Having had the great pleasure to travel on IOS in a Junior Suite for our honeymoon eight years ago, when she was brand new ship, we were very much looking forward to this, our second voyage on this same vessel. The first was an absolutely ... Read More
Having had the great pleasure to travel on IOS in a Junior Suite for our honeymoon eight years ago, when she was brand new ship, we were very much looking forward to this, our second voyage on this same vessel. The first was an absolutely amazing experience that led us to our decision to book this latest cruise on the same ship, again in a Junior Suite. But oh, how very different this experience was. It started with the cabin. Still spacious with seating area, but the sofa’s (which can be used as a sofabed) support had all but gone. So much so the only way to enjoy it was to place a pillow on it before you sat down. The bed was so hard that I had to use two spare duvets from the closet on top of the mattress before it was even bearable. The two sun loungers on the balcony both had missing slats making it impossible to use them. However, our cabin attendant did change these upon request. Our kettle did not work and also had to be changed, but again at our request. Gone were the bathrobes, again as Diamond members we were able to request them, but only found that out by chance after several days – we were told by the cabin attendant that they are not offered unless people ask, so take note. The room was never cleaned properly. We leave our cabin very tidy, beds straightened and all items put away each day. Yet despite all this the attendant most days simply smartened up the bed, put in new towels but not even dust surfaces. Biscuit crumbs laid undisturbed for several days and no bleach was used to scrub the toilet which over the two weeks developed a grey water-line ring around the bowl. The windows were never cleaned – and this goes for the whole ship, the balcony glass was filthy both sides on departure and was never cleaned throughout the entire voyage. Only the restaurant windows were ever cleaned in port.
Now to the dining experience. We selected “any time” dining, as we prefer the casual café, however on the second formal night we decided we would like to participate and use the formal dining room. Realising this might be busy, as they suggest, the night before we made an advance reservation for 8pm. On arrival at the Romeo & Juliet dining room allocated for such guests, there were two queues – one had at least 80 people in it, the other about 30 and no signs to indicate what each was for. We assumed the shorter might be for those with reservations, but after waiting 10 minutes in this line with no movement, upon asking at the desk we were told that we must join the end of the longer queue to be assigned a table. So a reservation counts for nothing. It was now 8pm. So we waited a further 15 minutes, the queue went no-where and so we gave up and went back to the cabin, changed out of the formal wear and made our way to the Windjammer café.
Turning to this venue – this is nothing short of a zoo. It is a very stressful experience at best, made so much worse by the continual closure of at least half of the seating area plus it's much reduced opening hours vs. our previous trip when it was open till 11pm. No late night snacks here anymore. The only food outside the current hours is a slice of pizza, a pre-filled roll or a pre-packed salad from Sorrento’s in the promenade shops. Or you can purchase a pie for a cool $4.95 at the pie shop or pay $6.95 cover charge for the pleasure of simply occupying a table at Johnny Rockets.
Unlike our last trip on this ship when there were literally teams of staff clearing tables, taking drinks orders, on this occasion there were far less employees and it was a challenge on each occasion, not only to fight to find yourselves an empty table, but to then attract someone’s attention in order to get served a drink from the bar. Several staff seemed content to hide themselves behind the service areas, others stood around just chatting to passengers and seemed to purposefully ignore anyone trying to get their attention leaving their colleagues to do the work.. There appeared to be a total lack of good management in this area.
The food was mediocre, very, very repetitious, and tepid. Think school dinners and you will have the picture. Previously we had nothing but praise for the service and the food in this restaurant but the cutbacks are very evident and the staff morale seems much diminished. Furthermore, on our last 2 days at sea we were interrupted on both days, while eating, to answer questions as to how we would be rating the overall cruise experience and the Windjammer specifically. We were also requested to ensure a good rating was given or it might affect staff jobs as they would be blamed for any misgivings. I took some delight in giving some fairly honest feedback here!
On the pool deck, the sprinkles ice cream machine constantly looked a mess as the drip tray was full of melted ice cream and discarded cones, utterly revolting in its appearance. As for the entertainment: what happened to the singers and dancers? They appeared at the set-sail show then we did not see them again until the penultimate cruise day. Other shows were very varied in quality, Bobby Davro was excellent as were several other entertainers, but there were also some very lack-lustre performances where we decided to leave well before the end. In fact the farewell show was nothing short of pathetic with a comic magician whose jokes were ancient and who should restrict himself to infant’s parties. The two ice shows were good.
This cruise was supposed to go to Mediterranean Beaches with only one port listed as a tender – Villefranche. This port alone, though quaint, is a waste of time, there is nothing there and after an hour, or even less, it’s done with. Why they don’t ferry you to Nice just around the corner is a mystery – or is it, the excursions there cost in the region of $100 per head. Another example of how it’s all geared to money: the berth in Toulon was in fact NOT in Toulon, so to get to Toulon you had to take a ferry across the water at a cost of $18 per head and if you don’t pay for it on the ship, but in the terminal, you board last. Why – you still buy the ticket from Royal Caribbean’s own desk in the terminal at the exact same fare – but because you have a sticker rather than a ticket you have to wait until all the other passengers board. Again, in both Barcelona and Palma, the cruise berth is so far from the centre that you need to take a coach, at a cost of $5 and $10 each respectively. It is possible to walk at both, but it’s about 2 miles each way at the first and over 3 at the second. The only place we arrived and actually saw a beach was Malaga.
So, what really stood out from this trip is that RCI have made severe cuts in many areas and it's not good. With all the silly quizzes, competitions such as belly-flop, sexiest male, etc., just to fill up the cruise compass, plus then being “clapped in” by the staff as we entered the Windjammer as it opened one lunchtime, alongside the constant chanting of “washy-washy” (i.e: use the alcohol gel) as you enter this venue, the whole cruise experience with RCI is fast being downgraded to what feels like a 1970’s holiday camp experience – and I know what I am talking about as I worked a summer season at one of the major ones during that time. The synergies were utterly depressing. As diamond members we had intended to maintain our loyalty to RCI by eventually reaching Gold, but after this trip we will not be booking again – preferring the Cunard experience. Read Less