My wife and I just returned from fifteen days on the Radiance of the Seas (RCI) cruise out of Tampa (4-29-11) through the Panama Canal to San Diego. It is hard not to like cruising, the ocean is amazing -- relaxing and soothing! Yet, when we cruise the way we are treated and the organization by the ships crew can make a wonderful cruise into something far less attractive.
When we boarded the cruise everything went well, the Diamond pre-boarding went smoothly and at the appointed hour once on board we had our cabin. Once settled in the poor handling of the ship's communication became very observable. We were not informed of Diamond events though when we asked we did get answers (if they are trying to 'pamper' their frequent cruisers you'd think the information would be readily available). My wife was looking forward to receiving the Diamond pin, but at first they said it would take a week, they offered many excuses, then after further complaining on the fourth day it was delivered to our stateroom. Throughout the fifteen days the "special events either did not occur or we were never informed.
The "MyTime" dining experience was met with long lines (in spite of reservations) and much confusion and grumbling among fellow cruisers. The tours we signed up for were fine, but enduring the 'cattle herding' experience in the halls, in the theater and just waiting around to find out what was next... finally, an hour late departure from the ship for the tour (the ship had been cleared two hours earlier, but the staff's organization had not been thought through). I voiced a mild complaint that evening at "guest relations" and was told someone would call my room. Two days later I mentioned again that I had not received a call... referred to the Exploration desk and received all kinds of justification, I'm not sure they heard or understood what was being told them by me and others.
The 'Diamond and Diamond plus' breakfast was in a room that could not handle the number of members on board, it was loud and not really special in anyway -- downright confusing and impersonal. A "special" Diamond/Diamond plus breakfast event, a week into the cruise, was a fiasco -- long lines, long waits, and then we got to place our orders and wait another hour for our meals! The total unpreparedness of the kitchen and food staff, and the lack of planning for such an event is inexcusable! We were told by some of the wait staff that the management had only told them the night before to show up and had not considered how they were going to prepare 500 different omelets available on the regular menus ...bottom line they couldn't! The lack of staff oversight and good planning continued throughout the cruise to disembarkation morning. We were told there would not be express check-out, then that there would be and then was told to just go ahead and use the Diamond #2 luggage tags and carry out my luggage. After carrying two 50lb suitcases down two flights of stairs just after the gang-plank I was asked why I did not go to deck three for the "express" departure?
The professional singers and dancers were great... We missed the story line at the first presentation "City of Dreams" but so did others. One of the performers mentioned to me later on deck that the performers did not like it as much either. There were parts that were spectacular, like the ballet portion and a couple of the numbers... but overall a poor choice. On the other hand, the "Piano Man" performance was spectacular in every way! Some of the other special one-night performers were beyond their peak. An exception was the "Revolution" Beatles performers and music... worth the time, very entertaining! We always like the guitarists on board RCI cruises, again on this ship they did a very good job in solo's and trios.
OK, enough complaining... the Panama Canal was amazing to see, the weather was great, our stateroom was very acceptable, the waiters in the dining room and Portofino's were superb (Chops was lousy), and the 15 days at seas were restful and worth every dollar spent. It is a shame that what appears to be poor management communication and preparedness can sour something that had such promise.
...Can this really be the ship that earned "ship of the year?" It baffles us, and most of the others that were on this cruise, that such an award could ever be offered to such inefficient, unprepared and inept ship management!