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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We chose this cruise due to the locations and our previous experience of Royal Caribbean. Our embarkation was good only taking about 15 mins to check in, clear security and step aboard the ship. The ship has benefitted from some ... Read More
We chose this cruise due to the locations and our previous experience of Royal Caribbean. Our embarkation was good only taking about 15 mins to check in, clear security and step aboard the ship. The ship has benefitted from some recent refurbishment but areas are looking a little tired and in need of some minor maintenance. Dining was reasonably good with the quality in the Windjammer buffet of a decent standard although a little repetitive after a few days. The main dining room we used on Deck 3 was again of decent standard although the standard of service was a little mixed. The best waiter by a mile was Dody who I could not fault. We sampled most of the bars on the ship and found the R bar to be slightly quieter than the others. Christine was excellent offering quality cocktails and suggestions of drinks to try. The Promenade café was ok for coffee and snacks but finding a seat was a bit of a lottery as was seating in most of the bars. The entertainment was a huge disappointment with the quality of the performers poor apart from a few. The ships orchestra and ice dance troop however were very good. The only way to sum up the entertainment director was he was a complete waste of space. The ship in general was ok but I think it will find it hard to compete with the newer ships that are now on offer. The Captain was very good at putting people to sleep with his daily midday announcements. St Petersburg was a highlight and we used Alla Tours for our excursions for two days who were excellent and cheaper than the options the ship could offer. Overall we enjoyed our cruise but I think this was due to the fact we met some good friends whilst on board (thanks to them and the Key Lime Pie episode !!!!!!) Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
We wanted a cruise with interesting destinations and the Baltic/Russia itinerary was perfect as the ports themselves were mostly significant and interesting which meant that there was no need to book an expensive tour. We visited all the ... Read More
We wanted a cruise with interesting destinations and the Baltic/Russia itinerary was perfect as the ports themselves were mostly significant and interesting which meant that there was no need to book an expensive tour. We visited all the major capital cities. The ship was a mind boggling experience for the first couple of days. The sheer size of it ( although today that would not be a large ship). Dining....The Sapphire dining rooms provided a very pleasant experience. We chose My Time Dining. The service from all staff was excellent.. Menu choices were varied and the quality superb most of the time although desserts could have been a little more imaginative and were not always tasty. Windjammer...again there was a mind numbing array of choice and all tasty. The views from all parts good and ample seating even when busy. There was never any queuing other than if you wanted something freshly prepared. We have a few criticisms...no fruit juices were available unless you had a drinks package, only squashes/cordials. There was not enough choice of healthy/vegetarian type dishes, interesting salads etc. Maybe instead of the unhealthy sweeteners offered, you could offer honey/ healthy sweeteners. The music on the piped system was terrible, intrusive, often loud and screechy, not at all suited to dining or the older ages of most of the clientele. We agreed with the head waiter that as he was unable to change the music he would turn it down, but we still had to complain when this was not done. Entertainment.....some of the evening shows were superb, some okay, the seating was excellent. As for the entertainment around the ship, Perry Grant was the best thing RC had, so entertaining, funny, original, he was a great success all round. Activities.... Daytime activities could be much improved. Often there were several things on at 10 am but obviously I could not do them all! Why oh why does the table tennis have to be on the outside deck? If you've never played it in the wind, here is your chance! Ridiculous. You cannot please everyone with daytime activities, but we felt there were too many simple, childlike attempts at quizzes, games etc and not enough exciting activities where one could learn something or see a demonstration, ice carving or something. All in all, they obviously cater for the 'masses' and not the more discerning traveller. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
Mostly went on this cruise for the wonderful ports we stopped in. Embarkation and leaving the ship were quick and easy. The ship was fine. The average age of the ship was very old (older than i thought and I expected the crowd to be ... Read More
Mostly went on this cruise for the wonderful ports we stopped in. Embarkation and leaving the ship were quick and easy. The ship was fine. The average age of the ship was very old (older than i thought and I expected the crowd to be old). This was fine for us as we are not the type to stay out late partying - but almost nobody showed up to parties or events. The shows were also tailored for the older crowd. The ship was our biggest so we expected entertainment to be awesome - the lead male and female singers were great but there was only one comedian the entire trip and we were unimpressed with the entertainment overall. There is not a ton to do on the ship - basketball and ping pong are outside and the wind makes them almost impossible. If you are not doing trivia, at a bar, or playing bingo, there is alot of time for hot tubs. The adults only section of pool and hot tubs were the biggest I've seen and we loved them - but they did not have access to watch the movie if you are excited about that. There were also a variety of lectures prior to the port stops. Dining was fine - very comparable to other cruise ships and companies. The service, however, was EXCELLENT. The best dining room service we have had in about 6/7 cruises. We did not try any specialty dining for the first time. Ports were great - some very small towns such as Oslo had little to do but were enjoyable. Russia did not disappoint - be sure to book excursions before hand in order to get off the ship. HOWEVER, the cruises sometimes imply or otherwise make it seem as if you can only get off the ship if you have an excursion booked through them directly. This is NOT the case. While the Royal Caribbean cruises had more time (about an hour before and a bit after) in Russia, we completed our full two day tour. I recommend SPB for small groups - the cruise had large buses with up to 45 people. Many places such as the Hermitage and Peterhof are packed and it is very disorganized in the museums so having a small group with SPB of only about 15 made things MUCH easier. Highly recommend the Ice Bar in Helskini - there are several (such as Stockholm) but Helsinki is far superior with a large indoor facility. Love the trip - once in a lifetime. PS there are not a ton of kids on this trip - we loved it. however, if we had kids there was not alot for them to do and not enough kids to get anything done Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
We had the most amazing cruise ever to Scadinavia on Explorer! I read the negative reviews on Explorer beforehand and they had me concerned. I really shouldn't have worried at all as the ship is in great condition for her age. Yes, ... Read More
We had the most amazing cruise ever to Scadinavia on Explorer! I read the negative reviews on Explorer beforehand and they had me concerned. I really shouldn't have worried at all as the ship is in great condition for her age. Yes, there was some paint chipping and condensation on the windows but you are much more particular than us if that's going to affect your vacation at all. The ship was clean, the staff (especially our stateroom attendant) was so friendly, the food in both the MDR and Windjammer was delicious and the entertainment was great (especially the skating show). We really couldnt find any fault at all with the ship. When we had an issue with our bathroom it was fixed in 15 minutes. We went to a lot of the game shows and sports events and had a fantastic time. We won 10 medals! Never had an issue finding a seat in the theater or star lounge. Even on busy sea days we always found a seat in the Windjammer and it was great that they opened the chops grille to give more seating for breakfast. We chose this cruise for the incredible itinerary and it didnt disappoint . Embarkation was very easy, we were on the ship in about 20 minutes. At most ports the ship docked within walking distance of the main areas . We did Oslo (go to Vigeland statue park), Copenhagen, Talinn Stockholm (dont miss the Vasa museum) on our own and found the cities easy to navigate from the ship. For helsinki we did a royal Caribbean excursion to a really fun ice bar which was great! For St Petersburg we used SPB tours which did the same itinerary as royal but was cheaper and had a smaller group In stavanger we climbed pulpit rock. Incredible views but an incredibly difficult hike dont underestimate it! Overall this was the cruise of a lifetime on a wonderful ship. Highly recommend a cruise on Explorer! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
My husband and I sailed on Explorer of the Seas on 23 June 2019 on a 14 Night Baltic Cruise as part of his birthday celebrations and I booked the cruise a year in advance. He has always wanted to see Russia and this cruise gave us the ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on Explorer of the Seas on 23 June 2019 on a 14 Night Baltic Cruise as part of his birthday celebrations and I booked the cruise a year in advance. He has always wanted to see Russia and this cruise gave us the opportunity to spend 2 days in St Petersburg, visit lots of other ports and sail from Southampton so no need for flights. We did have a long drive from our home in Scotland but broke up the journey on the way down, staying with family near Chester. Southampton Pre-Cruise - Stayed at the Premier Inn which I booked online a few months in advance. Parking available but very limited and payable extra. Booked dinner that evening at White Star Tavern which was excellent. - Parked car at ABP Parking. Again, booked in advance and was able to use a discount code when I emailed them direct to get 10% off. Couldn't believe how easy this was. Basically, we drove to the terminal, spotted the ship, were directed to a car park directly adjacent to the terminal, parked up, took out our cases with their labels attached and locked the car. We keep the keys and the cases were taken from us by porters. We just walked over to check in with our hand luggage and were on the ship within half an hour. We had an advised check-in time of 2.30pm but arrived at 12pm and were onboard by 12.30pm. Cabin - we had been assigned inside cabin 6229. I had put in a low bid on RCI's Royal Up scheme for a Promenade and a Balcony but was unsuccessful. The ship was full so no upgrades were available. We've previously had inside cabins which have been perfectly adequate although we did enjoy a balcony on a Marella cruise in the Med. However, RCI wanted an additional £1600 for the balcony cabin at the time of booking which I felt wasn't value for money. I hadn't considered an Ocean View cabin. With hindsight, I would probably look at this again as we missed seeing daylight and would have liked to have the ability to relax in our cabin in the evening and still enjoy a view. The cabin had everything we required - safe, fridge, double wardrobe and 4 shelves inside plus shelves at the dressing table and either side of the bed. There was a small couch but no table which would have been good for eating breakfast on the few days when we ordered breakfast in the room (Continental is free/ Cooked has a charge of $7.95 per room). There are tea/coffee making facilities. TV is limited, mainly RCI channels promoting their products, couple of sports and news channels and a Film of the Day channel. Explorer of the Seas is due to go for a refit next year and will benefit from new carpets/upholstery and a fresh lick of paint which it does need. However, the standard of service and attention from the staff more than makes up for this. We ate in the Windjammer at breakfast and lunchtimes (if we weren't in port) and the choice of food is fantastic. Fresh omelettes and eggs cooked to order. You could eat your way around the world. Staff are very attentive and we ordered our drinks when we sat down. We were on the ultimate drinks package and ordered whatever we wanted from the drinks menu. If there's a cocktail they haven't listed they'll make it for you if you describe it. We ate in the Main Dining Room which is called Sapphire in the evening and also had a 5 night Speciality Restaurant dining package which I had bought through the Cruise Planner. The first night was booked in advance and I booked the remaining nights as soon as I boarded the ship to make sure we had the reservations we wanted. The speciality restaurants are as follows; Giovanni's Table - We were disappointed with this. Nothing to do with the staff. The restaurant is situated on deck 3 and feels like it was added as an afterthought, no windows and almost feels like dining in a basement. Also, I had linguine vongole which appeared on the MDR menu a few nights later. Meant to be 'speciality'. Izumi - We're not very familiar with Japanese cuisine and enjoyed the experience. The staff were great at recommending dishes which fit within the budget allowed. We had 2 starters, 2 main courses on hot stones and dessert and only had to add $2.00 to the bill. The view from Izumi is stunning as it is situated on the top deck opposite the Sky Lounge. Chop's Grille - Our favourite. We ate here 3 times. Feels like a speciality restaurant should feel. Amazing view with floor to wall windows on deck 11. Ate every course offered on the first visit and realised this was just too much for us so got it right on the next visits. We stuck to the steaks but did see a couple having the small seafood tower which looked HUGE and delicious. Supplement for that but would be lovely for a special treat and especially if you like seafood. MDR - We always requested a table for 2 and never a problem. We were on My Time Dining and tend to eat later so usually arrived at 8.30pm which was never an issue. We requested a specific table on several occasions and were always accommodated. Food choices were great and we could always find something we liked. We aren't vegetarian and don't suffer allergies/intolerances so not sure what this would be like although the staff always asked this question in advance. There is no midnight buffet but the Promenade Café seems to be open all night (the latest we went to bed one night was 3am and it was still open) and serves pizza, sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee. Entertainment - Can't really comment on this too much as we didn't go to many of the shows/activities. We have previously been on Allure where the shows are of an extremely high standard so the offering on Explorer didn't seem as spectacular. We did go to the Silent Disco on the 2 occasions it was held and we found it hilarious. We also went to the Russian Folk Dancing show which was held in the Palace Theatre on the overnight stop at St Petersburg. Really enjoyed this and well attended. There was a singer playing most nights in the Crown & Kettle Pub on the Promenade and there was a singer called Perry playing in the Schooner Bar who proved to be extremely popular. He was like Liberace meets Judy Garland. There are discos every night in Dizzy's in the sky Lounge which start about 10pm (apart from one night when all the adults had to clear out for a teen zone!). Sky Lounge - This was our favourite bar, especially in the evening when we returned from the port and wanted a drink before getting changed for dinner. We watched most of the sailaways from here as the view is fantastic and the staff are so attentive. In reality, it was too windy to spend too much time on deck and the ship would have benefitted from a cover over the pool areas for this type of cruise. It wouldn't be an issue in the Med or Caribbean but the Baltic is quite windy, especially on Sea Days. The solarium is open to the elements and there were occasions were the Jacuzzi had to be closed. There were some people who lay on sunbeds but they were wrapped in blankets and fully clothed! We actually had better weather than I expected but it was still to windy to sit on deck in the evening. PORTS VISITED - Our main reason for selecting this cruise was St Petersburg but the other ports proved to be equally as interesting. All the times I've given are the time we were allowed ashore. OSLO 1100 - 1630 Docked next to Akershus Fortress. No need for a shuttle bus. Can walk directly into town. We walked to the Opera House where you can walk inside and on the roof for free. We then went to the Tourist Info Centre in the main train station (one of the nicest stations I have ever seen) and bought tram tickets from there for Tram 12 to Vigeland Sculpture Park. Returned by tram to Mathallen which is a foodhall where we had a fresh seafood meal. Drink is VERY expensive but that's Nordic countries for you. Returned in time for a quick look at the big souvenir shop at the terminal before boarding. COPENHAGEN 1030 - 1630 Docked at Quay Oceankaj C331 which is potentially walkable but would take about 45 mins. We had booked a free walking tour with Sandemann's which started at 11am so we took the shuttle bus and tickets for this can be bought at guest services and charged to your account ($20 per person). Our walking tour was 3 hours and took us from City Hall through the mediaeval parts of the city down to the harbour. At the end, you tip the guide. Thoroughly recommend this. We had time for a drink in a bar overlooking the canal. 2 beers cost about £20 but you're in vibrant Copenhagen in the sunshine. HELSINKI 100 - 1700 What a surprise! Clean, cosmopolitan and friendly. We docked at Hernesaari which is a small peninsula which is being developed with new homes, restaurants. It is walkable into town but, due to time constraints and wanting to see as much as possible within the time constraints, we took the Hop On Hop Off Shuttle Bus. This was again charged to our account ($20 each) and makes 4 stops in the city. We saw the Old Market Hall which has reindeer, smoked salmon, prawns so don't eat too much for breakfast, Uspenke Cathedral, Rock Church (3 euros to go inside) and could have got off at the Sibelius sculpture but ran out of time as we had booked a sauna at the Loyly Sauna. This was amazing a very Finnish thing to do. We had a choice of saunas (traditional smoke and standard), birch twigs, terraces to enjoy a drink while looking over the bay and a dip in the Baltic and you HAVE to wear a costume which appealed to our conservative British customs. If you fancy this, book it in advance as it was fully booked when we arrived. You get a locker, towel, napkin and 2 hours in the sauna for 19 euros. Short walk from there back to the ship. ST PETERSBURG Stunning and overwhelming experience. Docked about 20-30 mins outside the city centre. 6 cruise ships all berthed in the same dock. We had booked an independent tour with SPB Tours and are delighted that we did. They were professional and their attention to detail was outstanding. We benefitted from the fact that we were a small party of 14 with our own mini bus and driver and were able to bypass the huge crowds which were everywhere. It was VERY busy. I don't think I've seen so many tourists in all my life. RCI try to encourage you to book their tours but, if you do, you're first off the ship so have to be up extremely early and you'll be on a big bus with about 40-50 people. We completed a form on the first day of our cruise informing them we had an independent tour arranged. We were given a time slot to meet in the MDR at 8.15. There were hundreds of people there and we were all taken off in groups to go through passport control. This takes about 45 mins to clear (much quicker on the 2nd day) and our guide was there to meet us when we got into the terminal. They wait until the whole group is there (as everyone had different time slots). We did the 2 Day Deluxe Tour and got a discount for being part of the Cruise Critic Roll. I paid everything in advance online and gave tips in US dollars to the driver and guide at the end of the tour. We visited the following; Metro Hermitage Church of Spilled Blood Yusopov Palace St Isaac's Cathedral St Peter and St Paul Fortress Peterhof Palace and Gardens Boat trip on Neva Lunches were included on both days (one was 4 course and the other was 5 course so you won't be hungry!) and we were taken to a souvenir shop. It was expensive but you can't wander about yourself so if you want a souvenir you buy it there or at the shops in the terminal (the ship did sell Russian gifts too). TALLINN 0700 - 1600 Easy 15 minute walk into town although there are shuttle buses available. We had booked the KGB Museum which is located in Hotel Viru at 11am. It's 2 rooms at the top of the hotel but gives a fascinating insight into life in Estonia in the Soviet era. Views from the top are pretty special too. Again, book in advance if you want to do this as it was sold out on the day. Spent the afternoon walking around the old town which is beautiful. Quaint houses, cobbled streets, viewpoints looking over the town. We went to a bar called Porgu where they serve Estonian beers and local food. Prices for everything are much more reasonable here. Also had cake and coffee in Cafe Maisasmokk which is the oldest cafe in Tallinn. Lots of souvenir shops so good place to stock up on reasonably priced local items. STOCKHOLM 0800 - 1430 Docked at Stadsgarden. It was pouring when we arrived which wasn't great but still have to go ashore for a look. There were shuttle buses and Hop On Hop Off which we didn't organise and we heard there were lots of delays due to the weather. We walked to Gamla Stan which was about half an hour. Very touristy in Gamla Stan. but nice to see the Changing of the Guard at the Palace at 12.15. We passed the Parliament Buildings and noticed they do free tours in English on the hour. We went for a meal in Tradition which had traditional Swedish food and was busy, always a good sign. The sailaway from Stockholm is the most spectacular I have ever seen and shouldn't be missed. It takes 5 hours so you can enjoy it from the Sky Lounge/restaurants on the upper decks. SKAGEN 0900 - 1630 Small town whose population doubles when a cruise ship arrives (on top of which there was a music festival so it was buzzing). Weather was extremely windy so probably not seeing it at its best but pretty houses and nice shops. Walkable into town although we bought shuttle bus and regular bus tickets in the Tourist Info at the dock (directly opposite the ship gangway). Went to Grenen where the Baltic meets the North Sea. This was fantastic. Get the sandworm otherwise it's a bit of a trek. We had amazing fish and chips in Skagen Fiskerestaurant where the floor is covered in sand (booked in advance online) STAVANGER 0900 - 1630 Docked in the centre of town so easy walk in. This was the only port where I had pre-booked a RCI Shore Excursion which was subsequently cancelled due to lack of interest (they credit your onboard account, not your credit card). However, we had booked the Petroleum Museum which we could see from the ship and just walked to! Cost of tour was almost £80 for us both (included a trip to the 3 Swords Statue) but entry to the museum was 120 Krone each (about £24). Spent 2 hours here. If we'd gone to other museums in Stavanger, entry would have been half price. Very pretty old town. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
So, we just got back from our cruise with a preschooler and an infant, and thought I'd pass along some pros/cons/tips for the Brilliance of the Seas, 12 Night British Isles Cruise. I wish I knew then what I knew now, so hopefully ... Read More
So, we just got back from our cruise with a preschooler and an infant, and thought I'd pass along some pros/cons/tips for the Brilliance of the Seas, 12 Night British Isles Cruise. I wish I knew then what I knew now, so hopefully this helps anyone interested. Booking I chose to book with AAA and there really wasn’t anything good about that experience. I would definitely go straight to Royal Caribbean based upon my experience. In short, I ended up having to do A LOT personally to correct my travel agent’s mistakes, in addition to paying more for my trip, along with poorer service than just going direct to RC. Here are some of my lessons learned: • Don’t buy travel insurance UNTIL you check with your credit card company you are planning on using for the cruise. Even after bringing up my card’s benefits to my travel agent, she still talked me into buying the insurance through RC. When I called my credit card to double check and found out that my coverage was all that and better, it was too late to cancel. • Get your flight through RC if possible. Even if you are going in a day early, if you are in a foreign land, this will give you the peace of mind that both your luggage and you get to the ship on time, or be covered if not. • Definitely double check with the airline directly after booking the flight through whomever you use. We called to confirm and found out they had all of us in separate rows, even thought that violated the airline policy due to the ages of some of our travelers. I have to say, United Air stepped up and helped us correct what our travel agent messed up. • Understand the trade-offs between booking a “Guaranteed” room as opposed to one through the current sale. This was not explained well to us and we went with the Guaranteed Room. This meant we paid less in the front end. However, we were put on a bottom floor and missed out on the bonus cruise dollars, that would have made up for that savings we saw from the guaranteed booking. If you are planning on spending some money on the boat, its better to shop the sales. • Get the balcony of you can afford it. The lock is up high, out of reach of children, and if safety is still a concern, have the room attendant remove the outside furniture. The added storage space for strollers and such alone is worth it! Aside from the fact you will wish you had it when you’re on board. • Oh, and if you are traveling with small children, be sure to tell the folks before your international flights. You will get to board early no matter your assigned group. Excursions • There’s a lot of interesting stops along this cruise, and I feel the ship excursions are the way to go (as opposed to looking to alternates offered from different sources), especially when traveling with children and after a decent amount of online research. • Children 3 and under are free for excursions. There definitely were some excursions where both the adults and children were better off with the kids at the Royal Tots and Adventure Ocean, but the fact you didn’t pay extra was cool when we chose to bring them along. So be sure to book them along with yourself, even if you are unsure, at the time of your excursion booking. • Book your excursions in advance. They often come at a discount and sometimes the popular ones do fill up by the date of that particular stop. I’d even go so far as to say even if you’re on the fence about one, still book it in advance. Of course, do your research, but the fact of the matter is, you will likely want to do it when that date comes along and better to have paid less and be assured a space. You can always cancel up to 48 hours prior to the excursion. • The downside of the excursions RC offers is that are still done by a 3rd party. So, if you have a problem, RC will not provide a refund. They will inform you they will pass it along to the excursion company, but that’s the extent of their “help”. They are NOT your advocate. We had an issue on one and still haven’t heard anything, 3 weeks after the cruise. With that said, I think more often than not, you will have a good experience. Just recognize RC assumes little to no responsibility when you have problems on an excursion. Child Care / Children’s Programs • I can’t say enough good things about my experience with Royal Tots and Adventure Club. My preschooler loved it and we felt very secure with their care for our infant. • I was a little scared about the hours and the available spaces getting filled prior to our cruise, since you couldn’t do any pre-booking for those services. However, there turned out to be no need for concern. They have this down and it is really easy to use. Go to the open house on your first day on board and get it set up. There will be space for your child on this particular cruise. • Order diapers, wipes and baby food ahead of time to be delivered to your room. Call RC directly to do this. This service is buried in their website and is glitchy from my experience if you try to do it online. The reps on the phone are, by and large, super helpful and will get it done for you. And if you get someone from RC on the phone who seems reluctant or unknowing about this service, politely end that conversation and call back later. You will get someone who can and will help you. But the fact of the matter is it will save you a ton of luggage space and their costs aren’t much different than a target in the States. Dining • I thought the dining room was top notch and the buffet was hit or miss. My Time Dining was the way to go. But go ahead and book times in advance if you have a handle on your schedule, even with the MTD. There’s a lot to be said for having the same attendants through-out. And if your waiters seem a little off that first night, don’t give up on them. They’re in the dining room for a reason and will get to know your family and take good care of you. • Definitely book a specialty dining package in advance. If you’re on a cruise for this long, you are going to want some variety. And even with the sales you will see once on board, it will never be as cheap as it is before the cruise. I didn’t get to go to the Giovanni’s or Chefs table, but Chops Grille was awesome, and they were great with the kids. We also went to Izumi, but I did not like the food or the service. Here they tell you to bring your kids, but from all appearances they really don’t want you to. Once we were seated we rarely saw our waiter and he was curt and unhelpful when we did see him. And he was the waiter featured on the videos about the restaurant on the boat! And when it came down to it, the sushi was just not good. So the service definitely wasn’t something I would say I would put up with for the food. • If you have interest in the Mystery Theatre Dinner, book it in advance. It will not be available when you’re onboard. Plan for an adult dinner that night if you decide to sign up. Get the kids an earlier meal and then take them to the childcare for a couple of hours. We didn’t do this but wish we had. The Spa • I’ve been to the spa several times on different cruises and talked to a few different travelers about their experiences on RC, and the consensus is it’s just OK. Here again, buy in advance to get the savings if you want it, but temper your expectations. Massages aren’t great, and they will try to sell you the lotions when you are done. • In fact, there’s a lot of hard selling and up selling going on at the spa. For instance, if you want a steam in addition to your massage (like you would get at a typical on land spa), you will pay extra. • In our case they really pushed this “great consultation” from a trainer who will develop a diet and fitness plan for you for around $50 for a couple. In short, it was an hour high-pressure sales pitch with a guy trying to sell us seaweed pills, who would not discuss diet and exercise, and who wouldn’t take no for an answer. We had to just get up and walk away. My advice is don’t expect to find anything better (or even close to as good) for your health on the boat, than you would find through true health professionals back on land in the US. • Prices are likely more expensive when compared to spas you have been to in the past, so just recognize that higher price is not indicative of the quality of service. You pay a premium bc your trapped on a ship with no other offers. That doesn’t mean you won’t find the masseuse you’ve been waiting for all your life. I just wouldn’t get your hopes up. Stores • Although this is a British Isles cruise, don’t expect to see anything from the British Isles in the cruise shops. We were surprised to see only Baltic and Russian souvenirs in shops, even on the special sales days. It was explained to us that this is because the ship spends most of its time in the Baltic and only goes to the British Isles once a year. • Don’t believe the cashier that you can send your EU tax reimbursement form from home. You cannot. Global Blue informed me of this when I inquired once back in the States. You need to go through 2 lines at the Amsterdam airport to receive a refund and be prepared for a circus. So, if you want that money, plan to get that done before you get on your plane. • Be careful about the digital photo package. We bought it and still don’t have our pictures. I’ve called and emailed Royal Caribbean numerous times, and they tell me it is a third party who does that, and they have no control. And the third party is virtually impossible to get ahold of, and pretty nasty when you do. They do not have an email or direct line you can contact an actual person. I’ll update this part once it is resolves, but it is a problem with Royal Caribbean and their complete decentralization of everything. I have found accountability is scarce with RC when something goes wrong. Id say buy the actual pics if you really want to, but definitely stay away from the digital packages. Royal Caribbean in General • I think there’s two types of crew members on Royal Caribbean ships. Those who bend over backwards for you, and those who will do anything to avoid helping you. No in between. I never heard more people telling me that’s not their job and that they don’t know who can give me the answer. Even on postage to send a postcard! So, remember, if someone doesn’t help you, come back later and a different person will. This may be personality driven as different people connect with different people. So, you may have a good experience with someone I had a bad experience with. I think the main thing to keep in mind, don’t get upset when this happens bc it will happen, just try someone else later. It will work out:) Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
Our trip to Scandinavia included two nights in Stockholm and an 11 night cruise from Copenhagen up the coast of Norway past the Arctic Circle to the North Cape. We had previously done a cruise that included Bergen, Norway and wanted to ... Read More
Our trip to Scandinavia included two nights in Stockholm and an 11 night cruise from Copenhagen up the coast of Norway past the Arctic Circle to the North Cape. We had previously done a cruise that included Bergen, Norway and wanted to see more of that beautiful country. We flew into Stockholm after a lengthy trip from Orlando. Living in coastal Georgia, we normally fly out of Jacksonville, Florida, but the airfare from JAX was $600 per person higher for our trip than flying out of Orlando. That did involve driving 2.5 hours past Jacksonville and a night in a hotel prior to our flight to Europe. Sleep Inn & Suites - Orlando Airport We booked this hotel through park, sleep and fly. Some hotels offer parking for travelers that stay in a hotel prior to flying out for a vacation. There were not many choices and this was the best one available. The hotel itself looked clean enough and the rooms were spacious. The hotel was a bit old and worn, but acceptable. However, after checking in our room, we noticed that the air conditioner could only function on full blast. The room was about 60 degrees, so we turned off the AC. We never turned it on and didn’t have a problem. The breakfast was good, but checking in the hotel took way too long with only one front desk clerk. Our parking was on the side of the hotel past the paved area in an area of dirt and some trees. I parked in there and upon return from our trip, found that my car was blocked in by another vehicle. Since we returned at 2am, I had to drive over a curb. Fortunately, my vehicle was undamaged in the process. Still, the hotel did a very poor job in managing the parking. We will never stay in this hotel again. STOCKHOLM We had three flights to make it to Copenhagen, having to fly to Atlanta then Paris Charles de Gaulle and finally to Stockholm. We arrived about 12:30pm and made our way to the Flybussarna. There were nice busses every 10 minutes that took us into the city to the main rail station. Cost was a little more than $10 per person. From the rail station we took a taxi to our hotel. First Hotel Reisen We booked this hotel because of its great location and reasonable rates. The hotel was an older hotel, but clean and well maintained. The room was comfortable and a reasonable size. Air conditioning was not common for hotels in Stockholm, so we had an electric fan in the room that was effective. It was 30 degrees C when we first arrived, but the fan cooled our room just fine. The hotel had a nice restaurant, where we dined one evening and an excellent buffet breakfast. We would stay in the hotel again if we visited Stockholm again. After the long trip, we were tired and didn’t do any touring. We took a short nap and had dinner at the hotel, which gave us discount of about $10 since we were staying in the hotel. The meal was a Swedish seafood stew and excellent. The next day, we were very busy. We met a Free Walking Tour of the Old Town that was about two hours long. The tour guide was very good and we enjoyed the old city. We went back to visit the Royal Palace and Cathedral that was nearby. We passed the Nobel Museum, but decided to skip it. We found the ferry that took us close to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a huge 17th Century sailing ship launched with much pomp and ceremony that capsized and sunk after sailing about 200 meters. Vasa Museum The museum was amazing. The ship had been recovered from the harbor almost intact. The museum building was built around the huge ship. There were parts of the ship that had to replace rotten or damaged wood, but most of it was the original. There was an excellent film about the ship’s history and why it capsized. Other exhibits showed who worked on building the ship, including the role of women. Shipbuilders from Holland came to Stockholm for the King of Sweden. Several people died when the ship capsized. We learned that the design of the ship was flawed. It was top heavy and the hold was not large enough to support the needed ballast. We spent 2-3 hours in the museum. Upon returning to Gamla Stan, were our hotel was located, we walked around a little more and found a restaurant that proved to be just what we needed. Restaurant Kaffegillet i Gamla Stan AB We picked the Kaffegillet at random, after a full day of touring Stockholm. The restaurant was in the old city with seating inside and outside next to the street. We chose to dine inside. Everything we selected for our meal was great. The prices for the meal were reasonable, including the wine. We had reindeer for our appetizer and salmon for the main course. Everything was wonderful. The next day we had a five hour train ride to Copenhagen. I had book first class tickets for about $50 per person. The train was very nice. The first class car had only 3 seats across that were very spacious and comfortable. We enjoyed the green countryside of Southern Sweden on our way to Copenhagen. We arrived at the rail station at the Copenhagen Airport (closer to our hotel than the main rail station), took a taxi to the Crowne Plaza. Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers Hotel We stayed at the Crowne Plaza again for one night prior to our Norway cruise. The hotel was convenient to the airport and a nearby shopping mall. Rooms were spacious, modern and with all the amenities. Breakfast was not included with the room, but was excellent. The hotel's rates were very reasonable for Copenhagen. There was a concert at the new arena and the area was flooded with people going there. We had difficulty finding a place to eat at the nearby shopping mall due to the large crowds. We finally found a Mexican restaurant that we could eat. The food had only the faintest resemblance to Mexican food. In fact, the salsa tasted more like it was from India. The cooks appeared to be Indian. The next day we had a great breakfast at the Crowne Plaza and about noon we boarded a shuttle bus to the cruise port. The cruise terminal turned out to be the same one that we had used on our cruise from Copenhagen 5 1/2 years ago. SERENADE OF THE SEAS This cruise was our second on Royal Caribbean. We were elite on Celebrity and able to transfer our loyalty benefits to become Diamond on Royal Caribbean for our first cruise on Explorer of the Seas last year in a TransPacific cruise. Our Norway Arctic Circle cruise was cheap, since we had a huge credit from a cancelled cruise last year that was to go to New Zealand. Serenade of the Seas is one of the smaller ship in the large Royal fleet and we very much enjoyed our cruise. We are trending to Royal since Celebrity and NCL have significantly raised their cruse prices. New Checkin Procedure While still at home, I had gone through the check-in process and printed out a scalable sheet for Ginny and I. When we arrived at the port of embarkation in Copenhagen, we checked our luggage, then immediately a representative greeted us, scanned our sheets and passed us to board the ship. It all took a minute or two. She indicated that our key cards were in our cabin. We were amazed at how expedited the boarding process had become. When we arrived at our cabin, it was ready and our cards were in an envelope on the door. Dining We found dining in Serenade’s main dining room (MDR) was about on par with Celebrity’s MDR dining. The menu for Royal’s MDR has a bit fewer choices than on Celebrity, but everything we ordered was excellent. Service on Serenade was excellent. We dined about half of our meals in the MDR and for most had Julio as our head waiter. He was great and took good care of our needs. We did have the 3 meal dining package for specialty dining and enjoyed the Italian, Steak and Asian restaurants. All were excellent and the worst thing was that we tended to overeat more. We did dine at the buffet for breakfast and lunch, as well as twice for dinner. Breakfast and lunch were pretty good. The omelet station was great, but I missed the Celebrity Eggs Benedict station. For a few nights Serenade had an Eggs Benedict station, but when I ordered breakfast there twice, the eggs were cooked hard, pretty much eliminating the joy of having breakfast from there. The two dinners that we dined in the buffet, I was seriously disappointed in what I chose. The most disappointing items were the Moussaka and then the Lasagna. Both were nothing like the real thing. The Moussaka had no eggplant or meat. It was largely composed of potatoes. The Lasagna had no pasta and was mainly beef, with melted cheese on top. I tried other dishes in the evening and nothing was really that good. One night is settled for a burger that was about the best thing available. It was interesting, since at lunch, the buffet would usually have something that I liked. Entertainment The entertainment in Royal Caribbean is generally superior to Celebrity’s entertainment. We didn’t go to all the shows, but the shows that we attended were excellent. The production show singers were excellent. The top show that we saw was the fantastic violinist. She was originally from China, but I don’t remember her name. DIAMOND HAPPY HOUR Our happy hour was held in the Diamond Lounge, which was small on deck 13. It was always a bit crowded, but you could eventually find seats. Service was good and you could order three drinks outside that location, even when dining up until 8:30pm. It worked well for us, since I only paid for two drinks for the entire cruise (when I ordered drinks for us a bit after 8:30 in the MDR). Our cruise had six ports and they were filled with amazing scenery. Some ports were no more than small villages, others were medium sized or large cities. The farther north we progressed, the longer the days, until we had 2-3 nights when the sun did not set. We learned to sleep with a little light coming in around the sides of the curtains in our cabin. GEIRANGER Our first port was Geiranger and its fantastic fjord. We learned that a fjord is carved out of rock by glaciers that existed during the ice age. We saw a lot of fjords in Norway and the one in Geiranger was arguably the most impressive. We had a private tour booked with Norway Excursions. Our tour for Geiranger with Norwegian Excursions was cancelled while we were traveling. The company refunded our payment and put us on the Mt. Dalsnibba and Eagle Road tour at no charge. They were exceptional in all areas. Our guide, Anita was fantastic and the tour exceeded our expectations. Our bus found its way up the scenic slopes to Mt. Dilsnibba that was loaded with recent snow and awesomely beautiful. Also, returning to the port city, we took a shorter route up Eagle Road for more great scenery. This was one of the best tours that we took on our entire cruise to the North Cape. We also, enjoyed a great Norwegian Excursion tour in Alesund. Nearly all our tours involved riding in a small or large bus on mountain road that usually took us up for fantastic vistas. I think we were too busy enjoying the scenery to get sick riding up and down the mountains. Our departure from the small village port of Geiranger was memorable, since we passed through the wonderful fjord. A one point, when the ship arrived in front of an amazing waterfall, the ship stopped and did a complete 360. The maneuver was remarkable in the fjord channel. These modern ships can do a 360 and we have been on cruises that did this maneuver (one around Cape Horn and another in Glacier Bay, Alaska). The Captain must have known that no other ships were approaching us in the fjord, since passing us at that point would have been impossible. In any event, everyone was able to see the waterfall. TROMSO We were headed north and the next day passed the Arctic Circle. There was a ceremony for that called the Blue Nose. I watched a little of it on the pool deck, but it was cold and windy, so I didn’t stay for the entire ceremony. Some crew members had cold water poured down their necks and procured a blue nose. We saw some people around the ship with blue noses. I didn’t want one of those. All the passengers received a certificate from the Captain on having passed the Arctic Circle. The day after, we arrived in Tromso. This was the largest city in the north of Norway. Our tour was with Tromso Individuell. We booked this tour for Tromso over the internet and paid in full in advance. When we arrived at the quay after leaving our cruise ship, no one was there to greet us from the tour company. After looking at all the busses in the parking lot, we could not find our tour. I asked a young security guard at the gate if he would call the tour company for us. He did and eventually the tour guide came to pick us up. I was amazed at the poor management by the tour company. I had looked at each bus in the parking lot, I had seen a name for the "group" on the bus that was our bus, but the name meant nothing to us. Fortunately, we had a good, but not great tour. Tromso was probably the least scenic port on our cruise's itinerary. It was the largest city in the north of Norway. Still, the day was a good day and good tour, despite the difficulty with finding the tour. The tour took us to see three fjords as well as a scenic island near the entrance to the ocean. We had a nice lunch that included Norwegian food. It was a buffet and included many local specialties. There was a lot of smoked fish. I tried the smoked fish and it was ok, but not my favorite dish. HONNINGSVAG This was another fairly small town where our ship docked. In the middle of June the temperature was in the high 30s or low 40s with lots of wind. Ginny and I layered as much as possible to protect ourselves from the weather. We had booked a tour with Blue Puffin to the North Cape. This tour was great. Our tour was from the port of Honningsvag and our cruise ship. The tour guide was exceptional. She took us to see a scenic fishing village that included an up close and personal greeting from a King Crab (she fished two out of a large tank). She explained life in the far north of Norway and the fishing industry. Also, we met a member of the Sami people (also called Lapps) with his reindeer. We say many reindeer while on the tour. The tour took us over some very scenic places, but the main event was our visit to the North Cape facility, which was wonderful. It was a modern multistory facility that included a fantastic film showing the local area and its northern lights in the winter and endless days in the Summer. There were exhibits and a good place for a meal if desired. The facility was not far from the point were your could see the actual North Cape. It was very windy and cold, but I ventured out for about 15 minutes and took some great photos. ALESUND After another sea day, we arrived in Alesund, back in southern Norway. It was warmer there and we actually had a brief night, the sun going down around 11:15pm, rising about 3am. We had a tour with Norwegian Excursions. This was our second tour with them (first was in Geiranger). Again, the tour was wonderful. Our tour guide Iga was extremely knowledgeable and took us on a fantastic tour. This tour was probably the best that we took on our 11 night Serenade of the Seas cruise that visited 6 ports in Norway. The tour took us over much extraordinary scenery. The highlight of the tour was the Troll Road and Trollstigen plateau. Also, we saw the waterfall Stigfossen. This is a tour not to be missed. STAVANGER Stavanger was probably the largest city on our cruise. The port was central to Norway’s petroleum industry in the North Sea. We took a Fjord Cruise with Radne. The smaller boat was docked not far from our cruise ship. Many of our fellow cruisers from the Serenade of the Seas took this tour. It was chilly and we had not seats inside, so we brushed off the water on a bench on the port side of the boat and were able to sit for most of the three hour cruise. Many persons had no seats and sometimes partially blocked our views. However, we managed very well and were able to see very well, also taking lots of great photos. Our cruise took us past the famous Pulpit Rock that some hike for hours to reach. The Rock was featured in one of the Mission Impossible movies. About halfway to Pulpit Rock our views of the fjord was wonderful. We saw massive rock formations carved out by ancient glaciers. The boat even stopped to feed a goat that lived on the edge of one of the rock faces. Fortunately, it didn't rain and the day was great. We had one more sea day and then returned to Copenhagen port. Royal had a transfer to the airport that we had booked. TRIP HOME The trip was great but we were looking forward to returning home. Our Delta flight from Copenhagen was to New York’s JFK Airport. I had gone through JFK a few times during the 80s and have avoided it until this flight. We only had two flights to our destination in Orlando. Again, JFK was a royal pain. The lines were long getting through immigration, customs and security. We had a three hour layover in the airport that turned into a more than six hour layover. Our terminal included gates A, B and C. Gate C61 was the gate for our flight to Orlando. We waited at the gate for more than and hour. It took over two hours to get through all the lines. We noticed that the flight before ours to Denver did not depart the gate. We heard that the aircraft had mechanical problems. Our pilot was waiting for our aircraft to enter the gate, but with the Denver aircraft still there, that was not going to happen. Here is what I posted to Delta regarding our experience: We had an awful experience at JFK-NY. After a great transatlantic flight on Delta from Copenhagen to JFK, we had a flight from JFK to Orlando scheduled to depart around 7:30pm. The flight did not depart until about 11pm, arriving in Orlando about 1:30am the next day. We found the right gate C61 and arrived there after enduring all the dreadful but necessary immigration, custom and security process as well as the poorly run shuttle bus to Terminal C (not Deltas fault). Our problems began when the aircraft at terminal C61 that was flying to Denver did not fly. We were told it was due to mechanical problems. Our aircraft could not enter our gate, so we were finally told that we had to move to another gate (yes, we were herded back through the dreadful shuttle bus, which took a long time due to so many passengers waiting, all holding carry on luggage and standing for a long time). That gate was B23, I believe. The mess was not created by our Delta pilot. In fact, due to his heroics, we were informed as much as he could find out. He turned out to be our hero. His name was Eric Franke, # 521736. He was great, as were the rest of the Delta crew that worked diligently, late into the evening. Unfortunately, Gate B23 had no seating, no way to scan our boarding passes and our aircraft was still sitting somewhere full of its incoming passengers. Therefore, our pilot announced that we were moving to another gate. That gate was B18, which was back in the direction which we can come from the shuttle (at least we didnt have to take the shuttle bus over to the C terminal then. However, the entire area was jammed with waiting passengers for other flights and most of us had to stand up for what seemed like forever. Again, our pilot was our hero, keeping us informed. The local JFK staff seemed absent without leave. We had to wait until others departed to Portland and Richmond, then wait for our aircraft to empty of its passengers for us to board. Finally, we took the dreadful shuttle bus one more time to our aircraft and we departed about 11pm. The flight was great, but late and we cleared the airport with our baggage around 2am. Ginny and I made it home a little before 7am after driving from Orlando, with the help of the coffee that I had on the last flight. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Chose this cruise for the itinerary and the reputation of RC ships. Our 2nd cruise ever and first 1 was on Celebrity Equinox. The itinerary was not a disappointment- however- the ship was a great disappointment. The social spaces were ... Read More
Chose this cruise for the itinerary and the reputation of RC ships. Our 2nd cruise ever and first 1 was on Celebrity Equinox. The itinerary was not a disappointment- however- the ship was a great disappointment. The social spaces were all dark and dingy. The ship seemed to be overflowing with people, hard to find a space to escape the crowds. The entertainment was just adequate. Not of a high standard although the Ice Show which had a theme was very good. The food- average. The best night we had was at Izumi. Giovanni average. The Windjammer was like a canteen. And the Saphire lunch and dinner was almost same food as the Windjammer. The cabin was lovely, spacious however there seemed to be a permanent odour of some sort. The staff seemed in the main to be pre occupied. Not all happy though they tried hard. We are going to go on Quantum of the Seas in January - this was booked before this cruise and I am really hoping for a better experience Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We booked this cruise to meet with friends with whom we had a lovely time and met some other very nice people. There were also some very rude people on board but that seems to be the case these days. The cabin was adequate and the cabin ... Read More
We booked this cruise to meet with friends with whom we had a lovely time and met some other very nice people. There were also some very rude people on board but that seems to be the case these days. The cabin was adequate and the cabin steward did a good job and dealt with our needs. Service in the main dining room was a little slow at times, especially at breakfast, however the food was acceptable. Unfortunately we were unable to attend the shows as the timing could not be fitted around our dining time (Mytime). We did however manage to see the ice show which was fabulous. We didn't do any cruise excursions we had visited most of the ports previously. Not sure if we would use RCL again we much prefer Celebrity or P & O as was disappointed with the Ship a little sad in places. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
Wife picked the cruise to celebrate our 25th, because we did Alaska last year and loved the scenery. We expected to see more of the same and we were not disappointed. Norway was gorgeous, even with some showers and cooler weather. ... Read More
Wife picked the cruise to celebrate our 25th, because we did Alaska last year and loved the scenery. We expected to see more of the same and we were not disappointed. Norway was gorgeous, even with some showers and cooler weather. Spent first two nights in London at Hilton Tower Bridge, then used a private transfer with twelve transfers which was very reasonable against the cost of large group transfers. Embarkation in Southampton was a breeze - wish Florida ports could be that efficient. We arrived around noon and were on board within 20 minutes. The ship was fine considering her age. For all the complaints, I saw a lot more passengers that need work more than the ship did. We did the safety drill at 4:30 and were shortly on our way out of the port. We had MTD and being accustomed to getting a nice table for 2 with a view on our last 3 cruises, we were surprised to find the tables for two all on the inside areas of the restaurant. Our assigned table was right by a serving station and since there were hardly anyone there yet, I asked for a change - we were moved over one table. Service was extremely slow and turned out it was the assistant waiters first cruise and she actually gave us the best dining room service all week. When we left, I requested a change for the rest of the week, and was told, not a problem. Next night, we arrived we were taken to the same table by the serving station - now I know why people drink more on a cruise. We went to the casino the first night - it was the cashier's first cruise too and kept apologizing when we wanted to break down some large bills and after when we collected our winnings - yep, we both won on the slots and was the first cruise we came out ahead from the casino. Tried to get a drink at the Schooner bar on the way to the show, but was very over crowded and seemed that way for the rest of the cruise. Entertainment at the show was terrible - this is me being polite. Was actually the worst first night entertainment that we ever experienced. The comedian was hardly funny, the singers and dancers were so-so, the cruise director boring. I am not overly picky, and neither is my wife, but I have to say this set a tone for the cruise with regards to entertainment. My wife and I are in our 50's but we felt like it was geared towards thIte more senior of senior citizens demographics. Says a lot when we enjoyed the screening of Bohemian Rhapsody one night more than the entertainment shows. That being said, when it came to the Ice Show - it was spectacular. We saw it on the last sea day and the seas were a little rough and for those skaters to perform the way they did it was amazing. Also it seemed like they kept the best comedian until the going away show - he was skilful, funny and engaged at least 70% of the audience. I have to say the CD was probably one of the worst we have had - I think he has spent too long on the ship and is maybe coming the end of his run. Had running inside jokes with his activities director on what they called the morning show. He was not engaging when we occasionally ran into him by ourselves, however as soon as their were 10 or more people around he changed. He absolutely ruined the street parties by his screeching - apparently someone once told him, he could sing....he can;t. The port/shopping excursion manager should be sent off to another ship that isn't part of Royal's family. I hope someone sends a tape of her presentation on that first sea day to corporate. She came across totally disinterested in everything but herself. It was plain horrible. Then I got to hear her lovely voice again as we sailed into Geiranger - it was like nails on the chalkboard. "I want to have everyone look to the left - there is a farm, Norwegian's build farms along their fjords" was one of her highlights. Bar staff were hit and miss - in Windjammer - bad, in Casino, Pool Bar great. Rest of staff were very polite and wanting to help with anything. This is what I expected from Royal Caribbean. Our cabin was an aft cabin on deck 7 - it was fine even with the obstruction of the structure on the back of the ship. Nice to still be able to sit out on the balcony and enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings. Our cabin steward Neville was fantastic and kept everything tip top. His excellent service was highlighted by the fact he was not feeling well and we had a substitute to cover for him - she barely got the bed made and threw two towels in the bathroom. With our experiences in the dining room disappointing, we ate a lot at Windjammer - what can I say, it is buffet food, but they try. One section always served what was being featured on the main menu, so we could still try it without suffering from the slowness of the wait staff. We did do breakfast one day in the main dining room and it was fine, but that is where the Windjammer actually excelled. The ports we visited were great - always did our own tours and not the ships. Loved Geiranger, Olden, Molde, Alesund and Stavanger. Bergen was okay and maybe the rain put me off, but it seemed to be like any other big city. Debarkation was a little chaotic - instead of self assist this time, as we scheduled a pick up around 8:30, we decided to go out as normal.. When our number was called to leave the ship, our bags didn't show up for another 30 minutes - had a crush of people wandering around looking for bags where our number was set up , but they seemed to be putting the bags anywhere. Apparently the number 24 comes after the number 32 for the employees pulling the bags off the ship. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Food exceeded my expectations in term of quality, and was some of the hottest MDR food I’ve ever eaten. Windjammer was impressive and only in embarkation lunch was overcrowded ( we had a very relaxed lunch that day in the dining room ... Read More
Food exceeded my expectations in term of quality, and was some of the hottest MDR food I’ve ever eaten. Windjammer was impressive and only in embarkation lunch was overcrowded ( we had a very relaxed lunch that day in the dining room instead) Realised the big ticket attractions such as flow rider and sky pad are not for us. Pool screen was awful quality, made live action films look like cartoons. Entertainment team lacked any enthusiasm for their role ... ever heard so much monotonous delivery of activities! Really enjoyed the ice show and the 80s tribute band, but the Once Upon A time production show was awful, band drowned out the vocals half the time but that might not have been a bad thing. Loved the Coca Cola freestyle machines but seems there is only one location now on the Royal Promenade. Our first Royal cruise and can safely say it wasn’t our favourite... nothing Royal did wrong (entertainment staff aside the rest of the crew were cheery and efficient) but it’s just not the best fit for us. I’d read reviews saying the ship was now overcrowded but we always found somewhere to sit, eat, relax etc. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2019
Chosen as a quick get away for half term with our young children. Embarkation was not the usual standard RCI provide at the pier. We were travelling in a suite and got moved from suite line to regular line and ended up waiting an age. The ... Read More
Chosen as a quick get away for half term with our young children. Embarkation was not the usual standard RCI provide at the pier. We were travelling in a suite and got moved from suite line to regular line and ended up waiting an age. The ships makeover has done her good. The activities for the children were brilliant and they loved exploring. Even though there were over 1000 children onboard it didn’t feel like it. They never really had to wait too long to get on their chosen activity. We were travelling in a JS, room 1106. One of the new cabins placed up by the spa. The room was lovely and quite spacious for four of us. However I would advise if looking to book this cabin for a sunny cruise the balcony may be an issue. Whilst a great size with table and chairs and two loungers as it was previously part of the spa the balcony is protected by glass all round with only the middle section being removed for you to see out. This prevents the sun coming through and I would imagine on hot days would make the balcony very hot. Main dining room and service was exceptional. Never ventured to windjammer. Izumi experience was brilliant and would highly recommend. The only negative we had was that we felt the staff (save our dining room staff) didn’t seem as happy/content as previous RCI cruises. Whether this was because it was only a 4 night cruise or for other reasons we couldn’t tell. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2019
Booked this cruise as had a money off certificate from the last RCI cruise. Embarkation took 10 minutes, we must have lucked out and arrived at the perfect time (1pm) Overall really enjoyed the cruise. Ship was clean with lovely ... Read More
Booked this cruise as had a money off certificate from the last RCI cruise. Embarkation took 10 minutes, we must have lucked out and arrived at the perfect time (1pm) Overall really enjoyed the cruise. Ship was clean with lovely decor. Stateroom was a good size (Balcony room) and the attendant did his thing every day very well. Dining. Food in the MDR was OK but nothing special, buffet was good with loads of different options. Had a choppes grill which was superb, highly recommend. Also the pizza at Sorrentos was absolutely delicious! We saw several of the shows (theatre and Ice) and they were all amazing. All the staff were really nice and friendly, but the bar staff seemed very busy in the evenings and they could do with more bar staff IMO My 2 gripes were that the ship felt a bit too busy/crowded at times, and that in the casino they literally want to screw you out of every last penny. The blackjack has the worst rules of any casino in the world coupled with 6/5 payoffs for a blackjack, which is an insult basically. Anyway if you are not a casino lover you will have a great time on Indy, but as we are gamblers my next cruise will be with NCL. Im sure they will be just as stingy but I feel I need to vote with my feet, Read Less
Sail Date: May 2019
Wow what an amazing family holiday! This was our first RCCL Cruise & we will definitely be booking again. Absolutely everything was hassle free & brilliantly organised. We ranged in ages from 76 to 7 & everyone had a blast. ... Read More
Wow what an amazing family holiday! This was our first RCCL Cruise & we will definitely be booking again. Absolutely everything was hassle free & brilliantly organised. We ranged in ages from 76 to 7 & everyone had a blast. Our cabins were lovely & clean with connecting doors. The children adored this & loved the bible that flipped out of the ceiling. The food in the dining room & buffet was exceptional quality & the choice was awesome. There was one day when it was busy & we waited ten minutes to enter. This was no problem & we were happy to wait for a table. The attention to hand hygiene was great as I was worried about this. We also are at Izumi & this was INCREDIBLE. The staff ship wide were amazing. The sorts staff were great. Our girls tried every activity they could - loved the flow rider, the trampolines, the swimming, shuffleboard, bingo, ice skating, the shows, laser tag and all the silly napkin folding and crafting classes. I would recommend this cruise to anyone travelling as an extended family who wanted something for everyone. You won’t be disappointed. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Having cruised with rccl many times and other cruise lines, this cruise has made me question ever booking with rccl again. It’s become very similar to the reasons why we don’t travel with p&o which is a shame. Main issues: - ... Read More
Having cruised with rccl many times and other cruise lines, this cruise has made me question ever booking with rccl again. It’s become very similar to the reasons why we don’t travel with p&o which is a shame. Main issues: - staff generally unhappy. Miss the American service from 5+ years ago where they couldn’t do enough for you. With the staff on here everything was to much trouble. - have turned into a company where they are constantly looking to upsell to you. Perks or small gestures for returning to them, such as little gifts in your room have disappeared. - all the little things add up to disappointment. Can’t get lemon slices in your drinks, room curtains were old and had holes in them so light came through, constantly rammed in the windjammer, massive queues constantly to guest services, booked anytime dining and couldn’t get in for a meal at 6.30am, 5% charge for casino spends, the amazing if daytime activities has dramatically reduced, waited for room service for some toast for 90 minutes. The service and attitude of staff has changed dramatically and for that reason we won’t be booking again. Princess are much better!! Don’t waste your money!!! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We booked this short cruise for a weekend away as we are fairly local to the port, cruise RCCL three times previous (never from uk port). It was pretty clear that there were lots of first timers and hen/stag dos onboard which were ... Read More
We booked this short cruise for a weekend away as we are fairly local to the port, cruise RCCL three times previous (never from uk port). It was pretty clear that there were lots of first timers and hen/stag dos onboard which were intent on partying which resulted in some serious mad behaviour, didn’t bother us but things like people throwing up from drinking too much on deck could put a lot of people off! the ship rectify had a huge upgrade which has put things like skypad, escape room and laser tag onboard, all great but virtually impossible to do everything on a 3 day cruise. We also found the schedule/opening times of the various activities bizarre, things were often shut or not open for large proportions of the day or only open for short periods or open at odd times which made it very difficult to get to experience everything. Due to this issue when we stayed onboard one day we were sometimes struggling to find something to do because things just were not opening I.e the climbing wall we never saw open? Evening entertainment was good but again, at times things clashed in the schedule which didn’t really work, and only one ice show in three days? Strainge. We also noticed lack of inerraction with the entertainment team, they often seemed quite aloof and we only saw and heard the cruise director once, we don’t even know his name. I’m not sure if RCCL are becoming more reliant on the ships facilities instead of providing other types of entertainment but we’ve now decided RCCL is sadly no longer for us. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Arrived 2-days early in Amsterdam for departure on May 19. needed more time there since Amsterdam has many, many sites to see (advance reservations a must for popular sites). Excellent TRAM system with a cheap 24-hour pass can get you ... Read More
Arrived 2-days early in Amsterdam for departure on May 19. needed more time there since Amsterdam has many, many sites to see (advance reservations a must for popular sites). Excellent TRAM system with a cheap 24-hour pass can get you near most sites. As a newly minted RCI Diamond cruiser, we enjoyed the expedited check in and especially the evening free happy hour in the Diamond lounge where we met fellow cruisers to learn of their experiences over a cocktail or glass of wine and hors d'oeuvres. Also open 24/7 for premium coffee as well as breakfast snacks each morning. One complaint is there were so many Diamond cruisers on this voyage, they had to open the adjacent lounge to handle everyone and the bar service was slow. To RCI's credit, they did load 3-free drinks per day on your card which you could use during happy hour at any bar (No specialty drinks) to help draw down the crowd at the Diamond lounge. Food was OK and we enjoyed MYTIME dinning where we tried to get the same waiters each night. Entertainment was OK, but nothing special when compared to the Oasis class ship venues. RCI shore excursions were expensive so we followed advice on CC and booked in advance online two tours through TJ Travel, the major 2-day tour in St. Petersburg (most excellent) and 5-hour Stockholm (OK but wished we had more time at the VASA museum). Another complaint about RCI is they announced a week before departure the RCI tours would disembark first before the private tour groups, thus delaying the private tours for a time, but all seemed well in the end..... Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
This review covers the 7 night Northern Europe sailing on May 18th from Southampton. This is our 9th Royal Caribbean cruise and first on the Independence. Accommodation: Inside cabin, 9487. This cabin was off the main corridor so ... Read More
This review covers the 7 night Northern Europe sailing on May 18th from Southampton. This is our 9th Royal Caribbean cruise and first on the Independence. Accommodation: Inside cabin, 9487. This cabin was off the main corridor so noise was never an issue. It’s a nice quiet location and close to Windjammer and Adventure Ocean. The room was setup as a double and a Pullman bed (bed from ceiling). It states that this should not be used by children under 6 but there is no indication of this when we make the booking with a 4 year old. So I guess they expect the child to sleep with one of the parents and one of the parents up high! Needless to say we ignored that and our daughter slept in the Pullman bed. There is a railing to the side so it’s safe enough. The beds were very comfortable and being an inside cabin it’s nice and dark at night so a good sleep was had all week. The cabin is small and storage is a bit tight but we managed. For the savings I’d probably choose inside again. Food: Windjammers was its usual chaos but the food overall was good. The last night was great up there for dinner with an amazing selection of desserts and nice fresh pasta. Main dining room was fine (we used it just once). As normal, food is never that hot. We had a 4 night dining package and did Giovannis and Chops twice each. Starters weren’t that hot in Giovannis the first night and the carbonnara wasn’t good at all. The prawn and mash dish was lovely and the desserts were amazing especially the chocolate cake. On the second visit the Alfredo pasta was to die for. Service was excellent in there too. Chops is our go to speciality restaurant. As always the food and service is top class. The filet mignon is always worth it. Bars: Bar service was OK. It seems a little under staffed and maybe service doesn’t seem as good since most people are on a drinks package? Playmakers, which I loved on the Symphony isn’t the same here at all. It’s more of a walk through bar on the way to the casino rather than a walk in bar on the boardwalk of other ships. They didn’t have the games such as connect 4 either. We didn’t spend much time here. The Olive and Twist on deck 14 which is another favourite was closed every day from 5:30 – 8:30 for diamond members so we couldn’t go in. Places to relax and have a drink were limited. Entertainment: This was mixed. Some of the singers were ok, if not great in some instances. The Ice show is the best show and well worth it. Grease, is not my cup of tea but my wife and daughter enjoyed. The comedian was also good. Adventure Ocean: The staff here make the place and are always great with the kids. It’s not as fancy as is on the new ships but there’s enough to keep the kids happy. So overall everything mentioned above is pretty good. But the killer of all of that and the reason it isn’t rated higher is the crowds. I’ve been on the Harmony, Ovation, Symphony and each time before I cruised on each of these I read reviews about crowds and lack of space. However I never really had an issue with any of them except for Windjammers. There was always a place to sit and have a drink or watch the world go by. But on the Independence I completely agree with the complaints about the number of people on this ship. There was several times during this cruise where you would walk the promenade and have no chance of finding a seat. For most of the time it just seemed crowded and it became a frustration on this cruise. We spoke with a couple who were on it before the refit and they couldn’t figure out why it felt so much busier than before but it made sense to them when I explained about the extra cabins (500 people extra I believe) since the refit. Royal Caribbean is our most used cruise line. I love their ships, their innovation and their service. But their increased costs of cruising, increased in gratuities ($14.50 p/d, pp including our 4 year old) is making it harder to stick with them. I will probably go on of the bigger ships again, but I will never sail on the Independence of the Seas again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
I can see why Caribbean cruises are so popular now that we’ve sailed in north/west Europe. Mid May, and sea days were cold, windy and often foggy. Only people brave enough to go out were mostly those wearing parkas and the smokers. We ... Read More
I can see why Caribbean cruises are so popular now that we’ve sailed in north/west Europe. Mid May, and sea days were cold, windy and often foggy. Only people brave enough to go out were mostly those wearing parkas and the smokers. We did think there were too many smoking areas. Our first Indy of the Seas sailing. Two seniors. Even with everyone mostly inside, the shop did not seem over crowded. Food was adequate. Although in the main dining room their pasta dishes were not very good. Regular steaks off the menu were thin, tough and grisly. Other than that, we were happy with the food. We had the 6pm seating. Desserts were great. And the food from the coffee area on the promenade was sometimes better than MDR. We were in a promenade window cabin, 8th floor. Noise was not really an issue. Other than occasional party below, the room was very quiet. Even with a connecting door, there was no noise from bordering cabins. Great staff overall. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
We picked Independence of the Seas out of Southampton for our first European Cruise. Embarkation with the new expedited boarding using the new app was a breeze and we were on the ship in less than 15 minutes. Junior Suite #7712. ... Read More
We picked Independence of the Seas out of Southampton for our first European Cruise. Embarkation with the new expedited boarding using the new app was a breeze and we were on the ship in less than 15 minutes. Junior Suite #7712. Room was ready at 1 and lunch was ready in the Windjammer. The cruise itself was smooth as the seas were flat. Fog in the North Sea didn't cause any issues. Entertainment and food on the ship were great, although I found the menu changed from the Caribbean cruises and the entertainment other that the normal shows (Grease) was more directed at the Brits as was the menu. Ports of call were Hamburg, Germany, Oslo, Norway, and Bruges in Belgium. The Fjord passage was great, and plenty of time in all the ports for sightseeing. We just walked off in Hamburg and Oslo and saw the port. We did a beer tasting Tour in Bruges with plenty of time after for lunch (Belgian Waffle of course) and chocolate buying. Upon return to Southampton we did the Windsor Castle Tour on the return to the Airport which did not disappoint. Debarkation for the tour was well planned and quick. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
This is our fourth trip on the Indy and first since the new refit of 2018. It was also our first cruise ship we traveled on back in 2008. It is our favourite ship along with the Navigator and Splendor (now gone to TUI). When I planned ... Read More
This is our fourth trip on the Indy and first since the new refit of 2018. It was also our first cruise ship we traveled on back in 2008. It is our favourite ship along with the Navigator and Splendor (now gone to TUI). When I planned this holiday for my wife's birthday I chose a Southampton cruiise to avoid flights as Brexit was blowing up at the time of booking and I did not want to do flights due to possible cancellations or additional costs such as visas etc. This is the first time my wife has driven to Southampton (as we normally would take the train and/or bus via London but these are becoming long and expensive) and we parked in the Yellow car park very close to the ship for £89 for the week. We stayed over the night before in Winchester as we had come from Nottingham and needed to be close to the port the following morning in case of any accidents or delays on the roads. As it happens, the roads were clear and we arrived at the port at 10am. The road near the docks had a digital sign that displayed "gate 8 for the Independence" which was very helpful as 2 other ships were also in that morning. It was also our first cruise with RCI as Diamond Plus members so we were right at the front of the queue for boarding and were in the Champagne Bar at 11am as we had the Deluxe Drinks package. This was well worth the extra money as there was 3 sea days and I knew I would not be outside much during them due to the location. One strange thing is that the "plus" on the seapass card is a + and not the word "plus" which would surely had made it easier to see for inspection where is was required (like for the reserved seating in the theatre and ice shows). The ship left on time and there were no issues. The Diamond Lounge is still on Deck 14 and they also used the Viking Crown Lounge as a overspill, so that area was closed off during the late afternoons. The chairs in the Diamond Lounge are not very comfortable and it was very busy and the nice settee chairs had gone (and there is no Concierge lounge for D+ members on this ship anymore so they all had to use the lounge as well). Also the coffee machine in the Diamond Lounge was broken for the first 4 days of the cruise as we normally nip up there after breakfast and lunch for a nice coffee and to get a better view of where we are. Now for the first bad thing - once again (as this happened 8 weeks ago on the Anthem), A single drink was added to our bill for $8.25 in the restaurant - even though we had the Deluxe Drinks Package (which is printed on the Seapass card and which covered beverages by the glass up to $14) and we both only had sparkling wine in there with our dinner and nothing else. Again we had not signed for anything and again Guest relations removed the fee and again, (like before on the Anthem) I asked Guest Relations how this had happened and again they could not answer why or how. I always thought that to incur a bill you had to sign a slip of paper at the time of purchase. The food in the main dining room was excellent and we dined there every night just after 6pm and had the same table and waiters throughout via My Time Dining. Also went in there for lunch on the 3 sea days and again enjoyed the fish and chips and also the salad from the middle of the room. Used the Windjammer a few times too. The food a really good and there was nothing to complain about. It was, however, a little full at certain times. The bars made us some nice drinks (had a few Kraken Coladas). The champagne bar was the place to be at night with a drinks package as there were all sorts of cocktails the barstaff would make you. Now the second and last problem was on my wife's birthday in Vintages where some very rude people pushed up to the bar and got served before my wife even though the staff had seen her waiting there for 10 minutes. It was a shame that the people who did this were British and this behaviour really lets us down especially when it is witnessed by Americans and Canadians. I think that since the refit some extra 500 plus cabin spaces have been created and therefore at certain times the bars and shows got really full really quickly. The shows were good. Got to see Grease again (last saw it in 2016). One showing was cancelled at the last minute for medical reasons but was put on 2 nights later. There was also the Take That Experience onboard and we got front row seats for it. It may be worth noting that the Diamond Plus and Pinnacle seats in both the Theatre and Ice Rink are only reserved and guarded by staff until 5 minutes before the show starts, so if you wait, you may get to sit in these seats at the last minute if no-one else takes them. The comedian on the first night told the same old jokes and seems a bit nervous and paced all over the stage. On the last night we got Mick Miller who had me in stitches with his jokes. The ice show was also excellent even though I have seen it many times before, I still enjoy it and this time we had 2 skaters off the TV in it. There were 2 large new waterslides that looked awesome, but I never got around to doing them (due to too many Kraken Coladas). The golf course has been moved from the back (where is was well sheltered from the elements) to the front where you get battered by the wind (although not too bad after a Kraken Colada or two!). It is a nicer course than before, but a shame it could not have been left where is was. Got my first Bridge tour with turning D+ so got to speak to Caption Teo. All I can say is that he is a very good Captain, but don't ask him if he will turn around and look for you if you fall overboard. Also, you get a bottle of wine in your stateroom upon arrival and they also offered is a free $34 laundry wash and fold. There were only 3 places to visit on this cruise. First was Hamburg. The ship sailed down the Elbe (effectively becoming our first river cruise) and docked right in the city centre. It was approx a 20 minute walk to the town hall and it was very well sign-posted. The return to the ship was not sign-posted and we had to remember which way we had come. Shame some "to the cruise terminal" signs could not be put up nearer to it. Next was Oslo. Again docked in the city and again a 20 minute walk to the cathedral. It was warmer than I was expecting as the north sea crossing was cold. Lastly, we docked at Zeebrugge and took the RCI trip for a sightseeing and canal trip of Bruges. Worth every penny. Well we had a onboard spend so used that to pay for most of the trip. The city was lovely and the weather was hot. One word of warning here is that there is a long walk involved and although it is flat, it takes a couple of hours and is more than the 2 miles RCI say it is and there is nowhere to stop if you are part of a guided tour. After the boat trip that lasted about 20 minutes, you did get about 45 minutes of your own time to get some chocolates and something to eat, but the city is very busy. This was the only trip we did via RCI as Bruges is quiet hard to get to in the time limit although there were some shuttle buses put on at the dock which were not advertised onboard beforehand other than "shuttle to the beach". Another strange thing here is that we were told we must take our actual passports off with us and not photocopies (as I have done elsewhere), but upon boarding only out seapass cards were inspected. I was told that Cruise Director Jamie Fentiman has left RCI. Marc (who I last saw on the Navigator) took over and did a very good job of filling in. The rest of the cruise director's staff were very entertaining but some did not speak good english which made it even funnier during some of the questions at the schooner bar quizzes. Yes there were still come very competitive people winning key chains and pens. It was a shame that the great "Name That Tune" from the Anthem had not been ported over as the prize on that was $300 of bed sheets (which I won back in march). The quest was also good, but they seem to have censored it down from years ago (if you know what I mean). Sadly the Indy is going to do the newly vamped Coco Cay run next year and may not be coming back to the UK. The Anthem is coming over as her replacement, and god help anyone going on it through the Bay Of Biscay to the Canneries! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Have never traveled to this area before and always wanted to go to Russia with my family. The staff was superb and their diversity made it a lot of fun learning about all the different countries. Dining was awesome. Food and service ... Read More
Have never traveled to this area before and always wanted to go to Russia with my family. The staff was superb and their diversity made it a lot of fun learning about all the different countries. Dining was awesome. Food and service at the Chops Grill was on par with Ruth Chris - excellent. Entertainment was excellent. The shows varied and the singing and dancing was the highest quality. We also had lot's of fun with Trivia & Scavenger Hunts. Many activities you could enjoy with your children/grandchildren. Had a great time with my son at the Casino. We learned Texas Hold em and Craps. Staff was excellent in teaching the games. Ports were well selected and excellent. Should be noted that in mid-May, temperatures are 45 - 65F. Ship was very clean and everything worked well. Superb cruise. Tour of St Pete area by T J Tours "Dina" was efficient, informative, humorous and completely enjoyable. Have not had a better day in many Moons. Cruise was well designed with ports and cruising time. Had a food tour in Stockholm which was great. Even focused on the differences between Finnish, Swedish and Danish cusine. Salvaged ship museum was very impressive and had a human interest with the ship sinking on the maiden voyage. Tallin and Helsinki we enjoyable and easy to see on your own with children. Great people, clean and great food. Had been forewarned about difficulties in Russia, but the tour which did not require a visa had us breeze through the many lines and bottlenecks. Also included a nice lunch Russian style. Could not have been more pleased. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
Having been diagnosed as Celiac four weeks before the holiday going away and eating out lots was of great concern for me. However, during the whole trip I was so well looked after with custom made meals in the dinning hall and a good ... Read More
Having been diagnosed as Celiac four weeks before the holiday going away and eating out lots was of great concern for me. However, during the whole trip I was so well looked after with custom made meals in the dinning hall and a good selection of food in Windjammer. The gluten free pizza in Sorrento's is fabulous, and made fresh to order also. This was my four trip on Independence so I have assumed to I would be looked after but the service was even better than I thought. It was my first experience of a suit as we had decided to try and Junior suit- the room was massive in comparison to a balcony or ocean view. As it was October it was not hot enough to sun bath but it was so nice to sit and watch the world go bye. Embarkation and disembarkation in Southampton was very smooth and my party really enjoyed the new crazy gold area and the all new Sky Pad. We will be back on Indy again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
When booking I enquired at length about the kid's club and whether the children were confined to a room or if they were taken out to use the many facilities on-board. I wouldn't have booked had I known that it was basically a ... Read More
When booking I enquired at length about the kid's club and whether the children were confined to a room or if they were taken out to use the many facilities on-board. I wouldn't have booked had I known that it was basically a babysitting service in a dedicated room. The staff were pleasant but the overall concept of the program is poor. All sessions were in the room and it was always some dodge-ball type games, some arts and crafts and sometimes a video. Such a shame when there was a whole boat of interesting and exciting things they could have been doing. It meant that I was not able to book long excursions because it wasn't fair on the children. In Club Med resorts they can't wait to ditch us and get to the kids club but this was more like a creche than an enjoyable holiday activity. Service is sometimes pushy rather than genuinely and appropriately friendly. My impression is that the staff are terrified of negative feedback, under orders to be friendly at all costs and desperate for tips so they launch into their prepared patter or present you with extra (unasked for) food items rather than taking their lead from their guest. There's an air of desperation as well about keeping the bosses happy which takes priority over the guest experience. Some people may like this service style but I didn't enjoy being stalked at breakfast each day and cornered into a lengthy conversation when I was trying to eat, chat to my family, get my children fed and get out to get the day started. Even when I thought we were making it pretty obvious that we just wanted to get on with our meal it persisted and was very awkward. Many of the staff are genuinely friendly in a nice way and it was lovely to get to know them a little bit, but the pushy over-familiarity of some really had a negative effect on the trip. I think it's probably a cultural thing - it's a very American service style but taken to extremes by some staff members. Buffet was decent. Main dining room food was OK - a bit patchy and no frills but as expected given the numbers they cater for. Desserts weren't great in comparison to other courses (the ice creams were particularly cheap and nasty but the free ice cream from the machine out by the kids pool was much better). Ate in all the speciality restaurants. Wine lists were a joke - it seemed that more of the wines were unavailable than available. I was told that many of the wines by the glass hadn't been available for weeks - they are not long lists so why not reprint them and keep them current? On a number of occasions the wine I ordered by the glass was definitely not the one I was served - mostly it was a similar style of wine and I didn't say anything, but on one occasion I was given a glass of red and assured it was the albarino I had ordered. Chops and Giovanni's were decent but Izumi was very disappointing - for the price and given the decent raw ingredients they use the finished food was terrible and the production very gimmicky. My Family Time dining (another reason we booked) was unavailable with hundreds of people already on the closed waitlist when we tried to change our Main Dining Room late sitting allocation. The ship is spectacular with lots to do. Information in the daily bulletin (on your bed at night) is sometimes too late to allow for planning of activities. Shows are of a high quality. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Beware if you are tempted by the stay awhile program, it is an absolute ripoff and a great example of mis selling , the description is misleading, you have use of the pool decks as listed but are surrounded by closed signage and chains ... Read More
Beware if you are tempted by the stay awhile program, it is an absolute ripoff and a great example of mis selling , the description is misleading, you have use of the pool decks as listed but are surrounded by closed signage and chains everywhere, no pool was open at all. The spa sauna was switched off as was the steam room, the towel station is closed. The whole atmosphere was hostile and uncomfortable not relaxing at all, It spoilt a previously enjoyable cruise which was a great pity, as although crowded at times, the service and quality are fairly good value. My advice to anyone who needs to stay awhile in Southampton would be to use the various dayroom options which lots of the hotels offer for about 1/3 of the price of the Royal Caribbean deal and often include taxi transfers and full use of there facilities and baggage storage. The cruise itself was pretty much as you would expect for a Royal Caribbean large ship, the facilities are good especially if you are traveling with children, the main issue for us was the my time dining which involves queuing and just as you get near the front you are told to come back in an hour! One hour later, guess what- another queue, is frankly ridiculous, they cannot cope with such numbers for my time, you have to make a reservation which defeats the purpose somewhat. Once we made reservations and got to dine the waiting staff were excellent and the food acceptable for mass catering Read Less
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