Universal Orlando’s partnership with Royal Caribbean is designed to create a seamless vacation experience by combining a resort stay with a 3- or 4-night Royal Caribbean cruise. The full package includes transportation to and from the airport, resort and Port Canaveral as well as theme park admission for the length of your hotel stay.
Universal’s first attempt at this partnership utilized Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas, an older Sovereign class ship that was built in 1991 and ultimately sold to another company in 2013. The Monarch had not aged well and complaints were common. Royal Caribbean recently announced that the Monarch’s sister ship – Majesty of the Seas will be replacing the Enchantment in the summer of 2016. The Majesty will be undergoing a major renovation prior to that, which is reported to include RCCL’s VOOM Internet connection – billed as the only high-speed Internet at sea. Even more stunning, RCCL says that VOOM will be free to all guests sailing on the Majesty.
The Enchantment of the Seas took the place of the Monarch in April of 2013. The Enchantment is a newer ship – built in 1997, refurbished in 2005, and most recently rehabbed in 2012. The ship has 11 decks and holds approximately 2500 passengers. This ship is approximately the same size as the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic.
Embarkation and Check In
All Royal Caribbean ships embark and disembark from RCCL’s new terminal at Port Canaveral. The large terminal is designed to handle some of Royal Caribbean’s larger ships. The Quantum of the Seas makes stops there, as part of its itinerary out of Bayonne, NJ and the Oasis of the Seas will be sailing from this terminal starting in November of 2016. While the terminal is certainly large, it’s also quite sterile – with very little art or color for that matter, lots of white walls and not much else. Nonetheless, everyone in our group reported a quick, friendly and professional experience during check-in.
It’s especially helpful to complete online check-in before boarding and to have your Set Sail pass with you. The Set Sail pass can be printed out when you’ve completed your check-in process. This will speed up your check-in experience considerably.
There were five members of our team on this cruise. In order to cover as many of the stateroom types as possible, we booked one Ocean View Stateroom, one Balcony Stateroom and one Owner’s Suite with Balcony.
The Ocean View Stateroom is a snug 151 square feet and is really designed for two people. Any more than that would be uncomfortable to say the least. Beds can be configured together as one king bed or separate as two twin beds. There is a small sofa in the room as well. Bathrooms are small, with a tube shaped shower that can feel very confining. Also, the Ocean View Stateroom we had didn’t come with a mini-fridge, but it was available upon request for no charge.
The Balcony Staterooms are a bit more comfortable at 191 square feet. Like the outside stateroom, beds can be configured together or separate, but there is also a pull out sleeper sofa. While the bathroom in the Balcony Stateroom was somewhat larger than the ocean view, it wasn’t by much. The main benefit of the Balcony Stateroom is the configuration. Having the extra room lengthwise plus the balcony makes the room feel larger than it is.
The Owner’s Suite on board the Enchantment was very spacious at 517 square feet, with an absolutely massive 111 square foot balcony. Suites on the ship have concierge service, including access to the concierge lounge, which is right outside the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 11.
In addition to the same bedding configuration as found in the other staterooms, the Owner’s Suite also has a very spacious seating area, large flat screen TV and dining table. A refrigerator in the room is stocked with soft drinks, beer and snacks (all at an additional charge). The bathroom had a whirlpool tub, walk-in shower and double vanity. In addition to the toilet, the bathroom also had a bidet.
While the rooms were clean and well appointed, Royal Caribbean really needs to address the situation with their beds. My last two sailings on Royal Caribbean (Jewel of the Seas to Alaska, as well as this sailing on the Enchantment) featured the most uncomfortable beds I’ve ever experienced on a cruise line.
Norwegian Cruise Line was the first line to offer ‘Freestyle dining’ – meaning you eat where you want, when you want. No set time, no rotating restaurants and no server team that stays with you for the cruise. This has been a very popular feature on NCL, and Royal Caribbean decided to offer their version of it called My Time Dining. You can choose to have a set time for dinner as is standard in the cruise industry, or you can select My Time Dining when making your reservation. This gives you the flexibility to eat on your own schedule, which is nice.
The Enchantment’s main dining venue is, inexplicably, the My Fair Lady Dining Room. The purpose behind this theming, while there might be one, is not readily apparent. The only element to support the name is a fairly disturbing statue of Eliza Doolittle on the main floor as well as some random paintings of My Fair Lady scenes hung throughout the room.
Bizarro theming aside, the food being served in the main dining room was better than I had expected. Granted, I manage my expectations when it comes to cruise ship dining, as it’s important to remember that this is effectively a catering operation. These kitchens have to serve hundreds of meals in a very short span of time, making cook-to-order meals virtually impossible. Even still, I found the food was better than good – not fantastic – but certainly better than I expected.
The other main dining venue on the ship is the Windjammer Café, which features a large buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Generally speaking the food in Windjammer can range from mediocre to outstanding, but is almost never bad. There’s a wide selection of foods to please just about any palate, and seating around the windows offers some pretty spectacular views.
Park Café is a small counter service eatery located in the Solarium on Deck 9, which is also the adults-only area. This location offers healthier options including sandwiches, wraps, as well as a small selection of desserts. The offerings here were particularly good, and I found it a frequent stop for me during the cruise. Those who have experienced Royal Caribbean’s Kummelweck sandwich will be happy to know that it is occasionally offered at this Park Café.
The only dining experience on the Enchantment that failed to impress was Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse. Prior to this sailing, my only experience with Chops Grille was on board the Oasis of the Seas, where the experience was first rate and rivaled some of the better steakhouses I’ve visited. This was not the case on either the Enchantment or the Jewel of the Seas.
The quality of the steak on this experience was somewhere just above Sizzler. The steak had an almost mushy consistency, suggesting that it had both been frozen and thawed, or it had been prepared hours in advance and kept in a warmer. Either way, the experience was less than stellar. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to try Chops again on any Royal Caribbean ship. This dining experience comes at a premium, charging an additional $35 per person. There are, however, options on Chops menu that are available at an upcharge and can drive the price up to more than $50 per person. At that point, save your money and go to a real steakhouse when you get home.
One of my biggest complaints with Royal Caribbean is the nickel-and-dime experience that happens on their ships, and this is a great example. Even in the main dining room where the food was considerably better than Chops and was include with the price of the cruise, they offer a Chops Steakhouse Steak for an additional fee.
Casino Royale is the ship’s on-board gambling venue. For me, the casino is a big draw, and Royal Caribbean runs an outstanding casino on all its ships. Friendly dealers and staff, lots of poker, blackjack and slots tournaments, and special events throughout the cruise set their casinos apart. The casino is only open when the ship is in international waters, and never while in port. While the casino on board the Enchantment was small, it was well appointed with a good selection of slot machines and table games.
The casino is the only venue on the ship that allows smoking and while non-smoking slot banks and tables are available, given the small size of the casino, it’s impossible to avoid if you’re sensitive to smoke. Royal Caribbean claims that their casinos adhere to Nevada Gaming Commission rules, the same rules that apply to Las Vegas casinos, but there’s no real way to verify that.
There seems to be a pattern among all the Royal Caribbean casinos – slots are loose during the first few nights of the sailing, becoming tighter as the cruise progresses. Even though the casino is usually a losing proposition for me, it’s a very enjoyable experience and one of the reasons I continue to sail with Royal Caribbean.
Entertainment on board the Enchantment of the Seas is best described as a hilarious joke. Whether you’re watching their “Broadway-style” shows or listening to the lounge singers who seemed to just pick up an instrument for the first time last year, the end result is always disappointment. Things get even worse when karaoke is introduced.
Throughout the day there isn’t a lot to do on the cruise if you’re not lying by the pool, gambling in the casino, receiving treatments at the spa or just drinking the day away. Some group activities are offered like trivia, but these events are lacking if you’ve ever experienced them on a ship that does daytime activities right like Disney Cruise Line.
Some of the more physical activities do attract a lot of people including the Rock Climbing Wall, which is a staple on Royal Caribbean cruises. The wall on the Enchantment isn’t large by any means, but it is still a great way to pass time and get a workout.
Even a passing glance at the kids and teens clubs on the Enchantment would tell you this is not a strong focus of this cruise. If you’re a regular on Disney Cruise Line, you’ll be mortified by what’s offered on this ship. There is a small nursery called Royal Babies and Tots for toddlers at an additional charge, a club for older kids and tweens, and a teen club. For children ages 3-11, there are offerings within Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean Youth program. Those aged 12 – 17 have a dedicated area as well.
Perhaps it’s the fact that we have been very spoiled by Disney and the exceptional venues they have for kids, but all of us were slack-jawed when we walked through the kids’ club. The Royal Tots nursery was effectively a large, walk in closet. The Adventure Ocean area was two sparse rooms with a white board, some Wii video game systems and some toys. It looked unkempt, and we immediately named it “Sadness Club.” We also said this is where you would probably send your kids if you didn’t like them. The teen’s area also had the feel of being slightly more than an afterthought.
With that said, it’s very important to mention here that we were not traveling with children and did not experience the kids’ programs firsthand. These observations are based on our impressions and should be taken with a grain of salt. It may be that the kids’ programs are outstanding, but the facilities alone leave something to be desired.
I found the Enchantment of the Seas to be a very enjoyable cruise. I found the crew to be mostly friendly – the concierge staff was outstanding, as were the servers and crew in all the dining locations. The ship itself is in excellent shape, especially considering its age. I found the common areas to be elegant and well maintained. The fact that I booked another cruise on the Enchantment should give you some idea that I enjoyed myself.
My only recommendation and caution would be to families. There were not many aspects of this cruise that impressed me as kid-friendly or family-friendly. During embarkation when everyone was hanging out on deck waiting for the staterooms to be ready, the music being played was most certainly NOT family-friendly with lyrics where “F-bombs” were frequent. The onboard movie being played on deck at night was American Sniper – an R-rated film.
These are things that send a clear message that a family audience is not what they are going for. That’s fine, but it begs the question as to why Universal Orlando would partner with them for these land/sea sailings. Universal already has an issue appealing to families with younger kids and this cruise will do nothing to help that.
One aspect of this cruise that cannot be overlooked is the price. This cruise will routinely be half the cost, if not less, of a comparable Disney cruise, but as I’ve pointed out above there are trade-offs for that. Given the condition of the kids’ clubs, and the various events that struck me as family-hostile, I could not recommend this to families with younger kids, and that’s a shame.
My hope is, that at some point, Universal Creative partners with Royal Caribbean to offer a more polished and focused product aimed at families – at least on the Enchantment or the Majesty to come.