A Cruise Full Of Firsts Aboard Enchantment Of The Seas
Written by: Cruise News
June 28, 2012.
By Dave Beers, Editor Of CruiseReviews
I just returned from a wonderful 8-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment Of The Seas. It was a cruise full of firsts – for me anyway – and I felt the excitement of being a new cruiser once again, which is something Royal Caribbean has been doing to me for the past few years. It was easy to feel like a new cruiser when I boarded the Freedom Of The Seas on its inaugural voyage. Then came cruises on Oasis Of The Seas and the Allure Of The Seas, which set the standard for WOW! But could a ship that is largely regarded as quaint and perhaps a tad old give me ‘that feeling’?
The cruise departed from Baltimore on June 14, 2012, with port calls in Bermuda, Boston, and finally Newport, Rhode Island. I was drawn to this cruise the moment I saw the itinerary. It was something different and offered a taste of three exciting places along with three sea days.
I had cruised out of Baltimore once before, on Grandeur Of The Seas in 2009, and felt the operation was a little rough around the edges. I was pleasantly surprised this time to find things running at a high level of efficiency. We arrived at 10:45am and were checked in and waiting in the reserved area for suite guests in less than 10 minutes. Boarding began promptly at 11:30am and we were sitting in the Windjammer enjoying lunch mere minutes later. I have to tell you, I was very happy at this point, and then came our post-lunch entertainment.
Picture yourself sitting at the pool bar on a cruise ship in Baltimore harbor. You are waiting for the cabins to be opened for access and it is warm and sunny. You are already feeling great and then the Blue Angels suddenly appear overhead and start doing their thrilling airborne acrobatics. That is what happened to us.
The Blue Angels were in town for a weekend show and they did a rehearsal literally a few hundred feet from the Enchantment. It went on for two hours or more. It was absolutely stunning and nobody could believe this was how our cruise was beginning. Is this what is called ‘good karma’?
As I alluded to earlier, I had booked an Owners Suite and after the air show I found my way to suite 8020. My family and I had stayed in the same category cabin on Splendour Of The Seas in 2008, so it was familiar and we knew the way. The Vision class ships are very easy to navigate and it doesn’t take long to know one’s way around.
These suites are quite spacious at 520 square feet, plus an expansive 112 square foot balcony. The closets are cavernous and there is a great deal of drawer space throughout the suite. Two flat screen TV sets are provided, with one of them feeding through an impressive Technics sound system with a DVD player. The bathroom has two sinks, separate bathtub and shower, and a bidet for those so inclined. Add the charm of a doorbell and you have some luxurious digs in which to spend your cruise. Our suite attendant was outstanding and always ready with a huge smile and greeting.
The transit down Chesapeake Bay was calm and we enjoyed our first dinner of the cruise. We were at a table for four, and since it was my wife, our teenage son, and me, that meant we had the table to ourselves. This is fine with me. Some prefer a larger table so they can meet others but I am happy to have quiet family dinners. An outstanding team served our table. Waiter Gustavo and assistant waiter Steve were hospitable and most importantly they operated at a high level of professionalism, being both efficient yet unobtrusive. I found the dining room food throughout the cruise to be excellent. I prefer breakfast in the dining room and it was great. The dinners were downright delicious. Don’t miss the Italian themed dinner that features what was hands down the best entree of the whole 8 nights, the braised lamb shank. It was melt-in-your mouth delicious. Even the waiters get excited when you order it, smiling and saying ‘excellent choice!’ Follow it with the warm chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert. Trust me on this. You’ll be glad you did.
While things were calm on the transit to the Atlantic, we almost instantly knew when we had entered the open sea because the wind and waves picked up in short order. We had fairly choppy seas and windy conditions all the way to Bermuda. It’s one of those things that come with cruising. I personally think Enchantment rode well although one large wave hit us flat on the port quarter and the whole ship shook, which got everyone’s attention.
By day 2 I had already decided that the Schooner Bar was my favorite place for a cocktail, which is no surprise to me since the Schooner Bar is a feature on all Royal Caribbean ships and always provides a relaxing environment. The primary bartender was Donna and we enjoyed lots of chat about various things. She wants to learn to play the saxophone and we talked about music shops in Boston. I hope she buys one but I warned her they were not cheap!
Being in a suite, we also had access to the Concierge Lounge. One drawback is that it is a small place, and the 32 seats filled up almost instantly when the 5pm cocktail hour arrived. The Concierge was Reyno and he was absolutely wonderful. Note that the “Royal Advantage” upgrades planned for the Enchantment Of The Seas will include an improved concierge lounge, dedicated Diamond Lounge, and many other exciting things such as my personal favorite restaurant at sea the “Chefs Table Experience”.
Entertainment aboard Enchantment pretty much stuck to the traditional cruise ship model. Pianist in the lounge every night. The wonderful Rosario Strings playing daily in several locations. The revue style production shows. A good musical group playing oldies and classic rock and roll in Bolero’s Lounge. And karaoke several times. I’m not knocking this since it is enjoyable, but don’t expect to see expansive stage productions such as Hairspray (featured on Oasis Of The Seas) on this cruise. Given the itinerary you should expect the passenger demographics to be more towards middle-aged people with fewer children than you’d see on a Caribbean cruise. And given my wife and I are in our mid-fifties, we hit the bullseye on being comfortable around our fellow passengers.
Our time in Bermuda was marked by a sunny calm afternoon and evening on our first day followed by tropical storm force winds on the second day and heavy rains. The Captain announced he was having some difficulty keeping the ship steady at the pier and they had to pull the gangway as a safety precaution. Sadly this left some passengers stranded in the pier building until a break in the winds allowed them to board. We later learned this weather system developed into a tropical depression northeast of Bermuda. We wisely stayed aboard!
My next ‘First’ happened when our headwaiter rushed over that evening with the news that we had been invited to dine with the Captain the following night. I’ve been cruising for over 20 years and am the editor of this website but had never had this unique honor. My wife and I were thrilled. We later received the formal invitation in our suite and couldn’t wait for this great honor.
Heading off to Boston we had reasonable weather and another ‘First’. At noon on our day at sea Captain Ingebrigtsen announced that during the early morning hours we had performed a rescue at sea. Wow! The captain of the sailing yacht Seabiscuit, enroute from Newport to Bermuda, had become ill and required urgent medical attention. Enchantment immediately responded and a hazardous rendezvous at sea, in the dark, occurred. The transfer happened without incident and the Captain was delighted to inform the guests that the man was responding well to treatment and had been released from the medical facility.
I commented to my wife: “Well, in the space of 24 hours we’ve had a small cyclone in Bermuda, a daring rescue at sea, and an invitation to dine with Captain Ingebrigtsen. What’s next?”
Dinner with the Captain was at second seating and we were advised that we were to meet by the florist station at 8:25PM. We met fellow guests Dennis and Becky, who were on their 23rd cruise aboard Enchantment within the past year. Hey, when you live in Baltimore and you have the Enchantment Of The Seas home ported there, why not make it a second home? We were joined by Hotel Director Mark Rook, Food & Beverage Manager Michael Landry, the Captain’s nephew and his lovely wife, and of course Captain Anders, as he prefers to be called. After introductions we were escorted into the dining room by the maître d and seated. I have to tell you, I was nervous and yet it was so exciting as the other guests watched us, probably wondering how we managed to swing a seat at the Captain’s table.
The meal was spectacular, and the company delightful. A complimentary photo of the group was provided to each of us along with souvenir menus. It was everything I had hoped it would be. Thank you, Captain, for your hospitality.
Arrival in Boston is always interesting to me. The history of Boston Harbor, the scenic skyline, the takeoffs and landings at Logan Airport all make for a fun morning on the balcony sipping coffee. I had arranged to meet my friend and fellow cruise journalist Lisa for a walk around and lunch in the famous North End, which is famous for the Italian food. We went to a lovely little restaurant and enjoyed freshly made pasta in gut-busting servings. Take my advice, when in Boston think beyond the lobsters. The Italian food is amazingly good.
Newport is the only tendering port on this cruise, and frankly it can take a while. This isn’t the fault of the ship but rather the rules that require the ship to anchor outside the inner harbor, and then for tenders to run at no more than 5 knots once inside the inner harbor. I advise people to book excursions with Royal Caribbean for this port. This guarantees you a seat in a tender and you don’t have to go get a tender ticket. Old mansions fascinate me so you know where our excursion went. Yes, we toured two of the summer ‘cottages’ of the Gilded Age, in our case The Breakers and The Marble House. It is mind-boggling to tour these homes and realize that in 2012 they would cost almost $300 million dollars each to build. I could never live in these marble and granite monuments to excess but they are well worth seeing.
As we left Newport for home, with another sea day ahead, I sat quietly in the Schooner Bar contemplating the cruise thus far. I had all of these personal ‘firsts’, which were exciting of course, but then I came to the same conclusion I always do when cruising with Royal Caribbean. Despite having the most innovative ships afloat, and to my tastes the most uniformly elegant in design, once again my overall joy in the cruise came from one source – the crew.
At dinner with the Captain I remarked that the crew of the Enchantment struck me as being especially gracious and ‘happy’. The officers appreciated my kind remarks, but I really meant it. This crew went above and beyond at every turn. I truly got the sense that all of them enjoyed their work. I had at least half a dozen crew members simply tell me ‘I love my job’. It showed.
And so, to my initial question of whether an older ship with fewer bells and whistles could make me feel like a new cruiser? Enchantment Of The Seas surely did. From start to finish one of the best cruises ever. I can’t wait to book another cruise on Enchantment Of The Seas, after the Royal Advantage upgrades, so I can compare the ‘old’ ship versus the ‘new’ one. I fully expect I’ll be pleased.