We booked a package with Royal Caribbean for flight, transfers,and balcony cabin, the flight with Flybe from Manchester to Southampton was excellent, we boarded the transfer coach (53seater) then had to wait for other flights to come in before we could depart the airport, 10 passengers in total on the coach.Arrived at the docks at 11am. Check in was very well organised and professional, we boarded the ship, then were asked to go to the Windjammer as our staterooms wouldn't be available till after 2.30pm.The Windjammer was very overcrowded, the food was very tasteless and only lukewarm which was the case throughout the holiday, although the waiting staff were very helpful.Our cabin was available at 2.30pm but my luggage did not arrive till 8pm. Our cabin was kept tidy and clean,and everything extra we asked for like ice extra pillows and cruise compasses, was sorted straight away. If you like coffee take some with you has you get teabags sugar and milk but no coffee, that can be ordered at $3.95 a time, also there are no toiletries in the bathroom like there use to be only a shampoo container attached to the shower wall.
Strauss was our restaurant on deck 4 table 485 Felix our waiter was excellent, but that couldn't be said for his asst waitress. The menus we found were not up to the usual standard of Royal Caribbean, the food was tasteless most of the time and lukewarm, and the portions have reduced considerably,mashed potatoes seemed to be every meal,along with carrots broccoli and asparagus. We were all very disappointed with our meals most evenings. The best meal we had on the cruise was at Johnny Rockets one evening where we spent a pleasurable 3hours eating and chatting with the staff, which of whom i cannot praise enough for there friendliness and service to us.
The shuttle buses are on average between $12-15 dollars each, the organised trips with RCCL are very good usually, but are very expensive.
The Cruise Director HelloClo was brilliant, very funny and very approachable and friendly. Zoots were an excellent group and had the ship rocking, we didn't go to the Elton John sound alike had we had experienced that on another cruise, also did not fancy the jugglers. We went to one of the theatre production shows which again was excellent, as was the Ice shows they never fail and are always superb.
The 12 dollars a day each gratuities are added daily, but we always ask for them to be removed as we prefer to tip according to the service we receive, and i do wonder if the service has gone down because of introduction of the automatic charges as the staff know they are going to get there gratuities at the end of your holiday.
The drinks are very expensive, although to be honest if you are getting shorts they are really good measures.
I feel i must add a comment about the Customer Services Desk, and how disappointed i am with their attitude to me and other passengers that i spoke to, they should not dismiss what passengers are saying to them with regards to constructive advice, for example we booked our package through them, and did not expect to have to disembark the ship at 6.45am when our flight from Southampton Airport (15 mins away) was 12.30pm. I was told in no uncertain manner that there was one shuttle bus and i would not be reimbursed if i did not use it, also if i didn't disembark by 8.45 $35 dollars would be added to our accounts as a late departure. I was trying to explain to her that it might be a good idea to suggest to head office that they in future run an early and later shuttle bus and perhaps just a 12 seater rather than a 53 seater for so few passengers, then the ones on later flights wouldn't need to be at the airport for over 5hours, she was having none of it she talked down to me which i thought was totally unprofessional and certainly not good for Customer Services. We decided to pay for a taxi (£20) to the airport and left the ship by 8.45 as instructed. When we arrived at the airport, we were talking to other passengers who had caught the shuttle and there flights were not till 2.30pm they also had been to Customer Services and got the same response i had. Its a shame that they don't realise that passengers pay there wages, most of them i spoke to at the airport will not use RCCL again, so surely it would be better to try to keep passengers happy.
I will in future be trying other cruise lines, as i have stayed loyal to RCCL for along time but feel there standards are definitely dropping.