Cruise Critic Roll Call Members:
We had over 200 members on the active Roll Call and many volunteers organized daily activities for the big group. This made it one of the most enjoyable crossings we've ever experienced. We made lots of friends, who we hope to cruise with again.
We arrived at 11:30 AM and stood in a relatively fast moving line (both outside and inside) for about 45 minutes. The staff was pleasant and helpful. Cabins were ready at 1 PM. Cruise Critics assembled for a Sail Away Party after the Muster Drill. Great fun.
The ship was in good condition for its age and we eventually learned the large layout. We got to like the way the ship is laid out with an indoor promenade. Placement of dining room, show room, lounges and cafe was typical of large ships and better than Carnival. The ship is 15 decks high and rode the open seas very well. We had smooth sailing and very good weather for the crossing.
Our balcony cabin (#6322) was on the starboard "hump" and therefore slightly larger than others in that category. The location near the rear elevators was perfect. We were one deck above our dining level and near the elevators for a ride to deck 11 for the Windjammer Cafe. The cabin size is typical of ships this size. We used the balcony only a few times. The beds were comfortable. Linens and carpet were clean. On the negative side: The bathroom seemed smaller than other ships we've been on. We had a very slow drain in our sink. The TV was old and the programming was slim. No ice was provided in the cabin. We had plastic SOLO cups for glasses in the bathroom. Our stateroom attendant's name was not provided in our cabin and did not present himself on the first day.
He kept the room clean but visited it only twice per day. He did not make himself know to us for a few days. I ran into him once during the entire cruise. He did provide 4 towels instead of the normal two. But we've had much better service on other cruises. Recommended tip for him.
We found the Windjammer Cafe relatively clean but always crowded. The staff seemed shy but friendly. The breakfast buffet quickly became boring. Pastries were stale. Toasted bagels were like a rock. Had to wait in line for a cup of coffee. The omelet ordering process was tedious. Some food was cold. The eggs were a purveyor's ready mix product with food coloring added and quite watery - not fresh scrambled eggs. Bacon and sausage were OK. Waffles and French Toast were pretty poor products.
The Main Dining Rooms (3 decks high) were nicely decorated and clean. Early dining was moved to 5:30 PM. The variety of meals offered were somewhat disappointing. They offered daily standards of Sirloin Steak or Salmon. The Salmon was quite good. The steak was deplorable. 3 at our table had to send it back and order something else. It needs to be removed from the menu. When Lobster & Filet was offered, the lobster was miniscule. We all laughed that a single shrimp would have made a better Surf 'n Turf. Overall the food was barely acceptable and has gone down another notch since last year's TA on the Jewel OTS. Wine was very expensive. A $16 bottle of 10 Year Vine XY Zin sold for $49 onboard including tip. It took 30 minutes to get a cocktail ordered and delivered to the table. They need a dedicated cocktail waitress and a sommelier for the dining rooms. Lunch in the main dining room offered a made-to-order salad. That was excellent. The pasta offerings were not good. Other items for lunch were acceptable. Cafe Promenade offered stale donuts. Johnny Rockets should be closed or made no charge.
We dined at Portofino's and found it below the level we experienced on Celebrity ships. At $25pp we went there only once. My meal was average.
Dining Room Staff:
Our waiter and assistant were good, not great. Respectful and friendly. The head waiter interrupted our conversations often. He lost my bottle of wine, mis-marking it for another table who enjoyed it, I'm sure. Our tablemates had to convince him that a full bottle was put aside two days ago after it was opened and only sampled. He finally "bought me" another bottle. Extra tip for the waiter and assistant but much less for the head waiter.
The CD was Mike Hunnerup from Australia and he quickly grew on us. He was fun and approachable. The staff, including Richard, the Activities Director, were friendly and helpful. Just one person had an "attitude" we didn't appreciate. The stage entertainment ran the gamut. Some poor, most mediocre and a few memorable. Individual singers tend to be poor. The variety was good however. RCL held a nice Meet & Mingle for us on Day 3. At my suggestion they had a few Bridge Tour door prizes for lucky members. Quest is a big hit and was held on the ice rink. Great adult fun.
Captain Patrik Dahlgren is probably the best we've encountered on all the ships we've cruised on. He stopped at all the dining room tables for conversation and photos during the cruise. Very engaging. He's an asset to RCL.
Did not enjoy Joe Condrill's lectures or Hohn & Donna Mollan's presentations very much. I've see much better on other cruises. We missed Jack Cochrane's (Cruise Critic member) lecture about water on day 7 because of a conflict. Don't believe it was taped either. We were disappointed we missed him.
The Internet Cafe is too expensive and too slow to use often. Library was average for cruise ships. Fitness facility was very good but no TVs on the equipment. Smoke in some of the lounges and part of the casino is still problematic. Champagne Bar was expensive. The Wine Bar on the promenade was way overpriced. Way too much selling on the floors all day. You ran into tables set up to sell goods and services everywhere. It is quite annoying. Seems that after early dining, your opportunity for after dinner dancing lasts just 30 minutes. No venue existed that played dance music from 7:30-9:00 PM for us.
Ports of Call:
We were happy to visit Tenerife for the first time. Ship's excursions were too expensive for the full day (5 hr.) tour ($99pp). A Cruise Critic member organized a longer tour on a private basis for just $21pp. We enjoyed it. Mallorca and Ajaccio were somewhat interesting. We prefer the Azores. The printed port information provided by the ship is almost useless. We bring our own maps.
Needed luggage tags for an earlier time and had to wait in line at Guest Relations to move up 1 hour earlier. We walked off and found our (damaged) luggage in little time. There was no time to report a claim. The taxis would only take passengers for Rome and not local destinations like Civitavecchia. We took the FREE port bus to the port entrance and then walked to the rail station. Took about an hour.
We notice RCL quality going downhill each year. Both for food quality and service. Cruise rates are stable but onboard charges keep going up. Ours was $950 this trip. Ouch! We may not use RCL again next year.
Regards, Florida Rich...