RCCL’s Enchantment of the Seas anchored at home in Nassau
My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last month, and that meant one thing – time for another trip. It’s a tradition I started with our first wedding anniversary; we always plan a special trip somewhere, sometimes fairly close by, other times far away. This year, having already burned a lot of time off on our trip to India in January, and then our combo road trip and cruise to Boston and Bermuda in May, we had to keep this trip short. Ultimately, since we both love cruises, we settled on a short 3-day “getaway” cruise from Florida to the Bahamas and back on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas.
Incidentally, this will not be a large trip report series like the one I put together for our cruise to Bermuda; with a short cruise and only one port visited, this trip report easily fits in two parts. I will have a separate post about our visit to Nassau later. As with my previous cruise review of the Norwegian Dawn, this review includes plenty of photos and focuses mainly on the layout and amenities of the ship. If you want a more detailed review from a different perspective, please see my Cruise Critic review. The link above goes to the page featuring all five; click on the review by “MeanMeosh” to see mine.
Cruise Dates: Friday, October 24 to Monday, October 27
Background on RCCL
My previous review covered Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean does cater to a slightly different demographic. The best way to describe RCCL is as a “jack of all trades” type of cruise line. Their cruises tend to follow a middle-of-the-road, mainstream approach, designed to appeal to a wide variety of cruisers. Compared to NCL, RCCL offers a more traditional cruising experience, with fixed dining and entertainment options (only one specialty restaurant compared to the 6+ on the Dawn, for example), though of course there’s still a variety of things to do on board.
Where RCCL tries to differentiate is in its unique amenities for active travelers. These include the famous artificial rock wall at the forward end of the ship, and the “bungee trampoline” aft. (No, I didn’t try either.) I should note that these short 3-5 day cruises do tend to attract the party crowd; therefore, expect a younger and louder group than on a longer cruise.
The Enchantment of the Seas is one of RCCL’s older and smaller ships, built in 1997 and holding a maximum 2,252 passengers. It’s tiny compared its big sister, the massive Oasis, which as the largest passenger cruise ship in the world, carries an incredible 5,400 passengers. I heard a few whispers of complaints about the age and small size of the ship. But really, c’mon – it’s a 3-day cruise. Who cares if the ship is a little old and a little small. Much like the similarly sized Norwegian Dawn, the ship is a breeze to navigate, with easy access to all of the major amenities. Just remember, as with any cruise ship, you do have to remember that certain elevators and stairwells don’t access every deck. Once you figure that out, though, it’s easy to get around.
As is our custom, we planned to arrive the day before our cruise. We flew in to Orlando around 7:45 P.M., and after a bit of a wait for our hotel shuttle, made it to the hotel, the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral, about 9:45. We booked this hotel for the “Fly & Cruise” package, which includes round-trip airport and cruise port transportation for one guest ($45 for each additional guest). Since our cruise didn’t depart until 4 P.M., we had a little time the next morning for a quick walk on the beach after breakfast.
On the way back to the hotel, we came across a large flock of white ibises. I see these everywhere in Florida, but rarely so many in one spot. I also took a photo of the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. You’ll see billboards for this place for hundreds of miles in each direction on IH-75, IH-95, and the Florida Turnpike.
Our shuttle picked us up from the hotel at 11:30, and we were at the port in 10 minutes. I expected to see massive lines everywhere, but to my surprise – nothing.
I’ve never had such a fast and easy check-in experience on a ship. We were on the ship and stuffing ourselves at the Windjammer Cafe by noon. One of our tablemates at dinner said that on these cruises, most people don’t show up until around 2 P.M. So maybe we just got lucky.
Typical for cruise ships, only the buffet in the Windjammer on Deck 8, Forward opens for lunch. To go along with the nonexistent lines, though, the buffet wasn’t terribly crowded. The Windjammer features a central “marketplace” area with the day’s main course selections on display. Other stations to the side serve burgers, salads, sandwiches, and desserts.
A busy but not overcrowded buffet area
The central “marketplace”, today serving mostly Mediterranean dishes
View of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center from our window seats
Our stateroom was ready by a few minutes after 1:00, so we didn’t have to wait long. Given that this was a short cruise, and the buy-up wasn’t exhorbitant, we splurged for a Junior Suite, mid-ship, port (left) side on Deck 8. The room was quite spacious, with a separate bed, sofa sleeper, and two chairs for sitting. Or in our case, storing crap that we picked up in port. There is also a decent size balcony with a small table and two chairs. Unusually for a cruise ship, the bathroom featured both a tub and shower. The bathroom still was a little tight, but you can’t really do much about that on a ship, unless you want to pay for a full suite.
There was also ample storage space inside the closet, though not much storage in the room itself. You do receive priority check-in and debarkation with a Junior Suite. You don’t receive “concierge” service or a butler as you do with full suites, though.
I’m going to jump ahead a second and move to the main dining room, “My Fair Lady”, located on Decks 4 and 5, aft (rear). More on why the dining room is located on two floors later. The theme of the dining room was typical mass market cruise ship – Greco/Italian, with columns and chandeliers throughout, and the occasional sculpture. However, I found the overall look more plain vanilla than the main dining room on the Dawn, with decidedly fewer paintings on the walls or ceilings.
Here are some assorted photos from other public areas of the ship.
The “Centrum”, extending from Decks 4 through 10 midship
Small performing area near Guest Services on Deck 5, with a Halloween theme
Boleros Lounge, Deck 5, typical of the ship’s public area lounges
Fake aquarium at the entrance to the casino, Deck 5
Casino Royale on Deck 5
Covered outdoor walking track, which circles all the way around Deck 5
Spotlight Lounge, Deck 6 aft
“RC Online” internet cafe, Deck 6 midship
Pool on Deck 9, viewed from jogging track on Deck 10
Outdoor movie screen at the Deck 9 pool
Indoor pool on Deck 9, aft
Touch screen maps found at every elevator/stair bank
Hindu religious artwork found on the midship staircase; I guess a tribute to the large number of Indian crewmembers on board
My favorite part of the ship was probably Deck 10, where the jogging/walking track is located. It is much less crowded than the main pool area on Deck 9, and you can either enjoy a quiet stroll around the deck or find plenty of empty deck chairs to catch some sun and relax. Not shown are the fake rock wall and the bungee trampoline, which are also located on Deck 10. If you’re looking for a hot tub, four are located around the main pool, with two additional hot tubs near the indoor pool.
Other larger RCCL ships have more features like a putt-putt course and basketball court, but given the short duration of this cruise, there was plenty to do onboard. The outdoor movie screen by the pool is also a nice amenity, especially when the weather is nice as it was on our cruise (in keeping with the general Halloween theme, they showed Ghostbusters on the big screen on Sunday). However, if you want to watch the movie, grab a seat early, as the pool area fills up quickly.
Disembarkation was similar to our experience on the Dawn, with a choice of “self-disembarkation” or an assigned time. Given that we were assigned one of the first debarkation slots at 8:30, and the cluster I observed with the self service on NCL, we decided to stick with it. Once again, it was a wise choice. Our exit was delayed by approximately 30 minutes because the customs and baggage claim area at the port became excessively congested with those using the self-service option, but at least once we were called, we were off the ship and through customs in just 15 minutes.
I overheard someone behind me say that a friend had been in the self-service line since 7:30 A.M., and had just gotten to customs as we were being called to deboard. So I’ll now make this an official piece of advice – avoid the self-service disembarkation if it is offered on your ship. It appears to be universally poorly managed and doesn’t work well. Also a note about when to book flights from Orlando when arriving for a cruise – it’s an approximately 40-45 minute drive to MCO from Port Canaveral. I wouldn’t book anything earlier than 11 A.M., though to be completely safe, I’d suggest noon or later.
It’s a little unusual to be declaring that the buffet line was better than the main dining room, but that was the case on this cruise – a little disappointing considering the excellent food is something I still remember from my last RCCL cruise way back in 2000. The main issue in My Fair Lady was inconsistency. Some dishes, such as the filet medallions we had on the second night, were excellent. Others, such as the prime rib on the first night, were average; good meat, but with a sauce that was too sweet.
But the pasta dish I had on the last night was quite possibly the worst dish I’ve ever had in any restaurant, far too salty and with a cream sauce that had completely curdled due to too much grease from the prosciutto. I actually had to send it back, which is something I almost never do. To our waiter’s credit, though, he promptly brought me something else without fuss or muss.
The Windjammer, on the other hand, was consistently above average. Frankly, I could have lived off the self-service sandwich bar (the baguettes are delicious), and the food stations were kept topped up. Fruits and vegetables were fresh, with a good variety available. We also tried the poolside cafe for lunch one day. It is a self-service burger/hot dog/taco bar, and the food was fresh and reasonably tasty. A good option if you’re in a hurry, or just don’t feel like leaving the pool. A specialty steakhouse (Chops Grille) is also available on Deck 6, but we didn’t try it.
Here are some samples of the food we enjoyed on board.
Prime rib (meat was good, sauce was too sweet)
Seafood ravioli (thumbs up from my wife)
Carrot cake (delicious)
Activities and Services
Compared to other RCCL ships, there aren’t nearly as many activities on board, but for a three day cruise, there was plenty to do. We spent a lot of time on our balcony and on the outdoor track on Deck 10, and on the last evening of our cruise, saw the farewell show in the theater, a 50s/60s-themed Broadway revue reproduction of the musical Chicago. It was OK, but not really my thing. The choreography was average, and while the two lead singers were fine by themselves, together, they didn’t mix.
Anyway, it gave us something to do before dinner. We did buy a shore excursion from the cruise line in Nassau, which took us to a couple of forts and a brief stop at the Atlantis resort. It was a decent value for $40 per person, and unlike most cruise line-sponsored tours, we were kept in a small group of only about 10 people. Just beware that the forts charge a $1 entrance fee (no big deal). If you end up following a guided tour, though, the guide will shake you down for tips (annoying). Welcome to the Bahamas.
The schedule included a visit to Coco Cay, a private island co-operated by RCCL and NCL, on Sunday. Unfortunately, very strong winds made it impossible to operate the tender boats needed to reach the island. I can’t really blame RCCL, what with 30-knot wind gusts swirling around that morning. That meant an unscheduled sea day, but I didn’t really mind – a day doing nothing on the balcony was just what the doctor ordered.
As far as service, I remember Royal Caribbean’s being top-notch on our last cruise. It wasn’t quite 5-star level on this cruise, but was still fine. Our waiter in the main dining room was exceptional. What was missing elsewhere, though was the “WOW” that RCCL tries to convey in its advertising. For example, our stateroom steward was friendly and approachable, but we didn’t see him much aside from cleaning times. Oddly, he also refused to clean our room while we sat out on the balcony. He claimed this wasn’t allowed, but that’s the first time I’d heard that. I’ve never had the issue on previous cruises.
There was nothing wrong with this cruise, though RCCL’s standards do seem to have slipped a little compared to the last time we cruised with them. Granted, that was a long time ago. We also came to the conclusion that these “getaway” cruises just aren’t for us. You get on the ship, and just as you settle in, you pack up and leave again. Next time, I think we’ll stick to a 5-day minimum, just so we have some time to actually enjoy the ship. But, if you’re looking for an inexpensive short vacation, but want something a little more exciting than just a couple of nights in a hotel in a big city, short cruises are a good way to go, given that you can often get a cheap stateroom for a couple hundred bucks per person.