We are a retired couple who cruise one to two times a year. Or used to, I think we are re-thinking the current cruise quality overall.
We have been on NCL, Princess, RCCL, and Celebrity more than once each. Since starting to cruise in 1990's, we have noticed a decline in the quality of all aspects of cruising in general. More on this later.
We took a transatlantic cruise on Celebrity Equinox on the 28th of November 2011. We left from Citaveccia Italy after 4 days in Rome. We flew in on our own, made our own hotel reservations and transfers from the airport. We found a wonderful 4euro each person, bus from the Airport to the Train Depot in the center of the city. Our great hotel was 3 blocks away and we carried our own luggage there and back. We took the train to the port from Rome, about 9euro each.
At the port things moved quickly, but an observational question: why when there are so many more past passengers than first time cruisers, is there one line for past passengers and many for the first timers? We simply bypass the past passenger line, for the empty first timers line. Is it my imagination, or is only in the last couple of years that the cabins are not ready by the time you get there about 2:00? I realize there are a lot of rooms per steward, but they are usually done each day before 2:00 when we are aboard...
The Good the Bad and the Ugly.
Let's start backwards: the Ugly. The computer department and the account setup experience was beyond belief. It took hours, and did not work in the end, until days later. On the transatlantic cruise, the satellite is spotty at best, cruisers were told to just keep logging in, each login using up more money and minutes. I spoke with a supervisor, and he seemed to just want me and my problems to please go away. I asked for concise account setup and login procedures on paper, I was told they did not have enough printed. I asked if they could print more, they said not till next cruise.
Bad, the food. It was Golden Corral quality, the meats tough and often had to be returned for doneness. Most of the meals I could have found at local restaurants. I cruise to be pampered and "wowed", and the food on this cruise just did not do that at all. The Italian specialty restaurant was great, but why are we as cruisers spending $30-40 per person for what used to be served in the dining room??? I started cruising at age 4 aboard a cargo/passenger ship and have loved it ever since. I like being "pampered" and given good service and food and accommodations. The cabins are getting much nicer, if you go to Concierge or mini-suite classes. But the service on most ships lately (NCL, RCCL especially) is just not there. The push towards making money off everything but the food is gone. Now the money on food IS the push, reserve, reserve, reserve!!! your dining reservations, for more money!
Do we simply plan on spending $30-40 per person, per night for decent food on a cruise? Go to the higher priced, all inclusive cruises? I spent the evening looking at the current reviews of their ships and am dismayed to find many people noticing the same things on the *high end* ships too. I honestly feel that service, as an art and profession, is a lost memory today. Where does that leave someone who loves the ocean and cruising, but can not find the service and food I recall?
Good, the dining room staff was exceptional!!!!! , our room stewards amazing, and the Hot Glass Show was the best thing on the ship. Doing glass blowing on a moving ship, with major temperature issues, and rain to boot, made the three artists really have to show their stuff. All three artists were great at their craft, and their informative narrative explained every question I ever had on glassblowing. What a great addition. There was no Art Auction onboard, so this was the main entertainment during the day.
The evening entertainments were varied, and great for the most part. They had the most obnoxious comedian I have ever walked out on, but also the best trumpet player/singer named Greg from Australia, I have ever heard. The ship entertainers were quite good, and the shows were well done.
Bottom line, not sure we will do Celebrity again, unless the cost is low enough to pay for the dinners and a better room (maybe try Aqua class with Blu restaurant). We may try an all inclusive higher end cruise. Maybe a river cruise. But, in the end, we will look with eyes wide open from now on. The downward slide in service and food quality appears cruise line wide, and does not show signs of being recognized or addressed. Maybe I'm a cruise "snob", but I do want to feel like royalty when I cross the gangplank.