The good: The hard product -- the ship -- was wonderful, with plenty to do for our entire family. The bad: The food and service quality onboard were poor. The ugly: RCL's computer systems were the most atrocious of any we've ... Read More
The good: The hard product -- the ship -- was wonderful, with plenty to do for our entire family. The bad: The food and service quality onboard were poor. The ugly: RCL's computer systems were the most atrocious of any we've run into in our 23+ years of cruising, and this had a huge impact on the enjoyability of our cruise.
We selected the ship to give us a chance to cruise with our children (ages 37-31) and our grandchildren. As things worked out, only 3 of our 4 children and none of our grandchildren could join us. Que sera, sera.
My wife and I take at least 2 cruises yearly since we've retired. We've cruised about 30 times, on RCL, Celebrity, Norwegian, Holland America, Princess, Oceania and Seabourn. And, we're RCL shareholders. We're not rookies. We really hoped this would be something special.
We had three cabins reserved. We tried to make advance reservations for specialty dining and shows three weeks before embarkation. Unfortunately, RCL's computer systems would not allow us to link the three cabins to get reservations for 5 adults. A call to RCL found them unwilling or unable to do anything about this software glitch. We were told "nothing could be done" and we should make our reservations onboard. This was a fabrication by the agent, as everything was booked before boarding. When we complained again, RCL's customer service person intentionally disconnected our call. So, we were completely closed out of every specialty restaurant for the entire cruise, as well as closed out of main dining room reservations after 6:00 pm and before 9:00 pm.
We arrived at Port Canaveral at about 12:15 pm on the day of sailing. One hour later, we reached Pier 18, where Harmony of the Seas berths. Checkin was chaotic -- our Diamond status was of no consequence, and the computer systems to check in were badly malfunctioning. We finally were allowed onboard at 3:30 pm -- a wait of more than 2 hours. This meant that none of us could eat lunch, as the mandatory muster drill was scheduled for 4:15 pm, and then pushed back 30 minutes, as people were still boarding at 4:15 pm. The ship's management was so embarrassed that it made wifi free for all passengers for the entire cruise. Note: The ship was equipped with RCL's "Voom" wifi. Due to heavy (free) use, it didn't seem very much faster than other ship systems, but it was far more reliable. We connected whenever we wished, and were never disconnected during our cruise.
Dinner in the main dining room that evening (and each evening thereafter, as there were no alternatives) took about 20 minutes for seating without a reservation. The food was poor. The first night, everyone at our table ordered what was advertised as "filet mignon". A filet mignon is a slice of beef from the tenderloin, with a unique flavor and texture. The beef served in the dining room did not originate within 8" of a tenderloin -- it was a piece of top sirloin lacking in seasoning and served with canned gravy over it. Ordered medium rare, it came in gray throughout, and had to be sent back. Escargots ordered came in with melted butter solids and little seasoning, rather than clarified garlic butter. On the second night, an order of rack of lamb was so chemically over-tenderized that it had the consistency of mush, and no flavor at all. It was sent back twice with no improvement, and finally "beef Wellington" was substituted.
Worse, the staff had little training or finesse in serving. Not a smile was seen anywhere in the dining room during our three evenings there. Food and dishes were continually served by reaching in front of other party members. The entire dining experience was painful.
Dining in the "Marketplace" buffet on Deck 16 was only marginally better. We tried to get into the buffet (affectionately known to our family as "the Trough") for breakfast on the first morning at about 9:00 am. No luck -- after 30 minutes the line had barely moved. Apparently, the administration of the ship decided that everyone entering the buffet HAD to wash their hands in one of four wash sinks at the entrance. Perversely, this was the only dining venue that had such a requirement, and the requirement was enforced regardless of the wait time or the inconvenience to passengers. We went down to the Park Cafe and had a delightful breakfast sandwich and good coffee for our breakfast. And, no, we did not have to wash our hands there.
We tried the Trough one other time during the cruise -- for lunch. Food quality earned it a grade of C for us. Salads were generally good, but hamburgers should never be served swimming in an inch of nondescript liquid. Tried the "palak paneer", one of our favorite Indian dishes, which should consist of paneer cheese and a creamed, spiced spinach. What masqueraded as palak paneer was cubes of nondescript cheese covered with brown gravy without any spice whatsoever. Any proximity to spinach was coincidental.
We note that the Solarium Cafe was excellent for lunch, and ate there for lunch the other two days. Our only complaint about it was that it is an area posted for "Adults only". The crew and administration apparently didn't care to enforce the posted restriction, and the Cafe at 1:00 pm was overrun with children.
The hard product of the ship is gorgeous. Our cabin -- which in the hotel travel world would be called "ROH veranda" (run of the house with a veranda), was spacious and well equipped. Storage space was ample, especially due to two closets. The bathroom was good. The bed was extremely comfortable for both my wife and me.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Bionic Bar and the Rising Tide Bar. They were fun and novel. The Jazz Club on Deck 4 was excellent, with a great singer, a good jazz band, good service and fun people. On the other hand, the casino was poor. Table minimums in the evenings were $25 or more, and it seemed that the manager would rather have dealers stand idle at tables rather than decrease the minimums so people could play. Of more overriding concern was the fact that the entire casino was filled with cigarette smoke. There was no "Non-smoking" section -- if there was, we couldn't find it through the blue haze. There were no lectures or enrichment activities on a cruise of this short length.
Our adult children enjoyed the cruise a great deal. They had not cruised more than once, and that more than 10 years ago (yes, we're remiss, but....). They had an excellent time on the zip line, the 10-story dry slide, the surf rider and the rock wall. Plus, we bought them all drink packages, so......
In short, the ship's management isn't ready yet for this challenge. And, the RCL IT staff should simply be replaced -- they weren't ready for prime time at all. But we loved the ship, and being with our family. Read Less