Our holiday was for myself, my husband and my three sons (17, 22 and 25) in two parts booked through cruise.co.uk. The first part was a 10 day, all inclusive tour around China.
Our second part of the holiday was a seven day cruise aboard the Voyager of the Seas which we boarded at Hong Kong. I have cruised many times with Royal Caribbean and have, in fact, been on this actual ship. All previous cruises have been excellent and of an equally great standard that I have come to expect from Royal Caribbean. On this part of the holiday we were joined by my parents who had travelled separately to Hong Kong in order to enjoy the cruise with my family. At no time were we informed that this ship was about to go into dry dock for a major refurbishment and serious repairs
When booking this holiday with cruise.co.uk, we explained that while we were happy for my three sons to share a room, they were adults and, putting it bluntly, quite large! Adam understood our requirements and sold us a balcony grade cabin for myself and my husband and a panoramic suite that could sleep 6 for my three sons to share. At the time of booking Adam explained that he could not get a room number for the panoramic suite although he guided us to the ‘deck plans’ and explained it would either be state room number 1804 or 1814 on deck 12, just a few doors down from our state room.
He explained that although room 1814 was officially a disabled cabin, it had much larger floor space so would accommodate my three sons. On our invoice, we were never provided with a room number for this room. We paid more for this room as it was so much larger. Upon arrival on the ship, my sons were allocated room 1852 which while panoramic, was not a suite that slept 6. The staff told me it could sleep 4 although we soon found out that with only two beds and one small sofa that could only be converted into a single bed, it only could sleep 3. The floor space was exactly the same size as our balcony grade cabin. The staff were very unhelpful explaining that there were no other rooms available as the ship was full to capacity. We later found out that there were actually 400 rooms unallocated on that ship that week. We believe we were miss sold this room under the pretence it was bigger than the balcony grade cabin and could sleep 6 people. We most definitely paid more money than our balcony grade cabin which was the same size. We expect to be reimbursed for this.
We were on the 12th deck so obviously lifts were a necessity. On day one, all of the panoramic central view lifts were suddenly covered in a green netting that stretched from the top deck to the bottom. We were informed that they were being repaired. We established, by talking to the engineers and taking photos and videos that these lifts were NOT under repair but were actually being ripped out in readiness for the ship to go into dry dock in a week’s time. Two of the other lifts didn’t work at all and one of those broke down completely within a couple of days. One lift wouldn’t go passed deck 10. Being on deck 12, I’m sure you can understand the inconvenience this caused not to mention the sight and noise of workmen carrying out a complete rip out right in the middle of your holiday
FOOD - Windjammer
There are many areas where food can be obtained and the Windjammer Restaurant is the self service restaurant on deck 11. The food looked plentiful and nicely presented however, it was nearly all cold and on occasions, undercooked. We were told that hot plates were no longer working and some of the ovens were soon to be replaced. This response did not help us in any way at all. My husband was continually frustrated to get a plate full of food, find a seat to sit and eat it, only to find it cold and disgusting. It was then that we noticed the lack of staff in the restaurant. Plates were not getting cleared away from tables, spillages were having warning signs placed over them but not getting cleared up and the water/tea station was continually unmanned.
FOOD - Johnny Rockets
We decided the only way to get a decent hot meal would be to pay the additional price in order to visit one of the 4 speciality restaurants on board. Unfortunately, this was also a disaster! We visited Johnny Rockets - a burger bar restaurant with a $10 surcharge. The place had few customers, the waitress spoke very little English and the chef was busy fussing over one beef burger when we walked in. We sat at the counter and tried to order - the waitress could not understand why we would want our fries WITH our burger - surely we would want them as a starter? We looked around and could see other guests munching on just chips and overheard them all complaining about when their burger was going to be served. This restaurant was advertised as an authentic, American burger joint yet the staff had absolutely no idea how burger and fries were meant to be served and consumed! We waited 25 minutes for the chef to cook the burger - we watched as he used his spatular to scoop up a raw chicken breast, slap it on the griddle next to our burger and then proceed to turn our burger with the same spatular. I don’t think any more needs to be said about Johnny Rockets other than it was a total let down. Again, staffing seemed to be the issue.
FOOD - Sapphire Restaurant
We had booked my time dining. This means that you can reserve a table the day before. This is a practice that I have often used and has always worked efficiently in the passed. On this cruise however, the queues of guests outside the restaurant all waiting to be taken to their pre-booked table was ridiculous!. You expect queues outside the other restaurants when there are allotted seated times - often a hundred or more guests would be waiting for the 6pm sitting and would then all be let in at once. But you do not expect this in the ‘my time’ dining room. Yet again, lack of staff was the issue. Once shown to our table we again experienced a lack of staff - no wine waiter or water waiter. I got up twice to get my own water. The one waiter we had was very over worked. When food arrived after a long wait it was often cold and inedible. We complained several times and eventually the restaurant manager, Ellen came to our table and listened carefully to our grievances. We told her we would be unable to risk eating in the restaurant again and would have to purchase the food package which enabled us to eat at the speciality restaurants at an additional surcharge. Ellen almost begged us to give her another chance to prove the restaurant was worth another visit so two days later we tried again. Firstly, the seven of us were showed to a table that could only sit five people comfortably yet they had squeezed seven place settings on. We complained and were moved to a table that could comfortably seat 12 guests although was only partially laid up for eight. Again, we had to serve ourselves water and again the wine waiter had to be called and called and when he finally arrived asked US to write what we wanted on his pad as he couldn’t understand English!!! Our meal was late and the starters were cold. We complained again but was told this time there was a severe shortage of staff and that everyone was doing their best. This was really not acceptable and made our complete dining experience on the ship appalling.
FOOD - CHOPS GRILLE
As the food and service was so appalling on the ship, we had no option other than to pay (at a considerable cost of £380 - invoice enclosed) for a ‘food package’. This entitled us to eat at the three main speciality restaurants over three nights. Unfortunately it appeared that most guests had the same idea so Chops restaurant was so busy we were only able to book the whole family in for one of the nights. We wanted to book for our last night but they had already filled their books by day two of the cruise!. Our experience in Chops was what we would expect from Royal Caribbean - food was beautiful, staff attentive and service fast. What a shame the rest of the ship couldn’t be like this and what a shame they were so booked up that we couldn’t enjoy good food on our last night
FOOD - IZUMI
Another of the three specialist restaurants was Izumi, a Japanese restaurant. Food here was very good - we noticed most of the staff from the Captain’s Bridge were in there. Unfortunately service was appalling. It took ages to get a drink and even longer to get the food. We wouldn’t have eaten in there at all had we been able to get a table at Chops FOOD - GIOVANNI’S TABLE
The last on the list of the three specialist restaurants. Menu seemed limited and again service was far too slow. Our booking was for 8.30pm but we were left standing for 15minutes while the maitre d took someone’s order. Again, short staffed.
After realising that most problems encountered on our ship were due to staffing, we decided to complain at the main desk. Queues here were always long but after a 30 minute wait we were finally seen. It was established that the ship was seriously understaffed due to another cruise liner enlisting the more experienced staff in order to ensure their maiden voyage did not receive any criticism! We were assured that the staffon board were qualified although some were new to their positions. When we started speaking to staff, it came to light that a large proportion of staff had originally been ‘cleaning staff’ who had been bumped up recently to fill in for the short fall in serving staff. This would account for the amount of staff unable to communicate with us due to their lack of English. It would also account for the poor service being received in every area of the ship.
In the spa area there was only one hairdresser working and he informed us that he had originally been contracted to work until December but had only recently been told that the ship was going into dry dock so would be leaving his position then. He said that the other hairdressers and spa consultants (there was only one who could give pedicures) had all left the ship back in Hong Kong
One of the most important aspects of a cruise is the shore excursions. These excursions are advertised a few weeks prior to the cruise departing via an online brochure. The information available is fairly minimal. It should be noted that most excursions were marked as ‘booked’ before we even boarded the ship. It was established, once on board, that this wasn’t the case but unfortunately led to unreasonably long queues of guests trying to book tours at the tour desk.
As it was unclear which tours would be the best to choose, we decided to attend the one hour meeting held on the first day in the ship’s theatre. This meeting is normally held by the cruise director where they explain in detail the different tours available, show a video of passed tours and generally help sell the excursions. If you are unable to attend this meeting, there is always a video on loop on your state room television. Ufnfortuanlaty, our tv didn’t work at first and once it did there was absolutely no mention of any of the tours on any of the channels - we complained at guest services but they were unsure what we were talking about. I assumed that possibly cruising to Vietnam was quite a new thing for Royal Caribbean and they were yet to produce a promotional video (?). Whilst still unsure what tours to book, we decided to attend the meeting in the theatre - this was a total waste of time as the cruise director was not on board. As a replacement, we were presented on a stage with a gentleman that spoke very little English. He embarrassingly read through the information brochure we had been given and showed some photographs that were also already in the brochure. He could provide no additional information and was unable to sell any tours. We complained to guest services who explained that the main tour manager was not on board the ship. All of the tours were very expensive so we wanted to choose the right ones. There were five of us (seven including my parents) so this could prove to be a costly mistake. We queued at the ‘shore excursions desk’ but was greeted with another member of staff, who while friendly, really didn’t have a clue about the difference between the excursions. It was quite apparent that Royal Caribbean were also using the cheap option when it came to docking the ship and rather than dock at the more expensive ports, were docking at the cheaper more industrial sites. This in turn pushed the price of the tours up as buses had to be taken with at least a two hour journey to get to any destination.
To add salt to the wound, on our final day at sea, once we had sailed well away from Vietnam, the tv in our state room started to show videos of the trips we could have gone on! It was such unnecessary incompetence and due totally to a lack of staff
CLEANLINESS OF THE SHIP
When a ship docks and guests disembark for a day’s tour, it is normal practise to clean the boat and carry out necessary repairs whilst all is fairly quiet on board. This did not happen once during our whole cruise. It became quite obvious that no one gave a damn about the condition the boat was in or the cleanliness of the boat. Windows were left filthy and rust was evident everywhere. The ceilings in the main dining room were damp and stained and gave a general impression of a very unhygienic area to eat. Plates, cups and old food was constantly being left lying around and tables were rarely wiped. As well as the lifts being out of action there was also a problem with the air conditioning and constantly we would be tripping over portable air conditioning units placed around the ship. The outside of the ship was a total mess too and not once was the pully system lowered to clean the outside windows or ship.
It was also very noticeable, as a previous guest with Royal Caribbean, that no effort was being made on the ship. No speciality events were on offer or any of the little extras that are normally available to guests. Small things like changing the ‘day of the week’ plate within the lifts was never done - each lift had a different day in it! It was made so very apparent that all the staff just couldn’t wait to get off the ship as they were feeling very overworked and harassed. We frequently heard guests being rude to bar staff simply out of frustration at not getting served. We had purchased the drinks package at a total cost of £1200 but it was useless trying to get a drink within half an hour. Where a bar would normally have at least four or five working, there would be only one.
All the above is understandable for a ship about to go into dry dock but totally unacceptable to guests on board who have paid full price and expect the best attention, top quality food and comfortable and beautiful surroundings. What was most certainly not expected nor acceptable was shabby, poorly maintained surroundings, substandard food and poorly trained, inattentive staff.
I ensured that I followed the complaints procedure and at every chance made my grievances known. A member of Royal Caribbean staff, on my very last day of cruising, offered to send me and my family a voucher off a future cruise. This offer was declined as I felt it was insufficient compensation. Regardless, the vouchers have been sent through to my email address and I, in turn, have returned the email rejecting these vouchers. I find the offer of the vouchers particularly insulting as one of them was for £1.
I believe I did not receive the holiday I paid for so I have made an official complaint. I am seeking full compensation for loss of enjoyment, inconvenience, disappointment, loss of value and out of pocket expenses. I included photographic and video evidence in support of my claim and also some of the receipts for out of pocket expenses. I am hoping they respond within 7 days....we shall see
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