This was our first cruise and after reading some of the reviews on the net I thought I had made an awful mistake booking the cruise. There were some really awful reviews and some great reviews. Very confusing. Hence, here I am writing our review on the day we arrived home.
Our cruise was on board Legend of the Seas - the 4 night HK-Sanya (China) - Halong Bay (Vietnam)- HK trip. We booked online through the RCI website (more on that later). We booked a cruise as it is easier than flying with a near 2-year old.
The embarkation was really quite quick. I had printed out the set sail passes which ensured we went through the VIP line and we were on board within 20 minutes. The way RCI staggered the embarkation process was great as we never felt like we were queuing. Our room wasn't ready when we boarded so the buffet cafe (Windjammer) was serving food. The food in the buffet was on par with Sizzler. It was exactly as expected for a buffet restaurant. The staff ensured any dirty plates were cleared quite quickly.
By 1pm our room was ready - the junior suite (8030). As I would expect, the rooms were not large but they were perfectly adequate. The bed was comfortable and the sofa bed folded out for our daughters. The balcony was a really nice size and just the thought of going into a smaller room made me feel claustrophobic. Opening the balcony made the room appear much larger. There was lots of storage space that impressed me and we were able to hang all our clothes or place them in drawers. The bathrooms had a bath with overhead shower that had decent pressure. There were lots of toiletries in the vanity that were replaced as necessary. There was a flat screen tv in the room that had some decent movie channels. Our room attendant, Rui, did a lovely job turning down the beds each evening and making up the room in the morning. He would leave chocolates on the pillow for our daughters and make little towel animals for them. Our only complaint with him was trying to obtain an infant life-jacket. We asked as we set sail and he said he was too busy just now but that we were not too far from shore and we could swim....! Later that night we again enquired about the life jacket. He said he was still too busy as it was the 1st night and it would have to wait until morning as he would have to go to a different floor to get it! At that point my husband had to tell him that this was a safety requirement and very important. The life jacket arrived 5 minutes later with his apologies. In general, there was some noise from above and in the hallways but we didn't find this obtrusive. I guess if there had been more of a 'party crowd' aboard than this would be an issue. I hope when we cruise next time to be able to reserve the Family Suite. We had a little sticky beak as it was getting cleaned and it was a great size.
We had dinner each evening in the Romeo & Juliet restaurant. The quality of the food is fine and there were only a couple of meals that were not quite hot or were overcooked (I am a keen cook and certainly don't expect that level of fare when the cooks on board are catering for nearly 2000 guests and 750 staff). The atmosphere is just lovely though. The views from this dining room are magical. The waiters (Erwin & Laxmi) at our table were simply fantastic. They provided 5* service and simply outshone any waiters we have met in HK. They were just fantastic in catering to our children and even had little magic tricks.
My husband & older daughter had the beer package (lots of beers to choose from) & soda package, respectively. They found it quite good value. I didn't order a package and just bought cocktails and wines as I wanted them. The cocktails were really yummy (maybe not quite as strong as I would expect in a normal bar! -but that suited me) and reasonably priced. The wine list seemed long but there were not that many wines available by the glass. What I had was fine and maybe a little overpriced. My wines were more expensive than the cocktails. It was a little frustrating on the first day to have the wait staff in general areas try and push me into buying the drinks package. There is no way I could drink $160 ($40 x 4 days) worth of cocktails and wine.
We ate lunch once in the pool solarium. The french fries were fresh and yummy but I would pass on the burgers.
The general dEcor of the ship is a little dated but I almost feel it was dated when it was new in 1995. The Viking Crown Lounge (nightclub) looked like a scene from the 80's- very kitsch. That being said,I felt everything was very clean, comfortable and well maintained and certainly there was nothing to complain about.
The vast majority of people on board were Asian with nearly half being Chinese mainlanders. I only mention this as the cultural differences can be an issue. We live in HK (originally from Australia) and felt we would be quite immune to the cultural differences. If you have had little contact with the Chinese it would make your cruise a little less enjoyable. They are quite pushy and will barge in front of you- no queuing! The coughing up of phlegm is just disgusting and sets my teeth on edge. Also, being the proud parents of a little blue-eyed, blonde-haired daughter we are used to people in HK asking to take her photo. But on the ship the Chinese would constantly take her picture (even after we asked them to stop) and would touch her face and hair and pick her up. She is fine with this but we feel uncomfortable with it. On the other hand, the Chinese don't seem to drink and were really well behaved. We fear that if the ship had been full of our compatriots from Australia, the same could not be said.
The gym was well equipped and I never had to wait for a treadmill. I tried running on the running track on deck 10 but even on a calm day it was difficult running into the wind although the view was divine! The rock climbing wall was great and we barely had to line up. The putt-putt (mini-golf) was sweet but again the Chinese will take over a hole and refuse to move (not quite the object of the game!) or simply start playing on your hole or stand in the middle of the green. Not a biggie, but a little frustrating. I originally thought the pools to be a bit small (I couldn't do laps like I hoped) but they were fine and rarely crowded. A lot of the Chinese didn't seem to swim and seemed happy to sit on the sidelines. There were lots of lounge chairs around and you never had to go far to find vacant lounges.
We only went to one evening show (magician) and that was enjoyable (more so for children). The smell of smoke that pervades from the Casino is gross though. The daytime activities are sweet and fun but a little like a school camp. I would think if you want to be entertained constantly than this is the wrong ship for you. As for us, we were more than happy with lots of (above average)food, good books and comfy lounge chairs.
The toy lending for babies and toddlers is a great idea and we found it really helpful to have toys on board. Our elder daughter used the teen room and said it was fun but occasionally there would be no staff there for a scheduled activity. We found the same thing in regards to some scheduled activities like the martini tasting - the waiter had no idea about it.
We didn't bother getting off the ship at Sanya as we had no interest in seeing it so we just relaxed on board a mainly empty ship (bliss!). Our itinerary varied due to an approaching typhoon so it was disappointing not to get to Vietnam as planned but we could see the sense in the Captain's decision. Already people were getting seasick from the increasing motion of the ship. The purser's desk was giving out seasickness tablets for those who needed them. As an aside, we didn't need Chinese visas for Sanya as Australia is one of the 26 countries on the Visa Waiver Program for Hainan Island.
Our other gripe was with the gratuities. We had pre-paid them when booking on the RCI website and I had the print out. So on the last night we were given envelopes to hand out to the staff but no vouchers to show we had pre-paid the gratuities. I enquired at the purser's desk and they said they had no record of us paying (it was nearly $200). I then showed them my printout and after lots of to-ing and fro-ing the purser showed me a vague form that said yes we had paid but then it had been refunded.......hmmmm. Not likely but we could not access our credit card transaction history to dispute this. So, we were now in the embarrassing position of having no money/vouchers to hand out to our wait staff and room attendant. We were told we could fill out the form for pre-paid gratuities but they "can not" print out the vouchers. Aaargh!!! In the end after my husband politely but forcefully saying he had had enough of the "can not", they were able to give us the vouchers which we just wrote our suite number on. We were charged for this so now we just have to check our credit card statement to see if we have paid twice for gratuities. This sort of thing doesn't spoil the cruise but it is frustrating and certainly not relaxing.
The disembarkation was just as quick and easy as the embarkation. We left our packed luggage out in the hall the night before arrival. We had a leisurely breakfast and disembarked and were in a taxi not 20 minutes later.
I hope I have given a fair review of the cruise. Overall we really loved it and would go again.