November 25th, 2017 Sailing from San Juan
We chose this particular cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas because we like to sail the week after Thanksgiving when there are not many children on the ... Read More
November 25th, 2017 Sailing from San Juan
We chose this particular cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas because we like to sail the week after Thanksgiving when there are not many children on the ship. Also we were repeating a very enjoyable experience of traveling with two other couples same time last year. I researched other reviews before writing this one, and I want to offer that I have, in the past, lived through a major hurricane and its aftermath. I understand that folks want a break from their misery and a way to express their relief. Royal Caribbean has been very generous in giving back to the people of Puerto Rico. Therefore, any mention of discontent over the conditions that existed on this ship might appear to be mean spirited or perhaps an expression of snobbishness. I say no to that…no malice, bias or snobbery is intended. This is merely an expression of our experience. We have a level of expectation when we travel for which we are unapologetic since we pay dearly for it. The relevant question here is how much money does a company have to make before they feel they can take the very folks who are the foundation of their success and thumb their noses at them?
Upon arrival in Puerto Rico, we were among the lucky ones who were booked by Royal Caribbean at the La Concha Renaissance. The flight to San Juan was eye-opening as almost every other roof is covered with blue tarp. Many trees are downed and the electricity is sporadic. The locals have to scramble for water, have no A/C and no lights. It's very sad. Our hotel is equipped with two generators so we can hardly tell anything is amiss outside of the complex. It's cool, modern, clean, and everyone is very friendly. They share their experiences only when asked and with humor and gratitude to have survived the storm. We relaxed, ate poolside and it was very good.
Upon arrival to the ship the next day, we were the first onboard and were escorted to our suites. The concierge staff could not have been more accommodating. The adorable Maria who sat in for the sick Sucel was a doll. When Sucel showed up after recovering, she was very efficient, sweet and granted our every request. The concierge staff all worked so hard to be cheerful and were very reluctant to show any displeasure about a very demanding situation, but it is hard to ignore grace under fire. If someone from Royal is reading this...please know that your concierge level staff is where they are because they EARNED it through hard work and by being the face of your company.
So, we always choose not to eat in the dining rooms. We purchased dinner packages alternating between Giovanni's and Chops. These are the only two specialty restaurants on the ship. Our waiters were seasoned, professional and welcoming. The food is only adequate. They push quantity but it does not mask the fact that the food is just not up to standard. There are some very nicely prepared dishes, but there is very little evident freshness. The use of too much salt amplifies the need for drinks.
The Windjammer was completely overwhelmed by guests. There were children running around unsupervised and the food trays were often empty. The stacks of clean dishes were hard to find as entire families of passengers each carried two or three filled to the brim. The same was true for utensils. It was impossible to navigate around masses of people juggling overflowing plates to overpopulated tables filled with loudness, screaming, and total disregard for anyone. There was food on the floor, scrambling servers trying to keep up, and the din of people yelling to each other over the expanse between counter and table. It was challenging to even enter the room at all because in the cruise line’s efforts to keep the passengers disease free, sinks are lined up against the wall in the open so that hands can be washed and air dried. One hopes it has an impact but mostly it seemed to just cause a bottleneck that confused many. There were literally hundreds of people trying to pass folks washing up at five sinks. In order to help work around this situation, we had breakfast delivered to our suite each day. We did have two very enjoyable and fun meals at Johnny Rockets only because it was empty while we were in port. Otherwise, we avoided the Windjammer and only when completely necessary, we sent the person who drew the short straw to fetch food in that den of anarchy and chaos.
We normally enjoy karaoke. On this particular sailing with so many Spanish speaking folks onboard, the playlist was mostly Latin. The cruise staff in charge of this activity are Spanish speaking so we had no way of knowing that this first night experience would be a forewarning of what I will call the "theme" of the week. We only went the one night. We saw The Platters in an empty theater with only a sprinkling of other shipmates. It was heartbreaking to see these very talented folks play to a mostly empty theater. They are true talents and it was a joy and privilege to attend this show.
We like to spend lots of time in the casino. It is one of the public places on the ship where you are allowed to smoke. We are not smokers, but this is one of those things that comes with the territory. If you want to gamble, you tolerate the smokers. As usual, there is no adequate ventilation in the casino even when only the smoking gamblers are present. However, on this particular cruise, many folks just showed up to smoke and not gamble. Many of them were in groups of five, six, or more who sat with backs to machines puffing away. It created an intolerable situation only exacerbated by the fact that the machines seemed to be set to never pay out.
There are lounge chairs in spaces on the pool deck that are reserved for suite guests. Suite guests or those having Diamond (or higher) status are identified by showing gold cards. This means they have paid for this privilege by purchasing a suite or by being repeat cruisers. As there were many children on this cruise, it was crucial to find a place without running and screaming and rowdiness. Having read another review, I learned that schools in Puerto Rico were understandably closed after the hurricanes. Normally we would just think of this unforeseen circumstance as bad luck and continue to enjoy our quieter area. However, there was no enforcement of this benefit. The ropes delineating these areas were not kept closed. If they had been, it would force a prospective pool recliner to view a sign that clearly states the designation. A blue-carded guest and his friend were allowed to set himself up with a tripod and camera to film a poolside event. I saw a waiter accept a tip so that a group of men without gold cards could use the area. When a gold card guest pointed it out, these men were asked to move. They then sat as close as possible to where she was seated and heckled her. This was not an isolated incident. Security was made aware of this situation every day only to ignore the problem the next day.
There were many such incidents onboard involving elevator etiquette, proper attire for common areas, running and shouting in hallways and general un-shipmate-like behavior. Tensions escalated as the week sailed by. When some particularly ridiculous waiting time was necessitated by a family having a lengthy conversation while holding the elevator doors opened, I asked politely that the door be released so I could get to my floor. I was rudely told by the offender’s father that they are on “vacation mode” so I guess allowing your children to be disrespectful is okay in “vacation mode” and too bad for me.
I found myself longing for the days when you boarded a Royal Caribbean ship and it was like entering a world of gentility and courtesy where everyone is happy to share the common experience of sailing. Folks smiled at each other. They greeted each other and made conversation about how wonderful they are being treated. No one wants it to ever end. The fun. The food. The slowing down of time and calming effect of the sea. You wear your gold card around your neck like a trophy to the number of cruises you have under your belt. Every cruise delivers the same benchmark of contentment as the last. This was none of that. It was just awful and Royal Caribbean should be ashamed. They abandoned the folks like ourselves who expect to be treated special because that is what we are. We are Diamond travelers. We spend the big bucks. We upgrade and gamble. Our printouts on the last day are pages long. You cannot expect us to pay more and get less while you devalue and give away our hard earned privileges.
We complained on our last day to Luca who showed up one evening at the Concierge Lounge. He is, I think, head of Passenger Relations on the ship. He is very nice and smiles a lot. He listened as we described to him some of what is written here. He nodded and said it’s really nobody’s fault. It’s a clash of cultures. He offered us a small credit towards our next cruise, and I think he gave as much as he is empowered to give in these instances. However, I say that it was an unprecedented experience for us and this unsatisfactory offering does not erase it. It feels demeaning to use it. It’s hush money. We feel betrayed and overlooked. We feel compelled to warn others because it is an insult. Perhaps Royal Caribbean is making a choice. We are not the folks to whom they are targeting their brand. Yes, we see it clearly. There is no other choice but to acknowledge that we have experienced how you have thumbed your noses at us and to that, I say, shame on you, Royal Caribbean. SHAME ON YOU! Read Less