I wanted to allow my impressions to settle in, so I’m writing this review a month after sailing. We are Celebrity loyalists, but this cruise was round trip out of Boston, our home port - driving our car a mere 20 minutes to the port and just parking it there was super appealing! The ports of call are places we’ve always wanted to go and since we are Elite Plus on Celebrity, we transferred smoothly over to Diamond in Royal’s Crown and Anchor club - so, we thought, hey, it’s not Celebrity, but as long as we can be Diamond, let’s do it! Well, as suspected, there is a vast difference between a Mass Market cruise like (Royal) and a Premium cruise line (Celebrity).
We have the unique ability to give a dual perspective regarding the staterooms as our adult daughter and her friend had a cabin in a different section from our cabin - we both had verandas on deck 7, neither had a suite, so the compare/contrast is clear and unmuddled. Basically, our cabin attendant was, in all of my cruising experience which is somewhat extensive - the worst cabin attendant we’ve ever had, ever ever ever. And oddly, the attendant my daughter had, was one of the absolute best - her name is Marites - a friendly, kind, efficient and talented woman, an asset to the company. I won’t give the name of our attendant, but I had a few conversations with his superiors. Basically, Marites did everything right - always made sure there was plenty of shampoo, lotions, soaps etc; lots of amazing towel art; she left wine glasses in the room when she saw the girls had brought wine bottles on board - basically, she thought of things they needed/wanted before they did.
Our attendant, well, first of all - we never even met him! He NEVER came to our cabin to introduce himself! We had to request hair conditioner and lotion - what??? Why should we have to do that? Shampoo was in a large refillable bottle affixed to the side of the shower. I left a note on our bed the first day, since he never introduced himself - saying that we needed hair conditioner and lotion as well as more pillows. When we returned to our cabin, the pillows were there, but no conditioner or lotion. I called him on his phone and he said, “Oh, I am so tired……I will find someone to bring them to you.” WHAT???? First, I’m sure he is tired!! But you NEVER say that to a guest in a complaining fashion!! Further, it took 90 minutes for the someone that he found to come to our cabin with the lotion and conditioner!
One night, I went back to our cabin at 10:30pm while my husband went to the casino. We had been out of the cabin all night, from 5pm until 10:30pm - our room had not been made up. It was a sea day, so we’d taken a nap around 3pm, towels were on the bathroom floor, plates from a snack at the buffet in the room - never has this ever happened on any cruise ever where the nightly clean up and turn down was missed. And before you ask, we did NOT leave a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, nope, definitely not. Night time turn down/cleanup/next day’s schedule delivery etc is INDUSTRY STANDARD and our attendant missed the mark big time. I called housekeeping and about 20 min later the deck supervisor came. He had me talk to his boss, so this issue went up the chain of command quickly. I had gone back to our cabin at 10:30pm to climb into bed and relax only to be met with what I just described. I was not in bed until nearly midnight. Soooo not cool.
Then, another major cabin steward fail was on the morning of debarkation, when we went to the buffet for breakfast at 6:30am. We left ALL of our belongings in our cabin, as after breakfast we were going to come back, brush our teeth, do the final packup. We did not have to vacate our cabin until 8:30am. We returned to our cabin at 7:15am and the attendant WAS IN OUR CABIN STRIPPING THE BED, NEW SHEETS ETC FOR THE NEXT PASSENGERS PILED ON THE DESK TOP - what the heck was he thinking???? WE WERE STILL IN POSSESSION OF THE CABIN, all of our belongings were RIGHT THERE, and yet, he was preparing for the next occupants of the cabin!?!?!?! So, first, to those who’ve been keeping track, this was the FIRST TIME WE MET OUR ATTENDANT - here, during the last hour of the voyage, is the first time we met him, and yet, true to form, he was doing an abysmal job, ignoring all of our belongings which indicated that we were STILL THERE, making up the cabin for the next passengers. Honestly, this simply blew my mind - this was our first cruise on Royal and yes, it will be our last; our cruise dollars will be back with Celebrity, despite the pleasure of only having to drive a very short distance to the port.
Here are some other issues - there are no robes in the staterooms! Nope, no robes. You only get robes if you’re at the Diamond level and ONLY IF YOU REQUEST THEM!!!! WHAT?????? There are no umbrellas in the cabins - none! We didn’t bring an umbrella with us as on Celebrity, all staterooms are provided with umbrellas. The Diamond Concierge told me that I could request an umbrella from Guest Services. So, off I went to Guest Services, where borrowing an umbrella is a ridiculous undertaking, like you’re asking to borrow the Crown Jewels to wear them to dinner or something! This is not, in case you’re reading this RCL, where your resources should be spent - it took one of the reps 20 minutes to get an umbrella for me! Turns out, they’re kept under LOCK and KEY!!! UMBRELLAS, locked away, as though they are some huge company asset. You know what is an asset?? The time your employee wasted hunting down the key, back and forth and forth and back - she had to get to get another employee to assist - MEANWHILE, there were 17 people IN LINE, queuing at the Guest Services desk to have their problems resolved - all the while, one of your precious employees, two at one point, was spending 20 min getting me an umbrella. Umbrellas should be in all of the cabins, as Celebrity does. And, if you persist in not doing so, then have them freely available so your employees can focus on the guests, not searching hither and yon for a key - I still can’t get over that you’ve got umbrellas stored away under lock and key, while paying guests are kept waiting.
Here are some more issues - not earth shattering, but tourists have options as to where their vacation savings go, and these issues add up: no tote bags on Royal in the cabins. On Celebrity, all passengers find tote bags in their cabins as gifts - varying quality depending upon class, but still, everyone gets one. (And, as a reminder - everyone on Celebrity also has robes in their cabins!) There are no newspapers on board - on Celebrity, at Guest Services at a kiosk, the news from many nations, is printed on sheeted handouts - this is very important and helpful especially considering cost of wifi, cell phone variabilities, etc - but no, no news papers on Royal. Small touches that mean a lot are not on Royal - ie in the dining room, the butter comes in those prepackaged little squares whereas on Celebrity, you’re given tiny ramekins of open butter, and hummus - touches of elegance go a long way.
The bedding was prison-like - the mattresses were HARD, VERY VERY HARD, and the pillows, could they really be called pillows??? - thin thin thin. The towels were frayed and thin. Even the pool towels were a poor cousin to the towels on Celebrity, continuing the theme of ‘thin'. I have to say this - we requested additional pillows, and the pillows we received were of a much better quality - but, like having robes (and only if you’re Diamond), you have to request quality apparently. Quality is not a standard, you have to ask for it. Throughout the cruise we joked that the towels, mattresses and pillows were given to Royal from Celebrity as castoffs - no longer good for the high Celebrity standards but perfectly fine for Royal. Also, I have to laugh - there are no pillow chocolates on Royal - I remember several years ago when Celebrity was trying to cut back and discontinued their pillow chocolates and the loyal cruisers were up in arms, and boom, the pillow chocolates were reinstated. On Royal, the idea that there would even be pillow chocolates is laughable, considering you have to request hair conditioner and lotion, robes and umbrellas are not provided……..hey, I won’t repeat, I know you’re keeping score, and it’s clear that Royal is losing.
The public bathrooms don’t have cloth towels whereas the bathrooms on Celebrity do - only paper towels on Royal, ugh. The cabins have NO note paper, no stationery, no pens - nothing at all to write upon or with - and trust me, I searched every crevice of the cabin as that was shocking to me. As far as activities, lots was to be desired, and again, compared to Celebrity? NO COMPARISON. No enrichment speakers, no galley tour, no progressive or team trivia, no Dancing with the Stripes, NO dancing lessons at all!!!, no flash mob class, no contests between the officers vs the guests, no Captain talk in the theater during the day (we love that on Celebrity, as you can ask questions directly to the Captain, learn all sorts of things about the workings of the ship), no cooking classes, no Top Chef at Sea. There is no “party band” on Royal, as there has been on every Celebrity cruise we’ve been on - no band playing the current popular music, which was sorely missed poolside - there was in fact never any live entertainment poolside which was shocking to me. The pool area was grossly under utilized. There is a massive TV screen out there, upon which was always playing either a sports game or a loop of fish/aquatic scenes. The screen was installed clearly as a money saving device to cut back on live entertainment - screen time vs live entertainment, yup, corporate wins, as unless you’ve cruised on a Premium line, you won’t know what you’re missing.
Something that bothered us quite a bit was that the Captain was pimped out - he was a lovely man, but it was clear that Corporate had him SELLING, which is something that is not at all appropriate to someone of his position - the Captain should be above the fray. After his speaker announcements about the position of the ship, etc, he would then talk about the activities of the day, sales promos, shows, etc - not something the Captain should ever do! Also disturbing was that if you purchased a certain watch in one of the gift shops was that the Captain would autograph the box! Oh, soooo embarrassing for the Royal brand, demeaning, bringing down the status of the Master of the Vessel to that of Salesman #1.
Very disturbing is that smoking is ALLOWED IN THE CASINO!!!!!! This was extremely off putting, as it should be, to many. On top of that, the casino manager was abysmal! He has clearly very little experience, and has no clue as to how a casino on Celebrity is managed, case in point, the poker tournaments: on Celebrity, the poker tournaments are very active, beloved, and anticipated - so popular that most are turned away as there are only so many spaces. The manager here did nothing to market the tournaments, so there was no ‘buzz’. We asked about them, and the manager said, yes, we’re having them, but there was a weird buy-in, VERY geared to the casino making money - lots of boring details that I’ll spare you - the guests that wanted to participate in the tournaments were put off by the strange buy-in and ultimately, no tournaments occurred. Royal, if you want all of the details, shoot me an email - but your angle to make money, made you lose money.
All was not bad, though! Our main dining room experience was very good - we ate in the My Time Dining which is the equivalent to Select Dining on Celebrity - you can eat whenever you want to eat. We requested to always be in the same station, allowing us to establish a relationship with our servers. Food was very good - not surprisingly, fish was always overcooked, ugh, but otherwise, the food was very good - flavorful, good spices, high quality. That being said, in the Park Cafe (the Aqua Spa dining equivalent), we were stunned that the breakfast panini sandwiches were routinely not grilled - what? Yes, on offer at breakfast were English muffin panini sandwiches, but they were not grilled - they are displayed, you ask for one, and you get it - I looked at it, cold unmelted cheese, cold untoasted and never before toasted, English muffin - I asked the guy to grill it, which he did, but I observed that this was the standard, to not grill what is a grilled sandwich.
The ports of call were great, and the Shore Excursion staff was super - in all 4 ports, we took ship sponsored excursions, and they were excellent, no complaints whatsoever, only positives.
We were very pleased with the guest entertainment in the theater - we personally love comedic acts and that’s what we got, so we were very happy. HOWEVER, as far as the ensemble onboard cast of singers and dancers - there are normally 4 singers in the cast, but on this sailing, there were only 2. In order to fill the gap, 2 of the dancers were enlisted to “sing” - but they were lip-syncing, and it was OBVIOUS……..I wanted to talk to the cruise director about this, to see if this is policy, if lip-syncing is company protocol (OMGAWD!!), but I never found her - so all I can address is this cruise, and it was again embarrassing, like the Captain being forced to SELL, that 2 of the dancers were lip-synching, pretending to be singing……..ugh, not good, not good at all.
A huge issue for us was that wheelchairs are not available for use off the ship. This is NOT how it works on Celebrity (remember, a PREMIUM cruise line, yet another difference between PREMIUM and MASS MARKET). We needed to use a wheelchair off of the ship but much to our dismay, we were informed that we were not allowed to take it off the ship - Celebrity, and Disney (also PREMIUM class, which we’ve sailed twice) let’s you borrow their wheelchairs and take them off the ship. We had no idea this was the case with Royal - take note, if this is a service you need, as you’re not going to get it.
In general, the theme of the cruise was upsell - we encountered a relentless push to get us to spend more, from every angle - except, and this is interesting and another example of us having 2 cabins in 2 different areas of our deck giving us a unique perspective - from our cabin steward. Normally, when you’re given the schedule for the next day’s events in your cabin at night at turndown (if you’re one of the lucky ones to actually get a turndown) - there are usually several sales sheets stuffed in the newsletter from the art sales department, from the spa, etc. We never got those in our newsletter, and we know this, as our daughter in her stateroom, did. Not that we missed them, lol, but our steward again failed the brand - Royal wants to upsell, and hey, that’s part of their brand mission, but our steward again failed the line by not including the sales sheets.
One thing we enjoyed on Royal more than on Celebrity, was the coffee - the free coffee, I’m not talking about the Latitudes coffee vs Cafe Al Bacio - the free coffee on Royal was excellent, definitely better, to our tastes, than Celebrity’s. And, that’s pretty much the only pro item in my pros vs cons Celebrity vs Royal commentary. To be fair, onboard management twice sent us bottles of wine due to the poor service of our stateroom attendant - on two separate occasions during the cruise we received a bottle of Beringer Pinot Grigio, presented in our cabin in a Corona beer bucket - these bottles of wine sell in a 2 pack for $7.50 at Costco. And I guess that’s my point, one that applies to the cruise - low quality but well intentioned though inconsistent - the inconsistency glaring in the disparity between our cabin attendant and our daughter’s. For us having cruised Celebrity so often, on Royal we see a sense of austerity - but, we still had a good time - we just won’t cruise Royal again. Read Less