We chose this cruise as we really wanted a taster of Japan. Having been on a couple of RC cruises prior to this one, we were looking forward to the same level of service and care that we had come to expect - boy, we we disappointed! We were to board the ship at Tianjin, a couple of hours from Beijing. Upon arrival at the port, we discovered that there was also a Costa cruise leaving at the same time and the result was absolute chaos. There was nobody directing passengers and our group were left by the bus driver on the quayside with absolutely no idea of where to go. Eventually, we tagged on to the end of a group of people following someone holding up a RC paddle. It turned out, however, that the person was leading an actual tour group of which we were not part and so we ended up inside the terminal along with our cases which, apparently, we should have left at some mysterious "baggage drop" which was not indicated or evident outside, at least not in English. Having finally managed to get into the terminal, we then discovered that the email we had received 2 days before leaving, stating that "Guests are responsible for providing TWO copies of their passport photo. Each copy must be on either an 8 ½ x 11 or A4 paper, with one copy of the document required for each page, per guest" didn't actually mean that they wanted 2 copies of our passport photos at all. What, in fact, they did want, was 2 copies of the passport page containing our photo. We then had to wait in a very long queue at a photocopier, that the operator had no idea how to operate, to get said photocopies. This was exceptionally annoying since I knew exactly how to sort the photocopier (as a primary school teacher with extensive knowledge of the inner workings of photocopiers) but the member of staff was having none of it. When we finally found someone to take our luggage, got our photocopies sorted and managed to board the ship, we expected a welcome drink, a flannel to wipe our, by now, fevered (or ever so slightly humid) brows and a welcome on board by the staff, as with any other RC cruise. Sadly, none of that happened. After almost 2 hours stuck in queues, we were told to go the the Windjammer to get a drink if we wanted one.
Our cabin was lovely. It was clean, modern and contained all the mod cons that one could expect from a modern ship. The bed was relatively comfortable and it was kept very clean by Joel, who always had a smile on his face. We had signed up for the drinks and dining packages whilst still in the UK, as the website stated that savings would be made by pre-booking. The deluxe drinks package covered premium drinks, the minibar in our cabin and all drinks up to the value of $12 at the bars. The mini-bar, we discovered, was completely empty. When we asked Joel about having it stocked, we were told that we would have to request that from Customer Services and only soft drinks would be stocked in it. We also discovered that, unlike ANY other cruise we have been on with ANY other cruise line, bottled water was not replenished daily in the cabins. We were even more disgruntled to discover that the drinks and dining packages were considerably cheaper on the boat. When I complained to customer services, they reimbursed our account with what we had already paid and then rebooked the packages. This gave a saving of over $100 on the drinks packages alone! The cruise was 90% Chinese, with only 10% being westerners, mostly Australians. As such, the cruise was very different to anything we have experienced before. The Chinese adults use the ship as a shopping and gambling experience whilst their children run amok unchecked and overindulged by their parents. The onboard shops include such names as Cartier and Omega and the centre of the boat was an onboard marketplace for rather expensive handbags, jewellery and other assorted tat that the Chinese just couldn't get enough of - it was still heaving at 10 o'clock at night. We decided to try out the 1970's Disco Inferno which was scheduled for 10pm. Upon arriving, we were offered popcorn and candy floss - not exactly what we were expecting. However, on going further into the room, we could see a dance floor swarming with children - from toddlers to teenagers, all off their faces on sugar and e-numbers. I've done a fair few schools discos in my time, but this was something else. We promptly left and headed to the Vintages bar which was at least a bit more peaceful.
There were 3 scheduled stops on the itinerary; Fukuoka, Sakaiminato and Kyoto. We had booked excursions for all three via RC, two half day and a full day excursion. As far as excursions go, they were hardly enriching. We basically got to see 2 parks, a town, based on a famous character that none of the International guests had ever heard of, and a fish market. Our full day tour in Kyoto was cancelled the evening before we were due to go, by which time, all other trips were fully booked. In terms of food, the speciality restaurants were very good although we paid a premium for them. Wonderland was pretty awesome and the staff were great. I have never seen queues in the Windjammer restaurant before but, on this cruise, you couldn't get near it, as the queue to get in was huge. Lunch was best had in one of the small bars. The Seaplex hotdog cart, on the top deck, which was supposed to be open until 5pm, didn't open once for the entire duration of the cruise. This was very much a cruise geared for the Asian market. Had we known, before we booked it, we would never have chosen this cruise. It's all those little touches that make a cruise special that were, quite frankly, missing - the photographers approached us to take photos only once, when in Wonderland, there was no formal night or sense of occasion to get dressed up for, no drinks to welcome us back from excursions, no alternatives offered when they cancelled our excursion and an attitude of couldn't care less when we complained. We have returned to the UK feeling ripped off and, for the first time ever, with no sense of the country we were supposed to have visited. This will be the last time we ever cruise with Royal Caribbean. Caveat emptor - buyer beware.
Clean and spacious with a comfortable bed.