If you are in any doubt as to whether to cruise Royal Caribbean in the Med from an Italian port please read this review, it will save you a lot of stress. I will explain in more detail later. Sailed from Civitavechia/Rome on 1st September. Boarding quite painless, through check in in less than 10 mins. Went to our Promenade room and met our efficient steward Harry and went to Windjammer for some lunch. This was the beginning of our many disappointments and dismays.
The scene was like a crowd coming out of a football match. No tables, lots of people shouting across the dining room and a feeling of chaos. We later found this to be because 75% of the passengers were 1st time Italian cruisers who had been offered the cruise at giveaway rock bottom prices and treated the cruise as a Butlins style holiday camp at sea, where every civility normally expected on a cruise was thrown out of the window and worst of all Royal Caribbean allowed them to do so by lowering their standards rather than enforcing standards and making them obey them.
At dinning the first night it began. Dress code according to Royal Caribbean for main dining room is smart casual, no jeans or shorts and no sports tops. You guessed it, people were allowed in with sports tops, denim shorts, jeans and even flip flops. At no point did any waiter challenge anyone and point this out or refuse entry to anyone. Previous cruisers with Royal as well as new people to RC were equally shocked. This happened at dinner every night including formal nights where many people had Tuxes on and suits and yet jeans and a polo shirt were allowed in by many of the diners( Italian again).
The windjammer for breakfast or lunch was something we did out of necessity but never was it a pleasure for ambience or quality of food. Watching the Italians return with in some cases 4 plates each was amazing and disturbing. Watching them make sandwiches at breakfast to take off the boat when they went off the boat was standard but you never saw them in any venue where they had to spend any money, instead they would track back to the buffet for free soft drinks or cafe promenade when that was closed.
Sunbathing was the next trauma. The main central area by the pool from 8am till late played a video music channel XY of no one you had ever heard of at ear splitting volume so loud many people could not stay in this area and had to take refuge elsewhere. We tried the Solarium area, which is supposed to be adult only, however Italians with children came in and took over the pool and whirlpools and were never asked to leave by any staff forcing us once again to try to find a quiet area. We moved to the rear of the ship and enjoyed a couple of hours before being invaded again by a crowd of Italians who rearranged all the sunbeds to suits themselves as a mini village of 10 of them shouting to each other, whistling loudly and generally getting on everyone else's nerves completely oblivious of their fellow passengers. We moved a 4th time onto the promenade deck to escape, and even then the maintenance people moved us to do work to the lifeboats. My wife and I tried a one hour treatment in the spa which included a glass of champagne at a cost of $115 dollars each to try to calm our stress. Even this went badly, at the end of the treatment , instead of offering the champagne our attendants left us only to try a hard sell of cosmetics. 3 items offered to my wife came to $420 and mine came to $250 dollars. We were embarrassed by this and politely refused however when we requested our champagne we were told there wasn't any but if we came back they would try to find some. We refused and left and later complained to guest services who then rang the spa and remonstrated with them. To add to our embarrassment there was a knock at our door later and 2 spa attendants turned up with 2 glasses of lukewarm flat champagne. We never drank them.
We had many conversations with regular cruisers and RC crown and anchor members who were shocked and disgusted and said they would complain. One American who had cruised with RC 16 times and said he was one of their biggest fans couldn't believe he was on a RC ship. He told us the re booking office had only done 10% of the repeat business they normally expect from a cruise. That's justice I suppose. You offer rubbish and no one wants to come back, not even the crown and anchor people on our table at dinner who were platinum members.
The reason for this mess comes from the top. By chance one morning late into the cruise the Hotel Director of the ship, Helmut Leikauf himself was walking by taking some air on the pool deck. I stopped him and asked if he had a few minutes to chat. He apologised for the cruise and was well aware of the regular passengers and cruisers disappointment. He said he had been onto Miami management the previous date and told them of the disastrous circumstances, politely referring to it as a clash of cultures. I pointed out to him that RC allowing their standards to drop was their fault for allowing this to happen instead of making people come up to their alleged standards.
He said it was now RC policy to come down market in Europe to capture the gap left by Costa cruises after their ship sank and that price point had to have some sacrifices. I explained that we in the UK had paid top prices for a down market cruise. He shrugged and said that was the way it was. I then expected him to take our room number to send a written apology or maybe a bottle of wine as gesture of goodwill. He did not take any information, said his goodbyes and turned and walked away leaving us in a state of amazement at such bad customer service. This explains why RC or at least the Mariner of the Seas is to be avoided. If any senior management read this review I would recommend them to send a secret consumer of their own to report and rectify this before the whole brand is effected.
Furthermore the shuttles into the towns were charged at between $12-15 dollars which is reasonable but they dropped you miles from the town. In Valencia for example it was 15 minutes walk to the main square, where ironically my brother in law on the P & O ship Queen Mary went to the following day on their cruise and they were dropped in the main square
The food in the main restaurant top hat and tails, was never hot, at best warm, and served on cold plates. The wine arrived usually late.
Also RC in Europe use their ships like buses with new passengers getting on and off at every port which seemed odd.
I will end this review with the positives to show some things were good.
The shows were good and especially the ice show was excellent .
Needless to say,we are booking a 15 day cruise around the Caribbean in January . Can you guess who it won't be with............yes Royal Caribbean. Now where did I put the Princess and Holland America brochures?