My wife and I have sailed with a number of cruise lines , but to be honest Royal Caribbean has never been one we have through personal choice fancied travelling with. However, in light of the extensive media there is in the UK as to how 'wonderful' their cruises are my wife and I decided to give them a 'fair and open' chance to prove us wrong by taking a two day sampler cruise to nowhere.
We specifically chose this cruise as there was not a planned port of call as we know that when in port, venues etc are closed onboard and therefore with them being open it would gives us a good opportunity to in effect make a personal review, to decide whether we would book a longer cruise at a later date.
About 4 days prior to sailing, we received an email to say the ship would now make a port of call stop to Cherbourg (France) which defeated the reason why we chose the cruise in the first place.
Day one - Embarkation at Southampton, this was swift and fairly painless and was much inline with our normal experiences of the port.
At check there were people giving out information sheets advising of the revised cruise to include Cherbourg due to Custom & Excise regulations which would have prevented them opening the spa and casino etc......... As they needed to be seen to dock in international waters.
Once checked in we went onto the ship and having not eaten anything we made our way up to the buffet restaurant. This was about 11:30 in the morning, and already the hot food was not only 'Luke warm' but totally tasteless. I had two different types of chicken, which were in addition to being Luke warm, were so over cooked I could have leathered the soles of my shoes with them.
As a couple who previously owned the rights to use a 3 bedroom time share villa in Orlando, we are fully appreciative of our experiences of American service, but as we sat and ate our meal, the body language and indeed verbal language of some of the staff, really surprised us.
Later in the day, after un-packing our luggage in our cabin, we made our way to the 'freedom' style
restaurant to make a reservation for a table for two for our preferred eating time, to be advised that they only make reservations for tables for two at 17:30 or 17:45.
When we sat down for our meal (which typically on previous cruises we would expect to take around 90 minutes over) we were in and out in less than 40 minutes...was like being on a conveyor belt, indeed the waiters were clearing plates of the first person, before the second had finished.
Day Two - the buffet restaurant started cooked breakfast from 7am, because of medical tablets I have to take, this was absolutely perfect, however on reaching the buffet at 07:02 yet again the so called 'hot food' was at best described as Luke warm.......... My hash browns were actually cold.
We chose not to get off at Cherbourg having been there número use times independently.
Our evening meal experience mirrored that of the previous night....... Conveyor belly, but unlike the previous night where the food was quite tasty, the main course was at best described as tasteless.
We ended up in the drinks/ entertainment lounge on deck 5 that has an eastern name (had a mental block as to it's name as I write this). We were two of about 18 people in there and after waiting 10 minutes for a drinks waiter to come to us, we walked out. During this time, the waiter spent the whole time chatting to the person behind the bar, and took drinks to one table only........ Totally appalling!
Day one and two......... During the cruise the open air 'inline skating' rink was shut because the track was wet!!!!! ............... The general store (duty free) was shut displaying a sign, that as the ship was not leaving territorial waters for international waters they could not open; but that is exactly why they added the port call to Cherbourg for to ensure they were in international waters. My wife wanted to go rock climbing but on each occasion we went to the wall it was shut, and I was advised by a teenager that he had been told it was shut for the duration of the cruise.
The most ludicrous issue was that on a Cashless cruise to play the casino including slots, we had to go to the casino cashier to physically 'BUY' dollars as the slots could not be used by entering your cruise card as the facility was not available on the cruise. So we were charged 3% to buy dollars, whereas had we known, we could have brought some along with us, as we keep a supply of dollars at home.
To be honest we feel totally let down by Royal Caribbean, indeed the UK Head Office has not even responded to a let of complaint sent, which does lead us to a total negative experience.
We fully appreciate others will say RCI is the best thing since sliced bread, but it would be interesting to see what your genuine thoughts would be if you experienced what we did!