First let's talk about the ship: It's old and tired and doing a make over in September of 2019. Boy did RCCL wait longer than it should!. It's not only dated (a peachy pink in many areas. Why RCCL uses trendy colors ... Read More
First let's talk about the ship: It's old and tired and doing a make over in September of 2019. Boy did RCCL wait longer than it should!. It's not only dated (a peachy pink in many areas. Why RCCL uses trendy colors instead of neutrals that will not get so tired so fast is beyond me), but certain areas (like the ladies bathroom by Giovanni's) are falling apart. The layout of the ship is done well and the activities are plentiful. Note: US residents do not need to arrange their own Visas. The ship does the Vietnam one for $6 each and the Thailand one is also arranged and provided (not really a Visa, but some kind of travel card). I believe it is the same for the UK, but do check.
We stayed in a suite and bought the unlimited dining package, so we never ate at the regular restaurant (except day 1 at the windjammer, which was just OK). Frankly, on other RCCL ships we have been disappointed with the regular restaurants so we avoided that and just did the specialty restaurants instead. For breakfast, Giovanni's is where suite guests eat and for days at sea lunches, specialty restaurants are included in the dining package. My biggest complaint is that the menu stays stagnant in the specialty restaurants. It would be great, especially on cruises over 7 days, if they would have an A and B menu (switching 1/2 way through). I think they would have more action in them that way too.
Giovanni's: Great service and good food, family style. The bad: They had no fresh (or even seemingly dry) basil, as it "turned black" days before the sailing ended. As an Italian, I can say this is really bad. They should have at least had dried basil. The tomato sauce would have been far better with traditional basil added and how the chef allowed the sailing without it is beyond me. I had the cannoli once and it was so bad, I did not try again, as the shell was soggy. The lasagna was loaded with a heap of ground beef, so much it overpowered the dish. The caprese salad was bland (lack of basil and low quality tomatoes were to blame). The good: The lamb chops, ceasar and chicken were favorites.
Chops: Great service and good food. The Bad: The filet has a weird flavor. I suspected Mexican beef (slightly gamely), but they said no. Giovanni's Filet has the same flavor. The Rib Eye was amazing. Chicken also excellent.
Izumi: Great service and good food. The hot stone filet was amazing.The mochi was fantastic, but they ran out of 1/2 of the flavors by the time the cruise was 1/2 over. Poor planing on the chef's part.
Johnny Rockets: Great burgers, fries and shakes; however, I wish they had asked how I want it prepared, as it was a bit overcooked for my liking. The service was terribly slow.
Room service: Did a good job except for one day, where they screwed up almost everything, but they made it right and sent us chocolate covered strawberries as an I'm sorry that evening.
Spa: Good, typical sales game. We had one therapist for a deep tissue that could not go deep at all, even with a lot of direction. Makes me think they do not have top trailed therapists, which is unexcusable based on what they charge. They gave a discount and switched therapists for our other services. We use the spa a lot on cruises, so we get to know them pretty well. I give this one a B.
Shows: We saw a few of the shows. They were all pretty good.
On board in Singapore: Truly a highlight. We went in 2 days early and regretted we did not have more time. Having 3-5 days would be perfect. The Malay, Little India, China town, the Civic district (go at both night and day, light show each night) and Gardens by the Bay (also night light show that is free) were all highlights. We hired a private guide (tours by locals) for a 1/2 day tour and that was perfect. We added a drive/air conditioned van, which allowed us to see everything in the 1/2 day and not be as hot. Unbelievable restaurants.
Bangkok, Thailand (overnight): Spectacular! This is 2-3 hours from port, so we got a hotel room (Asanti Riverside, which was amazing). Arrival time was 11 am (but you will not get off of the ship until between 11:30-noon, as it was very slow getting cleared and always is), this was a real bummer and I have no idea why RCCL is so short sighted on this. It should also be on a Saturday and at 6am (or Friday if you have 2 days like we did) so you can see the best floating market (the one available during the week is either in Pattaya (not real, more of a tourist trap) or way out of the way and 3 star at best). We hired a guide who provided a driver (tours by locals) for both days and it was worth every penny. So much to see and it is very hot so an air conditioned van really helped. We also saw way more than we could otherwise with a local. We saw the Grand Palace, Golden Buddah, Emerald Buddah, Reclining Buddah, Canal Ride and some other temples/shrines.
Ho Chi Min City (Saigon): Amazing day! 1.5 hours from port: We hired Saigon Adventures and did a food tour with city highlights. They picked us up in a van and scooters met us in Saigon. A local driver was assigned each in our group and off we went. It was our best day and a blast. The food was amazing. The sites were good, the main tour guide was wonderful and our drivers made it stress free and fun (I would not want to drive one of those myself in the city, as it is really crazy). They dealt with all of our food issues and we genuinely enjoyed every food stop (Soup, coffee, baguette sandwiches, and BBQ pork).
Nha Trang: beach city port, quick to get to. The town itself is touristy and there is a decent beach so you could stay local and just use a taxi to get where you want to go. We hired Nhatrangadventures for a jeep countryside with city highlights tour (5-6 hours). They picked us up outside of the port (a quick 5 minute walk). We got to see the countryside and how they really lived, making rice patties and traditional hats and also saw the city highlights. It was a great time and unique view of the Vietnamese and the lunch provide was amazing..
Hue: a bit more than an hour outside of the port AND you have to take a tender, so allow for an hour to get off of the ship (30 minutes if you are one of the first and all goes perfectly). We hired stopandgocafetours for a tour of the old city and highlights with a private van. My only complaint is that the owner emailed me the day prior to confirm. I had fully paid for the tour and it was a day at sea so we had no service and got a later start since he didn't hear from me until we were at port. The guide did a wonderful job. It was a sweltering hot day, so the van was a godsend between sites. We saw the lost city of Hue. Hue itself was the most pretty of the Vietnamese cites we saw and is a not to miss place. They also took us to a very nice lunch and the food was wonderful. We enjoyed the day less only because of the heat, as that was a real challenge for all of us.
Hong Kong: Close to port. We hired a private guide for a 1/2 day tour (toursbylocals). We saw Victoria's Peak, the markets and different areas of Hong Kong. It's a big city and was nice, but not anything amazing. We stayed one night at the Marriott by the airport, which is a wonderful property. They have an 10 minute shuttle to the small city nearby (and and 8 minute shuttle every 30 minutes to the airport). We took it to the cable car and went to the giant buddah. This was a real highlight for us. The cable car ride provided amazing views,the giant buddah was beautiful and there is the very unique city that was part of it with amazing shopping and things to do. Very much recommend!!!
Embarkation: not so good. They kept my passport cover and I had to run back to get it and the initial keys did not work and were not the gold suite keys, which you need to use the suite services. The second copy worked, but were also not golden. 3rd time was a charm. Concierge fixed it all for us and arranged dining times and helped with what we needed.
Debarkation: smooth and easy. We left at 8:30 so the crowds were gone. Big Tip: Arrange a driver ahead of time or a private tour guide. The taxi line took 2 hours and was insane. There are no signs to let you know you do not have to stand in the line unless you need a taxi, so make a note. Customs was a breeze and done by the ship ahead of time. Never been happier to have a private tour as I was that morning. Read Less