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View Full Version : Back from RCCL, and boy did we miss Mickey!


zalansky
02-20-2004, 02:43 PM
For those who may be considering these two lines...

This was my 7th cruise....the past two were Disney and this last one was RCCL's Mariner of the Seas. We have a 14 month old baby and sailed the Wonder with him last September. It was hard because we had alot of gear to bring for him (formula, food, etc)...but since Disney has a nursery on board and they cater to kids of all ages, we still had a good time since we did utilize the nursery. We felt confident he was safe and happy there.

My first issue with RCCL was that they charged us FULL CHILDS FARE in the amount of $499.00 plus tax and port charges for a baby who did not use the facilities and who did not eat any of their food! (except Cheerios LOL ) Disney charges port fees only for kids under 2. Since this was a family cruise with my sisters & their older teens, I agreed to RCCL and to pay the money to make everyone happy. I should have listened to my gut feelings....

There is no nursey on RCCL, the kids clubs start for ages 3 + up if they are potty trained. If you want a babysitter, they only offer a very few for $10 per hour, in-room only! So, they get you again for more money on top of what we paid for his fare...but that wouldn't matter. I would never have left him behind closed doors with a stranger with no pager...he is in the heightened state of stranger anxiety right now. The kids who we saw in the clubs seemed to enjoy it and we heard good things about it. There were only about 12 kids in the 3-5 age group which is much different than Disney. There is nowhere for a baby to get wet, no Mickey Ear...

I have heard people complain the food on Disney was "lackluster"...we have always enjoyed the food on Disney very much. The food on RCCL was bland in the dining room and flat out horrible in their buffet restuarant called the Windjammer. We skipped the meals in the dining room 2 nights because the food was so boring and took so long. They had two "upscale" restaurants on board similar to Palo, but they charge $20 additional per person for both of those. There is a Johnny Rockets on board which was pretty good...but there seemed to be a wait when we'd go so we always got takeout. They have a Ben & Jerrys but it costs $ too. To sum up the food experience, I didn't gain an ounce this cruise!

The ship itself was incredible and definitely the nicest we have ever been on. Standing on the top deck and looking down at the Wonder was pretty wierd. The spa and gym were incredible. Everything was immaculate, with the ship being so new. Our room was unreal, a family oceanview stateroom at the front of the ship with 2 portholes, we could watch ourselves pull into port every morning. We had to be back on board earlier than cruises in the past. Two ports we had to be back or on the last tender at 3:30pm which didn't leave much time for exploring. My sisters didn't like that one bit, this being their 1st cruise. The staff were nice enough, just not magical like on Disney!

The casino and bars were nice, but we are not big gamblers and drinkers, maybe that is part of the problem!

My only other gripe would be, and many others sailing agreed that we spoke to, was that RCCL seems to nickel and dime you for every little thing. There are no ironing or laundry facilities on board. If you need something pressed, you've got to send it to their service, which costs $3 per piece and up. We went wrinkled. The debarkation was a virtual nightmare. We were out of the rooms by 8am and were not called to get off until 10:30am with a baby. Then, we go to get our luggage, and it is on turnstiles like at the airport, coming through piece by piece. It took us an hour to gather our bags and get to the car. Anyone who has sailed Disney knows how great their debarking system is.

Thats it...for now. I know some people on these boards were considering the two lines and I hope that I didn't come across as terribly picky because really, I am not! I swear! I think it was two things that messed up my week:
1) I should have known better than to travel with a 14 month old after our cruise last year. It was more work than relaxation working around his well deserved needs and schedule. But, I wanted to spend QT with my sisters and family I dodn't ever get to see because they live 2500 miles away.
2) I am spoiled. I have been on Disney twice now and I know how good it can really be. I never have considered myself to be a Disney freak, all things Disney...but maybe I was wrong. There is nothing like Disney's deck party, dancing with Mickey and the gang and hearing Disney tunes wherever you go. Seeing Mickey hands wave goodbye. Watching Disney Dreams instead of a cheesy comedian. My husband and I both agreed, from now on its Disney or nothing! We totally feel the magic on Disney and just didn't feel that on RCCL.

I will say, that the teens I was with, stated this was the BEST vacation of their entire (albiet short) lives! Maybe we'll try them again in 15 years? Nah...not as long as Mickey is around...

**DISCLAIMER**
These thoughts are strictly my opinion and are meant to be a trip report of sorts for those who PM'd me and asked me to let me know how our Mariner Trip went. HTH.

Have a MAGICAL and WONDERFUL day!


:wave2:

rae519
02-20-2004, 03:02 PM
My chiropractor and his SI have cruised on Carnival, Holland America and Norwegian - they didn't like HA or N at all, and have spoken to others who have cruised other lines and praised DCL - so they are planning to join us on the 2005 DCL cruise! I know they will be FANatics when they see just how wonderful the DCL is.

Of course, they won't get their casino fix until they get to the islands but hey, I can take their money as fast as the one armed bandit can!!!!

Thanks so much for taking the time to write up report and clue us in. It looks like we will be going on the Sensation (Carnival) in September due to a friend's on ship wedding, but I will miss the mouse!!!!!

Rae

han1211
02-20-2004, 03:24 PM
I agree with your summary of RCCL. We went on Soverign of Seas last year (our first cruise). I thought it was a bit on the cheesy side and kept glancing at the Wonder ship with envy. In less than 13 short days, DH & I will be on the Wonder--Yeah!!!

Han's Wife(mermaid593)

tink1663
02-20-2004, 03:48 PM
We haven't even been our first Disney cruise yet and I can tell we won't try another cruise line. It's not that I'm not open to new experiences but once your a Disney fanatic nothing else seems to compare. Thanks for the report.

NCRedding
02-20-2004, 03:57 PM
I totally agree with your assessment of RCCL and the feeling of being nickeled and dimed to death. It may cost less for the underlying cruise, but in the end, I'm not sure that the two lines aren't even. I don't have any intention of sailing with any other lines. I hate spending money (even if it is less than DCL) if I am not going to be happy in the end. I know I love DCL.

Regina
02-20-2004, 04:27 PM
Just a teeny clarification, if a child is under age 3, DCL only charges the port fees. (You have it as age 2.) :D

I had no idea that there are all of these fees! YIKES!

What kind of entertainment do they offer? I'm curious about that in comparison to Disney.

GenieDana
02-20-2004, 04:38 PM
You forgot some of the other add-ons,

Golf simulator = $$$
Sodas at meals = $$$
Juice = $$$

The grass isn't always greener on the other side...

zalansky
02-20-2004, 04:58 PM
Well I am happy to hear about the age clarification! Even more reason we will be sailing with Disney.
The soda card for an adult was $42 plus tip for the week and $28 plus tip for teens. My newphews wanted to do the simulator but because it was not free that was out. Every time we turned around we were pulling out the card or the cash.
My hubby commented we could have had a grand Disney cruise vacation with what we ended up spending on this cruise. And keep in mind we didn't buy any souvenirs with the exception of a few t-shirts for the baby. It was just too too much.
I am glad you all agree with me!

prymsu
02-20-2004, 05:05 PM
we just did a four day cruise this past christmas, and it was on RCCL Soviegn of the Seas out of Orlando, and in ten cruises, it had the worst food IMHO....

highflyer747b
02-20-2004, 05:47 PM
Thanks for your report on RCCL - we sailed on The Navigator and had a similar experience although I have to say the food was on par with our last cruise on Disney. The ship was awesome, our stateroom was huge, we had a great time but as you say - it wasn't Disney. Also when it comes to fellow passengers those on Disney seem so much friendlier !!
Our main consideration when we decided to cruise with RCCL was that we wouldn't be anywhere at the same time as the Wonder or Magic - that would have been a bit too much to bear !

lbgraves
02-20-2004, 06:12 PM
Thanks for your insight. Right now we aren't interested in cruising with anyone but DCL. Your experience confirms that is the right choice for us, especially with kids!!!

indymom1
02-20-2004, 06:43 PM
Boy did this come at a good time. We were looking at going on our second DCL cruise the summer of 2005 but with the schedules being on hold we started thinking about RCCL. Now you have us thinking maybe we should just wait until the Magic comes back to Florida in 2006. Especially since we will be travelling with a grade school boy and also a toddler.
Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts:)

Kathy

tezb
02-20-2004, 07:06 PM
Thanks for your comparisons. We just sailed w/ DCL for the 3rd time last July and we are now venturing out on the Mariner in June this year. Our last cruise w/ DCL, to be honest, was boring for all of us. We are a family of 5 w/ 3 boys who are now 18, 16 and 12. I feel there is more for them to do on the Mariner and they were getting bored w/ Disney. We too need more for us as adults. We aren't fanatics about gambling but do like to do a little for entertainment. The night life on the Disney last summer was practically non existent after 11pm. Guess everyone w/ little ones went to bed early. Every place we walked into was practically empty and dead. This just confirmed that we were ready to try something else. Also, DCL was just getting to expensive for a family of 5. Who knows, we may like DCL better after trying the Mariner...we'll see. I hear many w/ older kids prefer the Voyager ships and don't want to go back to DCL so to each is own I guess.

zalansky
02-20-2004, 07:32 PM
tezb...
The teens in our group were 3 boys ages 15, 17, & 17. Like I said at the end of the report, they all agreed it was the best vacation of their lives. The Mariner is suited best for teens aged 12 and up, I think. There is alot going on for them - they have a very cool arcade and teen club. My husband and I agreed that Disney is best for the under age 10 group, which is what we will likely do until the kids get there. The Mariner was awesome, I just couldn't get past the bad food and the other things I mentioned. To me, food is a major part of the cruise experience. There is too much competition out there nowadays. I am sure your boys will have a great time, and you will too! Enjoy!

zalansky
02-20-2004, 07:46 PM
One last post, I promise!

Highflyer, I agree with you in that the fellow passengers on Disney were overall much more friendly.
Also, persons between ages 18 - 20 can drink beer and wine once they are offshore. The booze was very easy for even the teens to obtain on RCCL. We saw quite a few drunk teens throughout the week and they were flaunting it. I know I am a mom to a baby right now so my mindset is focused on wholesome family fun...but it was not cool to see booze flowing freely to such young people. JMO.

Don't get me wrong, RCCL was good, just not for me and my family where we are in our lives right now. I am not looking for 15 - 20 bars and nightclubs, nor a fancy casino. I am sure everyone who has had a small child can relate! LOL.

HRCCrazy
02-20-2004, 08:21 PM
My first 3 cruises were on Disney, then I went on RCCL NOS and as soon as I walk into or room, I new I was not going to like it, and I was right. Try to ask a staff member something, and as soon as she spoke, I knew I shouldn't have ask.
I missed the Disney feel.
I will only go Disney from now on.

Big Johnpirate:

tezb
02-20-2004, 11:06 PM
Loretta, just curious, had the teens you were with been on Disney before? Wondering if they had something to RCCL compare to. Disney has been our only cruise experience since 2000 and we are looking forward to trying a Class Voyager ship. This is probably going to be our last cruise on any line after this as it's getting too expensive since we are on the West Coast. It's hard to tell what people like. The comments on this thread seems mostly in favor of DCL but I have also read other threads where they raved about the food, service, etc on RCCL. You just don't know what to believe until you see for yourself.

I am not crazy about RCCL allowing teens to drink beer and wine at age 18 but so far my son is not a drinker so hopefully he will be tame. Once he finds out the drinks are extra and he's paying for it, he won't be interested anymore either!

dianthus
02-20-2004, 11:25 PM
Loretta~ Thanks for taking the time to post your comparison report here. We saw the Mariner last November, poised for her maiden Voyage in PC & the Wonder looked like a baby next to her. We were so impressed, we thought we'd sail RCCL next for our DD's 13th Bday. I went over to cruise critic & most people said the same thing- wonderful ship, all agreed with you about getting nickeled & dimed to death.... Apparently theres a big uproar, as they are even charging for OJ in room service now?

We weighed the pros and cons & decided to stick to what we love for this trip - DCL. Castaway Cay is too hard to give up.
Sounds like we made the right decision for us for this trip. We love DCL!

Thanks for giving us a great, honest report. Maybe in the future..

~ Linda :boat:

mmouse37
02-21-2004, 06:41 AM
Thanks for the trip report!!! Unfortunately, even on the ports DCL goes to, alcohol is very easy to obtain once off the ship. In St. Maarten my teens were offered booze and drugs almost everywhere there they went. Same thing in Cozumel. Once on the island, they really do not check ages at all...they just want to sell what they have.

Talk about a DCL homesick passenger....check this out.

This gentleman was on the Golden Princess last week when we were docked in St. Maarten. His cabin was directly across the dock from ours...he was shouting that he missed the Magic and couldn't wait to get back on her......all the while duct taping this to his verandah......a man after my own heart!!

UPDATE: Guess what...this gentleman just posted that he saw my pic of him and he is a DIS'ER!!!! Yeah!!!!

http://community.webshots.com/photo/118553635/118563443ltVBYr

MJ

glindamood
02-21-2004, 07:07 AM
We sailed on the Island Princess last August to Alaska. The ship was new, only her 6th or 7th sailing when we went, and a beautiful ship. The scenery was gorgeous and the staff was most helpful, we did get the excellant speech but just give me my Magic! We were not nickeled and dimed at all so that is not the issue but the Magic is just that - magical. Why does it give us goose bumps (well, it does me anyway) just to see her in port on the cams on Saturday? What is that feeling (and I do get it) when I walk onboard - no one even needs to announce me, take my picutre or anything. Don't know what it is - not good at explaining it but Princess does not have it.

markmyboy
02-21-2004, 07:26 AM
Loretta,

I would be interested to hear any info. you have on the family oceanview stateroom, as that is the room we will be in on the Voyager in October.

We originally cruise DCL & since we got so addicted (and the prices kept rising) we decided we would try all the other major lines as well. We have already tried Carnival & NCL & while we had a great time on both cruises (even with limited facilities for our now 1 1/2 year old) it was not DISNEY!!!

We went back to Disney for a 3 day in Jan. to make sure we weren't just remembering our experience with rose colored glasses & well, we booked a 7 night for 2005!!!

But we are still going to try RCCL. We definitely noticed the nickel & diming more on Carnival & Norwegian than on Disney. We certainly don't need a casino (we live 30 minutes from Atlantic City & have been there once!!!) And you can't beat the facilities they have for the under 3 crowd!!

NCRedding
02-21-2004, 08:15 AM
mmouse37: too funny. I've seen people looking over lovingly at the DCL ship, but never seen such a display!!

Mickeyhugger
02-21-2004, 08:35 AM
I'm hoping and praying that by the time our DD is a teen, (she's 9 now) that Disney's profits will have turned around so they can put RCCL to shame by building a comparable ship w/lots of activities for teens.

We haven't done RCCL, but I know too, that as DD gets older, she might be as some of the others who'll want more teen activities.

DH & I would be willing to do DCL forever! And I too, have a rule that if we ever sail another line, it can't be anywhere near the Magic or Wonder, or I WILL burst out crying!:(

zalansky
02-21-2004, 09:20 AM
Tezb...no, the teens with us had not cruised before. My husband and I have cruised together 4 times now and my sisters and their families had never done it. So our teens had nothing to compare it with. This was also the first time we traveled together as a group and I am sure that had something to do with them having such a good time. Also, there was a group of 70 girls from Panama, ages 15 & 16 on our ship. They were all very cute girls and took lots of interest in our boys. There was not an over abundance of teens on our sailing as it was not a break of any kind from school. I am sure that the girls had alot to do with the boys having a good time! LOL. I think some of it has to do with how much magic you feel with the whole Disney experience. Some people just don't get it. Like my sisters....they visited WDW and never went for it. That still blows my mind! My husband and I (and some friends) go several time a year and as soon as we drive into WDW we feel it, that "feeling". Some of you out there get it, alot of people on this board know what I am talking about. To me, that has alot to do with our cruise comparison. I just felt it on DCL, plus the other things I mentioned: the food, the money, other little things. But I am sure you will enjoy the Mariner!

Markmyboy....the Family Oceanview Stateroom was the best room we have ever had. My family and I compared it to a hotel room. And if you see the Voyagers class inside stateroom, you would see why! My sisters had those rooms and they were 136 square feet, talk about being claustrophobic...Anyway, when you first walk in to the Family Stateroom, there is a small room to the left with bunk beds, a small closet and two shelves in it...and you can draw a curtain to block out the light. There was alot of closet space and room to move around. There was a sofa that pulls out to a bed. Two good sized portholes, and the room was at the front of the ship so we were able to watch where we were going at all times. It was a wonderful room! Here is a link to a site where you can see a 360 degree view of the room we had:

http://mytravelco.com/travel/cruises/virtual_tours.jsp?pg=4&mediatype=5&ITINERARY_ID=805|MA|||

Click on the two links to the Family Stateroom, that was exactly what we had. It will be hard to have a smaller room in the future! There is no doubt for me that Disney is the ONLY way to go with a baby. There were maybe 20 babies on the Mariner out of 3500 passengers. I am sure that is why RCCL charges full fare for babies, to discourage parents from bringing them!

Well, that is all I can think of. If anyone has any other questions, please feel free to ask. I would be happy to help!

:wave2:

zalansky
02-21-2004, 09:23 AM
Oops my link didn't seem to work. Scroll to the left down to the 360 degree view, find the RCCL ships....click on the Mariner, and find the staterooms. You will see them all listed there.

The site again is : www.mytravelco.com

tezb
02-21-2004, 09:57 PM
thanks Loretta....will let you guys know after we cruise RCCL in June how we think it compares to DCL. We have only cruised DCL (3 times) so don't know any different. Since we feel we are ready for a change, I'm anxious to see how the 2 compare.

HookedonMagic
02-22-2004, 07:34 AM
We're sailing on Mariner four weeks from today. We've sailed Disney 3 times and are looking forward to the comparison. We are a family of four...our kids are age 14 and 14 months, so we'll be sailing with both a teen and a toddler (yes, we are nuts!)

I have all the same concerns as zalansky. We sailed DCL last year with the baby and really appreciated Flounders. I feel VERY uncomfortable leaving him with an unsupervised sitter in the stateroom. We're paying for my mother to come along, so (fingers crossed!) we SHOULD have an extra pair of helping hands! With bringing my mother, and paying FULL price for the baby, this trip is already costing much more than Disney. LOL

I only agreed to try RCCL because our teen thinks the ship looks cool (and I have to agree!) I appreciate this post as a heads up...I think we'll have a good time, but I know it will be some work. :earseek: I sure am glad we have a Magic cruise booked for the fall!

Thanks for all the info. Happy sailing, everyone!

Lisa

zalansky
02-22-2004, 09:59 AM
Mmouse37....
that is a great pic! How great the man is a DIS'er!
I wore a Disney Cruise Line t-shirt the last day of our Mariner cruise, and I will admit it - it was sort of a jab at RCCL in my own little way. Several RCCL staff members chuckled and one even called me a traitor. Well, that is one traitor I will be any day!

:earsgirl:

tezb
02-22-2004, 07:46 PM
hookedonmagic....since your cruise is coming sooner than mine (we are on the Mariner June 20) you will have to let me know how it goes. We too have been on DCL 3 times and have not experienced any other cruise lines. We have teens so feel we are ready for something new! Do you frequent the RCCL board? Would also like to hear how your teen likes it compared to Disney.

GenieDana
02-22-2004, 08:24 PM
Mojomanny's 2/15/04 trip report on the Mariner:

Who:
Myself (Male, 40), Wife (38) and son (7)
Previous cruising experience consists of a 7 Day Disney Magic cruise in 2002. This cruise was also an Eastern Caribbean cruise with stops at St. Thomas and St. Martaan.


Intent:
To provide a great report of the Royal Caribbean (RCCL) Mariner Eastern Caribbean cruise on 2/15/04. Since we have previous experience with Disney, I hope to compare and contrast the two cruises. I plan to provide an unbiased review and since I am writing this part as we fly south to Florida, have no idea what the outcome will be.

I am trying to write all of this in real-time, as things are happening so references will probably be posted right below my original comments. I do this to relay my thoughts and concerns as well as how things worked out, rather than just saying the limo driver met us and things were (or weren’t) fine. You will find my standards and expectations are high. Having spent a considerable amount of time in service industries I know how things should be done and when corners are being cut.


Disclaimer:
I feel it is important to note that we were booked for the 2/14/04 Disney Magic Western Caribbean cruise. Due to an unexpected event, we had to change our cruise to The Mariner.

As a second disclaimer, please remember that all comments are meant to be constructively critical. I firmly believe in the old adage:
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until the good gets better and the better gets best”. I will be writing this as it I see it and truly do not have any prejudices one way or another. I am going to just tell it like I see it.


Pre-cruise thoughts, (written on the plane to Florida):
My initial pre-cruise though is that there seemed to be more excitement for us leading up to our first Disney cruise. I think a lot of this has to do with the “Boards” (i.e. Cruise Critic vs. Disboards). The Disboards (DIS) is 100% about the Magic and Wonder, so everything was related to them. Current menus and Navigators were easy to find. There seemed to be a lot of energy on the boards, but I think it could be because the energy was focused on the two ships.

Cruise Critic (CC) is a bit harder to find “the information” you want due to a couple of factors. First is the number of ships the RCCL board covers (we never did find any specific menus from the Mariner and even though I believe the whole RCCL fleet uses the same menu, could not find one other than a Portofino’s and Chops menu). Second is that RCCL seems to be constantly changing things (Soda card, Drink cards, juice…) and you just never seem to catch up on the information.

Admittedly one cause of this could have been that the Mariner is a new ship. The Meet and Mingle (M&M) Topic thread is nice and we certainly have a great group of people coming on our cruise (over 50 people registered for M&M!)

I would like to suggest that CC consider breaking the RCCL portion into specific sections for posting either by ship or by locale (Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean…) as well as having a general RCCL portion. I think this could have helped with this portion. PLEASE NOTE: This is not bashing CC, it is solely meant as constructive criticism and is solely based upon my experience. CC was terrific in helping us plan for our cruise, the posters there are wonderful and helpful.


Pre-cruise travel:
We arrived to long pre-vacation week lines at Boston’s Logan airport. The lines moved quickly and our bags were curb checked in 10-15 minutes. We next headed to the security checkpoint. We took time to remove everything possible, including my belt and our shoes. We went through without setting off the detectors and were in the terminal.

Our flight (American Airlines) took us from Boston to Miami and then Miami to Orland. The first flight was full and we hoped for a bump, but no luck. The flight pulled away from the gate about 5 minutes early which was nice .The plane was an MD80 and was very minimalistic in its amenities (no movie, music, phones…) and the only service was a granola bar and beverages. It’s funny, but right now I expect more on our return flight which is with a so-called low fare airline (Song). The flight was otherwise unremarkable.

We had about 2 hours between flights and since my son was “starving” we got a typical fast food meal (salad, hot dog fries) from the Miami Subs in Terminal A. The only reason I even mention this is that I decided to get the key lime pie. (Umm…love that key lime pie, had my shop already picked out in Key West when the plan was for the Magic Western cruise). Figuring it was Miami subs they probably have a decent pie. WRONG. One of the tasteless key lime pies I have ever had, not even a hint of tartness (no pucker power). Just be forewarned and save your money.

Oh. We had a heck of a walk between gates in Miami. Arrived in C gates and were departing in A gates. Signs in the airport indicated it would be about 20 minutes. Was more like 10. Just know there is a lot of walking in Miami and the signs inflate the walking time.

The second flight to Orlando was about half full and late leaving the gate. Then, very suddenly it filled to capacity. They had held the plane to allow a marching band from NJ to catch the plane. The St. Anthony’s Band plane was late getting to Miami and the 45 high schoolers and their 10 chaperones literally ran from C or D terminal to the plane. They were going to Disney to perform on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I had a chance to talk with some of the students and chaperones and was very impressed. They seem like a great group of dedicated, well-educated and responsible young adults. Way to go St. Anthony’s, I hope you enjoyed your trip.

We arrived in Orlando and went to collect our luggage. Made the call to Happy Limo and off we went.

Limo:

We arranged with Happy Limo for all of our ground transfers. Before going on the trip I found a few things I have found I did not like. First is that they charge a 20% gratuity automatically, and would not waiver from this even when requested. I have spent a good time in service industries as well as traveling and know how to tip for the service rendered, I take offense at not being allowed to tip according to the service I feel was delivered, I think it discourages service which goes above and beyond. (Please lets not start a big discussion on this, its my personal feelings, your mileage may vary)

The other thing I do not like is that we have to find our luggage then call them to send a car around. Traditionally I have had drivers meet us and help with the luggage, rather having to get a porter to help with the bags while we find the driver. Perhaps it fits with my concern of diminished service related to the tipping issue, or perhaps it is related to some regulations at MCO. I will know when we get there and either I see other drivers standing with signs or I do not. I will let you know how it all works out.

One other thing I found I did not like was when you call them and you have your caller ID blocked, you have to unblock it (press *82 then the number) or the call will not go through. While I understand their need to reduce crank calls as well as garner information about the caller more promptly, it was an annoyance to call, get the message to unblock it and then redial.

(My concerns about finding the driver really were unimportant. I called their 888 number and they told me my driver was on level 1 in row A1. We took the elevator down and found Leonard very quickly. Rather then the town car we were expecting, he had a huge Excursion (think SUV on steroids). He had Lion King 1 ½ playing on the DVD player which was great for my son. We loaded up and headed out.

We made a short stop at a Super Target and headed to the hotel. My first experience with Happy Limo was quite happy. Leonard confirmed our pickup for Sunday morning and had me sign the slips for our various transfers. Despite a 25% gratuity already being charged to my card, I gave him another $5. I figured he probably worked at least 2 hours for us (waiting at airport, store stop, having to return to airport) and that $10 was not enough.


Holiday Inn Family Suites

I am writing this having just woken up from my first nights sleep at Holiday Inn Family Suites (HIFS) . All I can say is WOW. This place is terrific. Now some details.

Leonard (our driver) arranged a bellman to grab the bags and we went to check in. A small line to check in which moved quickly. The only comment I would have is that the queue area is too tight (i.e. not enough room between the stanchions and the counter) and makes for a tough traffic flow.

To the left was a children’s check in area so my son went over to check himself in. He signed in and got a good bag with kids stuff (crayons etc) and a couple of game room tokens. Next to the kids check in was some clown (oh, alright, a real clown) who was doing face painting. Now I a sure you have seen face painting before at a school or church fair, a carnival or somewhere. Let me tell you that you have not seen face painting like this. It was the most detailed and most beautiful face painting I have ever seen! The kids looked awesome and on top of that, the face painting was free. There was only a tip jar next to the clown.

I finished our check in and we headed to the room. All I can tell you is WOW. Our room (king suite with a Hot Air Balloon theme) faces one of the pool areas (more on that later).

The outer door opens to a room (12x18) which has a sleep sofa, an easy chair, a tv, safe, small breakfast table with three chairs, refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, sink, two line telephone and some storage cabinets.

Off the main room is a kids room (9x12) with bunk beds, a tv, telephone and nintendo 64. Each bunk has its own light on the side and its own speaker with adjustable volume so one kid can watch tv and the other can go to sleep. There is also a small table with a couple of chairs. The largest wall of the room is a photo-mural of hot air balloons which was obviously taken from an aloft hot air balloon. Similar pictures cover the small outers walls near the doorways of the two bedrooms. The theme was nicely done and in no way overbearing, meaning we did not have hot air balloon comforters, pillow cases, lamp shades, rugs….) It was a really nice addition to the room.

The main bedroom (12x18) has a king bed, a built in dresser, a two line telephone, a closet with floor to ceiling mirror, a vanity/make-up table with large mirror, magnifying make-up mirror, blow dryer and chair, two nightstands with lamps, TV/VCR and a ceiling fan.

Video rentals ($5) and video games ($5 or 2/$7.50) are available in the lobby.

The bathroom (7x9) (Oh, all measurements are estimated by my pacing and are stated in feet) has the usual tub, toilet and sink. The tub does have one of those pull out clotheslines. There are several wire shelves recessed into one of the walls as well as a country shelf full of face cloths and hand towels. There is a large mirror was well as a magnifying mirror and blow dryer.

Some of the nice things about how the room was made-up. The toilet paper was folded over and a hand made smiley sticker places to make it look nice. The end of paper towels by the main room sink were folded accordion style and fanned out like a peacocks tail. These are the details which impress me. Also the room was extremely well cleaned.

We called for our bags and they were there within 5 minutes. Rather than unpack we used the various tables and chairs to hold our suitcases.

Local calls are 75 cents and toll-free calls are free.

My son wanted to go swimming so we went down only to find out our pool was closed due to fecal contamination. It was scheduled to re-open in a ½ hour. I hated to see the pool closed but respect the decision to close it. This is something beyond the hotels control and can only commend them for being proactive and responsible about it. They do have a policy that anyone under 4 must wear swim pants and even provide a coupon in English and Spanish to save $4 off them at the hotel store. More aware parents are the only way to prevent this. Apparently is happens somewhat regularly because they have pre-made signs explaining it.

I will give more on the entire pool area when we explore it more today.

We did not want a big meal so we opted for the A&W / Pizza hut in the lobby and got pretty predictable food. Prices were reasonable and food was ok. There were a couple of other choices which we will discuss as we get to them.

In the evening the hotels activities center around the restaurant/lobby area. By this I mean that the area is flowing with activities. In fact it was over flowing. There was a caricaturist (fee) who did very nice work. A balloon artist (fee) who was unlike any balloon artist I have ever seen. Instead of the birthday party magician dog and giraffe, this artist made rainbows (4’ long), bugs bunny, mickey mouse and all kinds of incredible renderings. The face painter (free) was also there as was a person making artful renderings (fee) of your name suitable for putting on your bedroom door.

The center of this area is also one of the dining rooms and the area is separated with ropes and stanchions (think bank teller or movie line). It was a bit crowded but manageable. Just a bit too much going on.

They had a free magic show which was quite good. Kids coming on stage got rewarded with tokens for the game room. The show was an hour. Following the show was an hours worth of free bingo with the prizes being the much coveted tokens. From 9 to 11 there was karaoke which we did not stay for. It was nice the hotel has planned all the activities and they were well done.

Saturday morning I woke up around 7 and spent an hour or so working on the comments and notes above. Son woke at 8 and he woke up my wife. Despite warnings head to the free buffet breakfast before 9 or face the consequences of long lines, we waited until 10. The entire restaurant area is transformed into the buffet which explains why the area was so crowded last night.

The area is essentially divided into 3 areas, the dinner buffet (main area), the Golden Caboose (nicer dining) and the area where we had the magic and bingo the night before. The areas are all adjoining and open to each other. There are numerous cereal, beverage (milk, juice, coffee) and toaster stations (English muffins, bagels, toast, muffins) in each area.

There is one main buffet which is two sided with room in the middle for the staff to replenish. There is a nice but simple selection of a yogurt, various fresh fruits, some canned fruit, jello, biscuits and gravy, plain scrambled eggs, French toast, potato puffs, diced up ham and liquid cheese sauce (presumably the last two are to put on the eggs?). There is a server at the end of the buffet portioning out bacon. I am guessing the menu changes a bit each day so I will let you know what we get different tomorrow.

The food was good. Certainly not 5 star but about what I would expect. We ate what we wanted and were happy. Despite being a Saturday of school vacation / Presidents week, there were no lines.

After breakfast we took a short but nice train ride on the property. Its really a nicely decorated electric tractor pulling wagons looking line train cars. The theme is very well done down to the driver in traditional engineer’s attire.

We then headed to the pool and had a lot of fun. The pool at our end of the property is designed so wheel chairs can roll in. There are numerous water features including water bubbling from the floor, kid powered water cannons, a water flower with water cascading over the edge, water fountains shooting across the pool and more. The water was warm and nice. The pool was not too crowded and fun.

The pool area also houses a miniature golf course, two ping pong tables, two shuffle board courts and two hot tubs. There is also a nice play area for younger kid.

We took a walk to the West Side pool area. The pool on that side is a simple lap pool without the play areas other than shuffle board and ping pong. There are also two hot tubs on that side.

We had dinner in the Club Car. Wife and son had the buffet while I chose the Valentine’s special of Prime Rib. The buffet was reasonable in selection (soup, salads and then hot foods) but quality was along the line of a Super Buffet or Old Kitchen Buffet. By this I mean it was passable but nothing special. Fridays is a Seafood buffet and Saturdays is a steak buffet. I was unimpressed with the dinner buffet and chose off the menu.

There is a separate kids buffet with hot dogs, burgers, pasta and meatballs, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, french fries and cherry cobbler. This is a nice touch and was a hit with my son.

The prime rib was a questionable choice. The medium piece I ordered turned into well done when it arrived. It was quickly replaced with a more passable piece. The key lime pie lacked the pucker power I expected (could it be a New Englander has a different expectation of key lime pie?) I would rate the dinner restaurant a generous C-. We will probably eat there again next week when we stay at the hotel on our way home, but I might choose somewhere else if we had a car.

After another Magic Show and Bingo we called it a night.

A couple of comments about the hotel….

I heard a person on their cell phone describe it as “neat” and “incredible”. I would agree.

Before the Magic Show tonight, Jerry (the magician) noticed people had moved tables and were blocking a doorway which would be used as an emergency exit. He went and asked them to move so they no longer blocked the exit. I think in this post 9/11 and Rhode Island fire (100 dead) this was a smart and admirable move to protect his guests. Kudos to him for it and the hotel for training their staff so well.

Expect big changes over the next year. It will be changing the theme from trains to Nickelodeon. They are spending 20 million to redo the place in a Nick theme (hope there are Nick at Night rooms!) The family pool will be redone with slides and more like a water park. Hard to believe they need to change this place. I hope Nickelodeon is paying them to become the Nickelodeon Suites since there is no reason for this hotel to change one bit (expect dinner). It has been a great experience and we look forward to next weeks one night stay. We will be coming back.


Sunday 2/15/04

(as I write this we are about 15 miles east of West Palm Beach cruising at 26 mph)

Well, today is the day! We had a free buffet breakfast Pancakes replaced French toast, sausage replaced bacon and home fries replaced tater tots, other than that it was the same. Nice addition was strawberry topping for the pancakes (not just strawberry syrup but strawberries like they put on cheesecake).

The bellman was standing at our door waiting for us to call (well, it sure seemed like it). About 5 minutes after our call they were there.

Happy Limo was there ahead of schedule with a Cadillac sedan. We had planned a grocery stop on the way to the ship but saw no need to have one. We departed for the port at 9:15 as I had planned.

(Note: I originally had the pickup scheduled for 8:30 but changed after hearing they did not allow you into port if you got there too early and 10:30 was a time which had been reported as being allowed to board)

We arrived at the port at 10:15 and were directed to a tent where they would take our luggage (post 9/11 the limos, taxis and such are not allowed too close to the ship). They went to unload us then realized we had been sent to the Disney luggage area. We were told to go to the green umbrella. We drove there. Nope, still Disney.

Finally they directed us to the right spot. Except, we can’t unload until between 1100 and 1130. The driver was told, not too pleasantly, by the security officer to pull into the lot, drop us off and hope it did not rain. They would send a golf cart for us. I saw no sense in making the driver wait so we joined another party that had been waiting an hour. (we ended up running into that couple a number of times, including in the line for immigration. What are the odds of that, we got on together and we got off together).

We saw a bunch of cars and such go in and some directed to wait with us while others were allowed to the terminal. I finally had to find out if there was a double standard. There was not, the ship frequently has travel agents come on board for lunch and to tour the bus. I include this in case you end up in the same situation.

About 11:25 the poor security was being over –run by cars and started letting people in. Two golf carts were dispatched for the small army waiting with us (about ¼ mile from where the luggage needed to go before we entered the terminal). A driver tried to pick us up but I told him to take the people who were waiting longer.

We began the ¼ mile dash with a 7 year old, two adults and 7 pieces of luggage. It was tough but we ran and rushed through the parking lot, over the curbs and to the luggage area. I have to give my wife and son credit. She ended up with one bag which weighed almost as much as she does. He became creative and found he could slide his backpack handle onto the handle of our suit bag and end up wit an easy to handle “twofer”. I dealt with four bags. What a sight we must have been!

(Note: if you end up in this situation, once you get to the terminal, find a porter. Not only will he lighten your load, but he gets your bags checked quicker. Well worth the $4 tip I gave him for 4 minutes effort)

Bags checked. Humans next.

We entered the terminal and went through security. Up the escalator and into the concourse. Floors 6, 8, 9 and 10 went to the right and all others to the left. We were in about the 7th party in line. We had to wait until they were ready to process us which took another 15-20 minutes. Check-in was easy since we had filled all of our forms out ahead of time. The woman commented how that saves time and they appreciate it. We asked the pier coordinator about upgrades but the ship was full. Just as well cause it would have been a tough choice between our aft cabin and the upgrade.

On board we went. We went to the cabin (8690 is an E1 AFT cabin. I will provide details about it later.) and dropped off our carry-ons. Stopped to make reservations for Chops and Portofino’s, booked a second excursion and were done with all of our “business”.

We went to Windjammers for lunch. Topsiders is no comparison. This buffet is more along the variety of a Las Vegas buffet with multiple stations and a wide variety. Topsiders seems more cafeteria-style by comparison. (These are just my opinions, please do not start a war over it)

When you enter the Windjammer/Jade area, be sure to pay attention to the fruit carvings and decorations. It is simply incredible. Photos will be posted.

After lunch we went exploring. I have to say I am very impressed. Details will come later (hey, its 1150 at night and I am tired).

We went to preview the kids club and have some concerns. At this point there is no comparison to Disney’s but this was the first view during which they were not open. There was only one staff person showing the place off (this is during scheduled and announced Open House hours) and they do not seem to have the same level of security as DCL does. Disney had a locked half door preventing the kids from leaving the room (almost a mini corral) while there is just a door entering and exiting the room on RCCL. When asked about this, the staffer simply said “We don’t lose kid’s”. Apparently he has heard this concern before. I think he would do well to change his approach and be a bit more reassuring…”Sir, I appreciate your concern and let me assure you that we have not lost a child. We protect against this by…..” It just would have better addressed our concerns. We will see how things work out.

My son and I went for swim. Well, he went for a swim and I went for a watch. We then went back for the drill and to set up my GPS (hope to track the whole cruise). Drill was uneventful. Noticed some strobes and bells not working which I reported and they made note.

After the drill we returned our life vests and headed to Schooners where there was supposed to be a CC meet but saw no one. We went topside and watched the other ships leave and then we pulled out at 505. Enjoyed watching the departure and just before 600 we watched the pilot boat pull alongside the Mariner and the Pilot jump from one ship to the other.

Our final two bags were in the room before we returned to change for dinner. (I did get a laugh when I heard someone complaining at about 4:00 that all their bags were not in their cabin. Hope that guy got a clue because they did a wonderful job. We walked by the service area for our deck and there was nothing smaller than a mountain of luggage for them to deliver and this was just before I heard the guy complaining)

Did someone say dinner?

Our dining room is Top Hat and Tails on the fourth deck. For those who may not know, on the RCCL ships you eat at the same table for the entire voyage. The dining room is 3 stories tall which each floor having its own name. The center area is open. The room is elegant and beautiful. A multitude of chandeliers of various sizes hand from the ceilings and enhance the atmosphere.

The rooms have a much more formal feel in comparison to Disney. This formal setting is enhanced by RCCL making a seeming strong position about dining room attire (no shorts, Tshirts…) As I recall, DCL made a similar statement but it was followed in a haphazard method. I figure I am on vacation and will go to dinner as I choose (a suit works fine for formal night in my book) but I also think it nice to have a more upscale feeling. (It turned out RCCL was not too staunch about this but people did dress nicer than DCL)

We were seated at our table right along the windows, allowing a wonderful view of the setting sun. We had a table for 6 but no one else joined us. I am hoping they chose dinner elsewhere and will be joining us but I think this is not the case since our server asked if there were any others in our party. I enjoy sharing time with others on the cruise.

Our server and assistant introduced themselves and brought us our menus. They were very accommodating to my son, explaining he could have anything on the menu or something from the kids menu (hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, fish fingers, mac and cheese…). My son opted for the hot dog with fries which was brought right away.

For beverages we were offered ice tea, milk, juices… (Yes, I did say juices, without a charge). Our assistant server was willing to go to Windjammer’s to get lemonade for my son but then he (my son) decided he wanted chocolate milk. I chose a soda and bought the card. (BTW – I think it makes a difference where you buy the card, it seems the tip may be spread amongst the group (i.e. wait staff, bar staff, kids room staff. This is a post cruise thought but ties in with the kids club in the lobby trying to get us to buy the cards from them))

The menu was highly enticing. Our waiter suggested the Tuscan Tomato Soup and Mogolian Pork Chops. I chose the Watermelon garzpacho and a tasting of the Tuscan Tomato soup, Ceaser salad and the Philadelphia chicken. My wife chose chicken consommé and the Mongolian Pork Chops.

All the soups were wonderful. The Caesar salad was as expected. The Chicken Philadelphia was a chicken breast filled with brocolli and cheese and was delicious. If you have ever had a similar piece of Barber Foods chicken, it was like it, only much better. The pork chops were moist and covered in a sweet asian style sauce. My wife enjoyed them. My son said the French fries were good and forgot to eat the hot dog. (Fries were along the Burger King style with a crispy coating surrounding them, but not the spicy of coating)

Dessert was Key Lime pie and a small (as requested) scoop of butter almond ice cream for me, Chocolate fondue and key lime pie for my wife and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for my son. I don’t know but maybe all the good key lime pies have already been made, cause this one fit in the middle of the first two when rating “pucker power”. I will find my holy grail! (Of course, I did finish it as did my wife) Fondue was delicious.

I went to the dining initially a bit apprehensive. I read the ratings and trip reports and food seemed to be rated as mediocre. My first two experiences were far, far better than what I expected. I would put them up against any restaurant back home.

Dinner ended and we went to a Kids Club presentation in Studio B. This was an info session which was quick but well done. At one point the skaters came out for 5 minutes and showed a bit of what we can expect during the ice show. It is incredible. We then went up to the kids club but beat the staff and had to wait for them. There was a hoard of people signing up and getting beepers. The process was quick and painless. After a while they did a presentation making volcano’s explode which was fun.

There was one part of the kids club I especially dislike. You know how you go on a good ride at Disney World or Universal, you always exit through a gift shop? Well the kids club is doubly so. The only entrance/exit is through the arcade. How convenient.

I addressed this and a few other issues regarding my sons hearing loss (He can hear “do you want some ice cream?” just fine but has total hearing loss on “Please get ready for bed”) by telling him he begins each day with $10 for his Seapass. Each time we have to ask him something more than once, he loses $1. This way he loses money based on his behavior and also has money for use in the arcade or any other way he wants to on the ship.

I took this one step further. I am afraid he might end up with too much money in his account. There are nights when the kids club is open between to 100 AM but there is a $5 per hour charge between 10 PM and 1 AM. If he wants to go, he pays half of the cost. (Not looking to get into a conversation about how I raise my son, just passing on how I handle it and thus far it is working well, not only did he not lose any money on Monday, he was extremely polite and well behaved so I gave him a $2 bonus)

We then headed back to the cabin to relax a bit. I had promised my son that we could watch the Promenade Parade at 1045. We went down for the show about 1015 to get a good viewing point (aft on the 7th or 8th near the elevators is good since the parade starts there and returns to there. It also provided a good view of the parade and was a great spot for the video cam to capture the entire show. (BTW – I am writing this on our balcony as we pull out of Nassau). The parade was fun with well done lighting and interesting music. After a long day, we called it a night. Sleep came easily.


Monday 2/16/04

Lets begin with some info on our cabin. We have cabin 8690 which is an Aft E1 cabin. It is roughly 20’x10’ including the bathroom. The balcony is wedge shaped and generously sized. It is hard to give dimensions due to the shape but there is a ton of room. There could easily be several (meaning 3 or 4) lay down style lounge chairs on it instead of the two sitting chairs and the small table on it.

The room is definitely smaller than the our cabin (7624 w/ Navigators Verandah) on the Magic. I do not know if this is a fair comparison or not since I don’t recall the category of cabin we had on the Magic. As you enter there is a double doored closet to the left. There are two closet bars to hang clothes and a lot of hangers to hang them from. There are 6 small (18’d x 12”wx9’h) wooden shelves which hold quite a bit. There are spare pillows and blankets on top of the closet. Next on the left is a desk unit with a 9 drawers of various sizes. It also houses a nice sized mirror. To each side of the main mirror are small, long mirrors which open for more shelf space. There is a thermostat as well as volume control for the ships speaker system and a couple of electrical outlets. There is some thin storage space on top of the desk unit if you need it.

The final piece of this unit houses (from top to bottom) the refrigerator (have steward empty it for you) with removable/adjustable shelves. It is big enough to hold 2 liter bottles of soda. On top is a TV followed by an enclosed safe which is also a great area for holding papers and such. Above that a two shelf cabinet (about 2’long, 1 foot deep and 2’ high) .

Also in the room is a small couch (love seat size) a king sized bed two night stands and a small table. There are lights on either side of the bed with switches underneath them. The is a bed which pulls down from the ceiling (only by the steward, special tool required) which is similar to a pulldown bed in an RV. My son likes sleeping on the second deck. The pull down is very strong and sturdy, I think I could sleep on it without problem (Did I mention I am a big guy?)

The small table serves no purpose in the room other than to clutter it. Based on the rust already formed on the legs, I am guessing others have come to this conclusion and placed it on the balcony to get it out of the room.

The lavatory has storage behind the side mirrors, a storage shelf beneath the sink, a toilet and a round shower with adjustable height shower head. The round shower works beautifully (even for a big guy). The shower controls are confusing and we never did wuite figure them out (same knob does temperature and pressure). The head is adjustable and also detachable.

Now, on to the day….

We woke up at 7 without assistance of any alarm (well, son and I woke up, he woke her up). This was perfect timing to put our RCCL robes (acquired by asking our steward) and go out to the balcony and watch our ship turn and dock in Nassau. We then watched the Disney Wonder dock along side us before showering and dressing. Since it was past 900 we went to Windjammers for breakfast after stopping for the ice show tickets. There was no line for the tickets and there were plenty available at 10 when we got there.

The breakfast buffet was bountiful. There were all the expected treats including waffles, pancakes, French toast (yummy), bacon, sausage, fresh sliced ham, hash browns, home fries, scrambled eggs, salmon, all kinds of fresh fruit, pastries, yogurts, toast and English muffins, oatmeal, grits…… Pretty much if you wanted it, they had it and it was all good.

Well, almost all was good. Their coffee is awful. Enough said, moving on.

(Update it is now 1230 AM Tuesday morning, we are 100 miles southeast of Nassau cruising at 27 mph on a heading of 125 degrees. I am going to bed soon)

Son could not wait to go to the kids club so we brought him up after breakfast. Drop off was quick and painless. “Bye dad, see ya” and off he went. We then spent time exploring the ship. It is big but broken up so you do not feel like you are walking too far. Not going to bore you with any specifics since this is looking like it might end up in the CC Hall of Fame or book of records as the longest post in history and we are only on the first full day. From the aft elevators to our stateroom is over a 1 minute walk at a quick pace.

Lunch was in the dining room. Since we had a late breakfast we ate a light lunch in the dining room. I had a nice papaya soup and a tomato mozzarella salad. I even skipped dessert. All was very good.

When you are in the dining room, take time to look at the stairs at the far end. There is a statue of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer depicting the “So Long, Fare Well” scene from “The Sound of Music”. Some of the kids are painted into the mural which serves as a backdrop. It is wonderfully done. I think most people miss out on it and you should at least notice it.

After lunch we went to the cabin so I could work on this from the balcony as we pulled out of Nassau. Oh, I left out that we chose to stay on the ship. We had not heard a lot of good things about Nassau and none of the excursions enticed us. We also felt that since we had just gotten on the ship there was no need to rush off of it.

We had checked in with our son a couple of times and he was having a good time. He did want to go to bingo at 330 so we split up with me heading to get a table and wife to get son. Well, little did we know that bingo was $35 to play 6 cards for 5 games. When they finally got there we decided not to play and made three ladies very happy by giving them one of the best tables in the room.

We toured the promenade some more then headed up to change for the formal dinner since it was immediately after the ice show. We gave son a choice of the formal dinner or eating with the kids club. For most of you this is an obvious answer, but just in case it isn’t, we dined alone this evening.

There was no line waiting for the ice show doors to open when we got there. In fact, they still had tickets available. We entered when the doors opened and found seats in the first row. For those of you who think DCL is the only one who puts on great shows, this was just as great as any of the DCL shows we have seen. I took almost 100 pictures (without flash) during the show, thank god they are digital. The show was terrific and since words cannot do it justice I will not even begin to try to describe it other than to say it is not to be missed.

After the show we dropped son of at the Johnny Rockets (closed to the public for 2 hours to allow the kids club to eat there) and headed to dinner. We again had no tablemates. I had the Lobster Bisque as well as a cold pear nectar soup, Caesar salad and tenderloin of beef with pecan honey pudding and cherries jubilee for dessert. The soups were quite good with a nice fresh taste to the bisque. The salad was basic and uninspired. The tenderloin was good but not as tender as I am used to. The pudding was not what I expected since it was more like a bread pudding (which I love) in consistency (without the custard) but fairly bland. The cherries jubilee was good but the ice cream was a bit grainy, perhaps it had warmed and refrozen. Still, all things considered it was a decent meal and if I could pick a “do-over” I would try it all again. (in fact, if someone wants to put their money where my mouth is, pay for me to go on another cruise and I will prove it!)

Wife had shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, chicken breast and Double Strawberry cheesecake with a scoop of orange sherbet. The shrimp were good with five of them each about the size of a pinky. The chicken was very good. The cheesecake was also not what we expected. We are used to a creamy, heavy NY style cheesecake. This was more of sponge cake type of cheese cake. The highlight of the desserts was the sherbet. (please note, there was nothing wrong with the desserts, they just were not what we expected).

About formal night attire… The majority of the men wore suits but there were plenty of tuxedo’s in the room (60/40 perhaps). The ladies were dressed in various levels of formality.

My wife and I have each noticed RCCL misses a lot of the little details that makes DCL so nice. We noted yesterday that our table flowers in the dining room had some very dead leaves clinging to the vase. DCL would never allow that. Today the same dead leaves were still there. There was also quite a bit of trash in the arcade area and staff members simply stepped over and around it rather than picking it up. We had to report a couple of bathrooms in need of service. There have been some minor service issues I have been aware of with the servers in the dining room but since I think this is a matter of the servers and not RCCL I will not mention them to any degree nor will I compare DCL servers to RCCL. I will note that the Matre’ D Merrick has made a great effort to visit each table each evening. I compare this to DCL where the one and only evening we saw the Matre’ D was when tips were being handed out.

Following the dinner we went back to the room to change before heading to the casino. We did not want our clothes smelling from the cigarette smoke. We stopped in the casino long enough to donate $92 playing $10 black jack and nickel slots at 75 cents per pull. The casino was busy but not swamped. There were plenty of slots available and I found a black jack seat right away.

We then headed to the Tim Tillman show in the Savoy theater. Seating is available from two decks and we sat on the main floor as opposed to the balcony. The theater is large with comfortable seats. The décor is 1920’s art deco and is nicely done. There are at least two full service bars and servers work the seats.

Tim Tillman came on the stage and built an instantaneous rapport with the audience. He asked the audience what they wanted to hear and then took it from there. His dancing is phenomenal and his singing unbelievable What made this all extra-special was the free-flow form he used taking the show in the direction the audience led him. It was obvious he did not come out with a pre-planned show which had to follow a specific order and timeline. His ability to do this in such an accomplished manner is remarkable. I just cannot do him justice. He took the room from Country Western to Classic Rock to modern rock to Rap and beyond. He is backed by a wonderful and talented mini-orchestra who was able to keep up with him as the showed weaved and bobbed the musical styles and variations.

The most memorable part of the show was the Finale. Tillman has an amazing resume which includes playing as the opening act for Sammy Davis Jr. who became his mentor and friend. He had the honor of playing Sammy in “The Rat Pack Returns” which ran for over two years in Las Vegas. He knew Sammy and he becomes Sammy. I swear his hair and his nose changed right on stage. His body shrank and he was Sammy. He was incredible. This show is not to be missed. (Our son did not attend but I think he would have enjoyed it). This show compares to a Las Vegas headliner, in fact I think he should be a headliner. It would not be fair to compare his show to a DCL production show.

We finally picked up our son at 1030 and called it a night.

Tuesday 2/17/04 – At Sea

We had a morning similar to Mondays. We ended up listening to some of the Port Shopping presentation in Studio B (Consider it Cruise Shopping Network) since our son wanted to go skating during the open skate. When it was time there were forms to fill out which took all of 3 minutes and then down we went to get a pair of skates and get on the ice. He had a ball skating around. There were about 20-30 other kids and a few adults skating.

We then headed back to the room for a quick change before going to the CC Meet-n-Mingle. We had over 50 people signed up so this promised to be a good meeting. We arrived a few minutes late at Ellington’s and the meet was already going on. There were about 15 people there. The RCCL Loyalty Ambassador was making a presentation regarding some of the new plans in store for RCCL followed by a Q&A session with one of the activities staff. It was interesting to know there is a couple who has cruised 121 times with RCCL. There was a raffle with a number of prizes (hats, t-shirts…). My son won, which was great for him, he picked sunglass keepers (holds them around your neck) as a prize. It was nice to put names and faces together. In fact we ran in to a couple of the other CC members later in the cruise and talked with them. Since my son was hungry and wanted to head to the club, we were the first ones to leave. Everybody got a RCCL lanyard to hold tickets, ID or what have you.

We then had a small lunch in the Promenade Café then took the son to the club where they had rehearsal for a show they put on in the Promenade. Practice began at two and the show was at three. The show began with a circus parade then the Ringmistress began the show which included clowns, lions, elephants, a strong man and much more. It was a fun show and each child was in the spot light.

After the show we picked him up from the club and allowed him to play a few arcade games before having an early dinner in Johnny Rocket’s. Tonight we go to Portofino’s! We had 8pm reservations we bumped to 730 since we wanted to be able to catch the 9pm show. We arrived at the restaurant about 710, hoping to be seated early. We were seated immediately. Menus were provided as was a basket of bread and a bowl of roasted garlic. For a starter we had Caesar salad and mozzarella and tomatoes. As a main course we had the petite filet and fish (forgot the type) which was de-boned and filleted at the tableside. The filet was much better than served in the main dining room.

My wife was feeling a bit under the weather at this point. I think it was caused by being full from all the small meals we have been having, watching the de-boning process (which I thought was neat and elegantly done), wanting to make sure she did not miss the 9pm show and the ever so slight motion of the ship. She was facing the window and hence the shade which was moving in and out about 6” per cycle. (more on sea conditions later).

We explained she was not feeling well and asked to take dessert for later. They happily obliged. In all Portofino’s was nice, the service well done but slow and the food definitely a few notches above the dining rooms. I am pleased we went but… we cancelled our reservation for Chop’s since it is too hard to fit them into the schedule and do all the other things we want to do.

(BTW – I have seen but avoided the Royal Ranch Steak. It was on the buffet and I tested it with a serving utensil. It was tough to the touch. My thought is that it is a lower-grade flank streak)

We brought dessert to the room and then headed to tonight’s show which was “ Front Row”. It was a larger scale production with a cast of about twelve singers and dancers backed up by a a small (6-8 piece) orchestra. The music was good, the singing lively and the dancing energetic. We enjoyed the show but unlike Tim Tillman or the ice show, feel one viewing is sufficient. In fact, I may skip the other production show later in the week.

Following the show we picked up our son and headed to bed.


Wednesday 2/17/04 St. Thomas

We got out of bed a little later than planned, which meant we were running behind schedule. Once we left the room, we headed to the dining room to go through immigration. The line was out the door and went around the entire dining room. It was not as ominous as it looked since the line moved quickly and took all of 15 minutes at most. Make sure you bring your Seapass, Photo ID and birth certificates/passports. There was a coffee station set up in the middle of the line but the lines went too fast to get a cup.

We had a small bite to eat at the promenade café before heading down for our excursion. We had selected Coral World and the Island Drive. Our group consisted of the three of us and another woman. We headed off in an open air jitney along the twisting, turning roads of the island. In about 15-20 minutes we arrived at Coral world. It is on the point of a small peninsula and the views are fantastic.

As you enter the property there is a small tank to each side of you. One holds 2-3 small sharks, the other star fish, sea urchins and other small animals. You can touch the star fish etc but I recommend against trying to pet the sharks. To the left is the bridgeway to the observatory which is a three story cement cylinder rising from the water. From the bridgeway you can watch people getting into BOB’s (Breathing Observation Bubbles, another excursions) and then head to the lowest level of the observatory to watch them walking in the water around the observatory. There is also coral and various sea life moving about, though nothing overly dramatic. As you head to the top, you can stop at the middle level of the observatory which houses a well stocked aquarium.

As we returned from the observatory we stopped to look at an area housing large sea turtles and another with some sting rays. There a couple of other exhibit areas the most notable of which is the 80000 gallon aquarium full of all sorts of sea life. We were able to watch them feed the fish which was interesting.

Coral World was interesting but if you have a good aquarium back home I think it is a better bet. Seaworld was also be a good alternative. The hour and a half we spent there was about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be. The tour then head off to visit the rest of the island. We were able to over look Megan’s Bay and the ships in Phillipsburg harbor. The drive was nice but other than these two views we really did not learn much about the island.

We spent the afternoon leisurely at pool side. Even though I knew the pools were full of salt water, it was still a surprise how salty the water was. Mort surprising was how cold the water was. It felt more like Cape Cod water temperature rather than Caribbean water. The hot tubs were a nice change. The water warm and soothing, the jets so powerful they created a vortex in the center of the tub.

For dinner Wednesday evening dinner I had: Festival of Fruit which was a simple plate of fruit, Chilled Washington Apple Soup which was like applesauce watered with apple juice, a mixed green salad and cheese ravioli. The ravioli was a bit overcooked but otherwise unremarkable. My wife had Risotto which she said was ok..

Wednesday’s evenings show was a repeat of the ice show which allowed us to relax and enjoy the ship. We just walked about a bit and did nothing in particular. We did enjoy the game room near Ellington’s where I beat my wife in a game of cribbage. Our son was in the club which had taken over the sports deck for a variety of games which we enjoyed watching from above from the game room as well as on the sports deck.

If you have gotten the idea we are not ones for the night life, I actually enjoy going to the shows but its hard to do and keep our son on a reasonable schedule. Tonight there was Love n Marriage which is similar to the Newlywed game on TV of old. Each night there are other activities for the adults that we have foregone and hence cannot report on.


Thursday February 19, 2004 St. Maarten

We awoke by 700 to get up and ready for a fun filled day. We watched as we finished docking then got ready. By 830 we were in Windjammers for breakfast. I mistakenly thought our excursion began at 900, when it really began at 10. This allowed for a more comfortable breakfast.

At 940 we headed to the dock. We were doing the Beach Rendezvous to Orient beach. There were almost 100 of us for this excursion. Soon enough we were loaded onto motor coaches for the drive to the beach. We had an excellent guide on our bus who did a nice job of informing us of the important details of the excursion as well as a nice history of the island, how it came to be ruled by two governments and the such. She was much better than the driver in St. Thomas.

After crossing the border into French St. Martin, we arrived at Orient beach which is pristine. We had our own section of the beach and there was a beach chair for each of us. The umbrellas were $3 and very useful protection from the sun. Despite being peak season, the beach was busy but not crowded in the way they get on Cape Cod. Local women came frequently offering everything from tote bags to t-shirts to jewelry. None were overly aggressive and a few were extremely polite. There is a lot of foot traffic in the space between the chairs and the water as people walk the beach.

The water was fantastic with shades of blue so much unlike the beaches off the New England coast. And warm. This was heavenly. If the beaches at home were more like this, I would enjoy going to the beach more often. My son and I spent a good deal of time in the water before heading off to lunch (it is a cruise and we had almost gone 4 hours without eating, can you imagine?)

The excursion included lunch at the Kakao. This was in and of itself a neat experience. The tables are scattered about inside open huts with raked white sand between and ferns and palms growing around and overhead. It makes a great setting.

The choices for our lunch were Mahi Mahi, chicken or ribs. We went with the chicken and ribs. The meal began with delivery of a nice basket of French bread which was delicious. Chicken came with a mountain of French fries which were the traditional type and much better than the ships. The ribs we okay, a bit small (I think they were cut to ½ length) and greasy. They were served with a baked potato with sour cream laced with rosemary and onions. The potato was quite delicious. We decided to take our chances and drank ice water as well as soda and lemonade. We suffered no ill effects for the decision.

After lunch we swam a bit more than my son and I walked to the end of the beach (1/2 mile or so) to a spot where there was some coral to do some snorkeling The walk went quickly and there a variety of other beachside restaurants and shops to pass which made it enjoyable. My son was challenged by trying to swim with the snorkel so it did not go as well as planned but we had fun and I did get to see a bit of the coral, some tiny fish, urchins, conch shells and other marine life as well as bottles, floor tiles and the such.

I decided to rent a ski-jet but had trouble since we were running out of time. The first two places I went to had a wait, the third could accommodate me but I only had 30 minutes. He wanted $40 for 35 minutes. When I tried to go $30 for 30 minutes he would not budge so I walked away. The pricing was pretty uniform and there did not seem to any haggling. I had no qualms walking since I wanted to enjoy the ride and not feel rushed. As an FYI there was also kayaks, parasailing, banana boat rides as well a giant floats for kids to play on. All were available at different rates. You may want to consider doing the excursion on your own, cab fare should be about $6-10 per person, chairs and umbrellas rent for $7 and the meal could not have been all that expensive.

Let’s talk about nudity. There is nudity on Orient beach. There were a few topless women who walked by, perhaps 10, in the time we were there. My wife saw one nude guy walk by (nothing worth looking at she said). For the most part the people were older. The ugliest sight I saw was a 60’s+ gentleman wearing a g string. His wife was topless and was still wearing more than he was. Not a pretty sight. Our son either did not notice the nudity or did not comment on it, in fact he and I walked by the naturalist beach. It was not a big deal and I would not worry about bringing a kid to the beach because of it.

All to soon the beach day was over and were on our way back to the ship. As we pulled onto the main road, there was a great view of the beach. The woman to my wife’s side yelled for the driver to stop the bus so she could get a picture. She wanted, demanded, that he stop right there in the middle of the road so she and her daughter could take pictures. Unbelievable. She was told he would stop in a minute and had to be told sternly to sit down. The bus pulled to an even better view and somehow she missed taking a picture because a few minutes later she groused that they said we would stop. She was something else.

We headed back to the ship after looking in a few shops. It was interesting to see how the dock area has built-up (i.e. commercialized) in the two years since we were on the island.

The kids club had the Captain coming in for a visit so we headed there. He did a short Q&A with the kids (“do you work 24 hours a day”, “I saw a naked lady on the beach”, who steers the ship while you are here”….) he then took a group photo with all the kids.

We enjoyed our dinner with a view of St. Martaan as we pulled out. Once we were underway it was notable that the seas felt much rougher than they had coming down. I had roasted garlic soup and chilled strawberry bisque as appetizers. Both were good, my son enjoyed the strawberry bisque and ate most of it. For salad I had an antipasti and tomato and Mozzarella salad which was identical to the one served in Portofino’s. My entrée was Chicken Marsala which was a little bland. My son had the rigatoni which okay and my wife had the shrimp scampi which good.

Our son headed back to the kids club and we decided to see the headliner for the evening, Rondell. Before the show we ran into a couple from the Meet n Mingle in one of the stores. They told us their children had heard through the grapevine (aka the kids informational network) that a family had been put off the ship because their children had been throwing furniture off the back deck. We agreed that if this had happened, this would have been appropriate action by RCCL. I hope they draw a tight line on acts of stupidity such as this.

Later in the evening I had the pleasure of running into the ships head of security later that evening and spoke of the event. No one was put off the ship. There had been reports that some furniture might have gone for a swim but they were unable (not unwilling) to confirm this. He did say they had brought additional security staff on board due to the large number of teenagers booked for the cruise. He did say that being put off the ship was likely to be the least of a culprits family as there are other legal considerations the cruise line will “explore”. I left feeling that he had been very candid and honest in his answers and I appreciated the strong stand RCCL takes on vandalism and hooliganism.

On to the Rondell show, which brought a lot of laughs but I was disappointed. He opened with the usual cruise ship jokes about eating every 40 minutes, buffets and bingo. He then headed into what I have always considered a cowardly form of humor, making fun of people. As an example he asked who was married over 50 years. To be honest I thought he said 15 years but then thought about and realized he must have said 50. Anyway a poor woman near the front raised her hand. She was seated alone. He asked how long they had been married, when she answered 17 years he began putting her down, mimicking sign language and sounding like a deaf person, asked how long she has had imaginary friends… I think people laughed out of relief that he was not talking about them.

I am not an overly sensitive person and being politically correct is the least of my worries, but I have seen far too many good comedians who have good material to draw from. Rondell, unfortunately was not one of them. I did appreciate one of his comments he made to the newlyweds. He instructed the groom when introducing themselves to say “This is my lovely wife Madge and I am Homer”. I thought that was a nice touch.

We picked up our son and headed to sleep.


Friday February 20,2004 At Sea

We slept in and waited until about 10 to head to Windjammers for our routine breakfast. The seas were notably rougher. Noontime found me laying in bed feeling queasy. My son headed to the arcade and then to the kids club. My wife shopped.

By 5PM I was worse despite having slept most of the afternoon. I wanted to go to the formal dinner but it just was not happening. My wife decided to do Windjammer for dinner (not wanting to sit alone) and my son went to Johnny Rockets with (guess who) the Kids club. Some of the staff suggested green apples helps the nausea so she came to the room with a few. I had already eaten ginger snaps which are also believed to help. Something must have worked because At 8PM I had broken through whatever had taken hold and ordered room service.

Room service delivered within the promised time, 40 minutes. The burger was average and somewhat warm. The turkey sandwich suffered from a soggy roll. Neither came with the promised potato chips, which was fine with me. The NY Cheesecake was the same as served elsewhere. I guess its not so much a sponge cake, but it is of that texture, light and airy. NY cheesecake I have had has always been heavy and dense. I ordered the different things not so much from hunger but wanting to try the variety and see how they did.

My wife went to the production show “Pure Energy”. The show was a tribute to the 80’s with frequent costume changes as well as on-stage visual effects including women flying in the air (using harnesses). She says the show was alright but once was more than enough.


Saturday February 21, 2004 At sea

We again woke late and did the breakfast routine.

Today I felt much better and after breakfast we headed but before the show was over it was clear my little buddy was not. His cold had kicked in full time. My wife brought him back to the room while I taped the remainder of the show for him. Once we got him in the room, we rotated turns getting lunch. After lunch I stayed with him in the room and my hung out in the promenade.

He made a small recovery and we brought him up to the kids club so he could redeem his attendance credits for prizes. He did not make it through the line before crashing again. I brought him back to the room and my wife exchanged the prizes. The way it works is for each session a child attends, they get a credit towards decent prizes on the last day. Prizes range from a backpack to a keychain holder. They all seemed of good quality.

The Enchanted Knights parade was going to happen so I headed down and videotaped it before going to dinner. I wanted to make sure gratuities were delivered. My wife stayed back at the room performing her best Clara Barton. The Enchanted Knight parade was okay but after seeing the first parade, they seem pretty much the same, just a different theme.

The wait staff was sorry to hear my son was sick and offered to have dinner sent to the room. Not room service menu but the dining room menu. I had previously called her, planning to bring her dinner to the room. The staff said they would take care of delivering it. I ordered chicken noodle soup, shrimp cocktail and turkey for them. I had the fruit medley and chicken soup for appetizers, the salad and prime rib. The fruit was a simple fruit plate dusted with coconut, the soup was okay, the prime rib was good. For dessert I brought apple pie and chocolate brownies to the room. The pie was mediocre but my son liked the “ala mode”. My wife ate the shrimp and tasted the turkey. She said it was okay but nothing great. My taste of it reminded me of a cafeteria dinner.

My wife headed off to the farewell show which started with the Cruise Director (Kirk Detweiler) showing parts of the highlights video available for sale, then a guest performance of a juggler then a different comedian. She said the intro was nice, with Kirk’s 3 yr old getting into the act, and the juggler good. She left during the comedian since she found him hard to listen to, the content was fine but the delivery was lacking.

We packed and had our bags in the hall by 1100PM. Such a sad task. Our color was Gray 1.


Sunday February 23, 2004 Dis-embarkation

My spent a rough night, waking me up at 330 because he could not sleep. I let him lay in our bed and by 530 neither of us had slept more than 5 minutes. I gave him cold and fever medicine and cuddled him up under my arm. He was finally out like a light, but a none-to-restful sleep.

I watched the GPS screen on the computer was we positioned in the channel and turned the boat. Finally at 630 we were docked. My wife got her shower and then I mine. We sadly left the cabin at 800 with out bags in tow and my son dragging a bit.

Since we had not eaten in the dining room we chose this for our final meal. We were seated with a nice family from Rhode Island and quickly ordered. By the time the meal was served, my son had totally crashed. We decided a trip to sick bay was in order. We were waiting for the doctor when he came on duty at 9.

After a good exam, he declared my son had an ear infection. Just as we suspected. He gave us some medicine and recommended we not fly for at least 48 hours. We had planned to fly out Monday but now it looks like Tuesday will be the day.

Our color having been called long ago, we headed off the ship. The dis-embarkation went smoothly and Happy Limo was waiting for us. Off to Holiday Inn Family Suites! BTW – Happy Limo and Holiday Inn Family Suites have both been very accommodating in helping us with the changes in our itinerary due to my sons illness.


Sea Conditions, noise et al.

The sea was very comfortable for all but about 16 hours between Friday and Saturday when we had 6 to 8 foot seas. At night it gently rocked us to sleep. The noise/vibration from the back of the ship was more like a furnace turning on. It was not too noisy or obtrusive. We enjoyed the aft cabin and did not find the noise or motion to be an issue.


The rest in the following post...

GenieDana
02-22-2004, 08:26 PM
Mojomanny posted this on Cruisecritic...(Continued)


Comparison of RCCL and DCL:

Embarkation – RCCL
Despite the snafu in the parking lot, RCCL’s embarkation was smoother and easier than DCL. DCL still has a nicer terminal though.

Excurion, spa and dining reservations – RCCL
When we did DCL we had to run to Palo’s and the spa. RCCL takes care of all of this over the phone or via the interactive TV we could also book our RCCL excursions online well ahead of time

Sail Away Party – DCL
Who can beat those horns?

Cabin – Tie
Both are special in their own way. Not really fair to compare an aft cabin to a side cabin since the view is so different. DCL gets points for a larger cabin. RCCL gets points for tons of storage space.

Food – DCL
RCCL’s food was okay, perhaps a notch below DCL. Where the big difference comes is during the non-meal food. DCL has burgers, dogs, chicken, fruit and ice cream right at pool side. RCCL offers the promenade which is no comparison. DCL also wins for room service offering a better variety.

It is not fair to compare the dining rooms or the wait staff but if I factored that in, DCL is an overwhelming victor. DCL’s rooms, though less formal, are more fun (though I do think Animator’s Palate is over-rated). The DCL staff did a better job over all and actually provided better, more formal service. (see additional comments in the wrap-up)

Kids Club – DCL
No contest. DCL has the kid club down to a T. Mind you I am not talking about the staff, I am speaking of the activities and the entire process.

As a parent DCL made me feel much more secure that my child was safe and could not get displaced. DCL has staff assigned just to monitor the check in and check out as opposed to the understaffed RCCL which had staff leaving activities to take care of sign in/out.

I felt DCL’s activites were more in tune with the kids. RCCL had a lot of running around and fun activities but I felt DLC was better coordinated (more about this in a bit). One example is later night. RCCL has kids running around playing a form of dodge ball while DCL had kids laid out on mats watching a movie. When a kids is burning the candle on both ends, giving them some down time is a good thing.

See more comments in my Wrap-up.

Adult Activities – RCCL
With all the amenities RCCL has to offer it is hard to beat them. The ice rink, rock wall, mini-golf make RCCL a leader in this area.

Shows – DCL
While RCCL had a few good shows, a lot missed the mark. I would like to see Tim Tillman and the ice show again but the other shows I am done with. The RCCL parades were just repeats with a different theme. By comparison, I would re-view all the DCL shows I have seen.

Due to scheduling (see wrap-up) we did not get to many of the later night shows (Karaoke Idol, Love n Marriage….) but did view them on the TV when we were under the weather. They looked like a lot more fun then the main shows.

Ship – RCCL
It is larger and has far more amenities.

Dis-embarkation – Tie
Both were quick and efficient.


Wrap-up

We had a great time. That being said, we could have had a better time. There are number of things which could have made it better.

1.) I think the RCCL schedule seems to lack coordination. Examples:
a. Dinner is at 6pm and the kids club does not re-open until 6pm
b. Thursday’s meal was Venetian (as in Venice, Italy) night but you are encouraged to wear Caribbean clothes.
c. Monday’s meal was Caribbean themed (but not suggest Caribbean attire)

2.) Kids Club schedule prevents parents from doing their own thing. It opens and closes more often than a door. It closes for meals, except it takes the kids to Johnny Rockets. But, the parents have to sign them out at 530 then sign them in at JR’s at 6. It closes for lunch. It was not open on the first day.

3.) Late night kids club helps burn the kids out even more. How about some more sedate activities at 10PM? Our son (age 7) normally gets 10 hours sleep at night. Between wanting to stay late at the club and waking up early he was down to about 8 hours a night with very active days. Talk about a runaway train, he was due for a crash. (lets not get into a debate about whether I should have made him come from the club or not….I am trying to point out what can be done to make it better)

4.) Charging for late night (10pm is late?) at the kids club is lame.

5.) The Promenade is nothing more than a shopping mall at sea

6.) RCCL is always looking for a buck. Between the mall, the photo’s, the ½ price sale, the auctions, the drinks it all got to be a bit much.

7.) Soda Card – the card worked well but some of the bars were none to happy about it. I did get my money’s worth. Here are a couple of hints: Ask for a Pilsner/lager style glass or other large glass. Once you get it, hold onto it, wash it yourself. Otherwise they like to hand out thimble sized plastic cups (8 oz?) (I drink a gallon of water most nights after work so I would have driven myself crazy with such a small cup). When there is a line at the Promenade Café (PC) Bar, go to one of the other bars, they are typically much less active and do not seem to have the attitude the PC bartenders had.

8.) Details – The wait staff (not solely ours) lacked some of the formality in their service. Serving from the left with the left hand and clearing from the right with the right hand, ladies first….I notice things like that. (Yes, I am a pain in the pants but I do think it makes a difference). More important details were the empty liquor box left in the hall for about 6 hours and the tampon (unused) that was all over the arcade floor and with staff stepping over it. PLEASE NOTE….The ship in general was very clean and these are seemingly isolated, but notable, exceptions.

9.) Set and follow a definitive time passengers will be allowed in the terminal

10.) Get good coffee.

Okay, so it sounds like I would never do another RCCL. Wrong. We will, probably in 8 years. My feeling is for kids under 12, DCL seems to be the way to go. By the time my son is 15 I think he will appreciate the changes and variety RCCL brings. Until then, we will stick with DCL. I think RCCL is better designed and planned for a more mature audience looking for a more sophisticated product. DCL is set for families and young people looking for a more casual experience. Each has its merits and we will travel on both again.

Some of the challenges we encountered were caused by guests (ok, many were). Part of the reason our dining room experience was diminished was our waiter had one family of six that was at least 20 minutes to dinner every night. This throws off the staff. Rather than getting each course in one trip, they are now making more trips since one family is on appetizers while another is on salads and perhaps a third is on their entrée. Wreaks havoc with them. Be fair, get there on time. Of course this is hard when other activites do not finish until your assigned time.

Food on Mariner would rate an overall 2 ½ stars. Based on 1 star being a greasy spoon diner; 2 stars being a big boy or friendly’s; 3 stars being a Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday’s or similar chain; 4 stars being a better quality local restaurant and 5 stars being a regionally or nationally renowned restaurant. The food was decent but not spectacular.

If I got a call tomorrow to go on another RCCL cruise, I definitely would go!

Hope this has been helpful and not too boring.

dianthus
02-23-2004, 12:41 AM
GenieDana~ what a great comparison - RCCL to DCL.

This info is terrific and that you thought to share it. But, just a question I have to ask, as it bothers me.... Did you get the CC poster's permission to copy and paste her report and post it over here?

I don't know if there copyright laws to protect what an individual posts on internet boards, but I wouldn't want my words appearing somewhere on the internet, where I didn't intend them to be~ unless I was asked permission first. Although, you give credit to this poster as the author, I was concerned when I saw this.

If you didn't get permission, please don't take this as a personal afront, just something to think about for the future. Perhaps it's better to direct others to the Cruise Critic Board to read the poster's report, or invite the Poster to post it here for all of us to read. If you got permission, great! You should note permission was granted at the top of the work by the author & the date granted.

On the similar note, but unrelated to this post/thread- I see the quote option on these boards as a problem. The DIS gives you the ability to quote in a post, which is nice & convenient if it's a response post. What I don't like is when I see quotes with words edited out of the actual original post, so it suits that person's needs/positions. That's incredibly misleading and should not be done. It's one thing to shorten the quote to a line or 2, but to edit words completely to suit your own purposes is just wrong. I have been seeing that alot lately.

Just my .02....

zalansky
02-23-2004, 08:53 AM
That post was great...I think it gives a good perspective and of course I see quite a few similarities to mine. Of course mine was short and to the point!
Naturally I disagreed with the food comparison in the beginning, but towards the end was right on target. With the exception of the windjammer food, I totally disagree, it was bad including the french toast!
We sailed with DCL in Sept with friends who have kids who utilized the kids club and my friends commented too about how they appreciated the security and the fact they kept the kids for meals.
Well, off I go to work.
I was concerned about copying without permission too. Hope that works out!

Have a great day!!!

DawnCt
02-23-2004, 10:39 AM
Originally posted by tezb
I am not crazy about RCCL allowing teens to drink beer and wine at age 18 but so far my son is not a drinker so hopefully he will be tame. Once he finds out the drinks are extra and he's paying for it, he won't be interested anymore either!

RCCL DOES NOT allow teens to drink beer and wine at age 18 unless the parents agree to it at embarkation. You simply decline permission to do so and the boarding card is permanently marked for no alcohol. This was not a problem for us.

DawnCt
02-23-2004, 10:49 AM
When comparing cruise lines it really does depend upon the ages of your kids. On our first RCCL our youngest was 7. He enjoyed all of the activities. We have taken several cruises since, both on the Voyager and the Explorer which has tons of stuff to do for teens and on Celebrity's Galaxy, which while they don't have rock climbing walls or skating rinks, was every bit as enjoyable for him as the mega ships of Royal Caribbean. It really is all about finding a good teen leader and a nice group of kids. We found that on the Voyager Class ships, putting out an excellent meal can be a challenge. They are making 3500 or so dinners per night and so you are not going to get the same quality of food that you would find on a smaller ship. We liked the food on Voyager and Explorer and the specialty restaurants on both of those ships were well worth the price, exceeding many five star experiences on land. In the dining room you may not find the cold food as cold as it could be, nor the hot food as hot. It is part of the downfall of a large ship. Our Celebrity experience was wonderful. Fabulous meals, served hot and cold as appropriate. Very accommodating staff, even at the purser desk. If you had even one intereaction, they seemed to remember your name for the entire cruise. We will be sailing on the Millineum this springl. It is one of Celebrity's newer 90,000 ton ships. Since it is larger than the Galaxy, it will be interesting if the food will live up to the reputation Celebrity earned with us on our previous cruise. We have booked the Olympia Restaurant as well. The charge is $25 pp service fee but we have a $25 credit towards our meal there.