Archive for the 'Vacation' Category

An UPDATED Review of Royal Caribbean
 

IMG_7745-0.JPG First I want to say that while I can complain a lot, I almost never complain about bad service to a store or restaurant and I’ve never complained to a cruise company about their cruise before. I usually bite my tongue and bitch to friends later. I may have given some constructive criticism on review forms every year from the cruises, but the positives have always by far outweighed the negatives. However that can’t be said when it comes to Royal Caribbean ‘s Quantum of the Seas. A more proper some might say would be The Quantum Piece of Bleep and the tag line should be “You’ll be wowed if something goes right.” After this sailing we will be emerald status members, but I don’t know if I want to do another cruise on Royal so soon.

Before I get to the negatives, I do want to say some nice things. The ship is beautiful. Mamma Mia was amazing, and StarWater was nice too. We haven’t seen Sonic Odyssey yet and I expect it to be great. Our cabin steward was great too.

Now let’s start with to WOW technology onboard. One of the things that was touted was the wearable WOW band that does everything your seapass card does. It opens your room and that’s about it. Just leave it and stick with the card, that’s what everyone asks you for anyways.

There is also the Royal IQ app which lets you make reservations at the restaurants, for shows, and for excursions. Aside from sometimes being told I’m not connected to the Internet, this worked fine for me. Others on the ship can’t get it working to save their lives. We were all given free wifi rather than having to pay for it, and I think they did this because they know the system isn’t working right.

Speaking of reservations, don’t be surprised if you show up for dinner to be told you have no reservation, even though you do. Be hopeful you get someone pleasant who will accommodate you as a new friend onboard was simply yelled at by the rude hostess that he didn’t have a reservation. I’ve heard from other guests that if you didn’t book your restaurants before the cruise (which I did back in October) or book immediately upon getting in the ship then you were stuck with the buffet. There has been varying responses all over for this. Some people have complained their way into restaurants, others are flat out told no that they are full.

This brings me to the service on the ship. Mind you we still have two more days and two dinners, but aside from one night it’s been pretty poor. If you like to take your time eating, be ready for a shock. The servers take your order and bring your food as fast as they can so they can get you out and the next person in. We’ve barely spent an hour at dinner. Your waiter is now your bartender so if you want something other than water to drink then you have to ask, as many won’t bother asking you first. Be prepared to ask for a lot that was normally offered to you in the past.

The Windjammer on this ship is a nightmare. Good luck getting a table at breakfast. The guests won’t get up after eating and they doddle as you walk around with your plate looking for a table. The ship needs to make announcements that other guests are looking for tables so keep that in mind. Today I sat my ass down on the floor in the buffet and ate my breakfast. One person asked me if I’d like a table, a nice server, a rarity. The manager pretended I didn’t exist as I gave him a death stare as he walked by.

Today we went to meet friends at the American Icon Grill for lunch. They texted us to come join as there was plenty of room. Once we got their one server told us to look around, yet the manager said, “Go to windjammer.” Excuse me? The server ignored us until we asked for menus, which is when he claimed they weren’t serving anymore. He eventually checked with the kitchen and said we could order from only one part of the menu. I said “no thanks” yet John did get a salad. As we were leaving it was very clear by people still getting food that they weren’t closing, the server just wanted to end his shift as his section was almost empty.

The first few days at sea were rocky, and right now it’s very rocky. We assumed it was because of the currents off the east coast, as the Caribbean was calm. However I overheard one employee say to another on day 2, “Why is this ship rocking, it never rocks!” We found out today from another employee that the stabilizers on this brand new ship aren’t working. Add that to the long list of things that don’t seem to be working. At least the toilets flush! Apparently though something didn’t work all last week and Royal had to refund over 1000 guests their full cruise fairs because of the complaints. This was told to us by another employee. Normally you wouldn’t be told any of this by employees, but it speaks to how unhappy the crew seems to be. This is rubbing off on the guests and bringing our vacation down.

One of the things we look forward to on these ships is the pay restaurants that are known for their excellent food. Wonderland, which is considered a molecular kitchen because of the types of food they serve, was fantastic. However Chops Grill, which we normally love, was terrible. My chunk of beef was overcooked and was not a Fillet Mignon. It was a nasty chunk of beef. I could get a better cut at Walmart. A friend told me of a similar nasty and tough piece they got there, and when we were there a woman in the restaurant ordered a rare fillet as they overcooked hers the other night too. Disappointing. I ate two bites and told the server I just lost my appetite. I didn’t say it was awful and I didn’t want to wait for them to try and cook me another one. Tonight we have the Chef’s Table which was very expensive. I’ve found out it’s at Chops, so tonight I will be blunt with anything that is not up to par. Chops is one restaurant that you are told to plan to be there for 2-3 hours. We were there an hour and ten minutes. Once again they couldn’t get us out fast enough. They no longer make the salads at your table for you nor do they wheel around the trays of desserts or cuts of meat for you to see before ordering.

Moving on, many of the venues in the ship don’t work. There is no disco, they use Two70 and Music Hall as nightclubs and also where they host game shows. Music Hall is a terrible venue for anything but music, as there only a small amount of seats from which you have a good unobstructed view of the stage area. So having a game show that you want to see the participants make asses of themselves shouldn’t be there, but that’s where it will be. Also I get that we are going out of New Jersey, but we had four full days of a Bon Jovi cover-band in there. Two nights was plenty! The bars are also understaffed and you can wait thirty minutes in the dance venues for a drink. Other bars by the pool can be the same way. I’ve walked across the ship to a bar that was empty and walked back to the venue I was originally at as that was faster than waiting for a drink there.

The Cruise Compass, the daily newspaper that tells you all the events, has been riddled with errors. It either tells you something is going on that is not happening when you get there, or something is going on that you don’t know about because it wasn’t in the compass. There are also too many events like adult roller disco that I would have loved to do, but they put it from 7-9pm when we have our dinners booked every night. I still haven’t done the skating!

Many people came on the ship to do things like the iFly skydiving simulator or the Northstar. Do these as fast as you can, because I can guarantee they will break at least once. Also book the iFly the moment you step on as if you don’t you will be SOL. It booked out for the whole cruise day one.

I ordered the soda package as I normally do, but they didn’t initially have the tumblers which you hand to people to get your soda. Now this wasn’t a huge problem as they’ll fill a glass for you. However they have those advanced flavor coke machines all over the ships which work with the tumblers, but we’re unusable because we didn’t have them. Finally by day 6 some people got theirs, others like me had to go to guest services to complain to get theirs. One would think since the machines hadn’t been used at all this cruise that they’d work. Wrong! Good luck getting ice out of them. The coke at least tastes like coke, which can’t be said for the rootbeer flavored coke the bars give you.

God forbid there is an actual problem on this ship as security has been few and far between. Underage kids are in the horrid fake night clubs every night, and they consistently break curfew and nobody does anything about it.

I hope you like taking the steps, as at least two elevators are guaranteed to be broken at any given time. They will also skip your floor and not stop as well as stop and make you get off. Oh yes, people in suites and diamond members can swipe their cards or wow bands, if theirs work, and it will immediately summon them an elevator for their use. It will also kick anyone on that elevator off. The doors will open, it tells you this elevator is needed for priority use, and you MUST exit.

If you become fed up with the windjammer or the dynamic dining restaurants, well there is always room service. Except now they charge you for it ala carte. This ship nickles and dimes you more than any other Royal ship. Johnny Rockets? You pay for everything piece by piece now rather than a five dollar cover for all you can eat. It even costs two dollars to play an air hockey game. Are you kidding me?

Many people have booked this ship because it’s not going to be here long. It heads to its home market in Singapore in May. That’s likely something Royal didn’t tell many because ultimately what people like me and you are are their beta testers. I paid a premium price to do this ship in order to help them work out all the bugs before they send it to its home market.

If anyone from Royal Caribbean ends up reading this blog, I’ve been wowed. However not in the way you wanted me to be.

Note: This was posted on my iPhone and at the end of the 7th day. I’ll likely update this when we get off the ship and will add more photos to it. Until then you can see many of the photos, and problems, on my Instagram.

UPDATES: After getting off the cruise . . .

So yes, I am home. Yes, I’ve had a few hours away from the ship to think things over. I wrote this post initially at my breaking point. Was I overly harsh in it? NO! The ship is flawed and if people like me continue to not say anything then it will stay flawed. I gave them holy hell in my comment form, I’m giving them holy hell in my post-cruise survey they just emailed me. I WANT this ship to work. If it worked, it could be great. But changes have to be made. Aside from everything that went wrong, I had a great time with the people I met onboard. If it weren’t for them, I might have jumped over :) I’m making this update to clarify some things from my initial post, and of course ADD to what became known onboard as “The List.” I was channeling my inner Julia Sugarbaker and taking names and keeping a list :)

On the WOW bands, they do work for other things other than opening your door. You can use them to order drinks at the bar. But you have to take them off usually and hand them to the bartender. So just stick with the card. Plus they become nasty, sweaty and yucky. They are made of cheap rubber.

I signed up for a premium wifi package when we first got on, so for the most part I didn’t have problems. When they gave us free wifi the theory was I stayed on my original package I paid for and was refunded, while others got stuck with the basic “you can check your email and nothing else” package. They couldn’t get the internet to do anything to save their life. Of note, during the Captain’s Q&A one person asked why they gave us all free wifi. He said, “because we can!” He also claimed it was not because it was working poorly. It was suggested that wifi be free in this day and age, and they claimed they were considering it.

On the restaurants, they finally started making standby lines for people who didn’t have reservations. While a nice idea, they became another line for people to stand in on this ship. One of the major complaints from the guests were the lines.

Talking to others on the ship, the shower situation became an issue. People were not being given shampoo or body lotion. One lady was furious as she had no shampoo for 5 days. Gone are the gym-like dispensers in the shower, so you NEED the little bottles they give you. She said when she saw them on a steward’s cart she stole ten of them. Apparently some guests were told they had to be Diamond Plus in order to get body lotion. This is not true. Our cabin steward gave us all these day one, he was awesome. He was THE nicest person on the ship. Well the guy who serviced the cabins down the hall was awesome too, as he always said hello to us as we came and went.

My breakfast protest was spurned when after looping the entire Windjammer we finally found a table being cleaned off. As we approached it some middle age man screamed at us “I’m still sitting there!” He was not holding a tray of food at all. That’s when I sat my ass down in the buffet on the floor to eat. This became known as my “Japanese breakfast” by the friends we made. What I wished I had done, and started dreaming of doing, was dumping a plate full of food on the heads of the guests who hogged the tables.

If you by chance find yourself googling and reading this while on the cruise and are wondering “How will the do The Quest on this ship?” The answer is, THEY WON’T! Yes, one of the staple games of Royal Caribbean is impossible to do on the ship as they don’t have the venue for it.

In the SeaPlex, which takes the place of the sports court and ice rink on this ship, there is supposed to be a daily circus camp. You can learn all sorts of circus tricks like the trampoline and flying trapeze. It was canceled for our entire cruise. In it’s place they just held basketball, volleyball and dodgeball games. Yes, dodgeball, the elementary school game most of us have no desire to revisit.

I never did get to skate, as it was almost always scheduled at dinner and I decided eating at a poorly server restaurant was better than trying to do the horrible windjammer. Speaking of the service, our server in Wonderland and at Jamie’s Italian Kitchen were wonderful. Others elsewhere, not so as much. As I said in my initial post, you have to ask for everything. For example in Chops Grill they no longer bring the sauces for the steaks around, you have to ask them to. You have to ask for a drink, which we weren’t offered night one. One friend told us they weren’t even given water for one of their meals. The service on this ship overall is TERRIBLE. If you think I’m lying, simply go to Royal Caribbean’s Facebook page and read posts, or search for Quantum of the Seas and read some of the reviews. I’m not alone here.

When it comes to the coke machines, by day 7 (of 8) many had run out of the majority of the flavors. This was hilarious as they went into service on day 6.

Because of the way the do the dance clubs, it’s very difficult to ID people at the door like they did on older ships. Expect kids in the club, and expect them to be drinking too thanks to people buying them drinks. I overheard many of the kids discussing this. Talk about a legal headache. Some of the guests did finally complain, as I overheard a group of girls were discussing how “it wasn’t their fault they looked older than they were.” Also one of the 8 nights the DJ announced “Anyone under 18 had to leave and they would be checking IDs.” I saw no such thing happen though, and they next night the same offenders were in the clubs. Aside from the 70’s night, which was by far the most popular of all the dance nights, the music was the same crap every single night. If they would consider having either two venue, or music theme nights, these clubs may be more successful. Instead you’ll hear Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias over and over and over. By day 3 you’ll have the DJ’s entire setlist memorized.

Regarding the elevators, these started breaking down left and right by the end of the cruise. See my instagram again for hilarious photos. It got to the point that I had to post all the things wrong to keep my sanity. I heard from one guest that he and a woman got trapped in one and she freaked out as she became claustrophobic. I also borded an elevator with a guest who used their snooty privilege of summoning an elevator. I could tell she wanted to say something like “How dare you, this is my elevator!” However she said nothing after I gave her the look.

A final example of how this ship nickels and dimes people. We met a couple who came all the way from Australia to do this ship for their honeymoon. On day 6 the husband said he went to guest services to say he was on his honeymoon. He said they pulled up his account and could see this was noted. He said time was running out, and he simply thought they would be left a nice note in their cabin congratulating them, yet they had received nothing. He was told, “Oh you have to pay extra for that.” That’s WOW service right there.

As I said I do hope Royal gets it’s SHIP together. This could be a great boat, but they have to start addressing these issues and fast. Like an idiot I agreed to put a deposit down on the sister ship “Anthem of the Seas” next January. It was a small deposit, and John paid it. The ease of going out of Jersey, the insane amount of ports I’ve never been to, and it being a 12 night cruise drew us to it. However I will be looking at the competition, and I will be monitoring social media as the Anthem comes out. If Royal doesn’t pull it together, I will not hesitate to go elsewhere.

Final note, do NOT order the Digital CD of photos! Some of my photos were missing from the CD, photos I PAID for. My friend got a CD full of hundreds of photos of a family that he didn’t know. That family is probably pissed given how much they paid for that CD package. Those types are in the hundreds . . .

Below are some photos from our cruise . . .

Here
 

Mattel-hoverboard-Back-To-The-Future So it’s a new year, how time flies. While 2014 wasn’t the worst year in recent memory, it wasn’t the best. We lost Moo Kitty and Galahad last year, and Bunny Poo Poo needed an expensive operation. He’s at least okay now.

Christmas was good and bad. It turned out the cold I couldn’t shake developed into pneumonia. Fun! While at the urgent care to get treated John picked up the flu virus. Thankfully we both got good drugs and are recovered just in time for our vacation. We are headed out on our cruise soon, so as usual watch my Instagram and my Tumblr blog for photo updates. We are going on the newest Royal Caribbean ship The Quantum of the Seas.

Finally some house renovations inside are going on. Work is starting on our bathroom renovations, even though I wanted to hold on that until it was a tad warmer. We are looking into finally possibly putting a small bathroom in upstairs and then later expanding our main floor bathroom. Yes we are moving on up, a two bathroom house! Mind you this house was constructed in 1914 when one bathroom was a bonus.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for some more fun updates!

Oh yeah . . . it’s 2015, so where’s my damn hoverboard?

Christmas, New Years, & Cruise!
 

So Jesus’ birthday is almost here! I’ve been swamped and stressed with work for the past month. I’m actually working three jobs right now. I’ll make another post about all those in the future, though a full-time job is looking good for the Fall of 2015 on. Fingers crossed! Right now as the holidays approach I’m in grading hell for my teaching gig. Ack! This is the first time I will not be getting my grades in before Xmas. I have till Jan 5th, and I will be close to that due date this year.

I’m in Virginia as usual this time of year. I’m typing this before sleeping pills kick in and I go to bed, as I have to get up early tomorrow to drive back to New Jersey to pick up John and bring him back down to Virginia. Six hours in the car with Christmas music on the radio, I’m hoping for minimal Mariah Carrey. I’ll try and do a follow up post with decoration photos soon, but as usual you can always hop over to my Instagram.

I just realized today that our cruise is fast approaching. We leave earlier than normal this year, right after the New Year. I hope the boat is still decorated for Christmas. We are going on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Quantum of the Seas. I’m so excited! Again make you you check into my Instagram often. This is the first “smart ship” Royal has put out, so you know I’ll take advantage of that to post as many photos as I can.

Anyways, as I’ve not gone back Facebook still, I can’t torture my friends with Henrietta and Myra Neudorf this holiday season. Therefore I shall torture my blog readers. Go tell it!

Vacation 2014 . . . That
 

So we have been home for almost week from our vacation. I have to say with this most recent “Polar Vortex” and the snow, and more snow coming, I’m ready to get back on a cruise ship! Now don’t get me wrong, I love snow, love it! However I don’t love it that much when it’s -15 with windchill and I have three dogs to walk several times a day. At these temps, I want to just admire the snow from inside. More is on the way though, and the temperatures aren’t rising until next week.

Back to the vacation… Before the cruise we were in San Juan, Puerto Rico for two days. It had been awhile since we were there for an extended stay (2005?), but we were delighted to find our favorite little restaurant was still working. If you ever hit Old San Juan, check out Cafe Berlin. So yummy! We also found my future business, a store devoted to nativities! Well not entirely, it was a folk art/craft store. I guess as it was still so close to Christmas, they were still overflowing with them. We bought some goodies there. Check out my Tumblr for the images of our two awesome purchases.

This year we took Royal’s Adventure of the Seas. It is an older and smaller ship than our recent cruises, but not a dwarf by any stretch of the means. It was a nice change, and for once I don’t have any complaints about the rude guests on board. We visited Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Johns, St. Marteen and St. Croix. It was a lot of stops! Honestly I can’t remember what we did on each. I tried to label photos below with each stop as best as possible. We only walked around St. Johns and St. Marteen. Both are mainly just shopping ports with some beaches. We also walked around St. Croix, there was just more to see there and take photos of. At St. Croix we also went to beach. Yes, I got into the ocean. Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Croix were all new to me. We went to Harrison’s cave in Barbados, and La Soufrier, the only drive in active volcano in the world at St. Lucia. I am hoping to finally post all my current and past photos to Flickr, especially given the snowed in days I may have coming up. I had them all on Webshots, which folded last year.

So enjoy a smidgen of the photos I took below (over 1000!). A lot were just multiple shots of the same thing though. I’ll have some more posts up soon with updates on the house renovations, snow and the animals.



For The Birds!
 

Our 2014 vacation has begun! The best shot to get updates is either through my Instagram or my Tumblr pages. I can post photos instantly from my phone there. Otherwise I have to transfer them off my camera, onto my very slow netbook, and then upload them through free wifi. The phone is just much easier until I get home!

We’ve been in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico for two days and will be getting on a cruise ship tomorrow. It’s a ship we’ve never done, and even though it’s an older ship, it’s new to us! We also are going to some places I don’t think we’ve ever been before. It’s a Southern Caribbean cruise, which I think we’ve only done once before. We normally do Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. Next year we are eyeing a 12 day Southern cruise. Someday we want to do the South American cruise so we can go see Inca ruins. Anyway, as we are getting on the ship tomorrow, and it’s an older ship, I don’t know what my internet connectivity will be to post photos. I lucked out last year as it was the first year they were testing unlimited internet for a fixed price. It was only offered on their newest ship as a test run, which we were on. I’m hoping they have implemented it to others! Below is how we have spent our last night here in Old San Juan… I have MANY more photos of the birds and the forts in San Juan as well to eventually post.

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Just a Few More Vacation Photos To Share!
 

I thought I would post a few more photos from our vacation. At some point I need to update my side bar links, as well as my main domain’s links to my photo galleries as that website went caput. I don’t see myself organizing things on Flickr until this summer at some point when I have a little more free time to do so.

Each one gives a short description of what it’s a photo of, and this time I did a better job of not over sharpening them, reducing the file size, and keeping them their original pixel size. I’m loving my new camera, and by next year’s trip I should have mastered it pretty well.

Next year we leave out of San Juan, so hopefully we will go a few days before the ship sails to enjoy it. Unlike Ft. Lauderdale, it won’t be dead as a doornail. I’m pretty over that place, and each year it’s become more and more of a ghost town. It might have something to do with the time of year we are there, but we noticed a lot of the bars, restaurants and clubs had closed up compared to previous years.

We also might just go to Orlando first and then over to San Juan, as it’s been years since we went there and I am dying to see Harry Potter world. I honestly can’t believe I just haven’t booked a trip to go, even if by myself.

Vacation Photos And Mini-Cap
 

So I’m just now finally getting around to posting about our vacation. Below are some photos of the places we went and things we saw, both on and off the ship. A few of the photos I sharpened a little too much after resizing them, my bad! I need to fix my blog’s upload limit so I’m not constantly having to resize the photos to post on it.

This was our second time on this boat, Allure of the Seas, and our third time in a row on ships of the same class. The newness has definitely worn off, so next year we are changing things up. We are going on a smaller ship that we’ve never been on, and to the Southern Caribbean for stops we’ve not been to (or been to in years). There definitely is some new things to do at these stops, everything from volcanoes to waterfalls. This ship, while smaller, really isn’t tiny. We’ve been on even smaller ships in the past, so I’m not worried about the size. Going to a smaller ship will however mean the lack of a lot of things we’ve come to enjoy, such as the diving show and all the smaller speciality restaurants. However I won’t miss the larger amounts of people on these bigger ships. The past few years have seen an influx of rude rude rude people from certain countries in South America that are on summer break in January, so the families and all their kids show up. It wasn’t my imagination that these people were rude and nasty either, from other passengers to even the ship’s crew, they all knew who the problem guests onboard were. It’s ironic because normally it’s the people from the U.S. who have the reputation of being rude and nasty, but we have nothing on these folks!

Aside from the rude people, I did have fun for about the first 5 days. I participated in a “flash mob” dance class, that pulled it off in public on the final night of the cruise. We went to see Blackbeard’s tower and a bunch of other colonial estates on Saint Thomas, which I never saw before. I also got a lot of good cooking spices on Saint Martins. However about day four is when I started to not feel so good. The ship was definitely rocking a lot, and that upset my stomach. Normally it doesn’t bother me that much, but this year it did. I spent most of one day in bed fending off sickness. I had almost no appetite for the whole of the cruise, several migraines, and I ended up developing a horrible rash all over my face and arms. Fun times!

Upon arriving back, both John and I ended up with horrible colds, which we are just now getting over. Anyways, next year will hopefully be much better. Enjoy some of the photos!

Vacation Time!
 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after Christmas and Halloween that is . . . . It’s vacation time! We fly out to Ft. Lauderdale today, and hop on the Allure of the Seas tomorrow. It’s an Eastern Caribbean cruise this time, so no pyramids. There are a few historic pirate forts to see, so I’m probably going to do those since I never have.

With the updates to my blog software, and my new camera, I learned over Christmas that the photos exceed the maximum upload limit to the blog unless I reduce their file size. I googled a way to fix this within the blog software, I just haven’t done it and don’t want to do it now, because with my luck I’ll break the blog. I do have some minimal photo editing software on my netbook that I’m taking. Nothing fancy like on my Mac, just Picasa. But it should do the trick should I get some excellent shots with my new camera. However most of the photo updates until I get home will likely just be from my phone. If you’re on Instagram you can follow me at RDustinC. You can also just check out My Tumblr from time to time, as I’ll post good photos to there from a variety of photo apps too.

Any thrilling and exciting updates I’ll of course post to the blog when I get a chance. This cruise goes to small islands, so I think it’s going to be fairly low key. I don’t snorkel or deep sea dive, and I’m not a huge beach person. So I don’t know what I’ll have in the way of stories. Next year I think we might look into a South American cruise. We’ve been talking about that for a while now.

Chichen Itza Photos
 

Just some quick photos from Chichen Itza. These are ones I have so far edited and corrected a bit. In time I’ll add more to my webshots and provide a link.

I really enjoyed seeing the place, but we had very little time there. Most of the day was spent traveling to and from. I told John one year we should do a tour of Mexico/Central America to get to all the places we haven’t seen. We also want to do Machu Picchu too.

I also added in two of the photos of us we had taken on the cruise.

Home At Last!
 

Finally home, and had a blast! The internet on the ship was horrid, which is why I didn’t post here more. I did update my Tumblr as much as I could. So over the next week I’ll upload photos and post some stories. Loved seeing (and meeting!) the cast of “Hairspray.” Made some great new cruise friends. Loved seeing Chichen Itza. We’ve also booked next year’s cruise already.

-Dustin