The water in the Bahamas is a beautiful aqua, and I might have been tempted to go in except it was very windy when we tendered to Coco Cay on the third day of our cruise. RCCL’s private island is an oasis with native shops, a nature trail, small coves for snorkeling, and numerous beaches with lounge chairs already laid out.
We enjoyed the beach barbecue with chicken, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, and accompaniments. Somehow this food tastes better outside and when someone else cooks it.
I savor these private island stops both for the relaxation and the food. And don’t forget to order a Bahama Mama. You can’t visit these islands without drinking at least one. Or a Coco Loco, which they offered at Coco Cay. As the drink vendors said, “If you’re hot, see what I’ve got.”
We lazed around until we’d had enough sun and then caught the tender back to the ship.
At night, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with a champagne toast. And so ended our latest cruise.
Our first port of call on Majesty of the Seas was Nassau. Having been here before, we didn’t care to take a tour and elected instead to find a place for lunch.
I’d read about a native Bahamian restaurant and wanted to check it out. Several blocks later, we entered the place on a quiet side street. Nobody was there, and so we left. It’s not a good sign if a restaurant lacks customers. We retraced our steps and chose an air-conditioned place by the water called Via Restaurant and Bar. Our grilled snapper was delicious but spicy. It came with cole slaw plus rice and beans. You can find lots of places to eat along the waterfront including Senor Frog by the far end.
We shopped on Bay Street despite the intermittent downpours and ended up buying inexpensive umbrellas to add to our collection. Stores were decorated for Christmas. The straw market is still here and under cover. I bought a hat since I’d forgotten to bring mine. The usual souvenirs are available along with fine jewelry, liquor, and perfumes on Bay Street. Know your prices before you go.
If you’re here for the first time, you can do a city tour, view the fort, visit the Atlantis resort, or participate in a number of water sports activities. I regret that RCCL didn’t offer a culinary experience or any kind of botanical garden if there is one on the island. However, the rainy weather made our independent choice the best one.
We took our adult children on a weekend cruise to celebrate our fortieth anniversary. The older Royal Caribbean vessel left out of Port Canaveral. This was our first time at this port, which seemed less hectic than Port Everglades. Besides our ship on Friday, only one other was docked there and it belonged to Disney. We parked in a garage opposite the terminal and boarded before noon.
Lunch was available in the Windjammer Café on Deck 12. The buffet setup was much smaller than on our other recent cruises, and I vaguely remembered being here before. We’d sailed on this ship back in 1992.
Although an older model, the ship is well-maintained and clean. There’s only one pool area on Deck 12 without a secondary glass-covered solarium pool. Elsewhere, there’s a rock climbing wall for sports enthusiasts. You can also go outside on Deck 7 and walk around the deck there for exercise or lounge in a chair facing the water.
Our oceanview cabin on deck four was tiny, with a small desk that also served as a dresser. Inside the small bathroom, the rectangular shower space had a good showerhead on a removable hose and a curtain instead of a glass door. Lotion, shampoo, and conditioner were provided. I wasn’t as comfortable here as on other recent ships we’ve been on, but it’s a less expensive cruise and we managed for the three nights. This sailing is good for a quick getaway that isn’t as expensive as some other ships, and it has an appealing itinerary with two ports of call. The cruise staff was friendly and worked hard to give guests a memorable experience.
Shops were located on Deck 5 and had better merchandise than on the larger and newer Celebrity Equinox, our most recent voyage. The shows were entertaining with a comedian, juggler, and singers/dancers. If you’re a night owl, other activities are offered to keep you occupied. The Schooner Lounge had a musician nightly, and you could find dance music in another lounge.
Deck 14 has the Viking Crown Lounge, always a favorite of mine with its panoramic view toward the bow with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. This is where Diamond Members and above could get their free cocktails and appetizers each evening at 5pm.
We’d opted for assigned seats in the dining room at 6pm and luckily had a table for four. The food was very good, although the choices were not as classy as on Celebrity Equinox. You had to pay extra for filet mignon or lobster. The bread selection was varied enough, and a different salad was offered each night. On the second night, the waiters danced along to a conga line. On the last night, they serenaded us with “O Solo Mio” to go along with our Italian cuisine. Other dining options included Johnny Rockets for a small fee, Sorrentos for free pizza, and a deli with appetizers and wraps. For early birds, Sorrentos is open early with coffee and pastries.
The Windjammer opens at 7am in the morning for breakfast. I liked that they offered prepared fried eggs although you could have your eggs or omelets cooked to order. Half and half is available in little cups to go with your coffee.
There’s a ceremony of flags in the atrium where the cruise director announces the number of crew members from each country. This was an impressive display along with a few selected native dances. We also attended the welcome back party for repeat cruisers, and Richard won 100 credits in the casino. It took us a while to figure out how to play the slots. It took us less time to play and lose all the points. I’d rather spend my money on souvenirs I can bring home. Note Santa hiding in the crowd on the below right.
Now I have to work to lose the weight I’d gained. So it goes each time after a cruise.
Vision of the Seas was a refreshing change from our last voyage on the exciting but enormous Allure. A member of Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class fleet, this ship has sleek lines and a classic layout. Ocean views are prevalent from all the lounges, and the more intimate size makes this cruise an easy one to run into the same people and make friends. We had a great itinerary with four days at sea to relax and five ports to visit.
I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows in many of the lounges and the Windjammer Café that showed ocean views. The Windjammer faces forward so you have a view of the ship plowing through the waves. I really missed these windows on the Allure and felt closed in on that huge ship despite the numerous venues. The Vision’s Solarium has a domed glass cover, so you can sit out at the pool during inclement weather. We had no problem getting lounge chairs at either of the two main pools during the day.
There are enough inside lounges for variety, and the shops have interesting wares. We had plenty of places to walk around, and I for one did not miss the interior Promenade from the larger ships. I’d rather see the water wherever possible, although the Promenade at night does give you a place to stroll. Still, there was plenty to do here. A lively, several stories-high atrium had a dance floor where musicians played in the evening.
The captain greeted us at the Welcome Aboard Party on the second night which was formal dress. Lo and behold, we had a lady captain! As I’m a fan of Captain Janeway on the Enterprise, I was thrilled. Captain Lis Lauritzen was gracious and kindly posed for photos and gave welcoming talks throughout the cruise as well as her daily briefing from the bridge. (“This is Captain Lis from the Bridge”—Do you ever wonder where else they might be?) I liked her joke about the difference between a boat and a ship. “A ship has a captain. A boat is run by a frustrated husband.” Diplomacy, poise, and wit are definitely part of her job description.
Our cabin was comfortable and in a great location. If you’re sensitive to light when you sleep, I’d suggest you bring a sleep mask. Light beamed through the peephole from out into the corridor and it shone like a beacon in my eyes at night. If you have a balcony, light from outside might shine in as well. You might also want to bring some shower gel. You can barely move in the shower, so if you drop a bar of soap, good luck retrieving it. Our shower on Vision had a clingy curtain instead of a glass door, and I cringed at the thought of who might have touched it last. As for shaving in the shower, forget it. I had to put my foot on the toilet seat and dip my razor in the sink. I hope the shower curtains are replaced with glass doors during the upcoming refurbishment. It is badly needed as most of the carpets throughout the ship are stained and the paint is peeling off the outdoor chairs.
Make sure your room isn’t over, under, or near a lounge with music at night or near an elevator. On the Vision, a door separates the public areas from the stateroom sections. This door helps to keep noise out of the cabin areas, except perhaps for the people right next to it. They might hear the door bang open and closed all night. A couple we met had their room over the show lounge (not the theater). The band’s noise reverberated throughout their cabin and they were forced to stay awake each night until after midnight. Be careful to look and see where your cabin is located when you book your cruise. Otherwise, our cabin was comfortable and the steward gave excellent service. This is a nice size ship if you’re looking for a more relaxed cruise experience.
As for entertainment, the production shows in the Masquerade Theatre were visually appealing and the singers/dancers competent, but these shows lacked sparkle and so were nothing exceptional. I hate jugglers, so we skipped that performance. We enjoyed the comedians, especially 85 year old Norm Crosby who’s the best we’ve heard in recent times. We also caught a couple of movies: The Lucky One with Zac Efron and People Like Us with Chris Pine. Overall, I’d rate the entertainment and enrichment topics as average. If you’ve been on many cruises, you’ve seen similar. But does it matter? Being on a ship is still a diversion from watching TV at home.
We’ve been on tours here before so this time we just walked around, browsing in the stores. I picked up some 14k gold hoop earrings at Tropical Jewelers for my daughter cheaper than the ones I bought myself in a similar size in St. Thomas. From the pier, walk up Calle Tanca a couple of blocks to Calle Fortaleza, the main shopping street. Turn left and stroll along, ducking into any shops that strike your fancy. We got lured into Restaurant Barrachina, home of the famed Piña Colada drink created here in 1963. It’s a charming restaurant with a tempting appetizer menu or a place for lunch. No worries about the waiters; they speak English. The food is good and there’s a rest room in the back. As for the piña coladas, I’ve had better but it was fun to try one here. The waiter recommended Don Q Cristal for a white rum. There’s a store by the waterfront but it was closed on Thursdays and that’s the day we were in port. He also mentioned Ron del Barrilito for a golden rum. He said these are the rums used by the natives, not Baccardi brands.
After an early meal, we continued onward on Calle Fortaleza. At the far end toward Calle Christo is a barricade blocking access to the Governor’s mansion. Turn left and you’ll find yourself at a historical chapel. Go into Pigeon Park next to the chapel for a fabulous view of the harbor. Note the stone wall with all the pigeon holes where the birds live. It’s a fascinating glimpse of old San Juan. If you’ve never been to the island before, you can tour the forts or take a bus tour to the rainforest. A couple of hours patrolling the city streets is more than sufficient for shopping.
This is a fabulous beach party at RCCL’s private hideaway. Passengers haD the entire day to roam about this beautiful peninsula. It’s part of Haiti but is separated from the mainland by scenic mountains. Lush with green foliage and palm lined lagoons, this island-like setting offers something for everyone. You can lose yourself in bliss lying on a lounge chair and sipping a potent Labadoozee or rum punch while gazing at the sparkling turquoise waters. Go for a swim, stuff yourself at the BBQ lunch, or get a thrill riding on the zip line or rollercoaster. Shop for colorful Haitian paintings and wood carvings at the native market. Or rent a jet ski and zoom across the waves. Kayaking and floats are available as is an Aqua Park for kids. Whatever your pleasure, you can find it here. A tram ride can take you from one end to the other if you don’t feel like walking in the heat.
My camera broke so I don’t have any photos for these ports. A new camera became one of my holiday gifts upon our return. I hate learning new technology. Some features are better than my old camera, though, so it’s worth the effort.
We’ve been here before, so I already knew to take the water taxi for six dollars round trip from the pier into the center of Philipsburg. It’s good for travel all day and they put a plastic bracelet on your wrist. Vendors sell nice hats for $5 by the pier, and I added another one to my collection.
Our first stop was Diamonds International to pick up a charm bracelet. If you show this in the different ports, you get a charm to add for each island. It’s also a good shop to browse for jewelry. Outside facing the courthouse, we turned left on Front Street, but we didn’t care much for the stores at that end. We turned in the opposite direction and ended up in Shopper’s Haven where I bought a pair of dangling white gold earrings. They were expensive even for 14k gold but a unique design. The shopkeeper gave my friend Lynn and I each a glass of champagne to celebrate our purchases. This made us hungry so we headed to Holland House a few doors down to a delightful open air restaurant facing the beach. I ate a brie cheese sandwich while ceiling fans twirled lazily overhead.
Beyond the Boardwalk is a free beach if you ever go to the island so you don’t have to take any beach tours. A selection of restaurants face the water where you can sit and enjoy the view. It’s much more pleasant here than in Marigot, the French side of the island, where you get stuck in traffic going and coming from the port. Shops are expensive there and service at the restaurants takes a long time. The Philipsburg shops offer a selection of jewelry, cameras, Belgian chocolate, Guavaberry Liquor, and souvenirs. The old adage applies: If you see what you like, buy it.
8 nights to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Labadee
RCCL ships have a signature interior Promenade like a city street lined with shops and bars. The Café Promenade, toward the aft end, serves pastries starting at 6am in the morning and sandwiches starting at 11:30. Coffee is available 24 hours. Their Seattle’s Best coffee is very good, flavorful taste. Creamer cups are about half the size of ones at home. I suggest bringing your own non-refrigerated Coffeemate creamer cups along. Since this ship was based in England (and will be returning there), instead of a coffee pot in the room, you get a hot water device with packets of instant coffee. Forget that and go to the Café. They serve fresh baked cookies here too. The fudge ones are the best. Re the pastries, normally I like croissants but their variety has a glazed coat that stuck to my teeth, so I preferred the cinnamon roll.
Sorrento’s, also on the Promenade on Deck 5 forward, serves pizza and mini desserts like tiramisu. They put out antipasto in the evening that can be a nice appetizer. Like the Café, the food here is free and included in your cruise price. Also on the Promenade you’ll find the Vintages Wine Bar with a sophisticated selection of wines and wine flights, but the menu tends to be pricey and confusing. The Dog & Badger Pub focuses more on ale but wine choices are more reasonable. People are allowed to smoke in a section here and the smoke drifted our way, making us disinclined to linger. We didn’t note any food menu in either of these lounges but then we didn’t ask for one either. Ben & Jerry’s has a shop on the Promenade, but why pay for ice cream when there’s a free frozen yogurt machine outside on the pool deck?
Up on Deck 14 is the signature Crown Viking Lounge, here called the Olive or Twist. Nice dance music here during evening hours. Daytime it’s a great getaway if you want solitude and a terrific view of the pool deck from up high. I may add that unlike other ships, you cannot sit outside and enjoy a view of the ship’s wake on the Independence, nor is there a lounge where you can enjoy a view of the ship forging ahead. Too much of the focus is on the interior Promenade, including evening parades and street parties. The Schooner Bar is a quieter spot but they often have trivia contests. Production shows occur in the Alhambra Theatre which has adequate tiered seating. The Pyramid Lounge at the opposite end holds art auctions and other events. There doesn’t seem to be any nightly entertainment other than the main show, shown twice at 7pm and 9pm. The Labyrinth is a disco but sometimes was reserved for private parties. There were no late night comedy acts like on other ships unless I missed notice of them.
A few other items were missing too, that used to be provided in the past. Chocolates on our pillow at night. Lotion in the bathrooms. All we got was bar soap and a shampoo dispenser in the minuscule shower.
The soundproofing was excellent in our cabin. Maybe we lucked out and had quiet neighbors, but we didn’t hear anyone next door. Our cabin was a comfortable size with a couch and console but limited storage space. The drawers are small, and only one tier of shelves fits into the closet. At least there were plenty of hangars. The shower is impossibly small and shaped like a round sewer cover. Ladies, forget shaving your legs in there. I suggest you bring an electric razor, preferably battery run. This applies to the sister ships as well. The shower doors kept the water contained very well and function much better than an old-fashioned curtain. There’s a European style hose spray that can be awkward until you get the hang of it.
Our balcony room gave a wonderful view, while a clear glass barrier under the railing guards against accidents. Cloudy glass partitions on either side of the balcony separate neighbors. Two chairs and a small table are provided. We heard the whoosh of waves in our room even on deck 8. Our room was towards the bow, starboard side forward. The bedding was very comfortable, hotel style white comforters, two pillows, cushy mattress. Flat screen TV by Samsung hung on the wall. A hair dryer is provided. Suitcases fit under the beds for storage. Bring a small packet of antiseptic wipes so when you first arrive, you can wipe down all door handles, tv remote, telephone, and light switches. People were ill on this cruise with symptoms of Norovirus. Load your purse and pockets with hand sanitizer and use it religiously. Hand sanitizer dispensers are located at each bar and eaterie and at the computer station but carry your own and don’t touch your face at all until you’ve washed your hands.
The weather in December was warm for our voyage. The ship isn’t freezing cold inside like some others so long sleeves can make you hot, although I was comfortable in the evenings with my dressy wardrobe. We had two formal nights and the rest were casual.You have your choice on this ship of any time dining or formal seating. We chose six o’clock dining. Our waiter, Handra, was a small statured guy from Indonesia. Some of the meals I ate were prime ribs, tiger shrimp, roast duck, lobster tail and garlic shrimp, lamb shank, shrimp and mahi mahi tempura. I do not judge this food as good as on the Princess line. Each night on the menu were also choices of an Indian dish, a vegetarian dish, a pasta dish. None of these appealed to me so that made limited selections. The pasta dishes were too ordinary, like cheese filled ravioli or spaghetti and meatballs. You can get those at home, so why order them here? We’ve been on other ships where the choices are more tempting. The buffets in the Windjammer Café didn’t seem to have much variety either. And they’ve done away with the late night Chocolate Buffet.
RCCL has an excellent program for children. This ship had activities for all ages. Athletic minded adults could surf on the Flowrider, play miniature golf or basketball, go rock climbing, work out in the gym, swim, or jog the deck. Kids had their own whimsical pool area with colorful fountains spraying water and music blaring in the background. I enjoyed listening to the steel band playing at the regular pool deck or sitting in the quieter solarium looking at the ocean.
The Captain greeted passengers on a bridge over the Promenade on our first formal night, Day 2 at sea. He said, “We’re sailing in the Bermuda Triangle. I’ve been coming here for XX years and nothing happened. Maybe tonight is the night.” We made it safely home so it appears we didn’t meet any anomalies. Now it’s time to plan the next trip.