This review is my umpteenth cruise on Royal Caribbean and for all its faults I keep coming back.
The review covers a 14 day cruise down to the Canary Islands round trip from Southampton.
Embarkation was very simple from City Terminal and arriving after I.00pm I was able to board within about ten minutes. New for this year is that you are allowed to take on board two bottles of wine per stateroom.
I travel solo and enjoyed a mini suite on deck nine. As far as the cabin was concerned there was very little difference from last year’s cruise except the cabin was slightly smaller (than Independence of the Seas) and to keep up the penny pinching standard RCL have installed restrictors on the wash basin taps. This I find infuriating it takes about three minutes to fill a cup! Plenty of coffee was available in suite along with a percolator. I mention this because I understand that coffee making facilities have been removed from lower grade cabins. This was all I could moan about as far as the cabin was concerned. The room attendant was great at his job and deserved every penny of his cut from the pre-paid tips.
Plenty of shops on board for you to spend your money. These included jewelry, gifts, watches and hairdressers shops. Although these were only open whilst the ship was at sea.
Lifeboat drill seems to have improved to the extent that drills (as far as I was concerned) were carried out on deck and not in the depths of the theatre although still without life jackets.
As the school kids had returned to school the ship was populated mainly by people in their late 50’s to mid 70’s. There were a considerable number of wheel chair users on board plus several kids in wheel chairs who may well have been recipients of the Make A Wish foundation (sponsored by RCCL) which helps very poorly children. There were also some people in their 20’s who were probably there because they were getting married on board.
There is only one specialty restaurant on board, Portofino’s which is Italian. The cover charge for this restaurant is $20.00 per person. I guess you could say that there is one other speciality restaurant. That is Johnny Rockets which specialises in burgers and fries. The cover charge for this is $4.95 per person. This restaurant is well past its sell by date by now and should be replaced with something a bit more upmarket.
The ships staff as ever are first class and one wonders at the amount of training that must go on behind the scenes to make sure that everything is up to standard. This also goes for cleanliness. The antibiotic gel dispensers seem to have multiplied over the past year and now appear at every possible turn. On a tour of the kitchens you couldn’t see any dirt, grime or grease anywhere. I received no comments on Norovirus whilst I was on board.
Entertainment: Well this has certainly degraded over the past 12 months and I was very disappointed. I won’t mention any names (probably because you will never have heard of them) but the shows varied from a singer to a hypnotist to a guy who showed his skills at BMX riding. This plus a couple of various average tribute acts Beatles etc. RCL have really cut back on high cost productions. However the ice shows are well worth a visit if you can get a ticket.
I had paid up front for My Time Dining. Deck five is reserved for my time dining with decks three and four for diners that do not take advantage of this service. You do get to meet up with different people, some good some bad. But all in all this is the way I like to cruise. It worked well on Adventure but the front of house staff were under a lot of pressure and on one or two occasions failed to reduce the waiting hoards. On sea days buffet lunch is served on deck three otherwise it was the Windjammer self service that was the only option. There was a lot of choice and good quality food.
The food in the MDR was very palatable but cost cutting was in evidence with no lobster on the 14 days cruise except at an additional cost of about $35.00. In fact lobster was on offer in Portofino’s but it wasn’t enough to fill a sandwich. The only other comment I would make about the food was that I hope you like mashed potato. RCL don’t do any other variety although it is served rather well.
As far as the dress code was concerned there were three formal nights and the rest were casual. They seem to have done away with Smart Casual. i.e. a jacket and tie. Had I known I could have saved myself some luggage space by not packing a couple of jackets and ties. I do wish they would be more specific before I left home.
To keep the headline price lower RCL are now charging for some items that were once included. For example shuttle busses. In some ports the local authority provides free bus transport into and from town and in some instances it is walkable. However, on those journeys that RCL do provide they do charge and the cost is about $12 - $16 per return ticket.
As I wrote earlier there were very few kids onboard. I was assured that they had their own program and they were oblivious to the adults onboard. I was certainly oblivious to them. There is no flow rider on this ship but there is an ice skating rink, a nine hole putting green and a golf simulator.
As far as activities to keep you occupied are concerned there was plenty of organized action in the main pool plus many quizzes per day and free instructional courses including towel folding and origami. There were also dancing classes.
Several street shows were put on with sing alongs on the promenade deck. Everything from the 1950’s through to the 1970’s. This was very well put together. I think I must have been spoilt on previous cruises with Cruise Directors. The director that was in charge on this ship (Drew) was still learning his trade and needed to be taken in hand occasionally. Why can’t they find a U.K. based director to head this important function up?
Many bars littered the ship and service was just about acceptable. This cruise did seem to suffer a dearth of waiters. But you wouldn’t die from thirst. I do wish they would mention the opening hours of the various bars on the daily bulletin. You could for example travel from deck five the Connoisseurs Club which was the only place I could smoke my cigars, to deck fourteen for a quiet drink and find there was no service. By the way the "Nineteenth Hole” bar is well worth a visit if you want some peace and quiet.
Whilst on the subject of bars and drinks I have noted below the cost of various drinks. You will have to carry out your own conversion. "Indy” is Independence of the Seas and prices charged last year. These prices do not show any gratuity on the bill and you tip as you want. The "Adv” shows pricing for Adventure of the Seas. On Adventure the receipts now show that a 15% service charge is included with the bill but not shown separately. You should bear in mind that spirits are served (free pour) as approximately U.K. doubles.
"Adv” 2013 "Indy” 2012
Bombay Gin and
Tonic: $7.20 $7.00
Coke: $2.50 $2.25
Lager: $6.95 $6.95
So my G&T (on Adv) has increased by 20 cents (or 3%) and now includes a 15% tip. Lager has remained the same price and now includes a 15% tip. Not bad value.
Off loading at Southampton was very smooth this journey and I was off the ship and on my way home by 8.00am. I’m sure the RCL have got this down to a fine art. Their system certainly seems to work.
Anyway, I’m back on Adventure in May of next year. I shall write another review then.
This mini suite is slightly smaller than Independence of the seas equivalent.There is a small walk in wardrobe with plenty of hanging space and shelving.The bathroom has a full sized bath with an overhead shower without much power. The sink incorporates a restrictor in the tap to reduce water flow. All smellies are available and look well packaged. Again plenty of storage space for all your bits and pieces. The bed configuration was a large double and was very comfortable. Flat screen TV and an armchair plus settee completed the fittings.The balcony was O.K. but looking a bit dated with metal partitions. There was an outside light.