The best vacation I ever had taken was on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas. I went with my two best friends. We chose the 4 day cruise that went from Monday to Friday morning. I admit I was slightly intimidated when I began reading and viewing pictures of the cruise ship.
I just took my very first cruise before Christmas 2007. I went with very little expectations and have to say Wow and I am definitely going again very soon! Honestly I felt like I might get lost on a big ship.
Granted, I had figured cruises were for mostly the fru, fru's and stuck ups. I was totally wrong. Along with myself, my best friend and his wife went with me and we were all first time cruisers. We drve 10 hours to get to Port Canaveral.
First off, when we arrived to Port Canaveral (Orlando) Florida to board the ship, we thought for sure we were going to be waiting a long time having to unload our luggage, park, go through security and checking in.
From the time we arrived at the terminal to the time we boarded the ship was a little over 45 minutes. The lines looked long, however, they moved efficiently and quickly. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. We had our Set Sail Passes signed as well as our passing pass information and health declaration (while in line).
By the time we were on the ship and to the deck where our Oceanview stateroom was located (deck 8) our luggage was sitting waiting on us.
Yes, the room was small. It was very clean though. Our stateroom attendant did not take long to show up and introduce himself.
Just before we left the port we had to have a safety drill. Of course I knew that over 2,000+ guests were on board and I did dread this part because well, not everyone usually cooperates and I figured this was going to delay our departure.
I was so wrong. It was done and over with in about 30 minutes. We left port on time (5pm).
I came to this website to read reviews before going and yes, around the second day there was that musty smell from wet carpet. It did not take long for it to subside though. And, everyday I saw housekeeping vacuuming as well as using a carpet cleaner.
Everyday that we used the make up room card (left in our door), our beds were made up and the carpet vacuumed. And yes, we received animated shaped towels on one of the beds every evening.
Yes, the bathroom is also small, but it was always clean as well.
Let me say this much about the room and bathroom: It may be small, but they made it as comfortable as they can. Beside, there are plenty of things to do on the ship so major of the time you are not in the room anyways!
Eating is not a problem. We ate at the Windjammer for lunch once we got settled in. The food was great and the service was awesome. I got Chinese food along with some chop sticks. It did not take long for one of the Asian waiters to come over and patiently work with me teaching me how to use the chop sticks!
Our assigned Dining room was the Mirage, late seating (8:30). While that time seems late it really was not. In fact, it was perfect timing. You do not go hungry on the ship. The food was great every single night.
And if for some reason you are not happy, they'll soon get something else for you (I never asked for something different).
Our waiter and his assistant were incredible. They quickly remembered our names. There were six of us at one table. Our glasses were often refilled, our food quickly arrived to us as well as rolls served while waiting.
Breakfast was also awesome. The buffet offers something for pretty much everyone. Biscuits, Gravy, Sausage, Bacon, Eggs, Hashbrowns, French toast, Waffles, Pancakes, Cereal, you name it they have it. My best friend mentioned the last day of the cruise he does not care for hashbrowns, but the ones on the ship he absolutely loved!
Tables are quickly cleaned so seating is usually right away.
I had the opportunity to attend a Welcome aboard show that included the Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers which was a great show. I also attended a show in the Follies theater with comedian Steve Smith as the headliner. He was hilarious. I also went to his late night show for adults which was just as good as the first one. I attended the Captains welcome aboard party where free drinks (alcoholic and non alcoholic) were offered.
We spent a little time in Casino Royale. It took a little time for us to understand how the machines work as the .25 slots only took cash not coins. When you win any amount you have the choice of continuing with a credit or printing out a coupon to redeem.
The second day on board we were out to CocoCay. The weather was sunny, cool and very breezy. By the late afternoon they had to limit the times for the tenders traveling back and forth from the ship to the island and vice versa because the water was becoming extremely choppy. We had to wait quite awhile to board the ship because the gang plank kept getting pushed up. Two of the crew were very patient and helpful making sure everyone got back on the Sovereign safely.
Checking in and out (going from CocoCay and back) was quick and painless. All of the crew were organized, helpful and friendly. It was crowded yet it was moving at a reasonable pace. You were not standing in one place for very long.
Throughout the day we were informed over the intercom (mostly by Casey, our cruise director) of activities. Our stateroom attendant also left us a cruise compass everyday. We also watched Channel 27 which I highly recommend doing.
Throughout the day we were often greeted by Royal Caribbean staff. Anytime we encountered the staff they were always smiling. It felt good to be acknowledged.
I did have some complications with using internet which is quite pricey at .50 a minute. They did offer a few packages in which I had purchased the $ 25 one for 60 minutes worth of access. However, access on the desks on deck 4 was very, very slow and the minutes were quickly getting used up. Because of issues with me signing up I did receive a credit. I went to the guest relations desk and was taken care of quickly no questions asked.
Even though I was told I would not have access to the internet using my laptop in my stateroom my best friend and I tried it out anyways since our room was so close to the Voltage night club which is a hot spot for Wi Fi. It worked so much better!
The music was so much better than I expected. Modern music, classics, latin music among various types were played. You can expect to hear music through the day on the cruise ship or the island.
I did a little shopping on board and the stores are okay. I do wish they offered more t shirts for the youngger children. It was disappointing to leave without t-shirts for my three kids. They are pricey though for the shirts offered even though I got two for $ 30 (on sale). Even though the shop was crowded I did not have to wait very long to checkout.
I wanted to check on my onboard credit so I went to guest relations and did not wait long. The attendant was very friendly, smiling and helpful. Anytime I had any concerns or questions that were very polite and eager to answer them.
From the first day I had made up my mind I am cruising again very soon. I loved the atmosphere of the Sovereign. The next time though I want to take my family as well.
The last day though I was saddened to know that the Sovereign will only be cruising through the end of October 2008 and then she heads to Europe. Monarch of the Seas will be taking her place when it departs Los Angeles on a 16-night Panama Canal cruise to Miami. The ship will then undergo a scheduled, weeklong dry-dock before it takes the first Port Canaveral guests for three and four-night Bahamas sailings after the first week of November 2008.
I want them as well as others preparing or considering taking a cruise with Royal Caribbean to experience what I did. It was truly the vacation of a lifetime. It was the best one ever for me and the service was awesome.
Here are some words of advice and tips:
-Parking for the 4 night cruise cost us $ 48 (2007)
-Have all of your paperwork ready before you step in line in the terminal
-Take an extra change of clothes in a carry on bag when boarding
-B prepare for the security as your carry on items go through the x ray machine
-You will do a lot of walking, going up escalators, standing in line but it does not take too long.
-Lunch is offered onboard the ship the day of arrival!
-Rooms are small, but luggage can be stored under the beds and closet space has shelves, desk has a few drawers
-There is an outlet by the desk and in the bathroom
-If you get drinks other than the drink package offered, be prepared for paying a gratuity on top of the price of the drink unless you get it at the pool bar, dining room or one of the lounges! Gratuity was 15% for each drink we purchased from one of the guys walking around at CocoCay or around the pool / Windjammer Café.
-Soferign of the Seas offers the gratuity package which ended up being $ 39 per person in our stateroom. Tipping is customary wherever on the ship, CocoCay or in Nassau. Make sure you save money for this!
-I recommend purchasing gift certificates ahead of time whether for yourself or another guest cruising with you or just as a gift for someone. You can redeem them for onboard credits on your SeaPass card. (The three of us spent approximately $ 515 in four days on souvenirs, gratuity package ($ 120), internet as well as drinks with cups we kept.
-B prepared to use the stairs much of the time. The elevators can be slow and at times crowded! Majority of the time people on the elevators are generous to make room.
Remember to keep out a change of clothes the night before disembarking! They will tell you to have your luggage tagged and out in the hall before midnight. We ate breakfast early and then prepared to disembark. The line was long but it went very fast. Everyone had various color coded luggage tags (red, tan, blue, etc).
Another suggestion is to somehow make your luggage unique in some fashion. We borrowed my parents luggage that was solid black. We had to sort through similar ones and wait for 10 minutes for all of our luggage.
From the time we got in line to disembark until we loaded up our vehicle, once again it took us approximately 45 minutes.
If you are looking into taking a cruise with children, this is the best one. I had the opportunity to meet other parents and kids. They have plenty of activities for the kids to do while the adults get to have some fun time. The staff who take care of the kids are highly qualified. As a mom to three kids, I am definitely looking in to taking mine on a cruise soon.
Royal Caribbean has outstanding service that makes you feel welcomed and appreciated for your business. You definitely will feel like royalty on board.