We chose this cruise because our first ever cruise was with RCCI and we thoroughly enjoyed it, and because it went from Southampton which is only an hour's drive for us.
We had about a 20 minute wait in the car park queue to drop the bags, but after that embarkation was fast and efficient. Because we were Gold passengers there was a separate line and we went virtually straight to a check-in agent.We were on board within about 20 minutes from dropping the car.
We encountered the usual frenzy in the Windjammer when we went for a bite of lunch - nothing much has changed there. What we were not to realise until we sailed was that the Windjammer remained like this for the whole cruise - always more passengers than there was room available and I must say, the quality of food (with the exception of the salad bar) was not as high as I remember it being on Navigator a few years ago.
The ship itself cannot really be faulted in terms or decor and cleanliness. Every single hour of the day there was someone wiping doors, handrails and lifts with antiseptic - this was very reassuring. Despite it being a bigger ship than Navigator and taking 1000 more passengers, the design is the same BUT, it just felt much more crowded and cramped. Even in the dining room,the tables seemed to be very close together and hardly gave you much privacy from your neighbouring diners.
We are not really into "entertainment" so I cannot comment on the shows, however I would say to RCCI that if they are going to employ singers for the bars, please get some that can sing in tune - sometimes it was painful, and loud - which made it worse. Hardly the ambiance you expect when trying to enjoy a pre-dinner drink (the duo in Bolero's take note)
Because Windjammer was such a rugby-scrum, we either had room service or a-la-carte in Macbeth for breakfast - both of which were very good. Dinners were a bit hit and miss. The steak I had on the first night was inedible, but the lamb shank a couple of nights later was divine - there's a lack of consistency. The room service menu (other than breakfast) was very limited and not very nice at all. We ate in Chops Grille to celebrate our anniversay - the food was very good here and the atmosphere too. For atmosphere, great music and good food give Johnny Rockets a go - great fun in the sun!
The staff we encountered were very good - there's always the odd exception, but in general we were well looked after - the only comment I would make is about there being a distinct lack of bar service staff on the decks during the day - they used to be falling over themselves to get you a drink but not any longer. Staff cuts I guess.
Our balcony cabin was spotless and comfortable and we had a great steward. The noticeable difference was the lack of toiletries - just a bar of soap this time as opposed to shampoo, body lotion, soap - all of which we had on Navigator before. More cost savings.
I only have the experience with Navigator on RCCI before so apologies for the constant comparison, but the expectations are set aren't they.
In conclusion I would say that we sort of enjoyed bits of our cruise, but having thought long and hard about it I think we will be going on a smaller ship next time - and probably with Princess Cruises or P&O. It seems that RCCI have based a huge cruise ship in Southampton and to fill it, they have to offer very cheap prices and it attracts a bit of a "bucket & spade brigade". Cruising to me should be relaxing - this wasn't really relaxing at all.
So we will be leaving RCCI big ships and doing what I think many of our age group will be doing and that's walking away to find something a little more refined.