We booked this cruise in February 2016 in order to get some Autumn sun rather than for the ports of call as we have visited most ports for holiday in the past. When we booked we received the inclusive drinks package, which, based on ... Read More
We booked this cruise in February 2016 in order to get some Autumn sun rather than for the ports of call as we have visited most ports for holiday in the past. When we booked we received the inclusive drinks package, which, based on previous cruises, included wine by the galss, beer, soft drinks, spirits and cocktails (all with a $ limit on each drink). However, a couple of weeks prior to sailing (and after final payment) we received an email explaining that the 'Select' drinks package was no longer available but would be honoured for this cruise: what would be covered was beer, wine, fountain sodas and non-alcoholic cocktails, but with the option to upgrade to the 'Ultimate' package on-board. Not a great start.
Check-in at Southampton was efficient (much better than our last cruise from Southampton) and we were soon on board by about 11:30am. We did upgrade to the 'Ultimate' drinks package on the basis that a piña colada and bottle of San Peligrino water each day would more than cover the upgrade cost.
We had intended to go to the Solarium to chill out after our journey. What we didn't know is that this solarium has no roof, so was too cold to change into swimming shorts. Never been on a ship before where the solarium has no roof; always thought the idea of the solarium was that it was somewhere warm to go regardless of outside weather conditions.
So instead we went to book a table in the Saphire dinroom for 'my time dining'. While waiting we were tempted by the boarding day offer of two meals in the spaciality restaurants for $60 instead of $35 each. We booked tables for 6:30pm at Giovani's Table for the first night and Chops for the second night.
Giovani's Table was excellent. The food was very good and the service matched, with the waiter very attentive but not overwhelming.
Unfortunately, as good as Giovani's Table was, Chops was the complete opposite. First we received a voice message to say that our booking had been changed from 6:30 to 6:00. When I checked I was told that they were very busy and wanted us there earlier so they could accomoextra guests: so much for the guest gets what the guest wants. When we arrived the restaurant was almost empty, so could not understand why our time needed to be changed. The service throughout was rushed, with the waiter constantly looking to see if we had finished each course, and the next course arriving within minutes of finishing the previous. We both ordered steaks for our main course, and were both disapp. My wife ordered the 6oz NY strip and I had the 12oz cooked medium rare. Mine was rare on the inside but almost burnt to a crisp on the outside, and absolutely no flavour. Not a good experience.
The Saphire Dining room was generally very good. We were often seated in the same section so were served by the same waiter and assistant, and wine waiter. Can't fault the waiters, but would like to say Alladin the wine waiter was the best we've had on 11 cruises: although we were ordering wine by the glass he always brought the bottle to the table to serve rather than bringing full glasses (I could actually see I was getting what I had ordered).
The entertainment in Metropolis Theatre was mixed. The 'headliner' acts were all very good (tailored to a British audience as it was a Southampton sailing). Unfortunately the same can't be said for the production shows, which had poor scenery/sets, strange choreography and costumes, erratic singing. As has been said elsewhere the sound system was loud to the extent of distorting the music, so didn't much help the performances. There was not much plot/thread to the shows, just a mix of singing and dancing.
Only tried to go to a couple of quizes, but found the locations they were held not very appropriate (either too small for the numbers attending or not possible for everybody to see what was going on). (Can't imagine how the newer larger ships handle trivia quizzes?)
The other game shows involving audience participation were rather amateurish in their organisation, with the staff having little character or charisma.
Managed to get to a couple of 'enrichment lectures' (which were excellent) but as these were at 9:00am were too early to get to them all.
I have seen reports that sunbeds can be hard to find when the ship is full. Well our cruise was full and rhere were plenty of sunbeds to be had. Yes, the beds nearest the pools went early, but there were plenty more on other decks. We never had any problem getting senbeds at any time of the day.
I would agree with others that there is an air about the ship of RCI constantly trying to get more money out of you. All the restaurants (including specialty restaurants) have 'premium' offerings at additional cost; 'Johnny Rockets' has an additional cover charge (nowhere else to get a burger or hot dog during the day); Starbucks Coffee and Ben & Jerry ice cream are extra.
We never used RCI shore excursions as they are very expansive (most Cruise Critic member will know this), so the only tour we did was as a private small group through the CC forum for our cruise (and was very good and reasonably priced).
Apologies if this sounds very negative, but having completed a few cruises have found that what's included has diminished over the years, and the standard of what is provided has similarly fallen. Having said that, we had an enjoyable cruise, met some nice people from across the globe, and had some good sunshine (which is why we wenr). Read Less