I have been prompted to write this review following the recent receipt of my Berlitz guide to Cruising which confirms our experiencewith regard to cuisine and service - out of 11 Cruise lines RCI score lowest with a score of 5.44 out of 10.
This had been the first time we had planned to go away for Christmas and chose to sail on Explorer out of New York to the Caribbean as we had previously sailed on Navigator to the Canaries out of the UK and had a good experience.
We initially booked fly-cruise with RCI but on receipt of the invoice and having done some research subsequently decided to arrange our own flights, saving approx £200 per person. We also arranged to fly out 2 days early and stayed at the Berkley Continental. However, in view of strikes and ash clouds I am not sure that we would do this again.
The outbound flight was great as we were upgraded to Business Class. There was a delay on landing as snow had started to fall in New York (JFK). Once on the ground we proceeded through immigration and my husband was taken away to check on his status - he has an ordinary first name and no middle name to distinguish him. We then went to find our previously arranged transportation to the city - a large people carrier with a lot of people and a lot of luggage which worked well.
Having spoken to other cruisers who had spend a night in a hotel near the airport arranged by RCI it proved to be a good thing that we had arranged our own in the City.
The following day we spend and enjoyable albeit snowy day seeing as many sights as possible - an experience not to be missed.
The following morning we got a Yellow Cab to Port Liberty - cost £70 - time 60 mins.
The embarkation at Port Liberty was shambolic albeit not helped by the weather.
Once embarked our cabin was ready and our luggage arrived fairly quickly leaving us free to explore the ship. Our balcony stateroom was well appointed with adequate storage and serviced twice per day.
Our experience of RCI's lifeboat drill is in our opinion the most thorough - non of this meeting in public rooms. You are allocated your lifeboat and you go out on deck and stand next to it.
Then followed a cold and rough 2 day sailing to the Caribbean.
Our first port of call Labadee was excellent with the ships company providing a barbeque and lots of activities to choose from. Then followed a number of Islands all with blue skys, beaches and activities. Christmas Day was spent at sea and New Years Day in San Juan puerto rico.
Then followed a further 2 cold and rough days back to Port Liberty with many passengers not seeing New Years Eve due to sea sickness.
Day time entertainment of the ship - not very Christmas - a very loud young Cruise Director - not my cup of tea at all. The best bit in our opinion was on Christmas morning when the children were invited to collect gifts from Father Christmas at the skating rink. Other than that just a few Carols.
Dining in the main restaurant - absolutley dire - cold and unattractive food - cold cannelloni on New Years Eve and what looked like turkey burgers on Christmas Day. In our opinion we feel that the lack of quality cuisine was not helped by the Amnerican guests who ordered more than one from each section of the menu, picked through it and left most.
The quality of the food in the self service restaurant was far superior and so was the service.
Disembarkation - went ok - again we arranged our own transport and flights home all of which went well.
We will return to the Caribbean but not with RCI and not out of New York - we will definitely fly direct to the sun and sail either out of Miami or Barbados.