of the Seas
August 28, 2008
Cruise Theme: Avoid Hurricanes Gustav &
by Austin Kearney
My wife, Joanne and I booked this cruise about two weeks before
sailing. We had a Junior Suite on deck eight, cabin number 8644. We
are Diamond Crown & Anchor members that earns you all kinds of extra
benefits. More on that later. The scheduled stops were supposed to
be Key West and Cozumel. Prior to departing for Ft. Lauderdale from
Atlanta, all you had to do was watch a weather report, which tracked
Hurricane Gustav and you knew this cruise was going elsewhere. If we
headed to Cozumel as scheduled, it would have involved sailing
through the category three hurricane, TWICE! Not recommended.
Thursday – Departure Ft.
Our 10 a.m. flight from Atlanta
was in Ft. Lauderdale by noon. A short cab ride to the pier, a very
quick check-in and we rolled our two pieces of luggage into our
cabin at 1 p.m. At the check-in desk on the pier, we learned
(happily) that the cruise would visit Key West and Nassau. This was
our first cruise on a "Vision" class ship. The Enchantment of the
Seas was launched in 1997 and had a passenger capacity of 2,446.
Signs at the Guest Relations desk, said no cabin upgrades were
available indicating the ship was full. A couple years ago, the
Enchantment was sawed in half and they inserted an extra 73 feet of
cabins and stuff (see the photos
Hence the pool area is huge and there are fewer laps now for you
runners to do a mile. This is a beautiful ship. It's very similar to
the Radiance class and we've sailed the Radiance of the Seas three
When we booked our cruise online, we also made reservations for
Chops steakhouse for our departure dinner. We had a wonderful dining
experience, with excellent food, service and ambiance. The captain
entertained two junior officers at the table next to us. It is worth
the extra $25 per person for a wonderful dining experience. Over the
next couple days we talked to a number of fellow cruisers who wanted
to dine in Chops but were unable to get a reservation and were put
on waiting lists. You may want to book online early to make sure you
get a table when you sail for the day and time you want.
Friday – Key West
Great weather and no hurricane… yet. We've been to Key West before
and really like the port. For the first time we took the Conch Train
tour of the city. We bought tickets ashore ($29 each) and had a
great two-hour tour of the city. It really gives you a wonderful
flavor of the history of Key West. I recommend it. We later had a
nice lunch on Duval Street at a place called "Death By Cheeseburger"
or something close to that. My wife and I can't remember the real
name, but you will know it when you see it.
We sailed at 4 p.m. and headed North versus South into the
hurricane. Dinner in the My Fair Lady dining room was wonderful. We
were on the deck 4 level of this two-level facility. The food,
tablemates, and service were excellent.
Saturday – Nassau
We pulled into Nassau at 10:30 a.m. There was one open berth at the
pier complex to accommodate the Enchantment. The captain had been on
the ship's P.A. system to tell us that you just don't say, "You
know… I don't want to sail through a hurricane, 120 mph winds and 75
foot seas to Cozumel today, instead, let's go to Nassau!" It takes a
room full of logistic experts back at the RCI home office in Miami
to analyze the weather and the optimal dispersal of the company's
entire fleet of cruise ships whose destinations may be affected by
the storm. I suspect it takes more than a few phone calls and some
"baksheesh" to get your ship into a safe port while you are
competing with half a dozen other cruise lines with the same agenda.
We have been to both Cozumel and Nassau several times each and were
delighted to spend the day in Nassau. The skies were sunny.
As we exited the ship around 11:00 a.m. you slip your sea pass card
into the scanner to log you off the ship and walk down the ramp to
the pier. We hit the bottom of the ramp and looked left (East)
towards the foot of the pier and about a mile away was a wall of
brown water descending from the black clouds above. This wall was
racing towards us like a freight train at full throttle. There was
no "on" ramp set up yet to re-board the ship. Running at full speed,
we knew the storm would hit us before we could make it to the
building ashore. There are several 20'x60' shelters on the pier. The
shelters had roofs but no sides of any kind. One shelter held dozens
of phone booths and was full of people. Another had no phones and no
people so we ran to that and went to the far end opposite the
direction the approaching storm. Fellow passengers followed our lead
and in no time we had lots of company.
When the storm hit, there were suddenly 50 mph winds and rain
blasting sideways at fire hose velocity. Our position at the far end
of the shelter and the fellow passengers windward of us kept us
perfectly dry. Five minutes later, the storm was past us, the skies
were blue and sunny and we continued into town avoiding the
evaporating rain puddles. Every hour on the hour for the next three
or four hours we received two inches of rain in five minutes with
the accompanying high winds. These were the very outer bands of
Hurricane Gustav that was passing the Western end of Cuba hundreds
of miles away as it headed for the Gulf of Mexico. To have such
violent weather so far from the central eye says Royal Caribbean
made a good call on our modified itinerary. Hurricane Gustav was
Southwest of us and Hurricane Hanna was a couple of days out,
Southeast of us.
Sunday – Sea Day
The weather was perfect and the Enchantment spent the day doing
seven-knot lazy doughnuts in the ocean South of Grand Bahama Island.
Carlos, another Piña Colada por favor. Ft. Lauderdale was just a few
hours steaming west.
The Enchantment of the Seas was built in 1997 and is similar to the
newer Radiance Class of ships. There is an atrium with a group
playing each evening, filling all of the vertical spaces with
wonderful music. Our favorite groups were the George's String Trio
and The Evergreen Trio. The My Fair Lady dining room is a two-story
affair. We ate there twice, but made sure we gave our waiter and
staff full gratuities. One night we ate at the excellent Chops and
another night had hors d'oeuvres in the Concierge Lounge followed by
more munchies and cocktails at a Crown and Anchor member reception.
After all that we didn't need dinner.
We booked this cruise two weeks prior to sailing without much
concern for the itinerary. We didn't attend the big acts in the
Orpheum Theater and can't comment. However, the group, Surfside, up
on the pool deck, set a fine Caribbean party mood and the other
musical groups we like have been noted.
To me, it seems the larger the ship; the more space there is despite
the expanded passenger load. This ship was totally booked, but at no
time did it feel crowded. Despite walking all around the ship, four
days is not enough time to get to know her.
Our Junior Suite cabin was probably three feet wider than a standard
balcony cabin. It doesn't sound like much, but it gives you a huge
living space. We had a three-person sofa plus two club chairs and
two foot stools plus a glass topped coffee table. The balcony had
two comfy chairs with a table in between. The bathroom had a full
bathtub versus a stand-up shower and was larger than what you get
with the usual cabin with balcony. We have grown spoiled to cabins
with balconies I'm afraid. There was a huge amount of storage with a
big closet, plenty of shelves and drawers.
Diamond Crown & Anchor Status
Dude. Put on your his-and-hers fluffy bathrobes and eat your
chocolate covered strawberries. Diamond status is pretty corrupt.
When you check in, you receive a second Sea Pass type card that gets
you into the Concierge Lounge on deck eight. In the morning, this
lounge spreads out a fruit, pastry, juice and coffee buffet. In the
evening, hot and cold hors d'oeuvres plus an open bar with a
wonderful ocean view and the attention of Julian brings you back.
Your attendant, Julian, by the way, could be the double for Denzel
Washington. Ladies take note.
There was a Diamond member luncheon get together that we forgot to
attend on day four of the cruise. As Diamond members on this cruise,
there were three days of food and drinks to schedule. One night was
a Crown & Anchor member reception. Joanne and I had settled into a
table at the back of the lounge and just enjoyed the cocktails,
food, and music. One of the ships officers asked to join us and we
of course asked him to sit down. He really wanted to know why we
kept returning to Royal Caribbean. This was not a rhetorical
question but a RCI officer doing some marketing research. We talked
for about ten minutes and he seemed genuinely attentive to our
responses. The bottom line is Royal Caribbean works very hard to
make sure repeat customers keep repeating. I've got to say they do a
very good job. To paraphrase Arnold, we'll be back.
We also had chocolate covered strawberries left in our cabin one day
and his-and-hers baseball caps left by the cabin elves on another.
When we first got to our cabin there were two Diamond Member coupon
books. The coupons got you things like a 20% Spa credit, a
complimentary cocktail, water or soda, a free photo, casino credits,
internet credits, 10% off in the gift shop, and much, much more.
There was a special line for Diamond members when boarding in Ft.
Lauderdale, however at the time we arrived at the pier, 12:30, there
was no wait for anybody. At the end of the cruise, we were issued
white luggage tags. This was the first group of color-coded
passengers to be called to disembark.
How To Get A Free Cruise AND
No I didn't hit it big at BINGO or in the casino. Here's how you do
it. I have a small business and charge 20 to 30 thousand dollars
each month on American Express. If you are signed up with their
Membership Rewards program, you earn a point for every dollar
charged, so my points build up quickly. I purchased the cruise with
my AmEx card and was told when the statement comes, call them and
they would convert my Membership Rewards points to dollars and pay
the cruise charge. O.K. so we get a free cruise. Next we own 100
shares of Royal Caribbean. Let them know that and provide RCI your
stock and cruise info and on a four-day cruise, they credit your
account with $50. (On a longer cruise, the credit is $100.)
Next, we had points built up on our Royal Caribbean Visa card and
converted them for another $250 credit to our Sea Pass account.
Lastly we had signed up for an excursion in Cozumel when we booked
the cruise and so there was another $196 credit to our account due
to the cancellation. After four days of bar tabs at the pool, wine
at dinner and browsing the shops aboard we had to go to the customer
service desk on our last day and collect $265 of unspent cash in our
account. They would not credit it back to the credit card we
provided at check-in to cover our Sea Pass charges.
What a great four days. We are really low maintenance cruisers. We
are not gourmands, entertainment snobs nor passengers that expect to
have their butts constantly kissed. Give me a chair on the pool deck
in the shade where I can listen to the band du jour playing "The
Electric Slide" while I read my book and I'm good! Carlos…another
courtesy of Royal Caribbean International ©