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While Looking for the right place for a girlfriends’ getaway/reunion, we found the combination of Royal Caribbean International and New Orleans very hard to resist. Two close friends and I had been apart for nearly 20 years, but the time dissolved with new adventures, meals and quiet conversations, not to mention laughing until our ribs hurt.
For any group, the 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas is a brilliant move, a revolutionary ship that spreads out choices like confetti. This was the first ship to have the Royal Promenade — first with an ice rink and the first with a rock-climbing wall. And, of course, we ate our way through the ice-cream parlor, the Windjammer Cafe as well as Johnny Rockets for burgers, fries and shakes. In the main dining room, our waiter made sure that everyone had exactly what they wanted and urged desserts onto the virtuous. In fact, exquisite chocolate desserts in the Portofino restaurant drove us to the fitness center after dinner.
Shore excursion choices included one of the best I’ve ever experienced: “Salsa, Salsa and Margaritas” in Cozumel, Mexico. During this program, we worked our pestles, learning how to make fresh salsa (I swore to never again buy the ready-made stuff) and then shared a few margaritas before trying out a salsa dance class. Another top choice is the Stingray Swim in Grand Cayman, where the silky creatures can be stroked while photos are snapped.
During the evening, we stayed out until the wee hours, enjoying the Motown group show, the comedy headliner and the disco. One afternoon, we headed to the beautifully presented ice show, vowing to go skating, but there was just too much to do.
Docked in New Orleans, we took the insider advice of fellow cruiser Colleen Rush, editor of NewOrleans.com, and headed to Frenchmen Street, where live jazz, ragtime, bluegrass and soul pour from the doorways, courtesy of famous local musicians such as Walter “Wolfman” Washington. Admission is generally free, drinks are very reasonable and everyone chips in to tip the musicians. For the hungry, Herbsaint on historic St. Charles Avenue combines local Louisiana ingredients and classic New Orleans dishes — and the fish is awesome.
This winter, we will have to get back when the fourth of the Voyager-class ships, Navigator of the Seas, sails from New Orleans, with more exterior glass and featuring the first Latin jazz bar at sea.
Navigator of the Seas will arrive in New Orleans on Nov. 17, and sail Saturdays on a seven-night Western Caribbean itinerary, with calls at Falmouth, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico, through March 30, 2013. Prices start at $499.