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 staffwho 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.
Royal Carribean is awful - 4 months before my trip with airfare puchased I get an email saying my cruise has been charted and my trip is canceled. The only way the will reimbursement for any expenses lost is if I cruise with them again. Why would I give them a second time to ruin my vacation. This is a trip I've been planning since Oct. 2011, I got a great flight to China - $750 roundtrip - of all the cruise lines don't cruise them as I'm a repeat cruiser and it doesn't matter at all to them. They are a joke.
Just the Facts: Cruise: Voyager of the Seas--Western Mediterranean Date: January 22-January 29, 2009 Captain: Frank Martinsen Cruise Director: Mercedes LaFuente Ports: Barcelona, Spain - Naples, Italy - Civitavecchia, Italy - Livorno, Italy - Villefranche, France - Toulon, France - Barcelona, Spain Weather: Very nice all week for late November
This was my 13th Royal Caribbean cruise and 4th cruise on the Voyager of the Seas.
Day One--Sunday-Embarkation-Barcelona Spain We took a taxi (20 Euro) from our Barcelona hotel to the cruise terminal arriving about 1:15 pm. It was a good time to arrive as there was only a short line at security and a short line for the Diamond check-in area. We could then go directly on board the ship and it was then only 5 minutes until the cabins were opened to passengers. We stored our carry bags right away then went to the Windjammer and enjoyed a nice lunch. DW had a nice Salad, Vegetables, & Mashed Potatoes and I had the Roast Beef from the carving station, Mashed Potatoes, and Grilled Corn on the Cob. We walked around the ship and refamiliarized ourselves with the public areas and decks.We had a rest in the cabin and decided to eat in the Windjammer in lieu of the dining room as we have a late dining time. The Buffet Dinner in the Windjammer is very nice. They have waiter service for drinks and to take care of your needs. The food was very good as well. I had a large Salad, Prime Rib from the carving station, Mashed Potatoes, a 'made to order' soup, and a Pork Tornado. For dessert a Viennese Strawberry Meringue, Key Lime Pie, and a Sponge Cake soaked in liquor. All very good and it will be hard to get DW into the dining room. They have added a Taste of Nations area and today it was Indian Food. It was available for both lunch and dinner. The Welcome Aboard Show for both dinner seatings featured aerialists Adagio Hunnia, a comedian/juggler Kirk Marsh, and Mercedes LaFuente the Cruise Director. It was a good show and a good start to the cruise. After the show we retired to the cabin for a movie.
Day Two--Monday--at Sea A beautiful morning and the sea was fairly calm. I had a very nice breakfast of Eggs Benedict in the Carmen (main) dining room and then picked up tickets for the afternoon Ice Skating Show. We attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle at 11:00 a.m. in the High Notes Lounge. There was a good crowd and it's always great to put real names to screen names. They had small finger sandwiches, water, coffee, and lemonade. The Activities Manager from the ships cruise staff attended. I did some Internet time in the ship library. We had lunch in the Carmen dining room as they have the wonderful salad bar. I had a Salad, Steak Sandwich, and Carrot Cake for dessert. DW still prefers the Windjammer salad bar as they do have more specialty salad items such as sunflower seeds. The seas have picked up and there is a big wind across the decks. We went up to the upper decks to watch us sail through the straits separating the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, but the winds were too much. As it turned out our aft balcony was the ideal place to watch as we were protected from the wind. It was pleasant on the balcony as well with the sun warming us while observing the coastline of the two island. A very short nap before we went to the 3:30 ice show Ice Odyssey. It was the same show we have seen previously, but an excellent show and not to be missed. Following the show they had a meeting of the B2B cruisers at 4:30 in the La Scala theater. It seems we have set a new RCCL record for most repeat guests ever on a B2B cruise with 600 doing this cruise and then the transatlantic back to Galveston. We will not have to clear customs nor check-in, nor go through security again as they will do everything for us. BTW-the most repeaters by far are from Texas. They had delivered Chocolate Covered Strawberries to the cabin when we returned and they were great for an afternoon snack. The Captains reception was held in the Grand Promenade this evening and they had a special 10th anniversary cake for the ship as it was it was the Voyager of the Seas tenth birthday. We went to Cleopatra's Needle, the new designated Diamond members lounge, for wine before dinner. As it was the Captain's reception they had a very nice dance band performing. Dinner was at 9:00 and we have a very nice six top table in the middle of the main dining room. The Captains Dinner menu was very good. I had the Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Beef Filet, and Grand Mariner Soufflé as my selections. There was a headwaiter brought me a plate of sliced Hearts of Palm (one of my favorites) that were fantastic. The primary entertainment was one of the production shows, Music in Motion, but having seen it and the lateness of the evening we retired to prepare for our first day in Italy.
Day Three-Tuesday-Naples, Italy We slept very well and when we awoke and looked out our aft balcony we were docked at Naples. The ship was aft to the town so we had a great view of all the activities around the piers and a great view of Castel Nuovo. The weather was cloudy in the early morning, but would later become a beautiful day. We had room service breakfast delivered about 7:30 am as a wake up call to get out and see Italy. Our only plan for today was to see Pompeii, but we arranged for a nice private tour at the pier. Maximo was our driver and our first stop was Pompeii. It is really a spectacular place and not to be missed if ever in Naples. We spent 3 hours walking among the Roman ruins and seeing most of the major sites and restorations. Our next stop was Sorrento which is located across the bay from Naples. It is a beautiful town with a great view, nice shops, and great restaurants. We ate at a restaurant formerly in an old church, the Basilica, and really enjoyed the food. I had the Cannelloni Sorrento and DW had a Capri style pizza (Mozzarella cheese & tomato). We also sampled the LimonCello the drink of Sorrento. We spent about two hours in Sorrento and then returned to Naples for a tour of the city highlights. The Old gate, Old (1st) Castle, and Church Square are interesting, all dating in the 13th and 14th centuries. Naples has very old sites and interesting buildings; however, it was not a clean city nor appears to have a positive spirit about it. It's a shame to see graffiti everywhere including fountains. Not as nice as Sorrento or Barcelona. We had Fruit and Cheese plates delivered by room service as a nice balcony snack and enjoyed some sangria wine we brought aboard in Barcelona. The Crown & Anchor Past Guest party was tonight and the feature production show this evening in the La Scala Theater was Knight Magic, but we skipped both for rest from all the walking today. Dinner was good although hard to go so late. DW had the Cheese Tortalini. I had the Maryland Crab cake, Shrimp Cocktail, Black Angus Sirloin Steak, with a Dulce De Leche Cheesecake for dessert.
Day Four--Wednesday-Civitavecchia, Italy The weather was very nice today perfect for the tours we were taking. We again had room service breakfast and met our group of eight for a private tour of Rome. We used Rome-in-Limo Company (€90 pp) and they were perfect for seeing as much as possible with only one day in Rome. We were picked up at the dock and made the 1+ hour drive to Rome getting a history lesson on the way. The first major stop was the Colosseum. It is very impressive as is the area around the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine. We had about an hour to visit the Colosseum and area and then it was off to the location of the Circus Maximus (think chariot race in Ben Hur). Next stop was locations of the Roman Forums. Almost all ruins now, but there are columns of the various original buildings. Fortunately we had a guidebook that compared the existing ruins with what the original buildings looked like by using an overleaf in the book. It really helps to get an idea of what it looked like in early Roman times (Caesar and Augustus). There is really so much to take in in such a brief time. There were so many Temples, Forums, Arches, Columns, etc. to see. The Capital Hill area was also impressive especially the Pantheon. We drove by several other notable sites such as the Spanish Steps, Tiber Island, and so many more. We did stop at the famous and beautiful Trevi Fountain. We tossed some coins in the fountain as well as get an Italian ice crème from a local shop. This was a very busy morning and the Vatican area was scheduled for the afternoon, but now it was time for a lunch at a non-tourist family trattoria recommended by our guide. We stopped at Osteria dei Pontefici located near St. Peters and it was a wonderful experience and must be well thought of by the locals as there were two Cardinals and two priests at the next table We had a table for the eight in our group and were served family style. They brought bread and antipastos: Salami, Prosciutto, Bruchetta, Marinated Carrots, Eggplant, Zucchini, and an Egg dish. For entrees we were served a meat Ravioli and Penne Pasta in meat sauce. For dessert we had a small Tiramisu and Banana crème cake. Now it was time for the Vatican. The guide knew the time to drop us in order to avoid the larger tour groups and there was a very short line for admission. In order to save time we stayed in the main rooms of the Vatican Museum and a shortcut into the Sistine Chapel. The art and tapestries were numerous and beautiful, but of course Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is the most impressive. After leaving the Museum area we entered the Basilica of Saint Peter. Wow, what can one say? Perhaps the most impressive building I have ever seen, it was both awe inspiring and impressive. We stayed as long as possible, but had to meet our guide and driver at 4:00 pm. for the return trip to Civitavecchia. We made it to the ship by 5:30 and time to rest. Dinner this evening was very good, I had the Stuffed Pasta appetizer, Jalipeno Potato Soup, the Turkey Tenderloin, and BBB for dessert. Then cabin time and rest for another big day.
Day Five- Thanksgiving-Thursday, Livirno, Italy The weather was again pleasant and good for touring the Tuscan area of Italy. We shared a local taxi service with 6 others that would allow us to tour both Florence and Pisa on our own. This was a bargain (€40 pp) and also allowed us to be dropped in the best locations to tour each city. We first went to Florence passing the beautiful countryside and observing grape vineyards and olive trees. You could see the rolling hills and mountains in the distance. After an hour we arrived in Florence near the main cathedral piazza and first visited the Baptistery of St. Giovanni (4th-5th century and 1128), the Cathedral of Florence (1296-1375), and then the Academy Gallery that contains the original statue of David by Michelangelo. We then walked the several blocks to Piazza Della Signoria the location of the Palazzo Vecchio (1294), Neptune Fountain (1563), and the Loggia dei Lonzi (1376). The Loggia contains the original Rape of the Sabine Women (1583) a particular favorite as DW's family has a bronze that has passed through three generations. We then crossed over the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge (1345) and stopped in a beautiful restaurant. For lunch we had pizza, spaghetti, and the local chianti wine. We walked through the Uffizi that contains many masterpieces of the old master artists but knew we did not have time to see them with the limited amount of time we had left. We met the taxi for the trip to Pisa and the taxi dropped us just a block from the Piazza del Duomo. The Cathedral (1063) and Leaning (Bell) Tower (1172 & finished in 14th century) are very impressive. Our visit is at a good time as the recent renovations and repairs are completed and the Tower has also been cleaned. This is a must see for tourists to this part of Italy. It was also fun watching tourists pose for photos holding up the tower. As you can see from the photo, there was a Voyager ship photographer there. I found that to be very convenient. The driver had us back to the ship in good time and dropped us right at the gangway. Today being Thanksgiving the ship had a special Thanksgiving Dinner with Turkey, Dressing, Potatoes, Cranberries, and Pumpkin pie for dessert. The waiters ended Thanksgiving night by singing America the Beautiful.
Day Six--Friday-Villafranche, France The day was very pleasant. This is a beautiful natural harbor and the Voyager anchors in the middle. The port has nice tenders and you get ashore in just 10-15 minutes. Our plan was to go to Monaco for the day. We tendered over about 9:00 am and took the short walk to the Villafranche train station. We bought return tickets (€5 pp) to Monaco and the train came straightway. It was only a 15 minutes trip on the train and we got off in the station in central Monaco. We walked to the famous Monte Carlo casino visiting the gardens along the way. We then took the bus to the Royal Palace arriving in time to watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony. The palace museum was closed for the season, but we did visit the Cathedral and the graves of Princess Grace and Rainier. We found a fantastic Crêpe restaurant just below the Palace in the Old Town area. I had a ham & cheese crepe, DW a cheese crepe, and we shared a carafe of wine and a dessert crepe. This was an excellent lunch.
We were very impressed with how all of Monaco is clean and well manicured with lots of flowers, especially in the palace area. We found the underground Train Station and had to wait a while for the next train, but we made it back to Villafranche harbor well before the last tender. DW stayed and shopped a bit at some stalls set up in the town as I returned directly to the ship. We attended the production show Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme before dinner and enjoyed the show. This was the final formal dinner and the menu was very good. My selections were the Shrimp Cocktail, Soup, Garden Salad, Fisherman's Platter (Lobster & shrimp) and the assorted dessert selection with vanilla ice crème.
Day Seven-Saturday-Toulon, France We were scheduled to dock in Marseilles, but due to a potential dock strike we called on the port of Toulon. Toulon is the headquarters of the French navy. We had to take a shuttle into town as the Voyager is too large for the city piers and we docked across the harbor in La Seyne-Sir-Mer. Toulon is not one of the primary tourist destinations so it was fun walking around town and taking in the sites. This was market day and there were hundreds of stalls set up with fresh vegetables, fish, olives, fruits, flowers, etc. It was beautiful and the olives and red peppers were most impressive. We had a wonderful crepe at a local stall as a morning snack as we didn't have breakfast on board. I really enjoyed the visit to the Muse National de la Marine, the National Naval Museum, located in the 18th century naval arsenal. They had a good display of items from the 18th-19th century and transition into modern navy. We saw some traditional Provence fabrics and pottery in the shops in old town and along the promenade of the harbor. We visited the local Saint-Louis church that was rebuilt after W.W.II. We shuttled back to the ship in the afternoon early enough to get a salad and made to order frittatas in the Windjammer as a late lunch. We had much needed cabin time to rest from all the walking we have done this week. We went to the Diamond lounge for wine before another good dinner.
Debarkation--Sunday No debarkation as we are staying aboard ship.
Ship The Voyager has had a dry dock update since we last sailed in January, but I haven't noticed any major difference or update. Since this cruise was so port intensive we have not really explored the ship that well, but will do so on the next leg as we have more time.
Crew The staff and crew are very good. The staff is very friendly, but I look for that to even improve once they again begin sailing form Galveston. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. Our Stateroom Attendant, Norris, was good and kept the cooler in ice.
Cabin We had cabin 9692 an aft balcony on deck nine. It is an average sized cabin and a nice balcony. The safe has a button keypad and there is a hair dryer. The TV's were not upgraded during dry dock, they are the same old TV's. There are now two electrical plugs on the vanity/desk. BTW-you can check the status of your on board account using the RC-TV. We never used the cabin refrigerator. Norris didn't leave any mints on the bed at turn down as RCCL has eliminated them, but did some weak towel animals most nights.
Food We had second or late seating for dinner and it is even later on the Med cruises: 9:00 pm. Our dining room was the Carmen, deck three (lower level) of the 3 level restaurant. It was a six top table and it below the beautiful main chandelier. We enjoyed all the dinners in the dining room. We never ate at Johnny Rockets or Portifino. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer usually had a fresh frittata and a carving station for nice meat selections. We enjoyed the green salads and specialty items. The desserts are very good. There are several ice cream machines with vanilla and chocolate flavors. We do use Room Service more when we have a balcony cabin. You can order room service on the RC-TV, but I recommend calling room service. DW used it for light breakfast every morning. We also used it a few times in the afternoon for Fruit plates & Cheese plates. Service was very good when used.
Weather The weather was very nice especially considering that we are sailing in late November. The days are short, but we usually got an early start on tours so we were back on board when Sundown came about 5:00 p.m. It never rained and a light jacket is all that was needed during the day.
Personal Comments The new C&A Diamond members lounge was located in Cleopatra's Needle. We visited a few times, but were limited on drink selections. Taking away benefits earned under the loyalty program is not good. Benefits fairly earned should never have been reduced. The coupon book they now have has NO free items, only credits for very expensive items or small percentage off some more useful purchases. I know RCCL had to make some changes in the program, it was the way that it was handled is what I have been upset and concerned about. Believe me I want success for the company as I own stock beyond what is needed for a shareholder discount.
Cruise Highlights The five ports were by far the highlight of this cruise. We really enjoyed each and everyone. So much history and culture to absorb. Our favorite port was Rome our least favorite was Naples. We really enjoyed this cruise! A LOT!
Just the Facts Ship: Voyager of the Seas Date: January 11-January 18, 2009 Captain: Patrik Dahlgren Entertainment Director: Eric Dowis Ports: Galveston -- Cozumel -- Roatan -- Costa Maya -- Galveston Weather: Poor all week
This was my 11th Royal Caribbean cruise and 3rd cruise on the Voyager of the Seas. We are cruising and traveling with my Sister & BIL and meeting good friends who we have sailed with previously.
Day One -- Sunday -- Embarkation The Voyager had major embarkation problems due to fog (5+ hours late) the previous weekend so that was our major pre-cruise concern. We were actually pleased when a small cold front came through central Texas on Saturday. We would gladly trade the cooler weather for the assurance of no fog and thus a delay. The front reached Galveston late Saturday so the weather was clear, and colder than normal at embarkation, but no fog.
We left the Ranch at 6:00 a.m. BIL drove and I navigated and enjoyed following with the very nice GPS system. The GPS system took us the exact same route we usually take. We had a nice and easy drive to Galveston. Houstontraffic was fine. We arrived early enough to drop our bags at Cruise Terminal #2 before automobile traffic became heavy. I drove over and parked at EZ Cruise parking and then walked over to the ship terminal. I highly recommend EZ Cruise parking and they have shuttles, but I prefer walking. By the time I got back to the terminal our party had reached the front of the first security ID check. They had a priority/VIP line for the 2nd security check point that we used and then went to Priority check-in desk. We had just settled in with our complimentary glass of champagne when they announced they would begin boarding. Nice group in the priority area and no mad rush to the door. The ship's staff were extremely friendly, everyone welcomed us on board ship and offered help or guidance. We went to the Windjammer and were ahead of most of the arriving passengers. With fewer people there we could appreciate the three beautiful ice carvings and the fruit displays. The roast beef was very good as was the salad and the desserts.
We went to our cabin shortly after 1:00 p.m. when cabins became available to guests. Our luggage arrived about 1:30 p.m. so we were unpacked right away. I promised DD that we would go down to the Promenade deck and wave at the web cam at 2:00 so we did (she later reported that she saw us) and then stopped at the Pig & Whistle for a cocktail and cokes. The Promenade deck was packed as the cool weather kept passengers off the outdoor decks and inside the ship. The Grand Promenade is a very good people watching spot and I saw several friends and acquaintances. It was busy early due to the cool weather. The sports bar was packed with people watching the NFL football playoffs that were also shown on cabin TV. We later finished unpacking and explored more of the ship. It was quite chilly for muster drill.
The Welcome Aboard Show for both dinner settings featured comedian Keith McGill, Eric Dowis the Cruise Director, and the Voyager of the Seas Singers and Dancers. It was a good show and a good start to the cruise. Dinner was scheduled for 30 minutes later than usual as is sometimes common on embarkation day. Friends and family are all at the same table as requested in the La Boheme dining room. The Vidalia onion tart and Tomatillo (spicy) soup were very good. I also had the Prime Rib (with fresh horseradish) as an entree and Savrin for desert. After a busy day and dinner we retired to the cabin for the evening.
Day Two -- Monday -- At Sea Warmer today than it was yesterday, but still cool and cloudy most of the day. I slept very well and a little late. I went up to the Windjammer and it was packed so I had a very nice breakfast in the Carmen (main) dining room. After breakfast I picked up tickets for the Ice Skating Show for our group. The Captain gave his midday report and announced that there would be a delay in arriving in Cozumel, not sure why. We had lunch in the Windjammer. They had roast pork at the carving station and the specialty station had "prepared to order" pasta. There was a wide selection of items in the buffet. The chocolate peanut butter pie was fantastic as were the egg custard and tutti-frutti, some of my favorite desserts. A short nap before we went to the 4:00 ice show, Ice Odyssey. It was an excellent show and not to be missed. The Captain's reception was held in the Grand Promenade. He introduced his senior staff from a bridge above and across the promenade. Dinner tonight was at the usual 8:00 pm in the dining room. Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Beef Filet, Sea Bass, and Grand Mariner Soufflé were my selections. The headwaiter brought me a plate of sliced Hearts of Palm (one of my favorites) that were fantastic. This was my favorite dinner of the week. The Hughes Brothers were the featured entertainers this evening, but we skipped having seen them previously. Another early cabin night.
Day Three -- Tuesday -- Cozumel Weather was cloudy and moist today. Midday temperatures around 80°. I had breakfast in the Carmen dining room. A very good breakfast: tomato juice, grapefruit, fried eggs, bacon, hash brown potatoes, and toast. We arrived three hours late in Cozumel docking after 10:30 am. The cause was stated as weather and water currents early after leaving Texas although I think we have been traveling on only one screw since we left Galveston. There were four ships in Cozumel, two at the International pier (Voyager & Grandeur) and two next door at Puerto Maya (Carnival Fantasy & a Costa ship). We were the last to arrive. Because of the late arrival and on again and off again showers we didn't do any excursions or island tours as originally discussed and we just took a taxi into San Miguel. Our first stop was the Mayan Pearl owned by our friend Nelly. I had a much needed haircut at Antonio's barber shop. Martin has been cutting my hair for over three years. We did some shopping at Ron Jon's and our favorite store La Cinco Soles. We had arranged to meet our friends at La Candela and we all arrived there about 2:00 p.m. Lunch here was fantastic and it is a very attractive and clean restaurant. They set up tables for our group of eight on the lower patio next to the little waterfall. The owner is Cuban so there is a nice selection of Mexican and Caribbean (Cuban) dishes. Our group ordered a wide selection of items from the menu and ALL were very good including the fresh Seafood dishes, Shrimp dishes, Soups, Mexican & Guacamole dishes, and the unique house Salsa. They also have a full bar and very good service. A little shower again fell, but we were protected on our little patio. After lunch we visited the Havana Blue cigar bar as rumor was that they are serving mojitos from there although the main bar is still closed. Our group drank all the mojitos that could be made as they ran out of the 'makings' so we were offered some samples of various Cuban premium rums.
We headed back up the Malecon to the main square and then taxid back to the ship. As we have done on previous cruises our group likes to meet on deck four over the gangway just before sail away. It's fun to watch the late arrivals and their condition as they return to the ship. At Cozumel there were some lucky people even though they were late. There was a large ship tour from the mainland that was very late so no one would be left at the dock. We sailed about 45 minutes late. The feature production show this evening in the LaScala Theater was Music in Motion. The show is very enjoyable although we skipped having seen it twice and having had such a busy day. DW & I stopped by the Concierge Club for a cocktail before dinner. Dinner was good. DW had a very good vegetarian entrée: a multi colored pasta cooked in a blue cheese sauce which is their best vegetarian entrée in her opinion. I had the Maryland Crab cake, Soup, Grilled double sliced Pork Steak and a Black Angus Sirloin Steak, with a Mango parfait type dish for dessert. The Pork Steak was very good. This evening the Country & Western night/Texas Party was held in Cleopatra's Needle. They had a western band and did line dancing directed by the cruise staff.
Day Four -- Wednesday -- Roatan The Voyager arrived around 9:30 a.m. and the weather is overcast with showers. You can't see the mainland today. Temperature is very humid 82-84° with showers. I again had a very nice breakfast in the Carmen dining room. Due to the weather we all changed plans from a trip to the West End/Tabyana beach. DS & BIL took an island tour by taxi and our friends went to the Fins & Flippers located in Coxen Hole, the same harbor as the cruise terminal. We watched a movie in the cabin and then had lunch in the Windjammer. Each of us had great salads. I also had roast beef and baked potato. Dessert was a very good Lemon Merengue pie. We decided to take a walk after lunch just around the pier area. They have now completed the construction of the three new buildings at the Coxen Hole Cruise Terminal, and they look very nice -- a sort of old colonial warehouse style architecture. They will eventually house shops and services. There is already a Diamonds International opened, some may say that is progress, others not so much. Although still cloudy and an occasional shower we decided to take the tender over to the Fins & Flippers to see what it was like at this new resort. We got there about 2:00 pm and found our friends on the beach and in the water snorkeling. They said the snorkeling was wonderful. We stayed and had a bucket of the local beers, Salva Vida and Port Royal, until the rains really came down about 3:30. Fortunately it was a warm rain. The tender took us from the small island directly to the cruise ship pier. That allowed us to avoid the crowded walk back and was very convenient. At Sail Away we had a fantastic impromptu sail away party. The deck four gangway party merged to our large aft balcony for cocktails and fun as we put the view of the island of Roatan and sunset behind us. We even ordered a dozen Fruit & Cheese plates for a nice snack.
A lighter dinner, just having a steak as an entrée, but the waiter again brought a plate of sliced hearts of palm (one of my favorites) that we shared with the table. The Love and Marriage game show hosted by Eric was held this evening in the La Scala Theater.
Day Five -- Thursday -- Costa Maya We docked very early this morning and it was pouring down rain. Also docked at the newly reopened pier is the MSC Lyrica and the P&O Oceania. The Lyrica is the ship we hope will be sailing from Bayport (Houston) Texas soon. We watched the Love & Marriage show on the cabin TV this morning and Eric Dowis is amazing. A great ad-libber and he makes the now standard cruise show very humorous. I met our group for breakfast in the Windjammer and the plan for the day is to sit out the rain until afternoon. Team GangwayRay/Mohahual were the Voyager of the Seas Team Trivia Champions for Thursday. The question that we answered that put us over the top as no other team got it was: Who was Robert LeRoy Parker better known as? The weather slacked a bit about noon so a group of us headed over to Costa Maya and Mahahual. It was still sprinkling, but gradually stopped although still very overcast. This is my first visit since they recently reopened the port. It had been closed since Hurricane Dean in August of 2007. The modern village has been completely restored and is very nice. All the shops, bars, and restaurants are open and it is very clean and convenient to the ships. We decided to go on to the old former fishing village. The ticket/transport area has been moved further south, but allows more room on the outside for loading. The cost of transportation to Mahahual either by bus, taxi, or van is $3 per person.
Mahahual: They have developed a Malecon with a nice walkway along the waterfront. They will now only have permanent structures on the shore side although they will have palpas, umbrellas, etc. along the beach side of the walkway. Several restaurants are building nice structures on the shore side with a nice beach area for guests. We stopped at the El Faro beach area first and had a few beers, very good guacamole & pico de gallo, and enjoyed a large mariachi band, but showers moved us into their patio across the street. To be honest their permanent building lacks the charm of their former location. They do have good toilets in the building, but it will not be my favorite place in the new Mahahual. Pez Quatro has the most impressive structure so far, but I do not recommend them. The beer is $3 per beer which is $1+ more than other beach locations. The real sin was the nachos that are made with canned processed cheese and canned nachos. Basically the same as the ballpark nachos you would get at Ranger stadium, just dressed up a bit. They may be acceptable for the people off the Lyrica, Oceania, or 30% of the passengers of the Voyager, but that's not real nachos. After having so much fun here in previous years I was very disappointed with Mahahual this time. After returning to the cabin I enjoyed watching everyone return to the ship and the sail away of the Lyrica. The entertainment this evening in the La Scala Theatre was Merrill Osmond, lead singer of the famous Osmond Brothers family. He had a great multimedia show and sang many Osmond hits. This was one of the better shows we have seen on a cruise ship. This was Italian night in the dining room. My selections for dinner were the Scallops Risotto, Minestrone soup, Chicken Marsala, Sponge Cake with strawberries, and Tiramisù. The waiters ended Italian night by singing O Solo Mio (kind of ironic because of the weather -- no sun).
This evening the Quest was held in Studio B, but I met friends in the High Notes Lounge to listen to Synergy, a jazz/pop group who did a variety of music. The female vocalist was great.
Day Six -- Friday -- At Sea It is a cloudy & very windy day today, but a bit nicer on the aft balcony. I was up early today so made my way up to the Island Grill to get my first omelette. It was very good. The lines have been longer at the omelette station this cruise as many more people have discovered it. Corned beef hash, bacon, tomato juice, and milk completed breakfast. We entered the Team Trivia contest again and tied for 1st, but lost the tie breaker: What book did John Hinckley have on him when he shot President Reagan? I tried my luck in the casino with the free slot pulls that come with our C&A booklet and won some credits. We watched a movie on cabin TV and then went to the Windjammer for a light lunch. The green salads are very good and I also had some Schnitzel and potato salad. I took a nap after lunch and then tried some more trivia but we again lost out to the same team. I did discover that they read this simple blog though, so they are obviously 'intelligent' folks (wink). The second production show for our cruise was before dinner. Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme featured the singers and dancers in a Broadway style review show featuring popular songs from Broadway shows. It was an excellent show. Tonight is the second formal evening and dinner was again good. My selections were the Baked Ziti, Garden Salad, Fisherman's Platter (Lobster & shrimp) and the assorted dessert selection with ice crème. The Karaoke Superstars was following dinner, but we went to the Big Band Swing show by the Voyager of the Seas Orchestra that was held in Cleopatias Needle. After the show we stopped to check some of Derrick Lewis' Kamikaze Karaoke at the Pig & Whistle Pub. Derick has his own group of followers that have sailed with him many times previously from Galveston on the Rhapsody and now the Voyager.
Day Seven -- Saturday -- At Sea Partly cloudy and sun this morning. Best weather of the cruise on the last sea day. We tried to sleep in this morning as we have ordered room service breakfast for the balcony. I filled out an application for a future cruise booking and left it with the Loyalty Ambassador this morning. He seemed very nice. We were invited to the luncheon for Platinum and Diamond guests at noon. It was in the Magic Flute and it was well attended. We were able to eat with friends from a previous cruise as well as DS & BIL and met some new friends and fellow ranchers from the Granbury area. They served two starters, Duck Pate, and a Potato Soup with flaky biscuit. The wine served was very good. We had a choice of entrees. I had the Filet Mignon that was excellent and they prepared some vegetables for DW. The dessert was a very, very rich Chocolate Cake. After lunch I used a C&A coupon to try a Mango Lava Flow from the Aquarium bar and it was very nice. I leave a tip when using a coupon and the bartenders seem to appreciate it. If you wait until after 2:30 pm on the final sea day and purchase liquor from the General Store you can take it with you to your cabin. I purchased two bottles of Bacardi rum ($21) and the price gets better the more you purchase, but Texas has a legal limit of one liter per person. The weather finally improved enough that passengers used the pool deck this afternoon. The band played and the pool bars were finally busy. We took our first stroll of the cruise along the decks about 4:00 pm. We did sneak in a visit to Johnny Rockets this afternoon and did catch a dance from the waiters. DW & I had cocktails in the Concierge Club and visited with friends. We skipped the Farewell entertainment show, but watched it on the cabin TV later while packing.
Dinner was again very good. I had the Cesar salad, New York Strip Steak, French Onion Soup, and Key Lime Pie for dessert. All selections were very good. After dinner was the Island Frenzy Parade in the Royal Promenade.
Day Eight -- Sunday -- Debarkation No room service on debarkation morning, but a full breakfast menu in the dining room. Of course today we had the best weather of the week. The Voyager arrived early and we were docked by 6:30 a.m. They have a new debarkation system. They make no announcements at all, everyone is allowed to select their own departure time earlier in the week and are assigned a meeting spot for that time. The staff then goes to each location at the appropriate time and escorts them to the gangway. I think this will work well. They started allowing the self-debarkation people off about 7:00 a.m. thirty minutes before scheduled. It was really fairly smooth considering how many people are using it. We debarked, went through U.S. Customs, rolled our bags across the street, loaded the truck, and were off the island at 7:50 am. Gasoline was $1.68 in Galveston. We made our stop at Ama's in Hearne Texas for migas, picked up the dogs in Waco, and arrived home in fine shape about 1:30 p.m.
Ship This was my 4th time on a Voyager class ship. I am still very impressed with these magnificent vessels. There are good and bad things about the size. The elevators can be busy or full and I recommend taking the stairs when possible. The additional size also means that there is room for the photo gallery, casino, bars, etc. without any one of them dominating an entire deck. On this particular cruise, because of a lot of cool and wet weather, the additional interior spaces was needed and utilized. The Aquarium Bar and Champagne Bar are very impressive as are the Studio B, the Theater, and other public spaces. The Grand Promenade is very impressive indeed and must be experienced. The ship was very clean and the public rooms were always spotless. They replaced the carpet on deck seven aft during the week so they are still making repairs even though they have a dry dock scheduled soon.
Crew The staff and crew are very good. The staff are very friendly. I guess they have really adjusted to Texas and the friendly crowd. We had our third different Captain on the Voyager and he did keep us informed of the weather for better or worse. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. The bar staff all were very friendly. Even the maintenance crew would greet you. Very impressed.
Cabin We have cabin 7688, an aft wrap balcony on deck seven. It is an average sized cabin, but a very nice balcony and quiet location. Our cabin steward was excellent. He did keep my small cooler full of ice and the cabin in good shape. The cabin was very clean when we boarded and cleaned very well during the week. He also kept the balcony neat and clean. The safe has a button keypad. Air conditioning worked very well. You can check the status of your on board account using the RC-TV. The cabin refrigerator was well stocked, but we never used it. The toilet paper had been downgraded to an industrial quality. Also no mints on your bed at turn down, but some nice towel animals most nights.
Food We had second or late seating for dinner. Our dining room was the La Boheme, deck four (middle level) of the 3 level restaurant. It was an eight top table and had a perfect view of the beautiful main chandelier. Our waiter, Reynaldo from India is very good. The assistant waiter, Dennis from Romania, is also very good. The headwaiter Betty from India came by several times to check our table and arranged for the hearts-of-palm. We enjoyed all the dinners in the dining room. Johnny Rockets is a good alternative for lunch or an afternoon snack. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer had a daily pasta bar and a carving station for nice meat selections. We enjoyed the green salads and specialty items. The desserts are very good. There are several ice cream machines with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavors. We do use Room Service more when we have a balcony cabin. You can order room service on the RC-TV, but I recommend calling room service. DW used it for light breakfast every morning. We also used it a few times in the afternoon for Fruit plates & Cheese plates and twice for sail away parties. Service was good when used.
Weather This was the worse weather I have ever experienced on a seven-day cruise. No severe weather, but it was just consistently cloudy, windy and rainy. A majority of the shore excursions in all three ports were canceled. The weather also created longer lines and people in the Windjammer or Johnny Rockets as it was too wet for the food usually served on the pool deck. I know many were disappointed they could not use the pools and other outdoor activities.
Cruise Highlights We 'appreciate' CD Eric Dowis, the fantastic Ice show Ice Odyssey, the Broadway style Rhythm & Rhyme production show, and Merrill Osmond. Our favorite port this time was Roatan.
Comments This was our first cruise as C&A Diamond members so we are learning the advantages of that level of membership and we did enjoy the Concierge Club. The weather really affected the overall atmosphere of this cruise. We made the best of what opportunities we had to make our own fun when we could. Traveling with friends helped a lot in this situation. We had a good cruise, but it would have been much more enjoyable with better weather.
Cruise started in Tianjin, China south of Beijing. Had to get to there on our own as Royal Caribbean ("RC") had no bus to get you to the port. Found RC to be very disorganized and information on there web site to be incorrect. On the ship, service was good except for customer service which was extremely poor. At the end of the cruise in Singapore we were told we would be dropped off at our hotel even though it was not listed so we paid the fee. When we got to the bus they told us no, we would only be taken to the hotel indicated on the bus. As a result we had to then get a cab to our hotel.
The food on the ship was marginal and the speciality restaurant was certainly not worth the extra $20 per person. Some of the ports we visited were not memorable, could have been a better selection of ports on the front end of the trip, Fukuoka (Japan), Jeju (Korea), and Xiamen (China). Would have been better to have had the overnight in Hong Kong instead of Bangkok.Seems like everyone we talked with on the ship had the same impression.
Will never cruise on RC again they left that bad of an impression on us.
This was our 9th cruise on Royal Caribbean and 3rd cruise on a Voyager Class Ship. This cruise was a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise on the Voyager of the Seas sailing out of Barcelona, Spain.
Pre-Cruise Stay We flew into Barcelona, Spain arriving on Saturday morning. We stayed for one night at the Renaissance Barcelona Airport Hotel. We took a taxi tour of the tourist parts of the city, including Sigrada Familia and the Las Ramblas area.
Embarkation We caught the hotel shuttle to the Port for 10 Euros per person at about noon, and arrived at the pier in about 20 minutes. Since we are platinum members of the Crown and Anchor Society, we did not have to wait in the long check-in line, and we were through and onto the ship very quickly. Our cabin was ready at 1pm, so we had a nice lunch in the Windjammer and then went to our cabin.
The Ship The Voyager of the Seas was launched in 1999, and was the largest cruise ship afloat at that time. Although she has since been surpassed as the largest cruise ship, she still maintains a huge presence.This beautiful ship doesn’t show any age or wear at all. The crew has done a spectacular job of keeping her immaculate and clean. The ship has 2 main pools and 4 hot tubs in the main pool area, and an adult’s only area just forward of the main pool with its own pool and 2 large hot tubs. There is also a hot tub in the spa as well. There is a Royal Promenade with shops and a pub. The sports deck has a 9-hole mini golf course, a roller blade track, a climbing wall and an enclosed basketball/volleyball court. Studio B on deck 3 has an ice rink, and the ship sports 2 specialty restaurants; Johnny Rockets and Portofino’s.
The Cabin We had a category D1 balcony on deck 10, aft. Our cabin is what I would call a “secret cabin” on this class of ships. Our cabin was on the starboard side aft in the corner. This meant a slightly larger room and balcony due to the curve of the ship. We had a nice queen size bed with a pillow top mattress, plenty of closet space and the standard size bathroom and shower.
The Staff The staff was again the highlight of the cruise with their service. Our room steward and wait staff were great, and all the crew and staff did a good job.
Dining We enjoyed the food, the dining room food was good and plentiful, and we really enjoyed the Windjammer and Island Grill buffet. The best food we found was at Portofino’s specialty restaurant. The food and service in Portofino’s was spectacular! Mere words cannot do Portofino’s justice.
Ports-of-Call This was a very port intensive cruise. After our sea day, the 1st stop was Naples, Italy. In Naples we saw some sights in the city including the 13th century castle next to the port. We also had some pizza for lunch and after some shopping, met our afternoon excursion to see the ruins of Pompeii. The 2nd stop was Rome, and we took a full day excursion called “Imperial Rome”. We visited numerous ruins including the Roman Forum and the Coliseum in the morning. In the afternoon, we visited Vatican City. The 3rd stop was Livorno, Italy where we took a full day excursion to Florence to see the city and its renaissance art. We also visited Pisa on our way back and saw the famous leaning tower. The next stop was Villefrance, France where we went on a morning excursion to Monaco and Monte Carlo. We saw the Palace of Prince Albert the 2nd as well as the Grand Casino. Our last stop was in Toulon, France where we opted to just visit the city of Toulon on our own for some French dining, shopping and visited a French Naval Museum.
Entertainment We didn’t take in too many shows or entertainment venues this cruise. We saw the 2 production shows and the Welcome Aboard show, that was all. For the 1st cruise ever, there were no comedians at all in any of the shows. We liked the productions shows, the singers and dancers were very good.
Disembarkation We decided to use the self-disembarkation for this cruise since we only had 1 piece of luggage for both of us. It was very easy; we left our cabin at 8am with our luggage, ate in the open seating dining room, and then walked off the ship with no delays or problems.
Overall I would rate this cruise a 9 out of 10. We really enjoyed the ship, the ports-of-call, the food and staff was great. I wish we could’ve seen and used more venues on the ship, but the ports-of-call kept us very busy and tired us out almost every day. We loved this cruise, our favorite so far!
Royal Caribbean Christmas Cruise
I've been fortunate to enjoy many fine traveling experiences in my lifetime, but my experience aboard the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas during this past Christmas is not among them. I will never cruise again on ANY ship; I do not have any animosity toward Royal Caribbean; I do not want to be contacted by anyone affiliated with RC to compensate or apologize to me; I simply wish to warn others about making the mistake of booking this trip. You really need to accept giving up your freedom if you cruise.
My wife and I are in our forties and we travelled with our 17 and twenty-year-old daughters. I speak for all of them by saying this was hands-down the worst family vacation we ever planned. If you are considering taking the Royal Caribbean Christmas Cruise out of Galveston and you have teenage children, I strongly recommend you consider our experience. Here is the good and the bad:
Boarding in Galveston: Extremely efficient process. We stayed at the Hilton the night before and enjoyed a complimentary shuttle to the pier. Hilton parked our vehicle free.
Stateroom: Room washospital-clean; however, there was a distinct sewage odor upon opening the door to the stateroom. The room attendant did his best to correct it, and his efforts seemed to help initially. By midweek, we realized the odor was not emanating from the bath but from the ventilation system and it was affecting the adjoining room occupied by my children. RC was very courteous about the problem, but could not repair it and could not relocate us on the ship because there were no available rooms.
Luggage: Everyone in my family received their luggage except me. I finally got mine at 11 p.m. and would have had it sooner if the staffer who called me could actually speak reasonable English. By the time I got to sleep Sunday night, buyer's remorse was setting in and never really ended for me.
Food: We live in the Dallas area and are certainly spoiled by great restaurants. The food on board was not bad, but certainly lackluster. Aside from the nice presentation and the opportunity to replace any dish you did not like, it is definitely not remarkable unless you appreciate quantity. The ship faces a daunting task trying to feed 3,000 people in short time periods, so make your mind up before you go to expect somewhat bland food for an entire week. Plan ahead to pay for the upgraded meals occasionally to break the monotony. We could not wait to eat something with some spice in it when we got off the ship. I know we are spoiled; it's just that I would never plan a trip where I eat hotel food for seven days.
Staff: Very friendly and genuinely engaged all of us. Unfortunately, my stateroom attendant seemed to be in fear of me since I repeatedly told customer service about the odor in our cabins. It was not his fault but apparently he was blamed. I did see a technician working on the air handler in the hallway but the problem never went away.
Weather: Probably the most compelling reason you should reconsider this trip. It was 47 degrees in Galveston upon departure and still too cold on Monday to be on deck. We had good weather in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica, but a storm appeared on Friday after lunch and it quickly became too cold or windy to enjoy the deck. My teenagers had a misconception that they would be in deck chairs for most of the trip, but with the exception of Friday morning, it was too cold.
Age of children: Royal Caribbean can't help this, but there is very little for a 17 and 20 year –old to do aboard this boat. If you have small children, perhaps pre-middle school age, I think it would be fine.
Excursions: Without getting too lengthy here, the excursions are fine but the mechanics of getting so many people off the ship and onto shuttles takes up too much of the days ashore. Yet another compelling reason to take your dollars and fly to a resort of your choice and not have to deal with lines and transfers. It isn't that RC isn't well organized, it's just a time consuming process to get 3,000 people where they wish to go. I cannot imagine what it would be like on their newest, even larger craft. In Jamaica, I hired a cab to take us to a private beach just so we could avoid the shuttle herds. I regretted doing so on the return trip back to the ship because beggars were tapping on the windows of the cab and my daughters were justifiably frightened. I really cannot imagine why RC stops there.
Communication: I own my own business and unfortunately I always travel with the laptop and cell phone. I'm used to paying some high fees, but the rates aboard the ship are the worst I've encountered anywhere. I did make arrangements with AT&T before the trip so I could concentrate my cell use while ashore and not on the boat where it's $6.95 per minute. The web speed onboard was excellent and I had no email issues.
Departure: My bill came to my room as promised on Sunday morning, but not without an overcharge. I got to wait in line at customer service only to be told the computers were down but they would correct my bill. I told him a final time about the odor in our room and he said he would make a note of it. He made no such note and some other poor souls spent a week the same way we did. I know that computers fail everywhere, but it did disappoint me again when my visa bill arrived without the correct charges and I had to call RC and write a letter to Visa to protest the charge. RC did agree to correct it.
In summary, we just don't get it. My family felt trapped in a hotel for a week with the exception of the three days of excursions where more time is spent on the transfers than on the activity itself. If I had flown to a destination and had the sewer odor problem, I would have cut my losses and returned home early. I realize many people enjoy cruises, but my family got a good lesson in making the best of a disappointing situation and we learned how much fun we've had on our other vacations enjoying our FREEDOM. For my family, we enjoy doing what we want, when we want and eating when and wherever we wish while on vacation. Other than the Disney trips when the kids were little, we don't go places where we stand in lines. I backpacked across Europe after college and stayed in my share of unpleasant accommodations, but I would never consider putting my family in those conditions, especially not when trapped aboard a ship. My last thought before drifting off to sleep each night was wondering if Legionnaires disease had an odor.
A final humorous note: we took advantage of the early departure offer and carried our own luggage from the ship. The Hilton shuttle greeted us at the dock and we were quickly transferred back to the hotel parking area. You could sense the relief as we closed the doors on the Suburban to make the drive back to Dallas. We had only travelled a few blocks before my wife asked "My gosh, do you smell that? It's following us!"
The unpleasant odor of the staterooms had permeated our luggage. We pulled into a Starbucks and drank coffee while watching the open windows of the Suburban!
"Best of Europe"
This was a repositioning cruise. We had 15 in our group. We all flew from Cincinnati to London. We spent a few days in London prior to the cruise.
We visited the normal tourist attractions. We took a private coach (First Class Cars) to the port. We arrived in Southampton around 12:30, took about 15 minutes to board the ship, and headed to the Windjammer for lunch.
The ship had just come out of a 10 day dry-dock in Germany, and it had sailed to Southampton early that morning. Since no passengers had to disembark, we were able to get into our staterooms right away.
The ship looked wonderful. The staff and maintenance crews were doing some minor touch ups during the cruise. They were laying carpet in different staterooms, and gift shops on the Promenade.
Here is the review:
The Ship The Voyager looked to be in good shape. The Windjammer café was great; the bars all over the ship were in good repair. The staff in the dining room was great. We ate on deck 5 for dinner. We had late seating. Our head waiter, table waiter, and assistant table waiterwere great. The food was wonderful, and I only saw a few items repeated during our 11 night cruise. Our group ate in Portofino's. The food and service was well worth the extra $20. Ate in Johnny Rockets twice; I love this type of food and atmosphere. The shows at the La Scala Theater were good. The comedians and magician were great. The Royal Singers and Dancers were very good.
We had a Grand Suite on Deck 10. Good location. We had one floor up to Windjammer, and one floor down to the concierge lounge. Never heard any noise from the pool area above, and never heard any noise when we were out on the balcony. The suite gave us plenty of room, lots of storage space, drawers, closet space, and the bathroom had a tub and double sink. We were very pleased with the Suite.
Staff Our captain was the youngest in the Royal fleet. He stated on the first day out that he didn't believe in having the "invitation only" captain's dinner. He said he would stop by the dining rooms during the cruise and stop at different tables. He said he could visit more passengers by stopping by tables then having ten select passengers at his table. This is a wonderful concept, however; during 11 nights, our group of 15 never saw him. Seems like the only time we saw him was during formal nights, when he was posing for pictures on the Promenade.
Our Cruise Director was Jill Tasker. Like the captain, we saw very little of her. She was in the theater to introduce the shows, but seems like every time we had an event, she sent one of her staff to that event. During the cruise the onboard staff was always accommodating and helpful.
Our ports of call were Vigo-Lisbon-Gibraltar-Sardinia-Rome-Florence-Nice-Barcelona. We used the ship's excursions for all but two tours. In Rome and Florence we used Romeinlimo. They provided an excellent service and gave us the opportunity to see more in both ports than the ship's tours did.
All in all I would rate this cruise as 5 out of 5. There were a few minor glitches; but for the most part everything worked out, and our group was very well taken care of. We had a great time.
This was our 3rd family cruise and over all, it was a terrific vacation. The cruise staff was wonderful and the ship was fantastic. This is a review of the Shore Excursion, Chukka 4x4 Adventure in Montego Bay, Jamaica. After viewing the in-room excursion videos and reading the provided excursion guides, my family decided on the Chukka 4x4 Adventure in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This excursion appeared to be a safari exploration with some education and physical activity.
The initial shore side welcome went as expected; we promptly met our guide who escorted the party to the Land Cruiser vehicles. The vehicles were well kept and in working order, however not Land Rover vehicles as described in the brochure.
Upon departure our guide provided commentary on Montego Bay landmarks such as the police station, the jail, petrol storage, and KFC. Further into the tour, our guide exited the highway to a parallel road that was the former thru-way. This old road apparently was difficult to maintain due to the natural springs that wash out the road surface. The guide pointed out that natives utilize these pools on the road to launder clothes, wash cars,and collect water for home use.
Now 40 minutes into the tour, we entered an undeveloped residential property that was gated. The property provided a great view of Montego Bay, but to gain access to this property, our guide gave the gatekeeper a bottle of rum punch and two other individuals were given monetary tips or bribes. At this point of the tour our guide spent at least 20 minutes on her cell phone while the party was pacified with rum punch poured from a used milk jug.
Now 70 minutes into the tour, we continued on paved roads and briefly stopped at an old plantation property and church. For 15-20 minutes the party walked around the property and took some pictures while the guide again talked on her cell phone. From the plantation property, we entered an orange grove via a gravel road. We continued on the gravel road thru the orange grove and stopped so the guide could pick a few oranges, peel them with a rusty knife and offer samples to the party.
Two-plus hours into the tour, we continued on the gravel road thru the orange grove and stopped at the "jungle river." The river was nice; however it was far from a jungle experience. It was merely a river running thru an orange grove that is accessible via any car or bus -- no 4x4 required. Three-plus hours into the tour, we tracked back thru the grove to a waterfall, which was actually a man-made water supply and filtration plant.
Next and final stop was the outpost where you could purchase souvenirs, chicken, rum punch, and beer. The in-room video excursion guide indicated a beach to relax, but we never saw a beach and never relaxed. Instead, we were hassled to purchase their over-priced junk that was made in china.
There was a one-hour ride back that was very uncomfortable because of the gas fumes and heavy dust in the open vehicle on the gravel road. The guide picked up an individual on the way back from the roadside in a bad area that made us feel unsafe. Finally back, covered in dirt and dust, this trip was not described as is. We never would have chosen to spend our money or more importantly, our vacation in the manner. A positive perspective is that we had the opportunity to see the real Jamaica, a real dump, a true welfare state with gross corruption. I expressed my dissatisfaction to Royal Caribbean and they provided a 10% refund on the $344 tour for four. My recommendation, stay on the boat when visiting Montego Bay.
On 4 October we leave from Barcelona for a cruise around the Italian cities. We (my husband and I) live in Holland and are 52 and 60, but younger looking and interesting people.
For those who have made this cruise already, can you tell us a little more about it?