We returned last Friday from our 6th cruise on RCI. We were on the Serenade from Vancouver to Hawaii. In those last 6 cruises we have watched the evel of just about everything go down. Mind you it has been gradual but it has been a decline. Probably the most significant has been the food. The quality is just not there any more from the dining room to the buffet to the pizza stand. Honestly the only food we thought was good was that served at the Seaview Cafe and those were merely burgers and such. At least those items tasted fresh.
The Ceasers salad in the dining room was a miserable excuse for a salad. It was the limpest I have ever seen. When we asked for a replacement we got another of the same quality so we quit ordering that. We watched as others in the dining room were served and theirs were also terribly limp and soggy. We did observe many others sending them back also.
In conversing with other passengers we heard the same complaints many times. One persons comment was that the menus seemed "too European influenced and after all they pretty much have a majority of North American passengers as a rule." We tend to agree with that passengers opinion. Over the years they have decreased the number of courses. I thought it was my poor memory so I got out our miniatur sample menus that they used to sell on board and sur enough there are fewer courses now. AND fewer choices within the course now.
They also no longer put the basket of bread on your table. The wait assistant now serves it. God forbid you want a second roll with salad. They have to find the tray and bring it only after you catch their attention. That was a nuisance to our table. The guys like bread and I have to say the bread they serve is very good. But again it was the same stuff every night for 11 nights. They used to have different rolls and bread every evening.
The room steward was wonderful but now they only visit your cabin twice a day. I don't really need them to tidy up my room, I do that myself, but the bucket of ice does not last very long. I would be happy if there were a self-serve place to get additional ice. If you have friends in your cabin for a drink there is NEVER enough ice to have more than one drink. They used to replenish ice 3 times per day.
The entertainment schedule just plain SUCKS. We always book late dining seating because we like to see the shows after dinner. NOW one night the show for late seaters is after dinner and the next night it is before dinner. We like late seating because you can come back aboard and rest a few minutes before having to shower and dress for dinner. And maybe have a drink before dinner. We found it too much of a rush to try to get to the early shows so we had to miss them. I have always liked the shows. The entertainment was and is still great.
These are the kind of things we have noticed over the years. After much consideration we have decided to "jump ship" and find another cruise line. This same message will be sent to RCI. All the things we encountered on this last sailing along with their new rules regarding TA discounts has turned us off. We really regret having to make this decision. We absolutely LOVE the fleet of ships from the Soverign to the Serenade but we feel our money could be better spent somewhere else. I guess we will see.
But perhaps it is still as good a value as ever...
Have you evaluated the prices of your six cruises, adjusted for inflation? My conclusion, from all the reviews and commentaries I've read, is that the decrease in quality tracks the decrease in prices very closely. This makes sense as the market for cruising has expanded, and especially expanded to include people who previously couldn't even imagine affording cruise vacations, because they were so prohibitively expensive. I was shocked, when we started considering our upcoming cruises that they had suddenly (well, over a ten year period) gone from being way out of our price range to being well within our price range, even though our household effective income had decreased over that time.
I'm actually not concerned about the food. Food is just not what a vacation is all about to me, so the de-emphasis of food which (from what I've read) has occurred is probably a good thing for me -- it means that the cruise line isn't pouring a lot of its resources into something I personally wouldn't value much. Based on public disclosures, RCI now spends about $10 per passenger per day on food, and that is indeed significantly less than the year before, and the year before that, and very likely that trend has been ongoing for many years, as more passengers, like me, who care a bit less about food quality, enter the market.
Regarding the room steward, I have read a significant number of contrary reviews, many highlighting how the room steward kept the ice bucked filled several time each day. I think it is a shame that sometimes folks get lesser service than typical, which I suspect is the case with respect to your experience. I'll be sure to make it clear to my steward up-front that that is something that is important to me, so I'll have a much smaller chance of missing out on that service that I value so much.
Glad to hear that the entertainment was to your liking. Since we choose early seating, we won't experience the same issues you did with respect to the scheduling, I suspect. Thanks for relaying your experience. We'll most likely stick with early seating at least in part to avoid such possible problems.
You may want to consider Celebrity. RCI deliberately purchased Celebrity, and seem to be deliberately differentiating the two cruise lines, to aim each towards a different part of the cruise vacation market. RCI is clearly aimed at, well, folks like me! I believe, from what you indicated in your review, that Celebrity would be more likely to be aimed at folks like you.
You will encounter the issues with the entertainment. There is NO rhyme or reason to the shows. One night you may need to see one before dinner the next night after dinner. It did affect both seatings. And was discouraging since we feel that when we booked we also consider the entertainment as well. We were not able to take advantage of that because it was VERY inconvenient. The shows we did see had an extrememly large amount of vacant seats. This has not been the case in the past.
It probably would be to our advantage to not put so much emphasis on food but we were at sea for 6 days and had no other choice but to eat ship food. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to eat a dinner off the ship while in a port for 2 days. They do put a significant emphasis on food so I believe they should live up to their own standards.
I have considered the inflation etc. when considering our choices. They have reduced the staff so I suppose that would cover part of it. The room stewards now have many more cabins to take care of. Hence the 2 visits per day by them instead of 3. We have even considered a different level of cabin but that would not have any effect on dining. And I absolutely REFUSE to dine in the "pay for" dining rooms.
Hope your cruise goes well, but pay attention to the things I have mentioned. Overall we had a great time. Part of that is due to our friends who travel with us. And heck, we were in Hawaii. That counts for something.
By no means do we consider ourselves "Hoity Toity" or anything like that. We are just average working people who LOVE to travel.Our kids are grown and we can go more now. We have just come to expect great things from RCI and they are not there any more.
I find your report to be very balanced, and that's because it reflects pretty much exactly what we experienced on the Serenade in May .
We did the Vancouver to Hawaii run.
As I said on our return, RCI builds magnificent, gorgeous ships, but has sadly slipped to the bottom of the "food cruise ladder", both in quality of food and in service of same.
The one thing I would comment on... they would have certainly sent ice as many times as you liked if you'd just called room service.
In regard to the entertaiment schedules, though we are normally early diners, I did notice many pre dinner shows for late seating pax, and thought that negated much of the benefit for late diners.
As far as how important the food quality is in perspective to the entire cruise experience....
We've never been fussy eaters, and have never expected gourmet food when feeding over 1000 people per seating. However, good quality banquet food is reasonable to expect.... and on our last RCI cruise it didn't come close.
No question that's been affected by pricing/budget policies. However... prices are rebounding! Look at cruises 8 to 12 months down the road, and prices are GOING UP!
Hopefully their food/service budgets will reflect the additional income.
I've always considered the "dining experiences" to be one of the key things which set cruising apart from all inclusive land vacations, particularly for the repeat and frequent cruisers.
That said, I think RCI is keying big time towards new cruisers and families... where demands may not be so high. They are trying to set up their Celebrity cruiseline as their "premium" division, and have RCI compete more directly with mass market Carnival and NCL brands.
As you, RCI used to be one of my favorites, but to be honest it's no longer my first choice when looking for cruises.
I don't believe they run the shows before early seating. I've seen quite a few Compasses over the past few weeks, checking this very thing, and haven't seen one that was structured that way. I wasn't checking, but I think I do remember seen one or two that had some shows before late seating, as you had suggested. So again, having early seating is going to be key for me to avoid the problems you mentioned.
Expectations are very tricky, especially in a situation where the cruise line used to cover the full market, but now has realigned itself to account for having purchased its own premium cruise line to cover the more traditional aspect of the market. From what I've read, and from talking with my mother and old friends, who are very frequent cruisers on Celebrity, you'll find that Celebrity is not "hoity toity" at all, but rather is probably exactly what you've always enjoyed about Royal Caribbean: A greater focus on high quality food, while Royal Caribbean expends its energy now more on providing high quality activities, like the rock wall, inline skating, etc.
Kuki: My suspicion is that prices are going up because demand is so high, and capacity is moderately limited. I don't expect any change in service levels as a result of such prices increases.
We had a discussion recently on another message board about whether the number of diners should have any impact on the quality of the food you get. While I can see it having some impact on the service received, I really don't see the rationale for it affecting food quality. Rather, the fact that only $10 per day of our cruise fare goes for food would account for the food quality, and for that little money, based on everyone's on-board dining reviews that I've read here, I suspect that I'm going to be quite impressed. I wonder if the issue isn't that a lot of folks are looking at the fact that they're spending $100 or $200 per day on the cruise, and thinking that some significant amount of that goes for food, when that just isn't the case.
I think the demands of active and family cruise passengers aren't either higher or lower than those of other cruise passengers, but rather just different: such as activities instead of food. I suspect it affects the entertainment as well; perhaps that explains ice shows instead of more traditional cruise-ship entertainment.
On the Mariner this past August, they scheduled shows specifically for the late seating ppl, early, while we ate. Us early seating ppl would go to the show right after our dinner. This was only when they had the adult only entertainment later (after late seating dinner) in the ice skating arena. Then everyone could enjoy a good time.
Post Edited (10-16-04 15:36)
Teresa and Larry
#36-Carnival Splendor 9/16/12
7 night Mexican Riviera
#37-Allure of the Seas 11/11/12
7 night Eastern Caribbean
I also noticed on our last cruise on Voyager, the same thing with the dinner rolls and bread, you are served them...I too love their bread and usually have at least 2 pieces, it was much nicer to have a basket left at your table and we could help ourselves...
I think the expectation for three 5-star meals each day (four meals, six meals?) come from out seeing the adverising from the cruise lines on television and from reading their brochures.
I would avoid a cruise line if read in the postings that the food was so disappointing that folks left the table hungry and had to eat a replacement meal at the buffet.
But, hey!, what should we expect in the real world? We chose cruises on price as if they were a commodity.
I was on Navigator this August (between hurricanes) and found the food at the level of a good Long Island Diner; what more could I have looked for? Family didn't go hungry, not even my fifteen year old son.
And my wife and I LOVED the coffee. Go figure.
I don't recall any recent Royal Caribbean ads or brochures touting "5-star" cuisine. The most extreme boast RCI makes is that its food is "mouth-watering." I have read well over 100 positive reviews of RCI food that directly contradict the dozen or so negative reviews. That's a pretty typical break-down for anything: Disney theme parks, cellular phone service, any brand of clothing -- there are always fans and critics. I'll keep an open mind on my cruise next month, thankyouverymuch.
Bicker.... make a point of trying the Ranch Steak, it's their specialty <G>
But, seriously... you should approach your first cruise experience with optimism, and honestly you should have a wonderful time. Most people do, and the industry has a very high rate of repeaters.
Cruising is, without doubt, a great "value for your dollar" vacation.
As you try different lines, I'm sure you'll find that they all have areas of strength and areas of weakness in their product. I think the key for everyone is finding the ships who's strengths most match what they want out of their cruise vacation. And that's exactly why sites like ours, and the information, and opinions shared is so valuable.
I think often the lack of knowlege, and lack of research before people hand over their hard earned money lead to their disappointments, and complaints.
Location: Wisconsin....about 100 miles south of the Frozen Tundra and 70 miles east of Camp Randall
Re: BIG disappointment in Royal Caribbean
It doesn't matter if it is just one cruise line or many that are doing it, the pre dinner show for late seating sucks!!!!!! Don't they (the cruise line execs) realize that those of us who choose late dining do so for a reason?
Carnival Breeze with Ray Band Aerogirl 5/4/14!
I've read the reports about ranch steak, but I've also read the reports that they removed it from the menu in July, and since then, have read the following comments about the steak being served, now:
"We sailed VOS 8/8 Canada last week and have no complaints about the food. It makes me wonder what people's expectations actually are regarding food .... My husband loved his steak the last night ..."
"On AOS, the steak that was available as an every night alternative was ordered by several at our table, and pronounced very good. "
I think that is another thing folks need to keep in mind when evaluating how they'll use the information they glean from reviews: Time passes, and things change.
Regardless, steak is pretty-much meaningless to me. I don't eat steak.
I think you've hit the nail on the head, and indeed so did the first quote I included in this message. The best way of assuring you are satisfied with anything you purchase is learn about it in advance, and make sure your expectations for it are in line with the offering, rather then with your own hopes and dreams. <grin>
I do not like the "pre-dinner" shows for late seating either. One of the reasons we book the late seating is to stay in port longer, and than relax and have a cocktail hour before dinner. We, also, have "missed" a few shows because of the "pre-dinner" schedule. I have made this comment on the "comment cards" given out at the end of the cruise. I suggest others who feel the same way do the same. Maybe, someone will read them.
I know.. I've heard that Ranch Steak had been taken off the menu as well. But heard from a friend who returned from the Jewel of the Seaslast week, that it was still on that ship.
They also said that the food onboard was general pitiful. Not a way I would describe it on my most recent RCI cruises ( I described it as passable). but......
However, you do say that food quality or lack thereof is not really a concern for you, so should have little affect on your experience regardless.
Actually after reading your statement on that topic, I started a little poll in the Chit Chat message folder, on how important food is to people when selecting a cruise.
Though it's a very small sampling, I'm surprised at the responses so far; the majority, like you, deeming it unimportant... interesting!
I would like to weigh in on this topic because I just returned from
the Hawai'i - Ensenda run on the Radiance of the Seas.
First - Food: After sailing Carnival and other cruise lines, I give the food
on the Radiance 4 stars. Our salads, soups, and entree's were as close to
perfect as I could ask for. Yes, the dinner breads were delivered by the asst. waiter,
but we had bread right up to desert if we wanted. The salads were perfect,
and some of my tablemates had Ceaser salad every evening, simply because
they could depend on it being fresh and crisp. Last year we were on the Rhapsody,
and I cannot say the food was as good as the Radiance this year.
The only food complaint I have is a steak which had more gristle
than I would have liked. This was ONE steak on a 10 day run.
On a tender run from the Radiance into Maui, I had the opportunity to talk to a
member of the dining room service staff, (unnamed, for his own good),
who pointed out to the Serenade, (also in port), and told us how he did not like the
Serenade because of the poor food, service, and attitude on the ship.
He says he is much happier on the Radiance for just those reasons.
I think the quality of food from ship to ship is not consistent, and varies widely
by ship even within a particular cruise line. Just another reason to research
your next cruise, and know before you go.
Mardi Gras 1986 / 1987, Emerald Seas 1988, Jubilee 1989 / 2002, Sunward II 1991, Sea Breeze 1993, Seaward 1995, Celebration 1998, Norwegian Sea 2000, Destiny 2002 /2008, Rhapsody OS 2003, Conquest 2004 / 2005 / 2008, Radiance OS 2004, Pride Of America 2006, Triumph 2007 / 2012 (x2), Grandeur OS 2008, Holiday 2009, Fantasy 2009, Splendor 2010, Elation 2010, Victory 2011
After two cruises on Celeb where food quality remains excellent--still have the little baskets & tie up the veggies all pretty.--, we will be back on Royal in March. The food can't be any worse than last time out--It is was just passab;le--very basic cafeteria type in taste & presentation but we just want to try Brilliance.(Royal ships are so beautiful) Hope it has a better level of food than the Vision class ships--we love Enchantment but the meal s were not among the positives of our last trip! Didn't help that we had a very full large table, poor servers & a mismatch of dinner companions--but still we did not starve! Has anyone been on Brilliance recent;ly?
i just want to say thanks you to all of you for your possitive feedback on RCI . My wife and I are going on our first cruise and I don't mind saying it took awhile to save for this trip. I've been looking forward to this December on the Jewel of Seas and after listening to you all I'm starting to have seconds thoughts on this trip. Geez all this for a few buns, pertty pattatic when you you really think about it. thanks again I'll make sure I don't come back to this site again.
You'll find all web site are similar in regard to hosting of niche interests, and I wouldn't be so quick to condemn such interests. While you and I might see them as minor considerations, and expectations not supported by the promises made by the cruise line, other folks may consider them very significant, and elect to place such expectations on their cruise line regardless of whether the cruise line ever promised any such thing. For those folks, and to some extent for the rest of us, it is important that they learn what to expect, so they can ensure that they're going to be satisfied by what they experience. That's the advantages these boards provide.
The message boards are all about exchanging information and OPINIONS, and discussions. That's their purpose!
If all you've taken from it is a complaint about buns, then your focus is too narrow.
Better to hear the good, the bad and the ugly... than to go on your cruise expecting perfection. Quite often we see reports from different people, coming off of the same cruise, with different perspectives. What's important to one, may have no impact on another.
BTW.. I'm booked on the Jewel in Jan. and would appreciate hearing your thoughts on her when you return.