We have previously travelled with mainstream cruise lines such as P&O, Princess, Celebrity, RCI etc and thought we would try a more expensive '5 star' cruise. While many elements of the ship and the cruise were excellent and merited the extra cost, there were some surprising negatives also.
Food varied from acceptable to excellent, with the exception of the Signatures restaurant - pretentious menu and average to poor food! The main restauarant was great for couples with lots of tables for 2 by the windows! The food was often great - lunches in the main restaurant were particularly unusual and excellently flavoured; also the portions were not too big which is great at lunchtime. Occasionally, however, there were some very odd and definitely second class offerings - one afternoon tea, the only sandwiches were cheap potted meat or jam (I haven't been offered a jam sandwich since I was a child when it was definitely food for the poor!!!)
The upsides first:-
Wonderful cabin - spacious, well-equipped, good balcony, beautifully furnished. Some things we particularly liked were the curtained area for sitting, separated from the bedroom - this allowed me to get up earlier than my husband and to read and use the balcony without disturbing him!; the walk-in closet with lots of hanging space and drawers; big bathroom with very big shower area, lovely toiletries and lots of space. (We had a cabin with only a shower and this gives you lots of room if, like us, you do not want a bath.
Great staff - friendly throughout the ship, including the officers; nothing too much trouble; efficient and helpful. Even the tour staff were good and this is often one area where cruise ships are poor!!
Lots of space in the ship - no queues for anything, even the buffet restaurant had lots of tables whenever you wanted to eat. The ship felt quiet and uncrowded throughout the cruise - very relaxing.
No attempts to keep selling to you, which is unusual - no photographers constantly in your face trying to take photos and sell them to you, no pressure to use the shops. This is all in line with the fact that everything is included so you don't constantly have to show your cruise card. At the same time, the staff were great in keeping you supplied with food and drink - no need to chase them at all. It makes for a very relaxing time.
Tours were good - no feeling that, because they are free, they are a lesser class than those sold on other cruise ships.
Ports of call were all great - some a bit busy but that is the only possible negative, and is not RSSC's fault!!
The tours were all early morning and nearly all scheduled at similar times. This made a few issues - overcrowding and lines waiting to disembark. The worst point, however, was that the mealtimes were not adjusted to take account of the tours. So, the restaurant was only open in the morning as you were reporting to the tour - you could only have a sit-down meal if you were staying on the ship! You had to use the buffet (sometimes cold food!!) or have room service which was often the only practical option. Similarly, you had to rush back at the end of the tour if you wanted to be served because many of the tours ended at 1.00-1.15 and the restaurant closed at 1.30. Even the buffet closed at 2.00 so you could not have a look round the port after the tour if you wanted to eat. There was always room service but that always takes time to order and receive, and the choice is limited.
Generally, the availability of food was the poorest I have come across on any ship. Apart from room service, there were gaps in the morning and afternoon where you struggled to find food. This meant you had to keep an eye on the time to ensure you did not miss a meal - not what you want on a cruise. One morning we got up at 9.00 (hardly sleeping in!!) and found only one place we could eat cold food!!
It would be nice when you get back to the ship to find cold drinks and cold towels available - they do this on Celebrity which is a cheaper option. A bit galling to be moored next to a cheaper cruiseline and seeing them being regaled with cold towels!!
The public areas looked a bit tired to us and no wow factor.
Downsides may sound a bit picky but this cruise is expensive and is meant to be top class so I think you should expect excellence!
Overall, a very good experience but I think RSSC should travel on some other lines to see how it could be improved to 5 star all round