|Royal Caribbean "Tightwad of the Seas"|
Royal Caribbean keeps cutting back on "frills" then turns around and charges passengers extra if they want them.
I first noticed the cutbacks on my January 2009 Eastern Caribbean cruise on Independence of the Seas. It was my third cruise on Royal Caribbean, so I was still new to cruising, but on that cruise I noticed three dining room changes.
First, the Fisherman's Platter lobster tail was teeny-weeny and served split and fanned open - I guess to help the puny thing look bigger on the plate - and with shrimp. I doubt the lobster tail was large enough to have been legal to sell in the US. Oh, you could have seconds (but that sometimes gets frowns from the snoots when a woman orders).
The second thing I saw was being asked to pay extra for a cut of steak that had been offered free in main dining before. I do not eat a lot of steak, but it is one example of Royal Caribbean taking away something that had been included before then charging extra if you want it today.
The third menu change I caught was how often Indian curry entres made the menu! There were not many people from India aboard this particular cruise. But putting curry dishes on the menu had the effect of removing that meal offering from consideration for everyone at my table. That seems like a sneaky way to just reduce menu choices from five to four. To me, these were big dining room changes effecting everyone from first-time cruisers to Diamond-Plus members that added up to paying the same but getting less.
A year later I observed more cutbacks during my January 2010 Western Caribbean cruise on Voyager of the Seas. I asked and was told the "lobster tail" being served with the Fisherman's Platter was actually langostino (which sorta looks like one but is not a lobster tail). This time I knew to expect itty-bitty portion. At the time I actually thoughtlangostino was a satisfactory substitute and I really have no complaints. The Royal Caribbean tightwad squeeze on this cruise came in the form of having to purchase a beverage card in order to get tomato juice, apple juice or any fruit juice at breakfast! On my previous cruise fruit juices had been free for everyone in the Windjammer! Now passengers were expected to be satisfied with watered down orange flavored punch they serve for breakfast. How cheap can Royal Caribbean get? Keep reading.
I decided to cruise the Royal Caribbean mega-ships first because I figured it would be harder to get seasick on one. My January 2011 Southern Caribbean on Serenade of the Seas is the smallest ship I've cruised on. Even with patches and pills it was something of a gamble for me. And yes, this was the first timeI felt some ship motion. This cruise is the first time my carry-ons were closely inspected not only for "security" but also for any packed drinks. I had packed none. It was hard to miss that RCCL was confiscating not only booze, but also any sodas and bottled water they found packed. I found that I liked Serenade's ship size and smaller crowds, but I missed the many activities available on mega-ships. I guess it's unrealistic to expect both, huh? But on Serenade OTS the Royal Caribbean tightwad fist meant you had to purchase a beverage card to get ... OMG ... bottled water! If you didn't have a beverage card you could buy bottled water ... for $3 a bottle! Premium name brands cost even more. Outrageous!Thisgalls me because itadds even more fuelto back up what others meanwhen they say Royal Caribbean "nickel 'n' dimes" you at every turn.
Don't get me wrong, I have been a Royal Caribbean fan. Why else would I keep cruising with them? I have loved all the Royal Caribbean cruises I have been on up untilmy last one on Serenade OTS. Don't flame me over the sewage spill into my Deck 7 balcony stateroom. It wasn't even my toilet that broke! Malfunctions happen and I can "go with the flow". My complaint is about what Royal Caribbean did - or failed to do - afterwards. That's when I came face-to-face with the cold-hearted, uncaring business side and legal hair-splitting side of Royal Caribbean. It was like discovering the big jerk of a man you have after his romancing stops. Being a Crown & Anchor Platinum member meant nothing. And as if I didn't have to contend with enough crap, hours went by and Royal Caribbean promises from Housekeeping and Guest Services to clean and sanitize my stateroom right away became nothing but a big bucket of bovine droppings! It was after 11pm, nearing bedtime when I was told I was "temporarily" getting moved to an inside Deck 3 cabin. I was still there 4 nights later at the end of the cruise. I even asked to speak to the Hotel Director (who I met at the Crown & Anchor meeting) who never contacted me (and I never saw again except at the last show.)
I was promised a refund of the difference of the fare I had paid between my Deck 7 balcony and the inside Deck 3 cabin. OK, fair enough. But when the final bill got slipped under my door, my refund was not there. Guest Services had "no record" and only when I produced my original SeaPass Card that showed my Deck 7 stateroom number did anyone act like they believed me. Even then, I had to aggressively demand (not typical of me) before anyone got off their duffs. I was given a credit for the difference I paid between my discounted Deck 7 balcony and their inflated, full brochure price for an inside Deck 3 stateroom (only good toward a future cruise for one year). It was not a full refund/credit of the whole base fare I paid that others have told me they received when something like this happened to them. Let me tell you, Royal Caribbean was much more interested in limiting their loss than in getting my satisfaction. And to tie up legal loose ends, I had to sign their legal waiver papers or else forfeit the credit! Do I think I have been Ripped-Off? Yes, I do. Be honest, wouldn't you?
Oh, Royal Caribbean was all smiles and help so long as I represented potential profit, but when I became a source of potential compensation or monetary loss then I felt treated like their adversary. I don't know why, but I expected Royal Caribbean to give me a courtesy call or send me a letter of apology about my sewage flooded balcony stateroom on Serenade of the Seas after I returned home - or at least someone from RCCL to express, "give us a chance to make this up to you". Maybe I was under the wrong impression Royal Caribbean took more personal interest in loyal repeat customers like me. Wow, did they have me fooled! Well no more! I see now how they operate and what their true feelings are! They just take what money they can from you and run. I think good folks who readRipOff Reportsought to know there's a cold business side to Royal Caribbean and I've seen it first hand.
To those with well-meaning assurances that "something like this is a rare event and so it isn't likely to happen to me again" is like saying the same to a person who has been raped. Mechanical failures and mismanagement turned my vacation into a crappy trip in more ways than one and it is nothing mega-ship, small ship, old ship, new ship or any ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet is able to correct.
I remember a conversation I had with some other Diamond members who were telling me about their Royal Caribbean Baltic cruise because I was curious about taking one myself. Most everything I read about that cruise tempted me to book it when I had saved up the money. But then they told me that this would be their last cruise on RCCL. I was shocked to learn their reason. They said they were experiencing more and more anti-American discrimination aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships. I couldn't understand how they came to feel like that. Then they listed too many incidents and reasons that I can't remember them all. Before they had finished, some other experienced cruisers had joined in and backed up their claims. First, they saw how Asian and Scandinavian passengers sometimes paid less for their Royal Caribbean fare than US cruisers were charged - I verified that one out myself on the internet (and so can you) but I can't decide if that's anti-American or not.
Second, they knew of times passengers (some first-time cruisers) from those countries got cabin upgrades while Americans (some Diamond members) were put on a wait list did not. What I heard them telling me was they thought that if I had been Asian or Scandinavian, Royal Caribbean would have tried to put me in an upgradedstateroom after the sewage spill instead of the "steerage-class" inside Deck 3 cabin. I want to believeRCCL didn't havean upgraded stateroomavailable, but how would I or anyone else know for sure?Then again, maybe this is bad timing and I am justexperiencing a newRoyal Caribbean policy. All I know is that there is a lot of evidence that Royal Caribbean has treated Americans fairlyunder circumstances like mine so the thought thatsomeone wasn'tgetting fair treatment on a Royal Caribbean ship becausethey areAmericancan't be justified.Third they told how often crew members in positions of responsibility (not waiters, bartenders or stewards who depend on your tips) seemed to give Asians or Scandinavians preferential and/or priority consideration over Americans unless they were willing to "grease the wheels" with bribe money. I am probably just naive and I admit to not paying attention, but I've heard payola is "how business gets done" in other parts of the world. So it's just one more thing US cruisers need to be looking out for when cruising on Royal Caribbean.
Sorry this got long. That probably means I've made spelling errors and typos that Grammar Gestapos will use to humiliate me. But I hope readers will understand how something like this can happen to them on any cruise. I sincerely hope that after such a trip spoiling crisis, Royal Caribbean will be much more responsive and compassionate to you than they were to me. But then again, being forewarned is being forearmed.
If I had a lot of Crown & Anchor points to transfer or lose, I'd consider booking a Celebrity cruise next. But now that I met the big jerk that's been a'courting me, I think it's time to dance with a new partner. Don't you agree? Right now, upscale Princess is looking pret-ty good.