This was our seventh cruise, second with RCI. We had done this cruise before, but on Brilliance of the Seas.
We booked everything through a cruise agent and was very happy.
We departed from Birmingham on an Emirates flight EK38 on the Sunday evening at 20.25. Be aware as last time we experienced poor service from cabin crew. It almost seems like they cannot be bothered on this flight. As last time, we were served only one meal. In addition we were parched by the time we arrived at Dubai airport, once again due to the fact we were given very little in the way of free water or juices on the flight. Once again the cabin crew seemed to want to get the meal out of the way so they could have a decent rest before we arrived into Dubai. This was exactly the same as last time. The meal was only luke warm, like it hadn't been in the oven long enough. It seemed like everything was far too much trouble for them.
We got to Dubai airport and didn't miss the transfers arranged by RCI. Last time we were escorted to a hotel for breakfast and had to go through the process of passports, cruise cards etc there which was a real pain considering we were tired. The only advantage was we were served water and fresh orange juice which we terribly needed.
This time however, we had a private car arranged and it was so welcome. There was guy with a placard who escorted us straight to a car, loaded our luggage and took us to the port. Our bags were taken from us immediately by RCI crew and we waited in the lounge. We had priority boarding passes and there was no queing as we were one of the first there.
We were first on the ship and used our cards immediately to upgrade to the Premium Package for drinks as we mainly drink spirits. This was $105 each for the week, which we thought was well worth it.
Cabins were not available until 13.00 hours, but we had a change of clothes, previously packed in hand luggage so made ourselves comfortable until this time. However, we were incredibly tired.
Our cabin was on deck 6 - 6022. It was the first time we had a balcony cabin. We didn't realise but these balconies had been added on a couple of years ago. It was ok though, there was somewhere to sit. We had requested double bed configuration. There was a dressing table with three small draws, but no other draws so we used the floor of the wardrobe. We took our own travel kettle and tea, coffee, sugar etc. There was no fridge. Apparently there were facilities and a fridge on higher up balcony cabins.
There was a flat screen tv but the channel choice was pretty rubbish. Bathroom was usual cruise ship size. No toiletries provided apart from some shampoo, usually this is shower gel, which we did not bring with us so abit strange.
As usual cabin steward very efficient, but he did get on my nerves alittle, keep knocking the door at night to see if we had gone out.
We chose MY Time dining but was able to book for 9pm most evenings in advance and ask for a table for two.
Sail Away party was a complete joke. Afew of the crew dancing around to awful music. No hooters sounding party atmosphere or anything. We have had fantastic ones on Thomson and Ocean Village in the past. This was a complete disappointment.
Mainly horrible. We mainly ate in the Windjammer. Absolute beglum. Like a cattle market, plastic plates. Bacon like scratchings it was done that much and sausage not always cooked right the way through. HP sauce scant. Coffee awful.
Didn't always eat lunch but when we did mainly in the Windjammer again, although I did miss the ability to dine outside which we have experienced on lots of other ships.
Taken every night in the King and I and I have to say this was fantastic. Our waiters, Favron and Sunny were brilliant. Nothing was too much trouble. They were attentive and hard working and all out to make sure we had an enjoyable experience. It was my birthday on the Saturday night and they were lovely.
Didn't do any arranged ones. As we had been before we didn't get off first day as we wanted to relax after the exhausting day on Monday. Didn't seem like a lot to do in Khasab anyway. We were then in Muscat for two days and we decided day one should be spent on ship again and we could go out on day two. Once again great weather, as experienced last time. We walked around the souck but bothered by people all the time and no toilet facilities anywhere. Not great when you take a water tablet and have IBS!!!! When we did find one, there was only one working and it was absolutely disgusting.
Abu Dhabi/Dubai - we once again bought Big Bus tickets for the two days, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but be aware if you bought in Dubai some of the advertised "free" attractions in Dubai were not included. This included Atlantis. Disappointing and not advised of this before purchase. However we did the beach tour in Dubai and the hotel drop after Burj was fantastic. Proper Arabian village type with water all around it. We took the hotels boat tour around it and if we go to Dubai again we will most certainly stay here. It was apparently a highlight of the tour. We also went to Dubai Mall, not so much for shopping but just a nose around at how big it is and we had something to eat here. Dubai is certainly full of rich folk.
We had problems with our toilet in the cabin. For the last three to four days there was a problem with it not flushing. Each time we called reception they asked for maintenance to attend. Each time it was fixed when tried again same thing happened. No suction, just filled up with water. This was most annoying and I understand I am promised some discount off my next cruise with them. One week on and Im still awaiting the promised email. However, they did give us two days free internet access which is usually $20 per day per device. We also had late checkout which allowed us to stay on the ship till around quarter past eleven. Our private car was collecting us at 11.30. Of course you could stay later, but couldn't use cruise cards after 09.00 hrs. This was something we hadn't expected as even with Thomson you can use them right up until you disembark.
Photographers were a pain in the neck. I didn't mind photo on embarkation or Formal Night but they came every night and even on sea days taking photos of folk in their costumes! who wants a shot of that.
Drinks package was good. Husband drank Johnny Walker Black Label and I drank Bombay Saphhire. We also had cocktails. However, we did both have jippy tummies and my Husband suspected it was all the ice in the cocktails.
Toilets on the decks were abit strange being located one below and one above the main deck 4. In addition I have never been on a ship where there are no toilets by the pool. Consequently if you are in your costume you have to cover up to go indoors to use one of the three toilets. These were also used for the Windjammer so you can imagine how busy they were.
Smoking was Starboard side, deck 4 9 and 10.
We were told the entertainment was rubbish. We did expect to see some shows but didn't see one. We were told by people who went to some performances it was crew doing most of it and there did not appear to be any outside entertainers on board. We have had better on Thomson.
The shops were not great.
If you wanted a decent coffee it came at $11 for two lattes. This included 15% gratuity which i thought was abit of a cheek to add on without first telling you they added. There were only a few seats, about 8 to sit and have a nice coffee. We did it once but didn't bother again.
Sea day - the usual people who have no where to sit apart from indoors. Every cruise ship I have been on has this problem with sunbeds and unless you are up early you are sure you will not get one for the whole day. Fortunately we had only one sea day.
Disembarkation was great because we were not part of the RCI arranged cattle market transportation. We had our own driver again, lovely Audi car, complementary water and swift drop off at Dubai Airport. Here though we had to go to immigration to have our passport stamped and despite RCI having our passports for nearly a whole week, they failed to stamp the passport for leaving Dubai.
All in all it was an ok holiday. We knew what to expect but would we do this one again - possibly not.
The ship is going to Thomson in April and it will suit them down to ground. The ship itself is lovely.
Enables to you to do your own thing