Ok, I admit it, we've come to expect certain things on RC cruises and while we still had a great time on this cruise, it just didn't live up to our other experiences on both FOS and AOS. While there were some aspects of this cruise that were superior, we walked away wondering if RCCL has just gone too far with their cuts, or if this ship is just poorly managed in certain areas.
On the positive side:
Embarkation - The BEST that we've ever had. We like to get to the port early so that we can get onto the ship and enjoy it as early as possible. Our experience in Ft Lauderdale really was great. We arrived at the port at 10:45, porters were waiting for us, we buzzed through security and check-in and sat in a comfortable waiting area until embarkation started. We were in Sorrento's eating pizza at 11:45!! It was great.
Room - We had 2 oceanview cabins on the 3rd floor, Aft. We've always stayed forward and never again! It was so convenient for us to run up one flight of stairs for dinner, or take the elevators straight up to the H20 zone or the restaurants (i.e. no crossing through the solarium, etc to get to pool). DH and I were in one cabin, 3 kids in connecting cabin. Plenty of room for all clothes, suitcases. Beds & pillow were comfortable.
Room Steward was excellent - best we've had. Since we stay in the lower level cabins, our stewards have never really been visible or memorable. Our guy, Warner, was terrific. Great attitude and smile and very interesting guy. Kids loved him as well.
Shows - we enjoyed the "Once upon a Time" show, but we saw the same show last year on AOS. We also enjoyed Tony Tillman (he's great), but we've also seen him before on either AOS or FOS. The ice show was great (as always) and the last night's juggler/comedian was a lot of fun. We wish that his act was longer (was only about 15 mins) and we could have done without the comedian (can't remember name) that was on the first night of the cruise.
And for the not so great...
With the exception of our room steward, the crew in general wasn't too friendly. They just seemed beat. I heard more people than ever talk about where they were in their contracts and how they only had XX number of weeks left. At times, I just felt some type of resentment towards the guests. We experienced this in Sorrento's (some really unhappy people behind the counter there), at the pool bar, and at various spots throughout the ship. While not a really big deal, it was a bit of a bummer.
We had some COLD weather on our cruise and while clearly the crew could do absolutely nothing about the wind & cold, I expected some creativity here. On our last sea day, the pool was empty and even the flowrider had very short lines because it was just so cold. This meant that the indoor rooms were packed. We spent time in the cards/game room and the place was just beat up. Broken board games, no paper to use for scoring the games, pencils laying all around, etc, etc. The indoor areas were clearly getting a lot of use and I was surprised that those areas weren't being handled a bit better. Ditto for the movie theatre that had tons of rowdy teens. Outdoor pool activities were cancelled, and nothing was substituted in its place.
And for the bad...
Tendering to Belize - what an absolute mess. They had people tendering out of the forward and aft sections, but apparently had a better ability to get people out of the forward section. We were in the Aft section and got in line to tender. By 8:05, the line was already up to the 3rd floor and it just grew and grew as the line did not move. I looked up the stairs and before long, it was up to at least the 6th floor. We stood in that line until 8:40 and it finally moved. We got right to the front and unfortunately had to wait again. Finally at 9:05, they allowed us to move, walked us along the entire first floor to the forward area, and we boarded. The tender itself was fine (yeah, it's long, but we didn't mind) but the 60 min wait was ridiculous. There were tender boats just sitting there waiting to load passengers, but they apparently stopped loading people in the aft section. An announcement, or any informed crew member telling people to head over to the forward section would have been appropriate. Instead, a single crew member was only at the beginning of the line, holding up the rope.
Dining Service - This was, by far, the most disappointing aspect of our cruise and so I have a lot to say about it! We consistently had bad service for the week. We arrived at our table on the first night at 6:00, waiter came over around 6:05, assistant waiter a little after that. Orders were eventually taken and it took 30 mins to get our bottle of wine. Appetizer arrived at 7:10 and dinner at 7:30. Asst waiter never asked for drink orders (i.e. ice tea for me, milk for kids) and came around 1 time with bread. We actually never saw our waiter after he took our order - someone else delivered dinner. There was an older couple at our table and they felt the service was also very poor. They left prior to us out of frustration. None of us had dessert because we wanted to see the show. The experience was bad and we switched tables after that first night.
Service wasn't a lot better at our new table. We never knew our asst waiter's name and we really had to track these guys down for everything (refill water glasses, bread, sour cream for baked potatoes, steak knives, etc, etc). It was common for us to pour our own wine (not just us, the other family at our table as well).
Night after night, it took a MINIMUM of 25-30 mins to get our appetizers. One night, our waiter took dessert orders and the desserts sat on a tray for 10-15 mins. Ice cream was melted, cheesecake was room temperature. By Wednesday night, we were relatively annoyed and as the clock approached 7:00 and we still didn't have appetizers, my husband got up, found the head waiter and asked for assistance. At that time, our waiter was coming out with the apps and the head waiter helped deliver them. I think the delay on this night was due to the fact that the other family at our table arrived late (6:25) for dinner. The waiter held up all appetizers, meals for the entire table. I think it would have been more appropriate for him to ask us if we wanted to wait. The head waiter didn't check back with us the 2nd night and the same delay occured. My husband had ordered 3 appetizers and they all came out at the same time and dinner followed within 10 mins.
Service for the week was just amateur hour. In the past, our waiter or asst waiter was often visible and attentive. They ever offered to cut up my daughter's steak and when lobster was served, they'd take it out of the shell. This was not an expectation, but it sure was nice. This time around, we were just happy to get a refill on water or beverages.
At the end of a poor week of dining service, I was feeling a bit resentful when the head waiter came around looking for his tips and asked us to please refrain from giving them anything lower than "excellent" on our guest survey.
My husband and daughter ate breakfast in the dining room one morning and said service was also very poor. Cold eggs, warm juice, etc.
We're not likely to change cruise lines, but based upon the overall attitude of this ship's crew, and the downright poor service in the dining room, we definitely will not sail on the IOS again.