The last time I took a cruise was 10 years ago. At that time, the actual experience met my expectations- upscale service, exotic destinations, good food, and very relaxing. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the cruise I just came from.
Now, I try to be open-minded about my travel experiences and provide unbiased critiques. However, after reading through my reviews lately I have noticed a "negative-bent" on most of them. After doing do some self-introspection, I decided that the negativity does not stem from me becoming a grouchy, old curmudgeon, but rather, a general degradation in the entire travel experience. As usual, the disillusionment process starts the minute you reach the airport and get crammed into your flying sardine can.
The cruise I went on was a 3-day jaunt to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean's "Majesty of the Seas". I found the ship, despite its renovation in 2007, old and musty, and very unglamorous. The problems began in the cruise terminal, when we were informed that the previous cruise guests had not disembarked on-time...so we stood in line for an additional hour and a half. When we actually made it onboard, three out of four suitcases made it to our cabin...the fourth had vanished (even though the porter I'd tipped promised "special care"). By 6 o'clock that evening they finally located the misplaced bag.
As stated previously, the ship was in average condition- an example was the green, outdoor carpet surrounding the pool deck. Instead of green, it was actually mostly brown/black from dirt-thread bare, and dangerously bunched in places so as to provide trip hazards.
Back in the day, everything onboard was free except your booze. Here, you either bought a $22 beverage cup (must have weighed 1-pound!) that you constantly walked around with (like Homer Simpson), and re-filled at various soda stations on the ship, or you constantly had to pay the bartender for individual sodas.
They had a burger joint on board as well-when we sat there, they charged us a $4.95/apiece "cover charge" to eat there (cover charge in a burger joint?), and also charged for our beverages.
The second-seating dinner food items were somewhat varied, but the quality was absolutely below par. I had to return a piece of beef that was more or less the equivalent of steak-flavored chewing gum. The wait-staff service was average, and ordered items arrived late or not at all.
My overall opinion of Royal Caribbean is that their primary motive was not customer care and service, but to make a buck. We were constantly harangued by cheerful-looking blokes (cruise directors, shopping directors, etc etc) via television, announcements, or in person, to buy! buy! buy ! a multitude of products. Hopefully not all cruise companies have sunk to this level.
I do see a recent problem with the cruise industry, in general, which is probably becoming pandemic. The larger these ships get and the more people they stuff into them, the more frantic and unrelaxing the entire experience becomes. I felt like I was constantly dodging masses of humanity and competing for space in various lines...whether waiting for an elevator, entertainment, a drink, or my daily food. If I were to find the positive in all this, I suppose it will be good practice for the coming decades when overpopulation will create competition for every resource on our planet!
My final observation about this cruise is predicated on an incident that occurred in the last hour before disembarkation in Miami. My wife forgot her purse in the dining room. When we returned to find it...no one knew anything. Thankfully, a guest sitting by our table told us she witnessed one of the wait- staff retrieve it. When we asked the dining room manager, he claimed that it would've been brought to either the host at the door, or Guest Services. Neither claimed that a purse was returned to them. I then had to bring the skeptical dining room manager (who acted like he was doing me a great favor) to the guest who had witnessed the waiter picking up the purse. The waiter was finally identified, and he led us to a fire extinguisher receptacle where he had hid the purse. To me, the only reasonable explanation for not following protocol and bringing the purse to the Host or Lost & Found, was that he was planning to pilfer it. However, the dining room manager scoffed at this idea and acted as if such a concept was foreign to him. Unbeleivable!