A recent article in a national Sunday paper written by a travel writer led me to reflect on my own recent Med cruise. My reflections led me to believe that the biggest, the shiniest or the loudest is not necessarily the best.. A cruise around half of the Mediterranean in the Liberty of the Seas is a first class holiday if you have 1.A family. 2. Are gregarious. 3. Don't drink. 4. Speak several languages. 5. Can shout and, 6. Deal with failed expectations and disingenuous statements.
Three pool areas allow for the entertainment and recreation of the kids in a controlled area is great. Just let them run, free ice cream and liquid refreshment takes the onus of the parent who can then relax with a well deserved and relaxing drink (not free).
Choosing when to eat in the evening can be problematic if the activities of the day (on shore trips) eat into the evening or the many shows in the two theaters (one Ice - very good) being missed by late returns from ashore. RCL solved this problem by introducing MyTime dining. This is a procedure whereby one books one's time for his evening meal; generally first or second sitting and whether one wishes to set a deux or sharing. However the reality is that most, if not all of the favoured times (usually determined by the shows) have been booked online (I didn't know you could) before the cruise start time by others better advised. As a result one must share a table (up to eight) if one wishes to dine at that favoured time. Sharing is an experience I would rather forget. One might as well dine alone as we where the only English speaking couple at the table. The rest were Spanish. A language which is both loud and fast. The alternative is to dine in the Windjammer restaurant. A running buffet of immense proportion both on range, quantity and quality. The only fault is that if you have a wine pack and wish to drink one of your bottles it takes up to 25 minutes to get it. The waiters have to go to the MyTime dining room to get your selected bottle. One waiter got it wrong and went to the Chop Grille restaurant for my Pinot Grigio. Although charged against my card, it wasn't recorded against my wine pack (held in MyTime), as a result we were charged $40 for a bottle we had already paid for. RCL dispute this but then they would. Their procedures do not allow for error.
Two formal nights are programmed and encouraged but in truth you can wear what you like and many do (to some the simple act of wearing of a shirt seems to render the situation formal). This isn't fair on those who make an effort but it's your holiday, you paid. They should, however, practice some form of formal/informal segregation in the dining rooms on these occasions. We chose not to go formal and dined in the Windjammer, not wishing to spoil the formal ambiance.
Going ashore can be a bit of a hit or miss affair depending on one's choice of tour. We didn't know that when we docked at the various ports of call we would be sharing with three other cruise ships each with 3-4000 souls aboard most wanting to go to the same place, as well as the land based tourists. The congestion thus caused within the places of interest must be experienced to be believed. My own personal advice is to choose the 'stay on a bus and look' type tours unless, of course, you really need to touch The Coliseum and be photographed doing it. Your choice.
This was our first cruise after being persuaded by all and sundry and it was an experience we enjoyed. Would we go on another cruise? Probably no but if yes, on a much smaller vessel (2000 or less) and preferably from an English embarkation port.
Good points for RCL - Always something to do, great for kids and adults alike. Great service from all the staff. Always helpful.
Bad points - Wine is very expensive, equal to the prices one would pay in a 5 star city centre hotel. $40 or more for wine unless pre-purchased in a wine pack (down to $30). MyTime dining is a bit of a fraud insomuch as it doesn't live up to the expectations engendered in the descriptions in the sales literature.
Sorry RCL I won't be returning to you; and I still want my $40 back!