My wife and I and another couple have recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise on the Freedom of the Seas (October 28). This was our third Royal Caribbean cruise but sadly may well be our last.
The reason for this is quite simple - 2500 Harley Davidson enthusiasts attending the High Seas Rally 2012.
Activities were cancelled or postponed due to lack of numbers, the theatre was half empty for most performances as were most of the other venues due to the fact the bikers had their own entertainment organised. Also when they were gathering for their own functions they pretty much blocked the theatre exits while we were trying to leave, I guess in desperation to get good seats.
We got fed up being sandwiched in dangerously overcrowded lifts full of drunken ‘pirates,’ one of whom, overbearing and overweight and sporting a dead Arctic Fox hat, announced that his wife’s ‘*******’ were stopping the elevator door closing, to which she replied, “No dear, it’s your *******.” Very nice.
Our chosen dining time of 6.30, which we selected when we booked, was suddenly changed to 5.30 without any real explanation, though it is pretty safe to assume that that was due to the H-D contingent and their function plans.
I may say I have nothing against the organisers of the rally. They have obviously gone to great lengths to make it a success and the charitable aspect is deserving of the fullest praise. However they proclaim on their website that they secure the best suites, presumably leaving the dregs for other Royal Caribbean customers. They also state that they pay premium prices for this and all the extras (and presumably that was why they behaved as though the cruise was for them and them alone and we were a minority irritation) but I certainly wasn’t aware of paying less for my ‘leftover’ suite - just another revenue increasing ploy from Royal Caribbean?
Our previous cruises have been around Mediterranean so this next point may be down to where we were cruising and where the crew is sourced from. We chose to have breakfast in the main dining room and there was a marked difference in the quality of service from our past cruises. Slow, indifferent service, having to ask for the bakery tray and orange juice, coffee, toast etc. Asking for cereal was a particularly painful process, with it arriving simultaneously with an ordered cooked breakfast. Only when you were lucky enough to sit at a table where an older member of staff was in attendance did the service meet your usual standards.
One element of one of our shore excursions was also very disappointing. We booked a tour of Grand Cayman, including a glass-bottomed boat trip. We specifically chose the trip because the video/photo on the website illustrated a modern vessel with a comfortable padded central lower seating area with glass angled at 45 degrees - perfect for my wife who suffers from claustrophobia and for me, who enjoys photography. The boat we ended up on was old, we had to jump a gap to get on board as no ramped access was provided, only metal benches to sit on and we had to lean forward to see anything through the flat glass some distance below the seats………not that there was very much to see anyway. A waste of money and precious vacation time.
This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime event for us after my retirement from journalism and it was considerably compromised by the presence of the High Seas Rally event.
I contacted Royal Caribbean with these concerns and received a phone call from someone who is obviously the firewall between complainers and the cruise line’s executives. He went through our complaints and assured me that these would be discussed at a later date before offering us a total of $200 on-board spend off a future cruise. Seemed a bit stingy but I accepted it in good faith and thought the matter concluded.
However my sister pointed out an article to me in the Daily Mail about a family who were on the same cruise, were offered the same deal but refused and then wen to the Daily Mail. Lo and behold they were offered vouchers refunding the whole cost of their cruise.
I recontacted Royal Caribbean but they have fobbed me off (surprise, surprise).
So be very careful if you choose to book with Royal Caribbean. The High Seas Rally is already sold out for this year meaning some of you will potentially have 2500 bikers for company on your Caribbean cruise. God knows what other groups have a cruise lined up for this year.
Below are copies of the email reply I received as well as a link to the Daily Mail article.
You have been warned!!
Royal Caribbean: How 2,500 hairy bikers ruined family's £4,000 cruise | Mail Online
Thank you for contacting the Executive Offices of Royal Caribbean International. We especially welcome this opportunity to address your additional concerns.
I am sorry you are unhappy with our previous response. Our goal is to restore your confidence and I regret we were unsuccessful. I viewed the link provided in your e-mail. Due to privacy reasons, we are unable to discuss any information about another guest with a third party.
We offered an Onboard Credit in the amount of $100.00 per person for your loyalty, as you have sailed with us onboard the Navigator of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas. I understand your disappointment with the behavior of certain guests on this sailing. Whether an individual guest, a group of friends, or an organized group, our goal is to provide all of our guests with an enjoyable experience. We expect our guests to be considerate and respectful so that everyone can enjoy their time onboard. I am very sorry we are unable to offer compensation for this matter. Your feedback remains important to us and do our very best to make improvements in the areas our guests feel they are most needed.
Mr. Reid, thank you for contacting us again. We truly appreciate your patronage and hope to have another opportunity to welcome you onboard one of our ships again in the near future.
Senior Executive Representative
Last edited by LisaP; 01-09-2013 at 06:57 AM.
Reason: Removal of employee name -LP
Sorry to hear about your cruise. Just so everyone knows, the booking of large groups is not limited to just one cruise line. There was a group on our last cruise (a different cruise line), although they were not as visible as the group you describe.
Sometimes, a cruise line might charter a ship for the entire group. This happened to us last year -- we were given a small credit to rebook for another date. Yet, there are other times that the group isn't large enough for a full-ship charter.
One tip someone once gave me was, when booking a cruise, to do an Internet search of the cruise date to see what comes up. Of course, this won't help you now, but may be useful in the future.
Another tip is to take care of any issues while onboard -- bring them to the attention of someone who can do something about it. We've had to do that and it was almost always dealt with promptly.
As to what to do now -- I'm not sure we can offer any advice other than what you've already done. Don't write off Royal Caribbean -- your next cruise with them may be a return of what you'd grown accustomed to.
I do encourage you to stick around our forum. But, even if you don't return, I hope the tips I noted above are useful to anyone reading this.
As Lisa noted, if you google "(name of ship), the cruise date, and "group"" you can find groups on your cruise. Since group bookings are often done at least 9 months or more out, it can help you decide on whether to cancel.
For example, when I sailed last month I entered "liberty of the seas December 3, 2012, group" and learned a group of amputees was sailing with me. Wonderful group, by the way.