Today is our last day of our 2 weeks cruise of Norwegian fjords on Independence of the seas. I have to admit that this was perhaps the very worst cruise we've been on.
I get motion sickness, so I choose my cabin very carefully and way ahead of time which means that i pay more to be mid ship and of course fresh air always helps so we get veranda room. With our luck both cabins on our left were occupied by smokers. I complained to the customer's relations and was told that smoking is allowed on any balcony and if I don't like it I can move to the inside room because that is all they have available. Explaining that I book this particular cabin for a good reason did not help. All I was told is they are sorry and nothing they can do for me. I escalated to a supervisor who offered me balcony cabin at the very end of then ship, but said there is no guarantee that there will not be smokers in the cabin next to ours. I again explained the situation and reason why I booked this particular cabin. But all i was offered was 100$ on board credit and was told to go buy myself something to make me feel better(BTW that credit was never applied to me). So i once again escalated to the head of customer relations. I was offered 2 choices: be exposed to second hand smoke or to close my balcony door and put air condition on. I asked that perhaps people next door would not mind moving to another room? But was told that that its not fair to smokers, they paid for balcony room so they can smoke and it would not be fair to them. Fact that i can't enjoy what i paid for, fact that i can' t breath fresh air makes it fair to me? I felt discriminated against just because i chose healthy lifestyle free of cigarette smoke. Smokers have all the rights and i don't? I was told that i should have asked ahead of time if there are smokers around me, and about smoking policies. Well, who can i ask? nobody bothers to ask if people who book cabins smoke, do they want to be next to smokers, do they have any kind of medical conditions that are effected by second hand smoke. By now every civilized country enforced non- smoking laws. Hotels have separate rooms/ floors designated to smokers. Cruise lines don' t obide any laws, they don' care one bit about health of their customers. Don't like smoke, book inside room and keep quiet. Totally unacceptable, something needs to be done!!!!!!
Food was the worst:
Start with breakfast in the windjammer.... pancakes, french toast and waffles were precooked, piled up in trays and always cold. Bagel's were dry because they were toasted god only knows when, Canadian bacon was incredibly salty and American bacon was always burned to a crisp as well as tater tots. Home fried potatoes were way to dry and overly fried or baked. One could not get a drink from a machine as all drinks were served by staff members. Watered down fruit punches and water in glasses was ready to be picked up at any time and one had to ask for coffee or tea. Coffee was terrible to start with, but I also saw waiters deluding it with water. A la cart breakfast was somewhat better because they were making it to order but also very slow and again my pancakes were cold by the time I got it. Lunch at the windjammer was not too good either. There were limited choices. Mostly curries and fried foods which were always over-fired or over salted. Fresh veggies were not always fresh...one time I got slimy cucumber and other times peppers were frozen or rotten. Next time I tried oriental cucumber salad but it did not taste fresh. I think they Oriental food was mostly Indian. Not once they offered baked chicken that was eatable. Baked pork was always very dry and baked beef was too tough. Dinner at the restaurant offered the same food as in windjammer. On most nights we could not figure out what we should order. Steaks were way too tough. Fish, always frozen and rubbery. Most foods served to the ship are pre-made and frozen, like cordon blue, battered fish etc. but even simple task of deep frying it was totally screwed up. Deserts were good one day and really bad on other days. But i think cutting cost is not the main reason for such bad food experience, On another Royal ship just few month ago food was excellent. We think that chef need to be changed cause he just has no idea how to manage food quality. Our table neighbor cruised third consecutive time on the Independence and told us that first 2 times there was different chef and food was very good. This time they were really disappointed.
Windjammer was always packed, people or dirty dishes were occupying tables for hours. Bar personnel were always at hand offering drinks but there was definitely not enough waiters to clear tables. And even when cleared, tables were always dirty and wet from being wiped with just wet cloth.
As far as entertainment goes we have mixed opinion. There were 3 bands on this ship. Prestige is playing in Balero (just want to mention the fact that they play 45 minutes sets and that their repertoire consists of 6 songs which they repeat over and over, from day to day and set to set...Thy play without any enthusiasm or spark and it shows. Never the less it was a good idea to dedicate a band to playing Latin and some other ballroom favorites. There were many couples that enjoyed dancing to this kind of music including us. But what is the point of having dance band when there is basically no dance floor? It could fit may be 2 couples more or less comfortably and 5 couples dancing on top of each other. We tried to fit in until somebody stepped on my foot with their high heels. i still have a scratch and a bruise. I pointed this out to a cruise director, but he said they are assigned to the specific spot and that can not be changed. There were bands playing at other spots about the ships, but not our kind of music. Guest performers were pretty bad. Comediennes were terrible: first one seemed neurotic, begging audience for some applause an not getting any. Second one was calmer, but his jokes were not funny. Singer lady was OK, but production cast singers were 10 steps above.... We were always curious who'd actually auditioned those people? Ventriloquist was pretty funny. We really loved the violinist, good choice of music and great personality. Also i have to comment on the production cast. The best 6 voices we've heard on any cruise ship, top Broadway quality, and pretty good dancers as well. There were 2 shows per day, 9 and 10:45 PM. Not sure about the later show but for 9 o'clock show people would line up an hour ahead of time. At 8:15 most of the seats were taken, and people would just sit and read or chat for an hour. Unless somebody would reserve a seat for you, there was no dancing at Balero or no show. Also production shows were the same for the past 3 yeas, perhaps even longer.
Now about what we liked. ports of call were somewhat interesting, fjords are breathtakingly beautiful. our state room attendant done a very good job. Room was always clean, bedding was crisp and clean and changed often enough. He always complied with our requests. Always asked if everything was OK in the room and often left me little towel pets in the evening. He was always there, but in non intrusive sort of way.
I had couple of spa treatments which were really nice.
Gym staff was not always nice.
to sum it up.
really bad smoking policy. needs to be changed
really bad customer service, nobody has any idea how to deal with stress situations
terrible food has nothing to do with cost cutting, but with bad chef
lack of good guest entertainers
inability to adjust to needs and requests of cruisers. I think that ship management forgets that after all we are the once who pay their salaries.
great production cast
We really loved cruising on Serenade just few months ago and were hoping that Independence will give us the same wonderful experience. Unfortunately we were wrong. We will have to think twice before booking another Royal cruise unless they improve.