Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise Review by ekw: 5 Day North Asia March 2008
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5 Day North Asia March 2008
We arrived outside the Marco Polo hotel in Hong Kong in plenty of time. This was the muster point. There were about six staff there with RCCI t-shirts, but when we asked for instructions, we were interrupted by the 'supervisor', a young lady in her late 20's who rather impolitely told us to wait, and 'not to go into the hotel'.
After a while we saw the supervisor give a briefing to staff and they were positioned with arrow signs pointing to the back of the hotel. Unfortunately, due to bad positioning, passengers were being sent all over the place. Lots of people remonstrating with the supervisor who was getting impatient with both passengers and her underlings. Anyway not a good start.
Eventually we were herded onto coaches and bussed to the ship which was docked in a container port some 40 minutes away. Again, lots of lining up. We tried to join a shorter line, but were told that this was for passengers who had not checked in online. On the way through passport More control, the rather over zealous Filipino security supervisor was separating people according to whether they looked Chinese or not. No one told him that it was in fact possible to be a Hong Kong resident and not be Chinese. Hence a lot of people were sent to the wrong line - and got rather upset with the racial profiling.
Onboard, our table reservations had been mixed up. We were a party of 5 but were given a table for 2 - the head waiter sorted it out, but it meant getting in another line.
Food in the main dining room was very bland. This suited the roughly 50% of passengers who were from the UK, but did not cater for the other half who were Asian. Very few Americans onboard. Even by UK standards though, the food was pretty awful - especially in the Windjammer.
Service was OK - evidently the newly recruited Asian staff were not used to American tipping policy and did not feel they needed to make a connection with passengers. Indeed, I observed that most passengers had their tips deducted when they paid for the trip, so it probably felt to the staff that the company was paying their tips - not the passengers.
The ports were pretty lousy. I felt I paid over the odds for a coach trip to the war memorial at Okinawa - it rained the whole day, and we didn't get as much as a soft drink from the local tour operator.
Disembarkation was uneventful, though the color coding system was not followed by the majority of passengers. I blame the ship's staff for failing to properly make announcements. Likewise I tried to pay my tips on the last night - but was told it was too late by a completely indifferent purser.
Overall, I would say there was a big lack of cultural awareness from both crew and passengers - but the blame must go to the ship's management for failing to fully brief itself and deal with unexpected behavior from people who simply did not know or understand American cruising conventions (and most of the staff fell into this category too!).
The ship itself was OK - although a bit frayed at the edges. RCCI have plenty of room for improvement if they want to return to Asia next year. Less
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