We booked everything through Royal Caribbean and received our information packet about 2 weeks before we left. We arrived at the airport, only to discover our flight time had changed and was leaving in TEN minutes! Thankfully we made it, but prayed that wasn't a precursor of things to come. We were delayed in Chicago for almost an hour and therefore were late arriving to San Diego. There was no one at the baggage claim to pick us up. We were not the only people waiting, we found two other couples also looking for a RC rep. My husband finally called and, get this, was told "just take a cab". Uh, I don't think so.....we already PAID for a shuttle! While he was on the phone arguing with this person I spotted a rep outside and practically tackled her! We put our luggage on a truck and then took the shuttle over to the ship.
We had no problems boarding, everything went fairly smoothly. Our room was nice, we were on Deck 9 with a balcony. Two of our three bags arrived by dinner time, of course MY bag was among the missing. We checked with the front desk several times and they said it probably was just misplaced and would turn up. The next morning we still didn't have my bag, so my husband went down to the guest relations desk, where he was greeted by security. They interrogated him as to what was in the bag, asking if he brought sharp objects, knives or weapons of any kind. He explained it was his wife's bag and he'd have to come back to the room and get the key. They let him just take the bag. Well, I brought a pair of scissors with me and they were in that bag. Egads, all that over a pair of scissors?!?!?
Royal Caribbean went through and put all new bedding in since we were on the Serenade in August of '06 (to Alaska). We were praying that it would be better, but it wasn't. It's still two cots shoved together with a thin pad over it. The first morning we woke up and neither one of us could move. Our backs hurt SO bad. We called guest relations and asked for an egg crate. Sorry, none available. Our room steward (Shaun, aka "007" - who was INCREDIBLE) worked some magic and got us one. It didn't help. Our backs killed us the next day. Shaun got us another egg crate. It still wasn't fantastic, but we dealt with it. Anyway, the first night at sea was SO incredibly rough we were ready to put our life vests on and wait for the alarm to be sounded. We were convinced the ship was going to break in half. I have never gotten sea sick before but I spent the entire first day in bed, as I couldn't even stand upright. Yep, a full day in that extremely uncomfortable bed.
Day 2 was much better and I was able to get up and around. We ate in the Windjammer for both meals. The food was mediocre. Your basic buffet (or barf-et) as I call it.
Days 3 & 4 were uneventful. We relaxed, played backgammon. We were VERY glad we brought our own board as the ones in the Schooner Bar had several pieces missing, which was very disappointing. We went to Portofino's for dinner one night, it was good, but not as good as I remembered it being the last time. We also dined in Chops which was VERY good. One night we went to the main dining room. Again, it was good....MUCH better than the Windjammer, but still not as good as the last cruise. That was the only night we ate in the main dining room. After that we just ordered room service. We did try the Seaview Cafe once and it was terrible. I had fish and chips and my husband had the Cuban sandwich. The only good thing were the onion rings. We spoke with other people and they said they had good food there, so maybe it was just our luck.
Kona: We finally made it to Kona and were very happy to get off the ship. Only we needed to take a tender, which was terrible. We got up at 6 am so we could eat and shower and get on the island. We went to Kona Harley Davidson and rented a Harley for the day. We then went up to Kaholo which was a great ride, very beautiful. We stopped and had lunch at a restaurant called Bamboo. WOW, the food was absolutely INCREDIBLE! It was SO good we had to buy their recipe book! We then rode back down through the mountains, which also had incredible views. Our last stop was the Kona Brewing Company, which was right around the corner from the Harley dealer. We had a beer sampler, but weren't impressed. We returned our bike and had a nice chat with the owner. She was SO incredibly nice, the people at Kona Harley should be commended for their courtesy, they are completely opposite of the local Harley dealers at home who are rude and unsociable.
Lahaina/Maui: The first morning we got up very early and went down to get a ticket for a tender. We got #9. We waited 2 ½ HOURS to get a tender. Meanwhile anyone who had a shore excursion that they booked through RC (it didn't matter what time it was) went to the front of the line, which was extremely frustrating and everyone who had been waiting for hours voiced their aggravation. At around 11:30am we finally made it to shore. I felt so bad for the people still waiting for a tender. RC should have had more than TWO running! They have FOUR on the ship. It was beyond ridiculous. We went to Island Riders to rent another Harley for the day. We were greeted with "Do you own a Harley or just a t-shirt?" by the tattooed imbecile behind the counter. Within 30 minutes we returned it as it had an exhaust leak and was burning my husband's leg. We told the guy and he insisted that "that's a Road King for ya". Let me preface this by saying my husband has been riding for 30 years and builds high end, one-off custom motorcycles for a living, he KNOWS what he is talking about. We were treated like we had NO clue what we were talking about. They gave us another Road King and off we went. This one was better, but it had been dropped several times and the handlebars were bent and it rattled terrible. We set out to explore. We had lunch at The Plantation golf course which was incredible! We rode some more and then found a place called Buzz's Wharf. It's a really nice restaurant right at the Marina. We went in and had a Mai Tai and chatted with the bartender named Jeff who was extremely nice. We then headed back to Lahaina to attend the Old Lahaina Luau. Neither of us were that impressed, but we did have a good time and can say we have been to a luau. We found a parking spot for the bike overnight and headed back to the ship. The line for the tender was at least ¼ mile long, no less than one thousand people in line.....again, VERY frustrating that they only had TWO tenders running! There were a lot of elderly people forced to stand in line for about 45 minutes waiting to get a tender. We finally got one and as we pulled away from the dock we discovered we were still TIED to the dock. Then, instead of stopping when we got to the ship the driver drove straight INTO the ship! Oh boy, that was fun. The next morning we had no problem getting a tender right away. We went and got our bike and headed out for the Road to Hana. The closer we got, the darker the skies got until it finally started pouring. We stopped at Maui Harley Davidson and did some shopping. We started out again, more rain. So, we scrapped that idea and just followed the sun for the day....ironically, it led us back to Buzz's Wharf where we had a really good lunch (and more Mai Tai's). We returned the bike and did some walking around town, eventually making it to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for dinner, which was fantastic. No problems getting a tender back to the ship.
Hilo: We actually got to DOCK in Hilo, so we had no problems getting off the ship. We had booked "The Secrets of Puna" tour and were met at the dock. The tour groups are small, 6 per vehicle (new Suburbans), so it was VERY nice. Our tour guide, Anna, was the absolute BEST! She took us to several spots, one being a volcanic heated pool where we went snorkeling and saw the most amazing fish. After that we went to a Macadamia Nut farm and had a nice lunch and then she took us to a lava flow to see the nice black sand beaches. We both agreed that this was the best tour we've ever been on. They had the vehicles packed with anything and everything we could ever want. Beer, champagne, snacks, towels, umbrellas, snorkeling gear, everything!
Honolulu: Again, we got to dock and had no problem getting off the ship. We went on the Arizona Memorial and Mighty Mo tour, which seemed to be the most popular one because there were a million people in line. We boarded a bus and went to the Arizona first, where we had to take a number and wait for it to be called to view a movie and then take a boat over to the memorial. We waited over two hours. We saw the memorial, which was very touching. Then we went to tour the Mighty Mo, which we enjoyed much more. Had we known there was a plane museum right there we'd have gone to that too, but we didn't know. What was supposed to be like a 3-4 hour tour turned into the entire day. For some reason we thought we had another day in Honolulu, but were reading the itinerary wrong. So, in a panic I rushed off the ship to do my last minute shopping. There is a really big mall right near the ship which has some great shops. Thankfully a few stores were still open (it was a Sunday night) so I made my purchases and went back to the ship. Had we known we only had that one day we would probably have skipped the tour and gone to the beach.
We left Honolulu and cruised for about a day and a half when we heard someone on board had a heart attack and we had to turn around and go all the way back to have him airlifted off the ship. We had no problem with that, however we had a HUGE problem with the way RC handled it. They didn't tell anyone anything....it was like a gossip factory trying to figure out what was going on. They said we'd have our new arrangements that afternoon....nothing. Then the next day they said we'd know by that night....again, nothing. By the third day at sea I was ready to jump overboard and start swimming! We were going stir crazy. I felt really bad for the people who had made their own flight arrangements as they were on their own. We heard several people who had to spend a LOT of money out of their pocket to accommodate this change. Did RC do anything? No, they offered to pay up to $100 rebooking fee. Overall, they bungled this terribly and we were NOT impressed. Communication was non existent.
We also had several other issues this trip with RC. It seemed that no matter where we went they wanted money. Soda is not included, so we had to buy a soda package to the tune of $110.50 for two weeks (for one person). Internet is not included, so we paid $100 for two weeks and I swear the darn thing only worked for about 5 emails. It was BEYOND frustrating! They sell fake gold by the inch, cookbooks, t-shirts, etc. all over the ship. They were even selling fresh squeezed orange juice in the Windjammer for $3.95 per glass the first morning, or milkshakes in the Seaview Cafe for $4.
We only went to one show, a comedian who was 'ok'. We weren't impressed with any of the ships activities or show offerings. We're not old, so the napkin folding, arts & crafts and shuffleboard weren't our thing. And, of course, anything that DID interest us cost more, a lot more!
We forgot to notify our credit card companies that we were traveling and our charging privileges on the ship were shut off, not once, not twice....but FOUR times! Each time we went to guest relations, who stepped away and said they phoned our credit card company and everything was fine. Sure, it was fine for one purchase, then it didn't work again. My husband was ready to kill someone by the time it happened the fourth time, which was when we had just had the only great meal that we had on the ship at Chops Grille! We were very embarrassed by this bungling of theirs. It will NEVER happen again as we are done with RC!
We finally made it back to San Diego. For those of us flying out that day after 6pm they shuttled us to the Hilton for a buffet dinner. We sat in a banquet room for close to 8 hours with nothing to do. The food however was FAR superior to anything we had on the ship! RC paid for the buffet, but if you wanted an alcoholic beverage you were on your own. We had two draft beers at the bar and they were $12 before a tip!
This was our third (and LAST) cruise with Royal Caribbean. We are going back to Disney where we feel we are treated like royalty instead of cattle and not nickeled & dimed to death! We were just VERY unimpressed with RC and how they handled everything.
Overall we LOVED Hawaii, absolutely LOVED it and had a great time while on the islands, but we were very frustrated while on the ship. We almost felt like we were being held hostage for our wallets. You can't go anywhere or do anything unless you empty your wallet into theirs. Also, Disney lets you bring your own alcohol and soda is included with the price. This is a BIG rippoff by RC! I spoke to several people who had bar bills in the THOUSANDS!