|Royal Caribbean "Value of the Seas" No Longer! Buyer beware.|
I have just completed my 31st cruise on Royal Caribbean International so you might reason that I am a satisfied and experienced cruiser. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to take a Royal Caribbean cruise at least once a year.
I have been a "Loyal Royal" introducing friends and associates to cruising and advertising RCCL as representing the best cruise value on the seas.
So much has changed since the "Spirit of Norway" white glove welcome aboard reception era, but most changes have meant less and less for the cruiser even as the glitz and pizazz of their fleet reaches greater heights and gross tonnage.
In spite of or possibly due to their success, things are not as ship shape aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line as formerly. I have observed and experienced the significance, convenience and comfort of the individual Royal Caribbean passenger
decline in correlation to the increasing practice of expedient "human herding".
As I see passengers cue up to depart on an overpriced shore excursion, I recall the old TV theme "Rawhide". Because they have adopted the less desirable (but more profitable) practices of their competition Carnival and NCL, I can no longer justify telling anyone Royal Caribbean Ltd. is a superior cruise line.
Events once held for every passenger during a cruise (i.e., chocolate buffet, wine & cheese social) have been eliminated with no commensurate event scheduled to replace it. Passengers now purchase a beverage card to receive fruit juices once free to all during breakfast. Menu selections routinely served to everyone in Main Dining are now available for an extra fee or in premium fee specialty restaurants.
It is a sad truth that Royal Caribbean "nickels'n'dimes" passengers throughout a cruise. I read an article that confirmed independently what I have experienced personally. The writer took and compared the actual cost of an all-inclusive
"luxury" cruise with the comparable cost of the same cruise on Royal Caribbean with the writer paying separately for the same things included in the "luxury" cruise fare. You guessed it, Royal Caribbean proved the more expensive cruise.
And to add insult to injury, the all-inclusive "luxury" cruise line had the larger and better equipped stateroom, superior meal quality and menu selections, and superior experiences aboard. I am not a "blue-blood" and discovered that I
simply do not drink enough alcohol or require nightly gourmet meals to justify the all-inclusive "luxury" cruise expense.
I bought my usual half gallon of OJ and discovered later it only contained 61 - not 64 - fluid ounces. Though the price was the same, I received less.
I'm trying to tell the reader that Royal Caribbean is doing the same on their cruises; the fare is the same, but the passenger is receiving less. I suppose there are those ready to post comments that this is another example of "whining", but the truth of the matter is that big business, such as Royal Caribbean International, assume customer silence is tacit approval. Legitimate complaints caused Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein to acknowledged that feedback from Crown and Anchor members caused the line to restore some lost benefits. The individual cruiser voices their opinion with their wallet.
Speaking of Crown and Anchor, Royal Caribbean publishes loyalty rewards given to repeat cruisers, yet I have witnessed and experienced as a Diamond-Plus member that more and more patrons receive their entitlements only after they aggressively demand them. RCCL has no excuse to treat passengers this way. It is true that in some ports and aboard smaller ships, these "perks" are not available. But I must add here that these benefits were once available on these same ships when they were the larger ships in the fleet. It is also true that the unavailable "perks" are not compensated. As a matter of principle, that is a "scam". What I am attempting to tell the reader is this: if Royal Caribbean is willing to make entitled benefits unavailable to their most loyal repeat customers, what are the chances RCCL is removing benefits from unsuspecting first time cruisers?
I am just returned from a January 2011 SE Asia cruise aboard Legend. It would be accurate to describe the scene at the port of Singapore as chaotic and misinformation from port officials exacerbated the confusion. One needs to
be flexible as mechanical, medical and weather related circumstances can cause changes in the itinerary. In my experience, Royal Caribbean has been willing to assist and compensate losses of passengers inconvenienced by such changes. But not this time. Officially announced as due to "security reasons" (and in my experience such announcements are often PR glosses) Legend's itinerary was changed to a different port and for an additional day. Passengers who had booked their own shore excursions lost payments. I had not. The 5-nite cruise became a 6-nite cruise and passengers who had booked their own return flights forfeited their payments. I had planned to spend a few days in Singapore after the cruise, so I was personally able to make penalty free arrangements with the hotel I had booked - a credit to them but not RCCL who wouldn't make the call for me.
I remain shocked at Royal Caribbean's callous unresponsiveness to the plight of so many passengers. And it is this more than anything that most prompts me to post a report here to alert readers.
Royal Caribbean has and continues to trim frills to better compete with NCL and Carnival. In so doing, RCCL either by intent or default is pushing me toward their more upscale cruise line, Celebrity. Itinerary and personal calendar have determined the cruises I have taken. Celebrity has yet to catch up to Royal Caribbean's itinerary. My advice to readers in this forum is that I believe Royal Caribbean is no longer the best value on the seas. Those who have narrowed their cruise choice to Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean, then all things being about equal, book the cheapest fare. And if you can, seriously consider booking a more up-scale cruise.