This was our 4th RCI cruise as an extended family reunion.
Here are all of my very negative thoughts, your mileage may vary: (don't misunderstand, we enjoyed the cruise tremendously, these are the disappointing parts, especially since we've been on cruises where the following has not been an issue, so we know it CAN be done right).
1) Ship needs a drydock. Carpet is nasty in rooms, things are beat up. Futons are exponentially more comfortable than the mats they call beds.
2) Enough with the tipping and automatic gratuities. 15% gratuity on every stinking thing is an embarrassment. I hated it. We don't drink, so they didn't get much from us, but it still was a distraction at every turn.
3) $8 if you don't return your beach towel! One in our group found an $8 charge on their account because she did not return the towel she got from the pool. We were on Voyager the year she was born, and towels were abundant, warm and free. Explorer has 200 grit towels and they are hard to find.
4) Room attendant was not a stalker or creep, but that's about all I know. Never introduced himself, never asked us if we needed anything. One of the highlights of our VOS cruise was the awesome room attendant. On EOS it might has well have been trolls that live under the bed.
5) Want a shake at Johnny Rockets? Cough up $8 plus gratuity. $3.95 cover charge plus $3.45 for the shake. You're kiddin' me. The only edible food on board COSTS money. (plus gratuity).
6) Lame entertainment. Comedians are not funny. Dancers are not good. Who knew that the highlight would be Charo on Christmas Eve? (Wait...what did she say?)
7) Food. This is a biggy. REALLY BAD. We've been on 6 cruises, 4 with RCI. (2 others with Disney, and even their food was better...imagine Goofy-dogs and Mickey-burgers are better than the salmon on RCI.) We knew it wasn't the greatest, but this was flat gross. Windjammer was especially inedible. Desserts were Costco-like. Luckily our waiter was sharp and gave us a wink at what was the best of the worst. By far the best part of our cruise service-wise was our waiter and assistant, Kenan and Made.
8) Excursions. Didn't book any through RCI, we learned on the first cruise that RCI excursions are overpriced and overcrowded. My only complaint here is that we did book the Miami Everglades tour so we could get off the ship first and not spend 7 hours in the airport. I was overcharged $30, but after seeing the line at the guest relations desk I decided that my time was worth more than the $30 to wait and straighten it out. Why couldn't it just be right in the first place?
9) Disembarkation. A mess. Disney does it right. All of the luggage already off-loaded and laid out in colors. You walk through your color area, find your luggage and off you go. The carousel situation at Miami is a loser. Off the ship at 7:30, out of the terminal at 9:30! Customs and immigration was a breeze, only about 20 minutes of that 2 hours total.
10) If you want Ben and Jerry's, it costs money (plus gratuity).
11) Want a Shirley Temple for your 6 year old? ($1.72, plus gratuity.)
12) Spa services were great. One of the better massages we've gotten on a cruise ship. They asked my wife to be a "model" for the seaweed thingy that will take off something like 4 inches in one 1 hour session (sure), she laid there for 2 hours while other cruisers filed through and looked at her lying on the table covered with goo. Theoretically, she should have lost 8 inches in that 2 hours < :)>, but the electro-pulser thing wasn't working so she got nothing out of it other than losing 2 hours the first day. They didn't tell her it wasn't working before she agreed, and I wonder how many unsuspecting cruisers bought the treatment and were never told about the electro portion being unavailable (plus gratuity).
13) Embarkation. This is not RCI's fault, but let me tell you what sort of started the whole cruise. We unload our taxi from the hotel at the curb of the terminal. Up comes a large man wearing a porter hat with a dolly. Our group of 11 (hadn't met with the other 7 yet) has quite a few bags, about 16. We unload, he tells us to gather 'round as he has instructions for us. We gather, he then says "you need to know that I will take your bags from here and deliver them all the way to your stateroom, you will not touch these bags again, as I will handle them all the way to your stateroom. Again, I repeat, YOU WILL NOT SEE ME AGAIN, BUT YOUR BAGS WILL APPEAR AT YOUR STATEROOM. I will be in charge of these bags appearing at your stateroom, you will not see me again, there will be no more opportunities to see me again or to thank me for getting your bags all the way to your stateroom. This is it, as I will be busy handling your bags all the way to your stateroom. And you will not see me again. But your bags will arrive at your stateroom because of my efforts."
Ok, I get it. I give him $20 to move the bags about 50 yards and literally throw them on a trolley that gets forklifted onto the ship. That's all he does. You should have seen the look on his face when I gave him $20. More than one adult in our group was concerned that our bags would end up either in the street or in the water NEXT to our stateroom. All due to his efforts. Jerk. I told him that $20 was more than $1 a bag, nothing worse than having to explain and justify your tip. Yup, that started it. I don't think RCI can do anything about the porters, I'm sure they are unionized to the hilt, and certainly they are not all bad, but this guy was a real loser.
14) Ports. Enjoyed them all. Belize (excellent tubing with X-stream), Costa Maya(great day at Mahahual Beach), Cozumel (scuba diving with Diving Adventures-- won't use them again), Grand Cayman (scuba diving with Neptune's divers, great outfit and better diving than Cozumel).
Even a "bad" cruise beats working any day of the week. My problem is that we've been on cruises that were great. As I said, it is only disappointing because we know it can be done MUCH better. I think since cruising has become so much more popular, RCI doesn't have to work too hard at it. And now they are sneaking in charges left and right because they can and people will pay. No more is it about service and pampering, it is about getting you on board and getting into your wallet at every opportunity. The booking is the price of admission to the park, if you want to have fun or do the things they advertise, bring your credit cards and plan on spending a bunch. Our group of 18 won't do RCI again. It has fallen too far much too fast.