This cruise was initially advertised as a '5 Night of South East Asia' however, for whatever reason, RCI changed the itinerary to 6 nights which caused many people we spoke with to lose money on flights and hotel bookings that were made prior to the change. In fact, a week before departure, many online travel agents were still advertising this cruise as a 5 night sailing. It would seem there are communication issues between RCI and agents selling their cruises.
Another strage practice is that we booked this cruise through the RCI website and although there was a 5% online discount available, this was not applied and I was charged the full price despice my invoice showing the discount. I am still in the process of getting a refund.
We had incorporated this cruise into our trip to Asia and we made the reservation via the RCI website. What was very interesting is that Singaporeans were paying less than anyone else on this cruise. Now I appreciate that unfavourable currency fluctuations will invariably cause some to pay more than other nationalities, however, when you are talking about a $500 USD+ variation in price for a 6 night trip, it suggests to me that this cruise was targeted at the gambling fraternity of Singapore - call me cynical, but RCI persistently refused to respond to me questioning the pricing anomaly, so I have drawn my own conclusion on this.
On arrival at the Singapore cruise terminal, it was chaos as the Star Cruise ship was also departing on the same day, however, I have to state that RCI staff in the terminal were exceptional, helpful and efficient and we were within our stateroom within an hour of arriving which considering the amount of people needing to be processed, was impressive.
The sea view stateroom was what I expected and the restricted space is well utilised.
Unfortunately, everything went downhill from this point forward.
The noise in the stateroom at night was horrendous. Banging from above, thudding from the side of the ship and wafer thin walls ensured you knew what was going on in your neighbours cabins - and I mean everything!
What compounded the noise was that after every impact, the fittings and fixtures in the room vibrated - and I am not talking about small bumps, these were really loud impact noises.
We spoke to customer services because after two very sleepless nights, my wife and I could not take this torture any longer. We spoke to some kind of manager who seemed to think were after some kind of upgrade when in reality all we wanted was some sleep. I would have been happy to compromise my sea view room for an inside cabin for some rest, but all we were offered was a room 4 doors along from where we were already located. What really annoyed me was that this guy stated he had 'no complaints from anyone else around us' - poor training in my opinion and this stupid statement led me to believe he just thought we were making the situation up.
Now here is where RCI really came up trumps.
This cruise had always been advertised as being tendered in Phuket, Thailand which would have been Patong bay. We had a private yacht booked and a taxi waiting for us at Patong - now imagine our dismay when the ship DOCKED on the other side of the island in a commercial port.
Because of this, we lost our trip, taxi and money and after questioning why the change of landing procedures, were told it was for 'security reasons'.
Again, call me cynical, but I would suggest that it would be cheaper docking in a commercial port for two days as opposed to tendering for the same period.
At least if RCI informed their guests of the change, I could have made alternative arrangements. The fact is that if I was aware of the change, I would not have even been on the cruise as I know Phuket well and know that you are at the mercy of the Phuket taxi mafia when you are docked in this area as there is just nothing else on that part of the island within walking distance.
As it was, the ship then to all intents and purposes closed down for the two days it was in port at Phuket. There was very limited entertainment and food services and the maintenance teams were working all over the ship. There were very few of us left on board and it was like being on the Marie Celeste.
My wife and then decided to attempt to jump ship and leave, however, we were unable to get flights at such short notice and we had to endure the torture of another 4 nights of poor entertainment, drunken Australians and sleepless nights.
On the subject of entertainment, if juggling, magicians and piano concerts are your thing, then this is the cruise for you as these artists were the 'stars' of the main shows, although the swing review show was not too bad and the singer in the piano bar was good.
Daytime entertainment included Origami and cake making - by this time I was really ready to throw myself overboard as even the weather matched my feeling of despondency as the sun shone for one day and cloud and rain over shadowed the ship for the rest of the time.
There were a couple of things that worried me about this cruise. I could not comprehend as to why RCI allow kids under 16 to play bingo for free. I think it is totally irresponsible to encourage kids to gamble. Also, they allow smoking in the on board casino (another allowance for the Singaporeans?) and the place stank and many people used the casino as a short cut to other venues which ensured their lungs were exposed passive smoking.
Exposing workers and the public to cigarette smoke is illegal in many countries, but hey, what the heck, RCI need these people to gamble so why worry about the health of their staff and customers as long as they are spending.
As for the food and drink, the Windjammer food was woeful - particularly the breakfasts. Overcooked, over salted and overcrowded. The main dining room food was at least palatable with some good food served with varying degrees of service as some nights were exceptional, others being painfully slow.
As for the pizza/burger/fries outlet - don't bother - they were revolting. The salt in the hot dogs they served was unbelievable - but at least the guests will drink more and the fries were unbelievably greasy.
I thought the wine prices were reasonable bearing in mind the prices of alcohol in Singapore and the bucket of 5 bottles of beer for 20 USD was also a decent deal.
It seemed many were there just to eat, eat and eat. To see obese parents and their obese kids stuffing their mouths with food not because they are hungry, but because it is there was sad - come on guys, you are killing your kids.
So in summary, it is fair to conclude that we did not enjoy this cruise at all and although we are relatively new cruisers, I cannot see a situation where I would consider cruising again anytime soon - if I did - I don't think it would be with RCI.