OF THE SEAS
May 8 - May 15, 2004
By Kim Ragan
Take it easy on me... this is my first time ever writing a review of anything! I will do my best to make this as easy to read and follow as possible. First, a disclaimer: I am pretty new to cruising. My first cruise was in June of 2002 aboard the Grand Princess (Western Caribbean). If there is such a thing as "the perfect vacation"
that was it for me. Princess gives impeccable service - we were completely spoiled. So, considering the amazing experience we had, we planned another cruise - this time on board Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas.
The ship was pretty big, but most notably it was beautiful. Royal Caribbean obviously takes great pride in their ships and it shows. In St. Thomas, we were docked between a Holland America ship and a Carnival ship - the Navigator
outshone both of them.
Another positive was the entertainment. The production shows were wonderful! The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers were amazing, especially the 4 singers. They had beautiful voices. I could've sat through one of their shows every night. The ice dancing was less impressive. While the skaters were very talented, especially the hula hoop girl, the show was a bit boring. Still, the idea of ice skating in the middle of the ocean was pretty cool. And the small area they had to work with made the jumps and spins all the more impressive.
A third positive was the dining room waitstaff. We ate during the main seating in the Coppelia dining room,
which was very elegant. Our waiters, Juanito, Amelia, and Patricia, were great. We looked forward to dinner every day. They greeted us with smiling faces and friendly, outgoing personalities. Kudos, as well, to our stateroom attendant, Ezra. He was wonderful--very attentive. We felt very lucky to have been assigned such a wonderful staff.
The fourth positive of our trip--the places we visited. We went to Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Coco Cay (we were supposed to go to Labadee, but given the current problems in Haiti, we went to Coco Cay instead). I was especially impressed by Coco Cay.
There was a lot to do there compared to Princess Cay, which is Princess Cruises' private island.
All of that said, I will never cruise on Royal Caribbean again. There is something to be said for customer relations
and Royal Caribbean seems more interested in making money than making sure guests are happy. Let me explain:
1. There were 12 of us traveling together - my family and my husband's family (my mother in law and father in law were repeat Royal Caribbean cruisers). We wanted to dine together,
if not at the same table (as we had on the Grand Princess), then at least next to each other with the same waitstaff. Several weeks before the cruise, we made this request. The response was that there was no such thing as a 12-person table in their dining areas--we could do 10 and 2, 8 and 4, or 6 and 6. They said they would try to put us next to one another and would also try to give us the same waitstaff. As this was most important to my in-laws, when we arrived on the ship they went to the dining room and asked the maitre'd to make sure our request had been honored. He resisted putting us at two tables beside each other with the same waitstaff until they made it very clear that this was very important to them. When we arrived at dinner, we were indeed next to one another, but had different waitstaff. To make a long story a little shorter, by the next night we were all sitting at the same table (three tables pushed together). We just didn't understand why it took so much to do this? Also, there were 12-person tables throughout the dining room. Was it just that they didn't feel like going the extra mile? Events to follow make me believe this is exactly what happened.
2. My husband and I live in Atlanta and drove to Miami for the cruise (11 hours), stopping in the middle to visit my uncle in the hospital. We drove through the night and arrived in Miami around 12:30pm to board. By about 11:30 - 12:00 that night, we were tired and ready to hit the sack. No big deal, right? Wrong! We were in room 6517,
right above the Ixtapa lounge where the band "Icepack" was performing. Our floor and bed were vibrating with the bass making it rather difficult to sleep. My husband called down to guest relations to see what could be done about this and we received no help. The
ship was fully booked, so there was no where to move us to. They said they would talk to the sound technician downstairs and see if they could tone down the bass. Basically, we got the runaround. What was most frustrating about this situation was that there were TWO people in the lounge and they were at the bar, not listening to the music! Finally, my husband went to the guest relations desk where he again received the runaround (and overheard them discussing him and all of the other people complaining about the bass). While he was there,
two security guards came to our room and talked to me. One didn't talk at all, the other was the most rude and condescending person with whom I have ever interacted. He basically told me to deal with it for another hour (they were scheduled to be
done at 1:00am) and when I said that I couldn't be the only one complaining about the noise, he said "Well, actually, most people are out enjoying themselves.
May I ask why you're in bed?" WHAT??!!!
3. I've read other reviews of the Voyager class of ships and was so amazed by comments about the efficiency with which they got people on and off the ship. This was not our experience at all. At the Port of Miami, we waited at least an hour to check-in (after the metal detector and other security) in a line that snaked around like a line at an amusement park. Everyone around us was complaining. At Nassau, we disembarked easily, but coming back on board was another story. Another long line.
It was the beginning of a theme for the week. When returning from Coco Cay on the tender, we sat for at least 45 minutes waiting to get back on the ship.
4. The ship was VERY crowded. Everywhere we went, we were being bumped into, trying to weave our way through people, or waiting in a line. Unfortunately, it seemed everyone felt the crowd.
As the week went on people became more and more cranky and short tempered. By the end we felt as if we needed a vacation from this vacation. The experience was quite different than my previous experience on the Grand Princess,
which is also a large ship. On the Navigator, it felt as if they just crammed in as many people as they could to get as much money as they could. It felt like we were in a city that had been developed too quickly, and neglected to develop it's infrastructure,
particularly roads, causing major crowding. This was truly a money-making machine, as evidenced by the gratuity added nearly every time you used your SeaPass card.
Even the soda card had gratuity built into the price! I guess Royal Caribbean figures they can pay their employees less and let the guests pick up the slack.
5. The food was okay--not great, but not bad. However, my husband ate at one of the 2 midnight buffets offered on the ship and threw up for about 12 hours after,
missing San Juan because of it.
6. One of the most disappointing things about the cruise was the amount of time spent in port. It seemed as if they had just thrown 4 ports in and not planned on how to get from one to the other. We were in Nassau from 7:00am until 3:00pm and San Juan from 7:00am until 2:00pm! It was a ship full of contradiction--the bass continued to play below our room until 1am, but you had to be out of bed early to get a glimpse of the next day's port. We visited St. Thomas from 8:00am until 5:00pm--I think--and Coco Cay was supposed to be from 7:00am to 3:00pm, but the good captain decided to give us the gift of time
and stayed until 6:00pm.
7. The final straw came when we arrived at the end of our cruise in the Port of Miami. We were the first off the ship (early debarkation--white
tags--7:00-8:30am). My husband and I had checked 3 bags, all clearly marked with the white tag, however Royal Caribbean managed to lose one of our bags somewhere between our room and the baggage claim. This isn't really surprising when you consider that passengers watched them THROW THE BAGGAGE FROM DECK TO DECK! I can't tell you how many people I heard comment that Royal Caribbean had broken their luggage (since I was in the baggage claim area for 4 hours). As far as finding our luggage,
we had to track down someone who worked for Royal Caribbean because there were very few of them present in the port. When we finally found someone, we were told that "sometimes these things happen," "just keep
looking," "well, you can't leave customs without all of your bags so look around," "sometimes things get lost", and "it should be out by 11:30 with the last of the bags". No one was willing to help at all, in fact, one guy actually walked away from my husband and another passenger while they were in the middle of asking for help finding their bags. Apparently he was "frustrated" because it's difficult to keep track of 20,000 bags.
Fortunately for us, we were driving and didn't have a plane to catch. Several other people missed flights and tours because their bags were missing. I overheard a porter tell a passenger, "I don't know what they do up there, but this happens every week." About 3 hours into our search for our missing bag, my husband had the following conversation with a man working for Royal Caribbean (Ronald Chapman): Chapman,
"We have 5000 people on board the ship with 20,000 pieces of luggage, sometimes things get misplaced."; My husband,
"Well, that's not really my problem."; Chapman, "Well, Mr. Ragan, you don't have your bag, so actually, it is your problem." Just an example of the exemplar customer service offered. Those of us who were stuck in customs because Royal Caribbean had lost our luggage felt as if they were saying,
"We've got your money so you're not our problem anymore." After four hours of searching, we finally found our bag (with no help from Royal Caribbean)
recently placed on the wrong carousel (we had been searching all 3 carousels
throughout the 4 hours) and it was still tagged for early debarkation!
Unfortunately, the positive things about this experience are overshadowed by the poor customer service and hurried port visits. While the dining staff and stateroom attendant made us feel very welcomed and pampered, the overall environment of the ship was hurried, rude, crowded, and
courtesy of Kvaerner
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