Where to begin… This cruise was billed by RCCL as a Panama Canal Cruise (the name has since been changed to "10 Night Caribbean & Panama Cruise"). Cool right? But other than stopping in the less than attractive or safe city of Colon, Panama and offering very pricey excursions to experience the canal, the ship itself did not go through even one part of the canal. We ran into cruisers who did not learn of this misleading sales pitch until they went to the port information lecture on the ship. Bait and switch??? Makes you wonder.
As a returning guest to RCCL, I expected some perks for my loyalty. Let’s see… a coupon book. Yes I got one. It had expired on March 15, 2010 and our cruise began on March 26, 2010. Most of the coupons were buy this and get this other thing at a reduced price. Of course none of the couponed items, except for a small percentage off on a photo, were even applicable to me, and I think I am a pretty typical cruiser. So this “perk” in essence was useless. RCCL did host a retuning cruiser gathering. Our invitation to this event arrived in our stateroom too late to attend the first seating event and just 45 minutes prior to the late seating event. We know the timing precisely, because we were in our cabin when the invitation was slipped under the door. Previously, as returning cruisers, my husband and I had received small RCCL logo-ed luggage pieces, smaller items such as document holders, and the standard chocolate on the pillow at turn-down. On this cruise…nada… nothing… zilch.
Now dining room: Meals were good. We enjoyed the company of the people we were seated among. We were greeted nightly by our wait-staff team and then the sitting began. We waited for water. We waited for bread. We waited for menus. On the second night (confirmed on the third night) we noticed that we were kept in sync with the other two tables being served by our wait-staff team. If we arrived before the other two tables, we waited longer. Once all three tables received beverages (our last since we are not sine drinkers and no one ordered wine), the three tables would then be offered bread. Then menus came one table at a time. Appetizers were brought to the three tables in this section one at a time (as is proper) but nothing was cleared (we sat one night with appetizer dishes on our table for 20 minutes…no kidding) as other tables in our section finished their appetizers. The same tedious procedure was offered through delivery of entrees and desserts. 2+ hours later, we left the table. Sometimes we actually used the dining room experience as a time waster as we also found the activities (especially on at sea days) to be uninteresting, cheesy, and poorly scheduled.
Let’s talk logic… Admittedly, I am a non-smoker, but was floored by the logic of a smoking area located on deck 11 near the pool where children were allowed. Hmmm… providing a smoker friendly area in the same location as a child allowed pool area does not compute with me. The other pool, also on deck 11, contained within the Solarium, is a 16+ age level pool. Logically then, where do you put the pizza café? You guessed it… within the solarium. Back to timing … For your convenience, RCCL offers pre-paying of recommended gratuities via your Sea Card. Simply fill out the form and return it to Guest Relations by a certain time on Tuesday. When does the form arrive in our cabin? Anyone…. Anyone… That’s right… Wednesday evening. Also for your convenience, laundry specials were offered on our 10 night cruise. In Tuesday’s Cruise Compass (the daily onboard newsletter) was written that laundry services were available at a special rate of $25 per bag. The article directed cruisers to contact your stateroom attendant for the laundry bag and additional information. We did. She told us to “use the bag in our room.” We did, finding the laundry bag hanging in the closet with the carbonless triplicate form to identify the contents of the laundry bag and the Sea Pass info. We did as instructed and left the bag for the stateroom attendant. We even took out the coupon located in the Cruise Compass and included it in the laundry bag. The laundry came back the next day with a $43.25 service charge. Had to fight with Guest Relations to get the charge reduced. Thank goodness I kept our copy of the Cruise Compass from that Tuesday and had it is proof. Sure enough… the $25 laundry bag was delivered to our cabin on WEDNESDAY.
I could go on… but I bet you get the picture! I was a person who recommended Royal Caribbean in almost a knee jerk reaction to others asking about cruise lines. This is no longer the case and Royal Caribbean will no longer be afforded my loyalty as a frequent cruiser. Sad…