Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Time for a Change? Royal Caribbean, Where Art Thou?

There are people who dislike change and who have difficulty accepting change. This characteristic is often assigned to older people or those with specific disabilities eg. autism, anxiety and so on.

I have no problem with change as long as it's for the better. If it's change for the sake of change, I say why? I know, we've all heard "in the olden days...." from our parents, and perhaps these words have even emanated from our mouthes from time to time. The next generation, or perhaps even the one after that (yes...I'm that old), think they've created something new or had a profound idea, when in fact we older folks have seen and heard it all before. We know what has worked in the past and what hasn't. We know why we make certain choices.

There's an expression that goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

After seeing some of their more recent t.v. commercials, and having cruised on other lines, I wanted to get back to Royal Caribbean International.

I have always raved about this line and have probably gone on at least five cruises with these folks. What was so special? Apart from the fact that I found the ships beautiful and spacious, the staff more than willing to help and accommodate travellers, the food outstanding, it was the added extras.  I loved how there was an air of elegance without pretentiousness. There were active extras such as inline skating, ice skating,mini golf, basketball and rock climbing...interesting to try at age 60, and I did. Everything about this cruise line was relaxing, not frenetic.

There were scrapbooking classes, trivia, cooking, and towel animal making demonstrations. Crown and Anchor members received little bonuses like hats or tote bags and were recognized and welcomed back with a captain's cocktail party. There was constant entertainment and the shows were phenomenal. There was little added cost...only drinks, gratuities, excursions, and of course, shopping down the "Main Street" of the ship, should one opt to do so.

I recently suggested that members of our family (12 in all) go on a cruise with this line. It would be convenient and less time consuming and lower cost for all to meet at Galveston even though the cruise itinerary wasn't great. It would be so much fun getting together with everyone to celebrate several special events. For the most part, it was fun...but it was the people in our group, not the cruise line that made it so. There was so much aggravation and so much time spent at the customer service desk by most of our members, that we are all ready for another vacation.

Without going into detail of our individual serious problems (there will be reviews and letters I assure you), there were other issues. The ship was overcrowded and I couldn't understand how this could be one of my favourite ships, until someone told me (rumour as yet not confirmed by me) that an extra level of cabins had been added to the top of the ship. The fact that there were 800 kids on board, several new sets of water slides and kidzone activities suggested that they were attempting to cater more to families and the younger crowd. I suppose that's not a problem for everyone. For me, it's the reason I stay away from Carnival cruises and now possibly RC if this is the new normal.

There was standing room only in what I remembered as once spacious swimming pools, and almost no place except in ones cabin to get some quiet time. The overcrowded dining rooms now allowed people in shredded  shorts and baseball caps to dine beside cruisers who opted for the suggested formal wear on specific nights.Why have a formal night at all? Scrapbooking classes still exist but now require payment. There were towel folding lessons if you wanted to watch them on personal attention at all. Several restaurants had added cost so why bother to go there? In fact, almost everything required added payment. If you wanted a kitchen tour,  the galley on the ship, it cost $30. The shows were free but mediocre...except for the phenomenal ice skating show (still free at this point). Crown and Anchor members were supposed to get a book of coupons but instead were handed a sheet of paper with a few perks listed. The problem was, staff had no idea about these perks when I tried to claim them.

Where was the ice sculpture carving demonstration? Where were the  fruit carvings and flower arrangements. Where was the the lovely art and the scultpures that graced all the other RC ships I've been on. Instead, there was a giant red plaster dog on one of the levels.

I can only liken this cruise to a 2 star all inclusive resort someplace. Even at that, it would be cheaper at a resort since it would be "all inclusive".

So, what will I do after my letter and review writing campaign? Well, for one thing my next cruise is on Holland America. The most exciting thing I'm likely to experience on that ship is a lecture on the depth of the ocean, but at least there'll be space, air, met expectations, respect,  and consistency.

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