Discover the world of cruise travel

Sovereign of the Seas cruise review
Make the most of your cruise vacation with information from

Get ready to cruise with Cruise Wear, Gear, Luggage & More from
The Cruise Shop

 Cruising by the Book ~ Top Picks in 
Cruise Guidebooks

The favorite of serious cruise travelers:
Cruise Travel Magazine
Cruise Travel

More travel magazines from Cruise Diva's Magazine Rack

Have a question or a review to submit?

Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman


Sovereign of the Seas
April 25-28, 2002

by David Simonsen

With some trepidation, and with a narrow window of opportunity to travel out of town while our at-home teenager was out of town, my wife and I bought a 3-day Bahamas cruise on Sovereign of the Seas, buying the cruise and air from RCCL. We had some trepidation because we had not taken a cruise shorter than 7 days since the mid-80's, and because this 3-day cruise had received a fair number of negative reviews on various websites. As it turned out, we had a great time and had only the usual problem of finding the cruise too short, which is a problem regardless of cruise length.

Sovereign of the Seas is 73,192 gross tons, was finished in December 1987, and was placed in service in January 1988.  Sovereign was the first ship built of the trio of Sovereign, Monarch (1991), and Majesty (1992) of the Seas.  The ship class is one of my favorites for a large cruise ship. We previously have been on Majesty twice and Monarch once. So, we were very familiar with the ship layout.

Day One: Thursday, April 25 - We flew into Orlando through Atlanta on Delta. We arrived in Orlando on time about 11:38 a.m. We got our luggage off the carousel about 12:15 p.m. You get your own luggage off the carousel and take it outside to the bus that will take you to Port Canaveral. There was no bus when we first got outside, but they took our vouchers and told us to wait. The bus pulled up shortly after that, but the RCCL reps paid no attention to us, simply checking in others and directing them onto the bus. We finally just walked over to the bus driver, who was loading luggage into the bus, and said we had been checked in and were ready to go. He looked us over and decided to believe us. Kind of confusing and disorganized, but we were sitting on the bus by 12:30 p.m. 

Our terminal was the first stop for the bus and, after stopping to pick up fellow passengers at other terminals, we were driving away from the airport about 1:05 p.m. Our bus driver played reruns of Golden Girls on TV monitors in the bus, which was something of a diversion. I was enjoying a good book and did not really need the TV. Our bus driver drove pretty fast (the speed limit is 70 mph) and even with some heavy traffic in the port area itself, we arrived at the pier at 1:50 p.m. An RCCL rep came on board the bus and made brief announcements about the paperwork and the luggage. The rep said that the porters would put our luggage on board the ship and that we did not need to do anything with our luggage so long as you had already put on your ship luggage tags (which most people had). A swarm of porters around the bus, however, tried to give people the idea that they should tip the porters to pick up their bags and carry them the ten feet! to the containers used to get the luggage to the ship. Some people appeared confused and uncomfortable in dealing with porters coming up to them as they stepped off the bus, and perhaps the RCCL reps could make it clearer that you do not need to touch your luggage after putting it on the bus at the airport. Just ignore the porters if you want! 

I had all of our paperwork done and everything ready to show the reps inside the terminal door and we walked into the terminal, went straight up the escalator, and got in the line in the main terminal area. Those who had not filled out the forms completely were forced to finish them before going upstairs. After this cruise we will be moving from Gold to Platinum Crown & Anchor Membership, for which there is a separate check in line. They had the ship's violinist playing during the wait and some light refreshments were available. The wait was not long and we were through all the lines and in our cabin by 2:25 p.m. 

Cabin 3116 is a Category H outside cabin at the end of the hall on Deck 3 starboard, next to the dining room walls. I thought it a great location, because it was very quiet. No one had any reason to be at our end of the hall except us and the Cabin Steward. Kefon our Steward was very good and we had no problems whatever with his service. He changed the towels (when left on floor) and changed the sheets at least once. As often happens, I can only wonder about how other people who have submitted reviews on this ship have said they had a problem getting fresh towels and sheets. We have always had great Cabin Stewards on RCCL ships and Kefon was the same. In particular, Kefon made some great towel animals, and he and his assistant keep the ice bucket full better than some. 

After dropping our carry-on stuff in the cabin and meeting Kefon, we went up to the Windjammer on Deck 11 for the lunch buffet. The food was good, including some very good carved steamship round. We ate all of our shipboard breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer and thought the food was fine. The service was as good as any I have seen on a cruise ship for the buffet. After lunch, we wandered around the ship, getting reacquainted with the layout.

The life boat drill starting at 4:30 p.m. was the shortest I can remember, taking only about 15 minutes. Perhaps everyone showed up right away. After returning our life jackets to the cabin, we went up to the Crown Viking lounge and relaxed before dinner. We had Main Seating for Dinner, starting at 6:00 p.m. Our table was number 138 on the port side of the Gigi Dining Room on Deck 3. Our table was a rectangular table for 8 next to a window - a great view out the window for at least the first two people. Two other couples came this first night, but only one came back. The fourth couple assigned to our table came only Friday night (the second night). Both couples that came only one night said that they preferred the informality of the Windjammer dinner buffet and they said the food was good there. The couple that was there with us all three nights for dinner did not seem to want to sit next to the window, so we did. We very much liked looking out at the water. Our waiter and assistant waiter were Ajit (bad spelling) from India and Jerome (?) from Jamaica, both did a great job. I felt that the food was quite good. This first night I had the chicken marsala and it was very good. 

After dinner we went to the welcome aboard show. On our recent longer cruises we usually skip the welcome aboard show because it has a lot of blah-blah and dumb cruise jokes, but we went to this one and were glad we did. Apart from some very brief welcome aboard remarks from Kathy Maybury the Cruise Director, the show was "Flashback" a production show for the ship's company. I thought that this ship's company of 12 singers and dancers was the best I have seen in a long time, if not the best. This show was numbers from the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's. There was a fair amount of humor interspersed with the singing and dancing, and I very much enjoyed the show. One of the guys, Roger, really did a tremendous job with his numbers both this night and the last night. The mixture of live with some recorded music and backup vocal is somewhat annoying, and I do not understand why they cannot upgrade the microphones they use, but the talent and enthusiasm of the company made the shows great to watch. Also noticeable on this ship was the lack of seat saving and the lack of any rush to get to the shows. A lot of people on board had no interest whatever in these shows, apparently needing to get in a week of drinking in three days. That made the logistics of the seating for the shows much easier.

Day Two: Friday, April 26 - In the morning, I went up to the ship's spa/gym and used a Stairmaster and treadmill. The equipment and gym were in good shape, and there were not many people there. At 9, I met Vickey in Finian's Rainbow (Deck 7 amidships lounge) for the shipshape exercise/stretch class and walk - together we earned 4 shipshape dollars. We had a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer and got done there about 10:30 am. We arrived in Nassau about 11:15 and it was a bit of a wait before we could get off the ship. We finally got off about Noon. We first took a buggy ride with a horse identified as Bahama Mama - I found it hard to believe that was the horse's real name. For $10 x 2, we got a 25 minute ride around downtown Nassau in traffic, with the driver giving some narration and answering any questions we asked. We did it mostly to just relax while deciding what to do and to get oriented. 

After the ride, we wound up walking past the new or temporary straw market, and then to Fort Charlotte, about a half mile west of the buggy line, which is just outside the pier entrance. The straw market burned down last September and they have what appears to be a temporary structure in the same place that is crammed full of vendors, as before. It did not appear very inviting to us so we did not go in. When we got to Fort Charlotte, there were no guides around the entrance and we wandered about the Fort on our own. There is no admission charge. There are guides who wait at the entrance, take people on tours, and then ask for a tip. I have no idea if they have any official status. We listened to what a couple of the guides said at one place where we were sitting on a bench. They tend to give very brief remarks and are not all that informative, but they were much better than nothing if you had arrived at the Fort with no information about it - there were virtually no informational signs or placards. They certainly were worth a tip to get a tour of the Fort. We tend to do a fair amount of reading and carry our guide books about with us, so we felt no need to join a tour with one of these guides.

After looking around Fort Charlotte, we walked to the Botanical Gardens just around the corner, but learned that the Gardens are closed because of recovery from damage caused by Hurricane Michelle in early November 2001. Peeking over the walls, the Gardens looked pretty good, but apparently they got hit hard and are still not ready to reopen. We decided to go to Ardastra, a short walk further (the Michelle damage apparently being pretty selective). The entrance fee is $12 per person. They have discount coupons in various publications that you can get downtown, but we had not thought we would go there and had not worried about getting any discount coupons. We enjoyed looking around and seeing the marching flamingoes.

After Ardastra we walked back to downtown and visited Balcony house, the oldest frame house in Nassau, now open as a museum. From there we walked to Fort Fincastle, the Water Tower, and the Queen's staircase. There is not much to Fort Fincastle. Again, there is no admission and there are guys hanging around who try to gather people together in tour groups for tips. The "guides" I saw at Fincastle did not appear qualified for the job of tour guide at all, unlike the Fort Charlotte guides who clearly knew the basic history of the Fort. For 50 cents each, we took the elevator to the top of the Water Tower, which I recommend doing. The 360 degree view from the top of the water tower is great. There was an attendant/guide at the top of the tower, who sold soft drinks and provided commentary about what you can see from the tower - again, making a request for tips. He was able to point out a number of landmarks and give information about what you were seeing. He was worth a buck or two if you wanted to know what you were looking at from the tower. 

Leaving the Fincastle-Water Tower area, we walked down the 66 steps of the Queen's staircase. Vickey bought some t-shirts from the vendors at the bottom of the stairs, who were complaining about the lack of tourists and the lack of business. Things did seem very slow. We then headed back to the ship in time to get ready for dinner.

Dinner was very good - we both had the filet mignon and, again, two desserts. This was optional formal night. I wore a dark suit and Vickey dressed up. I saw two or three tuxes on passengers, many did not dress up at all. At a nearby table, one male member of a large family group showed up in jeans and took severe verbal abuse, as all the other men in the group had on suits. After dinner, we took a cab to Atlantis and walked around the outside areas and inside. It is quite a place - hard to believe that it works financially. We had no problem going anywhere we wanted, except there was a security guy at the entrance to the "Dig," which we did not see. The Dig has the displays about what ancient Atlantis looked like, etc. 

When returning to the ship, we were in a cab with some passengers on the Disney Wonder, which had left Port Canaveral with us and was across the pier from us in Nassau. The Wonder looked and sounded like a great ship - we have never been on a Disney cruise ship, but probably will at some point in the future. We saw fireworks from the cab when returning to the pier and we all thought it might be a Disney thing, but learned it was part of a political rally for a Bahamas Presidential candidate. We did not see any show on the ship this night. There was a headliner whose name I cannot recall.

Day Three: Saturday, April 27 - Today was the day at the private island, Coco Cay. We first did the stretch/exercise class and walking activities with a member of cruise staff and got another 4 shipshape dollars - for a grand total of 8. Sebastian was the leader of the classes today and he did a good job making it fun.

After breakfast we tendered to the island about 10:30 a.m. and staked out a spot next to a palm tree. The two most annoying aspects of the cruise for me occurred today: first, the fact that they make you rent a "safety vest" to snorkel ($6 each), even if you have your own gear (which we do) and the drink sellers walking around singing, yelling, and/or screaming "Coco Loco" (the drink of the day). They not only said you had to have a vest to snorkel, they said you had to receive an orientation talk and sign a release.  I refused even to walk over to the shack to get a vest or get any "orientation," but Vickey got the vests and signed for both of us, saving me from getting thrown out of the water and/or off the island. It really is not the $6, it is just the idea of the supposed "all-inclusive" (which we all know is something of a joke, of course) and then making you rent a stupid inflatable vest (which most people never inflate) to paddle around, signing the required release letting them off the hook (or trying to) if you kill yourself. That really bugged me and I really wanted to fight with someone about it, but didn't. The snorkeling was very good. The water was crystal clear and there were lots of fish and interesting coral and plant life. The Coco Loco guys really weren't that bad, they never individually bothered me at all, but they were a constant noise in a place where you might think the idea was quiet relaxation at the beach. Somehow they never include a guy yelling "Coco Loco" over and over in the commercials about the private island. It really is tacky and tasteless after a point. 

We had lunch at Bahama Jacks (one of two lunch spots on Coco Cay)  shortly before they closed at 2 p.m. The lunch was OK and about what you would expect for a picnic type meal. We walked around the island some after lunch and the island was bigger than we first had thought it was. There are a number of areas where you can get away from the crowd more than where we had stationed ourselves - maybe the Coco Loco guys would not have been everywhere. We left the island a little after 4:00 p.m. and arrived back on ship about 4:30.

I gave Kefon, the Cabin Steward, his tip before going to dinner. Gave our waiter, assistant waiter, and head waiter their tips after dinner. I gave all of them a little more than recommended. Also, before dinner, I went up to the ShipShape Center and used 7 of our 8 shipshape dollars to get a shipshape t-shirt - 1 left for the trip album. At dinner, we had prime rib and two desserts, including baked Alaska, which was really good. 

The show tonight was again with the ship's company and was a Broadway review. Again, they did a great job and we enjoyed it very much. Before the main show started a cruise staff member sang the star spangled banner with the flag projected on the screens - everybody jumped to their feet.  Kathy Maybury made remarks about the international nature of the crew and although I had heard the same thing before, it did seem more relevant in light of world events since last September. The passengers had to be well over 90% US citizens, and a number of Canadians, but on this cruise I never heard any statistics about the number of passengers or anything about the demographics of the passengers. There is no repeat cruiser party on a 3 day cruise, which is where I often get those statistics.

After the show, we visited the casino for some minor gambling and people watching. Realized our age when we could not even figure out some of the fancy electronic slot machines. A fellow gambler had to explain to Vickey what to do with one slot machine which required some form of action other than just spinning the wheels - it was a small win, so good thing the lady was there to tell her what to do. Last thing before getting to bed, we packed our bags and put them out in the hall to be carried off the ship while we slept.

Day Four: Sunday, April 28 - Slept in until 7:30 or so, got to breakfast about 8. Not too long after we left Windjammer, they called our color (Red). We boarded our bus for the airport about 9:15. They were obviously determined to fill every seat and they did. Bus was full by 9:30, and we pulled out and headed to Orlando airport. We arrived at airport about 10:20 and had our boarding passes by 10:45. Security was very quick. We were through the security and getting a soda at Burger King before 11:00. The flight home was a little late, but we made it back to the real world just fine.

Summary: I read a number of very critical reviews before leaving on this cruise, but I thought that Sovereign looked great. We had a great time. Service generally was as good as ever. The food was fine and the entertainment was better than usual with regard to shows by the ship's company. We had wonderful weather, which of course can make a big difference in the cruise experience. Overall, this was a great vacation and a great value. Particularly, if you can arrange your own air or other transportation to the pier, the cruise only prices seem pretty good to me, right now. The four-day cruise on Sovereign is basically the same as the three day, except that you have a day at sea.

Photo Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl.

Royal Caribbean - Cruise Reviews

CruiseDiva Home | Site Map & Search