Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas is the second of Royal’s Vision Class of vessels that I’ve sailed on. She is larger than her other Vision Class sisters because Royal Caribbean invested in a revitalization of the ship that included a stretch of 73 feet. Royal used the extra space to add 151 staterooms, and expand the pool deck into what happens to be one of my favorite pool decks in the fleet. The pool deck is unique in the fleet, and includes suspension bridges that add an interesting architectural feature.
Enough of our brief history lesson on Enchantment of the Seas. Let’s get to my review.
Enchantment of the Seas, 4-Night Itinerary, Departing Port Canaveral August 19, 2013
Our annual late summer cruise this year was aboard Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. Enchantment was homeported in Baltimore for years, but repositioned to Port Canaveral this spring to replace the retiring Monarch of the Seas in the 3/4 night cruise market. Let me say from the outset that Enchantment of the Seas represents a major upgrade in the short cruise market. The ship, which went through Royal Caribbean’s latest upgrades in late 2012, is beautiful, and equipped with many of the modern amenities one would expect from Royal Caribbean. Be advised, that does not include a Flowrider or zip line.
Getting to the Port
MrsMJ was already in Orlando for an annual conference and staying at the Hilton Orlando, so I just joined her on Sunday, the day before our cruise. My 1 hour Delta flight was aboard an ex-NWA 757, the type which seems to dominate flights to Florida from Atlanta aboard Delta. Standard Delta short-haul domestic service. After an evening at the Hilton, it was time to head to the port! I booked a car through Carey.com, which contracts with VIP Limo locally in Orlando. I checked the price of booking direct with VIP, and it was negligibly cheaper, so I just stuck with the easy way of booking on Carey.com. I scheduled our pickup for 11am, and our driver was waiting when we went downstairs. He loaded up our excessive amount of luggage (remember, MrsMJ was already in town for 5 days prior and did a little shopping) and we were on our way. I plan on 1 hour to the port, but I don’t think its ever taken me more than 45 minutes whether I was driving myself or being driven there.
Car and van services drop off in a dedicated area, and they are really into traffic control at Port Canaveral. I’d estimate we waited 5 or 6 minutes before we were directed to a drop off spot where our luggage was collected, and we were on our way to check in. Hint #1 that Port Canaveral is not only into traffic control, but rules in general. I wasn’t particularly impacted by it, but people wearing croc type shoes were not allowed on the escalators, which I found interesting. Two steps between you and the person in front of you on the escalator….little things like that. The fact that someone was being paid to stand there and enforce that was entertaining to me.
After dropping our bags we headed to the document check line just inside the door. There was a bit of a queue, but one thing to love about Port Canaveral is that they have a priority line for Royal Caribbean elites, which sent us straight to the document checker who verifies the name on your Set Sail Pass matches your passport, and then sends you on to security. I made it through the walk through metal detector just fine, but was directed to a table to have my bag searched for “beverages.” I had none in there, but I digress. As you know, I have type 1 diabetes, and when I cruise, I take probably 3 times more diabetic “stuff” than I need, and I’m sure all those insulin pump supplies, insulin, etc. make for funny looking images on the x-ray. Didn’t take more than a minute to clear up, and we were on our way upstairs for check-in.
We were directed to the appropriate queue, and immediately called up to the desk. We’ve done this a few times now, so all our paperwork was in order. I had my credit card and our passports in hand, and within about 4 minutes we were on our way to the ship. Quick pause for a picture, and we were crossing the gangway. Curbside to cocktail time (henceforth known as C2C time ) – 15 minutes.
Staterooms typically aren’t ready until 1:30PM, so we had some time to wander. Our first task was to drop by Chops Grille on deck 6 to make a reservation for dinner. One of the benefits of our elite status with Royal Caribbean is a buy one get one (BOGO) coupon for dinner in Chops on the first night of your cruise, a $30 value. You can make your specialty restaurant reservations online in advance of your cruise as well, but we had not. Once we got that squared away, we went to the Windjammer buffet for lunch.
Oh my – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger mob scene on a ship. We arrived a little later than we normally do, so the Windjammer had gotten good and packed with cruisers in search of their birthright embarkation lunch. I picked up a few items, and started a highly unsuccessful search for a place to sit. I gave up and bellied up to the pool bar with my lunch, but just as my beer arrived, MrsMJ texted that she’d found a table. All was well, but that leads me to this Enchantment of the Seas tip – skip the Windjammer for lunch and head to the Solarium where you’ll find a lovely little venue known as Park Cafe. They serve soups, salads, and sandwiches, including the famous among frequent floaters, roast beef sandwich. Lunch was good, but the Windjammer aboard Enchantment seems smaller than that of Monarch of the Seas. I did return during the cruise, and crowds were much more manageable. Do yourself a favor and consider Park Cafe for embarkation lunch. Following lunch, we went down to check out our stateroom.
Stateroom 7566, Superior Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony
We booked a balcony stateroom for this cruise, something not possible with Monarch of the Seas unless you booked a Junior Suite stateroom or higher. While I’d probably book another balcony cabin on a short cruise if the price is right, this choice confirmed my thoughts that I rarely use a balcony on a short cruise. I believe I set foot on the balcony exactly once over the 4-night cruise. The improvement in the short cruising experience provided by Enchantment of the Seas carried over to our stateroom as well. The furnishings appeared recently updated, especially the bathroom. There was a relatively comfortable sofa too. Storage space was adequate, and there was a small safe for wallets, passports, and such located in the cabinet just above the TV. I will apologize in advance for not taking photos of the cabin, but I did video it. This is not a mistake I will repeat until I’m a little better at capturing video. I’m not terribly pleased with the quality of the video, and the software I used to splice things together did not help.
I already mentioned Chops Grille, and our meal did not disappoint. I tried the porterhouse, which was cooked the way I like it. My favorite thing about Chops is not so much the steaks, but the level of attention you receive. The staff appears to have fewer tables to deal with than those in the main dining room, so the service seems a little more attentive. I find the steaks kind of average, and after having tried every one on the menu over a number of cruises, I think they, in general, do the filet mignon best. Just my opinion, and I am not a foodie. I’m not much of a food photographer either, but I did catch this.
That’s red velvet cake. And no, I did not eat all of it. Our main dining room experiences during the cruise were quite good as well. We had a great table, and great servers. This was my first experience with the new Royal Caribbean menus, and I was pretty pleased. Some old staples are still there, but there are some new items as well. Here are a few details on the new menus courtesy of shipcruise.org.
Around the Ship
Enchantment is a beautiful ship, very well maintained, and offering many amenities one expects on a modern cruise ship. With more specialty dining venues as well as Diamond and Concierge Lounges, Enchantment is a real step up. Again, I apologize for the fuzzy video, but you’ll get an idea about the ship.
Enchantment of the Seas is equipped with a very nice gym facility so you can get your workout on while you cruise. Personally, I prefer to walk my laps around the top deck and soak in the sun.
Ports of Call
Tuesday, August 20, 2013, CocoCay - Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas is a favorite stop of ours. I’m impressed with the investments they’ve made in the passenger experience here, and always look forward to a visit. While they serve lunch on the island, we started our day with lunch in the relatively serene confines of the Park Cafe onboard the ship. We’ve done our share of island BBQ lunches, and felt that we’d let the more motivated make their way to the island before us. After a light lunch, we boarded the tender boat for our short transit to the island. Tendering went pretty well this time, but can be an opportunity for lines to form, so just be as patient as you can. I do wish Royal Caribbean would build a pier here as they have in Labadee.
We spent our day lounging on the beach. CocoCay tip – when you exit the tender, don’t follow the crowds to the main beach. Keep walking past the bars and BBQ area, past the water slide, and you’ll find a much more secluded beach with plenty of chairs. The water was absolutely divine. We rented a floaty matt to share ($10).
After 3 hours or so, we made our way back to the ship. One other CocoCay tip – don’t forget to pick up towels on the pool deck to take with you. Towels are not available on the island.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013, Nassau, Bahamas – We have been to Nassau so many times that we rarely bother with shore excursions or tours. Our favorite excursion is over to Atlantis and the waterpark if we do decide to venture out. Usually we don’t even exit the ship, and choose to enjoy reduced crowds around the pool. On our last visit to Nassau we discovered a neat little bar just steps from the port, The Green Parrot. They offer free wi-fi that works well, cheap drinks, and good food at a reasonable price. It is not unusual to find quite a few ship’s crew there as well as a few visiting yacht crew. For this visit, we went with The Green Parrot, got caught up on emails, and relaxed. Be advised – if you want conch fritters, get there early. Unfortunately, we missed them this time.
Thursday, August 22, 2013, Day at Sea – The last full day onboard for the 4-night itinerary is spent at sea slowly sailing home towards Port Canaveral. I love sea days. No schedules to keep, or places to be. Relax by the pool. Workout in the gym. Do what you want. We chose to spend our day soaking in some of this.
We also attended the Crown & Anchor event which was held in the Viking Crown Lounge. It was a nice event, but I have to admit, I miss the VIP party they used to hold on CocoCay. After getting packed for disembarkation and putting our bags out for pickup, we spent the remainder of our last evening soaking in a little of this.
We so enjoyed our visit to Chops Grille on night 1, that we decided to visit again. Our gratuities were prepaid, so there was no need to visit the dining room to take care of our servers. Back to Chops we went…..for another fine meal, and a fitting end to our cruise.
I awoke early and peered out the window to see the buoys marking the channel into port and the lights of Port Canaveral. Knowing we had a while, I went back to sleep for a few minutes. The next thing I knew, I was awakened by the sound of ground equipment clanging as they unloaded the ship. Neither of us was very hungry so we skipped breakfast and waited for our luggage tags to be called in the Concierge Lounge. At the appointed time, we made our way down to the disembarkation deck and left the ship with a minimum of fuss. Customs and immigration was interesting as I’d never been suspiciously questioned so much. In retrospect, I’m sure we looked like we must have been carrying too many bags for a 4-night cruise and the immigration officer had no way of knowing that MrsMJ had been traveling for 10 days, and not just a short cruise. Other than that, we exited the ship with relative ease minus more goofy rules about “at least two steps between you and the next person” on the escalator. I called our car driver to let them know where to pick us up, and we were on our way to the airport, looking forward to our next cruise.
Embarkation lunch in the Windjammer was a cluster. Seriously, it was a mess. Either get there early, late, or skip the Windjammer and head for Park Cafe. And that is literally, the only thing I have to complain about with this cruise.
I can’t say enough good things about Enchantment of the Seas. The ship is beautiful and represents a significant upgrade in the 3/4 night cruise market by Royal Caribbean. Every staff member I interacted with was uniformly smiling and polite. If you are looking for a short getaway, I highly recommend you consider sailing Enchantment of the Seas.
Click here to view onboard newsletters for the 4-night cruise.
-MJ, October 10, 2013