RCI Enchantment of the Seas - New Year's Cruise from Baltimore
I have to admit that Royal Caribbean has never been my favorite cruise line but we found ourselves with no plans for New Years and I was able to find a great fare on a cruise out of Baltimore so off we go. After I booked our cabin many of our friends decided to join us too and then some friends of friends and pretty soon we had a group of almost 25 going on the cruise. The more the merrier
We drive to the port on a sunny warm day and are able to quickly check in and get onboard around noon. The port of Baltimore is very easy to navigate and the check-in process if fast and efficient. The rooms are not ready yet so we beeline to the Windjammer Café (aka buffet) and magically find an empty table by the window. The buffet is already overcrowded and pretty soon there is no place to sit. We grab a snack and decide to go register the kids in the kids club.
In our group of 25 we have 7 kids aged 3 to 9 so making sure the kids are having a good time will be very important for everyone’s enjoyment.
I’m surprised to find the kids’ club in a somewhat bare room connected to another larger room in the back. No bright colors, no computers or Wii stations, no little funky chairs and climbing walls. We sign up all the kids, get the bands and by that time the cabins are ready. We have an oceanview cabin on Deck 3 which can be characterized as “nothing special”. We usually sail in balcony cabins but since this is a winter sailing out of Baltimore we were not going to be able to spend much time outside anyway so we decided against it. The décor of the room is a bit drab, it’s definitely an older ship, but there is enough space for our luggage and it’s clean. We move the two beds to one side and lower the mattress from the bunk to the floor so that Victor can sleep there. We call our room attendant but he is nowhere to be found, hmm…
The afternoon is spent exploring the ship which looks fine despite being about 15 years old. The public spaces have definitely been kept up and we like the somewhat intimate atmosphere onboard (the ship only holds about 1200 passengers compared to 3000-4000 that most of the newer ships hold) and we are quickly able to meet up with the rest of our group in the main atrium area.
The little dance floor and bar in the atrium will quickly become our group’s meeting place for the rest of the cruise and I think at the end we all liked how easy it was to find each other on any given day. After the initial hustle and bustle it is time for dinner and since it’s New Year’s Eve everyone is dressed nicely.
We have a table for 8 with some of our friends and our two waiters (both from Turkey) are some of the best I have seen on any ship. They provide constant entertainment for the kids and are always prepared for anything we need. The dinner, while not spectacular, is OK and everyone is wearing festive hats, tiaras and noise-makers. We were told earlier that there will be a kids party in the kids club that night so after dinner all the kids are sent to the club while the adults split into several groups around the ship.
There are several bars and lounges on the Enchantment and all of them are filling up in anticipation of the New Year countdown. The Piano Bar is more subdues, with lots of wood paneling and darker colors and is usually the most quiet of all and not suitable for young kids. At the very back of the ship is a spacious bar which is where all the trivia games and large parties like the Captain’s reception are held. It is a nice space to get a drink and also to let the kids run around in between activities. The Bolero is the nicest lounge as far as décor does and I think it was designed as a Latin/salsa lounge.
Unfortunately, it is Super bowl season so each night this is where they show all the games and the bar becomes more of a rowdy sports bar than a place to dance and relax. The Sky bar is located at the very top of the ship and has the best views onboard. It hosts different functions during the day and late at night turns into a dance club for 18+ (meaning no kids). However, every day at 5 pm they host a Children’s Disco which turns out to be perfect for our kids. They play all the latest Top 40 music, serve cocktails for kids and adults, and don’t mind if the kids go a bit crazy running around. Also, the only other customers at that time are other parents so this becomes our regular “Happy hour” place on each sea day. We also discover an amazing evergreen band that plays most of the time in the atrium and realize they have a devout although small following of a few couples who relentlessly dance each time the band plays (and they play almost all the time).
At 11:30pm the crowd in the Atrium is huge, there is no place to even stand and the noise level is crazy. We decide to get our kids from the club so we can all greet the New Year together and while we expect to find them in the middle of their own party with new friends, find a rather gloomy boring atmosphere in the kids club where all the kids sit on the floor sort of doing nothing. This is a first for us as always Victor loves all the activities in the kids club so we’re glad we picked him up early. We lose our friends in the crowd and then it’s time for the countdown, Happy New Year, hugs and kisses and after that we are off to bed and on to the new year hoping that it will be a good and healthy one.
The next day is a sea day and usually one of our favorite days onboard as we get acclimated to the ship and life onboard. We have a bit of a shaky start as we almost miss breakfast. Surprisingly , the buffet is only open until 10 am and after a late night last night we are not in a rush to get up. The buffet is very crowded, as would be the case the entire cruise, the food is nothing special and after that first morning we start to take some fruit and bagels and eat in our cabin.
The weather is chilly but calm and we make an attempt to take all the kids to the indoor pool. There, we encounter another road block as it turns out the pool in only open for kids during special times (a few hours a day) and since it’s too cold to use the outside pool we resort to just finding a quiet lounge and letting the kids run around and play. When we finally get to indoor pool we are told we cannot fit our large group in the hot tub as there can only be 8 people in the hot tub at a time. We have never heard that before on a cruise as abandon hopes of using the indoor pool again, too much of a hassle.
Lunch is another hassle as the ship is not for to accommodate so many people eating at one time and the long line for lunch in the dining room weaves through the hallways. The nice thing is that once we are finally inside we can use the salad bar instead of waiting to be served and the salad bar offers a pretty wide variety of salad including steak, shrimp, lots of veggies, cheeses and exotic greens. This would be our lunch for the rest of the cruise as the buffet does not offer anything of interest for either breakfast or lunch. For the rest of the day we relax, hang out in the various lounges, play some trivia games and let the kids hang out together. There is not a whole lot as far as entertainment during the day goes especially for the younger crowd (the older folks end up playing bridge in one of the lounges for most of the cruise) so we make our own entertainment.
Dinner is delicious and the servers do a good job again. At 7pm we send the kids to the kids club but only so we can finish dinner in peace. For the first time on a cruise Victor does not get excited about the club and actually asks us not to go. Every time we visit the kids appear bored and it’s overcrowded, seems that the counselors just gave up and they huddle by the door checking kids in and our without actually making sure the kids are having fun. Most of the evening we just send the lids to the club for an hour or two in the evening while we have dinner and then pick them up to go to a show and then bed. So far this is definitely my least favorite cruise ship so thank god for all of our friends being here so at least we are in good company.