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Voyager of the Seas Review
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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman

December 16, 2001

by Mike Peluso 


Overview: This cruise, although only my first, convinced me that from this point forward, if I’m going to take a vacation, my first consideration will be a vacation at sea. 

Embarkation:  B A little confusing as their aren’t 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 you’ll do ok.

Service: 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 service.

Ship Amenities: A+ Voyager class ship, biggest ship on the ocean. Not much more to say than that.

Ports of Call: B Liked some ports, but didn’t like pushiness of the island sales folks. Wish it were more like USA with less pressure.

Entertainment: B Cute, nice, but not perfect. Lots and lots of different types of entertainment but no single thing jumped out and made you say ‘WOW’

Food: 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.

Disembarkation: B – 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 areas.


Why 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 I’m 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, I’m 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 I’d 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, I’ll 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 comparable cruises.

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 I’d 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.


By 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 hadn’t 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 didn’t realize that the cruise director on the modern ships is ½ staff manager, ½ Master of Ceremonies for the different shows, and ½ 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 Mareé. 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 island,
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.


Day 3: Jamaica

Jamaica 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 that’s 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 guests. 


Dunns River Falls is one of those picturesque places that you see in all of the advertisements. It’s 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.


Day 4: Grand Cayman 

Grand Cayman is like a little tropical America with better tax laws. The island is different from the others on the trip because it’s 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 a shopping


Day 5:  Cozumel & Playa del Carmen 

The 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 the week. 


We 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.


We 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, I’d skip looking at the old temple and spend all of my time at the beach.


Then 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.


Xel-Ha was amazing and any description I can give to it will simply do no justice to the Eco-Park. In a nutshell it’s 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. 


Day 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. 


This 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 I’m nagged at for putting on suntan lotion, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m 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 end.  


At 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.


Day 7: Debarkation
We arrived at the port before I woke up. After a breakfast, we met Nick and Mare
é and waited on deck until they called our color. It’s 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 I’m going to be on two more cruises over the next year.

Photo courtesy of Kvaerner Masa-Yards

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