Embarkation at Southampton went like a dream and we were on the ship in minutes. We had been on the Navigator five years previously when it sailed around the Med out of Rome so were looking forward to seeing if there were any changes. Unfortunately, there were only bad ones. It seems that Royal Caribbean are now only interested in trying to make you spend as much as possible at every opportunity. We were pestered at breakfast, at lunch and when trying to relax in the bars in the evening (when we could get a seat) with people trying to sell the paying restaurants to us. Thirty seconds out of every port the promenade was constantly filled with extra tables with 'sale' goods, making it difficult to actually get down the promenade, and everyday we were bombarded with leaflets and emails about the next 'big sale'! The shops on board weren't very good, little variety and very expensive, $5.99 for a tube of Pringles!
Fortunately, the dining room experience was still as good as ever with very friendly and attentive waiters and good food, with good wine served by an excellent Sommelier. We did notice however that a number of people frequently turned up at dinner sometimes 40 or 50 minutes late which obviously caused problems for the waiters trying to serve dinner on time to those of us who arrived at the allotted time and we were frequently very late getting out of the dining room because of this. Previously the dining room would be closed 15 minutes after the sitting time but this doesn't seem to be the case now, even though there is anytime dining available on the ship.
The so called production shows were dismal, and the space taken up by the ice rink could be made better use of as the bars were so crowded it was really difficult to get a seat, mainly due to people sitting sleeping, reading or eating food from the promenade cafe as they couldn't get a seat in there. As the Windjammer now closes in the afternoons - people come back on board hungry and have to queue down the promenade to get something to eat at the cafe, the only place open at that time.
Service in Vintages was excellent however the smell of cigarette smoke wafting up from the Casino didn't make it a pleasant place to sit when you did manage to get a seat on an evening. People were allowed to smoke in all areas of the Casino and it would seem on deck too - I didn't see any of the staff stop them. You couldn't even spend a few hours in your cabin watching a movie as they charged $13.99! Obviously, RCI want you out of your cabin so you can spend and if you're going to stay in you're going to pay for that too!
Very few of the officers spoke to anyone when they were passing through the ship and the only time we saw the Cruise Director was his 10 second introduction to the stage acts, we never once saw him out and about chatting to people anywhere.
It seems like all RCI want to do now is pack 'em in tight and get as much money as possible out of 'em without putting in too much effort - other than at selling! All a bit of a shame really as they used to be so good. We did get a good price on this cruise but to be honest, it really wasn't worth it. We won't be travelling with them again.
Our stateroom attendant was more than helpful, very pleasant and went out of his way to speak to us every day. However, fixtures and fittings are now looking quite shabby; the sofa was absolutely filthy and should be thrown out really. I tried to clean it down myself as it was so dirty we didn't like to sit on it but it was just ready for the bin. , My husband fixed the bathroom cabinet door himself as it wouldn't open / shut properly, the hinge was hanging off! Surely if the room was cleaned properly the attendant should have had tat fixed?! The pillows seem to be short stumpy things, it looks like they've cut them in half to make two (more cost cutting?!!!), but they're definitely not a proper size! The tannoy didn't work so we had to run into the corridor every time there was an announcement, and most of the drawers in the dresser were broken and difficult to open / close. Having said that the bed was comfy! One really annoying thing was the bottles of water, orange, biscuits and large plastic beakers which were lined up along the dresser taking up a lot of space - obviously more of the hard sell.
Embarkation was excellent
Lisbon is lovely. A short walk from the ship, but a nice walk!
First time in Madeira. It was lovely. Very clean etc. We took a trip up to Monte on the ski lift and the views were fantastic. It was really nice up there and well worth a visit.