We have sailed several times with RCL and are currently Platinum level members. Our most recent 30 day sailing aboard Mariner of the Seas from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo Brazil left us wondering what happened to RCL's high level commitment to quality of service and overall client experience. The ship itself is beautiful and well appointed. The Royal Promenade is awesome and how often do you have a ship crossing the equator with an ice skating rink (deck 3)? The Mariner is a wonderful ship to sail and explore. We even climbed the rock wall successfully! Yet, alas, there were some concerns which I share below. I preface this by saying I'm sure sentiment will indeed vary from passenger to passenger.
Although we booked our trip early, our luggage tags never arrived until the day after we left home.
Not once did RCL mention the Brazilian visa requirement for Canadians & Americans. Apart from the high cost of the visa itself, and unless you were using an on-line discussion board or had a travel agent who was on top of things, you would not be permitted to end your cruise at Santos (Sao Paulo). Several passengers (and even some crew!) had to disembark in Montevideo, Uruguay (the last port of call before Brazil). Those passengers had to find their way home at their own expense.
A number of shows were excellent and very entertaining, but too many were like amateur night at the local pub. These acts were by far the least professional of any we have seen during our many cruising experiences. This was made worse by the exceptionally loud ship band that on many occasions drowned out the headliners who they were supposed to back up. Even the ship's own singers and dancers could not be clearly heard over the volume of the band. Many people complained to both the cruise director and the stage manager to no avail. The band itself was very professional in their skill level; they were simply far too loud. The volume seemed even worse around the main deck pools where another band was featured. The fact that few people would even stay very long in that area was quite telling. As a result, the Solarium area (where you could actually talk to someone) was overcrowded and it was often difficult to get a lounge chair. If you could bear the high volume from the band, there were always plenty of chairs in the open deck pool area. RCL even found it necessary to amplify the band further using high mounted speakers at the opposite end of the open deck pool and hot tub area!
Although we could not help but hear several passengers complain about the food, we found it to be quite good with sufficient variety and an appealing presentation. It wasn't always perfect for sit down dining, but if you can hit the mark 90% of the time, why complain? The level of service was excellent.
It seems RCL is looking at every possible way to increase its revenue base once passengers are on board. Johnny Rockets (the on-board bistro / snack cafe), as many are aware, was once included in your package. Now there is a cover charge to get in ($4.95 each time) and you'll have to pay again if you request a milkshake. The RCA jacks are disabled on the flat screen TVs in your staterooms and suites, as we discovered when we tried to review our movie camera footage. There are no CD players in the rooms either, so its 'pay per view' even if you did bring a few of your favourite movies along. There are other less obvious grabs, but these like those above are more of an annoyance than a hindrance. Let's just say you'll need to flash your Sea Pass card more than you did in the past. We still like RCL, but we'll certainly be looking more closely at other carriers in the future.