June 2016 - Allure of the Seas to Caribbean - Eastern
I had not taken a cruise in almost 25 years (3 prior cruises on RCL) and my memories had mostly been very positive. However, many aspects of cruising have declined appreciably since the mid-90's. First, the things I liked:
- Ship was beautiful, clean, and constructed of wonderful materials
- Cabin service was impeccable and friendly
- All staff were very courteous and helpful
- Everything happened pretty much on schedule; embarking and disembarking were very efficient considering the huge volume of people
- The SeaPass worked very well and is a nice convenience; I only wish we didn't have to use it every time we wanted something.
The not-so-good things:
- We always remembered a spectacular dining experience, but that was not the case. Waiting time was excessive (though the wait staff seemed to be attentive and working hard) and the food was, for the most part, very ordinary. Putting a fancy French name on a dish does not make it a gourmet meal. Portions were rather small and it seemed that RCL hoped to fill us up with bread and drinks so we wouldn't notice. We also missed the 10-person tables that allowed us to make friends and expand the experience beyond our own small group. Basically, the main restaurants felt like floating Ruby Tuesdays with long wait times.
- The trend toward "specialty restaurants" was disappointing because the message seemed to be: If you want to avoid the long waits and mediocre food at the regular dining rooms, you'll have to pay through the nose. That is not what we remember RCL to be all about.
- While the shore excursions were fairly easy to set up, they were rather expensive and it felt like we were being thrust into a non-stop infomercial. Did not enjoy St. Maarten's at all.
We will be thinking long and hard about ever taking another cruise, especially on such a huge ship. If we ever do cruise again, it'll be on a 1500-passenger ship that focuses on the individual customer's experience and not looking at customers strictly as a cash cow. I emphasize that my dissatisfaction is not with the staff or crew - it is a system problem originating directly with RCL policy and strategy.