My daughter, 2 grandsons (20 months and 5 years), and I took a 4 night Royal Caribbean cruise from Sept 17-21 with stops in Nanaimo and Victoria. We stayed in 2 inside cabins, which were next door to each other.
I have seen hundreds of commercials where RCI promotes its cruise line as family friendly but RCI did not meet our expectations for the following reasons:
a) We did not expect activities for the 20 month old, but there were few activities a 5 year old could do. We wanted to experience the cruise with the children and not offload them to Ocean Adventures, which is a drop off daycare-like activity. The RCL website says there is a "kids aqua park" on the Explorer of the Seas. There was absolutely no "aqua park"--only 5 foot deep pools, a depth that would make our 5 year old uncomfortable. There was nothing a 20 month old could enjoy such as a splash pad or even a hose with running water. The rock wall is limited to kids 6+, which we knew in advance. Why isn’t there a mini-rock wall for smaller kids too? The wave runner was not applicable. The kids have had a better time at a playground at our local park. The arcade was grossly overpriced and almost always empty. $10 bought us about 8 minutes of entertainment. You could buy 1 life on a Mario-type game for $1.50. (That was 2 seconds of my life I’ll never get back.)
b) We did not get information about the Ocean Adventure schedules in our staterooms and only stumbled upon them at the front office while exploring the ship.
c) The ice show was great and the 5 year old loved it and wanted to go to more shows. The earliest evening show was at 8:30 and he loved the “fast forward” song and dance show but was unable to stay awake until the end. On the second night, we made a big deal about a date with Mommy for the magic show and they arrived early for a front row seat. After my 5 year old made a sound, the magician/comedian made a joke along the lines, “Hey kid, I hear you. We’re in international waters so I could cut you into pieces and throw you overboard and nobody would know.” This threat was hurled at a small sensitive child in the front row who was eager for a magic show and made the mistake of making one short sound. I complained to the activities director who apologized and said he would "talk" to the performer, Leo Ward. Mr. Ward is a seasoned professional who should know better than to make such a treat against a small child even as a joke. The audience did not laugh and the attendees I spoke with thought the incident was horrible. Doesn't RCL contracts with performers provide specifications on content? Are there no consequences for such an outrageous act beyond a "chat" with the activities director? There were also many adult elements to the comedy including sexual innuendo, sexual orientation, and simulated drug use. Needless to say, this awful event ruined the rest of our cruise.
d) There was no parade (as advertised) and we could not find the 3D movie theater the RCL sales rep told us about. Movies shown during the day in the large theater were rated pg13. While there was a kids channel on the cabin TV, movie rentals cost $12. Open ice skating was limited to a 2 1/2 hour window during the dinner hour on the last day that also conflicted with the evening show. These were 3 things we were looking forward to because they were something the 5 year old could enjoy. I understand we were on a 4 day cruise, but there should have been some disclosure that these activities would not be included or severely curtailed with our cruise so we could have considered that when making our purchase decision.
e) I found a small white pill on the floor of my stateroom that was left by the prior occupant. We looked it up and believe it was a medication for high blood pressure and A-fib. If the 20 month old had accidentally ingested this medication and we could have had a medical emergency without knowing the cause.
Apart from the family UN-friendly aspect of the cruise, we felt the dining service was much poorer than our prior cruising experiences where we were always used to “wow” service. We dined in the Sapphire room for 4 evenings and the majority of the time: 1) there was no assistance being seated beyond a point to the table, 2) we were not given a child’s menu on the first night and the kids did not like the food we had to order from the adult menu 3) we were not offered a beverage beyond water, 4) we had to ask for a high chair, and 5) beer was served in an unopened can delivered with an empty glass. Staff was responsive when we made a request, but we found it odd that we had to ask for basics such as a high chair, kids menus, beverages and even open beverages.
We dined 3 times in the Windjammer at 3 different times of day and it was always crowded. There were no trays so it was very difficult to manage both kids and multiple plates. There were no clean tables available, so we had to sit at dirty tables and look for staff to clean the table and to provide a high chair. We were offered a beverage only once. One time my plate and beverage were removed from the table while I was picking up a dessert. Overall, it was a frustrating, crowded and noisy experience.
What’s up with the shortage of spoons? Silverware wraps in the Windjammer and on the breakfast trays did not have spoons. My daughter’s breakfast tray never included a spoon. She called for 2 spoons and was brought 1. So she called again and asked for 8 spoons and kept a stash in a drawer because her trays never had spoons for yogurt and cereal for the entire cruise. I asked for butter one day and it was never delivered. I also want to mention that there was always at least 2 substitutions of items on my breakfast tray, even when I wrote, “no substitutions please.” I guess there were no blueberry muffins or granola in the pantry.
We are experienced cruisers, but it has been several years since our last cruise. We were surprised and disappointed by the number and size of all the upcharges. Room service is free only for a continental (not a hot) breakfast. Otherwise room service costs $8 plus a gratuity. Movies on the TV were $12. Brunch was an upcharge. Lobster was a huge upcharge and there was no lobster or other special food on formal night. If there was a special food event, we missed it. A glass of wine was around $14-15 plus gratuity. A burger joint near the pool area was an upcharge. I would not have minded all the upcharges so much, but the prices felt excessive.
We did enjoy the live shows with the exception of the magician/insult comic. The music and dancing were relatively modern and lively. I loved the 3 tenors from Vegas. The shows were at 8:30 and 10:15. The 8:30 show was always very crowded and you needed to be there early to get a good seat. The later show was barely half full with plenty of good seats. It was difficult to get an earlier dining time that did not conflict with going to the early show. We would have preferred an earlier show time option. On the last night, there were 6:30 and 8:30 shows. We had not noticed the schedule change and it would have been helpful if it had been announced by the activity director at the show on the previous night. There were also a number of other small live music venues throughout the ship.
The cabins were comfortable and quiet. The pullman bed worked well for the 5 year old and a pack-n-play was provided for the 20 month old.
The cabin was small, quiet and comfortable. The Pullman bed worked well for the 5 year old and a pack n play was provided for the 20 month old.