Sailed for my second time on Explorer of the Seas, returned yesterday morning, June 20th from the 9 night Bermuda/Eastern Caribbean. One word: disappointment. I sailed on EOS back in July of 2006 and was so impressed with the attentiveness of the staff, the customer service and the extra RCI amenities (at that time, worth it) that this time was a huge disappointment.
Before we even begin with the cruise, let's talk about the propeller damage - RCI had changed our itinerary because of propeller damage - to the point where the ports of call were worthless. I contacted our travel agent and an RCI sales director and made a huge stink - no compensation. However, we were put on a week-of-sailing upgrade (which I later found out had not been even processed) and provided with a bottle of wine, a magnum of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries on embarkation in Port Liberty. Nice touches, unfortunately that's where it ended.
Let's start off with the cabin, 6666 (no its not a joke, the cabin really does exist). Your standard D1 balcony stateroom - or so I thought. 3 days into the cruise and the hot water from the bathroom disappears. First contact with Guest Services and we'll have it fixed right away...wrong. I receive a call from the desk explaining that Maintenance had checked it out and nothing appears wrong. OK.
2nd day, no hot water again. Go down to Guest Services, we'll have that fixed right away. This time, I'm told that there is an issue with the ship that Maintenance is working on and that should resolved our problem. Next day, hot water returns....should we try for 2 days in a row? Perhaps not.
The very next day the hot water disappears again. This time we were leaving to tour at port and asked that this be fixed once and for all by 1230 when we returned to the ship. When I checked back at the desk, they told me the problem had been fixed, which I knew was a lie because I had been back to the stateroom and it was exactly as I left it. I then started to become a little upset when a guest services officer came up to me (and knew of the issue with my stateroom) and told me that they hadn't even looked at it yet because there was another problem with the ship. It was at this point that I asked when it became the norm to lie to guests. There was no apparent answer for that.
What it did turn out to be was the regulator inside the wall was not functioning properly which had to be replaced - had they inspected that four days earlier we would not have had the subsequent 3 days worth of problems.
And turndown service with chocolates? Wave goodbye, another cost cutting initiative.
Let's talk about Dining - staff cutbacks are evident. The MDR waiters used to be attentive to service, however now they are too busy with additional tables and running for their own food. With regards to the menu, its obvious the choices have been cut back in favor of fewer options and smaller portions - in fact, some are even laughable in their size.
Midnight buffet? Elvis left that building a while back - too expensive.
Portofino's was excellent - the one bright spot in a food and beverage realm that can best be described with.....a yawn.
Embarkation was a snap - disembarking was another story. We are local to the area and thus have no additional travel needs - which means we are in the dreaded 1030 timeframe for getting off the ship - which only occurred after we were kicked out of our stateroom around 9 because the attendants wanted to get ready for the next set of guests coming on board. Understandable, but not what we were told by the staff. (Don't forget that hefty charge for making our driver wait 3 hours to pick us up.)
As for the ship, well its 9 years old and there's no denying it. I have to admit, EOS has a special place in my heart, it was the first ship I ever sailed on it, its practically a New Jersey native and it reminds me of some good times (and yes we had them this time too). However, like waiting for your spouse at the Ship Shape Spa, you wonder whats taking so long for the makeover. You have to have a critical eye for these things, but its obvious for a professional.
The carpeting is worn, the towels and sheets are worn, cladding around pillars and the elevator banks are showing signs of wear and coming up and numerous ceilings need to be painted. Many of the beautiful wood banisters and railings are in desparate need of re-varnishing and even the brass and glass around the ship is showing evidence of wear or not being maintained as it once was. It begs the question, is RCI too focused on the "next big ship" at the expense of its active fleet?
Overall, in port and with my family - we had a good time. What makes it disappointing is that RCI and EOS seem to be fading from glory. We used to not mind paying the price premium for an RCI cruise because of the amenities, the absolute focus and attention to customer services and the overall experience - but sadly a lot of this seems to have been lost in the quest to be profitable - understanding that RCI is in the business to make money. I'm betting that their competitors have reduced below their former levels too, but the price's haven't dropped - so what I'm getting is a Carnival cruise at an RCI price - which begs the question, is it worth it?