PRE CRUISE: One main factor in choosing this cruise was that we could take one direct flight from Scotland to Newark avoiding the usual connecting flights via Heathrow. It was wonderful to board at Glasgow which has recently been refurbished and is a beautiful airport with friendly staff, then arrive at our destination in under 7 hours! Customs at Newark were friendly, efficient and totally stress free! Myself, my husband, his niece and my mother in law travelled to NJ where we met up with our daughter whom we haven't seen since October 08 as she lives in the Cayman Islands. Her boyfriend was to join us in St. Maarten during the cruise. Sadly they had to leave the ship in Antigua for work commitments but made their way back to the Caymans on the sunshine route so lucky them! We had pre booked the Wyndham Garden Newark online.. BIG MISTAKE! We found this hotel to be a huge disappointment for the money we paid. We were staying in so called executive suites. The rooms were barely adequate, and the guest service was atrocious. I called to ask for extra coffee and was asked "WHY did I want more coffee!"... strange.. the bar tenders were much friendlier and as it really was just a base for us to use whilst visiting New York we stuck with it. We had two days in New York pre cruise. We used the hop on hop off bus tour which was wonderful. We LOVED NYC and agreed this was a small taster and will absolutely take a full vacation there one day. NYC is definitely our kind of town! Having my 79 year old mother in law with us, we wanted to give her a special night out. She was the drummer in the family band many years ago, and loves swing jazz. We therefore booked a dinner dance at the Swing 46 Jazz Supper Club, where we also met up with a couple whom we cruised with many years ago. We had a fantastic night there, the band "Ron Sunshine" was terrific and made a special dedication to Mom singing "Beyond the sea".. fabulous way to spend our pre cruise night! We used blackexecutivecars.com for all of our trips in NYC, they were excellent.
EMBARKATION: Total breeze! We arrived at the terminal and there was no more chaos than on any other cruise. Our attitude is always go with the flow and sooner or later you will be on that ship! We had three cabins booked in total. My husband and I unbeknown to our family had the Royal Suite booked (more about this later!) and our family had two D2 category balconies booked. The Royal Suite was to be a surprise, and having communicated with concierge Ricardo pre cruise, he made sure all the way through check in that the surprise was not ruined. He was way beyond excellent! Ricardo met us at the terminal, and escorted all of us on to the ship and straight to the Royal Suite. The other cabins were not ready at this time. Ricardo kept the surprise going right to the last minute. Our family believed us to be in 1260 which is a grand suite, when we were in fact in 1620, the Royal Suite. I will never forget the look on their faces when we got to those double oak doors!!! It was worth all of those months of keeping my mouth shut! This cruise was to be our last as a family and therefore we wanted to make it extra special. We work self employed and our money doesn't come easily to us, but work hard play hard is out motto so felt it was worth the extra $$$ considering we wanted to celebrate the missing Christmas, New Years and birthdays with our daughter, and to give Mom a memory for ever as this was her last cruise with us. As well as the bottles of champagne we had ordered from gifts and gear, there WAS a welcome bottle of Moet Chandon provided in the RS. I was also presented with a beautiful bouquet of a dozen red roses courtesy of RCCI The suite is slightly aged but still beautiful. Pictures do not do it justice and the space is amazing! More about the suite later. We didn't want to do the buffet thing that day so set off to the Royal Promenade for a bite to eat. We thought Cafe Promenade was great! This was our first cruise with Royal Caribbean. We were previously Celebrity cruisers and to be honest, we boarded the ship with lowered expectations. How pleasantly surprised were we!! I am writing this comparing to Celebrity as was our favorite line so do bear this in mind in reading this review.
STAFF AND SERVICE: EXCELLENT! Way beyond our expectations! We in fact found staff to be friendlier in many cases than on Celebrity. And service to be first class! There was of course the issue of the broken propeller much of which seems to have been blown way out of proportion on the cruise critic message board. In reality, on board, very few people even noticed it and it was not an issue for them at all. Puerto Rico was the only port on the cruise we had NOT previously visited so we were a little disappointed but brushed it off in a matter of seconds! Likewise did many fellow cruisers! After all, a cruise is a cruise and an added bonus was hours of sunshine on a beautiful sea day! Our suite attendant was Akil, he was a darling and did his job very well. We are not untidy people, and having a butler's pantry meant we could clear any debris away leaving the suite relatively tidy at all times. But Akil would do things like sort out all my laundry without me filling out slips (as a Butler would do on Celebrity), and ensure we had water etc topped up daily without asking. We had clean sheets daily, sometimes twice daily, and the suite was immaculate at all times!
DINING: We had table 357 on the Magellan level next to the Captains table. Our servers were Ricardo and Zenelle. I would say that in all of the cruises we have had, they were absolutely the best waiting staff we have had! We asked to be served course by course. We do not like dishes being lifted until everyone has finished their course. This was done without issue from day 1 and continued without exception throughout the cruise. The menu is a bit cluttered in that normally we are used to at least four courses being defined. However, in reality, it is rare that we eat more than three courses so again not a problem. If there was a particular dish we wanted to taste, an extra side dish was provided.
FOOD: differed in quality very little from Celebrity!(particularly on our last cruise on Constellation where we felt Celebrity had lowered their standards) We are very famous food producers in the UK. We create and produce food for Royalty and Celebrities and are experts in our field. For mass produced food we found the dishes to be in most part, beyond our expectations. We certainly did not starve! We thought the soups were by far better than on our last cruise on Celebrity Constellation. Sure, its not Michelin dining, but for mass cruise food, it was better by far than we had hoped for. The 2nd formal night was probably one of the worst menus I have seen however, but our other event that night made up for the poor menu and distinct absence of the music which on a formal night, made everything rather bland. PORTOFINOS..absolutely excellent. Again, we would say this was BETTER than on the Celebrity ships speciality restaurants! Once more, hugely surprised!! WINDJAMMER; Yet again.. roll out the red carpet..BETTER by far than Celebrity!! We loved the Jade area to the back of the restaurant, loved the iced lemonade, loved the food and okay, so no trays, waiter service to table etc as on Celebrity, BUT the food was MUCH better! JOHNNY ROCKETS: Loved it loved it loved it! We got up to dance every time with the staff and it was so much fun. Couldn't care less about the cover charge it was great fun!
Our favorite hang outs were Dizzys, the Casino and the Chamber (up until midnight more to follow!). We rarely used the concierge lounge. In fact, I think we had in entirety four free drinks during the entire cruise and only then as we wished to say hello to our friends who were in there. All six of us had passes to the concierge lounge. Ricardo helped our daughter immensely with change of plans for her journey home from Antigua, I think she of all of us, used the lounge most. Ricardo also helped her plan a massive romantic event for her boyfriend boarding, he really does his job so very well.. a star amongst stars Ricardo! Drinks were not cheap. Our seapass account bar bill alone (for just the two of us) excluding the two diamond wine packages and bottles of champagne we had pre ordered was over $3600. Due to the exchange rate, we did feel a big difference on last years cruise. But life is short and as I say, work hard play hard is our motto! And we did order good champagne which doesn't come cheap! Vintage Taittinger came in at just under $200 a bottle! (So needless to say only a couple of bottles of THAT was ordered!) By day, the pool bar was wonderful. However, we did NOT like the lower level pool bar. I think though to be fair, the bartenders get fed up and de-motivated serving free water and soda. The upper pool bar tended by Melvin, Meneno and Anthony was fabulous. Those guys know how to run a bar! I could not believe my ears one day when one really rude lady demanding to be served asked for an iced water and an orange juice. The bartender told her there would be a charge for the orange juice to which she surly replied "OKAY don't bother, just gimme two iced waters then!"..aaaarrrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
MUSIC, DISCO AND BANDS; Okay, THIS is where Explorer was a big let down for us. Not everything can be perfect and the music was absolutely atrocious. The pool band was simply beyond painful. We tried plugging in our ipods full blast but still could not drown out their drones. WHERE did they get that band???? I think they were called "Rhythm Explosion", they needed an explosion that's for sure! Okay, so it's a Caribbean deck band, and reggae is the order of the day. But when the pianist is playing "I shot the sheriff", the drummer drumming "One love" and the "singer" singing "Jammin"..something is not quite right? Poor Bob Marley would turn in his grave! PLEASE PLEASE get rid of this band! There was another Latin style band who were a minor improvement but just not pleasant to listen to after four minutes. There was a guitarist in the Crown and Kettle who was pretty good..but that was it. That aside, BIG BIG let down on the music front. DISCO..again BIG issues here. Up until midnight they played great music and the floor was filled with guests. After midnight, and this riles me, staff invade the floor and completely take over. The music changes to THEIR tastes, guests leave, and it becomes an Explorer staff night out. This is something that I know happens on other ships but Celebrity wins hands down on this one.- it is simply NOT allowed and guests take priority. There were many occasions where we would have like to have partied on to 3am, but instead returned to our room or the casino due to the music and staff on the dance floor. It was so obvious watching guests leave that we were not alone in this. There were some guests on board who shared this taste in music, but in general, the dance floor pre midnight was packed, and yet afterwards pretty empty (apart from staff). The DJ needs to cater to his guests on board and be more flexible with his routine. Play to the crowd..why oh why when there are a huge bunch of guests dancing and enjoying music such as Motown, 70s and 80s, do they change it and clear the floor.. doesn't make sense to us. The ship does lack late night dance for the 35+ age group. We did miss the big round dance floors on Celebrity's ships which go on way into the wee sma' hours with our kind of age group and older. THIS factor alone resulted in one night in particular of our cruise turning into a nasty event..more to follow!
POOL AREA, More or less as we expected. Crammed on sea days, enjoyable on port days (aside from the music and embarrassing game shows.) The beds were what we expected from a mass cruise line and of course, Celebrity does win hands down when it comes to pool area. But it was fine, and we enjoyed our times in the sunshine. We knew when we booked RCI not to expect chilled towels, cushioned sunbeds and afternoon sorbets by the pool. So we simply made fun with what we were given! The staff and smiles made up for everything!
FELLOW PASSENGERS: Having read reports on the CC message board I was seriously beginning to wonder if we were to be cruising with a bunch of rude red necks who were slobs and either arrogant or abusive! Lot of absolute garbage! I think we encountered only a tiny handful of rude people. We met loads and loads of lovely people from ALL walks of life having a wonderful time, nicely dressed and a joy to be with. We met many fellow Brits who were lovely, and of course many US and Canadian Passengers. We met a lovely French couple and despite the fact we speak school French, and they school English, managed to have a great night with our group of friends, they were a lovely couple! Ironically, and without intent, we made friends with two couples from the cruise critic boards who will leave footprints on our hearts forever. Spikey and Cruisinsince99, we will expect to be seeing you in "THE PUB" and don't forget there's a cookout competition!! We met Spikey and his fiancE in the lift by sheer fate, and they having had the Royal Suite twice before, showed us how to work some of the confusing controls in the suite. (note- they told us they played the music MUCH louder than us and NEVER had complaints!) All four of them played a huge part in the enjoyment of our cruise. We also made friends with numerous other cruisers on board, many of whom we had invited to join us in a party at the end of the cruise we had planned in the Royal Suite. It was with deep sadness that we cancelled this intended party due to the constant whining from the cabin below us. So to those of you, (Brian and June, Saveed and Kristen, Ken and Sue, Nora and Dan , the lovely George and his invisible wife whom we had hoped to meet and all you other lovely people) so sorry you didn't get to enjoy the fun we had planned!! Raincheck okay!!!
OKAY..now the Royal Suite! The RS is a beautiful expansion of space over 1000sqft excluding the balcony which is a further 180sqft designed for entertaining and enjoyment. It spans over four cabins, two junior suites and two superior balcony cabins. Those cabins numbers are 9622, 9620, 9618 and 9614. I suggest you note those numbers if you do not wish to be below the Royal Suite. It is divided into luxurious space which on entry, does give you that WOW factor! We have had other penthouses on land which were even nicer, but for being on a cruise ship, this sure was a nice piece of real estate! The bathroom: The bathroom is split into three areas. Area one has two doors, one door leads from the lobby (so guests can use the WC without going into the bedroom). It has sink, bidet, wc etc and a second doorway leads into a vanity area. There are numerous mirrored cabinets throughout all the bathroom areas. Gold taps and luxury fittings. The vanity area has two glass bowl sinks, marble surfaces etc, and all in all just what one would expect to find in the Royal Suite. Just off this area is a beautiful oval Jacuzzi with lovely sculptured art works etc. It is very nice. Through from here, is a glass enclosed HUGE shower steam room. Its bliss and perfect for romantic couples who like to shower together. We loved this room and as we have a Jacuzzi at home seldom used the one in the suite and enjoyed the shower room more. The suite does however have plumbing issues and throughout the cruise we were bothered with the gurgling and the sewerage smells which came up from the various outlets. This is NOT a new problem. I understand from previous guests of the RS that this goes back as far as 2004, so something is not right here. However, as soon as we called Akil, a plumber would appear and the problem would be quickly resolved. There are speakers for music throughout the bathroom areas.
BALCONY: The balcony is accessible by two separate sliding doorways both from the lobby and from the bedroom. The curtains throughout the suite incidentally are remotely controlled to open by the turn of a button! It is around 180sq ft and is not as big as the penthouse balcony on an M-Class celebrity ship. It is however a lovely piece of outdoor space in which to enjoy. During our cruise, the furniture on the balcony was replaced. Pleased to say the offensive blue plastic was replaced by lovely new furniture and they did ask could they re-do the wood during our cruise which we politely declined on as we didn't want the smell of varnish through the suite. There were two cushioned loungers, four chairs, dining table and of course the much desired outdoor tub! We loved the outdoor tub and enjoyed that so much as did the rest of our family on occasion. Four of us could use the tub at once so it was a lot of fun! My biggest memory however of our balcony, was when our daughter's boyfriend came to visit one evening and kept hanging around with me drinking champagne...he didn't seem to want to leave when finally the penny dropped with me! It was the second formal night. I went into fetch my husband from the shower and said to him to get outside FAST.. I think the young man may have a question to ask. Eavesdropping from the bedroom, sure enough I was right, and my heart exploded when I heard him ask my husband for his daughters hand in marriage... how lovely...old fashioned, sweet and everything a parent wishes for their daughter!! The poor guy then had to return to a grilling from our daughter who was going ape over where he been for the last hour!!! After dinner that night, we could see him building up courage, and finally, in front of all of those who were in 2nd sitting on 2nd formal night, he got down on one knee and proposed. She actually took a few minutes and there was a silence! My husband then got up and shouted to the crowd "She said YES!", to which three decks of people exploded into applause. THANK YOU ALL... it was overwhelming... just magical and a memory which will live with our family forever. There were no two prouder parents that night! We went on to Dizzys to Celebrate but due to an earlier complaint before 7pm the same evening about the music in our suite, sadly didn't get to have a proper engagement party!
So, back to the suite...
The lounge is a BIG space. Glass dining table, L-shaped sofas, (which has recently been refurbished) it is a place in which to entertain. We were told by RCI UK pre cruise we could have up to 50 guests for a party in the suite. Having looked at various websites pre cruise, we had seen video clips of parties in the suite both from family parties, to corporate events. So we were aware of the potential for entertaining in the suite. There are two remote controlled entertainment centres in the suite. One each in both the lounge and the bedroom. The remote control unit itself is huge, and it took us a while to work out how to use it. The TV in the lounge is a large flat screen which at the touch of a button, pops out of the oak chest unit. Its rather special! The bedroom TV is smaller, but again, rises out of the furniture. The music systems in all areas of the suites are controlled separately. In total, there are around 16 speakers throughout the suite. We used cds, but on ONE occasion our friends wired up their lap top to the system as they had expert knowledge of how the system worked. It was a LOT of fun! Next to the lounge and dining area, in between lounge and lobby is a full marble wet bar. It is stunning! For our intended party, we had planned to book two bartenders and a full open bar with canapEs for our guests. This however was cancelled laterally which did put a dampener on our cruise. The bar is made for entertaining. It has beautiful marble surfaces, bar stools, full flatware and glassware...beautiful addition to the suite (IF it could be used for its intended purpose!) A Cafetiere for coffee is provided. Breakfast was arranged for us by a standing order every morning for 8am. And yes, we DID receive Eggs Benedict in our suite every morning. I think every day we came back to either canapEs or some kind of sweet treat. We ordered room service on a few occasions. Joseph our room service attendant even joined us one night in a dance in our lounge, he was so much fun we requested him for our breakfast room service each morning. What a darling he is AND a fantastic dancer..you GO Joseph! ?
The lobby: The lobby on entering the suite is quite stunning. Green foliage on a marble floor surround a centre piece which is a round CARPETED area on which of course stands the famous baby grand piano. The piano can be operated both manually and by auto feature. Several cds and floppy disks were provided. We however tried out only one of the several discs provided and as we never listened to it in its entirety, I cannot tell you what the music provided was.
The BEDROOM..wow oh wow..loved this room so much! As well as the entertainment unit and the vanity unit, there is to the rear of the circular room, a glass enclosed walk in wardrobe dressing room. Its wonderful. However, the main feature of the bedroom has got to be the ROUND bed and THE MIRRORED CEILING! Loved it loved it loved it. Although for the more conservative, one might find this a bit of a shock, for us.. we just loved the whole ambience of the room and naughty or not..it sure added some fun for us? When you return to the suite at night, the attendant will have turned down the bed, added the mint on pillow, set the music to low level romantic sounds and set the lighting accordingly. Oh the lighting..throughout all of the rooms it is simply perfect. It takes a bit of getting used to controlling, each light switch unit has about 8 controls! BUT wow..those lighting marbled and mirrored ceilings..the soft lights bounce everywhere it is simply breathtaking!
One can exit the bedroom directly on to the area of the balcony where the hot tub is.
SO..why in such a beautiful suite would one encounter problems? THIS is why..
Firstly, the piano. We don't play piano and used the auto feature on only three occasions during our entire cruise. On the first day for around ten minutes, and on two other occasions when we were showing guests how the piano worked. On each occasion around for five minutes tops. There are twelve levels of volume on the piano and we had it set to number 2 or 3 at the highest on one occasion (first day as we didn't know how to work the volume) The piano was played ONCE at night at around 12 30 for less than a minute. ON ALL other occasions, it was before 7pm! Other than that, we DID NOT USE the piano at all! When someone new enters the suite, a natural human reaction is to hit a few keys whether the person can play or not. Now, I would totally understand had we been banging away at the piano night and day. But in all honesty, that piano was never used for more than 30 minutes during the entire cruise. One morning, after breakfast which we had delivered every morning at 8am, I sat to play around for a few minutes. As a child I played but its been a long time. I was tinkering and I mean tinkering for less than a few minutes when the phone went. I couldn't believe it! Some whinger below us was complaining about the piano! It was nearly 8.30am for goodness sake!!! We were later told that the same guest had in fact complained about the piano on other occasions (God only knows when as we seldom played it) but guest services didn't even bother to inform us as they explained to the guest that as we had a piano in the suite, we were perfectly entitled to enjoy it. WE DID NOT however use or enjoy the piano as we DID in fact have consideration for the guests below us (to a point), and as I say, for no more than 30 minutes tops was that piano played during the entire cruise. THAT is a fact, and if the said guest wishes to contest that, I suggest they take it up with RCI as either there is another piano on the ship, or someone was playing it whilst we were out of the suite! I do hope the complainant made a note of dates and times. WHAT infuriated us more however was the continuous complaints about the music. We love music, and booking that suite was a major part of our vacation enjoyment. We like to play music whilst getting ready to go out at night, so between the hours of earliest 5pm, and latest 7.30pm, we would have ONE of the two cd players on in the suite. We played music such as Stevie Wonder, Beatles, 70s party sounds etc, pretty much middle of the road stuff. On the first occasion, Ricardo came to the suite and asked us to turn it down a bit. We did, but reluctantly, after all it was before 7pm!!! That was bad enough, but this became a regular occurrence and NO WAY did we have that music on late at night or in the early hours apart from ONE night, which we were totally furious over! As I have said previously, this suite is designed for entertaining. We did NOT however use the suite to its full advantage and every night we were out and about in the bars etc. On the 70s night, we had a terrific night. We loved the 70s street party, and followed it on to the disco where great Motown music was being played. At around midnight, the mood changed and the usual rave rap style music which is not to our taste came on. There were a group of ten of us. We all decided we didn't want the night to end so FOR THE FIRST TIME, decided to go back to the Royal Suite for a party. We have often had party after party in Celebrity Suites way into the wee sma hours and never had a complaint, so midnight for us, we consider on a cruise ship to be pretty early. We ordered several bottles of champagne to be delivered to the suite,(which may I add RCI was happy to sell to us and were totally aware of our reason for purchasing it) along with room service snacks for ten of us. There were at least six members of cruise critic in our party. We had of course the music on (very tasteful may I add!) and were dancing in the carpeted lounge area. (Note to Dennis you still owe me $84 for the broken finger nail ? )Some of us were sitting on the sofas chatting, another couple were having a quiet drink out on the balcony. In fact, at one point we were looking at old photos of our homes etc. In other words, civilised, adult night in a suite! Next thing, the doorbell starts going. There was an entourage of security at the door and the conversations which followed turned a fabulous night into what could have ended up in absolute disaster. On the first occasion that security called I asked them "Is the disco still open", "Are the bars with music still open", and said to them "WELL SO IS THE ROYAL SUITE!". I slammed the door on their faces for fear of losing my temper with them. They called back again and my husband who is an extremely amicable and patient man, almost lost it with them too. They were arrogant, rude and offensive. The music was not even loud!! Guests who lived in a suite two along from us said they could not hear any music from our suite! Ships are not built like houses, between each deck is sound proofing which guest relations assured us was adequate for us to play our music. If it wasn't, why on earth would they build a suite with a piano and a 16 speaker sound system!! The night of course was spoiled and we had to ask our guests to leave. The ship was still jumping with people but we in the Royal Suite, were off to bed! A dreadful end to what had been a totally perfect evening! We complained first thing the following morning to Ricardo who then set up a meeting for us with the head of guest relations and the chief of security. We could perfectly understand reasonable complaints, but this was the FIRST night we had put on ANY music after 7.30pm! It was the FIRST time that we had invited anyone other than family back to our suite. In fact even family were never back at night!) It was not a reasonable complaint, and was not handled well by security. We told guest relations that they should offer the complainants ear plugs, and by compromise we would tone it down a bit although being that we only played music late on ONE night, we hardly had to tone down much! We do wonder if they ever did offer the said guests ear plugs! We were told that an elderly guest was below us. I also believe they are regular cruisers. As such, I assume they are well aware of the layout of Explorer. The desire however to acquire a so called "hump" cabin which provides a bigger balcony for the same cost to an identical cabin elsewhere on the ship, to them obviously outweighed the risk of being below the Royal Suite. When booking for OUR elderly guests, we chose quiet locations where they will not be disturbed! Do NOT choose a cabin simply because it is on the so called "hump" and ignore the fact that you are below a 1000sqft of entertaining space! This left a very bitter taste in our mouth, and rather than risk a last night of confrontation, we cancelled our much looked forward to party which was to be held on the last night of the cruise. The Guest relations manager and Chief of security were extremely nice to us. They apologized profusely for the way in which security had approached us, and no one seemed to know who made the call to our room threatening to escort us off the ship! Chief of Security freaked when he heard that one and thought at first it was in person by one of his staff. We never ever did get to the bottom of that mystery phone call! That one they were really livid about! They agreed with us that we have every right to enjoy the suite, and they told us that they had in fact NOT passed on to us previous complaints as they had been trivial and not worth bothering us with. They also agreed, that the Royal Suite does come with its privileges for which we paid dearly. We have watched videos of the RS on "youtube" of families of up to 10 people totally having a ball in that suite. Do a search on you tube on Voyager the Royal Suite and THERE you WILL see the piano in constant action! Corporate companies hold events in there, and it is often used for parties up to 50 people. SO, if one thinks its unreasonable for us to invite a SMALL group of friends back for late night drinks..on a cruise ship... then one should think again about which cruise line you choose, and the location of your cabin. I would bet my bottom dollar that there would have been several late night parties on that ship in ANY category of cabin. One cannot help but think the green eyed monster just couldn't help whinging! Everyone in the suite that night was tempted to turn the music UP! Did we..NO!!! AND as result of this, our planned party to which around 30 people were invited was cancelled. So thanks to those whinging guests..you spoiled a lot of fun for a bunch of really really nice, hard working people! Perhaps those complaining guests get several vacations a year. Perhaps they don't work seven days a week. Perhaps you see your family regularly. For us, this vacation was to be truly special, and these people sure put a dampener on it. They chose to be under the RS, and knew only too well that there was both a piano and 1000sq ft of entertaining space in this suite. WHAT did they expect, that we would pay for this suite and never use the facilities? I have been to parties on a more subdued Celebrity cruiseline and can assure you, parties I have attended there have been WAY WAY much louder than the ONE night, we chose to party in our suite! RCCI, GET OUT THERE, well, we tried, but thanks to ONE cruiser, our vacation was certainly dampened! NOT the fault of the cruiseline. I had to laugh as one night I was out on my balcony the noise coming from the solarium Club 20 party was WAY louder than us, and I don't like their music. Did I complain, hell no, it's a cruise ship..3000 people on board, I EXPECT to hear noise. When I want a quiet vacation I choose a small boutique style hotel somewhere in the med for adults only in a quiet hotel and location. NOT a "GET OUT THERE" cruise line! As for any snobbery etc, we may have been able to afford the RS, but only through the hardest work possible. Of the many people who were invited to the "party that never was", I have NO idea whether they were garbage men or neuro surgeons, whether they were in owner suites or deck 2 inside. All I know is they were great people who would really have enjoyed a night out of fun in the RS! On parties on Millennium I have been to, professional entertainers from the ship have been in there entertaining.. noise..you bet..complaints NOT ONE! The said complainant may be a regular RCI cruiser, but it does not give them the right to deny others their fun. Might I suggest in future they cruise on a line such as Fred Olsen who caters specifically to the elderly sedate market. I always understood RCI to be a mass market cruise line catering to the fun and active market. Want peace and quiet, sacrifice the depth of your balcony and choose a junior suite which is in a quiet corridor without 1000sq ft of sound system above you! In the end however, the moaners won, we CHOSE to sacrifice our fun for the sake of OUR own peace and quiet from phone calls and ringing doorbells!
That aside any other noise our fellow passengers heard between 1am and 4am would have come from two consenting married adults in that luscious bedroom, and if you heard that, then boy we DID have a good time!! (Ah ha, and many of you thought it was the 20ft swells making the ship rock!)
Due to the cancelled party, we did however have one last rebellious few hours when four of us had an EARLY evening hot tub party (to be precise between the hours of 5pm and 6.30pm on the last formal night).. it was MAJOR fun! Oh and if you heard running across the balcony floor followed by a major splash it was me doing my Pamela Anderson impersonation of a Baywatch entry into the hot tub complete with red swimsuit!
Excursions: Okay, ON A SERIOUS NOTE I could not live with myself here if I did not detail the dangers of one of the excursions we went on. I and my daughter both nearly drowned! This is a disaster waiting to happen and I plan to write to RCI regarding this. I have never ever came close to a point in my life when I seriously thought, this is it, I am going to die. On this occasion I very much did! The excursion was the river tubing in Dominica. My husband and I did a river tubing in Dominica several years previously and assumed it was the same one. To give you a little background here, I am a strong swimmer with a level four grade in life saving. As part of my business I am a commercial salmon fisherwoman and spend six months of my year at sea in tidal waters. My daughter is a scuba diver and lives in a diving resort in the Cayman Islands. So, suffice to say, both of us are strong swimmers who know the waters and currents. When we arrived at the mountain top, first thing that struck me was that we were given life jackets and crash helmets. "Strange" I thought as last time we needed neither and were given a paddle. Was this a different excursion. There were about 30 people of all age groups in the party. I was the first of our family to set off. I remembered last time we needed a paddle as it was like a lazy river on which one bobbed along slowly and you actually needed the paddle to push you down at times. One would encounter little rapids which were fun to breeze through. This is NOT this excursion! Within a minute of leaving the river bank, at the very first set of rapids which are fast flowing and steep, my tube hit a rock and over turned. This could have happened to anyone at any time. The current decides, not the human being! I felt myself being rushed through rocks and rapids, I was gasping for air. The current was flowing fast into my face and I felt my lungs fill with water. I really thought, this is it. We fishermen have a belief that every now and then the sea will take one of their own. It crossed my mind that I have made my riches from the sea, is this payback time! I will never ever forget the feeling of a hand grabbing me from underneath in the current, and next thing, three of the river tubing guys had a hold of me. My husband came round the corner on his tube to see his wife being dragged out of the water by three boys. It was NOT nice! I am NEVER frightened by water. NEVER! This scared me to death! Something so simple could so easily end in a fatal tragedy! I firmly believe had that boy not got a hold of me when he did, I would not be here writing this review today. My daughter who is 23, managed to get her tube alongside me on the bank. I was gasping for breath, spluttering water, and shaking uncontrollably. I immediately asked that my daughter and I leave the excursion. We were told we could not. It was impossible and we would have to continue onwards. I was absolutely terrified. One guy stayed with me. But to make matters worse, a few minutes later, on another set of rapids, same thing happened to my daughter! By this time I am screaming and absolutely panicking! I could not reach her, and she too suffered the same event as I did. Both of us were crying and begging to leave. We could not. We had no choice but to endure the rest of the excursion. We both were shaking when we got back. Neither of us filled out accident reports, we just wanted back to the ship. I suffered a burst toe and cuts inside my mouth and on my upper lip. But was just glad to be alive! My fear is that this excursion is a recipe for disaster. There is no back up, no way of getting an injured person off the bank, and absolutely no way should children be allowed to do this excursion. A helmet and life jacket is a complete waste of time when faced with the fast flowing currents entering your lungs. Sure, many go down without fear or injury. But all it takes is for your tube to hit the wrong rock at the wrong time and unless you have a grip like spiderman, there is no way you can hang on to that tube! If you go on this excursion do wear sneakers, they tell you shoes are not necessary but wear them otherwise at least, you may find you have burst toes. DO be aware of the rapids, hang on to those handles for your life and if you lose it, there is really nothing you can do. I don't believe an Olympic swimmer can compete with such a strong current battering you off those rocks! Be warned, this is NOT a lazy river ride, this is more like white water rafting on a tiny tube with nothing more than a set of handles to hang on to! I truly hope no one ever gets injured on this tour, but sadly believe it WILL happen, so please don't let it be YOU!
Homeward bound. It was a little rocky on the way home. I believe 20+ swells but nothing more than we expected from a cruise heading out of Bayonne. Having done several transatlantic cruises, we have certainly experienced worse. We were pleasantly surprised to find that up until the very last sea day, it was warm enough to sunbathe.
We loved the last sea day when the weather turned. Despite the two steps forward, one step back to the rhythm of the waves, we enjoyed fun in the casino, shopping and the spa. I DID miss my Celebrity Butler doing the packing. Once you have had a Butler pack for you, you DO miss it! But none the less, we were packed up and out of our suite by the usual 7pm for a last night out "on the town" on Explorer. Disembarkation was the best ever! We were all off the ship by 8.30am and with the help of our over friendly tip seeking porter (although as there were ten cases he did deserve his tips!) found our way to a shuttle bus to the Sheraton where we had day rooms booked. Okay, any Brits who were on that bus will laugh their head off at this one! HOW many times did we cross that bridge that day??? How many times did we breeze right passed the Sheraton? And what were we doing in that one way street housing estate? We reached the conclusion that for the bus driver, it was either his very first day, OR his LAST! The Sheraton Newark...BEAUTIFUL! Wished we had stayed here pre cruise. Absolutely lovely hotel and nice way in which to rest before our journey back to Scotland.
So in summary, would I as a former Celebrity cruiser do RCI again, WHY NOT! Would I take the Royal Suite again, not sure.. although we loved it, the whinging from below put a dampener on it and that kind of puts us off. Although, we would take a lower category on an RCI ship if hot tubs on the balcony are provided as they are on Celebrity. There again, we christened the RS "Hotel California"..you know the line "Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice" ? Who knows..maybe we will! That almost made putting up with the whinging bearable!
As a whole I would never have missed the cruise for the world. Our daughter's and future son in law's engagement made it all worthwhile, and RCI DID exceed our expectations! I just pray next time, we get some "GET OUT THERE" folks below us, for they will be the first to receive an invitation to the RS party!