We are two sets of male couples traveling together. while good friends for a number of years that socialize together often we have never cruised together before. Both couples have been on many cruises over the years on numerous lines and ships. some of which are no longer around. I personally have sailed on ships with uppers and lowers and baths down the hall, to Penthouse Suites and everything in between. I book based on price and destination. Sometimes I'll get a great deal on the best cabin and other times a lowly inside provides the greatest overall value. We sail once or twice a year on if we can. This was my forth time on RCCI and sadly to say I will not we booking another with them anytime soon as bad outweighs the good.
We sailed from Bayonne, NJ. One of the nicest things is being able to drive to the ship and from out home in Philadelphia. While we don't mind flying to a ship, being able to drive in a couple of hours to board and return home is a huge plus and one of the best things about this cruise. The boarding was fast and pleasant. We arrived at the ship about 12:15 PM and were on board within 30 minutes. While the ship holds 3,400 passengers because everything is so spread out it never felt crowded, except first and last day in the Windjammer Buffet. The Main Dining Room laid out over three decks was lovely. One of the nicest of any ship I have been on. Staff were great for the most part and willing to help out as they could. We got a good price, but not as good as if we had booked earlier. I waited a few weeks before booking last spring and the price went up about 5%. Prices continued to go up as the closer we got to sailing day. We did sailing with a full ship. I think towards the end our standard inside cabin would have cost about 20% more than we paid. While not the best deal we have ever gotten on a cruise the price was good. We paid minimum rate and received a Cat. M on deck seven by the forward elevators, good location. There was a lot of different activities on the ship some something for everyone. Drinks were made properly and not overly priced. Entertainment and shows were good, not great. Ice show was different and we enjoyed it. Productions shows better than some ships I have sailed on but not remember-able. Storage space in cabin was good as were the mattress, pillows and linens. Ship was clean, and well maintained, but decor is showing it's age. Our sailing was the 10 year anniversary of the Maiden Voyage. Liked Johnny Rocket's Diner 50's style Burgers and shakes at an up-charge of $4.95. The only extra cost restaurant was Portofino, on deck five. Selection and taste was only OK. NCL, Princess and HAL all offer better.
Only the Windjammer Buffet is open for lunch on the sailing day. Most other ships have a sit down lunch available. It was crowded and hard to find a table as people who boarded at 11:30 AM were sitting there after they had eaten waiting for the cabins to be ready at 1:30 PM. At 1:30 PM on the dot, cabins were ready. Our cabin was too small to move around in. The twin beds were made up as a large almost king size. The problem was that when together like this end of the bed hit the small pull out sofa on the one side and the end of the storage cabinet on the other. You had to climb over the end of the bed to get to the tight area along side. Mattresses with curved ends as we saw in balcony cabins would have solved this problem. If the sofa bed was open there is no way of getting into the main bed with out stepping over the sofa bed, plus all the floor space would have been gone. I would not book one of these cabin for more than two. The TV choices were poor, they only had a couple of movies they showed over and over for the 10 days. There were a couple of other movies on the foreign channels that I would have liked to see but never saw on the English speaking move channel. No outdoor seating area for the buffet except by the pool which was full with smokers as kids. No poolside bar-b-cue. or poolside snacks. Food on buffets tended to be cold, rarely hot. Lots of choices but not much taste. The three others felt that everything was too salty, I was OK since I tend to like salty food. However I like a bit more spice and felt everything was bland. The costumes and sets for the shows looked like the were done for a High School production. The one female singer was overweight and busting out of everything she wore. The rolls of fat were not pretty. There were only sections of elevators, mid-ship slightly aft and forward. They where slow and long wait times. Much on the inside activities were on decks 3, 4 and 5. Pools, buffet, gym were on deck 11, with the spa, kids area, miniature golf, Johnny Rocket's and Dizzy's (Crown Viking Lounge on some of their other ships) on decks 12, 13 and 14. Because everything was so spread out the elevators in demand and often crowded. The elevator cars were too small for that many passengers. In total there were only 14 passengers elevators for 3,400 people. I have been on other ships recently that carried 1,000 to 1,200 less and had as many if not more elevators. I have never seen so many people with motorized scooters. They were everywhere. Most didn't know how to drive them and bumped into you in the halls and elevators. Most of the people using them were not handicapped just fat and have a hard time walking. The gym was too small for the amount of people wanting to use it. Some of the equipment was old and broken. The spa was nice but very pricey but I guess that is every ship now days as they are mostly ran by the same vendor. I didn't like overall layout of the ship, it was too spread out.
The food has gone down hill in the last few years since my last time on RCCI. In the morning for breakfast no; cranberry, prune, grapefruit, tomato or V8 juice. Not on the menus or on the buffet line. Orange and apple juice served room temperature. Messy buffet with many items looking like they were there from the day before. At the breakfast buffet only one omelet station and one for fried eggs. People pushed and other food got cold while waiting. I spent 25 years designing and laying out restaurants and food service buffets for schools and colleges. Whoever did this ship didn't know the first thing about layout a buffet for this many passengers. Also while they have hand sanitizing stations are the entrance to each dining facility, most passenger walked right by them. On NLC you are forced to use them as they have someone is stationed by the door and they'll not let you in unless you use them. Other lines have hand sanitizers by entrance to all public rooms and elevators. I think that there RCCI should look at what their competitors are doing. Other than breakfast there was never milk for drinking or yogurt on the buffet. If you asked for it, often you were told it was not available. If you went to the manager of the buffet he or she would have someone go get it for you.
The cut backs in food area I think were my biggest disappointment with this sailing. I could go on and one about all the little things we notice that have been cut back. Not one to complain and not let anyone know I went to the speak to restaurant manager and hotel manager of the ship. These are the top officers under the Captain. Both I found to be very indifferent. The Head waiters in the various dining rooms were more understanding and said that many former passengers had the same complains but that all these cuts and changes came down for the corporate office. The friends I was traveling with where in an Owners Suite, they had last sailed on The Explorer last March and saw the a major decline since then.
Over all the four of us will be going to other lines for our next cruise. I feel badly, but RCCI must be hurting finacially. Many passengers we spoke with love RCCI but when asked most have never sailed on another line. If I do sail with them again if will be one one of their smaller ships which I enjoyed in the past. but who knows maybe they have cut food and service on those ships also?