We have just arrived home from our cruise on the Voyager of the Seas from Singapore to Fremantle.
In Singapore, the organisation was terrible, it was bedlam waiting time was three hours to get through immigration then another one and a half hours to get through customs because of the length of the queues and poor organisation.
Voyager of the Seas staff (RC) directed passengers for decks 7,8 and 9 to queue for immigration at one desk in readiness for clearance. The passengers stood in this queue for an hour before the immigration desk opened. By the time the desk opened the queue had grown to about 600 people. Many who joined this queue were not supposed to be there, but the staff were so badly organised they didn't make any effort to advise those for all other decks that they would be queuing at the other desk which was at the time being used by another cruise line. When the queue for 7,8, 9 started moving the staff then came along with immigration forms that needed to be filled in and started handing them to people, asking them to: "Please fill this in before you get to the desk". That was inconvenient, finding a pen and trying to fill in a form while slowly walking along. The people from all other decks who realised that this queue wasn't for them were still wandering around or sitting waiting for direction as to what they should do. They had no knowledge of the forms that needed to be filled in until they started queuing at the other desk, only then did RC staff start handing these forms to them.
We had been told on arrival at the given time of 10:00am that our cabins may not be ready and there may be a wait for luggage to catch up. We could go and enjoy a leisurely lunch while we waited. Fat chance of that, we didn't board until 3:00pm and many where behind us. Luckily we received our luggage at 6:00pm some had to wait until 10:00pm for theirs.
After standing in queues for 5 hours after a 5 hour flight on an uncomfortable plane from Perth to Singapore from midnight to 5:00am we were understandably quite run down and tired. We retired for the night early on both the first and second night aboard. The 3rd night aboard was the first night for formal dining, our waiter greeted us with a sneer and sarcastic remark about us not being at the table the previous evening. He didn't have any idea about what we had been through, nor did he consider the fact that we normally have our evening meal at 6:00pm but our designated dinner seating was for 8:30pm. We tried to have that changed but to no avail. The maitre d' took our details and promised to contact us but we never heard from him again.
When we arrived in Thailand we decided not to sign on for a tour but to go along with a group of friends and find our own way into Pattaya instead of the longer journey into Bangkok. Although the RC staff advice was against doing this, we had a great time and experience except for the time wasted in queuing to leave the ship. We easily arranged a taxi for 10 people return for $100 USD for 3 hours in Pattaya. The RC advise was this would be almost impossible. The taxi arrived right on time to the minute, to pick us up for the return trip. Total cost $10 USD per person.
In Saigon where we docked 2 hours from the city at the cargo port because the ship was too large for the passenger terminal. It was neither scenic nor convenient, we like many others booked excursion tickets thinking it might allow us to disembark more quickly, that wasn't the case. We still had endless queues taking terrible lengths of time. The RC staff always seemed hopelessly inadequate to cope with the number of people wanting to go ashore. Instead of opening several gangways they chose to only have one operating. We gained nothing by taking the RC tour for $99 and it would have been better if we had done the same as we did in Thailand. At least we would have avoided the queue the tour bus was in for 40 minutes before we could queue to go aboard, another queue another half hour or so.
The guest information desk aboard the ship is a disaster area. They have 9 workstations but very rarely open more than 2 or 3 at best. Queues of 20 or more people have to wait 30 minutes or so to change money and or get information. The desk for tours is little better, with only 2 work stations, the staff at that counter are lacking in knowledge and the same as guest information manned by people who have a limited understanding of English, it's very hard to communicate with either section of this staff.
RC doesn't seem to care how they inconvenience passengers with unnecessary queuing. In fact it would appear they deliberately create unnecessary queues. Instead of putting order forms in each cabin for the purchase of T shirts for the very worthwhile Children's Make a Wish Foundation. They instead expected passengers to queue for up to an hour to buy the shirts.
Another poorly handled task is announcements over the PA system, usually made by Asians who speak broken English in a voice that is all but impossible for Australians to understand.
This was the Voyager's first visit to Port Hedland. So this gave the Cruise Director what he thought was a golden opportunity to make fun of this small town, that at the moment is the backbone of the Australian economy. Port Hedland lacks resources and infrastructure because although it supplies WA and in fact Australia with so much, neither the WA State Government or Federal Government are willing to give the town the money it needs to improve its facilities. Port Hedland is Australias most cyclone prone area. Port Hedland's emergency units are volunteers. The snide remarks were not appreciated by most of the many West Australians aboard. While on the subject of the cruise director, he might make note of the fact that as a greeting, Australians haven't generally used "Cobber" since about 1947. Never mind, Gordon might catch up one day along with a better understanding of ship board terms, he claims to have been on ships for 22 years. The Captain (A truly wonderful person) had to correct Gordon several times during their morning talks and on one occasion made mention of the fact that after 22 years he thought Gordon should know better.
In general the ship is a wonder to behold the tiled and paved floor areas are splendid, they glisten with cleanliness. The art that adorns every nook and cranny is unbelievable as is all the decor. Unfortunately the carpets in the passages and the sofa and chairs in the cabins (called staterooms) need refurbishment they are starting to look quite tatty.
The La Scala Theatre was great, we thoroughly enjoyed the live shows and 3D movies at this incredible venue. The ice shows were another success, mind boggling to see such events at sea. Very well done, in fact excellent.
Bar service at all but one of the many we visited was also excellent, only once at the pool bar were we disappointed to the extent that in the end we walked away and took our trade to the Scoreboard Bar where the service was always above what a person could possibly expect. Lu the barman who mostly served us there was excellent. the 8 of us who often drank there were most appreciative of his service.
Although we only patronised the dining room on three occasions we found the the food to be very average, the service on two occasions was good. Only the first experience disappointing. The food at the Windjammer cafe was never up to scratch. The hot food was never hot, nor the cold meats cold enough to pass muster. There was a major outbreak of gastroenteritis on board. It may have been coincidental that it started the day after the water and toilets were shut down on parts of the ship and sewerage odour was evident to the point of being quite unpleasant especially immediately outside the windjammer cafe.
The captain explained the sickness as being caused by passengers coming aboard who were already infected. Having been the owner manager of a fast food outlet and being certified in "Foodsafe Aust NZ" training I am inclined to believe that the temperatures of the foods served in the windjammer are not up to standard. Not having a food thermometer with me I can only guess this through experience. Several people complained that their food was never hot.
While on the subject of windjammer cafe. The ship has a code of conduct for guests but I'am afraid it was rarely implemented. The rules state: No bare feet or singlet type tanktops in the dinning areas. Only once did I see a youth in a tanktop turned away, adult men whom should know better were frequently seen in tanktops at windjammer. Once there was a woman in bathers with a towel wrap, she was left to dine in peace. Poor standards for a ship of this type.
In all mostly enjoyable because of the great company of people we met on board and fabulous service by most of the crew.
Unfortunately the management of RC couldn't run a chook raffle, the endless queues, their inability to organise departures and boarding, the choice of the people they use to make sometimes important announcements, that cannot be understood. The last disembarkment at Fremantle showed their lack of courtesy to passengers. We were directed to muster at Studio 3. Knowing there would be the usual chaos we thought we would wait until we were there before going to the toilet. The toilets on that deck were locked. What a great idea, thanks again RC.
We will go cruising again but along with several friends never, ever again with Royal Caribbean.