We have been on a number of cruises, have only used Royal Caribbean since starting to cruise in 2008, and up to now -- have always had an outstanding experience. Not so on this January 2013 cruise to the Western Caribbean.
We were in balcony staterooms on the 6th floor. This was to be a nice family vacation -- for my older parents (dad has not cruised for about 20 years) and the first cruise for my two adult sons.
1.Prior to the cruise, I filled out the online accessibility form for my parents. The form asked if they needed a refrigerator -- which was confusing to me-having been on Allure twice- I assumed all rooms had the same minibar. When I called the Royal Caribbean help line -- to ask whether handicap accessible rooms did or did not have a refrigerator -- I was told the person helping me could not tell from the room description if it did or not and then only reason they would move in a portable refrigerator would be if my parents had medication that needed to be cold. When we arrived we found that they did have a minibar just like any other room. Since one of the selling points of using the Royal Caribbean travel agents is their supposed intimate knowledge of all the ships -- I was surprised to see they did not really know the details of all Oasis rooms.
2.Knowing from reviews on cruise critic that the electric outlets on Oasis were still in the awkward position under the desk -- I advised my traveling companions to bring along an extension cord or multiple outlet strip. Imagine my shock when my son's bag was pulled aside as we were going through the embarkation scan and his outlet strip was confiscated. I know we are not to bring irons, etc -- but never saw a notation about extension cords. Unfortunately, in the commotion of getting my parents off the ship with wheelchairs and all their luggage -- we forgot to go to wherever the office was to retrieve our outlet strip. I did write to customer service after the cruise was over and their response was that extension cords are allowed, but I should inform the security staff that I have one when going through the security scan.
3.NOROVIRUS -- really unfortunately -- negatively affected our trip. I realize they cannot completely prevent exposure -- but they could improve a number of things about their response to a passenger's illness.
a.Turns out there had been several cases of Noro on the ship the week before our trip. We could have been advised of the prior week's outbreak as we were boarding the ship -- not wait until we had been on the ship for several hours and found a warning letter in our stateroom. Yes, I realize using the hand sanitizer, etc is always the rule -- but by the time we read the warning about the illness the week before -- we had already eaten lunch in Park Cafe and touched many items in our staterooms. Since my mother became sick at supper on our second day -- we assume she came into contact with the virus immediately upon entering the ship. My understanding is -- good as the hand sanitizers are for many things -- they do not substitute for thorough hand washing when dealing with norovirus -- we were told this by their medical people. And believe me - I saw plenty of people exiting public bathrooms without washing their hands.
b.In addition, once she was sick we did observe her room being "sanitized". Handles, bathroom, flat surfaces were wiped down. But what about things like the hangers in the closet? Even more important -- the items inside the refrigerator. Because that is serviced by the bar staff instead of the room steward -- it appears too easy to leave things -- including germs- behind. My parent's room had a partially consumed bottle of water and a bottle of Ensure food product -- clearly left by the previous inhabitant. What if the person was ill and the fact that my mother touched those bottles to throw them out is what caused her to be the first person to become ill. Maybe this would be too much work -- but particularily when there has been Noro on the ship- the policy should be to remove all items from the minibar and clean them before returning them to a new person's fridge. Also - our room contained coupon books and cruise compass from a previous passenger -- that they had stashed on top of the refrigerator and forgotten. Not sure the room steward even cleans the fridge -- since stocking it is the responsibility of the bar person. The norovirus can survive on surfaces for a long time.
c.After my mother went to the medical unit for treatment -- she was quarantined in her room. She was not to leave until she had no symptoms for 24 hours. Insult to injury, it appears to be the policy to clean the quarantined room after all the other rooms are done. This makes sense from a germ spreading standpoint -- but the end result for my parents was waiting hours/days or sometimes needing to call and request clean towels, garbage and room service tray removal. They felt neglected and ignored.
d.Again -- when quarantined and actively ill -- instructions from the medical people were to wipe things down with paper towels -- something they did not have access to. My father also became ill two days later -- and although he tried to protect himself -- the reality is it is pretty difficult when you are the roommate of the person who is very ill and their room is not being cleaned and they did not have the tools to clean it themselves.
e.Quarantine services -- providing room service, free minibar liquids, and free movies was very helpful. But I had to call customer service and negotiate some laundry service. They did finally agree to do a bag of laundry for each parent. Because they were elderly -- the virus hit them harder, lasted longer, and they had more soiling of clothing than a younger person would.
f.No PADS available to protect the furniture and linens. An older person cannot run to the bathroom when having explosive diarrhea. If the person is not already using some kind of "adult diaper" -- they would not have brought this kind of product with them on the ship. The medical staff were able to sell my parents some flat protective pads to use in the bed and when sitting on the couch -- but they were told there was only a small number of pads available in the medical storage and they could not give them many. Falmouth and Cozumel are not the place for someone who does not know the country and language to try to shop for this kind of product.
g.There are posted hours for the medical clinic in the cruise compass. But only on a sign outside the clinic does it say there is actually someone on call 24 hours. When my father became ill -- the clinic "posted hours" were over. My parents did not realize they could go anytime- so they tried to hold on until morning -- but my father was so miserable -- my mother finally called at 5 am to see if there was a recording stating how soon they could call for help. Of course, the nurse answered the phone and told them to come right down. My father was so weak by then he could not walk alone -- so my mother pushed him to the clinic using his walker. No one told her she could call for a wheelchair escort. She hurt her foot struggling to push him down the hall (yes I also did holler at her for not waking us up to help!) The next day she could not even stand on her foot. She did go back to medical and have it xrayed. They provided her with a bandage wrap and told her to ice it. But they also told her this was not related to the Noro illness and they would need to charge her.
4.Customer service -- or whatever department handles the distribution of excursion tickets and notices.
a.Prior to the cruise, I purchased tickets for a beginner scuba diving excursion for my sons in Cozumel on Thursday. The tickets were not delivered to their room until Tuesday night. For this particular excursion, they had to go to the diving shop and fill out a form -- something that was supposed to have been done before Tuesday during the day. The dive shop people questioned why their tickets had not been delivered more promptly so they could have filled out the form when they were supposed to.
b.Mid week -- we received an envelope that belonged to another passenger. Then on debarkation day -- I received a notice about future cruise credit for another passenger on the 6th floor who also was quarantined for Noro -- it did have my room number written on the outside envelope -- but inside the room number was for someone on the other side of the ship.
We did have moment of fun - in spite of running interference for parents who were pretty much ill the whole trip.
I liked Chicago (on Allure) better than Hairspray.
The ice show on Oasis was better than Allure.
Really enjoyed the Improv "Throw me a line" show - don't miss it
The Quest game was a lot tamer then previous year on Allure - not sure if that it a cruise director style issue.
The comedy club show was only so-so. The emcee was hilarious. The two comedians were not than funny and substituted vulgarity for humor. Not a prude - Allures comedy show was much funnier.
Allures cirque style show was better - they have a really impressive tree as part of the stage - Oasis has an airplane.
The diving show is amazing to watch - just don't expect to understand the storyline.
Go early to pick your seats. Don't understand why they would design the theater with some seats view blocked by poles - its not like a regular theater where you get a cheaper price for obstructed view.
Food: do wonder if they are changing the dining room menu to encourage more use of the specialty restaurants. For the most part - the menu was delicious and the ability to try different things by ordering multiple appetizers and main courses is one of our favorite parts of a cruise. As usual - made a number of trips to the Park Cafe for the beef sandwiches and late night snack in the cafe on the 5th floor for their little sandwiches.
As usual - embarkation was easy - although the person monitoring the waiting area for emerald was harsh and bossy.
Debarkation with two people in wheelchairs was interesting. Rules about having only one companion to assist the person in the wheelchair meant my husband and I went with my parents through a slightly shorter line - but my sons had to go in the longer line and then we had to wait for them. But that is apparently a Customs rule - not RCs fault.
I did provide all this feedback to Royal Caribbean customer service.
One warning: believe the rule about not drinking water in mexico. We had lunch in what seemed like a really nice restaurant in Cozumel - but my husband foolishly drank non bottled water and by dinner time was violently ill. It only lasted a few hours - but of course he missed dinner and the show we had scheduled for that evening.