In February 2014, my husband and I booked our first cruise with Royal Caribbean. We have cruised previously with Carnival, Disney, and Holland America Lines. We were so excited to enjoy this new cruise line that before we knew it, we had ... Read More
In February 2014, my husband and I booked our first cruise with Royal Caribbean. We have cruised previously with Carnival, Disney, and Holland America Lines. We were so excited to enjoy this new cruise line that before we knew it, we had 21 other family members coming to celebrate Thanksgiving with us! For most, it was their first time on RCI, for others, they raved about the excellent time they had on other RCI ships. This cruise was full of memories, unfortunately not all were good.
Sadly, the Vision of the Seas quality and service did not performed well or meet our expectations because of multiple issues that began even prior to sailing. We did not actually board the ship until 2:50pm, a full 2.5 hours AFTER arriving at the Port of Tampa, at our "scheduled" time, since we were on Deck 4. We have sailed out of Tampa before & have not had this problem. We were told multiple reasons for the delay, but were not offered any apology and greeted at every point by rude, condescending staff & security. There is nowhere to sit while waiting during this time, as the seating area is not until after you receive your Sea Pass. No restrooms, one vending machine, 2.5 hours. Families were separated, as they were closing lines off and only allowing people to enter once one section of the terminal was cleared. Also, we were told multiple times by RCI representatives when making our reservation and calling in to clarify, that NO outside food or beverages were allowed to be brought onboard, save 2 bottles of wine/champagne per cabin, with adults over the age of 21. There were families bringing cases of water, soda, and food and nothing was said to them. There is no enforcement of this policy, however my husband & father-in-law had their pocket knives confiscated because they could be used as a weapon. When asked to see this policy, the security guard rudely said that she "KNOWS Royal's policies and pocket knives are NOT allowed,". Strangely, my brother-in-law and uncle did not have their knives confiscated, as they were in a different line. Some customer service retraining would be helpful for this team, as they did not appear to know what they were doing. We had to ask the agent if he needed to take our picture for our Sea Pass!
So, after all that, we get on the ship with enough time to drop our bags and go get something to drink, as we purchased the soda card...JUST KIDDING! Everything was closed for muster drill! We had to go to muster drill without part of our family, as they were still getting on the boat. Yes, people were still boarding the boat while muster drill was happening. After muster drill, the only place that was open for food was the Park Cafe, that had a line a mile long, as there was a large majority of people who didn't have the opportunity to eat since breakfast due to the exceptionally long embarkation time. We ended up eating at the Windjammer Cafe that night, as our luggage did not arrive until nearly 7:30pm. Only one side of the Windjammer Cafe was open and our family found that it is a terrible setup on the buffet, as the 2 sides are different, so you end up having to go through the line twice, or face being "that rude person" that cuts in to get some bread, butter, etc. It was not until the next night that we began having issues with the Main Dining room.
During our first venture out to the Main Dining room, we made a reservation for all of us, 23 total, for 8:30pm. No issues with this, as we were a large group, and had 4 tables of six. Service was terrible from the beginning. Our waiter acted like he had better things to do and our wine sat unopened on our table until our appetizers were finished. We asked for a Diet Coke and we received an eye roll and a big sigh. It was already bad enough we spent most of the day hunting for a bar that would actually acknowledge our presence to fill our glass since we had the soda card. Once, I stood for 10 minutes at the pool bar without even a look my way. So, when we received the eye roll, we really had just about had enough and this was only our first full day onboard. Dishes were thrown down on the table, all stuffed together, incorrect dishes for some people and when we let them know it was wrong, "Oh, well, they are out of that other dish you ordered,". We were also told that the bread for the table is thrown away after they come around and you choose your piece of bread, as my nephew asked for bread with his entree and was denied. They asked us if we had reservations for any of the specialty restaurants, which we didn't, and they offered us 30% off. We declined.
We attempted to go to MDR the next night, with only 2 people and were told that 8:30pm was the earliest we would be seated. Wait...this is My Time Dining, right? So, you're telling me basically that I have second seating, great. I prepaid my gratuities to eat AGAIN at the buffet. We attempted MDR once more this cruise, with 6 people, and again were told 8:30pm was the earliest we could eat. I actually stood in the "No Reservation" line upstairs on Deck 5 and was completely ignored for 20 minutes while my family stood in the "Reservations" line. No eye contact was made, no information was given as to when I would even be addressed. Completely and utterly rude. When I finally interrupted the little pow-wow at the desk & asked when I might be seated, I was greeted with another eye-roll and a finger pointing to the line, "After all those other people with reservations are seated, that's when we will seat you,". Wow. Basically, RCI, are you NOT wanting anyone to eat in the MDR? We never attempted to eat in the MDR for the remainder of the cruise, even though we had plans originally for Thanksgiving dinner as a family there. We have cruised other lines with My Time Dining and there is only a certain number of guests that can choose My Time Dining before that option is closed, then one must choose first or second seating and be on a waiting list for My Time Dining. This may be something that RCI could look into, as My Time Dining was still being offered until the second full day of the cruise.
Since we're on the topic of food, let's discuss the availability of food & beverages. After 9:00pm, only lemonade/tea/coffee available is in the Park Cafe. After 2:00am, nothing, besides room service. For the soda card, your only options are basically the casino, or try & hunt down which bar is open, which is a crapshoot depending on the night. We had to again go to the casino to get our drinks while watching Monday Night Football on the Lido deck, as the pool bar was closed. There are zero beverage stations on the Lido deck by the pool and the Windjammer Cafe was closed off most of the time for refills on beverages, so you had to trek to the back of the ship to the Park Cafe, again. Food overall was sub-par, with the bread & baked potatoes being the best on the buffet. We were really expecting something special for Thanksgiving...nope, everything was the same, save for carved turkey that was undercooked and pumpkin pie. Seriously disappointing.
During this time, service overall on the ship continued to be lackluster, as well as the activities on the ship. Seriously, every night we were told there we "so many activities! The shops, casino & photo gallery are open!,". Those are NOT activities. Nor is trivia once a day or a movie on deck in the middle of dinner time. In a word, this ship was boring. It's a good thing our family brought decks of cards because until the shows started at night, there truly was nothing to do, and afterwards, forget it. The ship was dead. The poor kids had a Wii tournament on the TV at the Schooner Bar. Really?!?! 20 kids huddled around the TV there trying to play Wii tennis. Very sad. Also, limited access to places to read, play cards, relax. Most venues were closed if not being used or they were being used for storage for art or other supplies. Most times we were wandering around looking for something to do or a place to play cards to no avail.
The rudest service award goes to a casino bartender, as she told my husband she was "too busy to get him another soda & try another bar,". Guess what other bars were open? NONE! We weren't playing in the casino, just trying to get a soda, which apparently means you may/may not be served. I do NOT feel that the soda package is a good deal on this ship, especially since you can't take a can of soda with you "to go", unless you want to be charged for it. If there were more venues I could get a soda from, I wouldn't feel like I had to take a can "to go"!
The shows onboard were ok, nothing jaw-dropping or fantastic. The aerial show in the Centrum that everyone was excited for was not worth the hype, as it looked very unpolished, with timing completely off and equipment looking ill-fitting on one of their performers, as his bungee went so much lower than the other two...very distracting. Also, during this time, there was an exceptionally rude photographer that continued to take photos during the aerial show and would rudely let people know they were in his "workspace" as they were walking through to get a spot or see the aerial show. Add another rude RCI employee to the ever growing list.
At this point in the cruise, it became a running joke when we all met for meals as to what ridiculous thing happened today on the ship. We also had an issue with the tender information given in Belize. We have been on many ships that have tendered into ports. Never have we been told that we could not even receive a tender ticket an hour and a half after we anchor. We went to Guest Services to discuss this, as we had an excursion planned and needed to get off the ship as soon as possible, as our excursion left at 9:00am. Gabriela at Guest Services was exceptionally helpful in this department and we were allowed to depart with the shore excursion groups. We were very thankful for this! For future, maybe something should be posted on the itinerary when booking of the proposed tender times, as not everyone books shore excursions with the ship. One of our family members actually cancelled their cave tubing excursion & rebooked with the ship due to the tender issue. They lost their deposit since they booked with their prior knowledge of tenders to Belize was not what was expected on the Vision. We had also asked for a refund of our pre-paid gratuities due to the lackluster service and were told it was be credited to our card on file. We have NEVER doen this before. My sister-in-law also never received the $25 onboard credit she was missing (received $150, was supposed to receive $175), that we did have documentation of, as there was no follow up from Guest Services after they "contacted the corporate offices in Miami,".
There was also a fantastic sewage smell in our hallway all week, at all times of the day. This was on all the port side decks, as we had family members on multiple decks. Gross. Nothing like getting a big whiff of poop stink first thing in the morning. My husband also got a nice bidet treatment one morning when the toilet next door flushed & the toilet water in our toilet splashed up on him. Ew. The last few nights, since the seas were rough, the hallways also smelled like vomit. There was a lack of sea sickness bags throughout the ship & guests were vomiting into purses, trash cans, and stairwell corners. Overall maintenance of the ship was lacking, and on deck, I was reprimanded for being on the jogging track at 5:30am, since they were power washing everyday at that time. The fitness center isn't open that early & we get to port at 7:00am, when exactly can I get my run in, then? Why are you power washing at 5:30am and why have the dirty dishes & cups not been picked up before now, as they are being blown all over the upper decks. My niece and I also had a hard time finding a deck chair that wasn't missing straps, mangled, or broken in some way. These chairs are in dire need of replacement, as they look like they are the originals that came with the ship.
We did have one shining jewel among all this, our room steward, Donald. He made our cruise tolerable with his pleasant demeanor & attentiveness. We LOVED having him & he always made sure we had everything we needed, bringing us extra ice to chill our bottle of wine and extra towels since our niece & nephew would get ready in our room at times. Loved, loved, loved him!
Disembarkation was just as awful as embarkation, completely disorganized & zero food available after a certain time, even though we disembarked a full 2 hours after we were supposed to. We waited in the Some Enchanted Evening lounge and had the hardest time understanding the crew member and what was going on, who was supposed to stay vs. who was allowed to go. Please make announcements throughout the ship instead of just in certain venues. Everyone's getting off the ship & some would rather wait in a different area with others in thier family that is not so congested.
We are beyond disappointed with this cruise, as well as RCI because of the lack of quality and service overall. It is a terrible feeling to spent 9 months waiting for a vacation to be hit all week with obstacles that no one really seemed to want to help us with or care about. We have said that we may try RCI in the future, however in the distant future, as we don't want to repeat this experience anytime soon.