We've just returned from a 5 night Med cruise starting from Barcelona and visiting Cannes, Livorno and Civitavecchi. Overall, we had a great time on what was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean, the first having been on the smaller Vision of the Seas along the Norwegian Fjords 3 years ago. Our first impression as we saw the ship from our hotel window,(the amazing W Hotel with a room overlooking the cruise port) was that it was huge and we were not mistaken! As I said, in the main, we enjoyed the cruise but we did have some niggles which took some of the shine off.
We had a junior suite (7412) which was at the back of the ship with a balcony equipped with 2 loungers, 2 chairs and a small table for drinks. We felt the view from the balcony was good (although it was classified "restricted view). The only negative was that the kitchen staff from the deck 5 dining room used the outside area of deck 5 as their smoking area. They tended to stand looking up towards our deck and this meant that if we were on the balcony, we had to suffer cigarette smoke/smells and also were aware that we had to make sure we were "covered up" or the curtains drawn to our cabin to avoid any embarrassment! The suite itself was a good size with a deep but short bath with shower over. The king size bed was very comfortable and my daughter had the sofa bed (which was left made up for the duration of the cruise). There was ample cupboard and wardrobe space and plenty of coat hangers which made a change. It had a number of shelves for shoes in the wardrobe and plenty of room to store our 2 large and 1 medium suit cases. There was only a coffee maker in the room which was annoying as I only drink tea. I did order a pot of tea on room service one day but they used a pot that had been previously used for coffee and it tainted the water so ended up going up the Windjammer and bringing tea back down whenever I wanted one (not that we were in the cabin much)!
The cabin attendant service was OK but somewhat hit and miss. No floor towel on 3 days, extremely tatty towels that should have been thrown out long ago and other people's toothpaste and a face foundation left in the bathroom when we arrived (along with dirty bathroom cupboards). One day the bath wasn't cleaned at all. But Ferdie (the cabin attendant) was friendly and made sure our daughter was comfortable so we didn't complain. Towel animals were made every 2 days (it was every day on the Vision but I understand this has now changed. (With a daughter aged 9 going on 14 I don't think she would have cared if they weren't done any more)!
The My Time dining room service was excellent; the waiters were thoroughly attentive and Dennis and Jennifer who looked after us on our 1st and last evenings, were great with our daughter and remembered my food and wine preferences. On the other 3 days, we were seated in different areas of the Botticelli dining room as it was just the two of us (our daughter preferring the kids club to our company). The choice on the menu was extensive and I particularly liked the Vitality menu which showed the lower calorie foods (I managed to only put on 1lb during the 5 days)! Windjammer and Jade (buffet restaurants) were less appealing (we went there for breakfast every day and once for lunch) in terms of the atmosphere but the food choice was excellent, again with plenty of healthy (and even more, not so healthy) choices. I know people complain about how chaotic it is in the Windjammer but if parents kept control of their kids and stopped them running around like loonies or sitting on the table tops (as we witnessed on two occasions), I'm sure it would be easier for the staff to get round to clearing the tables and assisting much better!
We only saw one show which the ice show "Encore" and it was excellent and if that was the standard for the other shows, I'm sure they were great.
We particularly liked the Olive or Twist bar which was in the Viking Crown Lounge where we spent the evenings after dinner until we collected our daughter from the kids' club at 10pm.
Our daughter didn't use the club during the day but couldn't wait to get there in the evening. There was (from what we could glean from her) loads of different activities and she had a great time.
We did the 3 shore excursions on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th day, visiting Cannes independently and for Rome we booked the Imperial Rome tour through RCI. This was very tiring with lots of walking; and at was very hot on the day we went, we were flaking before we even got to lunch. I would recommend taking the "Rome on your Own" option and doing your own thing as we were frog-marched all over the place and everything we saw was "very important" according to Francesca the tour guide!
For Pisa, we had booked the Pisa on your own option which was a bus to/from Pisa from the ship but it was cancelled and we were advised that it was simple to get there. It isn't! You have to take the shuttle bus to Livorno centre, buy a bus ticket to the train station where the trains only go to Pisa once an hour and then either walk 40 minutes into the centre or get another bus. The train was unbearable with no opening windows or air con so we elected to get a cab on the way back which was 50 euros from the centre back to the ship. As our original RCI transport was over 100 euros, this was no big deal.
One observation I must make is how shocked we were by the rudeness of some (and actually many of) our fellow cruisers. Not once, did anyone say thanks when we held a lift or stepped aside to let someone go in front of us on the ship etc. Also, some parents seem to think it's OK to relinquish all responsibility for the behaviour of their kids; there were a particular group of kids from one large extended family party who were constantly found running around and being excessively rude and noisy. That said, there was also lot of very loud passengers from one particular South American country who seemed to think they were at the Rio carnival too; I also had a very unpleasant run in with two lads from the same country in the queue for guest services, who became extremely abusive to me and fellow passengers and security had to step in.
Overall, we had a great time but I think we would go for one of the smaller ships again next time; I did feel (as others have commented on their reviews) that the attention to detail and overall service has slipped since our last experience. I can't put my finger on it but it just didn't feel as "special" as the last time we cruised. We're hooked on cruises but we'll probably try a different cruise line for our next experience as the Royal Caribbean wow factor seems to have waned somewhat for us.
Quality of Food 5
Botticelli Dining Room My Time Dining. Lots of fish dishes
Encore and Ice Spectacular
Shore Excursions 2
Best was Pisa for the experience but difficult to get there. Worst was Imperial Rome tour which was very long and very tiring.
Dennis and Jennifer; waiters in Botticelli dining room. Excellent attention to detail and great with children.
Children's Facilities 4
The Voyagers club was excellent; the operating hours enabled us to be flexible with what my daughter wanted to do.
Onboard Activities 4
Excellent range. I did the rock climbing wall which was a real wow for me!
Size and facilities good. Cleanliness and attention to detail lacking.
Overall Rating 4