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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Commodore Cruise Line

SS Enchanted Isle

Rating:Three Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator:Commodore Cruise Line
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1958 / 1995
Length / Tonnage: 617 / 23,395
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 358 / 716
Officers / Crew: North American & European / International
Operating Area: Western Caribbean out or New Orleans

Review by Mark H. Goldberg, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor, and Christopher E. Smith, TravelPage.com, Associate Cruise Editor

Can you name all seven names the ENCHANTED ISLE had in her previous lives? You should be able to by the end of this ship's easily confusing biography. Let's start with her first name....ARGENTINA....the name the American company Moore McCormack christened her in 1958. Too many people think that Moore McCormack was nothing more than a company with service from the United States to South America. But Mooremack, as they were called in the industry, has origins as far back as 1913....when two gents, Mr. Moore and Mr. McCormack began a shipping business together. They really came to prosperity in the aftermath of the First World War, when they were able to acquire United States Shipping Board steamers and service, first as operators and then as owner/managers.

Moore McCormack was known in the 1920s for their operation of the ships of the American Scantic Line, a service they bought along with the ships in 1927. During that same decade, Mooremack was even better known for its Commercial Steamship Corporation, which specialized in two distinct services...along the Atlantic coast to ports in the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic and Gulf ports to the Pacific Northwest. Although they managed the Shipping Board's American Republics Line for a time in the 1920s, the Shipping Board preferred that service to run from Boston, and for the next dozen years or so, Mooremack's operations to South America was run with chartered vessels. But American Republics Line was a freight line....it was the Pan America Line who ran the passenger division from New York to Buenos Aires. Munson Steamship Line, a New York based company, bought that service and its four "535" type passenger and cargo liners in 1925...they were the AMERICAN LEGION, SOUTHERN CROSS, PAN AMERICA and WESTERN WORLD.

Ten years later, Munson's finances were a shambles and control of the line passed to trustees in 1936, then to a receiver in 1938... November of that year brought an auction and the four sisters were sold back to the government....and a trio of big ships that had been built in 1928 for the Panama Pacific Line....the CALIFORNIA, PENNSYLVANIA and VIRGINIA....were bought by the government's Maritime Commission, adapted to the requirements of the South America trade, and put to work on the thirty eight day schedule from New York to Buenos Aires as the URUGUAY, ARGENTINA and BRAZIL. With Munson's bankruptcy, the government allowed Moore McCormack to take over the operation of these ships. Known as the "Good Neighbor Fleet", these ships were extremely popular....and during the post World War II period, with latin rhythms and Carmen Miranda all the rage, they really made names for themselves. As popular as this service was, Mooremack realized the ships were coming to the end of their careers....they were about thirty years old when they were replaced by the Ingalls Shipyard built twins, ARGENTINA and BRASIL.

Although these two avant garde looking (for the mid 1950s) ships were built in Pascagoula, Mississippi, items used in their construction came from all the forty eight states of the Continental U.S.....so they were true representatives of American technology and know how. Within a decade of their introduction to service, Moore McCormack, losing money hand over fist, closed down their passenger services....and in 1969, they laid up the ARGENTINA in Baltimore. Holland America bought her in 1972....and sent her to Germany for rebuilding....where she emerged in mid June, 1973 as their VEENDAM. The timing was terrible...the Middle Eastern situation sparked a boycott by members of OPEC, and economic uncertainty made the purchase of cruise tickets quite the extravagance....so VEENDAM was laid up in Virginia after having been in Holland America service for less than a year. A Rio de Janeiro based charter company showed up, and the ship, renamed BRASIL, ended up spending the winter cruising from Rio. When the charter ended, she returned to lay up, and in 1976, she started running cruises from Florida in the winter and Alaska in the summer under charter to an outfit called Monarch Cruise Lines....for their service, she became the MONARCH STAR. Holland America took notice that this charter operator was making handsome profits with the ship, so they bought Monarch Cruises...and very quietly phased out that trade name.....the ship then became VEENDAM again.

In May, 1984, when Holland America was more interested in their new NOORDAM and NIEUW AMSTERDAM, the VEENDAM was sold, becoming the BERMUDA STAR for Bahama Cruise Line. Commodore Cruises, owned by Effjohn, purchased Bahama Cruise Line in 1989....and in September, 1990, she was renamed ENCHANTED ISLE. While she had initial economic success, it became harder and harder for Commodore to find passengers for her, so in 1993, she was sent to the Baltic, and before becoming the HOTEL COMMODORE in St. Petersburg, USSR, she ran six cruises from Kiel to Norway. While most ship "experts" thought she would never sail again, in August 1994, she was renamed ENCHANTED ISLE, brought to the United States, cleaned up, and took her position in New Orleans for the kind of cruises you may enjoy today. So, to review....here are her names....and we'll quiz you on this later.....ARGENTINA, VEENDAM, BRASIL, MONARCH STAR, BERMUDA STAR, HOTEL COMMODORE and ENCHANTED ISLE! Lots of names for one ship, yes, but she hasn't changed all that much since she began service way back when....her exterior is pretty much the same as it was....and although her interior is completely up to date and lovingly maintained....you'll find the public rooms and decks located just about where they had been in the beginning. And I for one, find it amazing that these two sisters, after all these years, are back in the same fleet....the ARGENTINA as ENCHANTED ISLE and the BRASIL as UNIVERSE EXPLORER.

The ENCHANTED ISLE is the cruise industry's shrinking violet.....year in, year out, she plugs along at her work....doing a very nice job, but never asking for her share of applause or recognition. When she came to life in 1958 for Moore McCormack Lines, her then radical looks left ship lovers' mouths agape. But when she enters ports nowadays, she gets no fanfare. Passengers 100 feet up on the expansive lido decks of today's fashionable seagoing shoe boxes scratch their heads when they spy this Commodore vessel...."who the hell is that", they sneer? "What a tub!".....we'll, we're here to tell you she's not a tub....or anything close to that. She's one of the most dependable ships out there....and she's an honest ship too....comfortable, not flashy, she asks nothing of you than to board her, unpack, relax and kick back. She gives a great ride underway, her crew babies her, and for a very affordable cruise fare, you can see for yourselves just how enchanting this "isle" is.

Public Areas
The rooms on the ENCHANTED ISLE are best described as straight forward, no nonsense spaces....comfortable, clean and basic. The Spyglass Lounge is a hopping little observation room at cocktail time....there's usually live entertainment, and conviviality reigns here. Some passengers may not realize the room exists....it's above the bridge on Sun Deck....so take the forward staircase or elevator to get to it. On the lowest deck well, away from any passenger cabins, you'll find Neptunes, a disco. There's a midships elevator on the port side of the ship that whisk you down here. The rest of the public rooms are on Promenade Deck....the only lounge of consequence here is the main lounge, venue for nightly shows, dancing and merry making. For those who want to peek in on the entertainment without becoming a part of it, the adjacent cocktail bar has tables set off from the rest of the room.....and are far enough away from the stage that you can come and go without being noticed.

The Monte Carlo Casino is all the way forward....it's large and user friendly....and the other area on board where you can spend with abandon, the boutiques, duty free ship and photo gallery, are on this deck too. The Harbour Grill, the aftermost public room, is a multipurpose space.....during breakfast and lunch times it will be hard to sit in here unless you're planning to eat...but at other times of day and night, it's the perfect spot for a card game or conversation. There's also a nice bar here, that extends out onto the deck. There's a small gym on the Upper Deck....valuable only for the lightest of workouts.....but you can get some great aerobic training outdoors on any number of decks....because the ENCHANTED ISLE has tons of space here. There's a nice sized swimming pool on Prom Deck aft, numerous promenade areas, and nice sun decks to stretch out with a cool drink and good book. I love the old style aft docking wings......deck extensions out from the sides of the hull....from these places I can feel like the family pooch with his head stuck out the car's window.

When you consider the price you've paid for admission, you really can't go wrong with the food on the ENCHANTED ISLE.....one of the best things about it is that it doesn't pretend to be something it's not. The menus are as nicely rounded as any other Caribbean cruise ship.....the variety is good, the presentation fine and the service is great.....friendly and eager. The food is nothing close to gourmet....but it's hearty, has good flavor, and if you overeat as I do, you'll waddle away from your table smiling and sated. The Riviera Court Dining Room has changed very little since its days as the main restaurant for Mooremack's ARGENTINA. The room is rectangular, with no windows....but there is a fair amount of distance between the tables...and best of all, for those who wish to dine in splendid solitude, there are some tables for two. The light and airy Harbour Grill up on Promenade Deck will be home for the buffet crowd....breakfast, lunch and midnight snacks are available here. These spreads are very basic....you can fill up, but you may not leave your table satisfied. And if, when you wake up in the morning, you can't move without a cup of java, continental breakfast will be happily served to you in your cabin.

Before we go any further, you are invited to line up behind me to reserve cabins 300 or 302 on Boat Deck forward. No, they're not suites....they're category 2....but they have enormous windows, tons of closet and drawer space....and it's so wonderful to lie in bed and watch the sea pass by. If you are now frustrated because I, or someone else, has reserved these cabins already, don't despair....on the ENCHANTED ISLE there's a room to please all but the most jaded. There are eleven grades of cabins here, and there are differences in layout and size within each category.

So ENCHANTED ISLE is not one of those ships where we can give a blanket endorsement to each and every address. The best advise that I can give you is to get yourself an ENCHANTED ISLE deck plan....select which grade most comfortably fits your budget....then look for the color code that corresponds with your chosen grade. I applaud Commodore Cruises for providing such an honest deck plan for the ship.....you'll see which are the larger rooms, the number of portholes or windows for each outside, whether or not the cabin has a shower or a tub/shower....and what kind of beds are fitted. All the cabins on the Navigation Deck have views obstructed by lifeboat equipment....and I'd make the category 4 cabins on Boat Deck a last choice....because their views look out to a promenade.....but any of the larger cabins on Upper Deck and Main Deck are great. No matter which cabin you end up getting, it will have a private bathroom, phone, and a good amount of storage space.

Who Goes
You're not likely to come across the jet set on this ship. You'll find hard working North Americans, retirees on a fixed income, and families too. First timers, who have not been warned, might wonder where the atrium went....and who hid all the neon lights. The more cruise experienced passengers will remind themselves what a bargain this ship is.....and everyone, after a few days on board, should take delight in the ENCHANTED ISLE's smooth ride and calm atmosphere.

The ENCHANTED ISLE rarely strays from her year round seven day itinerary from New Orleans with calls at Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Montego Bay, Jamaica. On December 5th, the ship will make an unusual deviation....from New Orleans, she'll head to Cozumel again....but continue to Roatan and Puerto Cortes, Honduras....returning to New Orleans on the seventh day. Three cruises in 1999....January 30, September 4 and October 30 will include her usual ports, but she'll make a stop in Key West as well.

Such a deal !!!! How could anyone refuse to sail on the ENCHANTED ISLE? Well, if you're looking for a couple of thousand passengers with whom you can party, if you're angling to set yourself down in the grandest dining room at sea, or if you want Las Vegas to come to you....rather than you go to Las Vegas.....then do yourself a favor.....look elsewhere for your ocean holiday. As for me, I'd be happy to put my vacation dollars right here. I'll get an honest product, a cruise on a real ship, and I'll get a level of comfort just as good as anywhere else at sea. I'll leave my tuxedo in my closet at home, and I'll reserve my haute dining for when I'm back in New Orleans. I'll get the same sunny days and starry nights as on any other ship....but I won't have to fight the hordes of people cramming the well known popular ships of the decade....so when we meet in port, I'll be standing on the ENCHANTED ISLE's delightful promenade, having a squint at you, way way up there on the floating shoe box....and if you can hear me, I'll call out to you, "Hey, come on over here!!!! You'll love it!"

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