I have just returned from a 9 night cruise with RCI on Explorer of the Seas. First the good points: The cabin was surprisingly spacious for the four of us. There is certainly a wow factor to the facilities, size and general atmosphere of the ship. The staff were excellent, especially our cabin steward Winfield, Milano at the Acquarium bar and all the wait staff in both the formal dining rooms and Windjammer. The theatre shows were pretty good and the ice show was amazing.
However, I am extremely disappointed at everything else. Yes, this was our first cruise, but we are well travelled and have never been in a situation where manners and common courtesy are totally amiss. With the exception of our table mates, who saved the holiday from being a complete disaster, I don't think we would have had the opportunity of a single conversation. There were 3,500 people on that ship, with the majority from the New Jersey area. Makes sense as the port is in New Jersey. But what we learned soon after boarding was that despite us booking 8 months ago and paying £6,500 for a family of four, RCI had advertised cut price offers in the local press two weeks before the ship sailed and the ship was now completely full. Call me a snob, but if I pay a high price for a holiday I assume the majority of the guests have too and would therefore be of a certain calibre.
Never have I seen such obesity in all my life and to make matters worse, it appears for many their sole intention for the duration of the cruise was to eat. My son stood up from the table one morning and was pushed aside by the fattest man I had ever seen in my life who grunted at him, such was his eagerness to eat his breakfast. My only experience of people this size have been in documentaries on TV where they have discussed where people have become so obese they can't leave their homes etc. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. There were also a lot of mobility impaired people on board and I was pleased that the were still able to holiday with their disabilities, but to my surprise one day as we were waiting for a lift one person reversed out shouting, "Get out of my way" (I could write a novel on lift etiquette or rather the lack of it) Even towards the end of a game of bingo the crew member hosting the activity said after 30 minutes at 11.30am that he wouldn't keep us much longer as it was nearly lunch time and probably an hour since most of us had eaten. That says it all really.
Throughout the entire trip it seemed that the cruise line's intention was to extract as much money out of you as possible. Being at sea for two whole days meant that we were a captive audience. Want and expresso or cappucino after dinner? That will be extra. Want to use the golf simulator? That is $25. Bought the soda package but want a bottle of water? That will be nearly $5 and it doesn't include the mini bar in your cabin. One word of warning. If you grant your children signing priviledges then they can run up a huge bill in the arcade (of course that is extra) without pre paying with cash. One of our new friends discovered this after her son had run up a bill of $180 in a couple of hours there. Fortunately she was able to turn the card off for the remainder of the trip. I could go on and on. The sales pitch was everywhere including the TV. Then on the last day they had a massive sale where all the logo items were sold at 50% off or more. Think about those that bought their t-shirts etc at the beginning of the cruise.
Some relief came when we got off the boat. You have to queue to get off and queue to get on which eats into your shore time. On the day we arrived in Bermuda, another ship had also docked and then there 7,000 people heading to Horseshoe Bay. I couldn't even see my kids on the beach or in the water, the beach was so packed. Even on the boat, the deckchairs were pushed so close together they touched and you were made to feel like a sardine in a can. It was ridiculous. There was also a general hubbub on the outer desks that was inescapable. There was no personal space or peace and quiet. My husband spent most of his time in the cabin. I had to put my ipod on full blast to drown it out.
I have to say that my husband and I have never been so disappointed with a holiday and even if someone gave me a cruise , I wouldn't go.