Royal Caribbean's 5-day cruise to Bermuda October 17 to 22 on Liberty of the Seas was a frustrating and stressful experience for us almost from the beginning. This was not my first cruise, and that's a good thing, because I ... Read More
Royal Caribbean's 5-day cruise to Bermuda October 17 to 22 on Liberty of the Seas was a frustrating and stressful experience for us almost from the beginning. This was not my first cruise, and that's a good thing, because I probably would not have wanted to cruise ever again.
And that would be a shame because our family has shared some absolutely wonderful cruises on other lines and often joke that if we had enough money we would probably just want to get on a ship and sail on forever. As cruisers go, we are a pretty laid back bunch. We don't complain about the occasional bad meal, one or two scheduling mistakes, missed ports, horrific weather conditions, etc. We've experienced them all, and still came away at the end of each cruise feeling sorry the trip had to end. We treat each cruise as an adventure, with the attitude that whatever happens we are still probably going to have a good time.
That approach didn't work this time, for reasons detailed below. If you don't have the time or the interest in reading a lengthy review, I can summarize the three main areas of concern and you can move on: poor communication, bad management, and uncooperative staff.
Yeah, I know. What's left?
Well, to be fair there are a number of things that Liberty does well. They can cook you a tasty meal and serve it with a smile, pour you a well made drink, offer you pools and hot tubs to splash in, walls to climb and waves to ride, and provide you with places to go at night to listen to music or dance. If that's all you need from the cruise, you may have a pretty good time. Just don't ever, ever (did I say "ever"?) ask them for anything else, even services that are listed on their website. You will not get it, and if you ask why, they may become rude, defensive or even hang up on you.
Right before I put my deposit money down, back in February, I explained to the sales rep the purpose of this cruise: it was to function as a honeymoon cruise for my daughter and future son in law, as well as a family vacation. I told him I wanted to hold a small party for everyone before going to dinner at one of the specialty restaurants. I wasn't looking for anything elaborate - wine and cheese, some flowers, some music - and would be comfortable holding it in one of our balcony cabins, or out on the deck. Was there any problem with this?
"Oh, no, ma'am, you can have whatever you want," he assured me.
Not true. As the months wore on, and I invested huge chunks of time exploring my "options" it became apparent that I wasn't going to be able to get anything I wanted, no matter how much I was willing to pay. Trying to navigate my way through various customer service representatives - most of whom told me that wasn't their "area" and that I had chosen the wrong option on the phone tree - consumed some six hours of hold time alone. (That's not an exaggeration. As a former public relations accounts manager I'm in the habit of keeping a detailed phone log for every "project".) Eventually I was directed to the "Royal Romance" planners . Now, they would have been happy to sell me a several thousand dollar Wedding Package for 20 or more guests. When I explained that the couple was already married and we didn't have that many guests aboard, they quickly lost interest.
OK. How about a Renewal of Vows? Oh,no, I was told. They couldn't qualify for a Renewal of Vows package until they had been married for longer than a year!
WHHHYYY? Who could possibly be harmed by a young couple expressing a commitment to each other one more time? I never did get an answer to that question, but I did get hung up on.
By the time the cruise rolled around, I had managed to put something together totally on my own, by going through "Gifts and Gear" and buying things a la carte. I never did get the cheeses to go with my wine, because the offered "Wine and Cheese" package wasn't adequate for the number of people, and couldn't be altered, the only way I could have music was to play it through one of our computers and the flowers had to be delivered to my daughter's cabin the day before. I know. Get over yourself. And I did, but I have never been able to shake the idea that if I had asked for these things through Holland or Carnival I probably would have been given something at least a little closer to what I wanted.
In defense of some of the more pleasant and helpful customer service reps - and there were some - I believe part of the problem rests with RCCL's computer system. It's possible that some of the customer service people were as frustrated as I was, because the difficult in making any plans in advance was way harder than it should have been. RCCL strongly encourages you to make reservations for dinners, entertainment, and activities well in advance of sailing. Go ahead. Make them, if you can. Be sure to allow plenty of time for this, because it isn't easy. Go back on the website the next day, and they have disappeared. Now you are reminded that if you are having trouble, you can call the main number and someone will help you with this. When I called, and reached a rep - again after being on hold for 45 minutes - I got scolded for still having my browser open, and told I would have to call back again at a later time. I protested. Politely, I might add. That was the second time I got hung up on.
Ah, well, but it's dinner we're talking about here. It's frustrating, but there's no real harm done, right? right! Well, but it all got worse. You probably saw that coming...
ONLY FOR THE PHYSICALLY FIT?
As luck would have it, over the summer a chronic knee injury took a turn for the worse. I've been through some long embarkations in the past, so just to be on the safe side, I called RCCL and talked to a genuinely kind woman named Felicia, who suggested I let her put me down for a wheelchair..."just in case". Great! I probably wouldn't need it but it was nice to know it would be there if I did.
WRONG. After driving several hours to Bayonne, armed with a new knee brace and an injection a few days before, I got a little nervous when I saw the size of the crowd at the pier. I approached an RCCL rep and asked where i could pick up my wheel chair..."just in case" this process did involve standing for two hours, as it looked like it might.
"Do I look like I have a wheelchair?" she snapped.
"Well, no, not you personally, but I thought you might know who I could see about this????"
"Well, you should have put in for one long before this," she told me.
Big sigh on my part. I dug around in my trip folder which was now the size of a small telephone directory, for about two seconds and pulled out a page sent to me by wonderful Felicia that did indeed show that I qualified for "Pier Assistance".
She barely glanced at it,and shook her head.
"Ma'am, you're going to have to move along. There's nothing I can do for you."
Approximately two hours later, I limped onto the ship in considerable pain. My adult children were upset, and my husband was beside himself, and went around muttering about how much he disliked this cruise line, how nothing had gone as planned, etc. until we finally reached the dining room and were served a delicious and relaxing lunch by a charming and attentive waiter named Flavio.
By the way, don't do that --mutter OR complain. Apparently, as we were boarding the ship, an unspecified crew member overheard my husband's remarks, reported them to another unspecified manager, who in turn reported us to Security!!! Three days later, we were "invited" into a tiny office, ostensibly to give our side of the story, and then never permitted to do that. Instead we were given a lecture on correct behavior on the high seas, and avoiding "offensive" remarks at all times, because "This is not the United States. We do things differently here." Oh, OK. Good to know!
It turned out alright eventually, but for a few moments I was sure we had slipped into a time warp somewhere in the Bermuda triangle and were now back in Germany in 1939. I felt especially bad for my husband, who has one of the highest security clearances possible, and has on occasion provided security for the Vice President of the United States. He does indeed know what and what not to say in all circumstances, and stayed courteous and cooperative throughout the discussion, though I know he felt enormously frustrated. Complaints are not the same as "hostile" remarks - and if you are going to play "Whisper Down the Lane" with something you THOUGHT you overheard, please make sure you have a good command of the language while you're doing it.
I could go on and on ...about the frequently out-of-service elevators. About the water being turned off for hours in the middle of the night. About the "Superior" Balcony room, which was the smallest and plainest I have ever seen, with no amenities beyond two Oreo cookie-sized pieces of soap, a refrigerator that never worked, and a broken intercom speaker which meant you had to run out into the hall every time an announcement was made. I could talk about getting information about shore excursions, or disembarkation, etc., but my heart isn't in it. I don't like to be petty, and had my cruise only involved problems of that nature, I would never have written this review. It wasn't any one thing that sank this cruise for us. It was the whole experience from beginning to end, and an uneasy sense that there was a pervasive attitude at the management and administrative levels here that was indifferent to the needs of the passengers.
To Clement, our steward, Michelle from Portofino, all the wait staff in the Dining Room, Boleros, the Champagne Bar, the Piano Bar, and even the young Israeli man in Security (but not the other one!) NONE of these remarks apply to you! You were all wonderful and provided us with at least some happy and comfortable moments on this cruise.
Anyone can have a bad cruise. I myself have read bad reviews of ships that I thought were excellent. Maybe the whole thing was just one big bad example of Murphy's law. It's possible. But if I believed that, i would not have written this review.
"Caveat emptor" . let the buyer beware. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Read the fine print -- all of it! Then put a smile on your face, shut up as you board the ship, and you may have a nice time. Good luck! Read Less