Forgive my long rant, but I have borderline remorse with booking this cruise line. I know that I should be open to new experiences & not compare every sailing to previous sailings, but my experience was more negative than positive, ... Read More
Forgive my long rant, but I have borderline remorse with booking this cruise line. I know that I should be open to new experiences & not compare every sailing to previous sailings, but my experience was more negative than positive, although I realize that it could've been worse. To preface, we booked Royal Caribbean in an effort to explore new experiences & on board attractions. I have sailed Carnival as well as MSC (so far the latter is my favorite). The ports of call/itinerary was great & for an aft balcony, thankfully we got a great deal, so it wasn't all bad. Here's a synopsis of my thoughts:
Embarkation: Smooth, timely boarding. Informative & helpful. Checked in & on the ship within 60-90 mins.
The Ship: Pretty fixtures but overall nothing breathtaking or over the top. Most areas were clean with the exception of public restrooms. Many lacked toilet paper & stayed messy for hours on end. We liked the touch screen directories to help us figure out how to get from point A to B, but the elevators were feast or famine, which got really aggravating. Not enough pools or hot tubs, although Flow Rider was cool. Many bars to choose from, but Café Promenade was an "oh but why?" disappointment (see below). Beautifully decorated for Christmastime. Getting around got easier with each day.
Cabin: Average (not looking a gift horse in the mouth), shower was tiny but I liked the fact that it had doors vs. a flimsy curtain. Ample drawer & cabinet space. Our safe never worked & we could not get it fixed or replaced. This ticked me off. There was a "cooler", of sorts (maybe a wine chiller), not meant to be a refrigerator substitute, makes you wonder why it was there? Bed was comfortable, enjoyed having the reading lights.
Dining: This was more "miss" than "hit". Windjammer was the same breakfast every day, absolutely no variety. Many lunches/dinners were overloaded with curry & other exotic dishes. My biggest peeve was the fact that I was not able to make my own sandwich with decent cold cuts. Pre-assembled sandwiches, yuck. However, my biggest grievance with this is that I have a tomato allergy, so every pre-assembled sandwich had tomato on it so this was not an option for me at all. I was very disappointed in Windjammer. The hours were sort of ridiculous, as well. There were only 2 places to get a snack after 9 pm: Johnny Rockets (open until 11:30 pm) and "Café Promenade" (again, pre-made sandwich halves with tomatoes on all). Pizza was "meh" (frozen is way better), Main dining room was Sapphire & this was a crap shoot, as well. Variety really lacked. I couldn't even eat my first night's meal (pork chop) because my fork wouldn't even pierce the meat it was so tough. However, one night I had bay scallops for an appetizer & they were wonderful. Dining room staff were always polite and on point, so giving a plus for good service. We noticed many unsatisfied diners over the course of 9 nights & by the last night, the dining room volume dwindled to many empty tables. Bottom line: the food preparation/variety needs A LOT of work.
Staff: Most were very pleasant & helpful. Most would smile with a "hello" as we walked by. I saw a few who just looked miserable. Great to have lifeguards at the pools. One of my favorite staff members was "Mr. Washie-Washie" who greeted us daily at Windjammer, reminding everyone to sanitize their hands. Side note about him: one day we were walking in & Mr. Washie-Washie tried to stop a passenger who tried walking in with no shoes on (can you say "gross"?). The man walked in anyway & caught hell for doing so by other passengers. Disgusting. I applaud Washie-Washie for speaking up. Our waiter at dinner was Ozzy & assistant waiter was Ranjit; both were wonderful, aside from many food issues we had. Our cabin steward was Garfield, also very efficient & accommodating to us. Most bartenders were very nice & pool deck servers were never far when we wanted a drink on deck. I was very happy with the service overall.
Casino: This is my bone to pick with Royal Caribbean. Their contract & everything at check-in stated the "cashless system" on board, yet we could not charge casino credits to our Set Sail card without paying a 5% fee for cash vouchers. 2 other cruise lines we've sailed do not exercise this practice. This was a total slap in the face, just another way for RC to make money. In my view it's borderline unethical. Do not claim that you're "cashless" then penalize passengers who pay thousands of dollars for their cruise vacation already, by charging folks who are led to believe that they can't use cash on board. Royal Caribbean, you know you're wrong for this. I was NOT happy.
Ports: The itinerary was great but Labadee really didn't measure up to anything we expected. On the plus side, they fed us lunch, which was very nice (although it was the same hot dogs & hamburgers they serve every day at lunch in Windjammer). The down side, ziplining was $110 per person & we could only go one time. Total ripoff. Next port was Curacao, which was gorgeous. Bonaire was a little boring, IMO....but they saved the best for last...Aruba. We went tube riding on Eagle Beach & had a blast. Overall a great itinerary.
Medical: We had 2 medical emergencies on board & both times I prayed that no one was seriously hurt or sick. Both incidents were handled very professionally & with minimal disruption.
Activities: I can file this in the "they're trying" category. I saw the efforts to appeal to many age groups. Nothing stood out as "I have to do that'.
Debarkation: We did self-assist option as we had a 12 pm flight on New Year's Eve. We were off the ship by 8:30 am, very smooth, no issues.
Although our vacation wasn't a total bust, Royal Caribbean has a lot of improvements to make with regard to dining & casino practices. Staff & service were as expected. I'm still glad that I at least tried Royal Caribbean, but not sure my experience wowed me to convince me to book another Royal sailing. Our next cruise is MSC Seaside in June 2018. Will probably go with Norwegian or Celebrity next. Read Less