I have taken 4 cruises, but this was my first cruise with Royal Caribbean. I had heard that RCI was supposed to be nicer than other cruise lines I have sailed with and thought it would be a great cruise to take my mom on for Christmas.
Throughout our 4 days on the ship, we had plumbing issues and had to call maintenance 5+ times. In talking to several people, also on Deck 2, we found that this problem was occuring in multiple cabins. On Deck 5, some of the toilets also stopped flushing as well. It's disgusting to have to sit in a stateroom with a toilet that can't flush for hours. There were times that you could smell the sewage and toilet back up all the way in the hallway outside of some staterooms. The carpet throughout the ship was stained and just looked old and grungy. The ship was very plain and needed a lot of updating or at least maintenance of necessities like plumbing.
On all of the other cruises I've been on, the ships have had a wide variety of activities during the day and awesome shows at night. RCI had no variety. They had an awful lot of Bingo and trivia but not much more. Three of the nightly shows were singing/dancing and only one was different (a comic magician). The shows were mediocre at best, with some of the singing downright horrible. I was surprised to find that the shows on the Carnival ships were not only more diverse, but much higher quality.
I was also surprised that the buffet had hours. On all of the other cruises I've been on, the buffet's were open all day, which provided a great option if you wanted an early morning snack or were busy during normal breakfast or lunch hours. The buffet on the Monarch of the Seas was open a couple hours in the morning, a few hours in early afternoon, and a couple hours in the evening.
Never, on any of my cruises, have I had dining room staff beg for tips and "excellent" ratings on the comment cards, particularly on the last night. It's always been obvious- if you give great service, you'll receive good tips and "excellent" ratings. Our waiter kept mentioning how he thought he deserved good tips, kept talking about the "excellent" ratings, offered to show us where "excellent" was on the comment cards, etc. Normallly, as long as the staff did a great job, I give a generous tip above the recommended amount. In this case, I was so put off by the constant nagging, that I gave him the minimum recommended amount. He and the assistant waiter quickly snatched up their tip envelopes off of the table before we even left. As someone who worked in a field where tips were expected, it was a general rule that a) you always give great service but don't outright ask people for tips and b)you wait for the guests to leave before picking up your tips.
I will say that our stateroom attendant did an excellent job and we always looked forward to seeing him each day. We made sure to tip him generously.
This cruise was such a disappointment. I could have gone on another Carnival crusie for the same amount of money or less, but chose Royal Caribbean for it's reputation to be nicer than others. Of the 4 that I have taken, this one was the worst by far. RCI is selling the ship, and it seems as though they have begun to do the minimum and let things slip by for these last few months. It was so bad that in the future I will be taking my business back to Carnival and will be advising my friends to avoid RCI.