I have just returned from the 4 night Chinese New Year cruise to Langkawi, and thought I would leave some feedback for my overall experience.
Marina Bay Cruise Centre
Although my overall check in experience was fairly prompt given the large numbers of passengers checking in, my holiday got off to a frustrating start due to the lack of authority in dealing with some difficult passengers holding up the line at the x-Ray counters. Large numbers of travelers had bought prohibited food items in their hand baggage. Rather than remove the bags from the belt to the table area at the end of the belt, the staff were simply opening the bags to search at the point they came out the machine. Despite the halt in the flow of bags, the staff continued to let people place their bags the other side, resulting in mass congestion. After passing through the scanner, and without any search of my own personal belongings I had to wait approx. 10 mins plus for my bag. This was frustrating as it was easily avoidable. The staff were poorly organised and unable to control the passengers who were simply congregating at the belt waiting for one family members bag.
Once proceeding to the check in line, the line moved promptly as there were ample staff at the desks, however, large numbers of passengers failed to grasp the concept of joining the back of the line, and cut under the cordons to push in. My husband and I witnessed staff turn a blind eye, and decided to not be irritated by a lack of respect and consideration for others patiently waiting their turn, as we were trying to have a stress free break from out hectic working schedule. Despite the hiccups, from stepping out the taxi at 2.15 we were onboard the ship in 50 Mins. I think this is great timing with what I would consider to be peak time with the boat at full capacity. Its worth noting I had done all my pre-boarding check in online, and printed my luggage tags etc ahead of the trip to save time at the port.
Day 1 - Arrival onboard.
Once checked in we were impressed with the ship, and the facilities open. After grabbing a drink at the bar and wandering around on deck, we made our way straight to the Windjammer restaurant, which was extremely busy. The selection of food was good, everything from pasta, salads, fruits, soups, meats, noodles (the list goes on) with plentiful freshly cooked portions left, despite them preparing to stop serving to get ready for the safety demos later.
At each floor there are huge interactive Maps, telling you exactly whats open, and whats happening when and where on the ship. We had been listening to the announcements so we knew we needed to head to the main dining area stated on our sea pass for the safety demo, so knew when and where should go using the maps. During the safety demo, the staff worked incredibly hard to contain the passengers who despite the translations of instructions simply ignored the multiple requests to sit. Eventually order took place, allowing the staff to get on with their job. I would suggest if you are part of a large group booking you arrive for the demo early, or at least on time if you want to be seated together.
I had read some other reviews saying you may have to wait for your luggage. I had come prepared with a small cabin case on wheels, so didn't bother to check out the cabin until 15 mins after the ship had sailed. Luggage was already there, so there were no issues for me here.
My husband and I have been on cruise ships before, and prefer the ala-carte option as the quality of food is far superior to that in the windjammer (buffet style dining) with the added bonus of not scrambling for a seat. We dressed smart/casual, but a lot of the other guests had not worried about changing, which seemed to be acceptable. Our waiter was lovely, and bought us extra dishes on top of our order to try out. We had purchased the premium drinks package, and I was more than happy with the quality and selections of wine avail by the glass.
I was further impressed by the number of activities taking place so soon into the cruise. There were parades happening in the promanard, live music in most of the bars, and plenty of other things happening, so the holiday really got started straight away.
This was a day at sea and we decided to have a relaxing day by the pool. We first sat in the area to listen to the live music and soak up the atmosphere, but were soon put off by fellow passengers spitting on the area next to the pool. I was totally shocked but decided this must be a one off and give the guy the benefit of doubt by thinking he maybe couldn't help it. But no, this consistently happened. I witnessed pool attendants try and reprimand them, but these people simply ignored them and walked off like they were too superior to listen. I felt so sorry for the poor staff, and angry that I was left with no choice but to move to another area of the ship as I couldn't stand to be in the presence of such ignorance and unhygienic people. From here my hubby and I decided to just take time to explore other areas of the ship.
I decided to check out the duty free shops. After spending quite some time trying the huge selection of lipsticks from the different luxury brands, I became somewhat perplexed that most colours, and ranges I selected were not avail for sale. Only after asking the salesperson what was actually avail, he responded with none really, just the odd dark shade and they don't have hardly any make up in stock. I pointed out that maybe there should be a sign so people don't waste their time. I mean make up is not something you like look at, you have to try and experiment to see the shades and textures. Personally I don't want to bother looking in the first place if I can't even make a single purchase. I appreciate stock runs low, but to have virtually nothing is frustrating. I also felt like my feedback didn't really matter, as the assistant was too busy pandering over the customers trying perfume.
Next I decided to buy an adapter, as I had forgotten mine. I was advised by one of the workers that these were available from customer services and not sold on board. I proceeded to the counter to find there were all loaned out. I gave some feedback that perhaps the company could consider having them as standard in the cabins since they don't sell them onboard, and asked if there was anywhere she could suggest I might be able to borrow one from for an hour or so since it was formal night and I have extra thick and long hair, and the dryers in the room simply don't work on my hair. Her response was she was not a magician. I didn't find her tone or response professional, especially since she was a superior advisor and I was polite and friendly, giving her no cause to respond in such a way. I chose to let it pass, as I had witnessed many other guests being rude and complaining, and put it down to her having a hard day with other difficult guests.
I decided the way around my issue was to go to the spa. I booked a simple wash and blow dry costing me 70 usd. Since the cost of this made it a treat, I thought I would try out the sauna and steam first to relax and prepare. Inside the changing area were guests, once again refusing to take instructions from the poor tenant. She asked 3 times for them to close the door to the sauna otherwise the alarm would trigger. They left towels all over the floor and generally had no regard for rules. I am not sure if this is common on all cruises of late, but there were signs in most bathroom areas asking people to open the door to leave by holding a tissue, and to discard in a bin outside the wash area which I guess was to try and maintain hygiene across the ship.
That night there was a wonderful countdown for the Chinese New Year celebrations, and everybody really got into the party spirit, which made it a wonderful experience since I am from the UK.
Day 3 - Langkawi
I woke up unwell but determined to try and get out and see the island. I had booked my own local taxi driver after reading some good reviews on trip advisor. It was super easy getting off the ship, and my driver was waiting with a sign, so we were off in no time. We headed straight to the cable car, but unfortunately I had to stop twice along route to use the bathroom. WARNING bathrooms are nothing like the cleanliness in Singapore, and were really and truly horrific anywhere outside of the main tourist spots. There was a huge line to get on the car, but we opted to buy a fast pass ticket, which got us on within 5 mins. This included a 30 min walk of the jungle area at the top with a tour guide. Sadly I was still too sick to do it. After here we hit the main beach not far from the ship, it was ok, nothing spectacular by any means, but it had facilities I needed to be close to :-) I actually had a much needed sleep on one of the beds under the safety of a umbrella whilst my hubby went on a long walk along the beach. He said the most Northern point was beautiful with pure white sand and gorgeous clear aqua seas, so I was gutted to have missed those sights.
Day 4 KL -
We have been to KL for a weekend and done the Batu Caves and the shopping district, so had no intentions of getting off the ship. Unlike the beautiful views of Langkawi, KL is the contrast. Its just like an industrial area one side, and the other overlooking sea, is slightly better as its woodland views but the water is murky. Needless to say there were no camera moments here. We knew it was around 1.5 hours to the main centre so glad we could make the best of the last day and enjoy the facilities on board. Everything was open, and we tried out Jonny Rockets for lunch which was superb! Even though we were the only 2 guests eating, the staff put on a little dance routine and made us feel like we had stepped into a 1950's diner. In the afternoon we decided to avoid the main pool area, despite wanting to listen to the live music, and opted for the solarium. This was supposed to be an adult only space, but this didn't stop people getting into the pool and hot tub with their kids, despite the obvious signs stating they were not allowed. The attendants we back and forward and to be fair with the exception of one man, all guests moved back into the main pool area without any complaint. Our main reason for choosing this spot was the hope this would be less prone to vulgar behaviour. Sadly not, we were sat in the jacuzzi, and a man got straight out and spat in the plant by the step up. This time my husband got out to address him and tell him this is not acceptable. The man simply ignored my husband, walked a little further and spat again in the recycling bin. I went over to alert the pool attendant who was understandingly at this point tired of having the same pointless conversations, as he was simply being ignored. All he could offer was an apology and told me I had chosen the wrong week to travel, since the boat was full of guests from mainland china. Now I would like to point out before I receive a barrage of feedback here accusing me of being disrespectful towards other nationalities. I realise that taking into account the overall number of passengers onboard, and to be fair the pool areas were by no means overflowing with people, those guests I encountered were of course in the minority. I am a well travelled individual who has great respect for other peoples cultures, and have been to China twice before and accept, that although I may not like it, this is part of the experience. However, I would challenge anyone to not find it offensive, when it happens right next to you, in a place where people are bathing, eating and drinking. My biggest concern was the lack of authority the poor staff had with dealing with those individuals, and despite the hand sanitation in all the main dining areas this can and will lead to a widespread of germs.
If a passenger decided to get drunk and abusive, surely there would be consequences, and would be asked to present a sea pass, and issued with a warning, and potentially banned from future cruises for repetitive actions??? Well the same should apply to those with little or no regard to public health and safety.
I chose this time because I wanted to celebrate and experience Chinese New Year along with my 13 year anniversary, and I wished I had stayed at home. I have never been so disappointed to return home from a holiday that wasn't ruined by poor food, entertainment or accommodation, but overwhelming lack of respect, hygiene for both staff and fellow passengers. This may sound extreme, but when you know there is nothing you can say or do to prevent a situation, there's only so far you can remove yourself. Royal Caribbean really need to take note as a company, as it's not fair to staff who are not payed much in the first place to have to deal with such issues without any authority to do anything, and its certainly not fair to other passengers, who like me, have had their holiday spoilt by such behaviour.
Please take note that the entertainers, dining and bar staff were all superb, and I applaud their patience and continued dignity in what must have been a very difficult cruise for some. I don't think my experience is anything of the norm, but its worth noting should you ever consider a cruise on a public holiday. One last thing to mention was the Casino had a wow factor, the shows were amazing and the artists were wonderful, especially the Ice Skating show, and the Ballerina on shoulders routine. And the range of drinks is great.