As a Diamond Plus member I am very loyal to the brand and obviously love the experience on Royal over others. I have also been on the last 3 newest ships within their first 3 or 4 months. I recall a few food issues on Allure and a bag that arrived after late dinner - but that was the extent of the problems. This cruise was a whole new level of disappointment.
Here is my tale of the New Years cruise...
We flew in to Newark and were a bit early (9:30am) instead of waiting for a Royal Bus to the port at 11 (27.50 each) - we jumped into a cab for $55. Dropping off bags wasn't terrible; but the guys taking bags were bitching about what a pain to put on the new tags - needed I guess to "track the bags".
FAIL #1 - The luggage tracking system never worked for us. (Don't hype up something that does't work).
Our "Arrival time" was 10:45 to 11:15. They were a tad behind; but started boarding about 11:05am and as a D+ member went right on. Took seconds to board. SUCCESS #1
We got a "Hello" and a free glass of champaign which was nice and welcoming. We were told rooms would be ready at 11:30; only to find out that our deck was 1pm - which is the norm so no biggie.
We explored the ship and LOVED it. It is classy and beautiful. Ate a delicious lunch ay Izumi - although they were out of a couple of things (not a way to start day 1 - but no biggie). SUCCESS #2
FAIL #2 - No Room keys
Just after 1 we went to out deck to get our room (and keys/band) only to find out we had no keys/band in the room. (Not a fan of this new way of not having a card before boarding - but it's all part of the new experience right?). We asked the stateroom attendant and he informed us that our room was showing as "vacant" for our cruise and the door was locked and he could not open it. Even though the paper in my hand clearly says this is our room. It is even stamped and checked by the lady who checked us in on the pier. "Go to Guest Services" I'm told. When I asked; can I drop my bags in the room while I get keys - I get "Go to Guest Services". Luckily (for him) an officer passed by and after a quick call - let us in the room and apologized for the problem. Funny thing is we had our spa appointment confirmation and champaign delivered waiting for us. Seems someone knew this was our room!
So off to guest services we go. WHAT A NIGHTMARE. Huge lines and TONS of issues with rooms. Well at least it just wasn't us. After 30 minutes - we were all set. Off for a cocktail!
So we sit down for a drink and are told "you don't have a drink package". UGH. Really? Back to Guest Services. 30 minutes later - All set. FAIL #3
There were 2 more trips to guest services on Day 1; one to check on luggage - app not working and next to ask about out drink package cups and D+ Robes. 4 trips in 1 day is more than the last 6+ cruises put together. FAIL #4 & #5
As the week progressed we dealt with some huge issues with dining. Now I have defended the Dynamic Dining concept to so many that I was starting to sound like a PR guy. However the execution is horrible.
Our first night in Wonderland was AMAZING. Perfect service and perfect food. So when we went to the Schooner Bar after dinning and heard passenger after passenger telling of their 45-60 min wait - past their RES time - I was feeling damn lucky.
Then Day 2 hit and we had the CHOPS from hell. Had to wait about 30 mins past res time. Worst service ever in Chops. Wrong steak temps; wrong dessert; I had to go get my own glass of wine. The waiter wasn't a bad guy - just completely overwhelmed with too many tables. It was a joke. FAIL #6
Again listened to more complaints about dining and from very loyal cruisers. Not just your average bitchy guest. We liked Chic and had good service (although they lost our res - we still got in quick) and we also really liked Silk. Both very good food with great service. However what I found so funny; is that you can't find 2 people with the same experiences in restaurants. Whatever you like and dislike - the problem is complete lack of CONSISTANCY. I cruise Royal because I have come to knew what to expect (not perfection but darn good food and service) - what everyone seems to be getting is lack of consistency. Not sure every good dining should be considered a success...
Jamie's Italian was basically PERFECT. We were seated 2 minutes before our reservation. Were served quickly and every bite was fantastic. Our server was quick, attentive and personable. They also serve Jamie's apps in Vintages; which look good - but we never ate in Vintages. SUCCESS #4 - Perfect Dining
The only Formal restaurant is The Grand. We were seated within 20-25 minutes of our res. The waiter was nothing more than an order taker. He said hello and what would you like and that was about it. The apps were just normal fare. I had the Lobster Thermidor - which was a joke. The 1st time on a cruise the waiter did't remove the lobster from the shell. Not that I can't do my own silly lobster - just not what I am used to. Then it was overcooked. Yuk. And the portion - small. My better half had a seafood dish and everything was overcooked. We got a half-hearted apology; but at that point we were just ready for dessert and maybe some pizza later. FAIL #7
The Windjammer is better than most - if not all. But let's face it - it's still a buffet. I LOVED the warm cookies they bake all afternoon though YUMMO!
Cafe 270 is the place to be. Like Park Cafe - great for breakfast and better for lunch. However by day 3 - everyone knew about it and the lines got LONG....and longer...
LONG LINES... especially in the bars. If you didn't have a bar stool - forgot it. People were getting ticked off. Lack of bar servers in bars and lounges as well as on deck. It was bad pretty much every day and night after day 2; except during dinner say 6-8 because everyone was in line waiting for the reservations!
On day 2 - my better half went to get us coffee at the Starbucks like cafe. The guy at the counter scanned his card and said "Um; you are not on board". Back to Guest Services - luckily they confirmed that indeed my dearest did not fall off the ship and was very much on board. Fail #9
Entertainment - Well in a nutshell - BEST IN THE FLEET - Celebrity / Royal - no ship can match this period.
Mamma Mia was Broadway Quality all the way. The shows in 270 - amazing. The music show in the main theatre - amazing. It was simply brilliant. BIG SUCCESS #5
Oh wait - you didn't make a res for Mamma Mia or Starwater before day 1? Sorry - no reservations left for anyway or time. FAIL #10
Upper Deck Fun
BEST Solarium in the fleet as far as I am concerned it is really beautiful. Next they have an indoor pool; where some of the roof can open up if it's warm enough. This was usually kid central; but gave them a great place to swim that wasn't the Solarium on the colder days.
The main outdoor pool area is very nice; but on nice days overly crowded. Chair hogs seem to multiple as the cruise progressed and the pool attendants were doing what they could - but like everywhere else on the ship - there wasn't enough of them.
4 different bars on the pool decks all with lines; but friendly bartenders, In fact all the bartenders were friendly - just way over worked and tired.
Bumper Cars and Sky Diving and Flow Riding and going up in the North Star- and the Circus School - all FREE - but all with big lines. Liked it was free and liked it was so cool - but agin if you did't make a res for IFly - you were out of luck.
Johnny Rockets on Pool Deck
Ala Cart - but no table service; no cool music and no dancing? On but don't worry - LONG LINES. FAIL #11
Our Cabin - Balcony on the Hump. GREAT! Loads of storage. Sleek and modern. Lots of cool features. Large balcony - plugs for USB connections. Brilliant. SUCCESS #6
THE "APP" - I don't need it - but if you Hype it up and it does't work... FAIL #12
New Years Party was amazing. Very crowded - luckily we got our bottle of champaign and hugged it on the pool deck for the countdown with 3 thousand of our new friends. They 20 people jumped into the pool fully clothed. It was a really fun time.
Debarkation - FAST! Super quick.
I am sure some of the readers will call me a complainer because of all my "FAIL#"'s. But trust me - we had a great cruise and did our best not to let the issues ruin the day.
But I tell you - I was actually starting to dread dinner because I never knew if it would be a good time or a bad time. We had more good than bad; but when it was bad - it was really bad. Then when you wanted to unwind - getting a drink was a hassle. This is not the way to spend a cruise. Did I relax; for the most part. Drink and eat too much - definitely. Escape cold weather? YEP. So a successful vacation at least.
This was a holiday cruise with crappy ports - I mean come on - Cape Canaveral? and Co-co Cay and Nassau? I never left the ship. The ship is BEAUTIFUL! Also as a new ship and on a holiday - we paid TOP dollar. Yet all in all received subpar service.
The failure of Royal is very obvious here. This is not just "New Ship Issues" this is a direct lack of management planning and execution. The much hyped technology is a joke. The APP doesn't work and baggage tracking does't work the dining res does't work. I don't need these things for a great vacation - but I'm also not the multi-billion dollar company who promised these things and failed to deliver.
Dynamic Dining - Open to the idea - but perhaps they should have tried on a smaller ship that isn't trying to learn everything new first.
Also - the short-staffing in the ship; especially the bars - on a new ship? On a holiday? Who thought THAT was a good idea? FAIL FAIL FAIL
I am sure they will fix these things. I heard the CEO is on board this week. Hopefully he sees the real issues and addresses them. Time will tell.
In the meantime... cruise on...