The cruise was primarily chosen as an add on to a week long holiday in Singapore to get away from U.K. for Christmas and New Year. My only previous cruise experience was 2 longer Med cruises with NCL, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had ... Read More
The cruise was primarily chosen as an add on to a week long holiday in Singapore to get away from U.K. for Christmas and New Year. My only previous cruise experience was 2 longer Med cruises with NCL, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had always wanted to try Royal Caribbean as their ships looked slightly better than NCL. Comparisons are not easy as this was a short cruise in a different part of the world but I will try drawing a few conclusions despite this.
Embarkation is never a great experience with thousands all wanting to get on board quickly and I guess the experience is port related. In Venice I’ve sat in a big warehouse waiting for a ticket number with limited refreshments. In Singapore I joined a very long queue that moved quite quickly but there was multiple stages to get through and despite having completed everything electronically beforehand as requested, they still needed to take pictures of passport and me again and by this stage unknown to me, I was meant to have photocopied my passport too which they did there and then. They had a few people processing us but despite the IT they seemed to have to juggle taking photos and adding passport stickers - they ran out of official ones so carefully placed two blank stickers on passport, manually added a Royal Carribbean stamp before writing on cabin number. A few stages later of showing ticket and/or passport we got to a point the passport was surrendered and finally got on the ship.
(My passport is about 8 years old and maybe can’t hold biometric data - it meant despite giving thumb prints I could never get through automatic passport checking and after queuing had to go to a queue for manual checking. This is not RC’s fault).
If you’ve cruised before you’ll know food is a big part of the experience. However I had forgotten that choices when you first embark are limited and you have to quickly identify what is open - there was pizza in sorentos but we had hoped for more choice and ended up in Two Seventy with a few cakes, biscuits and cold bites. That’s normal I guess. By luck where we sat to eat was our muster point and the safety part was really well done with a good drama story video to watch explaining everything with humour.
All but one of our cases made it to the room - one was held back because of a 4-way power lead which seemed ridiculous and meant more fuss at the end of the cruise to get it back.
It was fairly easy to navigate the ship with just two main staircases/lift banks at either end of ship. From memory, the cabins were decks 7-13 with finer dining, entertainment and “shopping” on 4-5, main chow was the Windjammer on 14 with pool and Solarium (which turned out to be a cafe/rest area).
The restaurant situation was similar to NCL. A main large buffet area with tons of variety for breakfast, lunch and dinner and different choices each day, some more free smaller niche venues, free more formal restaurants and then the ones you have to pay for.
I’ve never used the pay ones because like NCL, the food quality and choice of ones included in cruise price were brilliant. What I found confusing was we had been allocated “My Time” restaurant on our SeaPass - a plastic card room key/ID/on-board charge card you get. There was no restaurant listed with this name - we found out it was two joined places called American Icon and The Grande. You had to book but the food was a notch above Windjammer with table service but obviously less choice than Windjammer. We divided our time about 50/50 between this upmarket a la carte place and the windjammer buffet.
The only thing slightly worse than NCL was that they shut the Windjammer between mealtimes whereas I don’t remember that happening with NCL - so often we were waiting for 5.30 to come round so we could eat.
I found the staff in all places absolutely second to none. NCL were fantastic too but RC staff have somehow gone a notch higher still. It would be near impossible to get better service.
You were meant to know the RC phone app was the key to booking things. We found out at guest services and they booked us into Starwater show in Two Seventy (as in 270 degrees, three quarters of a circle, which the tiered seating area is within). This was easily the best cruise show I have seen. At the end of the show the cruise director, a short, portly chap referred to just as “Ken” made one of many appearances during the cruise, as he clearly still needs to be centre stage. To give him his due, despite this being annoying, he is guilty of putting on great shows and annoyingly too he can sing rather well. We also saw the Sequins and Feathers Show in the Royal Theatre which I really enjoyed too. The only show we didn’t rate was The Aussie Boys. We assumed given the singing talent from those shores that we’d here covers of Bee Gees, INXS, Crowded House, Men at Work, John Farnham etc, but we got The Seekers (some folk band from 1960’s), a song in mandarin and other old middle of the road run of the mill stuff. They spent most of the time talking about Australia and the last song was some dirge “Aussies” are meant to go all weepy and homesick about when they are abroad - it was as annoying as listening to Aussies banging on about themselves and if they get so homesick then spare us all and stay home :)
The Royal Esplanade had shops 99% of us would only shop in if we were super rich - Tiffany’s, BVLGARI, Hublot etc. Plus Art Auctions. I have no idea what percentage of passengers use these shops but there was nothing for ordinary folk. It must be a winning formula catering for the few super-rich as this was same as NCL.
As with NCL, WiFi is massively expensive and so is drinks package. When you have a drinks package, you have to take every and any opportunity to drink to get your moneys worth. This probably then adds massive cost to providing the package pushing prices up like a vicious cycle.
Maybe they should consider just charging a reasonable price for the drinks?
The cabins were well laid out, super clean and modern and seemed more spacious than most hotel rooms with ample cupboard and sleeping space for 3 adults.
Unfortunately they are not well sound proofed and we had a nightmare family next door allowing a 3-4 year old to stomp up and down corridor past midnight, wailing, having tantrums and ruining any chance of sleep. RC rehoused us when we went to guest services and it was better but still you hear a lot of clanging and even taps running so maybe take ear plugs just in case.
The RC excursions were well overpriced so we went with Shore Excursions who used the same tour guide company as RC but far cheaper. All the guides were fantastic.
For Port Klang we did Batu caves which were interesting and photo stops, with Petronas Towers being main one - shame they couldn’t organise tickets for us to go up. If I did same cruise again I would stay on ship as much time is on bus.
For Penang we went round a wet market, some temples and Botanic Gardens and saw very little of Georgetown itself, if I had my time over I would have just got off at Penang and spent the time in Georgetown which is at the port.
With Phuket we did James Bond Island - it was 2 hour bus ride and then 30 mins or more by boat to circle a rock island that looked much the same as others we passed. We then went to Koh Panyee village on stilts which was ok but you won’t get good souvenir prices and like all tours, an hour is wasted eating when the ship provides massive breakfast that can tide you over until dinner.
We saw a Budhist cave temple on way back that was like Batu caves at the Kuala Lumpar stop. When we got back to Petong Beach where ship tendered to, there was a few hours left to shop and enjoy beach. If all you do is Petong Beach you will save a lot of time sitting on a coach and get plenty of time to get souvenirs, drink and swim.
The extras like North Star, dodgems, Rock wall etc are ok and there is plenty to keep kids happy but this cruise was so short with just one day at sea after 3 consecutive days with excursions that it wasn’t possible to fully exploit all the opportunities on board.
In summary I would travel with RC again and clearly I was happy to travel with NCL again. They are both offering similar top quality experience, fantastic food and service.
I think 4 full days cruising is too little to enjoy the facilities and I would recommend ones of at least 7 days with at least 2 at sea to feel you have had your money’s worth. Read Less