We are back from our first cruise with RCCL on the Brilliance of the Seas.
We went on the 7th August Greek Med 12 night cruise.
We booked through a TA and initially experienced problems with British Airways as they said that as I was part of a block booking, they could not guarantee seats for myself, my husband and our daughter to sit together.
As I am a nervous traveller, I called my TA and said that I had not booked a cheap flight and that I expected to be able to book a seat for both flights. The TA was about as helpful as a chocolate fireplace and I called the flight department of RCCL and was helped by a very sympathetic member of staff. I did not think that I was asking for anything out of the ordinary and neither did she!
For the life of me I do not know why RCCL align themselves with BA. The fact that we were delayed going out just highlighted my low opinion of them.
The hour delay taking off (as there was no plane at Heathrow) was nothing compared to the 90 minute delay in getting our bags off the conveyor belt.
Everyone was wondering whether the ship would go off without us! Too many of us had read horror stories and I felt my dream holiday slipping away.
Obviously, there weren't only RCCL passengers there and as we had so much time to talk to one another, we spoke to a retired couple who were cruising with another company the next day and their cruise line representative was assuring them that the coach would be waiting for them and actually explained that the plane's luggage door was stuck and that was the hold up.
My husband decided to try and find the RCCL rep to find out if we would have to miss the first night onboard. (by this time, several people were crying and the airport staff were not happy with our constant questions).
The RCCL reps were fully appraised of what was happening and were also dealing with a Monarch flight that was delayed by over 6 hours.
The reps that were on our side of the barriers spoke to the RCCL reps on the other side and from there we were assured that the ship would wait for us! Even though very relieved, we did rather wonder why no member of RCCL staff had managed to get a message to us - we had to get a message to them.
One off the coach and through security to the ship (just a coach load of us - so very smooth and quick) we had to do the whole security muster station thing, which honestly, was the last thing we wanted to do. We were tired and just wanted to get a cup of tea!
Once finished lining up a trying to listen with the speakers set too low, we decided to have something to eat and drink.
We went to the Sea View Cafe and I managed to invent the weirdest and most delicious pizza and drank the most welcome drink! We watched the ship sail away from Barcelona and hoped things would get better. Nothing to do with RCCL, but I will never fly BA again unless I am forced to!
This was the only time we went into the Sea View Cafe - Not for any other reason than laziness. Why go up two more floors if everything you need is in the Windjammer?
As this was our first cruise we wanted to start small and if we liked it (or got addicted to cruising) we would go up in the world. So we booked room 3580 which is an outside room with a Pullman bed.
OK, we have stayed in many cities and occasionally had to endure small rooms, but this room was small. This was no-ones fault but our own as I took the advise of the TA and she said that the room for the three of us would be big enough.
I am a slim build 5 ft 3", my daughter is the same at age 14 and my husband is 6 ft 3" - this WAS a small room.
Also the Pullman bed freaked my daughter out as she felt like she would fall out.
So after the first night, we all got used to it and for the amount of time we spent in the room, it was fine.
The dusting could have been better as each night I cleaned the TV screen, which was covered with a new layer of dust. The bed was nicely made each day. But on day 2 I noticed that my bottom sheet had a definite 2 inch cut in it (towards the top of the bed). I know I did not do it. I forgot to say anything as we were rushing out for something or another. On day 3 it was still there and I called our stateroom attendant (Vincente). By the look on his face, he knew it was there and I was somewhat irritated that he could have made that bed for a few days knowing that the sheets were damaged. I told him as much and also said that I did not make the tear. When he said 'I know' that made me more upset as he knew it when he put it on days earlier. (on the first night I was so tired I was lucky to get into the bed before falling asleep)
The bathroom was another story. I would have expected a shower screen. Why a grotty yellowing shower curtain that was discolouring at the bottom? It was cheap and nasty and clung to me as I tried to shower.
If the shower curtain was not placed in the exact position, the water (which did not drain away quickly enough) would go all over the bathroom floor.
The shower head was an antique an on full blast squirted (or spat) a minute amount of water in three different directions. It was just old and nasty.
The water in the sink was always warm or hot (I did not drink from it, but would prefer to brush my teeth in cold water).
The toilet could take up chapters on it's own. Put it this way- We used to pray it would flush when we needed it to.
SIX times during a 12 night cruise (where, let's be honest, you don't spend a long time in the room) we were told not to use it or it did not flush at all. How embarrassing for us to have to call in the plumber after using the toilet and not being able to flush.
One time we were left with the contents of the full toilet for over 30 minutes whilst waiting for them to come to our aid! We were told that one stateroom on the floor kept blocking the other rooms toilets. We could not shower and got to dinner much later than we would have wanted
Surely this problem should have been rectified earlier? or at the very least - attend to the problem with a little more urgency.
On one occasion when I virtually screamed at guest services (waiting for over 20 mins) I said that this was like a third world country and the guest service staff agreed!!!
Using your private facilities should be just that - private. I do not want to go up a floor to use a public toilet when I have paid for one in the room.
We had two other staff issues. One was a waiter in the MTD room, who had received many complaints as he insisted in stacking all of his diners together, so we had to wait 35 minutes to receive our main course as the table next to ours (we did not share a table) had not finished their starter.
Even though I sound grumpy, I really am not a grouch and I was upset but did not want to make a fuss. My husband had a very polite and discreet word with the head waiter (ress - a lady) who was delightful and moved us to a back table for the rest of the cruise with our new waiter Erken, a lovely Turkish man who was so attentive and would ask us when to bring each course (you know how it is, some nights you are rushing and other nights you want to stay in there for hours).
Every evening we managed to find something we all liked to eat and we were happy with the food and especially the superb service we received.
This was not the very best food I have had on holiday, but it was very nice and considering the amount of people being fed, it was really really good. We never went to bed hungry!
The only other staff complaint I had was guest services.
When the lovely lady in the flight department at RCCL confirmed my outgoing flight, she said I would need to go to guest services a few days before the end of the holiday and they would email the flight department in the UK by email and our seats would be confirmed on our return journey.
To cut a long story short, the member of staff looked at us like we were speaking alien, and said he would do something.
On our return 24 hours later, a colleague of his basically said nothing had been done. He assured us he would do something and apologised.
I decided enough was enough and emailed myself and someone dealt with it within a few hours and I received confirmed seat numbers.
I did not go to guest services for any other reason, so my experience with them was not good.
The staff at the Explorations! desk were so helpful. A few trips we wanted to take were dropped due to low uptake. Reading through the excursions brochure, we could not find anything new to do that would entertain both my husband, myself and our daughter. One chat later, we were recommended the perfect trip and we went back to thank them after.
I do not think the excursions are expensive. The trip to Capri with lunch that cost $149, when broken down in price was cheap - we could not see how they 'made' money as there were so many components to the trip.
The only other downside was the size of the 'main' pool - which became an issue on sea days. When docked, the ship is never full and fun in water can be had by all. A day at sea proved the pool to be six times too small. Also at 5ft 8" at it's shallowest, is not a pool to be enjoyed by many. The shallow paddling part to the sides were crammed full of people.
The pool is too small. I like to spend time with my daughter outside, so the main pool is the only option. Not good enough really.
Also, there were verbal fights on 'at sea' days - which for the viewer, was entertaining, but when there are language barriers - it is not funny. A Spanish speaking lady had asked a pool attendant for help finding a seat. The pool attendant moved some towels (that we later had been found out to be placed at 6am!) - so when the early riser came back (American speaking) - she hurled a volley of abuse at a person who did not understand what was being said or why she was being attacked.
It was so hot when we were at sea, the idea of sitting in the sun was far removed from a good idea, so for me, this was not an issue. But there was a definite aggressive feeling around the pool.
The entertainment. Gordon & Cuddy were absolute professionals and managed to cross the different nationalities and languages with ease. I am sure no offence was taken when trying to make themselves understood and made fools of themselves - it was endearing rather than patronising.
I missed the juggler (I read many reviews, and I did not think it was for me - seeing it on the TV the next day, I know it was not for me) Every other show was SUPERB. I would have happily paid separately for that entertainment. Wonderful. Loved it. Our daughter loved it equally as much as we did.
We will definitely cruise again and more than likely with RCCL. But knowing which type of cabin to book is ever so important. I did not shop around and trusted the TA far too much.
They say you live and learn!