I consider myself an experienced cruiser – not an aficionado by any means, but I’ve been on 6 or 7 over the years. Obviously I am a fan. Actually, about half of those have been on Royal Caribbean, with the last one about 4 years ago giving me a pretty great experience (the other lines were Carnival and Celebrity if you are curious).
However, this most recent experience was enough to make me say I’ll likely never book with Royal Caribbean again. I set sail on the Liberty of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale in late January. It was a family event – our group was about 70 people. We are a fun group that can roll with the punches and make the best of things – the only reason the vacation wasn’t a total bust.
At first glance the Liberty looked like a great option, one of the largest in RC’s fleet I believe. Let’s start with the positive…the activities on board and the ship itself were great. The public areas were well designed with plenty of fun bars, shops and restaurants to hang out in (personal favs were Schooner Bar and the Hoof & Claw English Pub). The casino was very good with friendly dealers who willingly taught me the basics of craps. Yay! The pool area was awesome – if crowded –with plenty of hot tubs and a rock wall. The FloRider surfing set up was an absolute blast! Finally, some of my group utilized the child care services and reported excellent experiences on that front.
Unfortunately, everything goes downhill from here. Upon closer examination, cleanliness was a huge issue on board. Despite the instructions in the form of verbal abuse from staffers to use the Purell stations prior to entry into dining areas. Upon checking into our staterooms my father found what looked like pubic hair inside some of the drawers. Over the 4 night cruise our stateroom was cleaned only twice. Another example, the first night at dinner there was a hair in my cheese plate. I’m relatively understanding …in a busy kitchen things happen, I called the waiter over to let him know about the issue and request a different dessert. He proceeded to imply that it was my hair that had fallen in (completely different colors by the way). I was not amused and told him so – after which he went around to the other side of the table and attempted to blame me again to my family members. It was an early indication of the atrocious customer service that was to come. With this level of apparent disregard for cleanliness on board it comes as no surprise that this line has been in the news recently for health related outbreaks. Thank goodness no one got sick in my group.
Moving on…If you are like me, one of the things you look forward to most on a cruise is the food. Oh the food! Midnight buffets, burgers by the pool, main dining room smorgasbords and even the specialty restaurants…bring it on. Someone jokingly said if you don’t gain 2 pounds a day on a cruise you are doing it wrong. My past cruise experience led me to believe that I was in for a 4-day long amazing culinary adventure…I could not have been more wrong. The food on the Liberty of the Seas was TERRIBLE. To be fair, the casual buffet in the WindJammer for lunch and breakfast was good…your usual fare. The main dining room is where I had the majority of my problems. The seafood was fishy and rubbery across the board – it all tasted like it had been leftover from previous sailings. It was old and on the verge of going bad. To add insult to injury everything had that too hot, rubbery taste we all associate with excessive use of the microwave. OK, lesson learned – I’ll stick to land based cuisine…it didn’t help. Nothing was ever cooked to order properly. On multiple occasions my medium rare order came out charred and well done, while my neighbors well-done was close to bloody. Of the 4 nights we had dinner only the last had any actually tasty dishes. The last night…also known as tip night – call me cynical but I feel those 2 things may be related. I didn’t personally dine at Chops or Portofino (the specialty restaurants), but members of our group did and reported back that they were only marginally better.
Now let’s talk about that terrible level of customer service I mentioned earlier. Again, based on prior cruises, I was expecting pretty good customer service. Maybe not Disney level, but it is a cornerstone of this industry and I would expect representatives of the cruise line to take it seriously. Nope, the staff of the Liberty of the Seas was not helpful or friendly…in fact they were downright combative at times. It started in the main dining room – I’m sensing a trend here. The wait staff was horrendous. Every single night at our table they either got an order incorrectly, didn’t bring someone’s order out, brought out random extra orders or forgot to take someone’s order entirely. They were also incredibly slow at filling water glasses or taking additional wine orders. Not to mention the hair incident.
The beverage staff was equally awful at many of the on-board bars. They seemed to all be moving at the speed of sloth, it took a staggeringly long time to get a drink anywhere…even when we were the only people in the bar area. Bartenders will frequently roll their eyes at you, or condescendingly ask “what’s the magic word” when you order a drink. Side Note: I’m generally polite and a prior server – I tip well and always say please, which that guy would have heard if he bothered to pay attention to anything. Expect to be blamed for any problem you bring to someone’s attention – even at the guest relations desk. We had a small billing discrepancy I needed to clear up at the end of the journey. The rep behind the desk was completely rude and abrasive.
I have never been so disappointed in a company. The level of quality for my experience as a whole was so far below my expectations it was shocking. I love going on cruises, I’m sure I’ll go on many more in my lifetime – they just won’t be with Royal Caribbean.