure how. The second night, my youngest noticed that in 7387 there were actually 2 bunks there. Asked the steward if he could lower one of those each night instead and he did! Not only did we get our own room (woo hoo), but it worked out much better since we were usually up around 7:30 and the kids were usually up around 10:30. Plus I didn’t hit my head any more which I’d done like 3 times the first night. You could tell the bunks hadn’t been used before much if at all since they were completely white/no scratches, very firm mattresses, as opposed to the one in our room which was worn down to the silver under the white paint. Finding this out was a very pleasant surprise. Since we’d brought a baby monitor and could hear every word in our kids’ rooms, I didn’t have any concerns about them being alone 10 feet away. Also since we were so far aft, after a couple days we knew all our neighbors and you rarely saw anyone else wandering that area.

 

--Portofinos. Excellent experience. Although the menu that I’d seen in advance didn’t suggest anything special, especially since they no longer had lobster, it wasn’t the case. The atmosphere, the service, are really worth it. We took my oldest (the sign at the reservation desk said they welcomed kids 12 & older, but they really tried to encourage us to bring our younger two kids too – we didn’t) and he loved the experience and tried to get us to eat there again. They allowed us to order multiple appetizers, even 2 entrees each and when my son told them the tomatoes (a bread condiment) were good, they brought him an entire bowl of them. Just a great time. I’d recommend though making reservations right at 6 (ours were at 6:30) and requesting a window seat. That would have made it even more special, especially for a couple it would really be romantic.

 

--Ice rink. Everything concerned with it. The Ice Show was SO good. I’d heard so much about it on the boards, but was skeptical. How can you make an ice show that exciting? I’m not a big skating fan and wasn’t expecting much. But it was more “show” than “ice” – think Lion King. We were really impressed and enjoyed it a lot. The ice skating was so much fun too. Not sure why since we’re 3 blocks from an ice arena and all my kids learned to skate in preschool, but haven’t much since then. They had so much fun now they want to take lessons again. Especially the first days, the rink was empty – had it to ourselves a couple times. So cool!

 

--Fun/silly classes. Stupid as this sounds, the highlights of our trip was the classes most people skip like napkin folding. If you haven’t been to a class like this (juggling, packing), try it. They’re hilarious, and you learn something you can always impress people with. My kids spent the entire week folding every napkin at the dinner table into something different. In the Windjammer, wait staff would watch them, and sometimes show them a new one. Great way to meet people and have fun.

 

--No chair hogs/No seat savers/No rude kids. SO many threads about these things had me worried but we never encountered it. Went to the pool at least once per sea day, mid afternoon, and never had trouble getting a chair within sight of the pool. No, not front row, but 3rd or 4th. Didn’t see towels saving seats, no fights about it. Same in theater – never saw anyone save more than say a seat for a spouse. Never saw kids hitting elevator buttons, running, blocking stairs, drinking, anything. I had my 3 and was definitely watching them and others but there simply weren’t problems. Maybe because there were only 100+ kids on the ship, but again a pleasant surprise.

 

--Labadee. This was all the good I’ve read on the boards and none of the bad. It was simply beautiful. We had so much fun at the water park, so much fun snorkeling (went around a long ways and found a cave we could climb into – so cool for the kids), banana boating, etc. Went over on one of the first tenders and came back on one of the last. I’m so glad we did everything – we were telling the kids we didn’t need to snorkel there since we’d be doing it in other ports. Since we didn’t get to in any other ports, I’m glad we made the most of our time there. We had no trouble with lounge chairs – despite the paper that said you didn’t have to tip, we tipped $5 to “move” 3 chairs for us. You tip everyone else, why not? We positioned ourselves by a hammock to use since we were there early, but didn’t put anything on it to “save” it so others could enjoy it. Were pleasantly surprised that while various people (including us at times) used it all day, no one tried to “claim” it. Also, the lunch was great. My son tried ribs for the first time and ended up eating 6 plates of them. Lots of fun.

 

--No one pushed the Coke cards at all. We actually had to search to get them, so it would be easy to avoid if you didn’t want to get them for your kids. On Princess & Disney they had them everywhere and really pushed them on you. Never had trouble getting them filled anywhere (usually just used the card/sticker not the mug).

 

--Sport activities. DH had lots of fun playing water volleyball and dodgeball. Many other fun things to choose from on sea days.

 

--Miniature golf. Lots of fun. A really challenging course, not just a generic one like on the Grand. Hardly ever crowded, especially in the evening. Lots of fun to play under the lights at night time.

 

OOPS - too much good, have to continue in another post:

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Here's the rest of the good stuff:

 

--Friendly people. Everywhere we went, we met friendly people. Although we loved the Windjammer, we went to breakfast/lunch (usually without the kids) in the dining room for the chance to socialize and EVERY time ended up with a great table full of people we’d then see throughout the cruise. Even in lines/tenders, etc. ended up talking to lots of interesting people. These ranged from great grandparents to families with young children, newlyweds, etc. So many nice people.

 

--The Meet & Mingle. Much more than I was expecting. Not just a space to meet, but crew led with drinks (non-alcoholic) and hor douvres (I can’t spell it!). Did a RCCL trivia game, and since we’d just watched the 3 video set on the making of the Voyager, we won and got the Aqua Mouse. The funniest part was checking the answers. The paper I got was hilarious, but I can’t remember whose it was. If you’re out there, please claim credit. For the question “Name one of RCCL’s private islands”, they’d put “Labadee, labadah, life goes on..” For “the train owned by RCCL”, they’d put “Voyager of the Land” and for the name of the RCCL children’s program, they had “Rugrats of the Seas”! Funnier than some of the comedians!

 

--RCTV. This was so simple, useful, and fun to use. To be able to check your account instantaneously, see when something was posted, etc was great. Last evening we couldn’t find an 8x10 we were sure we’d purchased. We could look on the TV, at the day we were sure we’d bought it, and see no photo purchases that day. When I went down to look for (and buy) it, DH knew I’d found it since the purchase popped up on the screen before I’d even gotten back! When we switched ports, you could book new shore excursions quickly, without standing in line, from the comfort of your room. We used it to order room service several times. No talking to someone who didn’t speak English hoping they got your order right. Just point and click and voila – 30 minutes later your food appeared like magic! What a neat feature!

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Okay, for those of you still bearing with me: These are the things that weren’t up to what I was hoping for, things that were better than I’d expected, things that had some goods and some bads.

 

--Adventure Ocean. This was a really hard one. Some big plusses, some big minuses. My older son was in the teen group. Unfortunately, due to the small number of teens on the trip, this group’s (12-14) activities probably didn’t go about half the time. They combined with the 15-17 group for the few things that did go (prom, dancing) and as a 12 year old, he just wasn’t comfortable with this. Add in that a lot of the kids in his group were 14 year old girls, not 12 year old boys. Not something I can blame RCCL for, but disappointing nonetheless, especially since it meant he then hung out with DH & I much of the time.

 

My other boys were in the 9-11 group. Although they LOVED the group, AO, the games they played, one frustrating thing was that they rarely followed their schedule. They’d publish these schedules with all these great things on them, then when you went when it said, it was always like “we already did that, aren’t doing that, may do it later”. This happened repeatedly, not once or twice. After a while, we stopped looking at the schedule and just showed up and let them have fun when we weren’t busy with something else, but it would have been nice to hit the activities (scavenger hunt, dodgeball, gaga ball) that they really wanted to do. Unfortunately, also due to the smaller number of kids, they were frequently combined with the 6-8 year olds. This is why even when we had my oldest try this group, he really didn’t like it because of “all the little kids who cheat at games and cry if they don’t win”. My 12 didn’t fit with the 6’s, but not with the 17’s either!

 

The schedule also was so poorly written that it was a joke. They didn’t even make an effort to update them much because of the itinerary changes (it would say San Juan on the top, then Welcome to Ocho Rios), had numerous typos (my 9 year old found 4 in one sentence many times), and unfortunately didn’t change when sea/port days switched so you couldn’t follow them accurately at all, even as far as opening and closing times.

 

The biggest problem we encountered though, was that the younger kids could save up “tickets” to get prizes at the end. My 12 year old, though, couldn’t, even though they advertise it on the RCCL website. When I asked about it, they said they didn’t bother with that for the teens and anyone who came regularly would get a CD case and a shoulder bag. My son really wanted the shoulder bag, so we were happy. Several days later, he asked another counselor if he’d get one for sure and she promised him yes. Then on the last morning, as we were preparing to trade in for our other 2 (who also wanted the shoulder bags which cost 20 tickets each), suddenly the counselor told my oldest, sorry, they’d given out too many prizes on this cruise so the teens weren’t getting any more. Talked to the head counselor (Tammy) who was quite rude about it, and basically accused us and my son of lying that anyone had told him he’d get it. She kept yelling at us and saying “we can’t give everyone every prize”. I’m like, “He wants the one he was promised by 2 adults”. Asked to speak to her supervisor, who was of course “unavailable”. She promised to call us back, and finally did several hours later to grudgingly say she’d give him a bag, but he had to come at 5 to get it. He went back at 5, and no one there to give it to him. Found her and she told him to come back at 9. DH went with him and finally got it for him. This kind of wasted our entire last day. Come on, it’s a stupid bag that probably costs them $5 at the most and they’re going to ruin his (& our) cruise over it?

 

Obviously this left a bad taste in my mouth, but I have to again reiterate that he still enjoyed the activities he went to that happened, my younger 2 loved their activities, and it seemed like a good program overall.

 

--Snack Availability. This was a little frustrating compared to Princess. On Princess, at any time, you could go to their buffet and there would be something. On Voyager, the Windjammer was open limited hours, especially in the afternoons. I know Café Promenade was there, but there was nothing my kids would eat (maybe a cookie) there. Also the lack of cold beverages was annoying. We hadn’t gotten Coke cards for us (since we don’t drink much of it). Lots of times it was hot, we were thirsty, the Windjammer was closed and all there was in Café Promenade was the jugs of milk and cool water (no ice anywhere). Also our steward didn’t bring ice unless we specifically asked him each evening (even though we asked) and it usually melted before we used it anyways since the fridge certainly wasn’t cool, let alone cold. On Princess many nights in the 10pm range (since we had first seating) we’d go to the buffet and get a dessert. Couldn’t do that on RCCL other than cookies. Also is there anywhere to get burgers other than JR? At 4pm or so, we found we were basically out of luck if we were hungry other than room service. I’m assuming stuff was available that we never found, and so am listing this as a medium. It wasn’t nonexistent, just hard to find. I also never understood why we could get lemonade in the Windjammer, but it wasn’t available in the dining room. This was very disappointing to my boys who all love lemonade.

 

--Everyone being from NY/NJ. Please don’t take this as an insult to NY/NJ people. I’d read a few bad things about that before we left, and certainly didn’t find any of the rudeness, pushiness, etc. I’d heard about. Everyone seemed like nice, normal people. But part of the fun we’ve always had on cruises out of FL was meeting people from all over the country. This cruise, 95 percent of the people we met were from one of those 2 states. This wasn’t critical, but a little less fun, especially since after awhile we felt left out. Everyone else knew where everyone else was from “my sister lives near there, oh that’s by…”. Michigan – we might as well have been from the moon. People would ask “oh, is that by Indiana?”, like it was some foreign land. Although it was kind of fun being different and people being like “Wow, you came ALL the way from Michigan?”, even though Florida’s twice as far and no one ever said that on all our other cruises.

 

--The food. This I have to put in the medium category, mostly because of the selection. I have to say first that everything I ordered was good, if not excellent. The food quality I thought was great. But the choices were so limited, compared to other cruises I’ve been on. Honestly the first night I thought they’d given us the lunch menu by mistake, because the choices seemed more like a Princess lunch. On Jamaican night (which I’d heard about before we left), there really were NO choices any of us wanted to try. We went because the kids didn’t want to miss seeing the staff, but all pretty much ordered off the “anytime” menu. 2 of my boys ordered the “grilled steak” off that menu nearly every meal, which I think used to be the ranch steak. A couple times it was a bit tough, but usually pretty good. They never complained and ate it all. Also the Caesar salad was a big fallback for us. I don’t think I’m that picky of an eater, & really was looking forward to the cruise for my kids to have a chance to try something new, but many nights I couldn’t blame them for not trying the limited choices that were there. Again, though, if you liked the choices, they seemed very well made, hot, etc. Also, despite what I’d read before, there was no real children’s menu. It was kind of up to you to ask for what you wanted – ie they could do hamburgers and chicken tenders, but we were told to get grilled cheese, we had to place an order 24 hours in advance (never did this). My one son also enjoyed the mac & cheese, but it was more pasta with a slice of cheese melted over it (you could see the outlines) than real homemade or even Kraft’s!

 

--Embarkation. We got there around noon, which I’m guessing is a peak time. Very long lines just for your initial check-in. Don’t know if this is an RCCL norm, but I’ve never waited on Princess for more than a couple people ahead of me (also usually broken down by deck/cabin), not say the 40 or so ahead of us in the deck 7 line on RCCL. It probably took 30-45 minutes, which again isn’t horrible, but certainly not what I’ve been used to. Once we got through that line, though, it was fine. The crew member at the counter was extremely friendly, got my boys maps of the ship to carry their cards in, (didn’t talk to very many others who’d gotten these and they were convenient), the embarkation pic was quick, and taking the bus to the ship was much easier than we’d expected. Only funny thing was there was a line for the bus where they were handing out Bahamas forms, then sending you to the bus. One guy loudly proclaimed “WE don’t have to wait in this line!”, then promptly walked in front of everyone (about 20 people). Turned out he did, and his wife quietly came back and waited with the rest of us while he stood by the bus and fumed. Some people!

 

--Towel animals. These are so cute and we’d heard so much about them, that it was kind of a disappointment to only get them 3 times during the 9 night cruise. I realize the stewards are busier than ever, but after the first night, my kids were so excited, they’d run back after to dinner to see what they’d gotten, only to usually find nothing. I don’t think anyone else got them much more frequently than we did, don’t know if it would be better if they did the last 3 nights or something so they weren’t expecting it.

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Once again, I typed too much! Part 2 of the Mediums:

 

--The Aft Balcony (7388). This one really had some goods and bads. Bottom line, I don’t know if I’d book another Voyager class aft, although on Princess (Grand class), I wouldn’t book if I couldn’t get one. Honestly, that’s how my mom & I booked our upcoming Dec. cruise with Princess. Picked the date, then searched for any ship that had the cabin we wanted available. So we’re doing Mexican Riviera, even though we were originally thinking Caribbean! But, first the pros. Our balcony was beautiful, and HUGE! We brought our pocket hammock and easily set it up on the balcony and DH spent a lot of time sleeping/relaxing on it. The side view was great – you could see into the ports, land, etc. Since the balcony was covered nearly completely, it was usually shaded which was great because it was SO hot much of the time. And when it was pouring for 2 ½ days, you could also sit on about ½ of it without getting wet and just watch the storm – it was actually very impressive! There was no soot (probably because it was so covered) and I don’t believe any more motion than anywhere else on the ship – even the last day when we had 12-16 foot waves, it didn’t seem any worse there than midship. It was also nice being off the beaten path – you never saw anyone down by our cabins who didn’t belong there – no one talking too loudly as they walked by, or running by the cabin.

 

The cons. It really seemed like a long distance anywhere. I think because on Princess the rear elevators/stairs are so much closer to the back, it never seemed that far back to our cabin. On the Voyager, it just seemed exhausting to even think about running back. The closest elevators are really close to midship – it’s a long walk. Those stairs shown on the deck layouts near the back are crew only so you really have to walk all the way to midship each time. We’re in fairly good shape, and on the Grand NEVER took the elevator. This time we used it a lot because I was just exhausted from walking back and forth all the time! I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with any trouble walking, whether little kids or older adults or any kind of physical limitations. Also, there was just too much engine noise for me. On the Grand, there was a steady droning which was almost soothing. On the Voyager, it was a loud “thump-a-thump-a” that sounded like we were above a very loud lounge. It was constant, and even wearing earplugs did nothing since you could feel it as much as hear it. It was difficult to even talk over when we were moving quickly. Finally, the framework. Although, others have said they got used to this, I certainly wouldn’t book an aft on the Voyager if it wasn’t a corner or at least deck 10. You just don’t really see the ocean, just all the metal behind you. We at least could look over to the side, unlike those poor folks in the middle. You lose so much privacy with the crew deck below you, it’s always too light with all the lights from it at nighttime, and you can’t just look down at the ocean like on the Grand.

 

--Rockwall/inline skating. These are really neat and fun, however, they were open such limited hours that it was almost pointless to have them. We made it to inline skating – didn’t find anyone else on the ship who had because it was always closed, either due to schedule or weather. Even when it was open, you spend 15 minutes filling out waivers, putting on gear, etc. to do a little loop that gets old in about 5 minutes! The rock wall was neat, too, but again it was closed in ports, closed in the evenings, closed during lunch, closed if it was windy or rainy, and closed other times it said it was open and we don’t know why. I’d recommend if you want to do this and you see if open, seize the opportunity because it may not happen again!

 

--Breakfast/lunch in the dining room. These were great because of the opportunity to meet other people. However, the lunch menu doesn’t change (other than a varying soup, dessert, and one sandwich daily) and it’s really not that great where you’d want to order from it each day. We also found the service during both these meals to be lacking. They never brought water unless you asked, usually more than once. When they brought it, it never had ice in it, and the couple times we asked for ice, never got it. They made you order everything (including dessert) at once during lunch, then seemed to slap it down around you, no matter what course you were eating. I would add though that they had an excellent Cobb salad, though, as well as the pasta “cook to order” bar. Breakfast was extremely slow. This was fine since we usually weren’t in a hurry, but if you were, I’d avoid the dining room. Again, the food was good, but due to the lack of service, I’d definitely choose the Windjammer where the service and selection were so much better.

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It's me Debra (debscruise) , we met at the meet and mingle, regarding the excursions, I to was dissappointed because the doplphins and stingrays were to be the highlight of my life. But figure this, it would be a good reason to go cruising to book it again. Hopefully this hurricane cycle would be only this year and next time things will be better and the islands hopefully repaired. It's funny you mentioned the juggleing because I was there (im 39) with a bunch of kids learning how to juggle with a couple of clowns, it was great.

 

In Labradee, I went to the private island in malfini and went snorkeling at my own risk and saw some strange fish and lots of coral reefs (thank god no sharks.)

 

Even though at St Marteen I missed the beautifull beaches in the sunshine, I got to do some shopping.

 

It was my first cruise so everything to me was an awsome learning experience and the entertainment was great and I did the rockclimbing (got an applause from the people at the bottom when I hit the top), rollerblading, and ice skating.

 

It was however disappointing that mother nature was a little "upset" .

 

debscruise

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Everyone being from NY/NJ. Please don’t take this as an insult to NY/NJ people. I’d read a few bad things about that before we left, and certainly didn’t find any of the rudeness, pushiness, etc. I’d heard about. Everyone seemed like nice, normal people. But part of the fun we’ve always had on cruises out of FL was meeting people from all over the country. This cruise, 95 percent of the people we met were from one of those 2 states.

 

I had to smile at this. I'm from NJ and a friend of mine, also from NJ, went on Voyager out of Bayonne in July and while she enjoyed her cruise, said there were way too many NY/NJ people. Part of going on vacation is getting away from the familiar. Woodbridge Mall of the Seas doesn't cut it when you want to meet people from all over.

 

Sorry to read of your older son's difficulty with the kids club.

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I'm glad you had a good time.

 

I just have to ask this. And I know it's none of my business. But, why ween't your kids in school?

 

I'm not judging you or anything because I take my 14 yr old out of school normally in February for our cruises. But in September they just started back. How could you take them out that early.

 

I'm just curious, one parent to another.

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First off, my boys are all good students. Lowest grade between the 3 of them last year was one stray A-, because he'd missed some assignments. So academically, I wasn't concerned that them missing would put them way far behind. Additionally, our kids were off that Thursday and Friday because of the Jewish Holidays. So they missed 4 days of school. A lot, I know, especially at that time of year. But we start much earlier (Aug 23) than many East coasters we talked to on the cruise, so they'd had 3 weeks of school to get oriented, get to know their teachers, etc. before.

 

I really don't think they missed that much. Especially my 4th grader, they still haven't started getting homework because they're still "testing". Since he had the same teacher for 2nd grade, and he's in a gifted program, they know where he is ability wise. My 7th grader is in 8th grade science and band and 9th grade math, and all his teachers gave him his assignments beforehand and he completed all except science before we'd left, and did that early on the cruise. My 6th grader was the hardest - starting middle school, with all new teachers and mostly new kids. He's also in a gifted program, though, so the teachers had to know he must be a pretty good kid, at least academically. As a matter of fact, his science teacher just called me this morning because she just wanted to tell me how well he was doing.

 

More than a year ago, when we booked, we talked to principals/assistant principals at both schools, plus a few teachers. All were enthusiastic about the idea, and supportive. Once they got their schedules mid August, DH & I went in and talked to each of their teachers and discussed what they would need to do. All did some research on cruise related topics, and used our laptop on the cruise to do a daily journal, complete with pics. My 6th grader is in Spanish, and every day got a copy of the Spanish Compass on the cruise, then we highlighted and translated everything he did for him to turn in for his Spanish project.

 

But I think they key was communication, early. All the teachers knew, were prepared, and as a result the kids were prepared. Additionally, we emailed all the teachers twice during the cruise to update them on our progress/itinerary changes and inquire about any extra homework. When we came back on Sunday, biggest problem was Continental had lost one of our bags which had a math and science book in it. Fortunately not the homework, which was in another bag. Luckily got it back the next day, but had to write notes to the teachers! But they all came home Monday with no more homework than usual. Oldest had made up one quiz before he left, and had a test the day he got back. But so far his test scores for the week he came back were 100 in science, 100 in social studies, and 83 in math (yes, he's going in for help tomorrow after school).

 

That's how we did it. Would we do it again? Probably not with middle schoolers. Elementary without a doubt. I don't think they missed that much, but starting out the year with that negative of a perception by the teachers is kind of hard. Do we regret doing it? Not at all! Just wish the weather would have cooperated more! Is it for everyone? Obviously not! You have to know your state guidelines, school's attitude, children's ability, etc. to decide!

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What a thorough and honest review. I am sorry you had such trouble with the weather. I took a cruise last year in the beginning of September and lucked out with mostly good weather. After seeing the amount of storms this year, I will think twice before doing that again!

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We were on the 8/27 Voyager out of Bayonne with 850 kids- that's why it seemed so "calm"- not that the kids were rowdy, but figure at least 500 less people on board (triples/quads- kids in same room). Also, many on our sailing had "issues" with the kids program- the same you mention- not keeping to scheduled events and rude treatment from the staff. My 10 year old sized up the program and the crowds and opted out. Luckilly, thru these boards, he had some "instant" friends from day one.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=2118757&posted=1#post2118757

This is a link to our meet n mingle thread where you can view some comments on the kid's program. Must be a systemic problem with Adventure Ocean staff on this ship. Hopefully they will have rotated out by next year.

 

I have to ask- I was in 7392. Was Lincoln your steward? We slipped him a $20 the first day and gave him a list (which he wrote down!) of special requests- robes, xtra towels, etc. We got them . We also asked him to fill our additional ice bucket (from T/A supplied Champagne) every time he serviced the room and keep our wine of the day chilled (we brought our own). He did that and finally kept the regular ice bucket filled (was only filled in the AM initially). I guess it didn't hurt to tip him some up front. You shoouldn't have to, but I learned that from reading these boards. If Lincoln wasn't your steward, then they shifted the staff around.

 

I also agree with your assessment of aft. We had a JS, so it was large, and we appreciated the large balcony. We ate there every AM. However, the vibration/engine noise got to be a pain, especially in rough seas (we dodged Frances)- not the rocking, but the noise. Also- you really never get used to the metal structural bars- it didn't "ruin" our cruise- we still enjoyed it greatly, we just will book mid-ship next time (booked same cruise next Aug deck 7 on hump).

 

Sorry to hear of the bad weather and missed plans. The seas were rough the day we were in Cayman, so snorkeling wasn't that great- not much fish to see- but still great. The sting rays were great, but waves too high for my son to leave Nativeways' boat. Still had a blast. Glad you had fun, too.

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Sealegs - yes, Lincoln was our steward. We slipped him $10 with our first request, then $20 with our request to fix our bed (coming up in the bads :) ) This seemed to make him more inclined to help us, but he really didn't seem to remember to fill the ice. Even after we asked each evening, he'd usually fill ours at some time, but then forget in the morning. And he never filled the boys' room. But he seemed friendly and sociable and other than those problems, didn't have any other trouble. He probably had more trouble with us since my boys wouldn't get out of bed until 11 or so. Our room was probably the first one he made up in the morning, then the boys was probably the last!

 

I'll read your comments about AO when I'm done posting my bads here next! Glad I wasn't the only one who didn't find aft to be the Holy Grail it seems on these boards. Especially since we loved it so much on Princess. Guess we have to stick with Princess or the Radiance Class on RCCL!

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Sorry folks, but here come the negatives. Bear in mind though, that many of these are not RCCL’s fault, just things I found. Probably some of them would annoy most of you, no matter how much you love RCCL!

 

--People LATE for dinner. I’m talking LATE, not a few minutes. The other family at our table regularly came at 6:51 (dinner was at 6). The table behind us (unfortunately also our waiter’s) came right around 7 daily. This wasn’t late once, this was every day. If you looked around the dining room at 6:15, it was maybe a quarter full. I can’t believe how rude this is, I can’t believe RCCL allows it. Every other cruise line I’ve been on shut the doors after say 15 minutes. We were usually ordering dessert when the others at our table arrived. Sometimes we’d left before they got any food. What should we have done? This is so unfair to the waitstaff, not to mention others. RUDE, RUDE, RUDE.

 

--Strollers in the hallway. It really bothered me that rather than folding up their strollers and putting them under the bed in their cabins, where they’d be inconvenienced, MANY people just left them out in the hallways where they could inconvenience hundreds of other people each day instead. This seems like such a safety hazard – in an emergency, the 3 of them on various sides just in our hallway would certainly have been in the way. Plus, I watched stewards trying to get room service carts, cleaning carts, etc. down the hall who couldn’t because of the strollers in the way. Folks, put them in your rooms, and if you’re leaving them in the hallway 95 percent of the time, why’d you bring them anyways?

 

--Change in itinerary. I understand fully why we switched to an eastern. But once they knew we were heading right into Jeanne, why’d we stick with it? Even sailing around somewhere with sunshine would have beat sitting in ports with pouring rain. Especially when it poured all day in St. Martin, then that evening we left and followed the storm (you could see the lightning all the way right in front of us) right to St. Thomas, where (surprise, surprise) it rained all the next day. Couldn’t understand why we didn’t stay in St. Martin, or go the other direction as the storm. I know some people were happy I guess because they got off the ship in St. Thomas, bought their alcohol, and got back on, but since we’re not big drinkers, this wasn’t a big deal. Would have gladly taken a sunny day anywhere else! The most frustrating thing, though, was the lack of things to do on the ship. RCCL could have done something about this. Probably at any given time 95 percent of the pax were on board, yet there was nothing to do. Teen club had no activities, kids’ activities were minimal. No bingo, trivia, ice skating. First day JR’s and the dining room were closed for lunch, which of course packed the Windjammer. Casino and shops couldn’t open. Nothing to do since everyone was supposed to be in port, but weren’t. We did homework – woo hoo!

 

--The cabin. We had a lot of problems with our cabin. Number 1 – ants everywhere. I’d say I killed about 50 a day, DH I’m sure killed the same number. We complained, and they sent someone with caulk, but there were still ants. All over the bathroom, all over the desk area. 2. Our bathroom flooded anytime we used the shower while we were at sea. We made sure the doors were closed, took shorter showers, but I’m talking 2 inches of water in the entire bathroom floor, using every towel to try to mop it up (we’d take turns showering/monitoring so one of us could be doing damage control). Steward said someone would fix it but they evidently didn’t. Took to showering in the kids’ room since theirs didn’t overflow. 3. My mattress was ridiculous. No exaggeration, about 5 inches on the side and 2 in the middle. You could feel every spring, and if you laid on it, you settled on one spot (with the most springs). Didn’t sleep at all the first night, complained in the morning, didn’t do anything, so the next night I slept on the bunk & put one of my kids on the bed who also whined, but they can sleep anywhere. Finally the next day demanded a solution. Steward didn’t have any, so asked if they could move the bunk mattress down. He did. This mattress didn’t fit in the curved frame, was about an inch lower than DH’s side and we had a lot of leftover bed frame sticking out, but at least I could sleep on it. Closed up the bunk, and since my kids had gone to sleeping in the other room (in the extra bunk) by this time it worked out. If we hadn’t had a bunk in the room I would have been out of luck. I can’t believe they actually expected someone to sleep on that mattress. It was WAY past its prime – probably hadn’t been changed since the ship sailed in 1999! I will point out that my kids’ cabin across the hall had none of these problems though. They were in a cat Q, we were in an E1, guess you don’t necessarily get more for your money!

 

--People who don’t think rules apply to their kids. Adventure Beach was full of kids who no way could have been toilet trained – I’m talking under 1’s, wearing no diaper or swim diaper. Not one but many of them. We went there once and never went back because of this – they have signs, warnings “NO KIDS UNDER 3 IN POOLS”, yet they allowed these kids on the waterslide with their parents so I know they saw the kids. Just gross! We also encountered this a little at the main pools, but usually only when Adventure Beach was closed. Same at shows. Signs, notes in Compass, announcements, “NO KIDS IN FRONT 3 ROWS”. Every show, lots of kids in front 3 rows, WITH their parents. Why? You can see as well anywhere else. What makes them so special?

 

--People smoking above our balcony who kept throwing lit cigar/cigarette butts onto our balcony. This had to have been from one of the 2 corner afts above us – there was nowhere else they could have logically come from. We complained to the purser – this is so incredibly unsafe especially since we had towels, t-shirts, etc. out there drying and a lit cigar would land near them. Not to mention if we happened to be outside at the time (fortunately this didn’t happen). They said they’d warn them, but it happened about 3 times. I know I said earlier that I didn’t have trouble with smoking, and I don’t consider this trouble with the “smoking” part of it – not sure I ever noticed that – just the disposal method!!

 

--Disembarkation. Total fiasco. Why bother to give out 15 different color tags, so theoretically those of us trying to make flights can make them, then call the first 10 colors at once? Never check colors so everyone can just leave if they feel like it. Allow anyone with a stroller or wheelchair to cut in front of anyone else, no matter how long they’ve been waiting, even if they’re just pushing a wheelchair with all their stuff on it. Don’t offer anything to eat after 11:30, even though the first people weren’t off until almost 3.

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--Newark Airport. I’ve never seen such total chaos, even after RCCL disembarkation! I will never fly there again. 3 separate security lines to go through, haul your own baggage around even after it’s been “checked” (that’s safe), luggage tossed everywhere where anyone could tamper with it if they wanted to, no information on flights, or interest in people making theirs, people cutting in lines, fighting, screaming at one another. Got there 2 hours early for our flight, and ended up running to the gate to get on. Boarded on time, pulled away from the gate, then sat for 1 ½ hours. I will not go to Newark again; I will not fly Continental again. Driving 12 hours back would have been much less frustrating! To top it off, they of course lost one piece of luggage which unfortunately had some of my kids’ textbooks in it for school the next day. Did eventually get it back, but, did I mention, never again?

 

--The game shows. It seemed like the only way to get on these shows was to be as crude and obscene as possible. I’ve seen many of them (love and marriage, battle of sexes) played on other cruises where they were funny, embarrassing, etc. These were just crude. The point seemed to be more obnoxious than the next person. I left during the first one. Okay – maybe I’m not the target audience. What really bothered me, though, was then they showed them over and over on the in room TV’s. I really didn’t want my kids watching that garbage. Didn’t realize they even were until I came in once and saw it on. They were laughing and giggling about the stupid things on it. Why would you say a show is recommended for adults only, then show it in the rooms for everyone constantly?

 

--Immigrations. I’ve never been on a cruise before where EVERYONE was required to go through immigrations at ports. Is this a new 9/11 thing? This was the one place you saw lines. Just crazy if you had an excursion or something (not that any of them went or anything). When we did it at San Juan, why’d we have to do it later in St. Thomas? I’m sure this isn’t something RCCL does to harass people – everyone must have to do it, I’ve just never encountered it before!

 

--The entryway into the cabin/closet/bathroom doors. Can’t imagine who designed this. Maybe if you only had one cabin and always came in and out together, you wouldn’t notice this. But all 3 of those doors open into the exact same place. If someone walked in the cabin or out of the bathroom while you’re looking for something in the closet – BAM! Closet door and head make contact. This happened to me, without exaggerating, at least once daily. Again, we were always running back and forth between cabins, but I still think the bathroom/closet door combo would be bad for anyone. Also, the light switch was OUTSIDE the bathroom, behind the door. That means every time you’d walk into the bathroom, realize you hadn’t turned on the light, and couldn’t just reach out and hit it. No, you’d have to completely go out of the bathroom, close the door or walk behind it, and then turn the switch on. And, as others have mentioned, there’s no way to leave a nightlight on in the bathroom since there’s only a razor plug in there. So if you left the light on in the bathroom and the door closed, it was still overly light, but livable. But if anyone used the bathroom then during the night, they and the entire room were blinded by the light! After awhile we just used the glow from the baby monitor we’d brought on the desk as a nightlight and stumbled to the bathroom in the dark if needed.

 

--My kids. As I mentioned at the beginning, they were probably the biggest disappointment. Not that they were bad (they wouldn’t have bothered you), but that all they wanted to do all day was play Gameboy, watch TV, fight with one another. Just like we were at home. They slept until 11 each day, unless I threw them out of bed, and then they were cranky and fought more. Nope, never bringing them on a cruise again. Well, maybe we’re considering for Spring Break in high school each year one of us bringing one of them. But that’s at least 5 years away so won’t worry about it until then.

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We had a good time. I enjoyed Royal Caribbean, and would definitely choose it for families over say Princess or even Disney. We personally prefer the more subdued crowd and activities on Princess, and will stick with them in the future, especially since I don’t plan on bringing the kids again. Would I go on RCCL again if it was a great deal, great itinerary, etc.? Yes, without a doubt. Will I be tempted to try the Ultra Voyager when it comes out? Certainly, although it will depend a lot on price. Many of the things we encountered in terms of negative were one time things that could happen (or not happen) in any specific cabin, cruise line, sailing date. Unfortunate that so many happened to us, but not RCCL’s fault. As you saw, there were so many goods that happened as well. Thanks anyone who took the time to read this and for any comments! Hope everyone else sailing has all the goods and none of the bads!

 

Anyone interested in seeing some pics from our cruise:

 

http://community.webshots.com/album/192329302AAupPp

(General cruise pics)

 

http://community.webshots.com/album/192732222bfOzJt

(Aft balcony/cabin/ship pics)

 

Thanks again!

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Marciemi-

Great review.

I can't believe you had the same water problem we did- 2 cabins away. It started on Weds. - water leaking out what looked like a bilge on the side of our tub (Jr Suite- tub). The floor was constantly wet- but only an inch or less of water and it flowed to a drain under the sink. We asked Lincoln for extra tub mats each time we saw him. We got them. He also mentioned he'd call to have it fixed. I do believe he called, because on the first day, our bathroom door was off the hinge and he called to get it fixed. A repairmain was there the next day. I guess the leak couldn't be fixed easily or no one showed up.

As far as the ants- ugh! Luckilly we did not have any. Could have been from prior occupants bringing them on. We had no bugs, thankfully.

Our bed was fine, but couldn't sleep 1st and last nights due to engine noise.

 

We did not encounter the stroller problem -however, many wheelchairs parked outside rooms. Guess different types of guests at different times.

 

We were afraid people would throw things off their balconies above us. Luckilly, that did not happen to us- you had the rude ones!

 

I forgot to post this on my review (in the review section of this site)- the last afternoon -about 5PM, we invited our tablemates to the suite to help us finish our wine we brought on- not going to bring off. We wanted to use the room and the balcony. Just as they arrived, we saw a tremendous amount of black soot floating on our balcony. That continued for about 1/2 hour. Luckilly we had ample seating for all 8 of us (2 kids sat on the bed) Would have not fit in a standard cabin. We did step outside to show them the balcony - but it still smelled a few minutes after. Figures- this happened when we had guests! That was the only time I noticed soot. I did wipe down the balcony furniture every AM before breakfast- always a film of something on the table & chairs. I guess we are in the minority about the aft cabins, as you said. But that's what makes life interesting- what if everyone liked the same cabin?

Anyway, we're looking forward to next year.

Hope you enjoy your next cruise with your mom.

P.S. If my TA can get me a good deal on Princess, we may try it. However, it's so tempting to go with RCCL- we just made Platinum. But- we will only do Radiance or Voyager. IMHO found the Majesty in need of repair - especially the rusty bathroom in our cabin.

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Lovely pictures, we have three boys also and used to find them all the same shirts to wear, now they are older teens and not so easy to dress! We were on the Voyager August 27 and had great weather considering the size of Hurricane Frances. Keep trying to cruise with the boys you will find they will discover how much fun they can have. This was there second and they had a blast. I’m trying to convince them to give up Christmas present and put the money to another cruise! :rolleyes:

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Fiveone5 - people on the ship kept asking us if we always dressed them alike. It's funny because we have camping clothes and travel clothes, which are almost all matching "dressy" or souvenir clothes and that's the only time we wear them. At home, they never dress alike, but I keep all those together in one dresser and it makes it so much easier to pack for trips. I agree that soon they'll refuse, but now they all hate picking out clothes and could care less what they wear as long as it's not itchy!

 

Sealegs - we only had the water problem when moving - first 2 sea days, then fine on port days, then again on the last 2 sea days! Must have been motion related. I understand wanting to stick with RCCL, especially if you're platinum. After this next cruise, I should be whatever the next level is on Princess (I think it's also called platinum). All I know is it means free internet which would be really nice if DH and I can ever get away again without the kids! We'd also love to try Celebrity, but getting those benefits draws you back. On the other hand, I can't imagine you'd be disappointed on Princess, unless you're really active people who live for the rockwall, skating, etc. However, on the Grand, we did have a sports court that was not only for basketball, but also "mini" tennis which DH & I played a lot.

 

Thanks for everyone's comments!

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