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Why I am Officially Loyal to Royal


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A few people have asked to hear about my thoughts so here it is.. although this isn’t really a live blog but we just got off the other day

 

A little background on me...  I went on my first cruise in 2004 on Navigator of the Seas, and then in 2006 it was Mariner of the Seas.  I went on these in my early 20s.  Flash forward about 10 years, now in my early (almost mid) 30s and have an 8 year old son.  I was a single mother for some time and cruising wasn’t even something that crossed my mind.  I worked my a$$ off to provide a wonderful life for my son, and 4 years ago I met a great man who is also a great father to my son.  I was now finally in a much better financial situation and in early 2016 we were ready to book our first family vacation!!!  After doing some research I was debating between Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.  Considering I took a 10 year hiatus from cruising, I felt like everything was brand new again.  We ended up booking Harmony of the Seas for November 2016.  At the time, I didn’t even know Harmony was a brand new ship and that we were booked on her first 7 day Caribbean sailing!!  Talk about a steeler cruise to reintroduce myself to cruising!! I started googling and more googling until I stumbled upon Royal Caribbean Blog!

After I had booked our Harmony sailing, but prior to actually sailing, a friend mentioned wanting to book a cruise for 2017.  I was in!!  They were celebrating their 10 year anniversary and only request was they didn’t want to visit Jamaica (bad experience on honeymoon).  Since we were sailing an eastern itinerary in 2016, and all the western itineraries I could find for the time period we were looking at and leaving out of Florida, they all had a stop in Jamaica.  My friends found an interesting itinerary on the NCL Getaway.  It came with their “perks” of the unlimited beverage package and 3 nights specialty dinning.  In the meantime, more people joined the group and I was out numbered in the vote to go RCI.  I said, what the hell, let’s do it!  You don’t know if like something until you try it, right?  Well flash forward again to November 2017... and I tried it, and know if I like it or not!

I am going to do a comparison by category comparing my Harmony sailing to my Getaway sailing.  Now, I know this isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples since Harmony was brand new, and larger.  But Getaway is only a few years old, and still holds well over 4,000 passengers I feel they close enough to form my opinions.

Pre Boarding/Cruise Planner - Prior to sailing on Harmony, Royal’s cruise planner drove me nuts.  Several different glitches, and it that it never worked properly on my phone.  I hate having to get my laptop out!  But, I was able to browse and book Shore excursions right away, they ran several different sales and everything was easy to find. 

NCL - I couldn’t even view most excursions until about 120 days out.  I am a HUGE type A personality planner and this drove me nuts!  I don’t book most excursions through the ship so this wasn’t a huge deal except for the fact that I wanted to book a Beach Villa on their brand new private island in Belize called Harvest Caye (more on this later).  So, needless to say I was checking on a weekly basis and finally around the end of July (we were sailing in November) I was finally able to book the Villa.  

I found the website lacking and a little hard to navigate, and I was unable to link our dining between our different reservations.  Because of this, and the timing of them releasing their Shore excursions, Royal wins for pre cruise planning.  RCI 1 NCL 0

Embarkation - We were lucky to be one of the first sailings on Harmony, which you entered your credit card info, uploaded your picture etc all ahead of time.  It is my understanding not all RCI ships are this way, so I’m not going to take that into account, although I definitely liked that better.  Embarkation was fairly simple on both, fast and effecient.  On NCL we were traveling with my elderly grandmother who needed wheelchair assistance, we were one of the first people on the ship!  This also happened to me on my first two sailings with Royal (my grandfather was with us), moral of the story, if anyone in your party can justify a wheelchair, take advantage! Lol. Overall embarkation is a tie with very little issues on both  RCI 2 NCL 0

First impressions on board - Royal ships are just gorgeous!!  I have not sailed on one without a Promenade and I really missed it!  That giddy feeling when you first walk on board was missing.  We boarded NCL on deck 7, and got to see the stairwell.. talk about underwhelming.  Luckily my TA had given me a heads up so at least I was prepared  RCI 3 NCL 0

Staterooms - We had a standard balcony room on Harmony.  It was my first time on a balcony and I was officially hooked!  We are a family of 3, so 2 adults and a child.  We had more than enough storage and closet space, including room for my 15 pairs of shoes (don’t judge).  NCL, because my grandmother was traveling with us, we had connecting staterooms.  One a Family Mini Suite and the other an Angled Balcony Room.  The balcony room was their standard balcony room, but our balcony was where the ship “jutted” out, giving more room.  We had planned on opening the divider for one large balcony.  Well, “they don’t allow it for safety reasons” a quote from our room steward.  My question, why was the ship built with opening dividers if it’s a safety issue and they aren’t allowed to open them?  Major disappointment number 1.  We were warned the balconies were going to be tiny, but were not cocnerned as we thought we would have one long one.  I am an average height woman at about 5’6”.  When I sat in ththere chair that was all the way back, my knees touched the glass on the standard balcony of the mini suite.  Slightly more room on the angled balcony, but because of th angle we could only look forward not aft.. without hanging over the edge with someone hanging onto you so you don’t fall.  No thank you!  Bathrooms in both balcony rooms were fairly similar in size.  The Family Mini Suite is a glorified balcony with a larger bathroom.  It is NOT similar to a Junior Suite on RCI.  It did come with a full bathtub with a double sink which was nice.  The only closet in the room is very close to the couch and you had to shimmy in sideways to get in.  I definitely did not have room for 12 pairs of shoes (I tried to pack lighter this year).  Decor was only meh.. Royal wins for staterooms hands down RCI 4 NCL 0

Food (the best part!) - I was actually disappointed with the overall food on Harmony.  I was used to the old style cruising of one specialty restaurant and set dining time with the same waiter each night.  Traditional dining was booked so we had to go with My Time Dinning.  We ate in the dining room 3 times and 4 Specialty (Chops, 150 CP, Jamie’s and Wonderland). All our specialty dining was amazing, main dining room not so much, including service.  One night the food was just disgusting.  And another night our server left much to be desired.  NCL has 3 main dining rooms, they have named theirselves “Freestyle cruising”.  At first I thought I wouldn’t like this.  I like traditional cruise dining, I enjoyed getting to know your waiter and your table mates, I enjoyed formal nights.  When else as an adult do you have an excuse to get all fancy?? We decided well in advance we would be doing our own formal night.  To our surprise, many people did the same!  You would see eveverything from evening gowns to shirts and tanks and no one judged.  I even wore shorts and sandals one night and I loved it!  The food, I didn’t have one bad meal, including complimentary.  There is a pub type place called O’Sheehans that is complimentary, we are not big buffet people so this is where we ate most lunches.  Everything was at minimum average and at best, delicious!  There is also a Margaritaville onboard (for a charge) because of the fact they had so many choices for complimentary dining and literally didn’t have one bad meal, topped with the relaxed dress code, NCL wins this one.  I’m even going to give them 1.5 points since I am combining dinning and dress code.. it really was nice being able to go casual without any glaring eyes RCI 4 NCL 1.5

Kids Club - I should start with saying, my son has slight special needs being diagnosed ADHD with ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) basically, he does whatever he wants and doesn’t care about consequences.  He was borderline on the spectrum with Aspergers, but was just under the line.  I didn’t know at the time, but RCI is endorsed by the Austism Research Institute and even has sailings Autism of the Seas.  I was so nervous about dropping him off and having behavioral issues.  He had so much fun there!!  Everything was structured and organized, what he thrives from.  He wanted to be at the kids club any moment he could.  He was just as excited to try the NCL kids club.  NCL was much smaller, but I had expected that knowing Harmonys was the newest and best with a science, art and theater room.  2 out of the first 3 days we had behavioral issues.  Now, I know more than anyone that my son can be a handful, and he defiantly did wrong, I felt the staff on RCI was just better trained to accommodate “non mainstream” children like himself, and were able to see certain behavior be triggered and able to redirect prior to meltdowns.  We took 2 days off from the club then went back for short time periods and with a track phone.  He still had fun!  RCI 5 NCL 1.5

Ship Activities/Overall layout - Harmony was so easy to navigate, it didn’t matter it is the largest cruise ship in the world.  I never got lost once, things made sense.  The neighborhood concept is amazing and makes you feel comfortable and at home.  I enjoy having the promenade and almost a “central main location” the hub of the ship sort of speak.  I never had that feeling on NCL, it always felt like something was missing.  The Atrium was just not the same, I am not sure if I would feel the same on a RCI ship with an atrium instead of a promenade.  I may need to stick to Voyager Class or above!  The casino was in the middle of the main deck and we had to walk through with children to get to the main dining room and if it wasn’t for all the smoke I probably wouldn’t care.  There is no mid bank of elevators, only forward and aft.  You have to walk outside to get to ththe buffet... did I mention it was downporuing in Honduras??  I was warned ahead of time the pool was tiny, and it was.  There is only one main pool, and it’s adults only.  There is a glorified hot tub squeezed between the slides and the splash area that they called the “kids pool”.  Because it’s in th middle, there is no wherno for chairs.  Since I am one of the parents that watches their child, unless I wanted to go in I had to sit on the side.  They should have planned better and thought of parents.  The splash area looked good for small children, but did not interest my 8 year old.  We was luckily tall enough to do some sides this year which was a plus, although we only did them once.  Mini was gold was average for a ship, but the sports complex area was impressive overall.  The ropes course and plank over th edge was pretty sick, in addition to the bungee trampoline for anyone under 90lbs.  The sports complex is really the good thing I have to say about the ship RCI 6 NCL 1.5

Private Islands - I have only been to CocoCay, not Labadee but I need to make it happen.  I loved CocoCay, water was beautiful and it was so relaxing.  Loved everything was included like the ship.  Tendering is a downside although that is now changing!  I was so excited for Harvest Caye in Belize.  They just built it and it looked amazing.  As time went on I found out it wasn’t your typical private island and everything was run by locals not the ship, so nothing was included.  After some time I became ok with the idea that it wasn’t truly a private island, instead just another port stop.  There were some people on board who hadn’t done their research and were not pleased which is understandable.  It is also why you do a little research first.  The island landscaping and water was beyond beautiful.  I felt like we were on a pacific island.  We had the last villa on the beach so it was nice and private and service was amazing.  I defiantly enjoyed my day there more than CocaCay but I think the villa had something to do with that.. I will totally be looking into one for the 2019 GC.  Since to me it’s not truly a “Private Island” I’m giving NCL .5 points, making the total RCI 6 NCL 2

As you can see by the scores, it wasn’t all bad.  I found the ship not as family friendly as Royal Caribbean, and if you are traveling without children you may have a very different experience, and until the last day I was thinking I would maybe sail them again, just as an adults only cruise, until...

I was looking over my bill the last sea day and noticed a $300 charge from the Tempanyaki night.  My sons birthday was one night on board and 9 of us went to dinner there.  6 of us had the specialty dinning package and I was paying for the other 3.. I promise you it’s not $100 per person.  I went to guest services to correct and she insisted we used all the nights and that’s why we were charged.  After arguing for 20 mins and a few phone calls, she finally figured out that they not only charged me for all 9 but thwas dining was applied that night.  Now, to issue the refund she had to get the manager of that restaurant to do it, she couldn’t.  We waited abou 15 mins and he argued with us and didn’t even understand the receipt from HIS restaurant.  It clearly said “9 @ $29.95” then the service charge the and the total (around $310).  He was an asshat (can I say that on here?) and said I was “wrong” and he needed a calculator.  Needless to say I got my refund.  Did I mention I am an accountant?

The last night of the cruise we went to get our pictures.  My mother and I split a 30 print package for $250 prior to sailing.  There was a special onboard for that price plus a USB of all the images.  We asked a girl if ours had that and she said yes.  We went to order our prints and another asshat (I can say that, right?) said it was $20 extra.  He called the girl over and proceeded to argue with her, she was insisting it did and he did not.  She ended up apologizing saying she was mistaken and it doesn’t come with ours since we bought ahead of time.  So basically they penalize you for buying ahead even though the falsely advertised you were saving money booking ahead.  More importantly the horrible customer service from Jovan in the photo studio who not only argued with me but also very rudely with a coworker right in front of us.  Over a $20 USB after spending $250 on pictures!!!  I walked out of there with my free USB and someone who will only be sailing RCI from now on!!  Did I mention my son and grandmother who shared a room both left with rashes?  They decided to check for any infestation on disembarkation day

I feel like I may have rambled there at points and also probably forgot to touch on something so if you have any questions please feel free to ask! 

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Thanks for your detailed comparison.  Royal has really hit a home run with the Oasis class ships.   I recently sailed Freedom (my 1st Freedom class experience) and completely understand what you mean by the promenade seeming like the hub of the ship.  I think Royal puts a lot of thought into the design (and decor) of their ships creating not just a single atrium but many areas each of which is unique and special.  I believe the concept of neighborhoods on Oasis class grew from this foundation that started on the many ships before them.  The shear size of Oasis class has let them realize it to its full potential and create the distinct neighborhoods.  Each ship has been innovative when released but an evolution of what has worked well in the past.  

I feel like NCL ships vary wildly like they are trying to get it right with each new ship but never quite nail it like RCI has.  

If you liked the check in process and ability to upload your photo ahead of time on Harmony just wait until Royal moves forward with their new mobile check in process they just announced.  It looks even better and promises to be faster.

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I was getting tired last night and wrapped up quickly, I didn’t realize I had so much to say!  Royal Caribbean just delivers a higher quality product, that I think I maybe took for granted prior to this sailing.  Besides the issue the last day, I didn’t think anything was “horrible” it’s just seemed like something was missing all week.  I never had that “omg I’m on a cruise” excitement, and I wasn’t even sad to pack up and head home

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15 hours ago, DisneyBartenderScott said:

Thanks, Kristen! That was quite an effort you put forth for us! I'm even more concerned now about my upcoming NCL cruise.

Besides the customer service issues on the last day, it wasn’t a horrible week, and I think traveling without a child I would have had a different experience.  I wouldn’t be nervous, just have your expectations set at ththe right level so there isn’t any disappointments. 

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1 hour ago, KristenM said:

I was getting tired last night and wrapped up quickly, I didn’t realize I had so much to say!  Royal Caribbean just delivers a higher quality product, that I think I maybe took for granted prior to this sailing.  Besides the issue the last day, I didn’t think anything was “horrible” it’s just seemed like something was missing all week.  I never had that “omg I’m on a cruise” excitement, and I wasn’t even sad to pack up and head home

I could not agree with you more. Every time I have gone on a cruise other than RC I feel like I am missing something too. And it's small things like the ease of the drink package, having unlimited VOOM, the ease of embarkation, etc. Great summary too! I enjoyed reading it.

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4 hours ago, KristenM said:

I wouldn’t be nervous, just have your expectations set at ththe right level so there isn’t any disappointments. 

2

You said the above, but you also said "I never had that “omg I’m on a cruise” excitement, and I wasn’t even sad to pack up and head home " - and that's why I'm nervous! How can I set my expectations any lower than "omg I'm on a cruise" - that's the whole point! If it doesn't make me feel something exciting, then I will remain loyal to Royal.

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  • 3 weeks later...
6 hours ago, Bazza said:

Well written @KristenM , and I have learnt a new word "asshat" (I can say that right?!) :3_grin: Is that purely to describe bad cruise staff or can it be used in any walk of life?!! 

That's applicable to anyone who deserves it, whether on a cruise ship or not.

But now that you've learned that, you need to join the debate over which is worse -- the asshat, or the assclown?

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  • 2 months later...
On ‎11‎/‎22‎/‎2017 at 1:45 PM, KristenM said:

I was getting tired last night and wrapped up quickly, I didn’t realize I had so much to say!  Royal Caribbean just delivers a higher quality product, that I think I maybe took for granted prior to this sailing.  Besides the issue the last day, I didn’t think anything was “horrible” it’s just seemed like something was missing all week.  I never had that “omg I’m on a cruise” excitement, and I wasn’t even sad to pack up and head home

This pretty sums up how I felt after our cruise on the Carnival Breeze. It was definitely fun and there were a few things that Carnival did better, but it really felt like something was missing. I think where Royal Caribbean really sets themselves apart is with the ships themselves and with their entertainment quality. 

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I too went from RCI to NCL and was comparing the 2 dramatically. I was on an older NCL (the Star) and it was a horrible experience for me. I have heard that the newer ships are much better but considering it was refurbished the same year I was on it and still seemed run down means they don't put nearly the effort RCI does in making them better. I must agree O'sheehans is the best part of them. We found the food subpar and my wife did not have a great first cruise. I have convinced her to give RCI a shot before giving up and just in the research she has done she is beyond excited. 5 Days :o Great write up :)

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  • 1 month later...

GREAT INVESTIGATIVE CRUISING  I loved your observations I cruised on carnival 2 times mainly because I had to see if I was in a bad mood the first cruise (sensation and the new name destiny) and realized it was not me I too am loyal to royal the experience where not perfect is far better at royal please forgive me I don't meen to offend anyone but I compare the difference to shopping Dillards and Walmart . I cruise a lot with my daughter who is wheelchair bound and also suffers from the thing you called I believe odd I never heard of it but it sounds about right she is the love of my life and when shes cruising she opts for adventure ocean rather then my company I am very experienced with autism on the seas and you don't need to be aspergers to sail with them and I would bet if you sailed with them all those things that make people want to sail without the kiddos would vanish they are truly dedicated to there people and if your not to familiar with what they offer look them up on the internet they truly are phenominal once again thankyou for a great double review

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