Sunday, March 16, 2008

Review--Voyager of the Seas--3.9.2008

Voyager of the Seas Review 3.9.2008

Just The Facts
Ship: Voyager of the Seas
March 9-March 16, 2008
Captain: Frank Martinsen
Entertainment Director: Eric Dowis
Ports: Galveston-Roatan-Cozumel-Progreso-Galveston
Weather: Good all week

This is my 8th Royal Caribbean cruise and 2nd on the Voyager having just sailed on her in January. We only just booked this cruise a few weeks ago on a ‘happy hour’ sale. We had an inside cabin, but the price and value was too good to pass so basically this is a bonus cruise for us. I will be commenting on changes on this cruise from the recent cruise we took in January.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
Left the Ranch about 6:30 a.m. and dropped off the dog at DD’s apartment in Waco. We had a nice and easy drive to Galveston. Houston traffic was fine. We arrived early enough to drop our bags at Cruise Terminal #2 before automobile traffic became heavy. I drove over and parked at EZ Cruise parking and then walked over to the ship terminal. Walking is easier than riding the shuttle and the weather was great. They had a new priority line for security which we used and then proceeded to Priority check-in. There were lots of VIP’s in January, but very few this sailing so there was no line and we were processed strait away. We had just settled in with our complimentary glass of champagne when they announced they would begin boarding. Nice group in the priority area and no mad rush to the door and as we knew the routine we were actually the first to board the ship. I think a few handicap passengers and a wedding party boarded early, but we were basically the first of the regular passengers to board. The ship staff were extremely friendly. Everyone welcomed us on board ship and offered help or guidance. The staff is much more friendly than just a few weeks ago. It was quite obvious. The friendly state would be proud.

As mentioned being already familiar with the ship we were the first in the Windjammer by 10-15 minutes. It was 11:50 a.m. and we are enjoying a wonderful private buffet. With no one there we could appreciate the beautiful ice carving and the fruit displays and the attention of the wonderful staff. Again, the dining staff was also very friendly. The roast beef was very good as was the salad and the desserts. We went to the High Notes lounge to wait until 1:00 pm when the cabins became available to guests. We went to our cabin shortly after 1:00 p.m. and DW had a nice nap and I a short one. DW’s luggage arrived at 2:00 p.m., but didn’t open it until after nap time. They had confiscated a bottle of wine and left a receipt in its place. I’m sure the increased security is because of spring break. My bag never arrived. Just before the 4:00 p.m. muster drill we met our Cabin Steward Selvon from Paraguay. We requested the beds set as twins, ice for our small cooler, robes, and for him to be on the look out for my bag. He is very personable and I think he will do a good job. Sail away was a little late and we had a cocktail in the High Notes lounge, but I was starting to become anxious about my missing bag. We decided to eat in the Windjammer about 6:30 p.m. and it is set up very nice for dinner. The waiters were all dressed in semi-formal attire and the tables were set with the silver. I had pork, mashed potatoes, and chicken cordon-bleu which were all very good. DW actually prefers the Windjammer as she has more vegetarian choices than the dining room. We stopped by the pursers desk on the way to the welcome show to make a query about my bag and was informed that it was in security. Well at least we know it made the ship. The welcome show for both dinner settings featured comedian Tom McTigue, Eric Dowis the Cruise Director, and the ships singers and dancers. It was a good show, better than in January. Saga of the missing bag: Following the show we went down to deck one security and they had a collection of passenger bags. We found mine and they asked me to open it. There was no contraband, the bottles of diet coke confused them. By the time I got my bag back to my room it was after 8:00 and no way I could clean and change in time for 8:00 p.m. dinner. Problem (rant): I was never notified that they had my bag in security and needed to be claimed. I agree with the additional security and scrutiny of bags especially during spring break; however, they must make the guest aware of what is happening. Due to no fault of mine I missed dinner in the dining room and those that read my blog and reviews know how important dinner is to me. Security claimed they notified guest relations, but no one notified me. If they had notified me I could have had my bag probably before sail away and saved myself the anxiety of the missing bag and had dinner as usual. (end rant) I think they will implement a procedure to correct this for future guests and I will not let a problem like this effect my overall cruise attitude nor should anyone else.

Bravo, bravo, bravo: They had a fire in the electrical controls for the propulsion system about 7:45 p.m. and sounded the alarm. We actually never heard the alarm as we were in the theater, but did hear the Captains explanation of what happened about half an hour later. They had a fire in the electrical panel and control box of the port side azipod so we will be sailing with less than full thrust for awhile.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
Very breezy today, midday temperature only 75°. I had breakfast in the Windjammer. A very nice omelet made by Tamika (from Jamaica) who made the great omelet for me last cruise. Not crowded at all as passengers haven’t discovered the omelet station as yet. Breakfast was very good. We still had ice for our diet cokes this morning another vast improvement from January when our cabin steward was not very good at all and wouldn’t fill the cooler full enough for the ice to last overnight. We don’t drink coffee so the diet coke is important in the mornings. After breakfast I picked up tickets for the Ice Skating Show. We attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle at 11:00 in the High Notes Lounge. There was a good crowd and it’s always great to put real names to screen names. They again had the great appetizers and chocolate covered strawberries. We actually won two of the little gifts this time. Eric, the cruise director, did attend and was his humorous self during the raffle. We had lunch in the dining room and it was just OK. DW said the pasta sauce had no flavor and this was her favorite lunch in January. The carrot cake was again very good. The Captain gave his midday report and announced a revised itinerary due to yesterdays fire. We have been sailing with only the one main propeller and they need calm waters to recalibrate the other so we will be sailing direct to Roatan so they can make the repairs there. A short nap before we went to the 3:00 ice show, Ice Odyssey. They had a few new skaters since we saw them in January. It was an excellent show and not to be missed. The Captains reception was held in Studio B although we passed on attending. Guest Relations sent us a bottle of wine with an apology about the missing bag. That was very nice and appreciated. We attended dinner tonight in the dining room. Escargot, shrimp cocktail, Beef filet, and Grand Mariner Soufflé were my selections. Greg Bonham was the feature entertainer this evening, but we skipped having seen him previously.

Day Three--Tuesday—Sea day
Weather is much better today. Midday temperature is 81°. I had breakfast in the Windjammer. A very good breakfast: fried eggs, bacon, hash, malt-o-meal, and fresh fruit. We had a nice walk around the decks this morning. We had lunch in the Windjammer, a very good salad as usual and pork tenderloin. Walked the ship again after lunch and then a nap. In the late afternoon we opened our complementary bottle of wine and had our own party with fruit & cheese plates from room service. We then went to the La Scala Theater for the feature production show, Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme. We saw some friends in the front row so joined them. A very unique perspective of the show to say the least. The show was fantastic with current and popular show tunes. All the singers and dancers were very good. After the show we enjoyed some wine in the Champagne Bar until dinner. Dinner was good. DW had the vegetarian entrée: an Asparagus & Brie Tart which is their best vegetarian entrée in her opinion. I had the Crabmeat& seafood salad, Tilapia and a Steak. BBB and a Mango parfait type dish for dessert. Keeping with the wine theme of the evening we did order a bottle of wine with dinner. After dinner we split a Mango Lava Flow on one of the outside promenade tables of the sports bar. Great place to people watch. About 11:00 pm. We went to the Country & Western night / Texas Party in Studio B. They had a western band and did line dancing directed by the cruise staff and two stepped the night away.

Day Four--Wednesday--Roatan
We arrived by 8:00 a.m. and the weather is great although you really can’t see the mainland today. Temperature very pleasant 84°. When we were here in January they had just finished the extended dirt work around the pier. Today they have full construction of three buildings underway. They have made great progress in just a few weeks. DW had room service breakfast. I again visited Tamika at the omelet station in the Windjammer and my omelet was excellent. Today is our stay on the ship on a port day which we try to do on each cruise in order to take advantage of ship amenities. Some pool, hot tub, and deck time most of the day in the Solarium. We brought lunch from the Windjammer back to the solarium since we had a table next to our loungers. Each of us had great salads. I had two small grilled steaks, a grilled tilapia, and baked potato. It was great, the steaks better than the steak from the dining room the previous dinner. We went to the ice show, Ice Odyssey again. Since today was originally scheduled as a sea day there were extra seats for the early ice show as a lot of people were still in port. It was great watching it again as we could anticipate some of the routine which was enjoyable. Some roles were different in this show as well and it was a fantastic show. Dinner was good, my selections were the Scallops, Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Marsala, and Tiramisu for dessert. The Love and Marriage game show was this evening. The head waiter brought me a plate of sliced hearts of palm (one of my favorites) which were fantastic. We would never get them in Bosque county. Laraf the magic show was this evening, but having seen it we passed this evening.

Day Five--Thursday--Cozumel
The weather is very nice about 86° but a nice breeze. Really ideal weather for Cozumel. We docked about 8:30 am. at the Punta Langosta pier. There were four ships in Cozumel, two at the International pier and two at Punta Langosta. . We watched the Love & Marriage show on the cabin TV this morning and Eric Dowis is amazing. A great ad-libber and he makes the now standard cruise show very humorous. We both ate in the Windjammer, I had the usual Timika omelet which was great. Since we had no big excursions planned, just an afternoon in town, we were very pleased to be at the Puerto Langosta as we can walk into San Miguel. We left the ship about 10:30. I had a hair cut at Antonio’s barber shop. Martin has been cutting my hair for almost three years. We saw our friend Nelly at her shop, Mayan Pearl. Next stop was Havana Blue where we sat on the upstairs patio overlooking the Strait of Cozumel and enjoyed a a few rounds of mojitos. They are the best in the Caribbean IMHO. We also had some great guacamole & chips. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the square. I had a good beer drinking spot at Plaza Leza (thanks Paco & Edwin) and DW could shop. Several mariachis played our favorites. We arrived back at the ship a little before the suggested 4:30. After boarding we made our way to the Solarium for some swimming. I also hit the hot tub in the spa. Fruit & Cheese plates in the cabin for a nice snack. The entertainment this evening in the La Scala Theatre was comedian Chas Elstner. Dinner was very good. This would have been formal night, but they have delayed that. I had another special hearts-of palm salad, the lobster, prime rib, and the sampler assortment for desert. The Quest has returned and was tonight in Studio B.

Day Six--Friday--Progreso
Weather is very windy, up to 20+ knots according to Captain Frank. Midday temperature 86°. We docked a little late about 9:30 a.m. due to the high winds, but the winds calmed during the day. The beach and water looked really great today, a pretty aqua blue. It really looked like the Caribbean and not the Gulf of Mexico. DW found the shop with the handbags that she likes and we picked up some more for gifts. We then went to our favorite restaurant, Le Saint Bonnet and lingered there for the afternoon, basically enjoying Dos XX and guacamole while watching people and the beach, visiting with vendors, and listening to mariachis. We stayed until after 2:00 p.m. and took a taxi arriving back at the dock about 2:30 and on the ship for a nice swim in the Solarium pool. About 4:00 p.m. we ate at Johnny Rockets. It was very good, DW had a grilled cheese and I had a Nathan hot dog and a small hamburger. The fries and onion rings are really good. The sundaes are also excellent. I do recommend visiting Johnny Rockets. Departure from Progreso was at 5:30 p.m. and we watched the late arrivals from deck four which is always amusing. The second production show for our cruise was before dinner. Music in Motion featured the singers and dancers in a Broadway style review show featuring popular songs from movies. It was excellent, some of the best singers and dancers I have seen on board a cruise ship. Dinner was good. I again had my bonus hearts-of palm salad and my selections were the Shrimp cocktail, Mulligatawny soup, and the Chinese duck. The Karaoke Superstars was following dinner, but we retired early.

Day Seven--at Sea
We slept in this morning and DW brought some fruit and pastries from the Windjammer. It has been very nice having a cabin so close to the Windjammer as we can pick up snacks as needed. . A little breezy on deck and more cloudy the further north we sailed. A great surprise when we checked the on board account. Our fuel supplement was refunded. I believe RCI and the State of Florida reached an agreement earlier this week and those that booked before a certain date received the refund. Since we used a NextCruise booking from before the date we received the refund. Every little bit helps. We were invited to the luncheon for Platinum and Diamond guests at noon. It was in the Magic Flute and it was well attended. We were able to see our head waiter from January and the guests at our table were very nice. They served two starters, Duck Pate, and a Potato Soup with flaky biscuit. We had a choice of entrees. I had the Filet Mignon which was very good and they prepared some vegetables for DW. The dessert was a special Chocolate Melting Cake. In the afternoon we used the coupons from our Platinum book for wine and some casino specials. We watched some of the Karaoke Superstars on cabin TV, it was funny. I had an appointment with the Loyalty Ambassador this afternoon. For anyone wanting to book a future cruise I recommend making an appointment early in the week. BTW--Deadline for Next Cruise bookings is midnight of the 6th day. We skipped the Farewell entertainment show. Dinner was again vary good. I had the steak and green salad, again with hearts of palm. After dinner was the Island Frenzy Parade in the Royal Promenade. DW packed during the day and I packed this evening. An early evening as we have early departure.

No room service on debarkation morning, but a full breakfast menu in the dining room. We arrived early and turned in the channel and docked starboard side to he terminal. They started allowing the self-debarkation people off about 7:50 a.m. It was really fairly smooth considering how many people are using it. We were even able to easily pick up the bottle of wine which was taken from DW’s bag the previous Sunday. They had hundreds of crew members in line for customs and fortunately they were going to different customs agents than the passengers. We rolled our bags to EZ Cruise parking and were on our way to fill up the car with fuel and head north. Gas was $3.12 in Galveston. We would have been off the island well before 9:00 a.m., but they had the causeway closed for bridge demolition and we had a 20+ minute wait. We finally crossed the bridge about 9:15 a.m. We made our stop in Hearne Texas for migas and arrived home in fine shape about 2:00 p.m..

This was my third time on a Voyager class ship. I am still very impressed. There are good and bad things about the size. There are a lot of people and the pools can be very crowded during peak times. The elevators can be busy or full and I recommend taking the stairs when possible. The additional size also means that there is room for the photo gallery, casino, bars, etc. without any one of them dominating an entire deck. The Aquarium Bar and Champagne Bar (no longer a non smoking bar) are very impressive as are the Studio B, the Theater, and other public spaces. The Grand Promenade is very impressive indeed and must be experienced. The ship was very clean and the public rooms were always spotless.

There are a lot of shipboard activities to choose from while on the cruise. This being our second in just a few weeks we still didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do during the week. We never really hit the sports deck and the spa only twice, but were very busy with other activities. Choose the activities you wish and leave time for just relaxing on board.

The staff and crew are very good. The staff are much more friendly than in January. I guess they have really adjusted to the new port and friendly crowd. We have a new Captain and he did keep us informed of the fire damage and altered itinerary. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. The bar staff all very friendly. Even the maintenance crew on deck would greet you. Very impressed.

We have cabin 1657 which is an interior on deck ten. It is a very good location. The cabin is basically the same as an O/V or balcony cabin. Same amenities. Our cabin steward is Selvon from Paraguay and he was excellent. He did keep my small cooler full of ice and we never ran out of ice. Selvon is a great improvement from the cabin attendant we had on the January cruise. The cabin was very clean when we boarded and cleaned very well during the week. The cabin could use some updating, primarily the couch & chair is worn and stained, but overall very nice. The safe has a button keypad. Air worked very well. The cabin refrigerator was well stocked, but we never used it.

Our dining room is the Magic Flute, deck five (top level) of the 3 level restaurant. It was a six top table and the other four guests were co-eds from Texas A&M. Very nice girls average age 21. The table was in a very good location on the inside with a perfect view of the beautiful main chandelier. Our waiter, Vjeckoslav from Croatia is one of the best waiters we have ever had on a cruise. The assistant waiter, Anastasia from Belarus, is a delight and charming. She has a degree in linguistics and speaks five languages. The headwaiter Assif from India came by several times to check our table and arranged the hearts-of-palm.

Since we have no balcony this cruise and we are only one deck below the Windjammer we are not doing the fruit & cheese plates each day as we would usually do. We have ordered them, but it is very convenient to hit the Windjammer for a snack. Johnny Rockets was a good alternative for lunch or afternoon snack. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. There are several ice cream machines with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavors. You can order room service on the RC-TV, but I recommend calling room service. We used the Windjammer much more this cruise and we were very impressed. The dinner we had the first night was very good. All the breakfasts were good and IMHO easier and as good as using the dining room. The lunches were always good and as we learned the location of specialty items it was even more enjoyable. If one wanted to eat in the Windjammer for dinner each evening you could get the same waiter if you wish by setting in the same area. The service was quite good. They also had several smaller themed buffets on the pool deck during the cruise, some in the late evening and some at noon. Overall the food is very good to excellent.

Room Service
We used it for light breakfast and few times in the afternoon for Fruit & cheese plates. Service was good when used.

Cruise Highlights
We ‘appreciate’ CD Eric Dowis and his good-ole-boy routine, the fantastic Ice shows, and the Broadway style Rhythm & Rhyme and Music In Motion production shows. Cozumel is always a favorite.

Needs Improvement
RCTV- They were showing the very same movies that they were in January. Surely they can add new movies in that period of time. Many times we enjoy cabin time and updated movies would help. I did enjoy the Nelson TV channel that was added.

A tremendous improvement on the ice situation from the Voyagers first week or two of sailing from Texas. I believe having an excellent cabin attendant helped 100%, but I had no trouble getting ice from the bar, bar servers, and Windjammer when needed. The hotel director should be commended for recognizing the needs of his Texas guests. Again, the staff was very, very, very friendly.

They really do a very good job of scheduling the entertainment and production shows then coordinating them with the various receptions, and other events and activities on board ship. It was made more difficult this week due to the change in ports and sea days, but the staff did a great job. Another great cruise and we are bringing friends with us when we sail again on the Voyager of the Seas in January ’09 when she again returns to Texas.