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amandaepperson21

Is this the standard RCI experience?

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Just back from our first RCI cruise. Freedom of the seas out of San Juan (with the key). We aren’t brand loyalists. We’ve cruised on Princess, MSC, Costa, Carnival and now RCI. 

 

After hearing people rave for years about how much better it is than other lines, I had certain expectations. But in all honesty, our experience was just okay. 

 

Heres a quick list of the better/not as good experiences we had: 

 

Better: 

 

1. They didn’t care if we brought back on large quantities soda or juice from port - like two full size bottles of juice or a 2L of Pepsi. 

 

2. Actual lifeguards at all pools. I’ve never seen this on a ship before. 

 

3. Kids life vests available at the pools. Major plus!! We didn’t bring our kids this time, but we always have to bring their life vests. 

 

4. The layout of the ship is soooo awesome. Everything is together and easy to find. Plenty of elevators. It didn’t feel like a huge ship. 

 

5. VERY food allergy friendly!! I was not cross contaminated once! Someone at my table couldn’t have gluten. They presented her with the next days menu each night so that it could be cooked separately. They also gave her GF bread each night. And there’s a GF buffet section. Never seen this before. Excellent. I’m cross contaminated with my allergen almost every time I dine out, but was not on the ship. 

 

6. Embarkation with The Key was crazy fast. We brought our bags to lunch in the MDR and our room was ready when we were done. 

 

7. Self disembark was a snap. 

 

8. No mystery smells, even on deck 1. Almost every ship I’ve been on has an area with a weird smell lol. 

 

Not as good: 

 

1. The food. We ate in the dining room all but one night. The food was okay. Desserts were VERY meh. Creme brûlée top layer was liquid, not that normal hard shell. I only took 1-2 bites of dessert every night because it was just meh. Sometimes even gross. Entrees were meh to okay. Escargot was fantastic though. Dining room breakfast was limited and meh. Buffet has more options, but they were again meh. Only 2-3 foods on the whole cruise made me say, “Wow this is so good!” I ordered steak twice and it was over cooked both times. 

 

2. Restaurant service was slow. We were often the last ones out of the place. Long waits for drink refills. Long waits between courses. During our Chops key lunch, the service was just plain ridiculous. We had our appetizer before the appropriate server even came by to take our drink order. On that note, our Chops meal was of quality I’d expect in the main dining room - just okay. I’m a steak connoisseur and was not impressed. It was also over-cooked.   

 

3. WiFi in our cabin was a joke. We own a business and check in daily. I’d much rather do this from my room than a public space. Unlimited WiFi was the biggest reason we purchased the key. 

 

3. Cabin steward bombed. Sand in our sheets most nights due to her not changing them. I kept stacking our dirty room glasses so they’d be swapped out - she just rinsed them in the sink and put them back. I know because they still had lipstick on them. Minimal tidying. 

 

4. Cabin was not great. You could see the dips in the mattresses when the bed was made. It was so hard my hips and shoulders hurt in the morning (side sleeper). No bath robe. Refrigerator didn’t work. Shower head was possessed. The bath towels were good though. 

 

5. Towel exchange stinks. Cabin stewards swapped them out on every other cruise I’ve been on. Ours just folded the soggy things and stacked them in the floor. The towels themselves were pretty sad and desperately need to be replaced. All of them. 

 

6. Lots of nickel and diming. Room service is usually free + tip on cruises, but not on this one.  The bar mixed drinks were expensive compared to other ships. $9-10 including gratuity for the daily drink special, which is usually cheaper. Also the daily drinks didn’t come in cute souvenir cups or anything. I don’t mind paying extra (hello I purchased The Key) but the extras on this ship were priced higher than most. 

 

7. Limited hours for ice skating and flow rider. Long lines when it was open. The Key only had one designated hour each for these on our one sea day. 

 

8. NO LAUNDRY. WHAAAAT!? This ship departs from San Juan PR, which means most people arrive the day before the cruise, aren’t hauling massive amounts of luggage (which I am guilty of when we drive to FL for cruises) and might be staying a day or more after the cruise. Lots of laundry. Why on God’s green earth are there not at least a few guest laundry facilities on the ship??? Oh but of course you can pay $$$ to have your laundry done lol. We did this trip with one carry on and one personal item because I had planned to do laundry on the ship. After numerous cruises, I’ve never been on a ship that doesn’t have a laundry facility for passengers. 

 

9. Limited food options without paying extra. IMO there’s no reason Johnny rockets shouldn’t be included in the cruise fare. I mean, burgers are on the buffet. Maybe charge for shakes. Other ships we’ve sailed offer more than MDR, pizza/cafe and buffet. That’s all that’s included on Freedom. Others have at least 1-2 options that were premium on this ship. MSC Divina has an American style sports bar with full menu and a burger/brat/dawg place beside the pool. At the Divina pizza place by the pool, they’d cook whatever pizza you wanted on the spot - you didn’t have to pick from whatever 3 were in the warmer. All these are included in cruise fare. 

 

There were a lot of other things where I’ve had better experiences elsewhere. Like medical, they didn’t call to check on me after my visit (unrelated to the ship) the way Princess did when my daughter broke her arm (and they called once or twice daily!). Slow drink service at the pools. We were booted from the pool for having a drink but two other people holding the exact same cup weren’t. Nightclub didn’t open until 11pm or later each night. Smoking section beside main pool (should be by adult pool at best). The ship is going to dry dock soon and it is definitely needed. No nightly chocolates on the pillows (smh even Carnival does this). Little touches. 

 

This post is not to dog RCI because we did very much enjoy our cruise!! I’m just wondering if this is the norm for this line. Thus far, MSC has been our favorite (and they are expanding their Caribbean itineraries). If our experience with RCI is par for the course, IMO it’s not worth the premium rate. 

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2 minutes ago, amandaepperson21 said:

I’m just wondering if this is the norm for this line.

Just about, with slight variation by cabin/ship/itinerary.

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With regard to guest laundry facilities, your experience was typical.  There are no guest laundry/ironing facilities on any Royal ship, nor will they lend you an iron to use.

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2 minutes ago, Host Clarea said:

nor will they lend you an iron to use.

Which is unfortunate considering how your laundry is returned to you. They should re-name "wash and fold" to wash and "stuff back into a bag":classic_ohmy:

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6 minutes ago, orville99 said:

Which is unfortunate considering how your laundry is returned to you. They should re-name "wash and fold" to wash and "stuff back into a bag":classic_ohmy:

We’ve always had our laundry returned nicely folded. In fact, better than I do at home😂

 

Sherri🙂

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That seems to be about the current consensus for a lot of reviews, which is frustrating because many of the negatives are easily correctable. Sadly as long as the ships are full and the bottom line keeps increasing there is no incentive for RCL to change.

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I would disagree about Johnny Rockets. If it was free, I cannot imagine you would be able to ever find a seat in there.  

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26 minutes ago, sjb317 said:

We’ve always had our laundry returned nicely folded. In fact, better than I do at home😂

 

Sherri🙂

We just got off of the two-week Harmony Dorian cruise, and they comped us a "wash & Fold" midway. What we got back was so wrinkled (including a couple of pairs of "wrinkle-free" slacks) that they were unwearable.

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3 minutes ago, orville99 said:

We just got off of the two-week Harmony Dorian cruise, and they comped us a "wash & Fold" midway. What we got back was so wrinkled (including a couple of pairs of "wrinkle-free" slacks) that they were unwearable.

 

I guess we know this from experience, but I'd never use the wash & fold service for slacks.  It's fine for socks & underwear.

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A few things that a little research on RC would have prepared you for on your cruise.

 

No self-service laundry on any RC or Celebrity ships including no irons.

 

Cabins have a cooler; not a true fridge. If you need a fridge for medical use, you can request.

 

Robes are not provided. Available to Platinum C&A members or above, on request, but usually cabin steward will try to get on request.

 

Sheets are not changed daily.  Can’t imagine getting sand in the sheets,  Never had a problem with bathroom towels not being exchanged twice daily.  Same way with steward cleaning cabin - wonder what you mean about “tidying up” - they tend not to touch your personal stuff. How much tidying up did you expect?

 

Pool towels are exchanged at pool.  No need to take to cabin. 

 

Room service is not free on many lines.

 

Glad you enjoyed the cruise overall, but some questions you should perhaps have researched ahead of time. 

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Tulsacoker said:

I would disagree about Johnny Rockets. If it was free, I cannot imagine you would be able to ever find a seat in there.  

 

Originally JR was free, and it encountered exactly what you imagined.

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11 minutes ago, orville99 said:

We just got off of the two-week Harmony Dorian cruise, and they comped us a "wash & Fold" midway. What we got back was so wrinkled (including a couple of pairs of "wrinkle-free" slacks) that they were unwearable.

 

Lucky that you weren’t charged regular laundry price for slacks.  Instructions say for underwear, T-shirts, socks, swimsuits, etc, not “dress” clothes.  Wouldn’t risk slacks in the wash and fold bag. 

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58 minutes ago, amandaepperson21 said:

Not as good: 

 

3. Cabin steward bombed. Sand in our sheets most nights due to her not changing them. I kept stacking our dirty room glasses so they’d be swapped out - she just rinsed them in the sink and put them back. I know because they still had lipstick on them. Minimal tidying. 

 

5. Towel exchange stinks. Cabin stewards swapped them out on every other cruise I’ve been on. Ours just folded the soggy things and stacked them in the floor. The towels themselves were pretty sad and desperately need to be replaced. All of them. 

 

8. NO LAUNDRY. WHAAAAT!? This ship departs from San Juan PR, which means most people arrive the day before the cruise, aren’t hauling massive amounts of luggage (which I am guilty of when we drive to FL for cruises) and might be staying a day or more after the cruise. Lots of laundry. Why on God’s green earth are there not at least a few guest laundry facilities on the ship??? Oh but of course you can pay $$$ to have your laundry done lol. We did this trip with one carry on and one personal item because I had planned to do laundry on the ship. After numerous cruises, I’ve never been on a ship that doesn’t have a laundry facility for passengers. 

 

 

 

Cabin steward - I have found that a friendly chat with the head of housekeeping resolves problems like that.  I've only had one poor cabin steward, and it was fixed with a 5 min phone call.  Same goes for towel swap.  The stewards I've had generally will take them (but not leave them, because then you become responsible and potentially subject to a lost towel fee, should you fail to return it/leave it in the cabin).  I don't mind that they don't leave them because I can get a fresh one at the pool or on my way off the ship to a shore excursion.

 

Yes, no laundry.  And I personally think that's fantastic.  The last thing I want to do on vacation is laundry, and having a guest laundry area takes up more space on the ship that could be used for something else.  This isn't completely unheard of either; many lines don't have guest laundry (besides the laundry service), and that's just fine (Norwegian and Royal most certainly don't).  If you REALLY want to do laundry, there are laundromats on shore that are cheaper than what the ship likely would be.  

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Some ships have a couple more free food options, like Park Cafe, Sorrentos, El Loco Fresh.

 

 I’ve had mixed luck with pool drink service.  Last time on Symphony was great!  Other ships, not great.  Our MDR drink service has been awful the last maybe 4 years?  We always pick up a glass of wine at a bar beforehand now.

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9 minutes ago, BensonFan711 said:

 

Cabin steward - I have found that a friendly chat with the head of housekeeping resolves problems like that.  I've only had one poor cabin steward, and it was fixed with a 5 min phone call.  Same goes for towel swap.  The stewards I've had generally will take them (but not leave them, because then you become responsible and potentially subject to a lost towel fee, should you fail to return it/leave it in the cabin).  I don't mind that they don't leave them because I can get a fresh one at the pool or on my way off the ship to a shore excursion.

 

Yes, no laundry.  And I personally think that's fantastic.  The last thing I want to do on vacation is laundry, and having a guest laundry area takes up more space on the ship that could be used for something else.  This isn't completely unheard of either; many lines don't have guest laundry (besides the laundry service), and that's just fine (Norwegian and Royal most certainly don't).  If you REALLY want to do laundry, there are laundromats on shore that are cheaper than what the ship likely would be.  

You know, I never thought about taking laundry on shore lol. I know it sounds absolutely insane, but if this trip had been with our whole family of 5 + our nanny, I would’ve been in trouble. 

 

22 minutes ago, Grandma Dazzles said:

 

 

Sheets are not changed daily.  Can’t imagine getting sand in the sheets,  Never had a problem with bathroom towels not being exchanged twice daily.  Same way with steward cleaning cabin - wonder what you mean about “tidying up” - they tend not to touch your personal stuff. How much tidying up did you expect?

 

 

My husband isn’t as tidy as I am. There would occasionally be trash left in the floor. Like a wristband, cup cover, etc.. Just small stuff. Also other lines do touch your personal items. 

 

Sand in the bed - this itinerary was very port heavy. 5 stops + San Juan home port. Lots of beach days. Lots of coming back and crashing for 3 hours, not always bothering to shower first lol. 

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Is “meh” in the dictionary?  After a beach day it is best to hop in the shower before a nap or whatever.  I learned the hard way when a million shells fell out of my suit, always go straight to the shower now!

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On Carnival, our first cruise, when we were young and dumb, we didn’t tip much.  I know, it’s bad, and we always tip well now. But back then we didn’t know any better and were broke and thrifty.  Anyways, our room steward actually put sand in our bed the last night, after getting his tip envelope!  Yes, this really did happen 😞. Where did he get the sand?  Well, I had filled a bottle with it to take home, and I assume he used that, since it was 1/4 empty that night.

Edited by vacationlover_mn

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Yes, I think your experience was fairly standard.

 

We cruise other lines too but RCL is probably our favourite overall. Reading through your not so good list I can see where you are coming from, food for me is fine overall (agree desserts are poor) but I don't think it's very different to the other mass market lines.  Service to me is usually good but I'm British so good service to me is what many Americans would call too slow. Bad service would be being rushed out in an hour or so.

 

Things like linen, towels, robes etc are expected by regular RCL cruisers who would know to ask if they want different. Do any of the cruise lines change bed sheets daily unless specifically asked?

 

I too wish they had a self service laundry or at least an iron to borrow.

 

I think most people would agree with you that drink prices are high.

 

I can never understand why so many people think any one of these mass market lines are so much better than all the others, they all have some things they do better than the others and for me RCL wins out as best overall  but I've never had a bad cruise on any of them.

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1 hour ago, amandaepperson21 said:

Better: 

 

1. They didn’t care if we brought back on large quantities soda or juice from port - like two full size bottles of juice or a 2L of Pepsi. 

 

2. Actual lifeguards at all pools. I’ve never seen this on a ship before. 

 

3. Kids life vests available at the pools. Major plus!! We didn’t bring our kids this time, but we always have to bring their life vests. 

 

4. The layout of the ship is soooo awesome. Everything is together and easy to find. Plenty of elevators. It didn’t feel like a huge ship. 

 

5. VERY food allergy friendly!! I was not cross contaminated once! Someone at my table couldn’t have gluten. They presented her with the next days menu each night so that it could be cooked separately. They also gave her GF bread each night. And there’s a GF buffet section. Never seen this before. Excellent. I’m cross contaminated with my allergen almost every time I dine out, but was not on the ship. 

 

6. Embarkation with The Key was crazy fast. We brought our bags to lunch in the MDR and our room was ready when we were done. 

 

7. Self disembark was a snap. 

 

8. No mystery smells, even on deck 1. Almost every ship I’ve been on has an area with a weird smell lol. 

 

Not as good: 

 

1. The food. We ate in the dining room all but one night. The food was okay. Desserts were VERY meh. Completely agree with you on this one.  I was shocked at how bad they are on my first Royal cruise.   Creme brûlée top layer was liquid, not that normal hard shell. This is NOT normal.  I don't normally get dessert, but once in a while get the creme brulee and it's always been done right.  No soggy top.  I only took 1-2 bites of dessert every night because it was just meh. Sometimes even gross. Entrees were meh to okay. Escargot was fantastic though. Dining room breakfast was limited and meh.  Buffet has more options, but they were again meh. Only 2-3 foods on the whole cruise made me say, “Wow this is so good!” I ordered steak twice and it was over cooked both times. Not normal

 

2. Restaurant service was slow. We were often the last ones out of the place. Long waits for drink refills. Long waits between courses. Not normal.  We've never had unusually slow service, or even what I would consider slow service .  I would have asked for a new table assignment after a couple of occurrences..   During our Chops key lunch, the service was just plain ridiculous. We had our appetizer before the appropriate server even came by to take our drink order. On that note, our Chops meal was of quality I’d expect in the main dining room - just okay. I’m a steak connoisseur and was not impressed. It was also over-cooked.   

 

3. WiFi in our cabin was a joke. We own a business and check in daily. I’d much rather do this from my room than a public space. Unlimited WiFi was the biggest reason we purchased the key. 

 

3. Cabin steward bombed. Sand in our sheets most nights due to her not changing them. No offense, but why did you have sand in your sheets?  I don't believe it is common practice in the cruise industry to change sheets daily.  I kept stacking our dirty room glasses so they’d be swapped out - she just rinsed them in the sink and put them back. I know because they still had lipstick on them. Minimal tidying.   Not normal, but seriously unfortunate.  Having cruised enough now to know the level of service to expect, I would have either talked with her directly about it or gone to guest services after about day 2.

 

4. Cabin was not great. You could see the dips in the mattresses when the bed was made. Never had this.  I believe it though.  The ship is due for a major refurb in a few months so some things may be at their end of intended use.  It was so hard my hips and shoulders hurt in the morning (side sleeper). No bath robe. Refrigerator didn’t work. Shower head was possessed. The bath towels were good though. 

 

5. Towel exchange stinks. Agreed.  This is normal.  It's even worse when they throw a $25  (I believe) each towel charge to your account the morning of disembarkation.  This happened last cruise even though we KNEW we returned all of our towels.  Had to go to guest services that morning.   Cabin stewards swapped them out on every other cruise I’ve been on. Ours just folded the soggy things and stacked them in the floor. The towels themselves were pretty sad and desperately need to be replaced. All of them. 

 

6. Lots of nickel and diming.  This is unfortunately rather normal for RCCL.  Room service is usually free + tip on cruises, but not on this one.  The bar mixed drinks were expensive compared to other ships. $9-10 including gratuity for the daily drink special, which is usually cheaper. This is normal, and those prices actually look low.  I'm used to more like $10-12, which IMO is ludicrous.  However, Royal does let you bring two bottles of wine onboard per stateroon at the beginning of the cruise so that helps a little.  Also the daily drinks didn’t come in cute souvenir cups or anything. I don’t mind paying extra (hello I purchased The Key) but the extras on this ship were priced higher than most. 

 

7. Limited hours for ice skating and flow rider. Never experienced this.  There have always been many hours every day that the flow rider is open.  The ice skating rink is used more for the skating show than for open skate.  However we've never had a problem finding times to open skate.  Long lines when it was open. The Key only had one designated hour each for these on our one sea day. 

 

8. NO LAUNDRY. WHAAAAT!? Normal.  I would guess, but I could be wrong, that cruise lines offering self service laundry is in the minority.  This ship departs from San Juan PR, which means most people arrive the day before the cruise, aren’t hauling massive amounts of luggage (which I am guilty of when we drive to FL for cruises) and might be staying a day or more after the cruise. Lots of laundry. Why on God’s green earth are there not at least a few guest laundry facilities on the ship??? Oh but of course you can pay $$$ to have your laundry done lol. We did this trip with one carry on and one personal item because I had planned to do laundry on the ship. After numerous cruises, I’ve never been on a ship that doesn’t have a laundry facility for passengers. 

 

9. Limited food options without paying extra. COMPLETELY agree with this.  It's normal and one of my major beefs with Royal.  I'm sick of only having pizza and finger sandwiches for food once the buffet closes. IMO there’s no reason Johnny rockets shouldn’t be included in the cruise fare. I mean, burgers are on the buffet. Maybe charge for shakes. Other ships we’ve sailed offer more than MDR, pizza/cafe and buffet. That’s all that’s included on Freedom. Others have at least 1-2 options that were premium on this ship. MSC Divina has an American style sports bar with full menu and a burger/brat/dawg place beside the pool. At the Divina pizza place by the pool, they’d cook whatever pizza you wanted on the spot - you didn’t have to pick from whatever 3 were in the warmer. All these are included in cruise fare. 

 

There were a lot of other things where I’ve had better experiences elsewhere. Like medical, they didn’t call to check on me after my visit (unrelated to the ship) the way Princess did when my daughter broke her arm (and they called once or twice daily!). Slow drink service at the pools. We were booted from the pool for having a drink but two other people holding the exact same cup weren’t. Nightclub didn’t open until 11pm or later each night. Smoking section beside main pool (should be by adult pool at best). The ship is going to dry dock soon and it is definitely needed. No nightly chocolates on the pillows (smh even Carnival does this). Little touches. 

 

This post is not to dog RCI because we did very much enjoy our cruise!! I’m just wondering if this is the norm for this line. Thus far, MSC has been our favorite (and they are expanding their Caribbean itineraries). If our experience with RCI is par for the course, IMO it’s not worth the premium rate. 

 

I inserted my comments above.  What other lines  have you cruised on to compare ?  

 

Many of the things should have been no surprise is a little research had been done.  The dining room service and room steward have no excuse.  No excuse for that, and sad that's how it was for you.  It is not the norm.

 

Dan

Edited by The Fun Researcher

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3 minutes ago, kernow said:

Yes, I think your experience was fairly standard.

.... so good service to me is what many Americans would call too slow. Bad service would be being rushed out in an hour or so.

 

Things like linen, towels, robes etc are expected by regular RCL cruisers who would know to ask if they want different. Do any of the cruise lines change bed sheets daily unless specifically asked?

The "towel exchange" comments throughout this post lead me to ask whether the OP is talking about "towel exchange" meaning the pool towels, or whether she means getting clean towels for cabin use (like the towels in a hotel room).

 

In my past experiences pool towels "should" be exchanged, picked up/returned on the pool deck because as others have said,  you risk lost towel fees if you don't return them.  It just makes it easier on you, the passenger, not having to carry them around.  I know there is generally a towel pick up area when exiting the ship for excursions as well. They will scan your Seapass Card when you take a towel and then check them back in when you return. 

 

As for cabin towels, how you place your used towels may be a big part of how they were handled.  If you hang them back up, you signal that you are willing to use them again. If you put them on the floor, they are generally supposed to replace them.  Someone with more knowledge may have corrections. It has been about 3 years since I cruised so I am trying to remember.

 

I didn't think they changed the bed linens daily. If you needed them changed, a simple note to your cabin steward would likely suffice.  If we need anything special, we generally just put up a sticky note in the cabin on the mirror stating what we need or request.  I have yet to have any of our requests go unmet.

 

I think Royal is continuing to try to lower passenger expectations so that we are expecting the least for our money.  I am pretty low maintenance anyhow so I don't expect too much.  I have enjoyed every cruise we have been on.

 

 

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36 minutes ago, vacationlover_mn said:

Some ships have a couple more free food options, like Park Cafe, Sorrentos, El Loco Fresh.

 

Not arguing, but OP had Sorrentos on her ship and El Loco fresh is great but is on very limited ships right now (but expanding).   Park Care is needed on more ships.

 

It does appear that Royal is trying to address the issue to some extent of the complimentary food offering.  El Loco is one.  On the Navigator this past march I was SUPER happy to have a bar food menu to order off of late at night in Playmakers.   Wings, burgers, etc...  The wings were great.   Even though it was an upcharge it was SOOOOOOOOOO much better than relying on pizza or finger sandwiches.  Every.  Single.  Night.


Dan

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Just now, The Fun Researcher said:

 

It does appear that Royal is trying to address the issue to some extent of the complimentary food offering.  El Loco is one.  On the Navigator this past march I was SUPER happy to have a bar food menu to order off of late at night in Playmakers.   Wings, burgers, etc...  The wings were great.   Even though it was an upcharge it was SOOOOOOOOOO much better than relying on pizza or finger sandwiches.  Every.  Single.  Night.


Dan

I completely agree about Playmakers 🙂. I wish it was free, but the options were affordable and nice 🙂

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Unfortunately, your observations are spot on and standard these days for RCI.  RCI hasn’t made a notable improvement in any particular area in years it seems.

 

We enjoy RCI and used to be very loyal,  but with all the cutbacks we have been branching out more lately.   The ships sail full though so there isn’t much incentive for them to change.  It is a fun and cheap vacation, so it’s hard to complain too much about it, but sadly RCI has definitely fallen notably, especially in the last ten years or so.

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1 hour ago, Tulsacoker said:

I would disagree about Johnny Rockets. If it was free, I cannot imagine you would be able to ever find a seat in there.  

Carnival manages just fine with Guy's burgers and they are FAR FAR better then what is served at JR.

 

6&8

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