After having evaluated a few options, Desy and I decided to book a cruise holiday in Greece. In retrospect, we’re glad of our pick: our late September getaway turned out to be much better than expected. And that’s been not only because of the great weather we had and the cool places we visited, but also because (once on board) Royal Caribbean often exceeded our expectations. We found a good itinerary through cruisecheap.com and managed to get a decent deal (800€ pp all included, for 10 nights in a large ocean-view stateroom) through www.royalcaribbean.com. Below you can find a review of our experience. At the gallery you can also find some pictures of the ship, and the holiday alltogether. Enojy!
Before the cruise
Royal Caribbean have an office in Italy and phone reservation went on smoothly, even if my after sales experience with them hasn’t then been brilliant. People at the call centre were always nice, but lack of communication with their solicitors meant that the morning after my purchase I already got a phone call, asking for my payment (due 40 days before departure …fact is that I’ve made our reservation after such term). Bothersome to be called at work for such a communication problem on their side, but at least we weren’t charged anything extra for the “late” payment. Online check-in also hasn’t been the smoothest thing I can think of: a couple of calls to call centre were needed because some of the requested information wasn’t available on documentation we had been sent by email, and also because several labels on the website form were inaccurate. Also, Royal Caribbean website hasn’t been the most pleasant place to browse for information on ports of calls and services on board. Not a problem (luckily there are alternatives), but I really think this is one of those cases where a small investment in user testing/experience design could’ve made a huge difference in customer experience. Luckily this has been pretty much the worse part of our experience, so that’s not too bad either.
Once we got to Venice, a complimentary shuttle bus took us to the pier, where nice, smiling staff was ready to give us our sea pass cards (IE our badges). As usual, while evaluating our options, we relied on the Internet. Reviews for the ship weren’t all brilliant, but once on board, I soon started to feel glad for not having put our blind trust in people who write what I now consider rude and unreliable content. On board we haven’t been able to find so many “rednecks”, and ship wasn’t in that bad state at all. Actually, I’ve just found out it had been refurbished a couple of months before our departure – lucky folks we are! Not only vessel was in good shape, but also all crew members we came across seemed to be extremely well trained, and were always smiling and ready to help. Also most of other guests – especially the folks at our dinner table (4 Germans, 2 South-Africans, 2 British) – were discrete, nice and friendly.
Itinerary’s been the main factor for our decision, and we haven’t been disappointed by our choice. We enjoyed all the places we visited, and also the two days of relax, sailing. This is how/were we spent our days:
- Split, Croatia
- Corfù Town, Corfu
- At Sea
- Chania, Crete
- At Sea
Our ocean view stateroom was cozy and clean. No thrills, but still a comfortable accommodation, especially if we consider we were inside of a ship. We’ve had some minor issues with the A/C, at times only blowing freezing cold air, but mainteinance team showed up promptly when called. Another issue we’ve had has been with the toilet, which wouldn’t flush at times. I had read others stepped into the same exact issue, but luckily this caused no problems to us, and the outage always lasted for no more than several minutes.
Food’s never been a problem on board, with a pretty good selection of restaurants and bars, open from early in the morning untill 1am in the night. Meal quality at the main restaurant, the Gatsby at level 4 was nothing special (especially when it came to the deserts), but wasn’t bad either. Service was very good and professional, even if pace overall was very slow. It never took us less than 2 hours to finish our meal. Luckily our waiter Mauricio (from Chile) was excellent with his jokes and balloon entertainment, allowing time to flow much faster. Windjammer cafe (pictured on the right, click to enlarge) which was open for breakfast and dinner, from 06:30pm until 09:30pm was also ok, especially in the morning for breakfast, with a good selection of hot/cold items. Quality in the evening varied depending on the day, but never got above or below a certain (decent) standard, with deserts always being the weakest part (what a pity that Peak-End rule got apparently ignored). For between-meal eats there was Park Cafe, which was always open when Windjammer Cafe wasn’t. There I could find good snacks and salads. More selection would’ve been awesome, but I’m not complaining at all.
I’m not entitled to give an overview of what to expect, since all of our days have been spent either ashore or reading a book at the sundeck. We watched fellow travelers being entertained by the bingo, the pool parties, the night shows at the theater, the casino, and the various onboard fitness activities (in the ship there’s a gym and even a rock climbing wall). We haven’t done much but, despite many people were crowding the main pools area, we still have been able to relax on both ends of deck 10. The only complaint I have is that no one actually enforced the “no sunbed reserving” rule, so that many people could place their towels on a sunbed in the morning and keeping it busy for hours, without being there. I’d have appreciated if such belongings were moved aside, as stated on signs disseminated all around the ship.