Having sung the praises of RCCL for the last 20 years or so and being a veteran of well over 70 cruises I decided to take my Mother who was celebrating her 79th Birthday during the voyage on the Mariner of the Seas for a seven night cruise to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. She also wanted to see Singapore so I booked a Hotel for a pre cruise stay, which may I say was fantastic.
We boarded the Mariner on time and check in went really smoothly, great cruise terminal and Mum being a Diamond Plus member got all the pampering she needed from the shore side staff. On boarding it soon became apparent that the ship had been, what can only be described as 'Asianised'. So much so in fact that even the slot machines in the casino were in Mandarin!
We went to our cabin to be greeted by 'Shaun' our cabin steward who, may I say, was wonderful throughout the cruise. We had lunch in the Windjammer Café and were not impressed with the selection of food at all , in fact most of it was rice dishes, noodles and various gloopy meat dishes, However we thought it was because it was a quick turnaround and was only the first lunch. It was also like a 'Bun Fight'!!!!
After lunch we went back to the cabin and I was astonished to see a kettle, normally RCCL don't allow such things on safety grounds. No coffee, no Black Tea, just small sashes of green tea. I happened to look in the mini bar to find two large boxes of dried noodles, so this was why we had a kettle!!!
We had booked 'My Time' dining' however on the Mariner they suggest that you make a reservation. I went to the Maitre D and asked for a 7.00pm table for two. I was promptly told I could either have 5.45pm or 7.30pm. Not what I call my time dining rather more a choice between first or second sitting!
On arriving at our table, we meet some very mice German guests who were trying to order wine, it took five attempts to actually find a bottle on the menu that was on-board! After dinner I went to the Schooner Bar and ordered a draught Beer to be told that there wasn't any!!!
Occurrences or food and drink not being available happened throughout the cruise, and it became really comical as guests were pre empting the 'none on-board' response from the waiters or stewards. The odd thing was whatever wasn't on-board managed to turn up even on a day at sea!!!
We did a tour in Thailand which was excellent and Ho Chi Minh is a must, so the tours were great.
The Thursday was my Mothers birthday and prior to departure from the UK I had ordered a celebration package in her cabin. This consisted of a cake, flowers and her cabin to be decorated. Prior to leaving, I had had an e-mail stating that there was no florist on the Mariner and therefore they couldn't be supplied. I agreed to continue without flowers. The deal was for £46.00. On the day, nothing turned up at all so I went to see guest relations and was told they had forgotten and to compensate should the guest relation Manager go to my mums cabin to say 'Happy Birthday' My answer was 'NO'!
By the penultimate day we were both really ready to leave the ship, we were tired of the 'Bun Fight' in the Windjammer where the food was repetitive and lacking choice, we were sick of things not being available and even in the restaurant the food was very average. The mainly Chinese crew have not been trained properly and have very little understanding of what regular RCCL client have come to expect.
Entertainment was very poor though the Cruise Director did his best with what he had, There were some long standing crew members who are obviously not happy to be on-board and not happy with the standards overall.
The Hotel Manager was conspicuous by his absents, and the Capt was very detached.
We all realise that the Asian market is vast, which is fantastic but please advise regular loyal guests that this is not the standard RCCL cruise. it is totally different. If I wanted to cruise Asian style I would have gone with Star Cruise. You cannot mix markets like this, so why not have a separate Company for our Asian friends, the same way that has been done on the Spanish Market with RCCL's Pullmantur?
I never thought I would say this but please don't book this cruise if you like what RCCL provided me with on previous cruises. Or is this their new standard??????? Because I'm not sure rest assured RCCL have lost a loyal and dedicated supporter, along with numerous other western guests on-board. We have all agreed as a result of this horrible experience we will never set foot on another RCCL ship.