Overall Rating: Very Good
|Destination:||Canada / New England|
|Departed From:||Baltimore, MD|
|# of Nights:||9-10 Nights|
|Cabin Type:||Ocean View|
|Overall Value:||Very Good|
|Overall Rating:||Very Good|
Enchantment of the Seas
9/23/10 - 10/2/10
This was our second cruise on RCI. Overall, we found the experience pleasant, and we will continue to give Royal Caribbean our business, as we feel that they provide good value for the cost of the cruise.
This review is broken down into various sections: The Ship, The Service, The Food, The Entertainment, The Ports and The Overall Cruise, in that order, so the reader may skip to whatever section he or she is interested in.
The Ship: Enchantment is an older ship, almost 15 years old. It had some surgery a number of years back, adding about 75 feet to the length of the ship right in the middle. The beam remained unchanged. She has fairly plain lines and adornment, giving her a more vintage look than the more glitzy ships RCI has plying the Caribbean. I found this very appropriate for a New England cruise.
Like most of the fleet, Enchantment appears well-maintained. There was no evident rust, no worn-out carpeting. The cabin we had was quite tidy and well-designed; it gave the impression of more space than it really had.
The theatre looked like a theatre from the forties - lots of plush, roomy seating upstairs and down, and most seats had an unobstructed view of the stage.
The dining room was a bit of a disappointment; although just as well-maintained as the rest of the ship, the tables were really crammed together (those 75 feet of length added to the ship resulted in more cabin space - now, where to seat those people in the dining room?)
The Windjammer Marketplace, which houses the ship's buffet, is well-designed and quite comfortable. It tended to be really packed by about 8 AM, so there really wasn't time to sit around, relax and sip coffee until 10 o'clock or so. Being located on Deck 9 and right near the bow of the ship, there was plenty of motion in high seas.
The spa is tucked behind the solarium, which turned out to be a really dandy place to relax during those sea days - I spent a lot of time there armed with my iPad, reading books, watching movies and doing all those other things that we computer buffs do. RCI told us that the WiFi service was restricted to a few "hot" areas, but I found that the WiFi worked perfectly well in the Solarium.
The Centrum area, which houses guest services, shops and a small bandstand, was well-laid out, and usually full of humanity; it only felt crowded, however, just before the dinner hours, since the dining room is just aft of the Centrum.
The Service: On the Enchantment of the Seas, the crew and staff once again maintained RCI's reputation for cheerful and helpful service, one of the main reasons that we will keep coming back to their cruises. At no time during the cruise did that wonderful attitude on the part of the staff and crew falter. Congratulations, RCI!
The food: The food served aboard Enchantment was overall good, probably of the quality of a decent restaurant. I wouldn't paste a five-star label on it, though. A few dishes seemed a little on the dry side, and I encountered some gristle in the lamb. I did try the prime rib one night, and was delighted - thick and juicy, mmmm. Lobster was (finally!) served on the way back, and was just what you would expect a New England lobster to be. The Windjammer had much the same food, minus the really top-drawer items. We did not wander into the Chops Grille. Overall, I would rate the food at a solid B.
The Entertainment: Being an entertainer, I consider myself to be a pretty good critic of shipboard entertainment. With just a couple of exceptions, Enchantment delivered the goods. The shows at the Orpheum Theatre were quite good, productions, comedy, dance and song. The Centrum provided several good acts also; the "Big Band" that performed there really packed the house and received well-deserved thunderous applause. The classical guitarist was quite good and well-received, and the violin/piano duet was similarly very polished and appreciated. The singer-######-duo pianos did not have very good arrangements, although the singer herself had a very nice voice. The reception was a little more ho-hum.
The exceptions were in two areas, and I would have expected the Cruise Director to have been more on-the-ball in these areas. The clientele on this cruise probably had an average age of 65-70; now, what kind of music would they really want to hear? Well, not the 70s and 80s disco nights pushed at the Spotlight and Viking Crown lounges, and really not even the 50s-60s music. Certainly not the rock and hip-hop music that somehow found its way into the ambient music topside! Remember how I said the "Big Band" act brought the house down? Well, of course! They played what the vacationers really wanted. One night I played at the Viking Crown lounge until the disc jockey showed up at 9:30, and had a crowd of about 20 congregated around the piano. When the rock music started up, nearly everybody left the lounge, probably costing RCI another couple of hundred dollars in drinks. Oh, well...
The Ports: This cruise offered five ports - Portland, Bar Harbor, St. John, Halifax and Boston, in that order. When I counted up the excursions offered by RCI at these ports, the count came up to 83. Since we are both seniors, we excluded all the kayak, water skiing, parasailing and white water rafting types and turned to the more sedate sightseeing types. In just about all cases, we were able to locate a less expensive alternative within two blocks of the dock. Here's the info, port by port:
Portland - there are three types of sightseeing tours available at
Portland: City Tours, Harbor Tours and Road Trip to
Kennebunkport. We checked out the city and harbor tours, and
wound up taking a harbor tour. The RCI tours ranged from $32 to
$93 per person; we paid $18 each for our 2-hour harbor tour. Hop-
on/hop-off bus tours are also available right by the dock for the
same price. After our harbor tour, we still had ample time to walk
around the downtown area sightseeing, including a stopoff at
Starbucks. The company we used was Portland Discovery, and
the boat tour was outstanding.
Bar Harbor - similarly, in Bar Harbor one may tour the town (which takes
about an hour or so by foot), tour the harbor (by four-masted-
schooner, tour boat or kayak) or tour Acadia National Park by bus.
The town walking tour runs $24 pp, the Acadia tours vary from $48
to $106 and the boats run from $49 to $82. We found Oly's Trolley
one block from the dock to tour Acadia for $20 each, and again
had ample time to roam around town. The weather was chilly
enough to require some serious layering (those that chose the on-
water tours came back thoroughly chilled and shivering). If you go
to Acadia National Park (recommended), keep in mind that the bus
goes up the mountain counterclockwise, so a seat on the left side
of the bus works best. Don't go in the morning - wait until the mist
has a chance to burn off the mountaintops.
St. John - this provincial capital turned out the warmest welcome for
cruising visitors, presenting each lady with a rose and each
gentleman with a pin when we arrived, and sending us off again
with a bagpipe serenade. We were impressed with what gracious
hosts they were. There are many city tours offered, and again you
will find it cheaper to avail yourselves of the local offerings. The
"Reversing Falls, which is pushed by both the ship and the local
tourist industry is pretty much overrated, and will appear quite
familiar to anyone who lives (as we do) on a tidal river. The "falls"
are nothing more than a small rapids area which does, indeed,
change course and go upriver twice daily when the tide comes in.
The more interesting tours are of the Bay of Fundy itself. Here we
availed ourselves of the RCI offering, consisting of a bus trip to
St. Andrews followed by 3 hours of Bay of Fundy touring (we saw
bald eagles, puffins, comorants, harbor seals, tuna, porpoises and
finback whales, up close and personal). The tour passed by the
"Reversing Falls", which did not look very impressive, but then I'm
used to rivers running both ways. There may be a way to do this
tour without using RCI, but I couldn't find one, so we paid full fare,
but it was a "whale of a tour"!
Halifax - There are a few places to visit in Halifax - the harbor area, the
town and the nearby coast. What we chose to do was to walk to
the Public Gardens and the Citadel, which amounted to about 5
miles of walking. The bus tours, which abound near the dock
area, will save you about 4 of these miles. We didn't find anyone
who had done the harbor tour, but a couple of people took the bus
trip to Peggy's Cove at $56 per person. There is no tour that I
could find from the dock area to Peggy's Cove, but it's about an
hour away down the coast, so a taxi shouldn't cost much more
than $50 or so, and the town can be seen easily in one hour - we
were there in '89 and stayed there overnight; it's really quite
picturesque and worth the trip down the coast to see. If you go to
the Citadel, which has outstanding views of the city and harbor
area, make sure you schedule it for late morning or afternoon, so
the morning mist has a chance to burn off first.
Boston - Again, we have been to Boston many times, so we didn't take
any of the tours. The Tee is pretty extensive, and there's a bus
stop a block from the dock, so you can catch a bus to South
Station, where you can purchase an all-day Tee pass for $9. We
hung out at Faneuil Hall for a few hours, which is always
interesting, and a good place to get souvenirs and gifts.
Overall: We arrived in the ports a week or so too early for the fall color, but the trip was nonetheless very enjoyable. On the way back, we encountered the end of the storm that was passing northward, so the seas were somewhat rough (enough to send Yuki down to the cabin and Dramamine).
As usual, RCI had myriad activities to fill the hours while we were kept away from the topside areas. I filled the time with my iPad, bourbon-and-cokes and the hot tub in the Solarium.
I hope that this review is helpful to any of you planning to venture northward on an upcoming cruise vacation.