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Old December 3rd, 2007, 10:25 AM
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Default Mariner of the Seas - just returned and disappointed

Hi all..

You all know me, I am the editor of CruiseMates.

My wife planned a family reunion cruise on Mariner of the Seas which we sailed last week (Nov 25, 2007). We had 12 people on board.

Now, mind you I have sailed on just about every cruise line there is, and I have been on Voyager, Explorer, Freedom, Liberty, Majesty and maybe a couple other RCI ships (not sure).

In all honesty, often when I travel the ship staff knows who I am, and I belive I am treated with special attention because of this. This is NOT a fact I am proud of, and in reality I prefer to be treated just like everyone else because that is the only way I can give YOU the kind of impartial reporting you deserve.

On this cruise I was incognito, and in addition, Though we purchased a balcony cabin, we traded it with our aunt & uncle who had booked the lowest cabin category there is . I was interested in seeing how we would be treated, traveling like a regular passenger, no one knowing I am with the press, and in the lowest category cabin.

This was our worst RCI cruise, in my opinion. Of course, the people in our group who were new to cruising thought it was wonderful and loved the ship. My experience was different, probably because I have higher expectations from a cruise line because of my experience.

Here is what I noticed: (smallest complaint first)

Rpyal Caribbean has re-designed the main dining room menu. There are no longer truly separate courses, You have one long list of "starters", which includes appetizers and soups. Some nights there is an additional "course" with no choice, just one salad.

Then you have the entrees. A typical cruise menu has starters, soups, salads, and entrees - four courses. The reason for this, I believe, is that they want to expedite the dining process by subtly getting people to order less. We with experience know to order whatever we want, but novices will think it is a "one per column" type of choice and hence end up with either a soup or appetizer, sometimes a salad, and the entree. A pretty small dinner.

We had first seating, and the entire dinner felt very rushed to me. Fewer selections and fewer categories meant they did not serve in courses like most cruise lines do. Different people at our table had different items at different times, except that the main entrees and desserts did arrive at the same time.

They do not leave bread on the table, they come by and ask you what you want. This is tedious and useless. They come around in the beginning, but if you want bread with your soup or salad (as I always do) you are lucky if they arrive again at the time you have that course in front of you. Leave the bread on the table, please.

The bar service was terrible. Suffice it to say that every night we had to ask for a bar waiter if we wanted wine and the response time was horrible. The nights we ordered bottles of wine they sat on our table, corked and waiting to be opened, for as long as 15 minutes while we were already eating.

The last formal night (day 6) we had a bottle of wine, six of us at the table took a glass and received a first pour. The waiter then came around again and picked up the bottle and proceded to pour a second round, he forced the two ladies next to me to take more (they both were saying "no thank you" and then he walked away with the bottle - which STILL HAD WINE IN IT. He skipped me, leaving my glass empty, and of course I thought the bottle was empty, because he took it away.

Now, mind you, wine is EXPENSIVE on these ships. A small glass (3 oz?) is about $7.00.

The girls did not finish the wine they had not asked for, they both left about $7.00 of wine sitting in their glasses. I ordered a fresh glass, believing the bottle was empty, that's another $7.00. Their little error made about $21 difference to us.

On the way out of the restaurant, the waiters came up to the two ladies and gave them the bottle "here, there is some left," they said. OK, then why did they skip me, and why did they take a bottle with wine in it away from the table?

Furthermore, isn't it the policy of the ship to HOLD wine bottles in a cooler for you? This was white wine - Reisling. And it had been served WARM.

Mind you, I was traveling with my inlaws, they had purchased the wine. I did not know if they had given the waiter instructions on who to pour to.

The next night I took our head waiter aside after dinner and told him what I have written above. I asked if they were asked not to pour to me "no, there were no special instructions." So, I asked why they skipped me. He said "It was just a mistake, I am very sorry, I will fix this for you tomorrow morning," - meaning the last day of the cruise. I expected some kind of refund for the wine I had to order because the asst. waiter had poured it all out to the girls who really didn't want it and then walked away with a bottle with wine in it.

Furthermore, exactly while I was tellin him this after dinner, my wife had ordered a special coffee (bar service) to have with her dessert. It literally did not arrive for 25 minutes - until everyone had finished their dessert, including her. He was standing right there discussing the bad bar service issue with me exactkly when her coffee arrived. I said to him - "look, another example of how bad our service has been, she is sitting here alone because she was waiting for a special coffee." He didn't offer to say "no charge for that." He just stood there and let her sign the $7.00 tab without blinking. I was amazed - never have I seen such a brain dead head waiter.

So, the next morning I looked at my account to see how he had "fixed" things for us. Nothing was done. So I found him in the breakfast dining room. "You said last night night you were going to do something today to fix the problem we had with our bar service throughout the cruise, did you do anything?"

"Yes, I did" he said, "I talked to your assistant waiter and that will never happen to anyone else again." - That was how he "fixed" the problems we had experienced.

AND THAT WAS TYPICAL OF THE ENTIRE CRUISE - we found that this is a ship where you could not get resolutions to your problems.

Case #2: Our aunt & uncle were celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. We ordered a cake for them. When did they deliver the cake? After they had just served us dessert. Only we knew the cake was coming, it was a surprise. Everyone had eaten a full dessert when it arrived. Does this make any sense? Shouldn't you deliver a cake before dessert? Yes, you should.

Case #3: Aunt & Uncle were in the "Love & Marriage" game show. They were told they would receive a special DVD of the show in exchange for being in it. The DVD was never delivered. I thought I would go to the vidographers to ask them about this. They told me all they were supposed to get was the week-long souvenir video of the cruise, and that they needed a voucher to get it. They had not been given a voucher. They specifically told me there was "no video of just the Love & Marriage show".

This was wrong information. We went to the front desk, and they said there was a video of it, they just never got it. Long story short, we enquired about getting this video every day (a few times some days) and we were told "it will be delivered to their room" or "we will have it tomorrow" each time and it did not happen - we finally got it by standing next to the guest relations desk for literally 1/2 hour on the morning of disembarkation. The poor purser had to call the video deartment three times to get them to bring it up to us. We found out the other contestants had received theirs two days earlier. Why did WE have to put up with this hassle?

I think you can see where I am going with this. Our mantra on CruiseMates is to always deal with problems right away because if you wait it is harder to get a resolution. I was traveling incognito on this ship (they did not know I was with the press) and furthermore I was in a cheap inside cabin (because my wife and I voluntarily traded the $1700 balcony cabin to our aunt & uncle for their cheap inside cabin).

As far as the staff on that ship knew, we were just regular passengers traveling in the cheap seats and, I have to say, we were treated like we didn't exist any time we had a problem. They always ask "what is your cabin number?" and I don't know if that makes any difference, but it certainly seemed to in our case.

Also, once again, never did I produce a business card or throw my job title out there and say "do you know I'm a cruise reporter." I made sure I was incognito and remained that way.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 12:13 PM
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Boy, Paul, they really need to get there act in gear..Service problems at dinner seem to taint the cruise experience. We know this, as well as others from the CM NY Eve cruise.

I'm sorry your family experienced so many issues, I hope the first timers walked off thinking, when can we do this again:) Your family was fortunate you went to bat for all the issues. you all experienced...
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 01:32 PM
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Well, the point isn't ME. The point is Royal Caribbean. I can deal with problems because I have experience. My concern is for the people who should be getting better treatment but don't know enough about the cruise experience to speak up.

By the way - I am not a wine expert, but I was thinking, "shouldn't a Riesling be chilled?" - after all, it is made from nearly frozen grapes and is a white wine.

Sure enough, I googled and it says it should always be at 45 to 55 degrees when served. They served it to us at room temperature, and I don't think I saw an ice bucket anywhere.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 04:28 PM
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WOW Paul. You made me feel much better, because I've just found out that it isn't "just me". The lovely Mrs. Jones, (Vita) and I sailed "Mariner" last year, and I found exactly the same problems that you talked about! As you know, we aren't exactly novices at cruising either (over 100) so we too, know what to expect, and what not to expect. Mariner just didn't come up to the expectations of a cruise, and especially an RCI cruise. I won't be sailing her again anytime soon, unless it's an absolute "give away" price.

Hope to see you aboard again soon,

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Old December 3rd, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Ken...

I read your reader review of it, and it didn't sound "that" negative, but I sense what you are saying.

Mary's reader review points out somehting I missed. Sh also cites the bad restaurant service, and she says "We'd usually wait 10 minutes or more with dessert in front of us before we'd even see a waiter for tea or coffee. One night, there was a chef's sampler plate of desserts. Some tables were also offered the dessert menu at the same time"

I saw the same thing the last night, half of us were given a pre-ordered dessert, while half the tables had obviously been given a dessert menu. This was the night AFTER the gala buffet. Coincidence?

The truth is - we had MANY service related problems on this voyage, too many to talk about. Service-wise, it was way below what I expect from any cruise line.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 07:34 PM
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geesh Paul, so sorry that your cruise experience was not even close to being up to par...

I have been leary of sailing on the larger ships and don't have any real life comparisions for making the transistion from my comfort zone with the small ones (Enchantment & Radiance for RC and the Imagination, etc for Carnival); I wonder if the Mariner lost its quality of service due to the size of the ship?? I have read other Mariner reviews and of course "Freedom of the Sea" reviews and it seems an average of reviews commented about the service in many areas and not just in the dining room.

or would it be the case of a "training" ship; do you suppose their were not seasoned cruise employees and Mariner is going to be used to train lots of new people at once. or is it just the fact the RCI doesn't care and wants to just fill em up??
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 08:46 PM
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We've only been able to get about 5 or 6 glasses of wine out of a bottle. You say six glasses were poured, then two more. How much would you say was 'left'? A magic bottle of wine?
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 11:31 PM
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Hi Idaho...

I guess it depends on how much you fill the glass. Plus, I didn't say he filled the glasses six times, he poured more wine into already mostly filled glasses in the case of the two women who said they didn't want any more. That was the point, their glasses were still mostly filled.

MS Blackjack...

I don't worry about me, I worry about the people who don't know how to really complain, or accept whatever they are told. The aunt & uncle LOVE the video they eventually got, but had they been on their own they never would have gotten it. They tried on the last night and were told a "lie" (the photographers handle that, and they are off duty for the rest of the cruise).
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Old December 4th, 2007, 09:12 AM
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Paul i can relate to your experience. I think its an RCL thing. I totally agree with you about the menu and the bread/rolls thing. We also had bad bar service at dinner we did seek out the head waiter the first night and it got better not great but better. Actually our wine experience was the total oposite of yours, one of our tablemates purchaced the wine package and she shared with whomever wanted a glass of wine. She informed our senior waitress on the first night and every night we were asked if we would like to try the wine that she picked for dinner. Any wine that was not drunk on that night was corked and saved for the next night or whenever and all the whites were properly chilled imo.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 03:04 PM
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[quote="Paul Motter"]Ken...

I read your reader review of it, and it didn't sound "that" negative, but I sense what you are saying. ]

You're right Mike. I try not to be really negative when I write a review, unless there's something that REALLY stands out as a factor that everyone is going to hate. I usually figure that if I got poor service, that it was just my wait team, or if the elevators were always full (which they were) that it's just because the deck my cabin was on was "in the middle" so the elevators filled up at the top going down, and the bottom going up. I just didn't care for "Mariner" as much as the other RCI ships I've sailed, and don't plan on taking the chance on her again, when there are so many great ships to sail. I know there are others who love "Mariner", and that's just fine.

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Old December 4th, 2007, 03:13 PM
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Paul,
Out of your very helpful review I focused on two things..
1) Do you think you would have been treated better had you been in the balcony cabin? Do you really think that info is delineated to the staff?

2) Does a balcony on that ship go for 1700.00 total or PP/DO?
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Old December 4th, 2007, 03:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rinker250
Paul,
Out of your very helpful review I focused on two things..
1) Do you think you would have been treated better had you been in the balcony cabin? Do you really think that info is delineated to the staff?
Actually, almost everytime you have a complaint the staff asked me what cabin I was in. Usually in reference to "doing something to make it right."

Quote:
2) Does a balcony on that ship go for 1700.00 total or PP/DO?
That was total price, we booked over a year in advance.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 04:33 PM
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I certainly hope that your's was an isolated experience and not a general sign of decline for the whole line (after all, we are booked with RCCL in April of 2009). Most of the problems seem to boil down to timing, poor management and communication, but you are correct that once identified, the problem should be resolved immediately and the servers should take every effort not to let new problems arise. We didn't have a wine problem, but I'm with you on the bread being taken away. I ended up taking 3 or 4 pieces when first offered because I didn't know if the bread basket would make its way back to the table before dinner was over. I felt like a glutton taking so many at once, but that way our table had enough for extras if anyone wanted them.

The servers should keep in mind that someone in the lowest cabin may still tip as much or more than someone in a suite.
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Old December 4th, 2007, 05:17 PM
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Quote:
The servers should keep in mind that someone in the lowest cabin may still tip as much or more than someone in a suite.
You certainly bring up a good point there, but then again, you can bet a complaint from someone paying $10,000/cruise (cabin) will carry a lot more weight than someone paying $1300 (cabin).

Well, of course I don't know if my cabin had anything to do with it, but I will say I haven't had such a hard time getting things resolved ever in my life on any cruise - and I know my way around ships pretty darn well (having sailed on 100s of cruises plus having worked on ships).

It WOULD be interesting to know if it did play a part

I do NOT think this is systemic of RCCL at all. Sometimes certain ships just fall down, and my personal feeling is that it is because it is the crew onboard is bored, feels they are not really being watched by corporate or their superior officers, and they stop caring enough about the passengers to work as a team.

You start getting wrong answers from people because they do not know what is going on ship-wide, and you get a lot of "that's not my department" types of responses from people. In other words "it isn't my job, so figure it out yourself."
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Old December 4th, 2007, 08:52 PM
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I don't think service resolution has anything to do with cabin category, I sure hope not anyway. Each passenger should be treated the same but that is probably wishful thinking on my part.

We have never had a situation bad enough to actually complain until our recent sailing on the Emerald Princess. We paid a great deal for our balcony and had an Elite/Commodore in our cabin but still received no resolution or follow-up from Princess on several issues including a staff member that lied to us. Paul, you probably have a lot more pull than we would have but we were still pretty surprised. We didn't ask for a credit or a free cruise or anything of the sort but just acknowledgement and in the one case an apology. Here we are 30 days later, still waiting....
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Old December 5th, 2007, 02:32 AM
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jAXgUY...

Please tell me what the problem was.
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Old December 5th, 2007, 10:51 AM
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Paul,
Very sorry to hear about your experience on Mariner. My wife and I cruised on that ship two years ago (we had a balcony room) and it was nothing like you described. We were seated at a 2 person table (it was our honey moon) and when we ordered a bottle of wine our server told use if we didnt finish it it would be available the next night, and it was. It seems like mariners service has gone way down.

Now the next year we went on the sister ship navigator and it was terrible. Our room was not clean when we boarded, we had neighbors that were noisy all the time, our toilet didnt flush right and the water from our sink looked yellow. We complained numerous time and got no where. I ever wrote to corporate with names of people and what took place. It seems to have fallen on deaf ears because I have not heard anything from them. Not ever a sorry to hear you had a bad experience.

This bad experience has really turned me off to RCCL and when we go on our next cruise I will really have to think twice about booking with them.

Once again sorry to hear about your bad experience.
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Old December 5th, 2007, 11:11 AM
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I have to agree that the inability to find an answer or resolution to our problems was the most vexing thing.

I didn't want to write about every little thing that was "wrong," with the ship, as you often read people doing; yes, the hallways smelled, there were hairs in our bathrooms, the cabin was so tiny you literally could not get around the corners of the bed (you had to climb over), and there was a stain in the carpet. It is funny because every "bad" review we get always includes those items. Well, we had them all, too. And they were significant enough factors to mention.

but I think the point is you can just tell if you are on an "old" ship or not. IThe signs are almost everywhere

And I have realized that part of a ship aging includes the crew /staff also having to deal with more problems, and hence their jobs become harder and they soon become less responsive to complaint.
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Old December 5th, 2007, 12:49 PM
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We have only cruised 2 times (with one around the corner) but have become quite enamored with it in the last year.
Reading this board I see a lot of disappontment cropping up.

I am constantly searching for cruise deals and am in the fortunate position to be able to jump on last minute deals.

Guess what? There aren't any!!

The cruises are all booked. I read a while ago that a line can break even at 65% occupancy. I don't see the fight for the cruise dollar as we should.

I think the attitude is "if you don't like it, somebody else will".

Just a gut feeling.
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Old December 5th, 2007, 01:11 PM
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Rinker - that is true. The cruise lines are "flush" right now as far as capacity is concerned, and the prices are holding pretty steady as well, at least for Royal Caribbean.

But, I see 7-day NCL cruises on new ships going for about $400, older ships going for under $350 and Princess cruises on beautiful, small ships going for about $500.

The goal of every cruise line is to raise cruise fares but still fill the ships. Royal Caribbean has a LOT of capacity and if they start to disappoint too much the point where they have to drop prices to fill cabins is not that far off, especially in the Caribbean. This sailing I was on was not full (despite the notice they put up at the front desk).

By the way, if you do a LOT of bargain shopping and last minute deals, I really hope you subscribe to our newsletter or check our bargains section frequently. I see amazing bargains there all the time. Check out these URLs:

http://www.cruisemates.com/CF/bow.htm

http://www.cruisemates.com/CF/bargains/newsletter.html

And by the way - these are updated every week.

Royal Caribbean
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Sail on NCL from New Orleans or Charleston for as little as $379. Balconies just $499!

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Old December 5th, 2007, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
How do I subscribe?

Those are great deals but I would like to see prices for balconies at a minimum.
I understand - advertisers almost always show "lead" prices, but the point is our advertisers really do offer some of the best deals out there, plus pricing is pretty "flat" regardless of where you go, but not completely.

Anyway - upper right hand corner of our website is link to subscribe to our newsletter.
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Old December 5th, 2007, 10:53 PM
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Thanks for the info Paul, your review made for an interesting read. With a cruise coming up in Jaunary on the Adventure of the Seas I'm really hoping the issues you described are isolated and not systemic throughout RCCL's entire fleet.

I did find your comments about the menu changes a bit dissapointing. Hopefully this isn't going to become RCCL's new standard, especially considering the dining room experience is, to many, a significant part of the cruising experience.
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Old December 6th, 2007, 02:55 PM
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Hi Paul,

I'm glad to see that we weren't the only ones disappointed by the menus and service recently on RCI. We just got off the Sovereign of the Seas. It was only a 3 day cruise, but I still expect a certain level of service. We had planned on ordering a bottle of wine the first night, but never even got to see the wine list. On the second night, I decided just to get a glass of wine which was delivered almost at the end of dinner. I didn't bother to try on the third night.

We also experienced poor bar service in a couple of lounges. Although there were bar waiters standing around, we had to go up to the bar tender to get drinks. However, in the showroom, bar waiters kept wanting to sell us more drinks.

I have submitted a review, so it should be available in a few days. After my recent experience on Sovereign and your experience, I am less likely to book another cruise with RCI unless there is a really good itinerary or price.
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Old December 6th, 2007, 03:25 PM
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My question now, as I think back, is "are there sommeliers on RCI" - I do not recall seeing any. On most cruise lines of you worder a bottle of wine they send a sommeleir to your table who opens it and sets it up (with an ice bucket if required).

Anyone recall seeing any sommeliers on RCI?

And I must say - ordering a glass of wine and getting it at the end of the meal is unacceptable. Just awful service. The servings were rather non-generous as well, less than 3 ounces whereas the "standard" serving size according to other sources is supposed to be 5 ounces.
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Old December 6th, 2007, 03:32 PM
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Speaking of serving size:

I don't know 'bout ounces and such but...
I was at dinner in Atlantic Beach near JAX and ordered a glass of wine.
The guy started pouring and stopped when the glass was 40% full.
I did my best "ahem" and pointed at the glass.
He waved his hand at me like I was a fly and walked away.

I stayed for about 3 more seconds.
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Old December 6th, 2007, 03:49 PM
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Three ounces?? what were they doing? serving communion? I am a bartender. It is 5 ounces
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Old December 6th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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I am just going by what I remember the serving sizes are. They don't use the standard wineglasses you see these days with extra wide brims to let the aroma out, they use the smalllest wine glasses you can buy, I am guessing about 6 ounces, and then they pour a serving that is under the half-way point. And this is for $7.25 each glass.

I didn't see the prices for the bottles because I wasn't doing the buying (our uncle was).
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Old December 6th, 2007, 04:01 PM
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Paul, Maybe less than 1/2 a glass is the new norm?
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Old December 6th, 2007, 04:31 PM
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with the new glasses that are considered "red" glasses less than half is definitely the norm, because they are probably 12-ounce glasses. You want plently of room for the swirl and nose.
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Old December 6th, 2007, 07:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Motter
My question now, as I think back, is "are there sommeliers on RCI" - I do not recall seeing any. On most cruise lines of you worder a bottle of wine they send a sommeleir to your table who opens it and sets it up (with an ice bucket if required).

Anyone recall seeing any sommeliers on RCI?

And I must say - ordering a glass of wine and getting it at the end of the meal is unacceptable. Just awful service. The servings were rather non-generous as well, less than 3 ounces whereas the "standard" serving size according to other sources is supposed to be 5 ounces.
IThere wasn't one on my recent RCI cruise and I don't recall one on Grandeur either. On my recent cruises with Carnival, the waiter acted as the sommelier. I only ordered wine one time on NCL and they couldn't find my over half-full bottle the next night. And no offer to replace it. (Another minus for freestyle)

What little I do know about wine, I have learned from the sommeliers on HAL and Celebrity. I think they really add to the dining experience. They were able to help me broaden my tastes in wine.

I too thought that the serving size for an individual glass was a bit skimpy. The glass was only about half full. But when you buy a bottle, they keep the glasses full - probably to use up the wine faster so you'll buy more.

One other thing - what happened to the hors d'ouvres at the Captain's Cocktail Party? Another cost cutting move?
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