We took our third Mediterranean cruise in as many years in August with Royal Carribean, having been previously with Princess and Cunard.
Good things first - the staff were pretty good, checking in and disembarking at Southampton was very efficient and, errr, now I'm struggling. Oh wait, the breakfast buffet was quite nice too. And the cabins were clean.
I'm afraid there's quite a long list of what was bad:
1. In Villefranche, we queued for 4 hours and failed to get off the ship. The tendering operation was a shambles. The cruise line largely blamed the French authorities but that was a cop-out - we were waiting on the promenade deck and we saw tenders sitting alongside for 30 minutes at a time completely empty, whilst the staff messed around trying to give priority to people that had booked excursions but hadn't shown up on time. We also heard later from people that had got off that there were loads of people jumping the queues - there's little point having people go to collect a ticket to determine which batch they can disembark in if you're not going to do anything about people just barging in. We eventually got a bottle of horrid wine as compensation for having the whole day ruined. Not good enough.
2. The food in the restaurant in the evenings was really poor and got steadily worse as the cruise went on. There were 3 soups on the menu every night and far too many vegetarian options. By the last evening one of the main offerings was "vegetarian chicken" or "quorn" as it is better known. Unbelievable. We ended up going to the burger joint (for which there was a cover charge) or the buffet area for dinner, on the basis that at least there would be something that would take your fancy.
3. The kids on the ship (which was apparently about half of the total passengers) were allowed to completely run riot. You couldn't use a stairwell without there being a bunch of morose teenagers sitting in your way or a gang of younger children running up and down. There were lots of children on the Princess cruise we went on two years ago but they were chaperoned at all times whereas Royal Carribean just washed their hands of them, it seemed. There were shuffleboard games available on the Promenade deck and we observed gangs of teenagers smashing the pucks so hard into each other that they were flying overboard. When they got bored of this they threw the equipment to the floor and stalked off. There were a couple of security staff up by the kids pool on occasions but not nearly enough of them - Princess would have never permitted such behaviour.
4. The ship was too crowded, or there were not enough facilities, depending on which way you want to look at it. There were big queues for everything; only two pools to service over 2,500 passengers?!!! The kids pool was absolute mayhem all day every day - it looked like "children soup" The adult pool was tiny so even though the behaviour in there was generally civilised, it was literally standing room only. It was absolutely impossible on some days to get a lounger or even a seat outdoors anywhere on the ship. They had all been reserved by the "get up at 7am and put your towels down" brigade. There were rules posted about stuff being removed if a lounger remained unoccupied for 30 minutes but this was hardly ever enforced.
5. Whilst one can accept that Royal Carribean can't vet the people that sign up for their cruises, it has to be said that this one involved some appalling standards of behaviour on the part of the passengers. We heard that quite a number of passengers were offloaded at the various ports of call for one transgression or another and I can well believe it. This is certainly the most "dumbed down" cruise we've been on - Cunard had much higher standards and Princess weren't far behind either - I wouldn't book Royal Caribbean unless the "booze cruise" idea appeals to you, to be honest.