VOYAGER OF THE SEAS
December 16, 2001
This cruise, although only my first, convinced me that from this point
forward, if Iím going to take a vacation, my first consideration
will be a vacation at sea.
B A little confusing as their
arenít enough people or clearly defined signs at the port to show
you where to go and what to do. But
if you follow the crowd youíll do ok.
A They like their tips, and are
willing to run, jump, or do what ever it takes to make sure they get a
good one. Very happy with
Amenities: A+ Voyager class ship,
biggest ship on the ocean. Not
much more to say than that.
of Call: B Liked some ports, but
didnít like pushiness of the island sales folks.
Wish it were more like USA with less pressure.
B Cute, nice, but not perfect.
Lots and lots of different types of entertainment but no single
thing jumped out and made you say ĎWOWí
B+ Too many people to have a truly 5
star food experience, but what they had for the masses was good if you
looked at it as mass produced food.
B Ė Organized but slow, but to be
expected because of the size of ship. Would
be better if port facilities were larger with more baggage claim
a cruise? Well I can honestly say that it wasn't my intention to go on
the cruise, I wasn't thinking about it for years and years and years,
and finally saved up enough money for it. What happened was that I was
forced to research vacations and the opportunity presented itself. I
guess I should start at the beginning. Last September, Michele and I
were working on the preliminary plans for the wedding. Michele gave me
my list, and one of the major responsibilities I was assigned was the
honeymoon. So I gave her my ideas, but I found that there were serious
discrepancies between what I thought was an ideal honeymoon and what
she thought the ideal honeymoon would be.
She vetoed my idea for a trip to Alaska on the grounds that we were
getting married in December and she didn't want to go anywhere where
the median temperature was 10 degrees and we only get four or five
hours of daylight. Vegas was also vetoed because of her perception
that Vegas is a 'party' town with drinking and nightlife being the
norm for entertainment. Although that is somewhat true, I didn't want
to push the issue, as Iím fairly confident that my sales career will
get me out to Vegas at some point. After the third refusal (renting an
RV and traveling across the country for two weeks) we mutually decided
to let me make the honeymoon a surprise, as she felt fairly confident
that I was never going to come up with an idea she liked.
So as many of you who know me could guess, I hit the Internet hard and
started looking for ideas. As those of you who know me, know, Iím
not a big fan of warmer weather, but I figured what the heck, it's
really her wedding and her honeymoon so I might as well look for
something she would enjoy. One of the things I looked at was the
Voyager of the Seas cruise ship. We
got a sales pitch on it at a wedding show we went to and I was very
impressed with the makeup of the ship (it even has an ice skating rink
where I figured Iíd spend most of my time), and its Caribbean
itinerary would make Michele happy. Since they didn't have the winter
2002 itinerary scheduled yet, I looked at comparable dates in 2001 to
get an idea of the pricing. Well in my searching, I found an error in
an advertised special on the Yahoo travel site. Without going into the
details, Iíll just say trust me, it was obviously a screw up and
Yahoo wouldn't let me purchase it online. Now, I had a quest, and to
make a long story short, after many calls first to Yahoo, and then to
Royal Caribbean, I eventually got the cruise at a super price, not as
low as Yahoo's advertised price, but much lower than the other
So I went from looking for a honeymoon to an unexpected vacation to
the Caribbean. At first I thought the Cruise was going to be fun for
Michele and one of those things Iíd just have to suffer through. God
was I ever wrong, the cruise was the best vacation in my life and set
the foundation for ideas about relaxation for the foreseeable future.
Day 1: Embarkation
We drove to my Father's the previous night so he could give us a lift
to the port of Miami, and we could get on the ship without having to
pay the $70 in parking charges. When we got there, we were shocked at
the shear size of the boat. I knew it was the biggest cruise ship in
the world, but knowing something logically and experiencing it first
hand are two totally different things. We got out of the truck and
gave four of our six bags to a baggage handler and got in line with
our carry-ons. As much as the line moved slowly, it was interesting
because it was our first experience. After a while, we got up to the
desk and gave Royal Caribbean our credit card information so they
could give us the blue card. The blue cards are sort of an everything
card that is a combination ID, charge card, and door key. We walked on
the boat, and enquired about where they were serving lunch, which was
at the windjammer cafe. We went to our cabin to drop off the bags, and
then found our way to the windjammer where we ate the first of many
good quality buffet meals. Afterwards we took a walk around the ship
to take in the grandeur of it all, and then retired to our cabin where
we started to make ourselves at home. There was a knock at the door,
and Isbeth, our cabin steward (who was one of the highlights of the
trip) came in and introduced herself to us and gave us a rundown of
how things work on the ship. After she left, we took a nap.
the time we woke up it was dark and the ship had left port. We were
going to go to the dining room for our dinner but my bags hadnít
arrived yet, and the brochure said you need to at least have slacks
and a collar to attend meals in the dining room. We found out later
that they let you slip on the first night because most folks don't
have their bags yet) so we had dinner in the windjammer again and went
to the welcome on board show, which was quite good. I didnít realize
that the cruise director on the modern ships is Ĺ staff manager, Ĺ
Master of Ceremonies for the different shows, and Ĺ comedian all
rolled into one. Afterwards a
little walking on the deck where we learned that the wind blowing over
the bow is actually quite cool and then to bed.
Day 2: A day at Sea
We spent the majority of the day exploring the ship, and spending
a little time on deck. To be
honest, my memory of the day was a bit fuzzy.
The highlight was meeting our friends Nick and Mareť.
They are from London and were sitting at our table.
It was funny because the look of relief on our waiters face was
a sight to behold. He was
concerned because apparently no one at our table showed up for dinner
that first night and he thought he was going to miss out on being able
to serve this particular table (and get the corresponding tips of
course). The first night our
table was three young couples and an old couple.
The old couple were confused and wound up going to late dinner
as opposed to early dinner. They only had dinner with us that first
night, and we only saw them occasionally in the crowd during the rest
of the cruise.
Day 3: Labadee
Labadee is just a private beach on Haiti, which is a beautiful
but apparently the poverty there is so incredible that they have to
insulate the Royal Caribbean property so that no natives can get into
the area. The area consisted of
two beach areas, two eating pavilions where a buffet lunch prepared on
the ship was served, and a
shopping area with very very very pushy salespeople.
There are lots of beach chairs and lots of hammocks.
The whole purpose of the area is to be the perfect beach and it
succeeds at what it intends to do. You
could pretty much snap a picture of anywhere on Labadee and it would
be perfect to use in any advertisement for a Caribbean cruise.
We spent a little bit of time on land here, a few hours laying
in the hammocks and maybe an hour or two walking around.
It was nice, and it was relaxing.
was different. Like when you
got to Haiti, your first impression is a view from the boat of the
beautiful forest covered mountains that make up the island.
But unlike Haiti, there are many excursions and tours you can
take on Jamaica, and you really get to enjoy, if thatís the right
word, the country. In truth, I
found that I liked the people we dealt with, except of course for the
salespeople who like Haiti are very pushy.
We chose to go on a tour that took us to both a plantation and
to Dunns River Falls. The
plantation was nice, but the most eye opening part was the 45 minute
drive through Jamaica, the condition of the country was dismal.
Poverty seemed to be the rule rather than the exception, with little
islands of paradise that are the resorts that cater to off island
River Falls is one of those picturesque places that you see in all of
the advertisements. Itís a
large waterfall that is set up so that tourists can climb up the
falls. You have a guide who
takes you up the falls and takes your photos at different stops.
Naturally you have to pay for the service with a tip at the end
of the climb. Tips are very big
on cruises, and horrible here.
4: Grand Cayman
Cayman is like a little tropical America with better tax laws.
The island is different from the others on the trip because
itís very flat, and not very scenic.
You have to take ferries from the ship to the shopping district
where you disembark and get on your tour buses.
They have a couple of large gazebos set up with chairs for
cruise passengers to wait for their tour buses or tenders.
We went on a tour that included the town of Hell (world's
biggest tourist trap), a glass bottom boat that allows you to see
stingray city, and the turtle farm.Like all tours there was a stop at
5: Cozumel & Playa
biggest surprise of the trip. Michele and I wanted to go to the Tulum
Mayan ruins, so we signed up for that particular tour. While reviewing
the options, we came across an option that includes both the Ruins and
also offered snorkeling at a place called Xel-Ha.
Since the price difference was negligible we opted to take the
all day tour that included Xel-Ha. To make the long story short, Xel-Ha
was not only the best part of the day, it was also the best part of
got off the ship and immediately got on a ferry to take us to the bus
depot at Playa Del Carmen.
The ferry was an enclosed little ship that let us feel every
little bump in the ocean, which unfortunately had lots of BIG bumps
that particular day. It got so
bad that the boat operators handed out little purple bags that people
were throwing up in. After this
45 minutes of hell were done (not the fault of anyone) we got to Playa
Del Carmen and walked quickly through a short street lined with tacky
shops and got on our buses. The
bus ride to Tulum was another 45 minutes with a stop at a roadside
trinket stand. The stand was
rather interesting as it had a little display outside with locals
crafting shapes out of some sort of black shiny rocks using very old
etching and sanding machines. Inside
they had a good selection of Mexican blankets, and tons of the little
black statues and dust collectors that were made outside.
got back on the bus after about twenty minutes and finished the drive
to the Ruins. The Ruins were OK but boring. The tour stop was two
hours there and it could have been limited to a half hour.
Pros of the stop included some nice gift and snack shops and
cons included the fact that they charge you a dollar or two for a one
minute tram ride. We opted to
not pay and walked. We were happy with that decision when we realized
how short the walk actually was. There
is a very nice beach next to the ruins and, if I had to do this tour
again, Iíd skip looking at the old temple and spend all of my time
at the beach.
we were back on the bus for a short ride to Xel-Ha.
During the ride, our tour guide handed out the box lunch
prepared by the ship. It was
nice, a tuna fish salad sandwich and a bunch of snacks.
He also filled our glasses with soda, bottled water, or Cervesa.
I had the beer.
was amazing and any description I can give to it will simply do no
justice to the Eco-Park. In a
nutshell itís a beautiful lagoon with crystal clear water and a reef
that you can snorkel in. Nice
restaurants and shops and little walking trails surround the Reef.
I would suggest you go the Xel-Ha web site, or look for reviews
of the water park for a more in-depth review of it.
Suffice to say, I was happy and do plan on going to Cancun for
an extended weekend so I can spend another couple of days at Xel-Ha.
6: A day at Sea
Our last full day at sea began on board with Michele absolutely
convinced that she was going to spend some time getting a tan.
The weather throughout was spotty, not rainy, but partially
cloudy so she never knew if she was going to be able to get a tan.
was also the day where I got my sunburn, the one that had me so red
you could spot me on deck on a moonless night with all of the ships
lights turned off. It was so
bad, I had the chills all night. Next
time Iím nagged at for putting on suntan lotion, you can bet your
bottom dollar that Iím going to do it.
Nothing extremely eventful happened today except the
ever-present sadness you feel when you know a good thing is about to
the end of the night, we had to put our luggage out with special
colored tags. They collected
the luggage for moving off the ship the next morning.
Our color was teal, and that was our color to leave the ship as
well. We had to wait the next
morning on the ship until they called the color and that was the order
we get to disembark with.
We arrived at the port before I woke up. After a breakfast,
we met Nick and Mareť
and waited on deck until they called our color.
Itís amazing how many colors we had.
My dad picked us up and off we went.
It was a good vacation and one of the reasons why Iím going
to be on two more cruises over the next year.
courtesy of Kvaerner
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