This was only our second cruise. My husband (44) and myself (46). We had sailed once with Royal to the Baltics and loved that. My husband nicknamed me the cruise compass due to the fact that I spoke to anybody and everybody and knew EXACTLY what was going on elsewhere! Well, talking to people is a good way of researching trips!!!
Will try to section this smoothly.
Embarkation at Southampton was like a dream. We travelled down the night before and stayed in a hotel right across from the port. Strolled there in gorgeous sunshine, took 5 minutes. Arrive 10.05 am and was on the ship at 10.30 am! Can't say how boarding went later on but there were a fair few people there early.
The ship at first seemed overwhelmingly large to me. We spent an hour or two exploring and did this in relative peace with not too many others on board. Other reviews have mentioned the ship as "tired" or "smelly". We never noticed any smells throughout the entire trip. We were in More
our rooms by 2pm but only one case delivered. The other two arrived by 6pm. No problems though as we were aware this could happen and had what we needed.
The cabin was an inside on deck 10. Small but functional. Flat screen TV with an on/off selection of channels. Lots of hanging/drawer space. Little room between the bed and the vanity. but both able bodied so no problem. Always kept clean and tidy by our attendant, who was amazing and seemed to appear out of nowhere to let us in. Small kettle and choice of teabags provided but no coffee. Again, we took our own. Hairdryer is rather weak so if you have room, take your own.
Bathroom, small but functional. No toiletries but again, aware of this through research. Water was always hot. Overall, exactly what you pay for and ok for a room that you really only sleep in anyway.
Food. We booked "My time" dining and went to Mozart on deck 5 five approximately half the trip. The service was mostly good and the food was mostly good. Sometimes the food fell short from the descriptions on the menu but overall, nothing was bad. The problem appeared to be that, due to prepaying grats, EVERYBODY is entitled yo my time dining, as prepay was what set it apart from traditional dining previously. Our first request was for 8pm. We were offered a much earlier or a much later slot. I declined this and was given a slot nearer to the time we wanted. It seems they are offered in 15 minute intervals. After this, we just said "around" whatever time we wanted and we were always accommodated.
I had noted from previous reviews that you could order unlimited amounts of plates for dinner. I did order 2 starters on 2 occassions (they ARE small). Don't bother with the scallops or the escargot. We joined up with another couple later on in the cruise and took a table for four. Our waiter then had a habit of bringing us extra starters and always 2 extra main courses. NOTE: We are NOT the fat families! We told him not to do this but he continued. Shocking waste of food which we felt guilty about.. The brad was excellent. Wine started at $31 a bottle but you could buy a glass. Water was topped up. Coffee or tea served after meal.
Windjammer. We liked it. Some outstanding dishes, namely the curries. There cannot be a person on the planet who would not find something they liked on that buffet. Sushi, salads, pasta, steaks, carvery, curries, ribs.... need I go on? Ok, sometimes they were not always piping hot, but hot food is what I demand the most. It was never not hot enough to eat. There was (being a cruise from the UK) often a pie, which was excellent. The chips for the first week were thin fries, always soggy and cold. I never touched them. Towards the end of the second week they were thick cut, fresh and HOT!!!!! I had a chip! Ok , lots of chips, I don't really eat them at home.
The buffet was opened/closed in sections to allow cleaning/changeover of meals. Space was sometimes limited and not enough seating for just 2 people. However, after a day or two, it was acknowledged that you would just join a table or others would join you. Met some amazing people doing this. Sometimes wait staff were directing you to partly occupied tables.
We went to Johnnie Rockets once. $19 with tip for food and milkshakes. (Milkshakes are $5.25 each PLUS tax and tip). We had a bogof voucher from RC. It was a good experience and burger was excellent.
Overall. The quality and the quantity of food was good. NOT outstanding but good. Rarely bad and if it wasn't to your taste, then select something else.
Bars. Lots of them but as stated earlier, limited seating in some. Could be a problem if you wanted to "camp out" in one for the night. However, we never actually had a problem getting a seat where we wanted one. Drinks were variable throughout. Some were like rocket fuel and others weak. Service was fine. We sometimes went to bars to order our own drinks, sometimes they came to us. We did not feel that they were pushing drinks like they did on our last cruise. Prices: Bottle of bud $6 Glass of wine $8 Mojito $6.75 Cocktail of the day $7.50 (with glass) These were STRONG drinks! Coke $2.50 Coffee $3 upwards (speciality bar or served)
Entertainment. Again, others have complained. We LOVED the hypnotist ( but it is the participants who make the show). We also loved the beatles tribute band and the comedian on the last show. Some of the singers were average but nobody was bad! We went to EVERY show and enjoyed them all. The Ice show. AMAZING!! We went twice. Tickets are limited but they put on an extra show so lots of people went again. Stunningly superb. And the rink is quite small so makes it even more amazing. Street parties were also good. Got everybody dancing from kids to older people. (Actually, very few kids visible on this trip, mostly crews kids).
Overall. Don't expect the WEST END type productions. You are NOT in London. You are on a ship! Enjoy the cheese!
Activities. We went ice skating (which was hysterical as we can barely stand on skates). Small but functional rink. Ice skating rink is sometimes used for other events and is not always open for skating. Open skate times are well advertised.
Climbing wall. Andy did this. I watched!
Friends played mini golf which they described as "challenging" due to the wind!
Did not attend any trivia quizzes or lectures. Did NOT watch a towel folding demonstration. There was NO shortage of something to do.
Gym and Spa. I used the Gym once and struggled to stay upright on the treadmill! Andy used it most days and said it was functional and ok. I did use the sauna and indoor jacuzzi (nice). Spa I felt was overpriced but they ran "specials" They were quite pushy with their treatments but not overly so.
Excursions. We only did one excursion with the ship in Akureyri as, having done our research, we knew there was a limited amounts of trips locally and they were not significantly cheaper than the ships tours. "Jewels of the North". We found it good value. We had one minor niggle and the ship reimbursed the port fee to us ($34). I did hear that another tour had been chaotic but all in all, everybody I spoke to enjoyed the tours.
We booked a combined tour in Reykjavik, Whale watching and the blue lagoon with an online company. Really, they shouldn't have took us out as the weather was atrocious (and scary) on the boat. We didn't see any whales! The blue lagoon trips only include transport. The entrance fee is an additional cost (We paid 40 euros each). It was an experience though to swim in the hot water in the freezing cold!
The glacier in Olden. We went on the public bus. It cost 89 NEK ( approx Â(EURO)10) each return. We got 3 hours to walk up to the glacier. The cheapest tours were Â(EURO)25 pp. The information kiosk at the pier will NOT tell you about the bus as they want to sell the trips!
All the ports were walkable. The walk into Reykjavik is approximately 1-2 hours along the coastal path. Some did this on day one and regretted it. Day two weather was worse so we took the shuttle. 9 euros each return.
The ship: Always cleaning and maintaining going on. Toilets were always spotless except for disembarking day. Plates were cleared quickly. Cabin was spotless. Lots to do. We never done half of what was available but partly this was due to bad weather.
Thoughts. Internet was so slow and so expensive I gave up. It cost me 413 for 8 minutes and half of that was logging on. Free wifi in many of the ports but this was sporadic. (Go to McDonalds in Trondheim....Super fast and free!!!).
Drinks. Not as expensive as people make out. A bottle of wine in a restaurant in the UK is upwards of Â(EURO)15 (basic). So approx Â(EURO)22 on the ship is not THAT bad. The service charge from UK sailing IS included.
Tipping. Again we opted to prepay for my time dining. We still felt a teeny bit obliged to tip on top for drinks at times. But only if they came to us. We did give the cabin attendant extra cash. He had his work cut out with us two!.
Services. Not as in your face as previously. Did not get pounced on once by photographers. We had to approach them. Drinks were not rammed at you either in the windjammer. Again we had to ask but we preferred that. Shops? Same old. Good value on ciggies and alcohol. Logo stuff expensive and mostly useless.
Weather. Was mostly terrible. And I MEAN terrible. However, research done, we were not expecting to sunbathe. With good waterproof clothes, we did not suffer off the ship. The weather is NOT the fault of RC. The best two days were Akureyri (Iceland) and Olden (Norway) and they were the days that mattered! Spectacular. There was a lot of rocking on the ship and seasoned cruisers told me it was due to needing a refit for stabilizing?
Ports. Amazing. All with the exception of Molde which was a Sunday and nothing going on. Even the famous Rose garden was crying in the rain. However, I heard people had enjoyed a good trip from here so maybe next time.
In all, we loved it. RC do NOT purport to be a luxury line. You get what you pay for. I did learn NEVER to pay the release price for trips as some had paid half what we had paid and yet others had paid double! Early booking is only essential if it is a must have! For the money, it is an exceptionally good trip. By the time we got off, we realised that the royal promenade is not actually as big as it seems at first. The ship became more familiar. We met some amazing people and equally some moaners! You can't please all the people!
Would we go again with RC? Most definately for the right trip at the right price. We have highlighted 10 possible options for next year. Watch this space.