Just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Explorer of the Seas with my family, there were 5 of us in total, myself, my wife and our 3 children, 2 daughters, age 8 and 5, and our son, age 3. We were looking forward to this cruise, as my ... Read More
Just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Explorer of the Seas with my family, there were 5 of us in total, myself, my wife and our 3 children, 2 daughters, age 8 and 5, and our son, age 3. We were looking forward to this cruise, as my wife and I had previously been on 3 cruises and had always had great experiences on them. We have previously cruised on Celebrity Galaxy, RCI Empress of the Seas and the Royal Majesty when it was still a private cruise ship not part of the NCL line. Taking our past cruise memories into account we figured that our kids were now old enough to enjoy a cruise, at least the 8 and 5 year old. In the years since our last cruise, 8 years ago aboard the Galaxy, we have taken vacations in Disney twice, Las Vegas 5 times, Atlantis on Paradise Island and Europe twice. After doing some research and it seemed like the RC voyager class of ships would be a good choice for cruising with the kids.
1. The Adventure Ocean Camp program was well run and offered many activities for keeping the little ones busy and happy all day and long into the night. Kids could be dropped off from early in the morning and could stay until 10:00PM free of charge or until 1:00AM for a fee of $5.00 per hour per child from 10:00 PM until 1:00AM.
2. The entertainment was also very good. The Vibeology Show was well produced and had the audience tapping their feet and clapping their hands, the music and singing was crisp and the skits well choreographed. Although this was the last cruise for the six month run of this show. Not sure what will replace it. The 2 of the 3 Comedians on this sailing were very funny and of National prominence. The Ice show was well produced and it was quite interesting seeing what the skaters could do on such and small ice surface. Any show that can incorporate music from The Doors, Pink Floyd and Bruce Springsteen among others has to be good. Also had a good acrobat team from Australia perform a few times but their performances were usually too short.
3. The staff at the Rock climbing wall was very attentive and went out of their way to accommodate my 5 year old even though she was too young to actually use the wall. They let her climb up they wall as far as she could get without a harness with one of the staff members spotting her from behind. It would have been nice if somewhere on the literature it stated that you had to be 6 or older to actually be allowed to use the wall, this way we could have left her at camp when taking her sister to try out the wall. The only other issue here is that you are only allowed to use the wall once per cruise, same thing with the skating rink, something that RCI conveniently omits from any and all pre cruise advertising and literature.
4. The ship itself is very well appointed and visually stunning. The midship Royal Promenade is a focal point of the ship and a very unique feature on a cruise ship. The ship is very spacious with numerous public areas and bars, even though there were over 3200 passengers on our sailing we never felt crowded or cramped. The rooms are standard fare for cruising. We had two outside Staterooms with a connecting door. We didn'tt book a balcony since we were concerned for the kids safety being out on their balcony alone. One thing to note, on Deck 3 there is no connecting passageway from the Stern to the Bow of the Ship and visa versa. If you want to get from say the Main Dining room to the Palace Theater you would need to go up to Deck 4 or higher or down to Deck 2, and cut across. Our Rooms were on Deck 3 and we found ourselves going up over and down many, many times. Elevators were plentiful and never much of a wait for them.
5. Room Service was also very prompt and accurate in filling the orders, we would leave the preprinted breakfast cards out and we would receive the order exactly as ordered at the right time the next morning. Great way to keep the kids from bugging us as we were getting ready and they were hungry.
6. The Cafe Promenade has a good assortment of snacks sweets to choose from 24 hours a day, and the selection varies from day to day unlike the breakfast in Windjammer which was always the same.
Going in with high expectations for a high level of service based on past cruise experiences this sailing was major let down. For the most part service was non existent. Most ship personnel were indifferent or plain rude.
1. What happened to walking onto the ship and being greeted by the Captain or some of the ships Officers and then having someone escort you to your room? When we boarded we directed to a station were our children were given bracelets to wear during the cruise which would indicate their muster, or as our five year old called it Mustard, station in case of emergency. After that we were on our own to find our room. Upon embarking the ship you are on Deck 4, the desk were the kids get their bracelets is towards the stern, so after getting the bracelets we walked down on deck since our rooms were on Deck 3, upon hitting a dead end, we asked one of the crew if they could direct to our cabin they sent us to another non thru passageway on the same deck. Finally another crew member told us of the situation on Deck 3, because of the layout of Studio B area, were the ice rink is located Deck 3 does not have a thru hallway we would need to go up over and down. Okay we went up to Deck 5 as suggested by this crew member thru the Royal Promenade and then down. While walking thru the promenade we asked another crew member to make sure that we were going the right way and were told no our cabin was not that way so back the other way, I was starting to get frustrated at this point, so I stopped at guest relations to get this cleared up once and for all. After asking how to get to our room we were basically looked at like we were dumb as dirt and pointed to a map of the ship to figure out how to get to our room. Gee that was helpful. Finally figured out on our own how to get to our rooms. I guess it's too much too ask that at least the crew know there way around the ship.
2. After a quick bite to eat in Windjammer it was time to make our way back to our room for the Muster Drill, now we have 2 adults and three children but the life jackets are all for adults, our cabin Stewart tells us that the kids don't need theirs and he will bring 2 children's and one infants life jackets to our room after the drill. Okay that's reasonable, return from the drill no life jackets for the kids. Nothing on day two, we ask again we are told no problem you will have them. Day three still nothing, stop by guest relations to inquire/complain about this and we are told they will be delivered right away. Well right away ended up being on Thursday night, day 5. It was after speaking to the Assistant Cruise director about another issue and mentioning this situation of the life jackets that they were finally delivered. Again where is the customer service, repeatedly asked the cabin steward, spoke to guest relations and nothing was done, luckily they weren't needed but what if they were.
3. Okay I don't recall exactly what day this happened but I believe it was day 3, the day at sea from San Juan to St. Maarten. Win an upgrade to the Owners Suite Bingo; we had received two coupons in the Cruise Compass for a free Bingo Card for this, two since we had booked two cabins. So we go to Bingo buy one Bingo Card for $35.00 and present our two coupons, now nowhere on the coupons do they say any purchase is necessary all the cards say is bring this coupon to Bingo and receive a free Bingo card. We are told that we can only use one coupon since we only purchased one card. I ask the crew member to show me on the coupon where it states a purchase is necessary and she says it's not on there but that is the policy. Again I ask her to show me some documentation of where this is implied and she can't, I ask to speak with a supervisor, I am told that no one is available the Asst, Cruise Director is busy calling Bingo as the game has already started. I ask to speak to his supervisor and I am told that he is not available; I ask how she knows this if she hasn't checked. I am told that there is nothing they can do, that I can take it up with Guest relations. Well that would be convenient for them, I go to guest relations they log it into their book and in the meantime I miss Bingo. Don't get my free card and don't get to use the card I paid for since I am going to Guest relations while the game is going on. Sorry I don't buy into that. I ask them to get an officer or supervisor to come down to assist us. Seeing that I am not going to be easily dissuaded from leaving she proceed to give me the free ticket and states "I wish that Corporate would change these coupons as every cruise this becomes an issue. And that we cheap American are always trying to get something for nothing, that a $10.00 ticket is not worth her hassle." So I infer that this has happened numerous times before and they just try to get the passengers to buy a ticket when it's really not necessary the way the coupons are currently printed. I take the cheap American comment in stride as I know that I will be to speaking with the Cruise Director about this after Bingo.
4. We then proceed to play Bingo, having missed the first game by now, the free ticket was just good for the final game which is the chance to upgrade to the owner's suite. After Bingo I proceed to Guest relations to log the complaint about the affair at Bingo, also the problems we had in finding our room, again to mention that still no life jackets for the kids and one other problem that I will detail later. The person looks at me like I have three heads and says he will log these complaints into his book but that it is very rare for anyone to have so many problems. Again this to me seems as if RCI is taking the position that I am the one with the problem instead of working to rectify their shortcomings. Nothing like burying your head in the sand and acting as if all is well.
5. Service in the dining room was passable, Our Waiter was polite and but not very helpful. He would basically read to us what was on the menu but not offer any recommendations or in any way tells us what to avoid. The asst. waiter was friendly and made and effort to learn all our names on the first night and quickly remembered everyone's drink and bread preferences. Service in Windjammer was non existent, plenty of crew around but all they basically did was clear the tables when a party leaves. No ever offered to get us a drink, clear empty plates away to make more room on the table, or see if we needed a high chair, things like that. We actually had one waitress insult my son to another couple that she didn't realize we were friendly with. The situation was that we ran late one day in getting ready to go the Dining Room for dinner and opted instead to eat at Windjammer, now granted when our son does not take a nap during the day he tends to get cranky and restless. So we figured that a late night dinner at Windjammer at a table away form the main crowd was probably best. Half way thru the dinner our son wanting no part of the food that was available got out of his chair and started walking around our table hitting his sisters on the head playing duck duck goose. It was at this point that the waitress called him a brat to another couple. A little while later as I was going up to get some dessert I was made aware of this and confronted her, I asked her how she felt it was okay to ignore our table the whole time, didn't have time to clear any of our empty plates but found it perfectly okay to insult a 3 year old. Of course she denied having said anything, when I asked if she would like to walk with me the couple she made the comment to she ran off into the back never to be seen again. I approached the Dining room supervisor about this and he promised me that he would speak with her and we would get an apology. We are still waiting for that. I understand we probably should have ordered room service that night but if this waitress or others felt that his behavior was so out of line they should have discreetly approached us and recommend we make a plate for him to go or perhaps order room service. I would not have been offended in any way and would have gladly done so. I have taken my children to some fine restaurants, Spago's In Vegas, and hotels, The Peninsula in Chicago, in many places and have no problem removing them from a public area if I see that their behavior is inappropriate. His behavior was no better or worse then several other children we observed during the cruise and therefore we felt that this casual setting was not inappropriate for him. I found this waitress actions to be offensive and abusive and the lack of response from the supervisor equally disturbing. The next night I voiced my dismay to the head waiter in our dining room who explained that the procedure is they keep a log of these complaints during a sailing and if a wait staff received three complaints against them during any one cruise they are let go. So basically the wait staff can insult two passengers per cruise without worries of a repercussion. Pity!!
6. Lastly on the day of disembarkation, we followed the instructions and waited for our color to be called, it was called an hour earlier then we expected and then what we told the party picking us up, but I guess for people rushing to catch a flight this is a good thing. So we make our way to get off the ship hand our Sea Pass card to the guard and we are told there is a problem and we must go to Guest Relations. We do as we are told, when we get to guest relations I am dealing with the same purser that I spoke earlier in the cruise regarding our Bingo incident. I am told that our CC was denied and he will need another form of payment. Puzzled as to why I ask use their phone to call the CC company, in the meantime I give him another card to run. I turns out that Chase put a stop on our first card as a security measure when they saw large charges for purchases on the various islands we had stopped at. Yes I bought the wife a new Tag Heuer Watch and perfume and and and. Okay I actually admire Chase for this Fraud Protection Initiative, now where is the Purser with my Amex card. He comes and has me sign a receipt and then says he needs to go in the back to get approval. I am used to the merchant getting the approval first then the customer signs the receipt, but okay. After waiting for five minutes and no sign of the pursuer with my card or receipt I ask one of the others Pursuers if he can check on where the original one is and what the delay is. He says to me He is in the back Oh really, I know he is in the back I saw him go back there, what I asked is could he check on what the delay is. SO I ask to speak to a supervisor and I am told that he is the supervisor and no else is available. I see another Pursuer existing from the back and ask her if a supervisor is back their which she states yes would I like to speak with him. She gets him for me and as he comes out so does the one with my card and receipt who then disappears into the back again with the one that claimed no supervisor was available. Supervisor was apologetic but offered no other assistance. My gripe he is why wait until a passenger is almost off the ship to inform them that there is a problem with their account, why not contact them before hand either the night before or that morning to clear up any problems. Again a lack of service.
7. The rake in the Texas Hold'em is 10% up to a max of $10 and the table can only accommodate 7 players. This is very very steep rake for a 7 person $5 -$10 game and they would not cut the rake when 4 or fewer players played, a very common standard in any casino. Also would not up the game even though all the players wanted to play higher stakes nor would they run a tournament. Craps table offered nothing but single odds.
8. The water slide could only be used if the child was 46 inches or taller otherwise they had to go with an adult, okay seems like a reasonable safety requirement right. Well when an adult goes down with a child they get stuck half way down and have to walk down the rest of the way since they slide was designed to slow down in the middle. They consider this to be safe. Walk down a wet slippery surface. Now my 5 years is 42/43 inches all and has been on numerous water slides at various water parks with any trouble but on this ship we had to go down together and get stuck half way down. I then had to push her the rest of the way while walking down.
1. The thing I found most disturbing was that fact that the shower stall in one of our cabins was covered in mold around the base of it. I have pictures of such. Again various comments to Cabin Stewart and Guest Relations, Asst. Cruise Director and nothing was done about this. How awful, we would not let our children in this shower, we were lucky that we had two rooms, what if we didn't. With all the attention being paid to keeping passengers from getting sick on the cruise, we actually had to sign a form about this, you would think that they would want to address the mold issue. I ended up using this shower most of the time and trying my best to remove as much of it as I could using the shower head, I was able to get some off but not a lot.
All in all our experience with RCI Explorer of the Seas was a memorable one but not for the right reasons. We will definitely cruise again but not with RCI, next cruise will be of the Hawaiian Islands, our children loved the cruise and being on the ship, I will not give RCI anymore of my money if they are not going to address their shortcomings and neither should anyone else, there are others choice as far as cruise lines. Read Less