For our Xmas cruise my wife and I chose the Voyager as we hadn't been on RCCL since 2009 so wanted to see how it compared. Fair to say Voyager is a tad tired but that's OK because we were lucky enough to snag a "flights included" deal and the ice rink, etc, sounded interesting. Sadly, our travel agent failed to book early dining and when we realised the error in mid October we were told we were stuck with 2nd sitting. (Strangely, folk who booked in early December were given early dining, another yellow card for RCCL.)
The flights and transfer went smoothly and as we had already travelled on the Rhapsody in 2009, our crown & anchor status saw us go straight on board for lunch. The food in Windjammer is great. Fresh and reasonably varied. Were able to go back on shore and post the late Xmas cards, etc. Boarded again about 4:00 o'clock and tried to switch to early or anytime dining but ended up on a long waiting list so filled in time till the 8:15pm sitting in our allocated restaurant, Le Boheme.
This is where it really started to unravel. We found ourselves together, alone, just the two of us, on an 8 seat table and sat there for 30 minutes while the waitstaff waited to see if anyone else came along. Eventually ordered the "chef's recommendation" on the theory that, the easiest way to gauge the grub, is to eat whatever the chef puts his/her name to. Sadly, the entree that turned up about 9:00 o'clock was like a large lump of fish paste with a couple of tired looking leathery prawns thrown on top. OK, maybe the main will be better.
About 20-25 minutes later, out came the pork chop (I think it was Mojo Pork Chop), went to cut a bite, it was so tough I reckon if I'd been at home, I would have used the nail gun to fix it over the hole in me work boot and it would have been good for months. Needless to say, Julia's meal wasn't much better so we gave up and walked out, much to the consternation of the waitstaff.
Felt a bit guilty for the waitstaff so decided to try Le Boheme again on night 2. Jane, our waiter, took our order a bit quicker this time. After the previous experience, I was smart enough to NOT order any recommendations but Julia couldn't resist the Roast Duck. BAD MOVE. What turned up looked like something that had been cooked in the morning and sat out of Woolies rotisserie all day till late night closing. It was so tough she could hardly find any edible meat -- not what you expect on a cruise ship under the chef's name. Desert was also not great but they simply bought out a different dish.
Needles to say we henceforth ate in the Windjammer. Come Christmas Day, we thought we would give Le Boheme one last try as we had already run into other passengers who had also walked out and figured even the dumbest chef would work out there was a problem and fix it. Sadly, we ordered the traditional Christmas pud and custard. When it turned up, mine was so hard that I needed a hammer and chisel to break it open. Julia's was actually burnt under the custard. The same problem was observed on several tables.
Talked to guests who had been to the 5:15 sitting, they found their food was fine. Finally worked out the problem (BE WARNED)
The "chef/dishwasher" was obviously cooking ALL the "special" dishes in the afternoon for the early sitting and then shoving them (hopefully) into a baine marie or slow oven for several hours until they were finally served after 9:00 pm that night . In any serious restaurant dishes that badly overcooked would not get out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, like many yank ships, they close the buffet at 9:00 o'clock so if the late sitting meal is inedible, alternatives are limited. (Eagle boys don't deliver at sea.)
Basically, while we enjoyed all other aspects of the cruise, this sort of treatment of guests is enough to cause us to write off the Voyager and put a big question mark against RCCL. I'll bet RCCL wouldn't actually try this if they were in the Caribbean with American passengers but obviously don't have the same respect for Australians, especially as we are forced to prepay gratuities rather than being allowed to actually reward good service and withhold from average service.