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Review: Voyager of the Seas

Cruise - Ocean Cruise

Galveston - Barcelona Trans Atlantic

  • By SilverTraveller Alan-Fairfax

    83 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • May 2011
  • Wife
  • Regular holiday
  • Balcony

52 people found this review helpful

It was in April 2006 when we first sailed on Voyager of the Seas. It was a Trans Atlantic voyage which left long happy memories of the ship. Last year we had to cancel the Trans Atlantic on Voyager due to the volcanic ash cloud so now after 5 years the question is ‘Does Voyager of the Seas still hold the same charm and excitement?’ Read on for the answer…

The holiday started with a very comfortable British Airways flight from Heathrow to Houston International on a Boeing 777. The staff were very friendly and nothing was too much trouble for them. However, shortly after takeoff the entertainment system in our section of the plane failed. As a result the cabin manager gave out forms for completion stating that we would be entitled to some form of compensation. That was over 2 weeks ago and nothing heard so far from BA. It is also worth a mention that the main meal of roast beef was one of the best airline meals we have had for a very long time. We arrived at Houston International a few minutes early but then had to join the mammoth queue for immigration. Why did we have to pick a day when Houston was hosting the arrival of delegates from all over the world for a conference? Finally after clearing immigration, retrieving our luggage and passing through customs we were met by a representative of Royal Caribbean who directed us to the Marriott Hotel which was our overnight hotel and was located at the airport.

After a good night’s sleep it was wonderful to have an American breakfast with real Hash Browns and not the solidified fried lumps that pass for Hash Browns in Europe.

At about 11.30am we boarded coaches that would take us to Galveston to board the ship. The uneventful trip along mainly large freeways had us arriving in Galveston at about 1pm. As we approached the harbour area Voyager could be seen glistening in the sunshine and she looked truly beautiful. Moored in front of her was Carnival Conquest.

On arrival at the quayside we checked that our luggage was unloaded and still had the cabin numbers attached before making our way to the check in area. The check in procedure was dealt with quickly and efficiently by a lady whose first question was ‘Did you go to the wedding?’ After informing her that we were not invited she proceeded to tell us that her and her family were up at 4am to watch it on television with her neighbours. We found that this was a recurring question throughout the cruise. It appears that The Wedding was celebrated in the USA by early morning street parties and celebrations.

On boarding we were told that our cabins were ready and we made this our first point of call. It has to be said that on boarding the ship we were suddenly reminded of her massive size of 138,000 tonnes. We were also reminded of the ‘Wow’ factor that is so prominent on the larger Royal Caribbean ships but more of that later. However the welcome aboard drink has been done away with. Obviously a cost cutting exercise.

We were late sailing but still had a sail away party on deck 12 as the sun was sinking into the west looking like a large red ball. Looking over the side as we moved away from our moorings I saw a lone Dolphin popping out of the water as if saying a last farewell to Voyager as she quietly glided down the estuary towards the open sea for the last time out of Galveston. Next winter her home port will be New Orleans.

On later returning to our cabin I saw the red message light flashing on the bedside telephone. It was a message saying that our luggage had been seized by security as it was thought to contain prohibited articles and would I attend at security on deck 1. I was somewhat puzzled as we had already received our luggage intact and unopened. However I attended at security where I received an apology and was informed that the message had been left on the wrong cabin phone. However the point of this story is that in the security area were at least 200 suitcases that had been seized. Most of them I was informed had been seized as it was suspected that they had bottles of alcohol in them. So to anyone thinking of smuggling alcohol aboard, don’t bother, the chances are you will be caught. Royal Caribbean in line with some other cruise lines doesn’t allow you to take your own alcohol on board.

We then had 8 days at sea sailing past the Florida Keys, Bahamas and Bermuda. During this time we experienced several different weather patterns. From 90f and strong sun in the Gulf of Mexico to rain and 70mph plus winds on our approach to The Azores. It has to be said that Voyager was very stable in the high winds and rode the sea well. Our first port of call after 8 days at sea was Ponta Delgado in The Azores. The weather was a mix of sun and showers. The town has a new cruise terminal that allows the cruise ships to moor near to the town centre. The town is very picturesque with cobbled streets and old buildings. The currency is the Euro as the islands are owned by Portugal.

After a further 2 days at sea we arrived in Malaga. Malaga is a large city and port on the Costa Del Sol and really needs no introduction. They are still building the new cruise terminal and we were moored at that part which is completed. It is some way from the town and unless you are feeling fit and energetic it will mean taking the shuttle bus. Royal Caribbean charged $8 per person for a day ticket and the local bus company charged 4 Euro’s.

The following day we arrived in Cartagena on the East coast of Spain but we were only here for a few hours. What was noticeable was the vast amount of improvements that had been made to Cartagena since our last visit some years ago. New cruise terminal, buildings that had been renovated and wonderful traffic free walkways that were paved in a type of marble. It was very noticeable how much cheaper items such as clothes and shoes were. What a beautiful city and one that we would really like to revisit. We sailed at 2pm for our final destination of Barcelona where we arrived at 5.30am the following morning ending our 15 day cruise. From here it was a comfortable British Airways flight home to the UK.

CABIN

Our cabin was an E1 balcony situated on deck six. On entering it was immediately noticeable how clean and tidy it was. Decorated in pastel colours with contrasting dark green cushions and throw over on the bed that had been configured into a large king size. There is also a settee in the main area as well as an interactive television, mini bar and a hand held hairdryer. From the television you could order food and drinks for the cabin as well as check your on board account and select films.

On entering the bathroom it was noted that in the past small bottles of toiletries such as shampoo, body lotion etc. had been supplied but these were no more. Just tablets of soap and an all purpose soap dispenser in the shower. Obviously a cost cutting exercise. One of the advantages of the showers on this ship is that the shower is a cubicle with sliding doors as opposed to a shower curtain which can prove awkward sometimes. However the shower cubicle is fairly small. The shower itself was very powerful with hot water always available. We were entitled to bathrobes but had to ask for them.

Also gone are the small chocolates that used to be supplied at turndown time in the evenings. More cost cutting. Each evening the cabin steward made different animals out of the bath towels. We had rabbits, frogs, snakes, bats hanging from the ceiling. All very cleverly done.

The balcony had 2 chairs and a table on it, all of which were starting to look very tired. There were also several rust spots on the balcony that in turn had caused brown stains where water had run over them and then down the white paint. The general appearance of the balcony was not impressive and in need of urgent refurbishment.

FOOD and DINING

This was the big letdown of the cruise. On the first night we were at a table on deck 3 in the restaurant area called Carmen. For main course I ordered a steak, cooked medium rare, which in fairness it was when it arrived. However it was almost cold so I naturally complained to the waiter. It was taken away and then returned some minutes later, hot but no longer medium rare but rather well done. Not impressed as I believe the steak should have been replaced and not just placed in an oven to reheat. After dinner we met with people whom we had previously met with at the hotel. They asked if we would like to join them at their table as there were 2 spare places. We spoke with the head waiter and this was arranged. Thereafter we dined at a table on deck 5 which area is called Magic Flute and is in fact a balcony area overlooking the other 2 dining areas. The service was excellent and a special mention should go to our assistant waiter who was Roxanna. She was always happy, polite and a joy to have about the table. Whilst the food was well presented it was not as good as it looked. The fish was very bland, the meat seemed to be unseasoned and invariably the food was only mildly warm. Despite complaints it never improved. One night the head waiter appeared and placed Yorkshire pudding on our bread plates. He then said he would be bringing the gravy. This was most odd as several people had ordered the Shrimp Pasta and even so the main courses had not yet arrived. Most bizarre. As it was the Yorkshires were cold and had to be taken away. When they were returned having been warmed up no one felt like eating them. This theme of luke warm and tasteless food continued throughout the cruise and was duly mentioned on the ‘Cruise Questionnaire’ that was completed at the end of the cruise. I believe that the test of food is that if it you were to eat it blindfolded could you tell the different type of meat or fish you were eating. On many occasions the answer to this question was no. If you want a bottle of wine with your meal be prepared for a high bill. The cheapest wine is $27 a bottle and added to this is 15% gratuity as is the case with all drinks ordered. The Windjammer and Island Grill are the main buffet areas where the selection of food is very good and there was no problem with the food being hot. However there are no trays available to carry plates, cutlery and cups on. Why they have done away with these I cannot understand as it means for example up to 3 trips to the buffet area for breakfast. First for cereal or fruit, then for eggs etc. and again to get a cup coffee from one of the dispensers. Perhaps another cost cutting exercise.

ENTERTAINMENT

Overall the standard of entertainment in the main La Scala Theatre was excellent. The entertainment although mainly cabaret acts was indeed varied. Our top vote however goes to the ‘Beatles Celebration’. Unlike so many tribute acts they actually sounded like the Beatles. By halfway through their act people were up and dancing in the aisles and at the end they received a standing ovation. Absolutely fantastic. Also very good was Neil Austin whose comedy and magic left everyone laughing as well as astounded. The shows involving the main production company that we did see were well put together and the costumes excellent. It was noticeable that many of the acts were basically left to introduce themselves whereas on other cruises and with other cruise lines the acts in the main theatre are usually introduced by the cruise director.

The person who was my personal favourite and who deserves a special mention was Ian Millar who performed nightly in the ships pub the ‘Pig and Whistle’. He is an Irish folk singer who is part of the Irish Rovers, a Canadian Irish folk group that for many years has toured all over the world. Every night the pub was packed and trying to find a seat was like waiting for snow in the Caribbean. The atmosphere was fantastic. Always willing to play a request, share a joke and to some songs, put his own words. Great entertainer, great singer and a great guitarist.

The down side to the entertainment was the recorded music played around the pool area and some of the games. Considering the average age of those on board was in the region of 55 to 70 years of age I would suggest that loud ‘Rapp’ music was not going to win many votes. Although complaints were made to the staff nothing was done about it. The duo however who played live music around the pool were very good. As for games such as the ‘Worlds Sexiest Man’ and a ‘Belly Flop’ competition these are more in line with holiday camps from the 1960’s.

The ice shows in Studio B on deck 3 are spectacular. They last for almost an hour and during that time there are many costume and scenery changes. The skaters are world class and the costumes and choreography are superb along with the music. The speed the skaters obtain in a relatively small area is nothing short of remarkable.

CONCLUSION

Taking all things into account the question is, ‘Would we sail on Voyager again?’

This is a large resort ship that when built back in 1999 was the biggest cruise liner in the world. Since then there have been bigger ships built with more amenities. Having said that, Voyager for me still has the ‘Wow’ factor. The ‘Street’ on deck 5 with the bars, pub, shops etc. is a great place to have a coffee, listen to music or just people watch. The bridge across it is where some of the singing groups perform from and the Captain introduces his staff on Captains Welcome Night. On sea days there are musicians playing in the ‘Street’ and there are at times parades. The atmosphere is wonderful. When you add to this an atrium at each end that is 10 decks high with glass lifts and balconies you start to realise that Royal Caribbean ships really do have the edge on many others. The huge 3 tier theatre with wonderful shows and entertainers. A restaurant that is 3 decks high with a large staircase at one end joining all the levels. An ice rink that puts on the most incredible shows. 2 outdoor swimming pools, a spar pool, 4 jacuzzis, vast sun bathing areas with no trouble finding a sun lounger.

Compared with all this the down side is small. Yes there has been cost cutting. Yes we did miss the toiletries and bedtime chocolates but these are small items. Some drinks are very expensive. A glass of wine is $7 plus 15% which equates just over £5. However if drinking house spirits they are a very reasonable $4.50 plus 15% equating to about £3.50 and the measure is much larger than a UK measure. One thing that should be remembered is that whilst the ship is in Spanish Territorial waters a further 8% is added to the bill for VAT. Food is not as good as it used to be and after all the food is a major factor when on a cruise. However it is still better than most package holiday hotels. The balcony along with other parts of the ship is in urgent need of painting but these will no doubt be done in the near future.

So having said all of this, back to the question, would we sail on Voyager again? The answer has to be a resounding YES we would sail Voyager again and we are looking forward to it.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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