Save your vacation, run screaming from RCL.
On Royal Caribbean, you are vacationing cattle, held captive to be herded and milked dry. You will encounter all manner of crass, tacky scams designed to wring every penny from you before you are hustled grumbling home. Royal Caribbean brings new meaning to the term "shake down cruise".
Tips for Royal Caribbean cruisers:
- BEWARE OF RCL AMNESIA: Record everything the Royal Caribbean reservations agent says to you. Bring the recorder with you aboard. You will need the recorder and a stool for the hours you will spend complaining at the "Guest Relations" desk. Get everything in writing. RCL reservations will tell lies to get your booking. Nobody on board will honor the lies.
- WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES: You will be gouged by RCL for a ride to the end of the pier. It is worth the walk. Royal Caribbean shore excursions are a complete rip off. You will find great cheap tours within a block of the pier head.
- REVENUE ENHANCEMENTS: Royal Caribbean will give you crummy orange juice, awful coffee and cafeteria food as a part of your ticket. If you want decent food, real orange juice, sodas, water or drinkable coffee, you must pay lots extra. On our RCL cruise, there was a $25 dollar per person cover charge just to set foot in the decent restaurants. Internet service is set to run at a snail's pace, maybe because RCL charges by the minute. You will be given a handful of gratuity envelopes. Swallow your anger and tip, in person, only those staff that actually did their job. In our case, our cabin steward, one bartender and one waitress.
- ADVANCE PURCHASES: If you purchase anything from RCL reservations for a "discount" you are being screwed. The same packages are available at the same price aboard the ship. When you try to redeem anything you pre-purchased from Royal Caribbean, be prepared for a long, long wait and something like an IRS audit. The usual excuse is "nobody has the wine locker keys" or "the wine steward is off duty". If you advance purchase wine you can't have it delivered to your state room. Room service will, however, sell you another bottle instead of delivering what you have already purchased. RCL tells you where and when you can have the wine that you pre-purchased. If you buy a soda package you are doomed to roam the ship for two weeks carrying the "special" sippy cup that you must drink from to be served.
- ALCOHOL: You will pay simply infuriating prices for alcoholic beverages aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. RCL will search you and your bags at each gangway to make sure you don't have any bottles. They even sniff your mouthwash. Once they are sure you have no bargain booze they will really put the screws to you. Expect to pay multiple times the retail price for a bottle of wine. You will pay almost the cost of a twelve pack for just one beer. Plan to get short poured on cocktails and bend over and grab your ankles when they bring the bill.
- AIRPORT SERVICE: Imagine the service you have received from the airlines in recent years. Picture your worst airline terminal nightmare. Visualize long lines, screaming kids and high handed treatment from puny gods behind counters and podiums. Now surround that with water and you get some idea of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience. Royal Caribbean advertising bears no resemblance to RCL reality. As our shuttle bus finally departed for the airport, someone yelled "Anyone who had a good time, raise your hand." Nobody did.
Royal Caribbean still owes us $92 dollars in disputed charges. They were going to contact us. I am not holding my breath.