This was, without doubt, the worst holiday experience I have encountered to the extent that I asked the ships Customer Services Manager about being let off the ship in Brisbane. We suffered two weeks of beer swilling noisy and foul mouthed ... Read More
This was, without doubt, the worst holiday experience I have encountered to the extent that I asked the ships Customer Services Manager about being let off the ship in Brisbane. We suffered two weeks of beer swilling noisy and foul mouthed people, terrible overcrowding, endless queues, continual RCI bad management, disgusting food, untrained, un-interested and rude staff, highly expensive drinks and tours, lost luggage and a maze of scams and additional charges by RCI.
This is not my first cruise or my first cruise with RCI and so I have a valid basis of comparison.
I've detailed below a few of the problems on the ship for which I hold RCI responsible.
We picked up the ship in Singapore on the 18th October 2016 and booked into the terminal at 12.00 noon. The scene was chaotic as you can imagine with so many people trying to board. Cases were simply left outside the front door of the terminal with no check in procedure. There were thousands of bags piled up in no particular order without any security measures being taken by RCI. No RCI staff were present other than the checking in staff who were rude and appeared un-interested.
Bearing in mind the age of the vast majority of travelers, I was surprised that RCI made no attempt to offer refreshment, suitable seating or advice whilst the boarding process was ongoing.
We boarded the boat at 12.45pm but some guests were still being boarded 5 hours later. We made our way to our cabin, we had booked a junior suite and found the room to be bright, airy and mostly clean with plenty of storage available. The balcony and room were sparsely furnished with uncomfortable furniture and the balcony had not been cleaned.
The fridge did not work and the TV choice was poor unless you paid extortionate amounts for films (I think it was $12 per video) The bathroom was extremely small and there was no plug in the bath, the tap to the wash hand basin offered no cold water. The bath, sink,WC and shower curtain were stained and looked in need of refurbishment.
Even in a junior suite there was nowhere to eat if you wanted to opt for room services or sit comfortably. The balcony was nice and private but the glass screen was so dirty you had to stand up to see over it if you wanted a view.
There were tea and coffee facilities but in the room but we were shocked to find that only bottled water at extortionate cost was available. There was no cold water for drinking in the bathroom.
We waited for several hours for the delivery of our cases and after many broken promises by RCI Customer Services staff and several hours in queue's and discussions on the phone, I went down to Level 1 and retrieved four of my cases at about 8pm. I was not challenged by RCI security staff at any time. I located the fifth and final case at 11.00pm on level 5 some 11 hours after I arrived at the terminal and this only by chance because I went to level 5 to complain, yet again, about my missing case. Throughout the process I saw no security of any of the guests cases whatsoever either in the ship or at the terminal and no attempt was made by any staff to help locate my luggage or confirm that my luggage was on board or help me transfer my luggage to my room. As a consequence the whole first day of the cruise was lost.
I quickly learned that any RCI staff just were not interested and would lie and tell you what you wanted to hear just to move you away. Complaining by phone from the cabin was a waste of time because RCI staff just did not call back and you couldn't complain because you couldn't get through to the same person twice.
I wasn't alone in having difficulties with my luggage, hundreds of people formed an endless queue at Customer Services throughout the first day trying to sort their own issues with luggage and there were some very angry and unpleasant scenes.
We noticed during the first night that the ship was not following its advertised course this meant that we were on the seaward side of the boat throughout the journey. We had specifically chosen the port side of the ship to give us land views for the first half of the cruise, had we been known that the course was to be radically changed without any apparent reason we would have chosen a starboard cabin. There was no explanation or reason given for this course change, as always RCI guests were treated with complete contempt. Whilst I note RCI reserve the right to change its course for operational reasons, no reason or excuse was given.
The self service breakfast and lunch restaurant, Windjammer, was like a works canteen with appropriately poor service. With old plastic plates and cups and dirty tables you can imagine the scene. The food was just about edible but was not the quality you would expect on a cruise ship. The queues for food were horrendous and there weren't enough tables. It's the sort of place I would spend all year avoiding and unfortunately as prisoners on the good ship Voyager we had no choice.
I actually witnessed one waiter in Windjammer pouring the contents of used glasses of water into a water jug as he was clearing the tables, not at the end of the sitting but mid way. I dread to think what he did next. No wonder RCI suffer from so many contagious illnesses on its ships.
When eventually tables were cleared, countless tables were being wiped with the same dirty cloth without any attempt to clean the cloth and no cleaning products of any type were used. This was the same for every one of the cleaning staff and on every occasion we had the misfortune to have to use this disgusting canteen.
The food and service in the main restaurant was at best poor and at worst shambolic and by the end of the cruise the continued and persistent staff begging for additional tips was played out in front of no more than 50% occupancy. I've cruised a fair few times and I've never seen the 8pm sitting, on a full ship, half empty. Food was cold, late, tiny portions, not as described on the menu and of consistently poor quality. Guests were allowed into the restaurant in shorts and beachwear even on formal nights and the behavior was normally consistent with their attire. Our waitress could not speak English and we had no idea what she was telling us throughout the cruise. After 5 days at sea, the ship ran out of every bottle of wine on its meager wine list below $60 a bottle and despite several stops in Australia and assurances by the restaurant management RCI made no attempt to rectify this problem.
I complained every day to the waiter, head waiter and floor manager and only on the last night of the 14 day cruise was the food bought out to us hot.
Some of the food bought out onto our table was embarrassing not just to us but to the waiters who were serving it.
The numbers of tables who had pretty violent rows with the restaurant staff grew over the 14 day period until most of the tables around us were empty.
It quickly became evident that RCI are intent in squeezing every possible cent out of every passenger and this theme was drummed into the customer with such ferocity that there was disquiet on the boat throughout the cruise. I've never been on a holiday or cruise where the guests felt such ill will against the operator. The price of drinks was excessive, charges for everything conceivable were added to each bill, money taken from cards without authority, children of 10 years old allowed to gamble hundreds of dollars on their state room cards without parental consent or knowledge, excessive charges made for land tours. A few examples of such sharp practice:- $39 to tour the kitchens, $7 for a lanyard for the state room key, $2.95 for a can of coke, $7 for a small bottle of beer, land tours costing up to five times their local cost.
I noticed people on drinks deals were given second rate drinks such as draught coke, un-branded wines, low quality beers etc.
Despite paying $13.50 per day per person for service charges, 18% was also added to every bill for additional service charges. The constant begging by staff for additional tips was, to say the least, annoying especially as the service throughout the ship was so poor.
We had four stops and two of them were tendered. On the first tendered stop RCI made such a mess of the disembarkation that people were still trying to get off the ship at 2.30pm, even though we arrived at anchor at 10.00am. The queue for re-boarding was up to 2hrs 30mins and then we were taken back through choppy seas in a small ships tender which was not a pleasant experience.
The whole fiasco was caused by not enough externally hired large boats being organised to get people off the ship. If the ship holds 3,500 guests and you have boats each holding 250 people and the turnaround takes 1hr 20mins it doesn't take a genius to calculate the number of boats required to get guests on and off the ship in a reasonable period.
The Captain, disingenuously blamed the fiasco on the Australian authorities, the truth is that RCI did not hire enough external boats, did not act quickly enough to put right its error and then did nothing for the people who were waiting for nearly three hours in the Northern Queensland afternoon sun without shade or water, many of whom were old and infirm. I saw the captain questioned about the tendering problems and he refused to respond when it was made pretty obvious to everybody in earshot that he had not told the guests the complete truth.
Again it does not take a genius to work out that if you had problems getting 3,500 people off the ship with 4 large boats, the problems will be even greater if you try to board them back using just 2 boats. RCI did nothing to correct its error until the queue on the dock was over 2hrs long. By that time the 2 of the larger hired boats had been let go and we were left with ships tenders.
On our return to the boat we were addressed like criminals by RCI security staff who showed utter contempt for passengers and we were herded like sheep from queue to queue until we got away from level 1. I was so annoyed at the way we were spoken to as we entered the ship (having waited nearly 3 hours to board) that I had an extremely heated discussion with the security operative operating the bar scanner. I honestly felt like I'd just arrived at Shawshank Prison for a ten stretch and fully expected dogs to be bought out to round us up.
My wife was pretty distressed and felt intimidated by the constant searching and scanning and ID checks we had to go though and the aggressive security guards we had to deal with.
This same scenario was played out on the second tendered stop although RCI provided desalinated water in glasses and cold towels for people in the re-boarding queue and provided four large tenders instead of two and used the ships tenders from the word go.
The water they served in plastic glasses in Windjammer was desalinated and was pretty disgusting, forcing guests to buy $5 a bottle water.
On disembarkation to the third tendered stop, 250 guests were lead down to level 1 and herded like sheep into the main services runway area and left for nearly 45 minutes pressed up against a wall. This is a restricted area for guests and not only was this extremely dangerous as it was in constant use by staff to transport materials about the ship but the smell of rotting food was appalling and worrying. We got no explanation why we were taken from the theatre so early and no apology was given. We were just pushed against one the walls and told to make way, this was 250 predominantly old people, some with walking aids unnecessarily crammed into an area in constant use.
On the first day when I went down to level 1 to find my cases I was told that it was too dangerous for guests to be in the runway area and i was asked to leave.
I asked the RCI representative who led us down to level 1 how long we would be kept in the runway area and he said "I don't know and it's not my fault, I only work in the theatre" This was a typical answer from waiting staff, customer services staff, staff handling the luggage, in fact all RCI staff.
Despite the excessive profit made by RCI from the tours, it decided to cut short our trips to make up for its own failings in getting us off the boat in time. I travelled 11,000 miles from the UK to see Northern Queensland and was rushed from coach to queue and queue to coach on each of our three trips without having the opportunity to see the place.
Even when we were docked the trips were cut short and we were rushed back to the ship an hour early in both Darwin and Brisbane.
When I booked in at Singapore I was asked for a credit card to secure my onboard expenditure even though I wanted to settle by cash. Without authority and on a daily basis money was taken by RCI from my credit card without my approval and authority. When I first complained about the unauthorised withdrawal of funds the Customer Services operative laughed at me and tried to suggest that this was normal company policy. Eventually I spoke to the front desk manager and told RCI that if they did not stop this unauthorised withdrawal of funds I would report fraudulent activity on my card and have it stopped. No further withdrawals were made on my account until the final bill was settled. When I reviewed my final bill RCI had added numerous transactions without my authority and signature some of which had already been deducted from my account.
I think a total of $640 was taken before I managed to stop it and when I enquired about a refund if I settled the agreed bill in cash I was told this would take place 7-14 days after the end of the cruise even though the unauthorised withdrawal had happened within hours of the expenditure.
I have stayed in many top quality hotels throughout Europe, Asia, North and Central America and the Middle East and been on many cruises and this is the first time I have experienced this type of breach of trust in respect of credit cards.
On the one occasion my wife and I used the casino, we had been playing blackjack for about 30 minutes and we had won about $50 and RCI put a dark suited manager behind us who stood inches away from us with arms folded presumably trying to be intimidating. We were extremely embarrassed but continued to play so the house then changed dealer who was immediately rude to my wife and so we walked away and cashed in our chips. Needless to say we did not return.
The entertainment was appallingly bad, singers in the pub were excruciating, shows amateurish and comedians low quality and crude. RCI's spurious claims that the shows were award winning are disgraceful, these were amateur productions by amateur performers. We spent the day by the pool on one of the later days only to be confronted by a "belly flop" competition with the consequent screaming and pa noise, how classy was that???
What upset me most was that RCI has turned this ship into a floating Butlins camp with beer swilling, drunken, foul mouthed guests, nothing like my experience of cruising with this or other lines. I was appalled at some of the behaviour we saw both on and off the ship. I acknowledge that RCI is not responsible for guests behaviour but it is responsible for the environment which promotes these problems. Having dress codes and codes of conduct in the restaurants would help but the real problems were caused by having an all you can drink cost of $55 which meant each person on the deal felt obliged to drink at least $55 of alcohol per day. RCI has set the price of the all you can drink package far too high with total disregard to the non or light drinkers who have gone on holiday to relax, not to listen to rugby songs and avoid drunks throughout the night.
On one occasion we walked through the casino after our dinner and there was a drunk women sprawled over the roulette table shouting, swearing and screaming. Needless to say we turned and walked out.
Perhaps I'm an abject snob, but all I want is that my holiday is relaxing, the food is good and that I can have a glass of wine with my evening meal. I don't want to have to fight for breakfast or spend time complaining to get normal levels of service or fight a drunken mob to get a drink at night. I don't want to spend hours in unnecessary queues or be penalised because the operator is incompetent or to continually have to negotiate my way through the RCI money making scams.
A couple on our table who we made friends with were in their 80's and they felt very frightened about being out of their room after dinner.
We spent most of our time on the boat on our balcony reading because the rest of the ship was so unpleasant and crowded. on one occasion we tried to get a bed chair in the adult only section of the swimming pool area, we had to sit 25 yards apart because it was so crowded.
I based my decision to cruise with RCI upon the many and varied claims made on its UK and USA websites. I enclose several examples of RCI's incorrect and exaggerated claims made about its cruises which in my opinion it has failed to honour or even attempt to honour to the extent that I consider RCI to be in breach of our contract and of English consumer law. I have made RCI aware of this matter but they have refused to comment on any specific allegation.
I don't expect 5 star quality from RCI, that is clearly not their game, I do however expect RCI to provide the advertised service levels which formed the basis of our contract.
My dealings with RCI customer service since I got back have been frustrating to say the least and after receiving an email which said they wanted to speak to me but only if I paid for a premium charged, international phone call I wrote to Adam Goldstein the CEO.
I've now had a letter from RCI asking for arbitration, a surprising request after less than two weeks from my initial complaint. I feel an ambush coming.
Bottom line folks, this is a deplorable, dishonest, down-market company intent on fleecing customers, lying through their teeth at every opportunity and giving guests a true Blackpool experience. Do yourself a favour and use another operator who show guests some respect.
PS. Australia is amazing
"Everything you need to enjoy your holiday is included in the price of your ticket, making your experience truly amazing value. Of course, additional options can be purchased if you want those little extras"
Since when does water constitute a "a little extra"
"Enjoy countless incredible complimentary dining experiences during your holiday with each ship offering something different"
Windjammers is an overcrowded works canteen with dirty tables, plastic plates and glasses and plain food. The main restaurant was half empty, food was cold and poor, wine list with no choice under $60 per bottle and service was chronic. That's two poor options, where does "countless" and "incredible" fit into this?????
"With so many extraordinary activities on offer, you can tailor-make your Royal Caribbean holiday to be just as exhilarating (or relaxing) as you like. Head for the heights with the rock-wall, catch waves on the FlowRider, or make a splash in the H2O Zone water park. Or, if rest and relaxation is more your thing, retreat to our blissful Spa to pamper yourself from head to toe. With most of our activities free, you’ll always find fun for all the family onboard"
View the classy "belly flop" competition in a Butlins type environment or hunt out a bed in the spa and spend the day 25 yards away from your partner because there are no beds together due to overcrowding.
"And where else can you have fun doing as much or as little as you want, without having to constantly pack and unpack, or dealing with never-ending lines to attractions?"
Whoever wrote this should have cruised on the VOTS in October 2016. On our trip to Port Douglas we spent just under 5 hours in queues on one day due solely to RCI incompetence. That excludes queues for food and drinks on board or queues at RCI Customer Services
"Our unique style of service will enhance every aspect of your cruise. No matter where you are the pool, the dining room, the spa or your room – get ready to be wowed! And we deliver it 24 hours a day. This is way beyond normal service"
I'm still waiting to be wowed by any aspect of RCI service, in fact I would say the service was at best 3rd rate. The only thing unique about RCI staff is that amongst cruise lines I've been on they are the worst, un-trained, constant begging for tips, rude, incompetent and treat guests with utter contempt.
"Once onboard, you will enjoy dining options that are rich in flavor and ambience. Savor dish after dish of fine cuisine, casual plates and snacks prepared by our chefs in a variety of venues from deck to deck. See which dining venues are on your ship"
Windjammers is an overcrowded works canteen with dirty tables, plastic plates and glasses and plain food. The main restaurant was half empty, food was cold and poor, wine list with no choice under $60 per bottle and service was chronic. I didn't have any food which was rich in flavour and/or ambience. If you want that try an Olsen or Costa cruise. Read Less