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3 Royal Caribbean Rio de Janeiro Cruise Reviews

For years my husband and I have listened to our friends rave about cruises, particularly the transatlantic cruises, so finally we decided the time had come to see for ourselves what this was all about. If nothing else, we figured it would ... Read More
For years my husband and I have listened to our friends rave about cruises, particularly the transatlantic cruises, so finally we decided the time had come to see for ourselves what this was all about. If nothing else, we figured it would be a relaxing, comfortable way to get to Europe (we are Americans living in Brazil). And then again, we might just enjoy it!I won't beat around the bush, after just a few days on the cruise we decided to repeat the cruise, or take a similar one, next year. We had a wonderful experience, so far beyond what we had imagined (even feared!). My husband and I are both in our 60s, we don't need or like to be told what to do, where to go, we don't like the infantilization, but Royal Caribbean pretty much left us alone. We saw that if you don't want to participate, you don't have to. You can carve out your own cruise within the cruise.What impressed us most: Royal Caribbean's efficiency — everything went smoothly, from embarking at Rio onward; the efficiency and constant good humor of the staff, at all levels; the cabin, both in its cleanliness and its design (we had an oceanview stateroom); the food (in the Aquarius dining room) which was consistently excellent; the "something-for-everyone" approach to daily activities, allowing passengers to opt in or out, as they wished; and the medical facility, which we unfortunately had to visit, but they were so good we even enjoyed our short time there!My husband and I did not join any of the organized port excursions, so we cannot speak to them. We did not use the pools, the spa, the salon or the fitness room — and certainly not the Wall — so nothing to say there, either. We did walk around and visit these facilities, and the people all looked happy!There was only one big down side: our cabin was beneath the kitchen, and particularly a part of the kitchen where large metal objects were dragged, or rolled, or otherwise gotten from one place to another over the metal floor. This would occur sometimes at 2:00 in the morning, sometimes at 4:00 in the morning, sometimes as late as 7:00 in the morning. In other words, while we were trying to sleep. We were awakened from deep sleep over and over, every single day, by unbelievably loud, crashing, banging noises. We'll never again book a cabin under the kitchen, but Royal Caribbean ought to try and figure out a way to fix this problem. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
I've cruised over 60 times on most all the lines including a number of TA crossings. Now that I live in So Am and am retired I favor crossings from So Am to Europe. They involve less air expense for us and are usually a relative ... Read More
I've cruised over 60 times on most all the lines including a number of TA crossings. Now that I live in So Am and am retired I favor crossings from So Am to Europe. They involve less air expense for us and are usually a relative bargain on a per diem basis. We've seen all the So Am ports and we like longer cruises so the ship is now becoming the destination. Accordingly, this review will not include comments on the ports, per se.We've done a couple of crossings on 35,000 ton Oceania in the last few years. The food and service were great on this small ship, but we thought there was too little in the way of entertainment so this spring we opted for the 13 night crossing from Rio to Roma on the Mariner, a 138,000 ton quasi-behemoth that we figured would guarantee lots of entertainment and shipboard activities, however, on the basis of our on board experience we concluded that never again would we sail on a mass market repositioning cruise. DININGFirst and foremost, the food in the MDR was shockingly bad. I know that all cruise lines cut back on repositionings and crossings, but RCI, at least, has carried this too far. To add insult to injury we couldn't even get a decent meal when we paid the extra tariff in the speciality dining rooms, Chops($25) and Portofino ($20). The steaks were tasteless and most dishes seemed to be nothing more elaborate than well presented MDR fare. Bread and butter was often the best tasting item in the MDR. The buffet breakfast in the Windjammer was the most satisfactory meal of the day despite the fact there was no omelet station and the fried eggs were offered heaped together in a large serving tray. It's hard to screw up lox and toasted bagels, but RCI tried by leaving the bagels out on a large serving tray. Depending on your luck you might select one that was still warm. I saw a large orange juice machine in the Windjammer, but it was not operating. I was told the oranges on board were not suitable for making OJ, a curious and telling fact inasmuch as we were sailing out of Rio where year round I can get a liter of fresh squeezed OJ for $2.50 at my local fruit market. As a matter of fact, the oranges weren't suitable for eating either. None of the fruit was particular good, a real oddity given the venue. ACCOMMODATIONS AND SERVICEThe service in the Windjammer, specialty restaurants, and in the MDR at dinner (and dinner only) was as good as the food was bad. When I mentioned my preference for low salt, our head waiter immediately offered to allow me to preselect my dishes from the next day's menu so they would be prepared salt-free. This, they did religiously for the entire cruise. I never had better service in a ship's buffet restaurant than the service I experienced on the Mariner. Whoever trains staff is doing something right. We occupied a corner aft veranda cabin (1688) that was uniquely spacious. The extra inside and rear balcony space afforded us a comfortable environment. Ample storage space and a mini fridge were welcome conveniences. We got plush bathrobes as a platinum level perk, about the only thing of any real value that is now offered for this middling level. There were no extraordinary appointments, but the bed was comfy and the bathroom functioned as expected. Comments on the TV will follow. Our cabin attendant from Indonesia provided excellent service. He was polite, attentive, helpful and efficient. These ships are getting so big that those with mobility issues should give some consideration to occupying an extreme aft or forward cabin. The walk might be a bother for some.Despite my age I'm still something of a gym rat. For me the spa is the gym and little else. The workout area was adequate although at times there was a line waiting to go on the treadmills. There was a casino, but as I don't gamble I spent little time there occasionally stopping to watch the heavy bettors play 21.The main showroom, principle lounges, public rooms, and bars were nicely decorated and comfortable. The mid-level decks include a large open concourse space with upper deck "inside" cabins looking out over the area and shops and bars running the length of its sides. For some unknown reason there was very little merchandise in some of the perfume and merchandise shops. We didn't spend much time in the public rooms lining the concourse except for having a drink occasionally in the Schooner bar. Service by a bilingual Brasilian law school grad was pleasant. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of well educated, well spoken crew members on board. ENTERTAINMENTThe entertainment did little to make up for the poor food. In particular, the TV programming was horrific. I confess to enjoying the boob tube at night in the privacy of my cabin. We occupied a specially designed aft veranda cabin that owing to the uniqueness of the layout had a pole in between the bed and the tiny 18 (maybe 21) inch TV set. I would not have minded the obstacle (it was a tradeoff of which I was aware) or the smallness of the distantly located set, but apparently owing to some antenna problem the TV programming consisted of little more than a repetitive (ad nauseum) diet of boring 5 year old travelogues and episodes from Life at the Playboy Mansion. CNN gave out after the first couple of days which, combined with the absence of any shipboard NYT newsletter, meant living in ignorance for most of the cruise. There were few decent films broadcast. That goes for the small movie theater as well. No first run films. Truly abysmal TV and movie offerings. Parenthetically, the telephone was also on the fritz. At times, messages could not be left and could not be played back according to the instructions. The Engineering Dept was suspect.The showroom theater presentations were okay. The ship's production company's two shows of adequate live singing and inadequate dancing were not much better than fair, but were enhanced by pretty impressive staging, lighting, and especially the orchestra. In fact, the ship's orchestra was as good as any I have heard on board. Really "tight." On other nights there were some talented musical soloists. Unfortunately, there was a lack of variety in the dance music offered by the orchestra or it's subgroups/combos in the lounge venues. More than 85% of the passengers on this voyage were Brasilian so I can understand the emphasis on Latin music, but there was no other style of dance music offered at all. I live in Brasil and can verify that the natives like to swing and foxtrot, too. Not much opportunity for it anywhere. The ice show was extremely colorful and entertaining. Too bad there's only one such show, repeated 4 x during the cruise so everyone can see it.The cruise director and his team were a group of upbeat, good-natured, bi-lingual Brasilians. Bingo is not my bag. I never went, but based on my observations of the cruise director staff at other times, I imagine it was well run. "Marathon" team trivia, run on a cumulative score basis throughout the cruise, was fun (and I take my fun seriously). Surprisingly, the prizes distributed to many of the participants at the end of the event were actually nice, real prizes, e.g. tee shirts, caps, fanny packs, luggage tags, etc. On the other hand, there was no organized bridge play. For a crossing with so many sea days this was a large negative in my book. Speaking of books, the library's offerings were saddeningly sparse. Not sure how much of the lack of decent reading material can be attributed to a lax check out policy (the shelves were left open when no staff was in attendance), but if they can check out the pool towels they ought to be able to check out books and by so doing improve upon the library's meager contents.During the entire 14 day cruise there was one and only one "enrichment talk" about ancient Egypt offered in both Portuguese and English. My wife, who is bi-lingual, said it was boring in either language. Additionally, there were no port info talks in any language. I would have expected at least a crude map of the Salvador, Tenerife, or Civitavecchia port areas when disembarking. Nada, zip, nothing. The lack of decent enrichment talks, reading materials, organized bridge, and TV/movie programming made for an overall entertainment rating of poor despite the competent, fun loving cruise director staff. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATIONMost of the passengers boarded the Mariner in Sao Paulo. We and a few others boarded in Rio. RCI advised me we could board anytime after 9 am. We arrived at 11 am and could not board. Moreover, despite the fact that we were small in number we were kept waiting outside the terminal at the luggage drop off doors for about 20 minutes for no apparent reason. After that time we were permitted to enter the almost vacant terminal where, after waiting another 10 minutes comfortably seated, we were processed in a friendly, efficient manner. Who dropped that ball?Disembarkation was unique in all my experience. If I remember correctly, in all my prior cruises passengers were asked to fill out a form advising of any early travel connections so that priority may be given based upon need. There was no such process at the end of this cruise. We were told we would be assigned luggage tags that would define the time we could disembark in Civitavecchia. As we had to catch a train to Cinque Terra, I called reception and asked if we could disembark early. The reception desk told me to hold and then advised I was disembarking at a time that turned out to be sufficiently early to catch our train, but I wonder why we were not asked and why we had to get lucky to avoid a problem (even if it could have been changed had we asked). Made no sense to me. CONCLUSIONNo amount of good, friendly service could atone for the horrible food that was served on this cruise. To say the food failed to meet expectations is a gross understatement. It was scarily bad. Generally speaking, entertainment and shipboard activities also failed to meet expectations. I think this will be the last mass market repositioning cruise we will take. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
As exprienced travellers in Brazil and having read a few reviews, we went into this coastal cruise prepared for some of the differences from the normal cruise experience. First the numbers - of 2200 passengers, over 90% were ... Read More
As exprienced travellers in Brazil and having read a few reviews, we went into this coastal cruise prepared for some of the differences from the normal cruise experience. First the numbers - of 2200 passengers, over 90% were Brazilian plus 5% from other S.American countries. It was also noticeable that very few were from the usual "grey haired" age demographic of cruises. I'd say the average age was 25-35. After hearing poor reports of Santos, we decided to board at Rio. Our party of 4 plus baby took two taxis to the port from the downtown airport. Despite having got a reasonable fare indication before getting in, we were told en route by the taxi driver that there was a R$5 surcharge per bag on Rio taxis and were charged R$55 for the short trip. Our Brazilian friends (with the same number of bags but no baby) were charged a quarter of the price. Welcome to Rio! Not RCI's problem, of course, but it neatly explains why many in Brazil can't understand why we foreigners seem to focus on this city when there are so many better experiences in Brazil. The baggage drop off sheds stretch for a few hundred metres down the quayside -other cruise lines had signs over the relevant doors, but not RCI, so we met numerous passengers dragging bags around in the heat searching for the right entrance. Check in was smooth but no shuttle bus for the 400m to the ship in the 32 degree heat. Again, we could see why this wasn't to be a trip for the elderly! Our Owners' Suite was fine, but the service was nothing special (certainly well short of our last Celebrity experience in S.America). Our friends were in a so-called deluxe balcony room on deck 7 which stank of sewage throughout the trip despite numerous complaints and visits by maintenance. Their room attendant was so worried that this smell would jeopardise her service report that she wrote a long and sorrowful letter to our friends before the final night saying that it was awful and detailing her failed attempts to get other staff to resolve. As far as the non-standard items are concerned, here are a few: 1) We received a note detailing Suite privileges which assured us that we would be invited to a Captain's cocktail event. There was none. 2) Main (Aquarius)restaurant food was pretty mediocre and often extremely salty (to Brazilian taste) to the point that several courses were uneaten. Because of this we seldom ate in the main restaurant and used the Windjammer self service where we could sample before eating. 3) Despite having a pram, we had to fight to get out of the elevators on several occasions because of the inrush as soon as the doors opened. Brazilians are an exhuberent bunch but the shoving and lack of queueing courtesy could be a shock. This climaxed on our return to Rio, where the mob from 4 arriving ships scrabbled and pushed for the few available taxis. We had no chance with a pram so were forced to walk out of the port and find a cab on the street in order to (just) make our 3.5 hour flight connection. 4) We had been warned about abuse of the no-smoking regulations on these cruises but were pleased to find no problems here. At times the pool deck (& very small pool) seemed to be one endless party, but it was good humoured and fun to watch. With the exception of the queueing cultural blank spot, our fellow cruisers were generally delightful & good company. 5) We prepaid tips but the promised vouchers for the staff never arrived. It seemed strange to be tipping staff in the main restaurant when we only used it twice on the first and last nights, and the last night table staff were different people, but we did so anyway. 6) The entertainment was entirely in Portuguese, as expected, but we were disappointed that the Cruise Director's welcome & introiuction each night wasn't translated. 7) RCI seemed to be fairly unconcerned about boarding and disembarkation, especially given the substandard port facilities. At Salvador the shi was again berthed a long was from the port entrance but the shuttle bus driver had disappeared on our lunchtime return so again a long walk in the heat, casually watched by the RCI staff in their gangway tent. At Santos, the bus to the terminal took 25 minutes due to having to use the traffic-jammed main roads to get from the berth to the terminal. At Rio on our return, the shuttle bus dropped us outside the wrong baggage building (as with departure, RCI was the only cruise line with no sign), so more confusion. A pity, as first & last impressions are enduring... After Rio, the en route ports were not high on the wow factor and a lot of passengers didn't get off - we guessed that was because apart from Salvador, every place was within a short drive of their joining points in Sao Paulo or Rio anyway, and because tourism wasn't really the reason behind their cruise choice. In summary, unlike our friends in their appallingly smelly cabin, we had a good time on board, and the local crew were friendly and generally helpful, though clearly still, in many cases, in training mode. Would we recommend to non-Brazilians? Probably not,and definitely not to seniors. The RCI cruise experience itself was somewhat ragged - more party boat than floating 5 star hotel, and as frequent visitors to Brazil who appreciate the great sights and experienes of this country, we'd argue that there are better places to see in Brazil than the large port cities, and better ways to tour and stay. Beautiful Rio is still let down by its crime and poverty. Whether this will change before the tourist influx of the Olympics.Sao Paulo with its traffic jams and 20m people is not a place that one can find much to love on a day trip. The World Heritage money poured into Salvador to restore the colonial buildings has clearly gone astray, and if anything, there are more collapsing glories than on our last visit 5 years ago. Ilhabela is pretty but the mosquitoes can ruin your day at this time of year (no warning from RCI but most of the locals were well prepared). Buzios was the pick of the bunch, but again, it's driving distance for Rio based passengers & the exotic sounding "Buzios trolley" was actually a truck. One had the feeling that the ports of call are incidental to the choice of cruise. Go for the on board partying, but if it's gourmet food, great service & interesting ports of call you're after, there are better choices, and if you wan't to see the best of Brazil, there are far better itineraries for a week. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
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