I have sailed with RCL 6 times before, 20 times total between 3 different cruise lines, and I have never experienced such atrocious service, disgusting facilities, and horrible food as Explorer offered on this 9 day Bermuda and Caribbean ... Read More
I have sailed with RCL 6 times before, 20 times total between 3 different cruise lines, and I have never experienced such atrocious service, disgusting facilities, and horrible food as Explorer offered on this 9 day Bermuda and Caribbean cruise. I have talked up cruises so much, that our friends who have never cruised before decided to join us this time for their first cruise. It was so bad, that on day 3 they said it would be their last, and I would definitely think twice before sailing with RCL ever again.
Start from the beginning, embarkation was fairly standard, and actually went pretty smooth, discounting the long wait on the shuttle bus to actually get to the ship itself. Our cabin was very nice, clean, albeit with an ancient TV, but that doesn't really matter much, who wants to spend time in the room anyways. Sailaway was exciting, going under the Brooklyn bridge, ship horn blasting, probably the nicest sailaway I've ever seen. And then the "fun" started. My friend and I went to the casino bar to have a cigarette (legit smoking bar, no breaking rules here). When we got there there was no bartender, and no ashtrays on the counter or anywhere else to be seen, so I used the glass I just finished drinking out of to ash into. Moments later a bartender appears, runs over to us, snatches the glass from in front of us and proceeds to YELL at us, "You can't do that, do you do that at home". I was incredulous, but politely responded as to what else I was supposed to do when there are no ashtrays, but the bartender would just not stop yelling and berating us, though he did slam the ashtray on the table in front of us, with such force I was surprised it didn't break. I refused to accept the rudeness and asked the bartender to speak with me more politely, or I will go have a conversation with guest services (which I really don't like to do, I don't want to cost anyone their job). At that point he threw up his hands, turned around and walked away, without even offering an apology! A few days later I did mention the incident to the casino manager in the process of a casual conversation, and he was visibly upset with that, brought over the casino manager for a personal apology, "It's a smoking bar, ashtrays should be everywhere, what are you supposed to do, ash on the floor?"
I was willing to chalk this incident up to a random moody bartender, and tried not to let it ruin the vacation, but that was not the end of poor service. It was everywhere, at every bar, and pretty much from every crew member ever encountered. Coming up to guest relations to ask a question, the attendant made me feel like I was taking up his precious time by asking him. Bar stewards at the pool deck were non existent, I'm used to seeing them walking around offering drinks pretty much constantly, but this time on all 5 sea days that we had, they would walk around maybe once an hour, if that. I don't mind going up to the bar to get my drink, but whenever I did that, I felt like the bartenders were doing me a favor serving me. Even when there were 5 people at the bar waiting for service, they were too busy talking amongst themselves, or walking around pretending to look busy, rarely acknowledging the people waiting in line. I routinely had to wait more than 5 minutes at the bar for someone to take my drink order, and it wasn't because they were busy helping other customers. At one bar, when I walked up, I was greeted with a surly "What do you want", without even so much as a smile. Speaking of smiles, they were non existent from any crew members encountered anywhere on the ship. On every other cruise line, when you run into a crew member while walking about on the ship, you get a smile and a greeting, but no on the Explorer. At best you get a nod of acknowledgement, but more the norm was getting completely ignored.
Now onto the food. I could put up with the same options for breakfast in the Windjammer, that's usually the norm on RCL ships as I have seen, but the barely edible options were unacceptable. Scrambled eggs were powdered, floating in half an inch of water, and had the flavor of old cardboard paper, no matter how much salt, pepper, or tabasco you put on them. Smoked salmon was nowhere to be found, and when the buffet crew was finally asked for some, I was told they didn't have enough, so they just kept it in the back and you had to ask for it every day, hoping they didn't run out. Fresh omelettes were the only decent option at breakfast time, apparently obvious to everyone else as well, judging by the very long lines for them. Lunch time offerings were so poor, I decided to skip lunch most days, something I never do on cruise ships, as I used to love the special dessert offerings. What passes for dessert on Explorer, was the same every single day at lunch time - "out of the box" angel food cake flavored roulade, and chocolate roulade, that tasted stale and dry the couple times I dared to try it. Freshly baked cookies were so hard and stale, trying to take a bite out of it hurt your teeth. Food in the dining room at dinner time was only mildly better, my friend's seafood options were routinely overcooked, the steak was tenderized to the point of no longer having any fibers, pasta dishes were passable, but the soups were usually good, the highlight of my day. I did like the after dinner tea options, they offered various organic teas, much better than other lines' offerings of Lipton black tea only. Same story with desserts - flavorless, barely edible, not even a hint of gourmet desserts I am used to at other ships. Normally I eat often and a lot on all cruises, and gain an average of 5 pounds per cruise. I actually lost a pound on this cruise, without exercising, that's how bad the food was.
Public areas were usually filthy, I barely ever saw anyone cleaning up. Case in point, we used to go to the same area on deck 14 by the rock climbing wall, with our morning coffee. We'd leave the cups at the tables there when we were done, come back a few hours later with our drinks, oh look, our coffee cups are still there, but now we add the drink glasses. Coming back in the evening - surprise surprise, all the cups and glasses are still there. Similar story was on the pool decks, staff was cleaning up maybe once an hour, which is unacceptable when there are 3,000+ people on the ship and the pool deck is filled to the brim. Restrooms were disgusting as well, especially the ones around the Windjammer. Usually every cruise restroom has a sheet of paper with the time and name of the last person that cleaned it, and during busy times it's about every half hour. I didn't see those sheets of paper in any bathrooms, and by the looks of some of those, if they were cleaned once a day, that would seem too much.
Despite the atrocious experience my companions and I had on this cruise, several crew members truly stood out and actually helped improve our mood during their interaction with them. Firstly they were our dining room waiters, Ronel and Leoncio, who were truly an amazing team, every request was noted and never had to be repeated again, water glasses were always full, they remembered every preference from the first time it was mentioned, and they really made the dinners spectacular every day, despite the below passable quality of food. Secondly, I need to make a special mention about the casino staff and crew, because other than the dining room staff, they were the only ones on the entire ship that provided the level of service that one comes to expect from a brand name such as Royal Caribbean. If it wasn't for them, I would probably have left the ship in San Juan and never looked back.
We did end up missing St. Martin because of a hurricane and the busted engine the ship had which limited the top speed, delaying our arrival back to Bayonne, but hurricanes are the risk you take sailing during hurricane season, so I can't fault the cruise line for that. I am thankful for the choices the captain made that kept us out of danger. But next time I choose to take a cruise, I will think twice before choosing Royal Caribbean, I do not want to risk ruining another vacation. I also intend to write to Royal Caribbean, because the level of service on Explorer is completely unacceptable, and something needs to be done about this. Read Less