I am a seasoned cruiser with a solid basis for comparison. I take my cruising, my money and my fun pretty seriously. Having said that, my first time adventure on the LOS was impeded by one speed bump after another.
Speed bump #1: Switch and bate cabins. If you are looking at RC's website for any indication of room specifications, don't bank of it. I upgraded from a deluxe balcony room to a superior balcony room (a modest monetary upgrade) for an overall increase in size and chaise loungers on the balcony. What I got was a standard balcony room and two upright chairs. When inquiring about this, our stateroom attendant told us that the balcony was not large enough to accommodate chaise loungers, and the type of room I was supposed to get is actually on the very back of the ship and they are full. She directed me to Customer Relations stating that if they said it was okay to exchange the chairs then they would do so. Customer Relations was quick to recite "unfortunately the pictures on the website are not representative of the actual room size and amenities" but they would have someone exchange the chairs on the balcony. While it left little room for movement on the balcony it did make all the difference in being able to actually spend long periods of quality time on the small balcony, which on this cruise was a blessing. While no further accommodation was provided with regard to the incorrect room type, the room was well appointed and comfortable. The shower in the bathroom was claustrophobic with room for rotating under the shower head only. PS: 'Do Not Disturb' signs on your door will not work.
Speed bump #2: Luggage delivery. I arrived onboard at noon. My luggage arrived at 830pm. Need I say more?
Speed bump #3: Dinner. Beware. If you choose to eat in the grand dining hall you better have reservations. Any time diners are pretty much SOL in this venue. The overly bright, noisy, chaotic, strict menu choices and general attitude of the staff is best described as 'sit down, shut up, eat up, get up, get out'. However, the Wind Jammer, Deck 11, offers subdued lighting, peacefulness, plenty of comfortable and private seating, with a buffet full of delicious choices from sushi to steamship round. I highly recommend the pan broiled pork chops! Since all of the ship's food is prepared in the same galley, the serve yourself, eat as much as you want, stay as long as you want and the pleasant attentiveness of the staff makes the Wind Jammer far superior to any grand dining experience! Portofinos and Chops are two exclusive restaurants available for dinner as well and both will take a sizable bite out of your cruise budget.
Speed bump #4: Breakfast. There is a buffet in the grand dining room and the Wind Jammer every morning and both are very good. The speed bump is the grand dining room -- don't expect a quiet sit down with your morning coffee. And if you order off the menu versus serving yourself from the buffet, you most likely won't get what you order, and it will be cold. Your best bet is to head to the Wind Jammer to find the perfect table and partake of the many delectable options provided. PS: The fresh squeezed OJ is over $3 a small glass. Tip: The regular OJ is just as good with half the pulp and is complimentary! Gold Card Members have exclusive access to Portofinos and Chops for breakfast.
Speed bump #5: Ala Cart. If your cruising budget is limitless, then you will love the many onboard Ala Cart options - dining, snacking, and gifting provided up and down the Promenade. 'Nough said.
Speed bump #6. Climate control. This was without a doubt the hottest and most humid of all the cruise ships I've sailed on. My travel thermometer confirmed that while the temperature outside was a pleasant 70 to 75, the interior temperature of the ship ranged between 82 and 86. The elevators were totally deprived of oxygen and it did not seem to matter what time of day it was or how many people were in them.
Speed bump #7: Bedding. The queen size bed, comprised of two twin mattresses, kept separating in the middle. When this was pointed out to the stateroom attendant she stated that someone forgot to put the mattress pad on the bed which held the two mattresses together. In 5 days, no one ever put the mattress pad on the bed, even after it was pulled from under the bed, laid on top of the bed, and followed up with a final request. Instead, the mattress pad was simply placed back under the bed and forgotten.
Speed bump #8: Pool Deck Large Screen Television. One station only -- ESPN Sports -- ALL 5 DAYS. Given that the female to male ratio on my particular cruise was 3 to 1 it was extraordinary that the channel never changed. I did observe many female and family cruisers inquire of the bar tender controlling the remote about this, only to be told loudly and firmly that there were no other channels available on this particular screen. It was interesting to note that on the night of the "teen pool party" someone managed to put MTV on the deck's big screen television.
Speed bump #9: Prepaid Gift Basket. Never showed up. Customer Relations knew nothing about it. A receipt for the same had no impact. After a ship to shore phone call to the RC rep, I was told "had Customer Relations checked their onboard email they would have seen the order. Unfortunately, RC would now have to refund the amount to my credit card."
Speed bump #10: Internet Cafe. Don't bother. Customer Relations will tell you that this convenience is "self service and there is no one on board the ship to assist with any type of IT issues in the internet cafe" all the while the minutes kept adding up. You will be better off printing any boarding passes prior to getting on the ship or at the airport terminal following departure from the ship. A promised a refund for this expense by Customer Relations Manager Jose Gonzalez never came to fruition because Mr. Gonzalez "went home for the day" and/or did not actually exist according to two different Customer Relations staff. It was interesting to note that at any given time of day there were only 4 or 5 Customer Relations staff on duty for the 3000+ cruisers. Needless to say, long lines were not unusual as a result.
Speed bump #11: Gold Card Membership. Royal Caribbean most definitely promotes the empirical class system onboard. Gold Card members have access to the highest levels (literally) on the LOS from which to look down on lesser grade passengers. Sounds like something from a bygone era doesn't it? Make no mistake about it though. My observation proved that the LOS crew are very serious about their "gold standards" and if you do not possess a Gold Card you will not be served and will be firmly escorted out of these areas, with or without your bathing suit top!
Speed bump #12: Debarkation. Chaotic. Irrational. There appeared to be no logistical rationale as to where people were to muster versus where their rooms were located, or whether they were carrying luggage or not for post cruise excursions. The young man heading up the group I was in, led us all the way back through the casino in the direction we had all come from, past 2 sets of elevators and proceeded to direct us down 6 flights of stairs. Fortunately, some of us were wiser and took the elevators to Deck 1, where we arrived ahead of those still lumbering down 6 flights of stairs with their bags!
The excursions were wonderful and I have to say that the LOS shipboard staff, including the Entertainment Cruise Director, could really take some lessons from Lupe and Juan, who with a boat load of snorkelers managed to entertain and dance their way into everyone's hearts, going and coming!
I did make the most of any unpleasantness I experienced and turned any negatives into positives. I spent long periods of relaxation on my balcony chaise lounger, I enjoyed adventurous excursions with delightful locals, enjoyed live entertainment and people watching and delighted in wonderfully prepared dishes served in the Wind Jammer. It is unfortunate, but Royal Carribbean will not be added to my collection of cruise recommendations.