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    15 Reviews
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      18.05.2013 12:12
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      Highly recommended!

      Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas (18/08/2012 - 25/08/2012)

      I thought I had lost this review! I found it on a usb from last year!

      We have been on four cruises all with Royal Caribbean (2009 - 2012) - Voyager/Navigator/Mariner. All of the destinations have been within Europe such as Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Corsica, Sicily, Sardinia and Vatican City. We love royal caribbean cruises, here my my review of our experiences on this ship. There are different 'classes' of ships and they are not all alike.

      - The Boarding Process and Safety Drills

      The boarding process takes part in the harbors terminal some of which are make shift (e.g. Roma/Civitavecchia), although some are terminal buildings with basic facilities. Transfers to the terminal are sometimes included depending on the cruise package and personal preferences (we checked this with our travel agent). The boarding process begins with dropping the luggage off to be processed and taken to the state room, filling out forms. Then we went through various security checks, for example, security and hand luggage scanners. We then progressed through to the check in desk (this can be very hectic and busy depending on the time of day and ship size, in our experience).

      At this stage we filled in some more forms such as the legal age of alcohol consumption form, depending on which country you come from. As I was over 18 for all but one of the cruises my parents had to fill out the previously stated form to allow me to drink on the ship - we had to do this because Royal Caribbean is an American owned company and their law states that you can only drink over the age of 21. However in the UK it is 18 years so I was able to drink on the ship. Also at the desk we obtained our Sea Pass cards which gained us entry and exit off the ship, access to our room and with it we were able to buy items on board as this is used in placement for currency. Sea pass cards are VERY important you have to keep them with you at all times and you can keep them after the cruise.

      After all this is complete we walked (well, ran!) passed the photographers and up to activate our Sea Pass card. Where we had our photograph programmed onto the card/system for identification and security purposes. Then proceeded to our room as we usually wait for our bags before we do anything else however this could take longer than an hour as there were over 3,000 passengers. Once everyone is settled there is a mandatory safety drill for all passengers and staff (the back of your stateroom door informs you of your allocated point). The safety drill is obviously important but it can be a bit long and boring (about 30/40 minutes).

      - Our Room (Deck 8)

      Our room was a Superior Ocean View Stateroom which has a balcony - I would highly recommend a room with a balcony as there is nothing nicer than watching the sea and land go by on your own balcony. There are other types of cabins such as Interior, Outside, Balcony, Family, some to suit those with wheelchairs and Suites. The room we were in contained: a hair dryer, lots of storage, telephone, flat screen TV, drinking glasses, private bathroom, mini fridge, deck chairs, sofa bed, a changeable thermostat and a safe. However the room does not have: tea/coffee making facilities (some rooms do), not a lot of storage in the bathroom and there aren't any European plug sockets - you need to buy American plug socket converters. You can take food and drink back to the room (which we often did) and you can also order room service. The customer service desk and engineers are on call, for example, our safe and hairdryer broke on previous cruises we have been on - they were fixed promptly. All of the rooms that we have stayed in have been clean, well decorated and the balconies were a good size and clean - smoking is prohibited on balconies although some people in cabins next to us did smoke!

      There is a TV in the room, it has numerous channels in various languages. There are a few English channels such as BBC world news and BBC entertainment which has shows on like hotel inspector, junior doctors etc. There are also movies always on TV such as War Horse, Kung Fu Panda and many more - the movies are also really quite recent. You can also view your bill/sea pass card purchases on your TV - for items you have bought on the ship such as excursions and store buys. There are channels exclusively for choosing what excursions you want to go on and there is information information (delivered by royal Caribbean staff) about the ship/cruise/activities. A channel with a map/course/knots is also on the TV. Announcements are made by the captain over the tannoy daily with weather updates and other information (spoken in numerous languages) in your room.

      - State Room Attendant

      There is one stateroom attendant for several rooms and it is always the same person each time. The stateroom attendant cleans up, takes away used towels and bedding, turns up/down the bed and sofa bed, provides information leaflets and towel animals (amazing!). They have always been friendly, helpful and informative individuals - very good English. Concerning the towel/linen usage, Royal Caribbean have numerous environmental policies such as 'save the waves' which encourages customers to re-use towels and to not thrown anything overboard.

      - Food:

      There are numerous places to eat on the ship from the main dining rooms (you are assigned to a dining room depending on what floor your room is on - although the dining room can be changed upon request). There are other eating places such as a: cafe, bars, pub, a buffet style dining room, specialty dining rooms (such as portofino, chops grille) and johnny rockets.

      *Cafe Promenade*

      The cafe is open 24/7 and it is free! The price of most food places is included in the price of the cruise (apart from some places). Cafe promenade is situated on the main deck (deck 5) which is the same area for all of the shops and customer services. The food at the cafe ranges from pizza and sandwiches to cookies, cakes and drinks (tea/coffee/hot chocolate). The drinks are self service but the food is served. I love the four cheese panini and pizza there! There is also a Seattles best coffee and or a Ben and Jerrys counter. You can take the food elsewhere such as your room and pool deck. No smoking here, large inside cafe, friendly staff and clean area - usually seating available but sometimes it is fairly busy.

      *Windjammer*

      For the first four cruises we went on we always went to the Windjammer for breakfast/lunch but it has always been very busy and very chaotic! We used to get food then couldn't find a seat for a while because most people go here to eat. However, for breakfast on this cruise we have been going to the main dining room where you get a menu and are served rather than the buffet style self service (mainly) at the windjammer. However, myself and my sister went to the Windjammer for dinner a few times because we didn't want to go to the 'formal night' in the main dining room. The Winderjammer during dinner times is not that busy and is fairly pleasant - with really nice food all of the time! The food ranges from sushi, burgers, curry, pasta, chips to lots of fruit, cereals and amazing deserts - the food changes daily and depending on the time of day.

      One of the main points I was worried about was the availability and range of vegetarian options (I have been a vegetarian for 9 years now) but I was pleasantly surprised at the wide range of vegetarian options available at ALL of the food places on the ship. The food here again is free, the staff are very friendly and helpful, the winderjammer is usually fairly clean and it is not open 24/7 - it opens at certain times of the day.

      *Johnny Rockets*

      On this cruise we went to Johnny Rockets for the first time ever and wondered how we missed it for the other three cruises! Johnny rockets is just amazing! It is basically a 50's style American diner - with American food, drinks, music, decor and dancing waiters. My parents and sister had various burgers and I had a grilled cheese sandwich (basically a cheese toastie) - chips, water and dips were already provided when you sat down. We also had apple pie and an oreo milkshake. You have to pay here (we paid about $20 for quite a lot of food/drinks for four people so it is very reasonably priced) and it is not open all of the time (open times for everything is in the information booklet in your room). Also there were dancing waiters who 'performed' every 15 minutes. For Johnny Rockets you have to wait for a table and as it is very popular we had to wait for 15 minutes for a table for four but I would highly recommend Johnny Rockets!

      *Main Dining - The Sound of Music Dining Room*

      As stated previously, there are three main dining levels/rooms depending the deck you are on. The main dining rooms are all connected whereby you can see the floors below/above. The decor is very expensive looking and there is a large chandelier in the middle of the three floors. We definitely recommend getting a table next to a window, there is nothing like watching the sea go by with the sunsetting. The windows in the main dining room and the Windjammer are massive so you get fantastic views. The staff are very friendly, helpful and efficient - they also were informative regarding the places being visited. The service is VERY quick and the menu is very varied and changes daily. There is also a 'vitality' section on the menu which has low calorie/healthier options. The food is exceptional and there is always more than one vegetarian option which is great for me. Barmen with a good variation of alcoholic drinks and other restaurants dishes on call (at a price). I really like the dining rooms, they look so chic and expensive - like the titanic I imagine, although without pool in the dining room! There were two 'formal nights' on our cruise (one week cruise) which are nights were everyone who wants to dine in the main dining room that evening has to dress up - women usually wear gorgeous dresses/heels and men wear suits or tuxedos! I have been on a few formal nights but I don't really like dressing up as it makes me feel quite self conscious so myself and my sister go to the windjammer were you do not have to dress formally.

      - Bars, Lounges and the Pub!

      There are lots of bars available such as the Champagne Bar and Schooner Bar (the best one with live music and the one we used the most). The staff are always friendly and helpful and there is a range of live music. Lots of drinks/cocktails available which you do have to pay for. There are various activities that take place in the bars during the day such as quizzes, language learning 'classes' and towel folding demonstrations (we went to one and the staff show you how to make the amazing towel animals you get in your rooms - myself and my sister know how to make a swan and money!). The pub onboard is based on an English pub but it is nicer than most English pubs that I have been in!The decor is nice with wooden chairs but the pub is quite dark and people are allowed to smoke in the pub - this is the main reason we didn't go in the pub as much (the pub is called the wig and gavel). The price of drinks may be viewed as a little bit expensive. Live music is also available on the promenade and pool deck. There is also a sports bar with ESPN and other sports channels on the TV - although the sport times are for american time zones, so you have to watch it later.


      - Facilities and Activities

      There are many activities on board for all ages such as the casino, pool, mini golf, rock climbing, Broadway style shows, ice shows, quizzes, language learning nights, nightclubs and a small cinema. There are also BBQ's, dancing nights, a fitness centre, spa and much more! One point to note with the casino is that you can smoke there which makes it quite off putting so we do not go in there. There are also activities for specific ages such as the Adventure Ocean Youth Area for children and Optix Teen Centre for teenagers. We attended several theatre and ice shows which we love. There are a limited number of tickets, although they are free and there are several showings. The ice show was called Ice Under the Big Top - as with the other ice shows we have seen it was amazing! The ice shows are like Dancing On Ice but so much better and more exciting. We also saw a theatre show called Emperors of Soul, which again was fantastic and highly recommended. Apparently Emperors of Soul was on UK TV and they are a British band. There is no limit to the amount of activities you can do and there is truly something for everyone. ALL FREE including the thrilling ice skating activities, make sure you bring fairly warm clothing as you can ice skate yourself!

      - Library and Internet

      If you don't want to take part in the group activities, for example, you can go to the library and or the computer room. The library contains books, magazines and quizzes in various languages and genres. The library decor is gorgeous and it has a great view over the promenade (great for photographs). It is one of those places for sitting back and watching ship life, relaxing and meeting people. The chairs are leather, large and really comfortable. You can take books out of the library and donate books too. The internet/computer room is above the library and there are numerous computers (usually there are spaces). The cost of the internet is paid for via your sea pass card, you can buy a package or you can pay per minute. We either pay per minute or get a WiFi package which we paid $15 but it depends on the length of time you want to stay on the internet over your cruise. In my opinion the internet is quite expensive so we just used the time to check Facebook/emails quickly! The internet can be a bit slow but you are usually in the middle of the sea when you are on the internet - so it is pretty good! Some people didn't know how to use the internet/computers so they asked myself and my sister - always carry your sea pass card with you as you will need it to pay for things on the ship etc. There are also phones around the ship to call your room.

      - Shops

      There are numerous shops on board such as the general store, fragrance/beauty store (my favorite shop obviously) and the royal Caribbean merchandise store. The fragrance/beauty is definitely my favorite and because of the exchange rate between the American dollar and British pound the items are usually much cheaper. There are beauty brands such as Clinique, Smashbox, Dior, Prada and Chanel - the store is mainly fragrance but there are amazing makeup sets. I have bought a couple of makeup sets each time from Dior onboard. The general store has things you may have forgotten such as razors and the other stores carry brand like Swarovski (I bought a Swarovski necklace on a previous cruise as they prices are fairly good), Guess and Fossil. There are also $10 sales which I love (get there early as they can be quite busy)! There are shops/facilities for children such as temporary tattoos and a 'build-a-bear' type of machine. There are big interactive screen near the elevators/stairs at each level if you don't know where to go or where your stateroom is - they are quick and easy to use - getting around the ship is fairly easy. There are numerous elevators (where you can look out and get good views) and there are lots of easy stairs.

      - Excursion/tours

      Excursions are tours which you can take in the different countries - I would definitely recommend booking them as soon as you find one you like as it may be very popular and sold out. In the evening your stateroom attendant will leave a booklet in your stateroom with all of the excursions stated along with information and prices. You then proceed to book them at the excursions desk on deck 5 or you can ring; the booking process is simple and easy. However you do not have to go on an excursion as some of the ports are very close to the city so you can either walk in or they will provide a shuttle bus into the city (usually free or very cheap). On this cruise we went on an excursion for each place - I would advocate strongly for going on excursions as you get to learn a lot about the places you are visiting as yours are usually guided - we booked an excursion to go to Portofino which also included going to San Marghetia via water taxi (prices included) - the views were spectacular! However some prices for excursions are extortionate in my opinion but some are well priced and include guides/quick/free access to popular sites/food. After getting back from an excursion you and your handbags have to pass through security (as you do whenever you arrive back on the ship) and myself and my sister usually get a good amount of exercise by walking up the 10 decks of stairs (we are very very tired at the end). But the excursions and walking around the ship is good exercise and it makes you feel good!

      - Crown and Anchor Society

      The Crown and Anchor Society is a reward scheme based on the number of cruises you go on with royal caribbean. The more times you cruise with Royal Caribbean the more points and benefits you receive such as a free messenger bag, coupons, gold member party (with free drinks/food) - and you get to meet the Captain and cruise directors. Also your sea pass card denotes your member status, for example, after our cruise this year we will be platinum members, for more information see the following link - http://bookings.royalcaribbean.co.uk/cas​/benefitsLoggedout.do?wuc=GBR

      - Additional Information

      One point to note is the different times for different ports, for example, you may only have a half day at one of the ports therefore you have to be back on the ship earlier - arrival and departure times at the ports are shown on the day planners provided the night before. In the event that you miss the ship your luggage will be taken off and you will have to make your own way to the next port (we have seen this happen a couple of times unfortunately). If you are on an excursion via royal caribbean that it late however, the ship will not leave and will wait. However we have done our own trips before just be conscious of the time and transport back to the ship.

      Also one point you might want to know is about the movement/vibrations of the ship - I was slightly concerned about this on the first cruise as I wouldn't be able to sleep if I felt like I was moving - but you can hardly feel anything! There is only slight movement (very slightly/vibrations) which does not affect you at all!

      - Overall

      Overall, we have been on four cruises with Royal Caribbean so far (fifth in August) and I will definitely be going back again and again. They are expensive but in our opinion they are definitely worth every penny! We were recommended Royal Caribbean cruises through friends and we have now recommended it to others! Since our cruises we have recommended these cruises to family and friends both of which have loved the cruises and are going again! Everything (well 99%) of the cruises/company is just fantastic! I would only go on cruises now, I do not think a 'normal' holiday would compare. Very highly recommended from all of us!

      - Conclusions

      Positives

      *You get to explore a lot of places in a fairly short space of time
      *Staff - always friendly, smiling, helpful, multilingual
      *Excursions/tours - informative, unique and a great way of seeing lots of places in a fairly short space of time!
      *Facilities/activities on the ship - something for everyone from bingo, ice shows and shopping to drinks in the pub, live music in the bars and reading in the library
      *Room - clean, lots of storage, TV, stateroom attendant, and balcony
      *Environmental policies/charity - save the waves and make a wish foundation
      *Ice shows and theatre shows - great performances, lots of seats available, free
      *Dining - food, drinks, staff and Johnny rockets is fantastic
      *Cleanliness in general

      Negatives

      *Smoking in some areas - such as the casino and pub
      *Chaos of the windjammer and limited seating (particularly at breakfast)
      *Some excursions/tours are really expensive, in my opinion

      Thank you for reading my review - as you can imagine I haven't covered everything that I wanted to in this review otherwise it would be even longer! So if you have any questions or specifics just message me. Also our experiences may differ to yours and the ship may have been slightly updated since our cruise last year. I hope this review has been helpful! My Ciao review has photographs.

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      • More +
        24.03.2010 18:16
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        Just do it, you won't regret it.

        Last month, the family (me, my wife and 12 year old son) had our first cruising experience together on the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. All I can say is WOW!!! The ship was excellent and I will detail why.....

        We spent the night in a hotel in Orlando (Crowne Plaza - very pleasant and with a Denny's down the road ideal for a super breakfast) and were picked up at 10 in the morning for the transfer to Port Canaveral, to board the boat. Just arriving at the port and getting a first glance of the Freedom was awe inspiring - it was huge and dwarfed the other cruise ships in the port. Embarkation was a bit of queueing, but if they need to get 4000 passengers on in one go, that was to be expected and it was done as efficiently as possible. We were actually guided to a shorter queue as the one we should have joined was a bit long.

        The build up of anticipation was rewarded when you board through the Bolero Lounge on Deck 4, which is decorated with huge glass and metal flowers (sounds tacky, but works beautifully). We were advised to go up to Deck 11 for a buffet lunch in the Windjammer restaurant. My wife's chin nearly hit the floor when she saw the choice of food, it was huge, with choices of oriental, salad, carvery and other cooked dishes (including burgers for kids -and adults). It was also extremely good food.

        We went down to our cabin on Deck 2 (outside, so we had a large porthole window). Small, yes, but functional. We were mystified where the 3rd bed was for our son, until we spotted a notice on the ceiling about the bunk bed that the staff would fold down for us. The beds were very comfortable. The bathroom was small (only room for one person) but as it was just a base, we didn't really mind. In fact, they do make fun of the size of the cabins (or staterooms as they call them), e.g. the bathrooms are so small you can wash your hands while on the toilet or the showers are so small if you drop anything, you have to step outside to pick it up.

        It is cashless on board, everything being charged to your room pass and settled up at the end of the cruise

        Food - super. The buffet restaurant above was used for breakfast and lunch. You are allocated a restaurant to have dinner, but you don't have to use it if you don't want to. The food is top quality and the service was attentive without being in your face. We ate in the buffet restaurant for dinner 3 times as it suited us better. There are also a café and pizza parlour which serve drinks and snacks all day. There are also more restaurants where you can pay extra to eat, but we didn't see any need to do so.

        Drink - Tea, coffee, water, lemonade and iced tea are free. Neither I nor my wife are huge drinkers, but we bought a wine package for 5 bottles of wine ($150) to have with the meals. They were excellent, but we couldn't finish them, so actually brought two of them home with us. We also pre-bought unlimited Sprite/Cola for our son for $28, which probably paid for itself many times over.

        Entertainment - every evening there is a show put on in the 1500 seat theatre (two shows actually, one for each dinner seating). We had two comedians, a magician (Drew Thomas, who did well in America's Got Talent), and shows by the ship's own musicians, singers and dancers. All, though not exactly my cup of tea, were super. There was also an ice show by their professional skaters - also excellent. There was a small cinema and they ran lots of quizzes, though the prizes were usually just RC goodies.

        Sports facilities - a climbing wall, flowrider (surfing and body-boarding), 9 hole mini golf, shuffle board and an ice rink which we all used more than once. There was also a large gym, with classes (chargeable) and a full size boxing ring (!?!). There was also a spa area for your massages and beauty treatments.

        Pools - a large kids area, brightly decorated with fountains, squirters, etc, which looked good fun. Two pools plus large Jacuzzis and an adult area with another pool and two solariums (Jacuzzis that were hanging over the side of the boat). When the boat was at sea for the day, it could get crowded around the pools and there was the usual reserving of sunbeds by the selfish few, but nothing that you don't see in every hotel around the world.

        Teens - the clubs for our son were great. They also had their own room to 'chill' in. Some days, we would not see him from breakfast until bedtime, which worked for all of us.

        Bars - many around, we didn't buy any alcoholic drinks (apart from the wine), so can't comment on the prices, but the bars were all well done and great for a quiet sit.

        There is also a casino for those so inclined, art auctions, bingo (very big with the Americans - one person won another cruise).

        Every night you get a flyer detailing the events happening the next day (my son got his own one for the Teen Club), so you can easily plan your day accordingly.

        The staff were all helpful and pleasant to deal with. Our cabin was made up daily by Nick, who couldn't have been more helpful and who left towel animals on the bed each night.

        One person who did make a difference was the Cruise Director, Allan Brooks (check him out on YouTube, especially the Whale Song!). He introduced the shows and was brilliant, really funny and just making it feel special. His presenting of the 'Mr & Mrs' show and the Belly Flop Contest were unbelievably good.

        Despite the number of passengers, it didn't seem too crowded and we were able to do what we wanted when we wanted, more or less. The boat was smooth most of the time, just one choppy-ish day, but not enough to make any of us feel ill.

        Overall, I can't actually fault the cruise (which was the Eastern Caribbean cruise stopping at a few of the islands, though we didn't actually feel the need to get off). The only downside was the travel there and back. Flying from Heathrow, we had to go to Miami, then transfer to fly to Orlando. Coming home, we had to fly to Dallas then change and fly to Heathrow. If you do book, try to find out the flights (I think going from Gatwick may be direct, but is more expensive).

        Would I recommend Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas - without a doubt yes, it exceeded my expectations by a long way. Before we had finished, my son was asking to come again, which he has never done before on holiday.

        If you are going to treat yourself to an expensive holiday, you could do a lot worse than this by a long way. Unfortunately, I think it may have spoilt us for cruising with other companies!

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        • More +
          17.08.2009 16:37
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          A great holiday with luxurious food and events if you have the money!

          I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise not too long ago and it was definitely a unique experience I would consider again if I had the money in the future. It was a very pricey trip as all cruises are, but this cruise ship was enormous and quite a nice one too being all-inclusive and an American liner.

          I traveled on the Brilliance of the Seas ship, which had a rock-climbing wall on the back. I went on a Mediterranean cruise and visited several places such as France, Italy, Corfu and we departed from Spain. The cruise was really large and we were in a standard room without a balcony towards the bottom, but it was still lovely. We had a window for our cabin but it was a bit small like all cruise rooms.

          There was an on-suite shower room with a toilet and sink, which all looked quite posh and was cleaned everyday along with our room by our very own maid, who we got to know. She even hung the hand towels across the room on some string one day and it looked like a monkey! Things like this gave a really posh feel to the place.

          The food was excellent. There were a few formal dinners where you had to dress up but they were all excellent. You could eat as much as you wanted - if you were still hungry, you would just call for more courses. We always sat at the same table and had the same sitting every night and you get to know your neighbours. You could choose from steaks, fish, chicken and they had wonderful salads and desserts too.

          There was a lot to do on the ship - there was a cinema, casino, theatre, swimming pool, deck chairs, gym, basketball court, rock-climbing wall and even more. There were many cafes and places to eat indoors but you did have to pay extra for these. However all the lunches were included and there was a huge range on offer from burgers and sausages to cookies, ice cream, chips, sandwiches, eggs and loads more. You are definitely well-fed on the cruise! The entertainment was quite good - there was a comedian one night as well as dancers and more other nights. There was also an art auction, where we actually bought a few pieces including one from the famous Romero Britto artist.

          Overall, it was a great cruise. I was slightly disappointed with the sway of the ship on a couple of days as it was a bit sickening but the rest was smooth and thoroughly enjoyable. The locations we stopped at were full of variety but none were really relaxing as they were all cities or towns. I'd recommend booking a cruise with them, as it was a very enjoyable experience if you have the money to do so!

          Thanks for reading,

          Dan ©

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          • More +
            28.03.2009 17:02
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            Excellent service, great cruise line which I would highly recommend.

            The ship we sailed in was Navigator of the Seas and we could not fault it. This ship is one of the Voyager class and is one of the larger ships. It has a good choice of bars, restaurants, shops, an ice rink, theatre, rock climbing, 9 hole mini golf course, spa and fitness areas, basketball court, swimming pools, jacuzzies, childrens areas and clubs.

            It was our first cruise and we went with another couple. We chose a five night cruise as we were uncertain if cruising was for us, and the girls in particular, were slightly anxious about being sea sick, we weren't though did feel a little wobbly when back on dry land at the end of the trip (although this may have been due to an inner ear infection). We did encounter some less pleasant weather, but as the ship is so big you could not really feel it - and I do get seasick!

            I booked online with Royal Caribbean's own website and found it very easy to use. You can pick your own cabin. We opted for a balcony stateroom and our friends went for the cheaper promanade stateroom. The price difference was about £200. We were able to ensure our rooms were on the same floor and not too far from each other. We booked our own flights through Globespan and saved a little this way. We also opted to spend a night at either end of our cruise in Barcelona where our cruise began and ended. This worked very well for us.

            When you arrive at the check in point your luggage is swept away and delivered to your stateroom. There was a long queue to check in but this moved fairly smoothly as they had plenty of receptionists.

            You have your photo taken as you board - this is one of the many opportunities you have to be photographed, you do not have to buy them but they are a nice momento. You are also given your boarding card which you keep with you at all times and need to get on and off the ship. Anything you purchase on the ship is charged to your room so you just show your card.

            We were pleasantly surprised with our stateroom and our luggage was already waiting for us, though they do advise it may take up to a couple of hours to arrive. The room was a good size with a 6 foot bed, table and chairs, dressing table, plenty of well thought out storage and a small but adequate ensuite. Every space is used thoughtfully and we had loads of room to unpack cases. We also had the private balcony with 2 chairs and a table. Our friends room was of a similar size and overlooked the promenade - an indoor street running through the ship. None of us had any complaints about the rooms, and were not bothered by any noise from the neighbouring rooms which were occupied and were all happy with what we had paid for our respective rooms.

            There is a welcome buffet laid on when you have checked in, this is just the start of constantly available food, which was of very high standard. This is an American ship so the food is slightly more geared to American tastes, but there is a huge choice. We mainly ate in the buffet restaurant or in the evening ate at our preassigned table in the more formal dining room (dress code was casual but smart, and suit/kilt for men and dress/smart outfit for the women on the formal night). We opted for the later sitting which was 9pm as this gave us time to recover from our day trips. Both these eating options are included in the cost of your cruise. There are other restaurants available with a small supplement, but we had so much choice we didn't see the point in spending extra.

            We enjoyed all the entertainment onboard, our headline act was the Drifters. The shows were good and there are ice shows also. You are given a daily newsletter detailing all the entertainments etc and there is a very varied choice to suit all tastes. It is up to you how much you avail yourself of this, there was no pressure to join in with anything.

            We booked a trip through the ship to go to Monaco from Cannes, our guide was not great and our coach was late back, but because the ship had organised it they had to wait for us.

            At Livorno we took a taxi to Pisa along with some others from the ship. The driver waited for 2 hours there and then took us back to the ship, you dont pay the driver until you return. This worked out cheaper than the ship organised excursion.

            At Civitavecchia we organised to be met with our own driver for a private trip in a Mercedes people carrier. As there was only 4 of us this worked out slightly more expensive that the organised trips, but if there was a group of 6 it would work out around the same if not fractionally cheaper. This was well worth the money. We were driven right up to all the main attractions in Rome, our driver could obtain tickets that could fastrack the queues (these were in addition to the tour cost), this was especially useful at the Colesseum and the Vatican. We virtually covered the majority of the tourist attractions in Rome in a day - this was over 10 hours though! The company we used was discoveryguidedtours.com, our driver was great and answered any questions we had, he also had plenty bottles of water to keep us going and could recommend places to eat etc. They also tailor made the tour to suit your interests. I would highly recomment this option, but be aware that with any excursion you undertake on your own the ship will not wait for you if you are late back. He informed us that they are insured so that if they do not get you back to the ship in time they are liable. We prebooked this, and you although if the ship cannot dock due to inclement weather you will not be charged.

            It is possible to cruse without spending a lot more than your original cruise cost as so much is included. However if you want to take advantage of the many varied excursions, on board shops, photos, alcoholic drinks etc you will have a bill to pay at the end of your trip. The charges are in dollars so if the exchange rate is good it's not too bad, but in the present climate this will be more costly. We felt that the extras on board were quite fairly priced.

            Overall we could not fault our cruise and would definately recommend it. If you want to keep costs down stick to the free soft drinks, just wander around in the ports you dock in and dont get carried away with souveniers! The staff throughout the ship were excellent, especially our room attendant and waiters, you can prepay your tips which is useful and you then get vouchers at the end of your trip to give to the staff you wish to reward. You will have an early start on your last morning as you are off the ship very early, but we were impressed by how well organised this was.

            I would recommend trying this type of holiday as it is great for all ages and especially a large group of mixed ages. Don't let worrying about sea sickness stop you as there is a doctor on board and they can provide you with medication should you require it. As I said I am not a good sailor and I was fine. The midnight buffet and disco on the top deck is great fun and you will forget you are in the middle of the sea. It is lovely to see a place, spend your evening on a floating luxury hotel and awaken to a whole new vista in the morning.

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            26.03.2009 00:01
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            Ideal holiday for families looking for variety and fun

            This is just a general account of Royal Caribbean International in general and the standard of service provided etc. For a blow by blow account of the three Royal Caribbean cruises I have had the absolute fortune to go on, I will describe these under the topic of 'Royal Caribbean cruises.'

            Okay, so I have been on three cruises with this company, two round the Mediterranean and one from Southampton to Cork in Ireland and back. Each time I have been with my family and family friends and these experiences have occurred between the ages of 13 and 20 with the first one in 2001, so I am writing from the perspective of a young male seeking fun and activities for teens (apart from the last time where me and my mate were happy to drink all the bars dry and chill out in the jacuzzis in between rounds of crazy golf!)

            Each and every member of Royal Caribbean staff I have ever encountered have provided an excellent service with a pleasing smile on their face! They will bend over backwards to make you happy I promise. The food is absolutely superb and never have I encountered such incredible choice as in each ship's trademark buffet restaurant - the 'Windjammer Cafe' at breakfast, lunch and dinner!

            Dinner in the main dining room is also treat and not once have I felt bored on any of their ships. If sunbathing is not for you then there will certainly be something else to keep you entertained I can assure you - and I mean that for evry age group as well. Their customer interaction really is straight out of the top drawer. RCI are an innovative company and while their ships are classy and spotlessly clean, they provide a wide range of activities from rock-climbing to crazy golf, from football tournaments to evening shows and a host of other great pursuits. eg. the 'flow rider' surfing simulator on the Independence of the Seas.

            For those not so interested on thrill seeking and active activities there are plenty of other facilities such as on-board library and internet access. There really is something for everyone and I just cannot praise the company enough. Sure, it's damn expensive but hey, you are on holiday and you definitely get what you pay for.

            The cabins are comfortable and certainly luxurious if you go for a more costly option as we have done once or twice. The check-in and check-out process are fairly seamless and the whole operation is smooth from start to finish. And that's just the ships! The destinations aren't half bad either! 110% recommended...for those of you who doubt cruising then I challenge you to go with RCI and not enjoy it - it just will not happen! However, I would advise against people aged 21-25 going, unless as a couple...this will not particularly suit groups of young lads or girls

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              06.03.2009 23:16
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              Not A Company I Would Ever Book A Trip With Again

              I went on a Mediterranean Cruise with Royal Caribbean on one of their mega sized ships last Summer of 2008.

              I enjoyed the locations that I visited but I did not enjoy the ship.

              My reasons why, there are about 25 of them but here are just some:
              There was no indoor swimming pool. All of the pools were outdoors on the top deck and although numerous none were suitable for swimming of proper lengths which as an adult is what I sometimes wanted to do. Also, although in the Mediterranean in Summer, it was often exceptionally windy out on deck making it not pleasant to swim outdoors, especially after 4 p.m.

              Most of the excursions and shuttle coach services in my opinion were over priced and/or not well thought out. One example was that the coach dropped us all off at the wrong (grotty end) of Las Ramblas in Barcelona, something which I found out from a friend after the holiday was over, and we only had 2 hours so did not get anywhere near seeing the nice part.

              I got the impression that everything was geared up towards maximising the ship's on board takings which I don't have a problem with if what is being offered is being offered fairly.

              I am a very easy going person and when things go wrong in a hotel or in a restaurant I always make a joke about it or have a laugh about it and it would take an awful lot for me to make even the mildest of complaints, but on this ship it was very difficult to laugh off the way in which many things were being done and controlled by the ship.

              At the Malaga stop the ship managed to not tell any of the passengers that there was a perfectly good beach 10 minutes walk from where the ship docked. Something we found by accident because we were fed up with the paid excursions and decided just to walk into Malaga. We also found a bull fighting stadium a further 10 minutes on which was open for viewing.

              The aura I felt on the ship was one of an ultra controlled environment where I didn't feel at all comfortable in respect of feeling constantly pressured by waiting staff into ordering a drink and constantly steered (excuse the pun) towards making decisions that I didn't want to make. The customer service on the face of it was helpful but after a while it felt totally false and contrived to me.

              From day one most of the staff were continually saying that if there was absolutely anything that they could help you with just ask. I think what they really meant was that if there was anything you wanted to buy or purchase just ask because as soon as any passenger dared to question anything it was met first with a smile, then with a brick wall of defence and then with ignorance.

              I often saw people making perfectly reasonable requests such as asking for a refund for a pre booked shuttle coach ticket because someone was ill being met by a forceful almost bullying negative unhelpful response.

              Then there was the Bingo and The Art Auctions. All I will say is that from my experience I would avoid both of these. Please be aware that recognised auctioneering laws are mostly invalid when a vessel is more than 10 miles away from the shore.

              I made two separate complaints to the Customer Services desk. Both times I was met with a smiling, consoling face but both times I was ultimately just fobbed off time and time again until eventually I gave up. I wrote a serious letter of complaint direct to Royal Caribbean's offices in England when I got back. I got a simple acknowledgement of receipt of my letter but never any response after that.

              I would never travel with this line again and maybe never again on a Cruise ship at all. In hindsight, I now know that unlike staying in a hotel where as a last resort you can at least check out and into another hotel or take your issue up with the tour operator rep, on a ship you are basically captive and can not do much about it.

              I would personally not recommend this cruise line and if you have already booked or are thinking of booking I would consult with some people you know for some tips on how to get the best out of the holiday.

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                04.02.2009 19:21
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                Goodcruise company

                A vision of starting a cruising company began with three Norwegian shipping companies in 1968 joining to form the Royal Caribbean Line. Two years later the first ship began service, with more ships following over the years, ships were "stretched" making longer ships and mergers took place. The name was changed and even larger cruise ships built. There are now 21 cruise ships in the fleet with 16 different destinations, from Asia to Australia and Canada to the Caribbean amongst a few. The Serenade of the Seas was launched in 2003 and this was the cruise ship on which we visited Alaska and on which my review is based.

                We had planned to return to Canada when we retired and see the Rockies and my husband thought to tie it in with a cruise to Alaska would be the icing on the cake. Consulting a travel agent in Glasgow who advertised Canadian holidays we had an itinerary planned and then up graded a few things and that was it, our holiday was booked! You can book online or through other travel agents.
                We were able to log onto the website and book some shore trips and ordered our wine! The website gave us lots of information on what to expect and photos of the ship and cabins.

                ~Embarkation~

                Ending up in Vancouver after a week long wonderful experience which I doubted to be improved on, and after a few days sight seeing we arrived by taxi at the cruise ship terminal. We were relieved of our cases very quickly, they already had our names and state room number attached, and we entered the building. It was like a huge warehouse and was very busy. We had to queue for this and queue for that but after filling in Waiver forms, having our photographs taken and finger prints we were ready to embark. That had taken 45 minutes from arrival so no worse than at the airport, and we were going into America. Walking up to where we would enter the ship were photographers and we posed to have our photographs taken, the first time of many we discovered!

                We were greeted by lots of staff, so very friendly and helpful, and we were directed to our stateroom where we left our hand luggage - containing a few clothes as advised, in case our cases didn't arrive before dinner, and then made our way to the Windjammer for lunch. The corridors had lots of artwork and I discovered later that it was in themes, may be red, yellow, black and white, blue etc. I was amazed at the beautiful surroundings, in the centre of the ship was a open section where you could look up and down and see the glass staircase, numerous lifts some with glass looking out to sea or looking into the atrium. The wood work and brass was all gleaming and the carpets luxurious, this was better than a lot of 5 star hotels I had stayed at.

                ~Stateroom with Balcony~

                I had been told by a colleague who loved cruises to go for the best stateroom you can afford, and there was no way I would have gone into an internal room! I might not be able to swim but I didn't fancy being in an internal room. It was compact but had everything we needed and in fact the bed which was curved at the bottom was larger than ours at home. The room was about 8 feet wide and the bed was next to the sliding windows to our small balcony which had two comfortable chairs and a table. There were two bed side tables with drawers and spot lights, a telephone and a large mirror above the padded headboard. There was a small settee and coffee table, and on the opposite wall was all the storage. The large fitted wardrobe with a high shelf had smaller shelves between the two hanging spaces. This was the home of the most important item - your Life jackets.(We had a drill before leaving). There was a desk/dressing table with more drawers and mirrors with excellent strip lighting. Some extra cupboard space was found behind the mirrors. There were sockets for a modem and the television was above the small fridge/mini bar. There was also an ice bucket which was re filled as necessary. The wood was cedar with dark red mahogany trim and the quilt cover was a lovely white striped material with a deep blue throw and cushions. The curtains and settee cushions were in terracotta and gold and there was an extra curtain to allow you to separate the sleeping area if you wished. The carpet was a lovely blue with terracotta and small red dots. Our stateroom attendant was excellent, nothing was too much trouble, the room was kept very clean and she surprised us with her talent when we returned from dinner to see what she had made out of towels! A chocolate was left each night too plus a newsletter with all the information for the following day of the port of call and the different trips plus entertainment and times of everything. We were also given a marker to highlight what we wanted to attend.
                The tiny en suite was adequate, but if you were on the larger side I would imagine it might be a tight squeeze! The shower was enclosed with a curved sliding door, keeping the floor dry and the wash basin was in a vanity unit with shelves and a large mirror. The toilet had the noisiest suction I have ever heard but it worked and we didn't suffer any nasty smells as I have heard about on some cruise ships. There was a full length mirror on the door to the bathroom. Towels were changed daily and were nice and fluffy, considering that they were washed on board.
                The television was more than just a television, you could access your sea pass account to see how much you had spent! There was a channel when you could see a video from the bridge, which was excellent when we were approaching the glacier. It also gave the nautical position, wind strength and direction, miles travelled, time and sunset.

                ~Food~

                There were so many places to eat and we didn't try them all, we had breakfast in the Windjammer, nearly every day. One morning we sampled room service and had it in bed!
                Lunch was available in the main restaurant which was waiter service or self service in the Windjammer.
                There were lots of tables, all polished wood and the many staff were kept on their toes clearing and cleaning the tables. As you entered the Windjammer staff were on duty handing out anti-bacterial wipes so you cleaned your hands before handling the food tongs and spoons. An excellent idea and I never heard of anyone with tummy upsets so I presume it worked. The restaurant was the full width of the ship and had two of every counter and buffet to make it quick to get served. There was extra seating opened up at busy times, and there was cold drinks and tea and coffee on tables in that section too, although you had to collect food from the main area.

                Breakfast had selections of healthy options or hot cooked foods, juices, fruits and the Deli where the chefs would cook you an omelette of your choice or pancakes etc. The Danish pastries and muffins after fresh fruit was my choice although my husband would recommend the bacon, eggs and hash browns!

                Lunch time the choice was immense, simple food like soup and a sandwich, salads, pizzas, or hot foods fish, roasts, curries, pasta dishes. Food for every taste and desserts and fruit if you had space to fill, plus ice cream on tap! Drinks were available, lemonade, water, iced teas were free or wines or beers could be bought.

                The main dining room called Reflections was on two levels and we were allocated a table, we were sharing with a French speaking brother and sister from Quebec and an Australian married couple, both just a bit younger than us but we hit it off and met later for quizzes and the theatre. Some couples sat alone, and there were larger family groups, it was good to be on a larger table and enjoy the chatter. We had a waiter and an assistant allocated to our table and there were head waiters who had more tables to keep an eye on, each evening our waiter told us what was on the menu and what was recommended, and if someone really didn't like the dish when it was served they were willing to get something to replace it. He also told us what was happening the following evening and about the dress code, although this was also in the cruise compass newsletter. The service was brilliant, friendly and quick, and when we had lobster it was removed from the shell for me by the manager very efficiently! Some evenings the waiters put on a parade or sang to entertain us, and if it was someone's birthday they all sang when the cake was brought to the table. We could have had breakfast here which was served at the table and we did sample lunch which was a la carte, but if you were in a hurry to go somewhere the windjammer was the best option. The Mirage and Illusions were extra dining rooms which could be opened up at the sides of the Reflections dining room when the ship is busy.

                There were small cafes and restaurants on different levels of the ship, which we didn't try apart from going to Latté-tudes, a speciality coffee shop featuring Seattle's Best Coffee to get a good cappuccino, which was extra. We could have eaten at the Portofino for Italian food or at Chops Grille who served steaks.

                ~Entertainment~

                There were several people taking care of entertainment, there was a show each night in the huge theatre which was over 3 levels this was always very professional and we even had 2 of the Osmonds singing and telling jokes. During the day there was something for everyone, perhaps Scrapbooking, making Tiffany boxes, playing cards, bridge, golf, a question and answer session with the Captain and hotel manager on the last day sailing back, a cookery demonstration which turned into a bit of slapstick comedy. Movies, piano lessons for beginners, a seminar on back pain, music quizzes, trivia and dancing until late at night. There was a church service held, strangely enough in one of the bars on the Sunday morning which was well attended. Lots of people attended the keep fit sessions to combat the wonderful food!
                There was a Library and you could sit and read a book or collect a daily Quiz sheet or sudoko game. Bingo games were arranged with money prizes. From 6am until 11.00 till late something was available, even a place to meet up with other lone travellers.

                ~Shopping~

                There was an art gallery and a special day when there was a sale of paintings. On the first day of sailing there was a sale on deck of t-shirts and fleeces, very useful for people who hadn't brought enough warm clothes! Downstairs in the luxurious shopping mall, was everything else you might want. Jewellery both costume and expensive items, watches, toys, make up and perfumes, toys and games, cameras and binoculars, handbags, evening bags, pashminas, clothes, Alaskan gifts and an area where you could see all the photos and purchase the ones you wanted that were taken on many occasions during the cruise. I bought a lovely Scrapbook made especially for Royal Caribbean with pages for an Alaskan holiday.

                ~Ship in general~

                Because of the size which was quite over whelming, we found there were places you could find peace and quiet even though there over two thousand people on board. We used to enjoy walking all around the deck, it was often too cold to sit and enjoy the sea breezes, but cruising in a warmer area it would be enjoyable using the many seats or sun loungers. The bars and lounges were all beautifully decorated and the seats were comfortable, often with large windows making the sea journey more enjoyable for those without a balcony. The central atrium was amazing and a setting often used for the photographs before the Formal dinners. The glass stairs were another popular place, especially for family groups. The staff and there were hundreds were always pleasant, helpful, spoke to you in passing, maybe they were just pleasant but we id discover another reason I'll discuss later. The carpets were all excellent quality, beautiful wood and brass was always kept shining, and the glass in the lifts cleaned regularly. There were plenty of lifts but you still sometimes ha to wait, so walking up and downstairs was the choice of many.

                ~Medical services~

                Fortunately not required but there was a medical centre and a number to ring in emergency. Sadly I know a lady whose husband died in his sleep on a cruise and they were exceptionally kind and helpful to her. There was helpful information on the newsletter regarding using the hand sanitisers and care was taken in cleaning procedures to prevent the spread of disease.
                I wasn't aware of anyone suffering with sea sickness, there was some movement but modern fleet have good stablisers. I believe the doctor had tablets if needed.

                ~Sport~

                There was a Rock climbing wall for those who felt energetic, an Indoor/outdoor country club with golf simulator, where they had tournaments , a golf course, but you had to book for a round of golf as it did get busy. There was a Sports court with basketball/volleyball court and an area for young people called Adventure Ocean. There was an outdoor pool and although heated it was quite cool on sea days, used more by hardy children than adults, and also a separate kid's pool but there was a beautiful indoor Solarium for adults and a day spa and fitness centre. The fitness centre had lots of exercise bikes, rowing machines, running machines and weightlifting apparatus and also a gym area where I attended a Pilates class. Where else can you exercise and look out to sea in the hopes of seeing a whale! There was a walking track around this area of the ship, measured out so you could tell how many kilometres you walked.

                ~Spa~

                It was extra for spa treatments, the rooms were on par with 5 star spa hotels, and the staff all looked very professional. An absolute face and body treatment cost $199 for 80 minutes treatment. And a Swedish body massage was $159 for 50 minutes. There was also a hairdressers and a wash and blow dry was from $35 to $49, but you could get a perm or colour too and manicures were $45 and pedicures $65. You could even go as a couple and have a special offer for your teeth whitening for $358!

                Children were taken care of and had their own room with lots of things to do and sessions for different ages, plus a play area. There is a curfew for children under 18 and they must vacate all public areas by 1.00am unless accompanied by a parent or participating in an organised late night adventure in Fuel. We did see groups of children running about on deck sometimes during the day but most were well behaved.

                ~Bars and Lounges~

                Several different bars and lounges and these were the venue for different forms of entertainment in an evening. The pool bar and Sky bar were open in the morning only, and the Lobby bar and Schooner bar open from 9.00am until 1.00am. There was also the Casino bar, the Solarium bar, Champagne bar, Hollywood Odyssey bar, Tropical theatre, and Safari Club. Guests must be 21 to drink alcohol as the ship was in America. There was always a cocktail of the day usually costing $5.25. No money was exchanged everything was signed for on show of your sea pass. The Colony Club, is a unique British colonial-style lounge with self-levelling pool tables. If dancing is your thing, you could dance to various types of music n the different lounges or the Vortex Night club.



                ~Casino~

                I admit I'm not a gambler, so only walked through this area going to the theatre, it was clean and comfortable with lots of seats in front of machines and several areas to play the tables. We did used to hear the occasional machine coughing out chips for lucky punters.

                ~Excursions~

                We booked excursions online before going on the cruise, but you could book on the ship and there was a huge choice for all tastes and different lengths of time and prices to suit everyone. These were all well organised and we thought good value for money. Depending on the port the coaches were close by, or you had a short distance to walk, with golf buggies transporting those with walking problems. On one we were taken by lifeboat from the ship to the port as we anchored out of the harbour, at least you know some one of the life boats were sea worthy!
                There was an X-ray facility checking bags on return and you had to walk through an arch just like at the airport, no food or drink could be brought back on unless it was sealed. Sea passes had to be zapped too, so they knew who had left the boat and who had returned.


                ~Information~

                10 storey glass constructed atrium with glass lifts facing the sea. The Serenade of the seas has the largest amount of outside staterooms in the Royal Caribbean fleet.


                Maiden Voyage: 1 August 2003
                Guest Capacity: 2,501
                Godmother: Whoopi Goldberg
                Gross Tonnage: 90,090 tons
                Length: 293 m (962 ft)
                Beam: 32.2 m (105.6 ft)
                Draft: 8.2 m (26.7 ft)
                Cruising Speed: 25 knots (28.8 mph/46.3 kmph)

                Places visited on Alaska cruise

                Icy Strait point - anchored at sea, a very small town but plenty to do.
                Hubbard Glacier - cruising, we spent a couple of hours just revolving so everyone could see the glacier, and take photographs.
                Skagway - a lovely town, with train or coach trips and plenty of shops for those with money to spend.
                Juneau - the capital of Alaska, with a glacier, glacial gardens, lots of shops and museums and a gondola ride up the mountain.
                Some of these places I have reviewed separately.

                ~Passengers~

                The majority were Americans and Canadians, but there people from many other countries including Australian, Korea, Japan, Norway, France and other countries and a very few from the UK. As mentioned there were children, and at the Formal nights the girls were in long dresses and the boys in their tuxedos, these children looked quite at home and many had cruised before. I imagined a lot more older people, but there were young couples, and older people, families with children of all ages and people with wheelchairs or scooters were also catered for.

                ~Tipping~

                This is the only downside I found during the cruise. There is a recommended amount to tip and it is $24.50 per person for the waiter, $14 for the assistant waiter, $24.50 for the stateroom attendant and any amount at your discretion for the Head waiter, per person. Even higher guidance rates for larger suites. The staff are only paid a nominal sum for working, around $50 a month and the rest of their wages is made up of tips. We were given envelopes and put our dollars in and handed these to the staff on the final evening. People began to realise why the staff are so nice to you, because they need the tips. Our young Indian assistant waiter had left her baby son to work on the ship, her husband was a head waiter in another restaurant on the same ship, so at least they saw each other briefly during the day, but they hoped to provide a better life for him by working on the cruise ships.

                ~Cost~

                This will depend on so many things, like how early you book and whether there are any offers, what deck and what type of stateroom you want.


                ~Departure~

                All good things have to come to an end, and there was an excellent sheet of information and instructions for departure. All luggage had to placed outside your stateroom door before 11pm, so you just had a small bag to carry off with overnight things, the problem being that this bag contained liquids that needed to go into your case before checking in for the plane! Everyone was given a coloured luggage tag and called so many at a time depending whether you had an early flight to catch. Departure began at 7.45am, and you had to vacate your stateroom by 8.00am and once off the ship, the luggage was ready for claiming in the Pier terminal last seen when we checked in. There were lots of people on hand to help and to direct you to the correct coach.
                Sea Pass accounts were delivered to your stateroom before departure but as we had opened a credit card account it was settled unless there were any discrepancies.


                ~Conclusion~

                Did you guess we loved our cruise? The Royal Caribbean did their best to provide a holiday to remember, the quality of care and food was brilliant, we loved it so much we have booked more cruises this time with a different company because we choose a destination that RC doesn't go to, but that will be another story in a couple of months time!

                This review is also on Ciao with my name of jo145

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                  01.12.2008 04:47
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                  A trip of a lifetime , honeymoon , family ,couples or just alone, you cannot go wrong.

                  Like most average people I've been on many land based holidays , so when I had the chance to go on what was then the biggest cruise ship at sea 'The Voyager of the Seas' around the Caribbean , well I would have been a fool to have said no thank you .

                  This holiday was going to be something speacil, I managed to play three travel agents off against each other (one on the TV , one via Internet and one in town ) by saying that each had quoted cheaper than the other and by the end of the week had saved a whopping £2,000 of an outside balcony cabin for two , its just a matter of keeping your head and being firm with them and you can get huge amounts off.

                  We travelled to London and picked up the flight to Miami where we had been booked into the Hilton Hotel for an overnight stay before boarding the ship the next day , having arrived at the airport in Miami , tired and hungry we where met by a huge completely empty luxury coach to take us to the hotel , where after some messing about with those awful electronic keys we managed to get into our room and a good nights sleep .

                  As we travelled via coach again the next day we could see the top of the ship from a good mile or so away and I'm not kidding when I say ...........awesome , utterly over the top awesome.

                  Royal Carribean is in a class of its own and having now travelled with them I do not want to go with another company as long as you live , well unless it was a luxury suite for the family completely free of charge ( Ha, some dream )

                  The ship was not over sold by its brochure as some are , in fact it was everything it said it was and in my book it was a cross between a fairy tale and your best ever dream come true.
                  The sheer luxury of this ship was unbelievable , our room was super clean and had all you could possibly wish for , along with a valet who would bend over backwards to help us out .

                  Every day we went out this nice man came in and cleaned every inch of our room , made the bed , and emptied every bin . I'm one of these people who always leave a place clean , tidy and put everything away so his job was simple in our case.
                  Our valet was very kind to my husband and I and each morning after I'd chosen our evening wear for that night and had hung it on the outside of the wardrobe door , he would take it for me and press it , something which is not on his 'to do list'

                  The evenings on the ship where an utter enjoyment , the food was very well cooked, presented and the choices utterly OTT, I dare anyone to try and find fault with such a well planned main restaurant and the other 6-7 smaller restaurants and cafes on the ship which you could eat at anytime ( and we did !)

                  We opted for a table with 6 others and where placed with 2 sets of just married mid 20's and two single ladies , who after braking the ice with on the first night ,all turned out to be a real screams and each meal with the others was great fun and very interesting as they where all Americans and we the only two English in this part of the restaurant .

                  One thing I would say is that when booking your cruise dont be tempted to pre-book all the daily activities you can find , the heat , your possible tiredness and the sheer night time activities will take there toll on you , however old you are .
                  We pre-booked all 7 days outings then had to re-think and re-book some of them as these all day outings are just to much .
                  Your best bet would be to book each days outings the day before, possibly first thing in the morning .
                  We also discovered that if you want to go shopping at each port the ship docks at , do a planned trip early morning then come back to the boat , eat and drink before going off into the town to do your shopping , spending the late afternoon sitting by the pool resting for the evening and taking in large amounts of water .

                  Sea-sickness: A lot of people worry about this nasty little holiday annoyance, I didnt suffer from it , but there where a number of people who looked very green and washed out at times.
                  Either take your own sick sickness tablets ( make sure you have enough for the whole cruise) taking them at least 2 hours before you board the boat , taking them each day as prescribed.
                  The ships hospital will provide travel sickness tablets free of charge for you if you suddenly find 'out of the blue' you don't have sea legs after all.
                  If you are taken ill on board the on board doctors are very efficient and helpful, but be warned you will be asked to pay for the consultation and treatment THERE AND THEN , so make sure you have an extra couple of hundred pounds tucked away for such an emergency.

                  In all the 12 days we had with Royal Carribean was the best holiday I've ever had in my life and I've been to some brilliant 5 star places and hotels around the world.
                  I think what made this extra special was that my boyfriend ( now husband ) on going to Mexico to the Tulum ruins made a fool of himself for me , he got down on one knee and proposed to me in front of half the ships guests , he had tried to take me up to the sacrificial Alta but it was closed off at the time , so he had to do his proposal at the foot of the steps , his idea was that if he was going to sacrifice his single life well he might as well do it in style .............mmmmm, not to sure about me being the sacrificial lamb thought!!!!

                  That night when we went to dinner so many of the staff and guests came up to admire the ring and congratulate us ( our valet had spread the word , bless him ) on our engagement and the ships staff had a cake made for us and brought it with dessert, it was just one of those magical days which you will remember all your life .

                  I'm hoping in late August of 2009 to take my husband and 18 year old son on the 'Independence of the seas ' travelling from Southampton for a 12-14 day holiday of some sort , unfortunately neither my son or I can fly because of our heart problems so its going to be a Mediterranean cruise this time , but I tell you what if the last cruise was anything to go by then next years will be even better and I cannot wait to book the tickets .

                  If your thinking of trying a cruise for the first time , do it .
                  Its not just for the 50-60 year olds , cruising is total and utter luxury , the staff cannot do to much for you , the food is out of this world and the service is like having just won the lotto , each and every day .

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                    01.06.2008 19:35
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                    Brand new, huge and plenty of holiday fun

                    She's Sleek, stylish, superb. She'll take your breath away

                    She's ''the biggest passenger cruise ship in the world'', according to her owners Royal Caribbean Cruises. Independence of the Seas is here and she is magnificent.

                    I read up all the advertising hype on the Royal Caribbean internet site before we arrived at Southampton, for the inaugural Independence of the Seas, Canary Island/Lisbon/Vigo 12-day cruise in early May, and I was expecting a really huge ship. Nothing could have prepared me for the size of this lady. As we drove into sight we could not believe our eyes. It was massive, HUGE!

                    Brand new, only launched a few days before, this absolutely fabulous marine monster totally dominated the port and there were plenty of onlookers capturing it all on film. As well, 3300 passengers were making an orderly and well orchestrated embarkation for the 5pm sailing.

                    Cruise ships use the advertising blurb - ''floating hotel''. All 15 public decks of this 158,000 ton cruise ship truly are opulent and luxurious, with a good balance of formal and informal areas to suit the most discerning cruisers as well as those who want to relax or make the best of the energetic type recreation areas.

                    My travel companion was an 83-year-'young' lady- friend on her first ever cruise and fate determined we were in for a luxurious cruise experience. She spent every minute of every day absolutely reveling in our surroundings. To say we were overawed is an understatement. I was wrapt. Such beauty and style proves to me that it is okay to refer to ships as ''female''!

                    To be honest, I've been days thinking about writing this..... I don't know where to start - my mind is all over the place as I try to put into order the best things first. I suppose after my initial reaction of extremely prolific oohs and aahs my next impressions were centered around the exceptionally excellent food. The entire formal dining experiences were discerning - both in the decor of the dining areas and the quality of the food, matched with top service. Then my next ''best'' has to be the vast and varied entertainment and activities programme, but let's start with the food.


                    MEALS
                    The meals were definitely diverse:
                    * Formal dining in the 3-tier Shakespeare themed dining rooms which share a huge, fabulous crystal chandelier: on the ground floor the Romeo and Juliet, mid is Macbeth and on the top King Lear - each one differently presented in decor.
                    These are used for two set times of formal evening dining, 6.30pm and 8.30pm. The Romeo and Juliet opens some days for superb a-la-carte dining.
                    * The Windjammer high up on the 11th deck is huge, think of a football field and add some more yards on - set up with so many food choices I had no way of adding them up to report here but it was open long hours offering buffet/smorgasbord choice. Superb food in sterile clean serveries, for hot and cold collation.
                    * Café Promenade.
                    * Sorrento's Pizza.
                    * Johnny Rockets ($3.95 cover charge per person)
                    * Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream (nominal fee)
                    * Sprinkles Ice Cream (Self Service) free.
                    * Jade
                    * Chops Grille (USA$25 dining fee per person)
                    * Portofino (USA$20 dining fee per person)


                    No matter where you dined the service was reliably superb. Nothing was a bother to the dining-waiting staff and if you needed anything not on offer they encouraged passengers to ask for it and they would see what they could do. Our waiter saw me enjoying my escargot entree and offered another before my main course. Of course I answered ''yes'' devouring my second platter with as much enthusiasm as I had the first. (Later you will read an important point I found out about the service, but this is not the right place for it!)

                    New for me, and most appreciated, was the fact that I could buy a bottle of wine at the table and it was stored away for further nights, therefore releasing me from having to pay by the glass every night, which would have been far more expensive.

                    When you book you choose if you want to sit at a table for a few diners or a larger number for evening dining. We chose early sitting, we sat with two other couples and this proved to be a pleasant way to dine and to meet new friends. We scored a table by the huge window so looked out to sea or to the scenery at the ports as we dined.

                    SO WHY IS THIS SHIP DIFFERENT?
                    So, I hear you say, ''a cruise is a cruise so what made this one different?'' So many features were forever memorable. It's sheer size is a major difference, with every public area well designed and working well for its purpose. The Royal Promenade is a bright, bustling shopping complex in the middle of the ship and it serves as a popular meeting place, entertainment 'stage' and of course a variety of shops.

                    The amount of quality artwork on walls, in hallways, in the restaurants, bars, reception, in your stateroom and on the escalator area is definitely impressive. There was apparently a Pablo Picasso onboard and at the champagne art auction I went to there were paintings by Van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Thomas Kinkade. Believe it or not some were sold in the many thousands of US dollars. I sat with my hands firmly under my ample posterior!!

                    While the decor is quite stunning throughout it's the SERVICE that stands out on Independence of the Seas. Our passenger number reached 3300 with 1400 staff and crew who came from all over the world. Night or day you could not fault the service. We needed assistance with our wheelchair as it let us down twice. Both times a man came and worked on it and had us back in action in no time at all. The lifts were extremely unsatisfactory for wheelchair users. We told a smartly dressed uniformed man we met in the lift that they closed too quickly, hitting the wheelchair legs. He stopped in the hallway when we walked out, he took out his little communication computer ''thingy'' and entered my observation, saying he could not fix it on the spot but would have it attended to as soon as possible.

                    Independence of the Seas is generally wheelchair-friendly and on our cruise there were many wheelchairs and mobility scooters, most seemed to be moving around okay and when we went onshore there was crew on-hand to push my friend on and off the boat. You can take your own wheelchair or use one belonging to the ship.

                    SUPER SERVICE
                    While everywhere you look you see opulence and style it is the staff and crew who set the Independence of the Seas on a pedestal for me, they involved themselves with us at all levels; chatting to us in the corridors, at the table, in shops, around the pool - it seemed that they really were interested in how we were enjoying the cruise. This communication continued in daily chats from the cruise director, some of the entertainment staff and of course the Croation captain with his information on our position, weather and other relevant information. As with other cruise ships there was the daily ''newspaper'' on the bed at night providing plenty of information for the day ahead and some forward information for other forthcoming days.


                    WHAT TO DO ALL DAY AND NIGHT?
                    The entertainment schedule would take you six months if you decided to do it all. Seminars, competitions, exhibitions, Bingo, art auctions, boxing, towel-folding, food and vegetable carving and a show, over two sessions, every night. Visiting international standard entertainers and the ship's entertainment troupe present some marvellous one-hour shows. The two Ice Skating extravaganzas included Olympic standard skaters as well as others from all over the world. The ice skating show programmes ran three times each and attracted full houses each time... magnificent standard of dance, music and unbelievable costumes.

                    Just a sample of some activities organised to fill the day: Male Sexiest Knees!, Belly Flop Contest, Connoisseur Wine Tasting, Stretch and Meditation, makeup demonstrations, karaoke and boogie bodies, Line Dancing, cards, Cigar Aficionados in the Connoisseur Club, movies, jewellery making, Picasso and Friends exhibition and hundreds more things which will appeal to people of all ages.

                    The H2o area on deck 11 is massive with several pools, whirlpools and lots of deck space to lie out on the plentiful deck-beds and deck-chairs. Music played and outdoor shows were enjoyed my hundreds and you could even get free ice-creams and fruit juices here. You used your plastic card to obtain a towel and when you returned it this was recorded. If you don't return it there's a hefty charge put on your account.

                    Imagine me reclining in the hot-pool as we arrived at Madiera, our first port of call, to a huge welcome as it was the first time Independence of the Seas had arrived there. Many thousands lined the foreshore and tugs spurted huge plumes of water, high into the air, as our ship fog-horned its way into the port. All this observed by me, soaking in the hot pool, cantilevered out over the ship, hanging there in space - what a memory. The two 16-people whirlpools are cantilevered 12 feet (3.7metres) over the sides of the ships.

                    The top deck is for the energetic with the main feature being the climbing rock wall where there were plenty of cruisers making it to the top and exultant as they rang the bell. Also up there is the mini-golf course, a basketball court and the popular FlowRider (surfing) and a bar to cool off after the fun filled activities which cruisers of all ages enjoyed. I did explore up here but NO I did not pit my most sedentary body against any of the thrills on this recreational deck

                    Other things to keep you busy onboard are the casino, extremely well presented gym with a boxing ring, library, internet suite, art gallery, movies, a beauty spa with a vast range of services and even a tv/radio-room as well as ice skating if you feel like emulating the excellent performers after the shows! Independence of the Seas is a floating village - you wake up to a new ''life'' every day.

                    Consider this - you decide to have the cocktail of the day - well you can do so in any of the 22 bars, cafés or the two theatres, including the Dog and Badger Pub.... or enjoy a dining experience in the formal dining rooms or one of the other foodies experiences, and take in music and dance all over the ship, day and night as per the daily programme you get in your state-room each night.

                    Most things don't cost a penny but if you decide to have a beauty treatment you pay and of course if you want to do an onshore excursion these cost varying amounts of American dollars too. You pay for any photographs you order as well as alcoholic drinks but all over the ship you can call in for 'free' pizza, ice-cream, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, fruit juices etc at the cafe/bars anytime of day. We took some time to get used to being able to pop in to the café and get the most delightful pattissierre cakes, bagels, and sandwiches and not have to dip into the purse to pay for it.

                    PERSONAL CARD- Seapass
                    As with other cruise ships you have a personal credit-card size plastic card with your name and other information on it. This serves as your ''passport'' on and off the ship and you use it for all purchases onboard. As you first go on the ship they put it in a machine and take your photo so for all movement on and off the ship they check your photo, good security. On the television in your stateroom you can call up your account and see what you owe every night, then at the end of the cruise you get an account, if it is okay you do nothing, it just comes off your real credit card or you go to Customer Relations and pay cash.


                    INAUGURAL CANARY ISLAND CRUISE
                    So, my Independence of the Seas really was the most fabulous holiday I could have shared with my dear lady friend. There was so much good feeling about it being the inaugural cruise to the Canary Islands, both on the ship and when we went ashore. Most places did official welcomes and we got hats, brochures, music and generally a cheerful welcome for the new ship.


                    A LITTLE COMMENT.......
                    I have to say there was a matter I would report as more of a comment than a complaint - we had the most stunning stateroom, with a huge, round window - it was so beautiful, a good size with two beautifully presented twin beds, huge wardrobe and free digital safe, a sofa and four tasteful pieces of artwork on the walls, a hollywood style make-up mirror with feature lights, a long mirror, fridge, hairdryer and a flat-screen tv with over 40 channels, electric jug for making your own tea and coffee. Amidst all this style and comfort and they put 2 plastic/paper type mugs for drinking your beverage from. I thought it let the room down a little; porcelain cups and saucers would have been more fitting.


                    MY ONLY COMPLAINT.... for me it's a 'biggy'
                    I do have a real disappointment and it bugged be before we boarded and during the cruise. It was the tipping/gratuity edict. I'd read in the pre-sail information the amounts we were supposed to give to the Head Waiter, waiter and assistant to the waiter and our house-cleaning lady. I thought the ''recommendation'' really high and it was simmering in the back of my mind quite a bit.

                    As the cruise progressed I was sitting next to a fellow cruiser on a shuttle bus and he said that the mentioned crew members do not get a salary but rely on our tips. I told him that I did not believe that for a minute. Upon my return to the ship I mentioned it to our fellow dining-room table guests and they too thought it would not work that way. I undertook to find out the next day. I went to the ship's booking office and asked a congenial Welshman if it was true. To my horror he said it was. It seems these crew members get a US$50 sort of retainer per month and the rest of their wages is from the guests tips/gratuities.

                    This actually annoyed me and I told the young man that it really meant we were paying their wages and I didn't think we should have to do that and also it sort of took the shine off the excellent service they were proffering to us. I sort of felt it was a bit false - they were being so good just to get a payment from us. He said ''It is the American way, I know you Brits are having a little difficulty with it but it is accepted by the Americans and this is an American ship''. Well that may be so but it still stuck in my craw. He added, ''just look at the service they give you and you will think it is worthwhile''. If my friend and I had agreed to the gratuities level presented in the ships letter to us we would have paid USA$111 each - when you add it on to the price we paid for the fare - GBP844 it actually means the cruise cost us over GBP900.00.

                    Well it is my opinion that a person should be paid by the ship's owners/operators and the level of service should be because they like and want us to enjoy our meal or be in pleasant, clean staterooms. What we pay for ''service'' should be what we feel we want to ''reward'' them with. Some of you may not agree with me but this is my opinion and I feel comfortable with it. Anyway, those at our dining table decided on one figure in British Pounds and that we would pool it into one envelope and the head waiter could share it out. I do not know if they were appreciative of that or not. I guess I will know if a curse descends upon me in coming weeks!
                    So, my only complaint is one of administration and not anything to do with the presentation of the Independence of the Seas.

                    Another thing which may be a little negative was that I thought the beauty treatments were highly priced so here are some prices for your consideration as to whether I am being fair or not - Swedish Massage (50 minutes) USA$119; Lime and Ginger Exfoliation (50 mins) USA$155, Couples Massage (50 mins) USA269. Aromaspa Seaweed Massage (85mins) USA$195, and Elemis Absolute Spa Ritual (100 mins) USA$264. You could go on a cheaper package on Ladies Day - we went for a USA$120 50 minute back massage, facial, foot massage and a little scalp finish off.

                    SOME STATISTICS
                    Not sure if you want to know all this but it may be of interest to those who want to cruise on the largest passenger ship in world (at least until late 2009 when Royal Caribbean launches another ship it is having built right now - Oasis of the Seas - which will take 5000 passengers and have a New York-style park onboard!).
                    LENGTH: 1112.2 feet, 339.0 metre. BEAM: 184.0 feet, 56.0 metres.
                    ORIGINAL COST: $590 million
                    BUILT IN: Finland by Kvaerner Masa-Yards.
                    LAUNCHED: in Southampton late April 2008.
                    PASSENGERS: (Lower beds/all berths: 3600-depending on configuration, can be up to 4370.
                    STATE-ROOMS: 1800 (Including: Presidential family suite with 5 rooms, Royal suite, Superior Oceanview, Deluxe Oceanview with a balcony, Interior promenade view, and the interior (no view) - just to name a few.
                    SHOW LOUNGE: Alhambra Theatre, over 5 decks, hydraulic orchestra pit, sonic boom loud sound, superb lighting.

                    Now you really do need to know this - it will tip your cruise buying decision - they use 75,000 eggs in one week! That did it for you - I am sure!.

                    ITINERARY
                    Southampton, Madiera, Teneriffe, Gran Canaria, Lazarote, Lisbon and Vigo with 4 sea-days... eleven nights, 12 days.

                    PRICES.
                    These vary on what grade accommodation you prefer and and it does pay to shop around - the cruise booking companies do offer good early-booking discounts but if you buy onboard Royal Caribbean does discount and offer a USA$200 onboard spend.

                    Our GBP844 will not be offered again as it was an extra cruise put on because the ship was finished early and we were assured onboard that price will not be available again. Indeed, I have booked for next year in October and the lowest price I could get for interior stateroom was GBP1095 per person and that includes an early booking fee.

                    Sorry this is SO long, I have tried to abridge it - failed miserably I am afraid. Hope you enjoyed this review and aren't too tired out reading it.!!!

                    Independence of the Seas is huge on quality, service and facilities - you can luxuriate while enjoying the very best in holiday cruise mode..... formal or informal - whichever mood takes you. We loved every single minute of our cruise and recommend it for quality, value for travel money spend and an ideal way to meet people who appreciate the best.
                    (Also on Ciao)

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                      15.02.2008 16:47
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                      Luxurious Cruises to embark upon for days of pampering and enjoyment

                      Last summer, I went on a fabulous Mediterranean cruise. I went with Royal Caribbean cruises, and it was a holiday to remember! It wasn't all great, but the majority was excellent and it was definitely an experience, being my first ever cruise! I travelled on the Brilliance of the Seas ship, which is just one of many different ones that Royal Caribbean own. Here is a list of some of the other cruise models they operate:

                      * Freedom
                      * Voyager
                      * Radiance
                      * Vision
                      * Sovereign

                      The freedom range is the newest of them all, and features the largest cruise ship in the world. Similar to the Voyager family, but 100ft longer with 15 decks of activity, it is gigantic with loads of facilities. This cruise ship will be operating mostly around the Caribbean to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Haiti and Mexico.

                      ~~~~~
                      Design
                      ~~~~~

                      The brilliance of the seas cruise that I embarked on had a lovely design. It was an enormous ship compared to some of the smaller ones, and had a modern and sleek design. In the centre on both sides, there is an enormous blue glass structure that reaches from the top floor to the fifth floor below. The floor just below the upper deck has a long window that goes right across the ship. This window is shaped in such a way that you can look down and actually be above the sea itself, as it slightly protrudes from the boat. There are many balcony rooms below the top decks, and then there are ocean view rooms down below with interior rooms in between all of them. The top of the boat is open with many facilities that you can make use of.

                      ~~~~~~
                      Facilities
                      ~~~~~~

                      The brilliance of the seas ship had the following facilities:

                      Rock climbing wall
                      Internet Café
                      Sports Pool
                      Adults only Solarium with pool & more
                      Large theatre
                      Good size cinema
                      Large buffet restaurant
                      Dining restaurant - 2 floors
                      Table Tennis
                      Sports Court
                      Mini Golf Course
                      Many Cafes
                      Art Gallery
                      Large Gym
                      Sauna
                      Massage Parlour
                      Hairdresser
                      Adventure Ocean youth programme
                      Promenade
                      Shops

                      There are plenty of facilities to keep you active whilst on board the ship. You will have at least one day at sea on any cruise, and this is when you can make full use of the facilities. If not, they are still available to use when the ship has docked, however things such as the rock climbing wall will only operate at certain times of the day.

                      The rock climbing wall was really fun to try. They kit you out and give you correct shoes and a helmet and help you to climb the wall by doing the rope work. There are three paths, which are of different difficulties. I never managed to do the hardest, but gave it a good go and did the other two!

                      There are many cafes throughout the ship where you can buy lovely cocktails or non alcoholic drinks. One of the cafes featured an internet café with many computers available. They charged you using your room cards, which every person had.

                      There was a pool on the upper open deck that could be made use of until around 7pm. Many events were held here as well as others throughout the shop with daily programmes full of activities distributed to you every day. The adult's only solarium is great if you want to get away from the kids and noise. Anyone can walk through it, but it isn't allowed to be used by kids, so they cannot use the pool or Jacuzzi. It has a lovely design to it with a jungle-theme of leaves, elephants and more features. It also has a reclining roof that could open and close for when it was sunny.

                      There was also a large theatre, which provided the evening entertainment and was the welcoming place for the first day. Many shows were held here including dancing, singing, acting and comedians.

                      The food facilities were excellent, which you would expect from such a luxurious ship. There was a huge buffet that could seat many, which would serve every meal of the day including food for a mid-afternoon snack or tea! There was also a posh dining restaurant of two floors, with elegant staircases and a lovely atmosphere. We ended up going here for most our evening meals, but you were required to wear formal attire, casual attire or smart-casual depending on the day.

                      On the sport side of things, there was a 9-hole mini-golf course, which was great fun. You could use it whenever you wanted by grabbing a pencil and score card with your clubs and balls, and head off to hole one to start. There was also a sports court where events were held such as dodge ball, and you could also play basketball and football here. As well as this, there were 2 table tennis tables that were on one of the upper decks near the pool. There were another two on the other side of the ship, and were surprisingly available at times to have a quick game. One funny thing that happened here when me and my brother were playing is that I hit it to him and with his awful skills, he somehow hit it right towards the window to the side of him and guess what? IT WAS OPEN! The ball went flying out into the sea before we burst out laughing at the typical accident...

                      There are many other facilities for beauty including a massage parlour and hairdresser. You can also keep yourself fit in the large gym with many machines such as cycling, running and all the other exercise machines you could imagine. There was a wide window at the front of the ship where you could look out from whilst jogging on the treadmills. The gym was huge with loads of apparatus in there to make use of, to burn off those calories from all the lovely food! There was also a promenade that you could walk around on the top deck of the ship. It was made clear by a red path, and was always made aware of so that people wouldn't put their deck chairs on it, so that others could exercise round it.

                      There were also quite a few shops around the ship, most situated in one area. They sold souvenirs as well as jewellery, aftershaves, perfumes, watches, clothes and more. The good thing was that every night there was normally some kind of sale in the shop area. Whether they were watches at $10 each or sunglasses, they were always a good bargain for what they were.

                      Facility-wise, there were plenty of them and I made good use of them. Other ships include thing such as the surf simulation where you surf with a board on the simulating wave. I have seen videos of this on YouTube, and it looks like much fun!

                      ~~~~~~~~
                      Destinations
                      ~~~~~~~~

                      Personally, I went on a Mediterranean cruise and stopped off at quite a few locations including Naples (Italy), Rome (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu (Greece), Pisa (Italy), Livorno (Italy), Venice (Italy) and France too. Other cruises go around the Caribbean and America to places such as Miami, Jamaica, Mexico and many more destinations.

                      I found the ones I visited very interesting and when you book, you must also choose what trips you will go on. They give you detailed information on each of the trips including dates, times and what you will see. Each of the locations was very different - some were boring and some were great. One day you would be trying out your French and the next day your Italian! Venice was a great place to visit AGAIN, as I just love it there and can't get enough of it. When we actually cruised into Venice, we were really above the city as we cruised through to the port. At the time, people were actually getting right up on top of the ship on the highest point you could climb up onto. I also got up there with my brother and we took some fantastic photos of us above the city.

                      France was excellent as we got to visit Monte Carlo after a sweaty and busy train ride. Monte Carlo is a very rich area and was a lovely place to visit, which also featured the Casino featured in the Bond film 'Casino Royale'. There were many cool fast cars we saw including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Luxury Mercedes and more. The rest of the locations were very interesting, and we managed to visit the city of Pisa as well, which was a day to remember.

                      ~~~~~~~~~
                      My Experience
                      ~~~~~~~~~

                      When I first saw the ship, I wasn't totally amazed as I had never been on one before. I thought it would be enormous, and it was but I for some reason thought it should have looked bigger. We flew out to Barcelona on the day of 2007 in July when there was that terrible rain and thunderstorm that caused the flooding. After a 3 hour delay, our British Airways flight flew off to Barcelona. We caught up quite a bit of time, but we were worried about missing the Cruise departure! It turned out ok, as many of the others on our Cruise were on that very same plane that departed from Gatwick Airport.

                      After a slow coach journey to the port that took around an hour, we were taken right to the ship. You have to go through a building where you sign in and get your room cards. We then headed up the escalator and across the walkways to board the ship. We were very invited as soon as we stepped aboard, and we were shown to our rooms. Our very own maid also greeted us, who cleaned the rooms in our area. She was a lovely woman and very kind and happy. Everyday, she cleaned our rooms very well, gave us our chocolates and even made animals out of the towels sometimes! She once managed to make a monkey, hanging from the ceiling!

                      We got to the ship too late for the emergency drill, but there was one that most people took part in. As we saw on the cruise holiday video, they were in their life jackets and practiced getting to their locations quickly and efficiently. This was done whilst docked at Barcelona, but we missed it because of the flight delay. Many people seemed to miss this, which wasn't good in case there was an emergency, but luckily there wasn't. I guess they didn't want to waste too much time of our holidays anyway!

                      On the first day, we headed up top to watch the ship leave Barcelona. Others left just before us too, sounding there immense horns. Our time came, as we slowly departed the port and then gained speed as we were out into deeper waters. We treated ourselves to some lovely drinks that you had to pay for from the upper deck by the pool. Other drinks in the buffet are free such as lemonade, ice tea, hot drinks and juices.

                      The first night was appalling and sickening as the boat was in rough waters. It was the same for the whole of the last day at sea before we reached Barcelona, and that had to be the worse day. Many people were sick on that day, but others were fine and enjoying themselves with a barbecue that was also held outside by the pool. The first night, we were literally being thrown around the cabin whilst trying to put away our clothes and settle in. Whilst in the shower, we were still being thrown about, which wasn't very pleasant but couldn't be helped. It was actually quite relaxing and pleasant when we were trying to get to sleep, but we were just hoping it would stop by the next day - and it did.

                      The cinema that we tried out one night was ok - a bit of a weird film too. The screen was large, but it wasn't of perfect quality with a slight fuzziness to the picture. However, we still stayed to watch the film and it was quite empty with only a few others in there.

                      The evening entertainment was very good. There were several infamous people on stage including magicians, comedians, singers and dancers, all backed by the fabulous Brilliance of the Seas Orchestra! The orchestra really were quite good though and everyone much appreciated them. On the last day, the captain even took a trip down to the theatre as he gave a talk about the ship as well as answering questions. Because it was the last day where the ship was rocking lots making everyone sick, everyone was asking about how safe the boat was and the conditions. He kept going on about the GIANT structures under the boat that are similar to wings, which keep the boat very stable and balanced, with automatic flaps to control the boat's movement. I am also aware myself that the boat had a gigantic engine that went metres down into the sea, which propelled the boat forwards at 25 knots.

                      There were many events throughout the cruise from belly flop competitions to art auctions! We actually bought quite a few pieces from the art auctions, which very annoying Australian women conducted. Her voice was very annoying and all she ever said was 'rock n roll' whenever something sold or didn't sell. The auctions were very exciting and something to do, which we took part in. They sold loads of art from modern to classic art. The prices weren't bad but were in dollars as with everything else because it was an American Cruise. They also had mysterious auctions where you would bid, not knowing what the art was. Then after seeing it, you could buy it if you wanted after the auction. A camera recorded all the action going on. Our paintings were shipped from America, where this huge art museum was based by UPS. They arrived safely in good condition weeks after the cruise.

                      The food was excellent and you could easily put on a stone during the 10 day cruise! The buffet had great food for lunch including hamburgers, curries, rice, fries, sausages, salads, all different meats, pizza, cold food, sandwiches, rolls, fruit, biscuits, cakes, ice cream and more! There was plenty of food to go round, and you could also take drinks from the buffet out onto the deck such as lemonade and water. They also did an excellent breakfast service that contained everything you could want from pancakes to eggs, bacon, sausages, beans, toast, bread, milk, orange juice and cereal with many more options too like cold meat and cheese. The food here was of brilliant quality and very tasty - the cookies were just out of this world and it was all included in the price!

                      The other dining restaurant, which was open in the evening but required certain clothing, was formidable. You either needed to wear a suit or smart dress on the smart evenings. On the casual evenings, you could wear a shirt or blouse (if female obviously). On the smart-casual evenings, you could wear a shirt and jacket but no tie with smart trousers, or a dress for the ladies. The food was excellent, and each night there was a different menu. The food included fish, seafood, meat, soups, vegetarian food, salads and many more options. Some of the highlights for me were the excellent steaks and chicken dishes. They were a lover of mash potato, but it was a very good quality mash! Consequently, they seemed to serve it with many things, but also did rice, potato and fries. They would bring you back as many dishes as you wanted because they made so many of each. If you were still hungry, you could order something else and it would be with you in minutes! They could cook anything that you wanted as long as you told them in advance. You had your own personal waiter throughout the cruise as well as bread-supplier. They were very nice people and even got into a routine of our needs such as a straw for my drinks, because their lemonade seemed to rot away my teeth! - More on that later. There was also the head waiter, who visited every table around the restaurant and was extremely friendly and well-mannered as he should have been. He always made sure that we were ok and enjoying the meal, and asked if we had any complaints all the time, so was very helpful.

                      The staffs were all very friendly and willing to help you. Most of them were foreign from eastern countries, whilst others were American as it was an American cruise liner. The service was brilliant with food and any other help that we needed. There was also a cruise director that we all found annoying, but he was a nice guy and was there at all the shows to introduce people. He also hosted a show at the end of the cruise on the last day at sea, where all the staff went up on stage and were applauded by the guests.

                      ~~~~
                      Cabin
                      ~~~~

                      Our cabin was on the upper floor just below the balcony decks. It was an exterior room with an ocean view. It was quite small but not cramped at all and had everything that we needed and more! It was fully equipped with 2 single beds, 2 bedside draws and holders with a light each side. The light could be turned to direct at a book in the evening when you were reading, and you could also control the cabin lights to switch them off from the bed rather than going to the door to switch them off and running back to the bed in the dark.

                      There was also a sofa present with a dressing table and chair opposite. There was a large mirror with two cabinets either side. A TV pulled out from one of the cupboards, which was a good size 21 inch. It was able to rotate and had loads of channels on it including the hotel channel that showed activities and the daily programme.

                      There was a small bathroom, which had a corner shower complete with a curtain. There was a toilet beside it with the large mirror opposite. There was plenty of space including a shelf under the sink to put your toiletries, and it all worked very well. The bathroom steamed up after a warm shower, but you can't help this really.

                      Overall, the cabin was very comfortable and was better to be lower down on the first rocky night, as you don't feel the motion as much as people on the upper floors. However on the last rocky day, it was best to be up and about eating and relaxing trying to ignore the rocking or you would feel sick. The beds were comfortable and it had everything we needed including a telephone for room service, to phone other rooms and to phone the information desk and other places.

                      ~~~~~~~
                      Drawbacks
                      ~~~~~~~

                      * The rocking of the ship on the seas near Barcelona was very aggravating, as we weren't able to enjoy ourselves and on the first night were literally thrown around the cabin. The last day was not worth what we paid for, as we were just trying not to feel sick the whole time, and one of us didn't get through without being sick; the maids had a lot of cleaning up to do that day!

                      * The lemonade drinks, which were one of the only ones they put on show in the buffet were terrible! I have good teeth, and throughout the cruise, I brushed them thoroughly as normal. However, my teeth started to rot away and then became so bad that I couldn't eat with them! My teeth really hurt and there was a lot of pain if I tried to eat on the back teeth. It was as if I needed fillings, and I am sure it was that lemonade! I have never liked lemonade, but this one seemed so sour and bad that I am pretty sure it rotted away my teeth! Therefore, I had to drink apple juice with a straw the rest of the time which always had to be asked for as they didn't put it on show. I couldn't enjoy my meals for the majority of the cruise because of this too!

                      ~~~~
                      Prices
                      ~~~~

                      Depending on the ship you go on and the destinations you visit, the prices alter accordingly. Here are a few examples currently on their site for prices:

                      10 Night Canary Islands & Morocco Cruise
                      **********************************
                      Interior: £568
                      Ocean View: £693
                      Balcony: £921
                      Suite: £1805

                      10 Night Mediterranean Cruise
                      *************************
                      Interior: £1214
                      Ocean View: £1103
                      Balcony: £1206
                      Suite: £1903

                      7 Night Southern Caribbean Cruise
                      *****************************
                      Interior: £394
                      Ocean View: £480
                      Balcony: £664
                      Suite: £879

                      Depending on the location and destinations, you will have a certain ship from either of the fleets. The prices are pretty expensive compared to a normal holiday, but a cruise is a great experience and you can really have yourself pampered for a while with many facilities to use and enjoy. It's like a moving hotel, as you also get to visit many destinations and go on tours!

                      ~~~~~~~
                      Conclusion
                      ~~~~~~~

                      Royal Caribbean cruises are excellent and very luxurious. The service is excellent and the staffs are all very friendly and helpful. The cabin that I stayed in was very comfortable and had everything I needed. There were many facilities including pools, an enormous gym and beauty parlours enabling you to have a luxurious cruise. It was definitely a trip worth doing and an experience I will never forget, however I am not sure I would go on one again, for they are expensive.

                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                      www.royalcaribbean.co.uk

                      Royal Caribbean International
                      Aviator Park
                      Building 2, Station Road
                      Addlestone,
                      Surrey, KT15 2PG
                      UK

                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                      Thanks for reading,

                      - Recon -

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                        23.01.2005 18:42
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                        Now, don't get the wrong idea, a holiday afloat in style and luxury is not for us a way of life. It was a special occasion, our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and a special occasion demanded a special celebration.

                        Having said that, this was not my first experience of cruising or indeed Royal Caribbean. Some years ago the company for which I work hired a couple of ships from Royal Caribbean for a Kick-off Conference. Some 4,000 of us joined the ships at Miami and cruised to New Orleans where our Customer Conference was being held. We moored alongside the conference centre (center?) and the ships were used as hotels for the duration. At the end we cruised back to Miami.

                        Despite the fact that we were subjected to interminable presentations for six hours each day during the voyage, we were allowed to escape to enjoy the benefits on offer for the remainder of the time, an experience that left a lasting impression. It was for this reason that I was confident that Royal Caribbean, rather than one of the other competing lines, would be my choice on this occasion.

                        One thing was certain; we wanted a holiday in the Caribbean. More than that, I wanted to include a visit to Barbados. My family has connections. My Great-Great-Grandmother came from there. Legend has it that she was the daughter of a plantation owner on the island, who fell in love with a sailor out of Bristol and eloped with him, to be disowned and disinherited by her family. I have no idea if it's true but certainly no fortune is evident from that branch of the family.

                        Royal Caribbean does cruises all over the World, not just in the Caribbean. The one we eventually settled on was as much decided by the dates we wanted to travel as anything. We selected the Southern Caribbean cruise, departing from San Juan in Puerto Rico and visiting St Thomas, St Maarten, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados and returning to San Juan.

                        The cruise was to be on the Adventure of the Sea (all RC ships are called "The something of the Seas"), one of the largest ships in the fleet and temporary home to around 3,500 guests. My previous experience had been on the Grandeur of the Seas, hosting a mere 1,900 souls!


                        We're on our way
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Our journey started very early on a Saturday morning at London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3. Royal Caribbean had booked us on American Airlines for the first leg of our holiday, from London to San Juan via New York JFK.

                        They had also arranged for us to check in at the exclusive Park Avenue check-in desk, situated on the opposite side of the road to the terminal. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8.30am. Check-in was required to be completed three hours before departure. Park Avenue doesn't open until 6.00am! If this is an example of Royal Caribbean's organisational efficiency, already I'm not impressed!

                        So we checked in with the rest of the "hoi polloi"! Actually, the formalities were completed with great efficiency and with only a short wait so I doubt that the alternative arrangements would have made any significant difference.


                        New York
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        We had to change flights at JFK but, because this was our first landfall in the States, all of the entry formalities had to be completed first. Not only did that include Passport Controls but we also had to collect our luggage and transfer it to our next flight.

                        We had 90 minutes between flights. We arrived at the Passport desks to find two queues, one for US Citizens containing around two dozen people, one for non-US citizens containing several hundred! That in itself wouldn't have been too bad but for the actions of the queue controller who, as soon as any Americans arrived, held back everyone else and sent them to the front! Suddenly 90 minutes seemed nowhere near long enough.

                        I approached him and asked him for some help as we had a connecting flight and it looked like we might miss it. His totally off-hand response let us know in no uncertain terms that he couldn't give a toss and it was just our bad luck we weren't born in the Land of the Free.

                        With only twenty minutes to go it became clear that we weren't the only ones in danger of missing this flight. Fortunately a female co-ordinator listened to our concerns and was far more sympathetic. She got us through to the front and we all made our flight, including collecting and transferring our luggage, with minutes to spare.


                        San Juan, Puerto Rico
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Our voyage was not to start immediately. Our time of arrival would have been too late and so arrangements had been made for us to spend our first night at a hotel close to the port.

                        We stayed at the Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino. This is a huge hotel. It is built on both sides of the road with an aerial walkway to connect the two halves.

                        We had a room on the 6th floor, right at the end of the block, with a view of the port about half a mile away across the bay. From the balcony outside our room we could see our ship awaiting our arrival. The view was quite spectacular. Our room was large as is the norm with American hotels, and extremely comfortable.

                        As you will gather from the name, the hotel exists to promote gambling. The casino is open 24 hours a day. Everything is provided for the guests to encourage their habit. We resisted, easily in our case; neither of us are gamblers in any way, not even the nags, not even for the Grand National.

                        There is plenty else to entertain though. There are many restaurants. We used two, "Gusto di Italia" for our evening meal and "Las Palmas" for breakfast. Both were enjoyable experiences and we even had real French butter rather than the awful anaemic stuff that seem to be provided in most American eateries.

                        In the grounds are two swimming pools, one freshwater, one seawater, with a poolside bar and with entertainment. We enjoyed an evening drink before retiring and there was enough time the following morning for us to soak up some sun and enjoy a swim before having to leave to join our ship.

                        The Wyndham would be a very good base for a holiday in San Juan, especially if you are a gambler.


                        The Adventure of the Seas
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Royal Caribbean has various classes of liners. The Adventure is one of their Voyager class ships. These are the very largest of their ships. They tower up to 14 decks into the air. We were on the 9th.

                        Amongst the facilities found on these vast ships are a Spa, a Fitness Centre, a Theatre seating 1350 people, a Nightclub, an Ice Rink, a Climbing Wall, an Internet Cafe, a Library with 300 books (if you really can't find anything else to do!), various bathing pools and poolside jacuzzis, bars everywhere and restaurants in abundance.

                        And, of course, all of this was for the evenings since each day revealed a new island to explore. We were not going to be bored. Indeed, the problem would be finding the time to enjoy all of the benefits. We failed. We never did boogie the night away in the Nightclub.


                        Welcome aboard
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Royal Caribbean has boarding procedures down to a fine art. Nevertheless, with 3,500 guests it still takes from mid morning to late evening to get everyone on board.

                        We were called to go to the ship from our hotel at 11.00am. Our luggage was to come on later, much later as it turned out! The registration takes place in a large hangar with many desks, each for a letter of the alphabet. Fortunately ours was free when we arrived. Maybe "T" isn't a common initial?

                        On presenting our vouchers, we were asked also for our passports, which were retained for the duration of the cruise. In return you are presented with a credit card pass that serves as everything on board and off. It's the key to your "cabin" (calling it merely a cabin seems almost an insult), your payment card for everything you buy, your passport when ashore and your pass to get on and off the ship.

                        At last we are ready to board. You have to present your pass card and this is inserted into a machine that takes your picture. From now on, when returning to the ship, we have to look like our picture or else we don't get back on board! So, no sunglasses or hats.

                        We join the queue at the top of the ramp and for the first but not the last time we have our photo taken as a souvenir (at a price of course). "Welcome back again". I'm impressed, they know it's not my first cruise! Then I realise, my pass card says "Gold Member" (no Austin Powers jokes please). You're a Gold Member of you've cruised with them before and not for any other attributes.


                        A Home from Home
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Our cabin is on the 9th deck of 14. We have a cabin with a balcony on the starboard side (see, I'm even getting the terms right though we will slip into the slightly frivolous "Sharp End and "Blunt End" before long).

                        The cabin is superb. I've stayed in hotel rooms smaller than this. The cabin has an en suite with a proper washbasin, a proper toilet and a shower. I've stayed in hotel rooms with a bathroom smaller than this!

                        There's bags of storage space. We have more than enough room for everything we brought for the entire holiday. The empty bags fit under the Queen-sized double bed. If we were to stay in our room for the rest of the cruise we would do so in complete comfort.

                        However, our bags have yet to arrive. They will not do so for many hours. Our enthusiasm is tempered. Let's go and inspect the ship.


                        A City Afloat
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        If you have never seen one of these ships it is difficult to imagine the sheer scale. I thought the "Grandeur" was something all those years ago. This is even grander.

                        The whole centre of the ship is occupied by a huge atrium that goes by the name of the Royal Promenade. This runs half the length of the ship and from deck 5 up to deck 8. The floor level is designed to look like a town street with shops and bars on either side. Bridges run across from side to side. Looking up from "ground" level the roof seems miles away. Above the "retail outlets" there are the windows of those cabins that have a view over the inside of the ship rather than the outside, like ours.

                        There are amusing little details such as a full-size model of a tourist, complete with camera, who is frozen in a stance of pointing to a feature on the wall above. Few can resist the urge to have their picture taken alongside him.

                        There are bars of all styles including an "English Pub" and a Sports Bar with seemingly unending baseball on the satellite TV screens. We resisted the urge to visit both; there are so many other choices.

                        The shops sell drink, clothing, jewellery and all manner of souvenirs. None of these are at especially cheap prices but then, you aren't obliged to buy. They do have feature evenings where supposedly bargains are to be had. We didn't feel that they were really bargains although we did indulge ourselves a couple of times.

                        As befits an American ship there is a large Casino, where those with a gambling urge can play the slots, roulette, poker and blackjack. Here you may drink free of charge whilst playing, the only place on board where the booze is free. Not being a gambler in any way shape or form, our only entry into the Casino was as a route through to another part of the ship.

                        If your inclination is to boogie the night away then there is a Disco. If you prefer more relaxed dancing then there is a nightclub.

                        If you want to be entertained in a more relaxed way then there is a Theatre seating around 1,400 with shows every night. The resident entertainer is the superb James Stephens III. I knew him from my previous experience of Royal Caribbean. He seems to be a regular on their cruises, not surprising really since he is a real class act. Comedian, Impersonator, Singer, on this trip he introduced us to his six-year old son, who clearly has the ability to follow in his father’s footsteps.

                        Many of the bars have live entertainment. The Viking Crown Lounge on deck 14 had an excellent group playing all sorts of styles of music, which enhanced the stunning 360-degree views from the all-round windows.

                        If you want a little exercise then there is a real ice-rink to enjoy. OK, this may not be the biggest stretch of ice you have ever seen but if it can stage a 1 hour ice show with professional skaters from all around the World, as it does, then it's certainly going to be big enough for you.

                        Decks 13 to 15 at the rear of the ship house the sports areas, with a basketball court, putting course, in-line skating course and, believe it or not, a climbing wall that rises the 3 decks from the floor. Of course, there are safety harnesses for those this adventurous but nevertheless, it looked a real challenge.


                        Eating Out (In?)
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        If there's one thing the ship isn't short of, it's places to eat. When you book your cruise you have to nominate your preference for the evening dinner, either early or late sitting and large or small table. We chose late and small respectively, late because we preferred 8.30pm to 6.00pm and small because I suffer from tinnitus and I felt I would be better able to hear what my dining companions were saying on a smaller table.

                        The main dining room stretches through 3 decks. There is the bottom floor and above it two sets of balconies, so leaving open the centre of the room so that, if you have a table at the edge of the balcony you may look down on those seated below you.

                        The waiters at your table are assigned for the duration. We had a delightful couple who looked after us handsomely. The food was excellent and very varied.

                        The wine list is extensive but we decided from the beginning to take advantage of their special offer that provided 7 bottles of selected red, white, rose and sparkling wines for $140. We did, however, also have a bottle of genuine champagne on the night of our actual anniversary. That night we dined in one of the other restaurants.

                        You can have your bottles of wine at any time, not just at dinner. However, if you do, be warned, the lunchtime restaurants are not prepared. It seems that no wine is kept at these restaurants and in order to fill your order a waiter has to go all the way to the other end of the ship to get a bottle! Poor organisation, not typical of the ship, which generally has these sorts of things sorted!

                        For the special occasion however, you can eat in the Portofino Restaurant. As you can guess from the name, this is an Italian style restaurant. It also requires you to book in advance, the only one that does.

                        Our special day was, of course, our 25th Wedding Anniversary, so a special celebration was in order. Unfortunately we were too late and the restaurant was already fully booked on the day, well, almost. They only had a table for eight. They offered us a table for the following day but we were reluctant to accept and explained why. They then oulled out all the stops and rearranged the bookings to fit us in. How many restaurants would do that?

                        The evening was very special indeed. A bottle of champagne, of course. In all the cost came to just over $100, very reasonable indeed. Eating in the Portofino is not included in the all-in price.


                        The Excursions
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Of course, there is more than enough to keep you amused aboard but the whole point of a Caribbean Cruise is to see the Caribbean or, at least, the Islands. We had booked excursions on each island when we booked the cruise. On each we planned a different type.


                        St Thomas
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        St Thomas is hardly any distance at all from Puerto Rico, no more than a couple of hours at a very modest speed on a ship as modern as the "Adventure". Leaving Puerto Rico at around midnight, we were already docked when we awoke the following morning.

                        St Thomas is one of the US Virgin Islands. We docked at the main port at the capital, Charlotte Amalie. Although US territory, St Thomas has one unique feature. All traffic drives on the left. That REALLY confuses US visitors, especially as all the cars are old US left-hand drive vehicles!

                        We had only booked one excursion on St Thomas and that was just a trip up to Paradise Point on the St Thomas Skyride. This is only a short stroll from where the ship docks. The trip up to the viewing point is aboard a gondola on the sort of cableway typically found in ski resorts.

                        The view over St Thomas is superb. I took many photos. Up here there is also a restaurant together with a number of stalls where you can buy the usual touristy things. There is also an aviary owned buy one of the stall holders where parrots and other noisy birds entertain the visitors.

                        Also here is a nature trail where you can climb up and down a marked pathway and see examples of local flora and fauna. A half hour is all that is needed and I recommend you take it in.

                        Afterwards we descended again took a taxi for the short trip into town. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the town, visiting the shops and having a drink here and something to eat there.

                        St Thomas make a point of letting you know that it is a "Duty Free" town. However, other than booze and fags, we really didn't notice any bargains.

                        St Maarten (or St Martin)
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        So, two names for the same island? Well, yes, because this is the World's smallest island divided into two nations. We docked in St Maarten, at the capital, Philipsburg. This is the Dutch half of the island.

                        We had booked a tour of the island. We were collected by coach and we were on our way. However, the tour virtually ignored the Dutch half of the island. Other than a commentary about how the island had in that past made its money from salt, produced in the still evident saltpans that we passed, that was it. We were heading for the French half of the island, St Martin, and its capital, Marigot.

                        Now, for me that’s a good thing. Dutch I don’t speak, French I do. Not only that but, St Maarten/St Martin is officially an associate territory of the European Union. So the currency is? That’s right, the beloved Euro, loads of which I always carry in my wallet. Of course, they also drive on the right.

                        We had a couple of hours in Marigot, wandering around the shops and eating and drinking. More “Duty Free” though here at least the prices were more reasonable. There is also an air-conditioned shopping centre close to where the coach parks and we ended up there before returning to the coach to continue the tour.

                        We ended up at a beach club on Guana Bay, about 15 minutes from the port. Limited food and drink was provided. Extra drinks to be paid for. However, we were mostly there to chill out for the afternoon. Unfortunately, inclement conditions (yes, they do get rain in the Caribbean) caused us to cut short the afternoon and hitch a ride on an early coach back to the ship. Pity, with the right weather it would have been a very pleasant afternoon.

                        Antigua
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Antigua has been a British colony (now independent) since 1632 (apart from a very brief period when the French tried to get their mitts on it), so it’s back to driving on the left, but this time with right-hand drive cars and English as the language.

                        Built on the sugar trade, the island now predominantly derives its revenue from the tourist trade. As usual, “Duty Free” shopping is featured everywhere.

                        We docked at the capital, St Johns, and here we had booked a beach day. Fortunately the weather was glorious and so made up for the disappointment of the previous afternoon. We were taxied to Miller’s by the Sea, where we indulged in the pleasures of a fabulous sand beach and warm calm seas.

                        The only thing to watch out for is the beach “health experts” who tout the anti-sunburn benefits of Aloa Vera, using the excuse of giving you a try by slicing open its fleshy leaves and rubbing them on you. Of course, they expect payment! Whether it works or not I can’t say but I didn’t get burnt so maybe it does. It felt and smelled quite nice anyway.

                        After a very pleasant six hours or so, we returned to St Johns for a look round the shops before returning to the ship. St Johns is a very colourful town and we had a very nice hour or so before retiring to the “safety” of the sundeck on board.

                        I would like to see more of Antigua so maybe we’ll go back some day.

                        St Lucia
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        St Lucia is unquestionably one of the most beautiful islands I have ever seen. Discovered right at the end of the 15th century. It has changed hands between the French and the British so many times the natives must be dizzy. It finally became solely British in 1814 and independent in 1967. The natives are trilingual, with the local Creole as the first language, plus French and English in more or less equal proportions.

                        We docked at the capital, Castries. Our excursion was, once again, a tour of the island. This time the transport was after the style of open troop carriers! This works because you have a totally unrestricted view. The truck back is encircled by a padded framework so as to ensure you can’t be thrown out and that you have something to hang on to.

                        The scenery is simply staggering, lush green forests everywhere. At one point we drove through a huge banana plantation. This is still St Lucia’s main industry although the “banana wars” between the US and Europe has caused serious damage to the economy. Fortunately, people who visit St Lucia usually come back again, and again, and again… The tourists are maybe not making all the difference, but it helps.

                        We stopped at one point and trekked down to a pool by a waterfall, where we spent a very pleasant three-quarters of an hour before driving a little further to another pool and another paddle/bathe. The water was a little chilly but not unpleasantly so.

                        St Lucia is absolutely gorgeous and the real star of the cruise.

                        Barbados
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        Barbados was discovered by the Portuguese in 1536 but became a British colony in the early 17th century. It gained its independence in 1966. We docked at the capital, Bridgetown.

                        Ironically, in view of my interest in the island, in the event we mostly saw it from the sea. We had booked a day on a catamaran, snorkelling. The boat was docked about five minutes from the ship and we were taken there by taxi.

                        The boat takes around 60 people and ours was full on the day. The weather was very pleasant so many decided to take advantage of the cargo nets at the front to sunbathe with the sky above and the sea beneath.

                        Unfortunately the wind was not in a favourable direction so the journey out to our destination was under power. We arrived a spot off-shore several miles down the coast, where a number of other boats had also congregated. It was clearly a popular spot.

                        The attraction was leatherback turtles. These delightful creatures seemed entirely at ease with their visitors although we were asked not to grab them. However, there was no problem in running your hand over them as they went past. The fact that the guys on the boat were feeding them probably had a lot to do with their presence.

                        Aside from turtles there was all manner of sea life, especially some enormous fish (NOT sharks) about five feet long! The whole experience was amazing.

                        We cruised back, the guys on the boat pointing out the homes of the rich and famous (Tiger Woods, Cilla Black…) on the coast. They also pointed out the Sandals resort that has been shut since it was built 14 years ago because Sandals got their noses out-of-joint over the Barbados authorities refusing them a private beach. No one in Barbados has a private beach.

                        We stopped once again for more snorkelling over a beautiful coral reef and for the barbeque. Then it was back to the ship. A wonderful and memorable day.

                        And finally…
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        The voyage back to San Juan took two days so we had plenty of time to enjoy the delights of the ship. Disembarking 3,500 passengers takes a long time but it all went like clockwork and we were well entertained whilst we waited. The return to the UK was smoother than the journey out, with no problems at JFK this time.

                        Conclusions
                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                        This was one of if not the most memorable and enjoyable holiday of my life. I am very envious of those passengers for whom this is a regular affair. Some were on their twentieth cruise or even more! How the other half lives.

                        Would I recommend it to anyone? Without a doubt. Yes it is expensive but it’s undoubtedly worth every penny.

                        We will be back… Sometime.

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                          28.10.2004 15:43
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                          Royal Caribbean is a highly established cruise company that runs cruises around the world. We travelled on the Navigator of the seas in June 2004, one of the newest ships in the fleet as part of the Voyager class, the second biggest ship in the world. It holds around 3,500 passengers, and 1500 crew.

                          This was my fourth cruise, my third with Royal Caribbean, and my first on a voyager class. After sailing with RCI before, and hearing great things about the Navigator, I had high expectations. I traveled with my Mum, boyfriend and aunt. There’s quite a large age range between us (21-70), so cruising for us is a sensible option to cater for our very different demands.

                          Embarkation
                          We arrived at the port for 10.30am and sat in the departure lounge where we filled out the Bahamas immigration forms. Five minutes later and we would have been in the huge queue that formed down the staircase! By 11.20am we were on the ship and in our cabins! Very impressed with the ease and quickness of the process.

                          The Ship
                          She really is huge, but for some reason not as big as I’d imagined! I think it’s because of her layout; all of the activities are on the same decks, 3, 4,5, 11, and 12. So you don’t realise how big the ship is. She is beautifully decorated, and spotless. There was always someone cleaning something! The movement was pretty smooth apart from mid-way through the week when there was some rocking. The Captain said it was because the engine was off and we were drifting.

                          Cabins
                          We had cabin 9257, an interior on deck 9 near the middle of the ship. It was a lovely size, made spotless by the wonderful Desiree who made cute little animals out of the towels. I loved the idea of voicemail on the phone; it was handy for making meeting arrangements. There was plenty of drawer space, and the bathroom was just right, not too small at all.

                          Food
                          My favourite part of the cruise! Everything that passed my lips was wonderful. Breakfast was the same each morning in the Windjammer (a casual buffet restaurant), a wide selection of everything from cakes to cereal. Lunch varied each day, too much to mention, but it was all wonderful!

                          We ate dinner in Swan Lake table 503 early seating (tables are assigned when checking in, seating times are reserved when booking the cruise. You can request to sit on your own, but you’re most often seated with other people). Dodgie Purio was our waiter. What a star! He brought us orange juice and cranberry juice (for free) each night, and had us in fits of giggles when he would say quaint old English sayings  Nothing was too much trouble for him, he is a ray of sunshine and I’m already missing him! Highlights include Shrimp Scampi, Lobster, Mahi Mahi. If you don’t like dressing up, or are running late, the same food is served in the Windjammer between 6-9pm.

                          Other places to eat include, Chops, Portofino and Johnny Rockets (which charge extra). We ate a Johnny Rockets once, and that was because we had a free coupon. I wasn’t impressed. We tried to make reservations for lunch but it was a 45-minute wait JUST for seating. So we left it and used our coupon at midnight to grab a quick snack just to see what it was like. You’d be surprised at just how many people like mid-night delights  The food was average, but the staff was lovely. I loved the dancing, I can’t believe they had so much enthusiasm at 12.30am! Very entertaining.

                          Promenade
                          I loved the little café! It’s open 24 hours a day for food and drink. Not a large choice of food but great for a quick snack. It was still busy at 2am! My gosh people can really eat!


                          Evening Entertainment

                          This is where RCI stands out from the rest. The Metropole theatre holds the evenings main entertainment, which includes spectacular singers and dancers and comedians (they were a little dry, although I think it’s my English sense of humor. A separate show is held in the ice-rink which was fantastic!

                          The parties were great! They had a 50’s 60’s and 70’s theme night in which the whole of the ice-rink was covered and the cruise staff hosted a dance.They did a pool deck party with lots of mid-night treats, with classic party tracks from the house band Ice Pack. We only visited the nightclub (Dungeon) once and it was OK. Not very busy (but that was a 2am!)

                          We spent a lot of time in the casino. My boyfriend won $72 the first night, and $6 the last night! My mum won a total of $122. It did seem to payout, I saw lots of winners. Overall a nice size with lots of slots, but it did get very crowded.

                          There were lots of other things going on, karaoke and bingo should also be mentioned. Karaoke was great fun, I scored 10, 9, 8, 7 by the judges, but didn’t make it to the final unfortunately! There was some good talent.

                          Day time activities

                          The great thing about this cruise was that there was so much going on, but nothing overlapped. So I didn’t miss anything! Here’s an overview of most activities

                          Pool and pool games
                          Despite there being a full ship 3500 odd passengers, there always seemed to be room to swim in one of the three pools. I loved the solarium, it was quietest, no young children. The pool games were great. There were around 3 over the week, bellyflop, sexy legs and horse racing. My boyfriend entered sexy legs and won the hairiest legs on board category! He got a medal for his efforts and wore it all week!

                          Ice-skating
                          Not only is the ice-rink open for skating, but the dancers from the ice show offer ice-skating lessons for everyone. You have to book early so my advice is get in quick! Sean (otherwise know as tiny, the tall Canadian guy) was great with me. I was really scared of the ice before he taught me, and would never let go of the side. But within five minutes he had me skating across the rink! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and throughout the cruise if ever he saw me, Sean would always say hi and ask how the skating was coming on.

                          Sports deck
                          Good fun for all ages. Highlights include the basketball, volleyball and mini golf tournaments. My favourite was the mini golf. Not too energetic and lots of fun. It gets very hot, and can get very windy on this deck for some reason, mini-golf tends to get busy during the day.


                          Ports of Call
                          Nassau – Picked up a cab near the dock (4$ p.p) and went to Atlantis to see the Aquarium, then onto Cabbage beach for sun sea and sand. As it was a Sunday, the shops do not open until around 10am. This was one of my favourite days. Atlantis is a must see! Cabbage beach was amazing. It was virtually empty, and the water was crystal clear and very calm. The only problem we encountered was that locals harass you to do tours. One guy literally pulled my mum into a cab! Be careful if you take a water taxi. They will wait until the boat is full until they go, and you could end up being there all day!

                          St Thomas
                          We took the snuba dive excursion, which was a waste of my time! The guide took us to Koki beach (beautiful but small) which took around 20 mins (there was a lot of traffic). I was very nervous about using the equipment to breath, but the guide made me feel worse. She went over the safety instructions within 10 mins despite there being a lot to understand. When we got into the water it was very difficult using the breathing equipment. I just wasn’t comfortable going under the water. A really nice Irish guy tried to help me, but I could feel myself getting close to a panic attack so I got out. My boyfriend also found it difficult, but gave it a shot. Went to Paradise Point after the trip (lasted 3 hours) which is a must see!

                          San Juan
                          We didn’t have any plans, so we just had a walk around the shops. Quite cheap for 14 kt gold. Don’t use your credit card though, my aunt had hers cloned and the buggers spent $3000!

                          Labadee
                          My favourite port of call! Crystal clear waters and white sand! We sat on barefoot beach and chilled all day with coco locos! My boyfriend braved the banana boat (I have been on it before) and had a fantastic time. The bbq was nice, not much selection of meat (I seem to remember there being more the last time I went) but the brownies were delicious!

                          Disembarkation

                          We had purple colored tags and were called around 10.15am. We were originally given yellow that calls between 9-10, but seeing as our flight wasn’t until the evening we changed them at the pursers desk. Immigration was quick and easy, we had our luggage and were in a taxi by 10.45am.

                          Overall we had a brilliant time. All credit to the staff. The cruise director Ken Rush was fantastic; he is an American Dale Winton! He really got the energy going at the shows, and remembered our names and said hello whenever he saw us. He was truly interested in making sure we had a good time. And we sure did!


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                            10.03.2001 17:12
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                            I have just returned from a Royal Carribean Cruise and wanted to say that it is the best vaccation I have ever had! The ship is beatifully clean and well maintained. The stateroom attendant (maria)(the person who looks after your cabin) greeted us, knowing our names. This was a really nice touch. Every night when returning to your room, the bed was turned down, there were mints on the pillows and a little sculpture made out of the towels! The dining rooms were amazing and again the service was outstanding.(thanks to Francis, our waiter & Lawerence, our assitant waiter). There were wine waiters, head waiters & maitre'd. One little thing that I did not like was the idea of tipping. This was to be done on the final night by placing a suggested amount into an envelope and handing it to your waiter, assitant waiter, stateroom attendant and (optional) head waiter. I would have rather paid this on top of the cruise price rather than handing out tips in envelopes. We did not tip the head waiter as we saw him twice on the cruise and he normally arrived at the dinner table just as your main course arrived. He was a rather annoying, "fake" french guy, whom we did not have time for. The ship activities were really good. There were shows on the ice rink, theatre shows, plenty of fitness activities including a rock climbing wall up the funnel. We also did some excursions, these are a bit over priced. You could easily book these yourself and save the ship taking its cut. One example is the Dunns River Falls. It cost us $43 each (3 of us) and yet we found out you could pay $6 to climb the falls and only $22 to hire a cab for us all! Making a grand total of $40. Which is what we ended up paying on top for a "falls guide" and someone who watches your bags for you! Total Rip off. The Cozumel Snorkelling was fun and value for money. The catamaran staff were friendly and gave good advice on snorkelling and as I am a beginner it was
                            most reassuring to have lifeguards in the water with you. I am considering another cruise but probably not in the same area. possibly the Med next time.

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                              03.08.2000 07:38
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                              If you are looking for a holiday which combines successfully both relaxation and the chance of adventure, then an Alaskan cruise could be what you are searching for. Royal Caribbean is just one company that runs a trip along the Inner passage and it sails each Saturday in Spring and Summer from the port of Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. The ship that my partner and I travelled on was the Rhapsody of the Seas. It is big enough for over 2,000 passengers and if this sounds crowded, believe me with 11 decks it never seems too full. There are 130 chefs serving 10,000 meals a day and the standard of the food is of the highest cuisine, with dishes prepared from all over the world. There is a large gym to work off any excess (and there will be!) and there are 2 large theatres showing great entertainment. Well that's the relaxation bit and for the adventurers there are stops along the way at Juneau, Skagway. Haines, Hubbard Glacier (viewing only) and finally Ketchican. At each of these places you are able to take a helicopter flight and then walk on glaciers, or take a raft to look for whales and baldheaded eagles. There are plenty of opportunities to go in search of the local wildlife, such as the Great brown Bear. We chose cyling to a brewery!!!

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                                29.06.2000 23:13
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                                i have taken 3 cruises with this company and i found that it is an experience you will never forget . i know what your thinking cruises are floating old people homes but it's not there are lots of things that are great about it there are huge swimming pools on the top deck if you feel like going to a casino or going to the gym, the facilitys are phenominal because the ship is so huge there is always somthing for everyone. in the evenings they have various themes for dressing up at the main dining room at the main reasterant , there are two seatings so if don't want to have it early you will have to ask the company for the second seating. if dressing up is not your thing then there is a casual reasterant on the top deck. there is a show every night which Resemble broadway shows. the food is fabulous but if you want somthing else they would be happy to make somthing up for you. the destinations i've been to which include the carribian and the mediteranian offer fantastic stops at prime locations. they offer tours off the ship weather you want to go wine tasting, shopping, or just want to see the sights. but you can go off on your own to explore. the only disadvantage i could think of is the 'camera people' who insist on taking your photos.you don't have to use cash on the boat because they give you this card which sticks it on your account but always have some cash at the end to tip the staff. the cabins really depend on what you pay for the best ones have their own balcony. but it is a good accomidaion overall.prices can be expensive but they can change you will have to look at their site for prices.

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