Midnight Buffets: The brochure specifically advertises a 'nightly midnight buffet' which I understand is the standard on cruises. Once at sea, we were told that there was only one midnight buffet, which was Wednesday night. I expected it to be fairly extravagant, especially since they had cut back to one per cruise. It wasn't. It was limited to just cold dishes.
Lunch Buffets: The brochure specifically advertises a 'daily lunch buffet,' but this is only held once during the cruise. The other lunch meals are from a menu: hamburgers, etc.
Regular Meals: (Dining Room): The meals were 'OK' food, but nothing impressive. The portions are much smaller than in a typical restaurant. The first night out, we had shrimp scampi and it was served cooked in the shells. So we all got messy trying to peel the shrimp in the hot sauce. I couldn't get a clear answer as to why it was prepared that way, meaning that the shrimp could not pick up the flavor of the sauce during the cooking, which is the whole point of shrimp scampi. However, buying unpeeled shrimp would be cheaper for Royal Caribbean that buying peeled shrimp.
Room service: One night, I ordered the 'ham and cheese on kaiser roll' and was assured it would arrive within 30 minutes. They arrived in 45 minutes and what I actually got was a small (3 inches or so in diameter) soft roll with one slice of ham and one slice of cheese, served with mayonnaise instead of mustard. Nothing else with it, such as a pickle or a scoop of potato salad, for example.
Nightly Show: Their brochure advertises a nightly show as a 'Broadway-style musical review' that supposedly takes 'an average of 14 months' to produce. There is a nightly show, but I could not call it professional or quality entertainment. Most of the entertainers were ship staff who did other jobs and then put together the show in the evening. They were more of an advanced amateur than a professional level. An example of the difference between the brochure and the reality is: the brochure even says that it takes them four months just to build the sets. However, they don't even use any sets. They have a colored curtain in back of the stage and that's that.
Entertainment-Poolside. There was an attempt by the cruise director to get a line dance going the first afternoon.
Cruise Activities: In 4 days, I didn't see anything on the list that I found interesting enough to walk over to: singalong, napkin folding class, bellyflop contest, beanbag toss, dominoes. In my opinion, they need to put some money into the activities and provide things that are more worthwhile.
Discos/Night Club: No band, just four nights of recorded music.
Exercise Facilities: The brochure advertises a 'fully equipped state of the art fitness center, free weights, modern exercise equipment.' Actually, the 'fitness center' consists of a few cardio machines in a covered walkway. No free weights, no staff.
I don't know if you are talking about a brochure specific to the Viking Serenade, the oldest ship in RCI's fleet, or a more general brochure, or the date of its publication. There have been a number of changes in the cruise industry in recent years, the virtual elimination of midnight buffets among them. A nightly buffet is no longer the industry standard. Most RCI cruises that I have been on, have, in addition to the cruise staff, a troupe of professional singers and dancers, who put on one or two shows per cruise. There are usually some professional entertainers, frequently so-called named entertainers (We have seen Robert Klein, Frankie Avalon and Joanne Worley on past RCI cruises- perhaps not entertainers at the height of their careers, but still recognizable names). At lunch, most RCI ships offer both a dining room with menu and a less formal dining area where buffet style offerings are available.
As far as activities which appeal or did not appeal to you, it should be clear that they are trying to entertain a thousand or more guests and while some offerings might not be your style they do appeal to some of your fellow passengers.
We all know that brochures are intended to highlight and promote products and a certain amount of hyperbole is frequently present. It appears that you were intent on a literal interpretation of every claim in the brochure. In such an instance, I am not sure that many brochures will meet your standard. Perhaps your disappointment had as much to do with your level of expectation as with the product you received.
As I said, Viking Serenade is the oldest ship currently in the RCI fleet and its future is undetermined. Perhaps you might try one of their newer ships to see if they better meet your standards.
I didn't realize until some time after the cruise that this was an older ship. As far as I was concerned, the ship itself was first class; it was the lack of quality and quantity.
Some people did like some of the activities, and I realize that there is a need to have a variety because of many passengers and different tastes. One of the things that appealed to me on the first full day (Tuesday) was that there was a trivia game in the morning. So I show up all ready to compete and meet some of the other passengers. Turns out: you get a sheet of paper with some questions on it, go your way, and after 12:00 Noon you can come back and see if your answers were correct.
What is the big problem with making this a half hour event in one of the lounges?
The activities that they have that are really group activities are all low-budget.
You can watch them make the ice carvings the day of the one midnight buffet.
You can choose up sides and play bean bag. (Yes, that was an adult activity.)
You can go to a napkin folding class ("yawn").
Types of activities I expected:
1) A daily port talk about the history, culture, etc., of the port we were going to as well as the shopping. (We had one port talk the first day that covered all the ports in 45 minutes and was only to direct us to particular stores--nothing else about the locations).
2) With a stop in Mexico, some sort of a tourist language class where we could pick up some extra Spanish nouns and vowels.
3) Some sort of afternoon entertainment: magician, comedian, or something like that--I mean just a lounge act.
I don't think it has anything to do with the size of the ship; the pattern I saw was that Royal Caribbean was only interested in putting on events that didn't cost much for them. (They already have the passenger's money.)
Joe, I hope you filled out your comment card and included some of the suggestions contained in your post. I agree with you that a talk on each port of call that provides a more in depth review of the port's history, sights, local points of interest or significance would certainly of more value than the usual spiel intended to promote a few local shops or vendors, and I also think your suggestion of some sort of language primer might be worthwhile.
Again, my experience on some of the larger and newer RCI ships leads me to believe that some of the activities and entertainment that you were looking for would be available. Magicians, variety lounge acts, comics etc. have been quite common on the ships on which we have sailed.
If you didn't include those points on your comment card, I recommend that you write to RCI's Customer Satisfaction department and offer your suggestions. With any amount of luck, they will give them a serious hearing and we may see some changes on future cruises.
I'm not saying though, that those specific events were even what should have been held. But when it's a choice between a singalong, a bean bag toss, a napkin folding class, etc...then it's disappointing.
Many people who have been on cruises say that they had a big problem deciding which of the many exciting events to go to. We sat and read a lot of the time because there weren't activities worth going to. To us, anyway. Sitting on deck reading is OK, but not when it becomes the routine.
Perhaps this is a good example:
On Tuesday, according to the ship's schedule, there was a trivia contest--come to the purser's desk at 8:00 AM for information. Well, we like trivia games and tend to be pretty good at them, so we looked forward to competing.
When I got to the purser's desk promptly at 8:00 AM, I was told it wasn't actually a trivia contest, it was a word game and I was handed a piece of paper. This was like the Jumble game you see in the newspaper. There was no competition, no prizes; nothing to win. There was no meeting other people. The idea was you would take the puzzle with you and do it during the morning, and in the afternoon they would post the answer and you could come look and see if you solved it correctly.
That's why I say there is a big difference between what they should do/could do, and what other cruise lines apparently do, and what Royal Caribbean does.
Viking Serenade needs to be called Viking Sionara! It used to be a cargo ship before it was cruise ship. You can check the history on it if you don't believe me. I have not seen many midnight buffets any more on cruise ships. You honestly can't possibly eat much more than what they already feed you in the dining room. I think you do need to try another Royal Caribbean cruise. Don't complain so much and go with the flow.
A) I found the portions much, much smaller than the typical restaurant serving. Some restaurants do give you too much, that's true. But Royal Caribbean, we had a steak that was maybe 4-5 ounces accompanied by one baked potato. True, you do get a salad and an appetizer and a dessert, but I thought overall the portions were small, and food is supposed to be a big deal on a cruise.
B) I have no complaints about the ship itself. The ship was beautiful as far as I was concerned. But it all this second rate stuff, all the cost-cutting that took away from the experience. I would never go on Royal Caribbean again because I feel--if the management is cutting back so much on food, entertainment, and service on one ship, it's probably doing it on all of them. I wouldn't take the chance of having Royal Caribbean do it to me again.
C) As far as going with the flow--I made the best I could of a bad situation--I think that's going with the flow. The objective of the board is to share information. And so that's what I did.