Spectrum of the Seas
Since this is a rather unique itinerary and a new ship, I thought I should give a quick review from the perspective of a regular RCCL/Norwegian/Oceania U.S. cruiser. This cruise was seven days to Tokyo with three ports: Osaka, Kobe, and Tokyo.
We made our way to the Port of Shanghai around 11:00am. Quick drop-off of the bags (and quick delivery to our cabin) and we were into a very nice port facility. I suggest you keep your eyes on the signs as there are opportunities to fast-track through some lines. Waits were not bad and signage did inform you of what stage you were at (about five in the process due). We were on the ship before noon and explored some of the top floors and hit the pool/spa before the crowds. Cabins were ready at about 3:00 and the muster drill around 4:30 (the new video – no need to bring lifejackets or go out to the boats). We did bring a dozen water bottles (suggested) on board in our packed bags and a bottle of Chinese fortified wine in our carry-on without issue.
Cabin. We selected a balcony cabin on the 7th deck. We were quite pleased with the layout, spaciousness, and design. The ship was only on its second month, so everything was nice and well-appointed. As you look at the profile of the ship, there are hundreds of balcony cabins – it is quite the site. We found we appreciated having a nice cabin as we spent more time here than usual on sea days because we needed space to veg away from many of the very loud, stressful guests.
The Ship. Common areas, elevators, etc. all were very nice. Unfortunately, some of the really nice spaces on sister ships are now gone in order to make more room for casino spaces. Yes, the workout room is tiny and treadmills were never available so I spent my workout time on the walking/running track.
Food. Well, that’s been a highlight in the past for cruises we like to take and I’d have to say, for someone from the U.S. this will be quite a disappointment. We had been in China for a few days prior so we felt like some “American” food so we hit the Windjammer only to find a small segment of sandwiches and hamburgers. Ok, so I grabbed a bun, tossed on a burger and pickles, found some cheese at another line and gave it a shot. I also waited for some hot french fries (ketchup packets available at another location). The burger was a solid C- grade with the fries making up at a B+. My wife got a sandwich with some unique looking deli meats for a C grade. On the way out, I did grab a slice of pizza which was pleasantly well cooked (color on the bottom!) and tasty!
Moving on, we went to dinner in the MDR that night. The menu is a bit different as now there are pictures for the 3,000 or so Chinese guests on the ship. There are about 10 starters and 10 entrees to choose from. Yes, we’ve got funky stuff here (which is worth a try) but you should be able to find one or two items on each list that would be of interest (so not really much of a selection). And, there’s always the “generic” menu of Caesar salad, Onion Soup, Steak, Chicken, Salmon as an option. On one evening our waiter let us know that they’ve been informed that their guests want dinner to only take 45 minutes, so cocktails, app’s, dessert, coffee are not emphasized or really offered. That doesn’t really work for the way we like to start our evening (let alone, for a ship this size, there’s hardly a bar to be found to have a cocktail). Breakfast in the MDR is a very similar experience – very limited “normal” selection so I suggest going to the Windjammer or the Café@TWO70.
The whole food emphasis is to try and upsell to the specialty restaurants. They say this cruise is under-priced due to Chinese policies/restrictions and RCCL makes up for that by charging for anything they can think of. There was a three-dinner package for $99 + 18% and a four-dinner for $125 + 18%. So, if you want to pay $40 for a meal, that’s available. We had been to all of the restaurants on a previous cruise so we only chose to do Chop’s this time.
Ports. Immigration in Osaka was quite easy – yes, lines took a while but in less than an hour we were on our way (there are 4,000 people or so on the ship). We took the ship’s tour to the castle and Dotinbori street in Osaka as taxis are rather overpriced and Didi is only in Simplified Chinese (no English) in this location. That worked out well and the $65 fee was fine with us – as well as some education and history along the bus ride. We found private guides for Kona and Tokyo prior to sailing.
Entertainment. This is for sure a highlight. The first night was Showgirls – Past, Present, Future in the Royal Theatre. There were so many people in this production! – at least 18 girls dancing, a dozen guys, and four singers on stage at the same time. I wouldn’t miss this one. The acrobatic team, Gold Art Duo, is also another that should not be missed. The Magician, Duck Cameron, was entertaining but nothing much new – he did make quite a few of the guests uncomfortable as he dragged them up on stage.
The Aura Cover Band was quite good in the Music Hall. Unfortunately, the piano melodies with Filmore Flores was disappointing (a Canadian who got the job because he plays, sings (kinda), and speaks a bit of Mandarin. And, we really missed an acoustical guitar in a pub as that location is a Tea and Coffee shop (not many going there – this will change) on this ship.
As you can guess, we passed on paying for the iFly and Northstar as we had done them on another cruise for free.
The Spa. We have traveled with this cruise line over the years and greatly enjoy our time in the spa. So, believing that the experience would be similar to all our others we booked a couples’ massage for the first and last day at sea. Granted we booked a couples’ massage and thought we would be in the same room, but this room was having “situations” so we were separated, on both days. Vicky was my attendant for the first booking and she was fabulous! She provided what was expected in a deep tissue massage. Unfortunately, my husband did not have the same experience, I was not sure if his expectations were too high, but unfortunately they were not. The last day on ship we went for our other appointment, we had the same attendants, so we switched and I took Fanglu the attendant my husband had. If we had been in the same room, the attendance would have preformed the same service and it would not of varied in quality. I was extremely disappointed that the massages were so different, I was expecting this to be similar to my first.
On-Board Shopping. This was pretty much a feeding frenzy when the sales were on. I would have guessed there were no stores in China the way people grabbed and hoarded as many items as possible. And, I imagine most of them were “made in China.”
Crown & Anchor. Well, we’re only Platinum, but NONE of the following benefits were on board this cruise!...
• Onboard Offers are preloaded to your SeaPass card. Refer to your onboard Welcome Letter for details.
• Priority Check-in
• Private departure lounge with Continental Breakfast
• Exclusive Top Tier Event
• Signature Lapel Pin
…just so you know!
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