Nickel and Dimed at Sea

I am just returning from my 8 day cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventures of the Seas and thought I would share my experience. This was my first time on RC cruise line, but I cruised with Carnival, Celebrity and Princess several times.  I had always heard good things about the line, so I was a little taken by surprise by some of their “extra fee items” and procedures.
We started our cruise in Valencia, Spain and were pleasantly surprised by the small crowd at the cruise terminal and speedy check in. As a regular cruiser, I boarded the ship and set out on my standard routine…familiarize myself with the ship, find our dining room and visit the spa for the opening day tours and drawings (that occurred on every cruise I’ve taken). When we arrived at the spa we were told that there were no tours and that the cruise originally departed from Malaga, Spain. I tried to ask about their services, but did not get much of a response.  I love to spend at least a couple of days in the spa on every cruise and to be honest I’ve never been on a cruise where the spa staff didn’t greet me by name by day 2.  It was clear that this was not going to be that cruise and RC was going to lose out on $ from me. I may not be much of a gambler, but I always find relaxing and unique spa services to be a good investment.
To give you a summary, here are the things they did well:

1st – The entertainment crew were great! Specifically the sports deck crew and the daily activities crew that manage activities like Karaoke, trivia, etc. They really seemed to enjoy their jobs and remembered the guests on board, often by name…or made up nicknames.

2nd – The Royal Promenade was the place to be at night. The layout of this boat included a long corridor where the sports bar, English pub, 24-hour café, shops, etc were located. It resembled a European street and they held events like the welcome aboard party and the captain’s reception in this location. The layout allowed guests to dance and truly engage with the crew and each other. I have never seen evening events so well attended on a cruise ship.

3rd – The DJ. The club on board the ship was packed every night. The DJ had mixes that made me feel like I was back in Ibiza and we were impressed to see a real DJ, versus a crew member that plugged in their iPod.  They even brought the DJ up to the pool deck one night and had the late night club poolside. People were jammed in dancing in the cool night air. Most cruise ships have 4 people standing in the club wondering if anyone else will show up.

Now, here are the things they need to improve:

1st – The food! The number one reason people come on a cruise ship is to eat their faces off…as my friend Tiffany would say. They needed to improve their food quality across the board, the variety of food options in their lido area and the dining room food and options were disappointing to say the least.

  • The Lido deck: For all three meals they only had one selection of food, set up in multiple areas of the lido deck.  On all of the Carnival, Celebrity and Princess ships that I have been on, there were several options for lunch on the lido deck: Italian, Mexican, American, etc. At breakfast they had limited options and no omelets station. If you want fresh squeezed orange juice, yep that’s going to cost you. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals but the food was so bad that I just skipped breakfast and waited for the 24-café to serve these little croissant sandwiches after 11AM.
  • The dining room: Our first night at dinner we were told that they charge for cappuccino.  That’s a first! Also, there were two formal nights and no filet or lobster was served. You had to pay an extra $24.95 or $34.95 to have that for dinner. If you went to the specialty restaurant…they didn’t have lobster either. I went on a Princess European cruise and not only did they have lobster night, they also had king crab leg night.  Terrible!  They had prime rib one night…if you want to call it that. I’ve had better prime rib at one of those cheap chain restaurants. 
  • The only thing they did well food wise was their lunch in the dining room. The actual menu was just so so, but they had a salad set up, where you could pick from 40 different ingredients and they would mix it up and dress it. The salad was AMAZING! But come on, you’ve got to do better than that.

2nd – The spa. I outlined some of my concerns earlier, but we even waited until the last port day so we could see what they do when the “primary group” comes on board.  Um, yeah…let’s just say that the spa is not their specialty. No one really seemed to know what was going on. They did a drawing for a couple of prizes but that was it. There were no tours of the spa, they didn’t showcase some of their popular treatments and if we didn’t over hear from the drawing about one of the treatment rooms, we never would have known it existed. They had this room called Rasul; it’s a private steam room and shower area where you can use scrubs and masks for your face and body to steam and relax on your own or as a couple.  Very cool, but again… no promotions throughout the week to tell you about these services.

Well at the end of the day, since I luckily picked the “guaranteed cabin rate” which was really inexpensive, I am fine with the average cruise experience. However, if we chose to select our cabin and paid the $1,200+ per person, we would be livid! On my 4 day $200 cruise out of Cali a couple of months ago they had lobster and filet for dinner. How can you charge for those aboard a much larger, longer stay and more expensive cruise ship fare? Crazy. The purpose of going on a cruise is to pay one price up front and leave your worries behind. Everyone expects to pay for booze, spa, excursions, etc…but when the standard food and services are now extra…you lost my business forever!

That was the end of my angry customer session.  I just want to warn fellow travelers out there.  Pick Carnival, Celebrity or Princess… but no Royal Caribbean.  Next blog I will talk about the fun we had in Europe. 🙂

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