We cruised with Carnival in March and September of 2011. We heard from many that if we enjoyed that cruise line, we would adore Royal Caribbean. Unfortunately, while the ship itself is beautiful and has many attributes to recommend, our feelings upon returning home are that we will likely not sail with Royal Caribbean again. It is unfortunate that the negatives of our experience far outweighed the positives.
First the positives:
The ship itself is beautiful with plenty of venues to experience. The adults only area with its luxurious lounge chairs both in and out of the sun and the two large hot tubs was a lovely place to hang out and did not on this particular cruise become too crowded. The bathrooms off this area were beautifully done.
The shops attendants were friendly and nice to do business with and there were plenty of lounges for evening entertainment.
The Ice Show and Saturday Night Fever were well done and the seating was comfortable.
All in all, there was plenty of room on the ship to move about and plenty of entertainment to choose from.
Unfortunately, now come the negatives:
The "mini fridge" is not a fridge at all. Everything in it was warm and no ice bucket is provided in the rooms nor can it be obtained for you by the room attendant. It must be ordered from room service.
We attempted to order ice through that service on Tuesday (first full day). Our entire order was two iced teas, a slice of cheesecake, and a bucket of ice. 1 hour and 35 minutes later I called to inquire about our order and it was another 10 minutes before we received it. Although we never ordered from room service again, we heard from everyone we interacted with that they never received an order in less than 1 hour.
There is no room service menu placed in the room. One must use the TV to order. This was a process that took anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes as one must learn to press a tab and then wait for the flashing light to end, count off 3 seconds and then press the tab again to move the cursor. When finally viewing the menu, there was barely anything available for order.
We took our plastic glasses from the "drink of the day" to our room. On the final day at sea during the morning making up of our room, our room attendant took all but one of them from the room. Apparently, they were running out of glasses and removing any that were not packed away. Worse however was the fact that he also took two champagne glasses that came with our anniversary basket of champagne, fruit and cheese basket - which we paid for pre-cruise.
Out and About: Many of the crew were unfriendly, avoiding eye contact or not being pleasant to speak with. Most of the time, a bit of jollying about could coax a smile or a laugh out of them but it was work to get there. This is a result - in our opinion - of Royal Caribbean not hiring enough crew to handle the 3500 or so passengers on board the ship. The crew - especially the stateroom attendants appeared to be overworked. In other areas, we learned that "policy changes" were made on a daily basis causing some passengers to be less than cordial to the crew when they were unable to determine just how something was supposed to be done from day to day.
Poolside servers were almost non-existent. The service we grew used to with Carnival was not in evidence on Liberty. We were served a grand total of two times by a roaming server. Every other drink on board the ship (poolside) required that we leave our chairs and fight through to a bar and wait for our turn to be served. Usually, this meant waiting for the bartender to fill up the soft drink and/or water container of sometimes dozens of children before they could serve the adults who were waiting.
Food - while the Dining Room food was excellent, the menu choices were apparently geared more to European guests (as was the Windjammer food). Most of the items required us to inquire as to exactly what was being served. It was not until the final evening that we were informed that we could order two entrees by our waiter and this was after our table was overheard discussing the fact that we had learned of other passengers eating as many as 8 lobster tails the evening before.
There were 1200 children on this cruise. I found not one adult who was able to find a carton of chocolate milk throughout the cruise. It became apparent that the chocolate milk was being "hoarded" for the children. On the final day, I asked a Windjammer Waiter if he could find me a carton. He returned with a cold cup of milk and a hot chocolate packet telling us that there was none to be found; five minutes later, a family took the table next to us with four cartons of chocolate milk.
For each individual, couple or family, there are certain things that make cruising their favorite way of vacationing. For my husband and I - who spend a lot of time in our stateroom on our balcony, something that may not be important to others will actually be the reason we will likely not cruise with Royal Caribbean again - the Room Service. The lack of choice and the inability to order chocolate milk ( I told you it was a small thing) combined with the inability to grab a cold soda out of the fridge or even get an ice bucket in under an hour and a half was in the end the final insult to what we imagined would be a wonderful and incomparable celebration of our 30th anniversary.
Understanding that moral of the crew was absolutely affected by such things as their being overworked or put in the position of explaining what appeared to be daily policy changes, we made every attempt to forgive the lack of quality service we experienced on this cruise. But the final straw was the fact that after experiencing guest services of far less quality than we had experienced with our previous two Carnival cruises, our stateroom attendant and our dining room waiters reminded us to give them final tips and to provide "excellent" comments and mention them by name on the survey filled out before leaving the ship. Had we been given excellent service during our cruise, it would not have been necessary for them to ask us for a final tip and excellent commentary on their service.
While we did in fact leave final tips and excellent commentary on the survey regarding our room attendant and waiters, it was more because we understand that good service is a result of policies that come from the top down, the remainder of the survey involved filling in the bubble for "Poor" far more than "Fair" or "Good".
Lest the reader think that we were the only passengers dissatisfied with our experience, our dining companions included two couples who had each cruised with Royal Caribbean multiple times. Neither couple was happy about the experience and in fact one has said that they will not be booking with them in the future while the other will be trying Carnival for their next vacation. The couple in the neighboring stateroom were also much less than satisfied with this experience and were also past R.C. guests.
Although there are some good memories of this particular cruise, it in no way can compare with our previous experience with Carnival. I leave it to others to decide whether or not this was a one time less than stellar experience with this ship and/or the cruise line, but for anyone who has been told as we were that if you loved Carnival you would adore R.C., think twice before going with something new. It is most probable that we will not be sailing with this line in the future.