First, let me say this was our 6th cruise with RCCL and our second time on the Oasis. We are Crown&Anchor Platinum members. We have only ever cruised RCCL and we have gone on cruises as a couple, as a small family, and as a full ... Read More
First, let me say this was our 6th cruise with RCCL and our second time on the Oasis. We are Crown&Anchor Platinum members. We have only ever cruised RCCL and we have gone on cruises as a couple, as a small family, and as a full family/friends.
Our first cruise was a wonderful experience 6 years ago, and we have always been excited to go on our yearly cruise. I feel it necessary to say we have seen a decline in service, though, over the years. After filling in our online customer satisfaction survey, and then reading reviews here that mirror almost exactly what our own comments were, I decided to write our own review, based on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I realize in reading my review that it seems we had a terrible time, which we truly didn't. This review is more a review illustrating the decline from previous excellent cruises we have had (and on the Oasis). They just didn't deliver the "Wow!" factor this time.
Overall, we still had a very good time. Features of the ship we love are the Solarium, although get there before 11:00, or after 5:00 if you want to get a chair. It's also bizarre to see more towels on chairs than people.... for hours.... it's just not fair, but that's just disrespectful passengers. We love the wide variety of activities and entertainment. What a ship! Boardwalk, carousel and candy store are great. Track and fitness facilities excellent! Always something to do.
The kids group was awesome. Our 4 year old couldn't wait to get to his "boys and girls club". We like the options for his eating lunch there (on land days), dining flexibility, after hours continued care for a fee (although, we have just found out that NCL charges $6/hour after 10:30. RCCL is $7/hour after 10:00; also NCL offers kids activities from the very first night, and RCCL does not). I like that we can now sign waivers online ahead of time for things like skating and the flowrider. However, it would be nice to be able to book the littlest one into the kids group online as well and save the line to sign him in onboard (to then explain why he couldn't stay that day because they weren't really open). We were worried about the time of the year (kids in school) for our 16 year old, but after the first night she found friends and had a great time for the rest of the cruise. One of our little issues is that their curfew is supposed to be 1:00 a.m., however they seem to be able to hang around on board all night if they were to so chose so we could see this wasn't really enforced all that much. Our daughter felt there was not enough "teen time" organized for things like basketball, karaoke, etc. at those venues and after looking through the compass, she's right.
We like the My Time Dining so we could see the mood/plans of the kids and then decide if it was just 2, 3 or 4 for dinner, when we wanted to book the time. There was only one evening they couldn't really accommodate a time, and they put us in the Solarium Bistro for no additional cost and the waiter, food and ambiance was excellent. We really liked the photo "binders" for this cruise (MUCH nicer than meandering through walls and walls of pictures) and the pictures were some of the best I have had taken. We spent a lot on pictures. However..... that story turns into The Ugly later on...
The washrooms are always so clean. There is always someone cleaning them (make a point to say thank you... they count) and you know, I really don't mind being accosted with hand sanitizer everywhere if it keeps us healthy. Thank you.
Booking stuff online before the cruise was hard. We know to book shows ahead of time, however we really don't find this convenient. The website would indicate that things were not available, calling wouldn't get anywhere and they would just recommend customer service when we got onboard, so we would have to jump into the customer service line in the first couple of days which I really felt bad about in case passengers had something "really important" to talk about. However, this is how we got into the 20's Prohibition Party and that was really excellent. We also booked Cats for a certain time (first night) and were bumped to matinee on last day at sea (the last thing I want to do on my last day) with absolutely no explanation. We spent the week watching people leaving activities they were enjoying because they had a "show booked". We couldn't get into many shows and were told "you should have booked online ahead of time"..... we tried! You know.... first come, first served. Much more convenient. We were disappointed there was no wine package. We did not do the drink package (impossible to give additional tips for good service and we really didn't end up drinking its' value in past cruises), but did note that the per drink prices have gone up!
The ship is just so huge and you really lose a certain feeling of intimacy (yes, there can be intimacy on a cruise ship!). Activities (like anything involving pools... belly flop, etc.) are divided up and not in one place (a size issue). Cruise Director was..... around....... but certainly didn't feel "accessible". Most afternoons the Compass would announce reggae music on the pool deck, however it didn't happen.... and on more than one afternoon. We notice there is not the same amount of bar service wait staff on the pool deck, so you are likely to have to go get your drinks at the bar (I know... boo hoo right?! However, we have noticed this service decline in the last 6 years, so obviously there have been staff cuts.) Most of the bartenders were really excellent.
Service decline is also evident in the dining rooms. Excellent staff, however service slower as if there are more tables to be waited on. I will not mention our waiter so as not to get him into trouble, however their day's hours are deplorable. The Maitre D' did not come by after dinner to discuss the agenda for the next day, and there was no real and clear bartending service (like the drink of the evening). We were quite frankly HUGELY disappointed about the food in the Windjammer. Even on the "lessor" RCL ships we have been on, there was a variety of food that changed daily. I don't know if this has changed on all ships, but every afternoon it was mostly the same food choices for lunch, and every evening as well. Cuts are once again evident in the staterooms. Ashford was very nice and did a great job. However, there certainly seems to have been less stateroom attendants in the hallways as on other cruises. We missed daily animals (I know... takes time, but when you have a 4 year old, it's really appreciated! Our first cruise it was nightly). We tried ordering room service (I have a soft spot for the dip) on a variety of different times of days, and it was always at LEAST 30 minutes to an hour to receive; so we only went through with it twice. Previous cruise on Oasis and other ships, it was about 15 to 30 minutes.
The pressure to buy, buy, buy and spend, spend, spend. I felt as accosted (albeit in a more nice and classy manner) as I do on the streets of the ports. I have never seen so much paper wasted on advertising sales (uh... Save the Waves?!), voicemail messages, TV messages; and then it got creepy, because it would become targeted to where we were spending our money, like an increase in casino advertising, etc. It really turned us off, and aside from the beverages, we did not spend as much as we would usually have done. I really felt I had bought into some time-share shopping plan of sorts, and not a vacation. It's my vacation, and not a week-long trip to the (expensive) mall. I can easily avoid the port shopping talks, and the port shops, however it was really, really hard to avoid this gigantic marketing campaign.
This leads to our issue with the Crown and Anchor Society rewards. No paper coupons anymore, only on SeaPass card. "Up to the passenger" to keep track. This got very confusing; some bars/shops would offer the discount/offer immediately, others wouldn't. We thought some bars didn't honor the rewards. And there's a reduction in benefits. I really didn't need 10% off tux or $5 off bag of laundry. But I did miss the $5 match play at the casino. And then..... your kids can't honor their offers unless you open up the spending on their SeaPass card..... (did you read above? 16 and 4). The last time our daughter's SeaPass card got released (we had said no purchasing, but handed it over to book a shore excursion which automatically and with no notice opened up her purchasing) we received a $200 arcade bill on the last night... oops. So sorry, but there will be no spending privileges on her SeaPass card. And the photo counter won't budge. The reward was purchase one picture full fare, one 50% off; (and $22.50 is a little extreme for one picture to begin with). And if your kids' SeaPass card is not open to purchasing, you will NOT get this reward, (despite "dad" being the one with the credit card who is doing all of the paying). It took 90 minutes of back and forth between Photo counter and Customer Service. They reissued son's card (with purchasing) on the last night, and when it once again didn't work at the photo counter we were then told it took up to 24 hours to get purchasing instated on the card (um.... we were leaving the ship in less than 24 hours?!) Finally, one smart Customer Service agent simply credited our SeaPass account, (was that so hard?)
We opted for last off ship (10:45) so we could sleep in before the long travel home. Well, the door knocking began at 8:00 that they had to check the mini bar and the knocks continued (despite the Do Not Disturb) for the duration until someone very angrily told us at 9:45 that it was unacceptable that we were still in our room and we had to get out. Through all the paperwork, I do not see anything that said there was a particular time to be out of the room. Just the 10:45 to get off the ship.
We booked our next cruise on the last evening (like we usually have done). The woman was very nice, quoted us for an 11 days cruise for 2016, told us we could have the balcony for the ocean view price, took down the info for the deposit, etc. We received the statement this week, and the cruise is for 10 days and doesn't even go to the same ports! It's a "special" 10 day. In addition, the price (even allowing for Canadian conversion) is 30% more than what she had said, (and that's with 1 full day less!). 30 minutes with RCCL customer service and we now have 2 fully different other rates. We have decided to "jump ship" for a cruise and try NCL. We are receiving a Family Suite for 6, with alcohol packages included for two, purchasing the two others). When we divide the costs by 6, it's going to cost us less than the statement I received just for 4 people with no alcohol included.
We might go back to RCCL one day, but will certainly keep an eye on reviews to see if things improve first.