My destination was the ship, but the itinerary included Charleston, SC, Port Canaveral, FL, Miami, FL, Nassau, Bahamas, and Coco Cay, Bahamas. Coco Cay got cancelled for safety reasons, as the water was very choppy and they only expected it to get worse. I completely agreed with the decision to cancel this stop.
Charleston, SC is a quaint old city, full of southern charm and southern ideals. Though the ship docked around 730am, nothing opened until 930am. The city was a ghost town. There was a parade at noon, as it was St Patrick's Day.
I did not take any excursions at Port Canaveral. The port itself has nothing nearby, so I would have needed to take a cab anywhere I wanted to go. I considered renting a car for the day to go visit a friend, but all of the reviews for the local rental car agencies indicated that this would be a pain, so I stayed on board all day.
At Miami, we got off the ship and went to Bayside Market. This is essentially an outdoor shopping mall. There is a park next to the market, but the park was closed due to preparations for a music festival the following weekend. A cab to the market cost just shy of $12 for two people. There is also a free trolley that will take you to the market, and you can also take a different trolley into another part of Miami. The trolleys are confusing to navigate, and we wound up on the wrong trolley for a while. It was fine, though; we had plenty of time and we used the trip to play Pokemon Go.
The port at Nassau was very much like every other port in the Caribbean. Overpriced high end stores with an additional markup dominated the area, interspersed with a myriad of kitschy gift shops selling chinese souvenirs that say "Nassau". The straw market was essentially a giant flea market, only all of the vendors were selling the exact same merchandise. Each person, mostly women, sitting at a booth, would say "Hey, beautiful, would you like a souvenir?" "t-shirts half off" "I made this myself". I did buy a carved wooden goat, which I am sure I paid too much for, but goats are hard to find and as far as I am concerned, I paid exactly enough.
I also visited the pirate museum, at $13 a person this is an acceptable diversion for half an hour or an hour, depending on your mood and interests. It is kid friendly, so if you have kids the pirate museum is a great educational choice.
The best part of Nassau was finding a bottle of Coca Cola made with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. I wish I could have taken a 6-pack on board with me. Even though I had the refreshment package, it just wasn't the same.
As mentioned above, Coco Cay was cancelled. Instead, we got the "luxury" of an additional sea day. By the end of three sea days, everyone seemed frantically ready to get off the ship.
The demographic of cruisers on this particular voyage was mostly elderly. Many of the cruisers were in wheelchairs, using walkers, portable oxygen concentrators, power chairs, etc. That meant that there weren't as many available activities that were "active" as there might be on a different sailing where the average age was less than 65. There were a few middle aged and younger folks, but I'd say that age group was less than 10% of the ship.
Many of the crew members were very nice. Endro, our cabin attendant, was very kind and compassionate. My traveling companion was sick the entire time - at first it was from her chronic pain, but then she developed a respiratory illness. She slept most of the day, only leaving the cabin for dinner, essentially self-quarantining. Endro always asked me how she was feeling, and always asked her how she was feeling when she did emerge.
Our assistant waiter, Milo, was very charming. From Montenegro, he always had a big smile for us. He called us "my ladies" and took very careful care of us. Once he figured out what we liked to drink, he always had it ready for us.
Our waiter, Alexander, was very kind and jovial. One night when my cruising partner didn't come to dinner because she was not feeling well at all, he got the galley to put together a plate for me to take back to the cabin for her. When he found out I liked the rolls with the pumpkin seeds, he brought a bunch of them out. I asked if we could have a plate with a lid to take them back to our cabin, and he did. I snacked on those rolls for three days. Additionally, I have a shellfish allergy, which I informed the special needs team of far in advance of the cruise, but he wasn't aware of it. Regardless, he made very sure that the galley prepared my meals away from any shellfish exposure. Since my reaction is an airway reaction and is triggered from as minor of an exposure as food cooked on the same grill as shrimp, I very much appreciate this care.
We found another assistant waiter in the morning, named Jay, who was VERY kind. When my companion asked for hot cocoa one morning, he didn't know what she meant, even though it's on the menu. He said "I'll try."
He came back with this amazing concoction that we believe involved heated milk with a bar of chocolate melted in it. It was so smooth and creamy, that I and another lady at the table also asked for it. The next day we were seated in Jay's section again, and he made us his hot cocoa again. When we told him how much we appreciated it (and showed our appreciation with a tip), he got this big smile and told us to always sit in his section and he'd take care of us. We tried to always be in his section, but even when we weren't, he still made the hot cocoa and brought it over to us. It was very welcome, because what we were given was made from hot cocoa mix and not nearly as good.
Jay, Milo, Alexander, and Endro all made the cruise a pleasant experience. They were friendly and attentive, compassionate when we weren't feeling well, jovial when we were, and they all received extra tips from us. We prepaid our tips when I booked the cruise, but those four men went above and beyond to meet and exceed our expectations.
Since I had purchased the refreshment package, I tried a few times to get a drink from the various bars, but I basically got blown off every time. I don't drink alcohol, because of certain medications I'm on, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't have been tipping for a non-alcoholic drink. Sure, I'm overweight, and was wearing cargo shorts and a printed t-shirt, rather than some fancy clothes with lots of makeup and jewelry, but I was on vacation, and I dressed for comfort, not to impress. I actually tip very well, and I make very good money, but sadly, they didn't get to benefit from that because they did not want to serve me a drink.
The R Bar in the Centrum was the worst. I was actually told that they don't make any drinks that aren't on their very limited menu. Someone gave themself a tip in the Crown Lounge, where I never even visited AT ALL. I did ask Guest Services to remove that tip (something I never thought I would ever do). My reason is that the one time I tried to go to the Crown Lounge it was closed for some private event, and I had to leave, so I figure it's just not open to regular cruisers who aren't Diamond or above. I just wanted a nice quiet place to sit with my laptop and read. I did not get anything to drink up there, and never showed my SeaPass to anyone there, and thus I never received service from the Crown Lounge. I suspect the tip came from the Island Fusion drink I had with dinner - but as gratuities are included with the cost of the refreshment package, and I was not presented with a receipt or asked to tip, I felt that simply assigning a tip to herself was unacceptable. I had budgeted several hundred dollars to tip for drinks, but I give those tips in cash, in person, because I want to be certain the person who is actually serving me gets the money. The dining room and stateroom staff benefited from it instead.
The staff at the bar up at the pool deck was great. I dropped my cup and broke the lid, and they got me a new one with a smile. Sadly, I did not get the male bartender's name.
The cruise activities were a bit lacking. Everything listed as a "seminar" was used as an excuse to try to sell something. One seminar that I attended in the Schooner Bar was impossible to understand, because the music was so loud and the presenter's accent was very heavy. She was very kind, but when we asked her to ask them to turn the music down, she basically told us we had to make the best of it. There were only two of us attending that seminar, and I lost interest about 5 minutes into it, because I had no idea what she was saying. It ultimately turned into an advertisement to come to the spa and have a body composition analysis scan done for $50. (The machine used to do this costs about $50 on amazon.com, by the way.)
The final sea day, however, there was a "street fair" in the Centrum. It involved a lot of activities such as puzzles, a giant Connect 4 game against one of the activity members named Orlando, limbo, "Make a bed faster than a cabin attendant" (my favorite), tossing a football into a frame, and various other games. The prizes for playing/participating were "Big Bob Bucks" which entered you into a drawing for some prizes. That fair was amazingly fun, though it didn't last long enough - it was only 45 minutes long. It was the best activity that was held on board the ship, and it simply didn't last long enough, particularly given the number of people who were trying to participate. Two hours would probably be better. I would like to see more activities like that - they were engaging, interesting, and participatory.
Orlando also held a paper airplane contest in the Centrum. That was also a lot of fun, though many of the people there were expecting to learn how to make paper airplanes. This is another example of the types of activities I would like to see more of. Things that people can TOUCH and DO. INTERACT. Caroline with her zumba and dance classes was a joy to interact with - she is a ball of positive energy, and extremely friendly.
The weird thing with the "fun/interesting" activities like the zumba, the paper airplanes, the street fair, and the other activities like that, is that they were quickly shoved aside so that the people presenting to "sell" could prepare. 15 minutes to set up a projector and whatever else in the centrum prior to their presentation, and the activities before them had to shift to accommodate them. It was very obvious, and very disjointed.
I was definitely less than thrilled with Guest Services. I actually needed their help a few times, and they were not very helpful at all on several occasions. The first time I visited them was when my cup broke, and they told me I had to go to the bar to get a new cup, but that it wouldn't be a problem at all. Okay, I can understand that - cups are beverages, beverages are the purview of the bar department, so this was an interaction I would consider positive.
The second time I visited guest services was to ask if the windows would be cleaned on the ocean view cabins at any of the stops. Our window was quite salt encrusted from the day we got on the ship and it was very hard to see out. I told the lady that it really wasn't a big deal, but if they happened to be out there with hoses and could hit our window with some fresh water, we'd appreciate it. I was told that the windows are only cleaned at certain ports. It's not really THAT big of a deal, though I paid an extra $400 for the ocean view cabin so I could see the water, and it would have been nice to be able to actually see out. I don't really blame guest services for this one - this is more a ship maintenance issue. The windows on deck four were not cleaned at all the entire cruise. I would have expected them to be cleaned either in Miami or Nassau, given how long we were actually in those ports.
The next time I visited guest services, it was because one of my AAA perks had not been delivered to my room. One of my perks for booking the cruise involved a bottle of champagne being in the room when we boarded, but it was not in the room when we arrived. I waited a few days, thinking "oh, they'll bring it tomorrow", but it never came. When I went to guest services, they told me they had no record of this perk, and that I would have to call my travel agent. They did offer to let me have one phone call to call my travel agent, but since we were in port at Miami and not leaving for the next 6 hours, I just used my cell phone. I spent about 40 minutes on the phone with my travel agent as he tried to figure out what was going on, and then he told me he was going to have to call Royal Caribbean to straighten it out. He wound up spending about 40 minutes himself trying to get through and get it straightened out. He called me back and let me know that it should be delivered to my stateroom that evening, or the following evening.
On 3/20 a gift card for $50 off a spa service was delivered to my room, to congratulate "my special occasion" (I'm still not sure what that occasion was). Unfortunately, it was set to expire on 3/21, could not be used with any other offer, and even with the $50 off, the cost of any of the services I could or would use was still more than I would pay at my spa at home. I felt like the certificate was sent to try to get out of providing the promised bottle of champagne, but it appeared to just be a thinly disguised attempt to get me to spend more money on the ship. Ultimately, the champagne arrived three nights later, on 3/22, day 7 of the cruise.
The evening entertainment was okay. I enjoyed the violin/guitar duo, and the juggler; they were the best performers on the ship. There was a group of four performers (piano, guitar, vocalist and I forget the fourth) that was also pretty good. I only made it through about 4 songs in the broadway Rhythm and Rhyme show before I left. It just wasn't my style; the performers were fine, the dancing was nice. None of it was anything to write home about or rave over, but none of it was terrible, either.
And finally, a hilarious story to end the cruise, but unfortunately the worst guest services experience of them all.
The final morning, disembarkation day, I woke up at 6am. I did the normal bathroom stuff, and started getting ready. I woke my companion up. I finished packing the last odds and ends into my carry on bag. I went to the closet to get dressed. T-shirt, bra, underwear, socks... umm... where are my pants? They're not behind my coat... uh oh.
There are numerous reminders given to guests to keep clothes for disembarkation. NUMEROUS. In the Cruise Compass, for several days prior to the end of the ship. In some of the ship announcements. Online in the various groups, the "what not to do on a cruise" sites, etc. But on Friday night, as I packed everything up for disembarkation on Saturday, I emptied the closet of everything except the clothes for the next day. And I accidentally packed the pants I had set aside. I wound up being THAT person. I had shirt, shoes, socks, underwear... but no pants. I had even packed the dirty pants that I wore on Friday into my companion's suitcase and tossed the suitcases out into the hall, as instructed.
It was completely my fault. COMPLETELY. But I was at a loss - what should I do? My t-shirt wasn't long enough to cover my underwear. All our clothes were in our suitcases. (She had all of her clothes, since she had kept her same pants that she wore on Friday.) She went up to guest services to ask for advice. They said they would send someone down to find the bag. She came back to the room.
Half an hour later, we had heard no update. She called guest services again and gave them THE SAME INFORMATION again. They said they would send someone down to look for our bag and bring it to our room.
Another half an hour went by. We were now at about 1 hour prior to needing to get off the ship. I had had no breakfast. I still had no pants. I called guest services to ask them how they would like me to handle this, since I still have no pants. Should I just come out half naked? They collected the same information about our luggage AGAIN (for the third time) and said that they would send someone down to look, but since it was so close to time to disembark they couldn't promise anything. The situation was reported to guest services at 6:30 am - well before we pulled into the dock, so saying that it was too close to disembarkation time was not really a good answer.
Finally, at 815, I called guest services one final time. I was told that my name was not on the list for group 4 luggage. Um... then why did the cabin attendant give us group 4 tags? I informed her at this point not to send anyone down, I was just going to borrow a bedsheet and make a skirt, which I would give to someone at the luggage area to return to the ship. I thanked her for her help and hung up.
By this point, I was very frustrated. I understand that it was completely my fault, but mistakes do happen. Please don't tell me you're going to help me and then not actually do anything. Don't tell me that my name isn't on the list for group 4 when the tags I was given were for group 4. Had I known that guest services wasn't going to actually do anything to help, I could have asked my roommate to go get me some breakfast and bring it back to the cabin.
But I gathered myself, pulled the sheet off the bed, folded it in half lengthwise, and with the folded edge at the bottom, I created a knee-length, white wrap-around skirt. I tucked up the corners, since they refused to hang nicely, put my winter coat on over the whole outfit, and walked off the ship with my head held high. Only a few people noticed my fancy skirt, and I smiled at them and told them it's okay to laugh. When I went through customs and they asked if I had anything to declare, I considered declaring that "I'm not wearing any pants!" but I decided not to bring attention to myself.
When I got down to the luggage area, I found our suitcases, including the duffel bag with Friday's clothes on it, and moved off to the side. I opened the duffel bag, pulled out my jeans, slipped off my shoes, and pulled my jeans on in the luggage claim area. It was really no different than pulling jeans on over top of a swim suit. I then found someone at the entrance to the luggage claim area to give the sheet to and asked her to please return it to the ship for me. She said she'd take care of it for me.
I have to admit that I got a huge laugh out of the whole ordeal, and so have about a thousand other people so far who've read about my error.
I just felt like this cruise did not live up to my expectations for the quality that Royal Caribbean used to be known for. Guest services was never actually helpful, many of the crew members seemed to be dejected and demoralized, and only the waiters and cabin staff seemed to care. I sailed on Vision of the Seas in November, and I very much found myself missing that ship and crew on this cruise. I will travel on Allure this coming November, and look forward to seeing how the big Oasis class ships differ from the smaller Vision class ships. Read Less