We hadn't cruised for years and to celebrate my husband's retirement, chose an 8 day cruise from Singapore through Indonesia. The itinerary we chose included 3 ports, Semarang, Bali and Lombok.
Let's talk about communications from Royal Caribbean first as it set the tone for the cruise. We booked, we paid as required through our travel agent and secured the room we wanted. Approximately 6 weeks before the cruise, we received an email suggesting we book our excursions sooner rather than later to ensure we would get the ones we wanted. As part of that message, we were also encouraged to buy a variety of drink packages prior to boarding to save money. Royal Caribbean's website is in awful need of upgrading--it is far from user friendly, requiring that tedious details be re-entered over and over to get where you need to be. Excited to see what was offered for excursions, we were disappointed that absolutely no information was posted. I called our agent who contacted RC and was unable to secure any information. I tried many times on line, the message was the same: no information is available for your cruise (not for excursions nor drink packages--nothing). As we were going to Bali on our own prior to the cruise, it was important to us to know what the cruise line was offering so that we didn't duplicate locations. I finally telephoned RC, only to be told that their IT department had not yet uploaded their excursion packages and to try again in a few days. Still no luck. When I called again about 2 weeks before the cruise, I received a rude response telling me to keep trying--to which I requested an email to advise when the information was posted. Nope, ain't gonna happen. And the agent abruptly hung up on me. I didn't book a thing prior to leaving and planned our separate trip to Bali with fingers crossed.
We checked in late, just prior to sailing and the process was streamlined with no delays. Only a few of us in line and we were on board within 30 minutes.
The ship's common areas were nice, modern and buzzing with people, but no staff to assist us with directions. No biggie, we found our way. To our disappointment, our stateroom was a huge contrast to the common areas, tired looking, in desperate need of an upgrade. Clean, but very tired. It smelled musty, walls were scuffed and there were splashes of drinks stuck on walls and furniture. It needed a good scrub-down at the very least to rid it of its smell, especially when the room is old and furniture is saggy.
It wasn't long before we discovered that the itinerary had changed. We were no longer stopping in Semarang. Only Bali and Lombok, back to back. No prior notification, no apologies. Lombok was a disappointment, not sure why it was included. Bali excursions were good and as luck had it, did not duplicate where we had already been.
We'll give credit where credit is due. The staff were top-notch, worked hard to please and did their job with a smile. The food was good, and the fact that we didn't have to "overdress" for dinner was a plus. The cruise director had spirit and we heard from him daily announcing the daily on activities on board. The entertainment was good, the variety appealing to all ages. The shows weren't splashy but short enough that you didn't have to sleep through them. We would have loved to see the Captain mingling on the ship now and then (especially since we sailed at the same time as the Costa disaster). We only heard his voice, daily updating us on where we were at. He never did mention his name, he was just "your Captain speaking." He did participate however for a few minutes at one of the pool shows at the end of the sail.
In a day and age of electronic communications and the importance of staying in touch, we were appalled with the cost of substandard wi-fi. We spent most of our time trying to get a connection (not available in our cabin) and once we had it, the slow churning ate up most of the prepaid minutes we bought. We spent about $160 on wifi, and conservatively guess that we were actively online for about 30 minutes. Robbery.
Costs for drinks was higher than we expected. The drink tabs automatically included a "gratuity"...again, not a biggie. The next line on the tab was "additional gratuity". So, if you didn't pay attention, you would likely add another 15%. A bit sneaky. Actually a lot sneaky.
We felt nickeled and dimed to death daily, everything came with a cost. Buy this, buy that, book your next trip now with a discount. On our first cruise many years ago, all we paid extra for was alcohol. And the onboard marketing was discreet. Not here. Use the spa and be sucked in for a few hundred more dollars for products, use the gym and be pestered to buy personal analysis garbage. Nothing discreet, just pressure to buy.
Our waiters worked hard to please and it seemed effortless for them--truly professionals. The second last nite at dinner, an unfamiliar face appeared at our table to offer fresh ground pepper. He turned out to be the head waiter. That was the only time we saw him, for less than 30 seconds. Tipping guidelines suggested that he receive a tip as well. Not a chance. We tipped our daily waiters over and above the guidelines as they deserved every penny.
Check-out was very well organized. We were off the ship and reunited with our luggage within 30 minutes of our assigned time.
Would I travel with Royal Caribbean again? Not unless we thoroughly reviewed the ship we we were sailing on. Now we know why there wasn't a picture of the Legend of the Seas to be found anywhere online or in brochures.