I've just came back from the "Exotic Asia Cruise" embarking on 11 June2012.
Frankly, I was quite disappointed in the Voyager, we had an unforgettable, fantastic and smooth cruise on the Liberty OTS in the Western Med this time last year, I came back gushing about Royal Caribbean and telling everyone that they should choose a cruise holiday with Royal Caribbean. Same captain, same cruise director, we expected the experience to be the same on the Voyager but alas it was way below expectations.
We were constantly reminded that this was a"historic cruise", that it was the biggest cruise ship to come to Asia. Well, the Voyager was not ready for Asia and Asia is not ready for the Voyager.
Where do I start?
The food - choices were poor even in the MDR. They were probably trying too hard to cater to "Asian tastes" - and I am saying this as a Singaporean. The "Asian choices" were a poor imitation of the originals anyway and poor value (fried noodles for dinner mains in the MDR - c'mon!) This left only about 3 Western choices, on top of which quality of the fish (dry) and steaks (tough) etc were below par as well. The scallops the tiniest I have ever seen and there was no lobster night! We were told that Lobster night was replaced by "Big prawn night". The prawns when they came were about 6cm long, skinny and there were only 5 of them, hardly enough to fill up this small lady's tummy!
Breakfast was the same EVERY DAY both in Windjammer and MDR. Again the quality and taste left much to be desired (rubbery bacon, dry and stringy corn beef hash). Dish water for coffee ( to be fair, coffee was bad on the Liberty too).
We were really looking forward to the crackle of the previously excellent bread rolls - too bad, I think the baker did not know how to adapt his baking to the humidity? Soggy, rubbery and cold.
Many of the ports were not ready for big ships and we ended up docking far away from anywhere. We took 2 hours to get to HCM, from the container terminal in Phu My. The first night in Hong Kong, we tendered in a bay 45 minutes away from Central Pier. The second day we moved and docked at a container terminal ( this was possibly worse than the tender and we waited endlessly for shuttles in Hong Kong. A lot of time was wasted in Hong Kong tendering (45 minutes) and shuttling (40 minutes on the bus plus an hour long queue to get onto the shuttle in the first place!) On smaller ships, Hong Kong would have been a breeze as they all dock at Harbour City which is right in the central TST area and is attached to a gigantic shopping mall.
Shanghai on disembarkation day was chaotic, There were not enough taxis and no proper queuing policy such that people with luggage tags much later than ours ended up on the taxis earlier by forming a separate line in Shanghai. It was relatively quick and easy only in Xiamen.
Service levels of the mostly PRC crew on the Voyager were below that which I enjoyed with the European and Caribbean crew on the Liberty; none of the chat and banter that added to the fun. The waiters and stewards did try hard but there were many little slip-ups which did add up to an overall poorer experience (perhaps language or cultural unfamiliarity or inexperience, for example, leaving us without offering any bread while waiting for dinner to arrive. Steward forgetting to put feedback forms in the rooms ( hmmm.... reading my review maybe this was on purpose!) The guest relations desk was downright rude, the future cruise sales director was unfamiliar with non-Asian cruises and impatient - I went to her all ready to book my next cruise and came away empty-handed! The bartender in Cleopatra's needle was totally unhelpful. 1 of the photographers was trying to avoid taking photos!
Some bright spots were the staff in the Promenade Cafe and some of the other waiters we encountered in the MDR during breakfast and lunch.
The bands (Music Box Trio) don't know what ballroom dance music is, they kept playing songs with the wrong tempo that were impossible to dance to. It was fantastic that the ice-rink in Studio B was turned into a dance floor but it was wasted because the band had no idea what to play and disappointed many of us keen dancers on board. Cruise Director Gordon, please note that there are many keen ballroom dancers in Asia and many specifically go on cruises to dance properly. Beware the dance floor in The Vault, it is sticky and broken in the middle, I know of 2 twisted ankles from it at least. The DJ said he had already reported it but nothing was done (They seemed to have had plenty of time to renovate the Casino though!)Otherwise however, the Vault had better (recorded) music for ballroom dancing. I missed having a Boleros Latin Dance bar on board.
The shows were less spectacular than on previous cruises. On the last night, when we would have expected the best, they brought in a guest acrobat from New York who was rather clumsy and simple in her routine. This was after we had the benefit of better acrobats on the first night and during the ice-show. It was also a surprise considering that really breath-taking acrobats are a literally found on street corners all over China, any of them would have been better.
And oh yes, to top it all, they forgot my birthday too! ( both at the state room and at dinner).
We were happy to see a roller blading rink but despite waiting around it many times, never did get to use it as it was usually too wet and had to be closed.
The only good thing (from son's point of view) was that they had a lot more Dreamworks actvities compared to the Liberty!
Something we got on the Liberty but not on the Voyager was a daily teens newsletter about youth activities for the day. I'm not sure if it was not printed or we were just not given it by our forgetful steward?
We met other people on board who had previously cruised with Royal Caribbean and all agreed that their experience was below that of their previous cruises.
I think for people who had never cruised before with no expectations, this would still have been a good experience.