This did not start well

A note before I post this—We had little or no internet access onboard our Ovation of the Seas cruise we have been on since July 26. Certainly not enough to post anything but I kept writing it, day by day. Now my intent is to post it day by day as if we were leaving today. So here’s what you would have read last Friday if I had been able to post.

I am starting this first post on the afternoon of the second day of what I so far consider the WORST cruise I have ever been on and to be honest, that includes our Carnival cruise from hell back in 1998. This one is worse because I had such high expectations for it. One thing after another have turned this into our new cruise from hell. The worst part for me is that I am constantly disappointing my kids and grandkids. So many things we had planned to do that I had been trying to arrange for months are “not available.” Reservations I have had for months are suddenly gone. But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. 

I guess I should begin at the beginning—getting onboard. The worst boarding experience ever. When we had filled out our boarding pass information on Royal Caribbean’s website before the cruise, we were asked what form of identification we wished to provide for boarding. Because our passports needed renewing, we chose the Royal Caribbean listed choice of using our Nexus cards. If you are unfamiliar with the Nexus card it gives us easy entry into Canada by land, TSA Precheck at all airports, Global entry and more. We had to go through all the interviews, fingerprinting and background check to get them that you do for any Global Entry type card. We were thrilled it was a choice on the RCL website that we could use to check in with so we could send our passports in for renewal without having to pay for expedited service (quite expensive). I even called RCL pre-cruise to make ABSOLUTELY sure that we could use them before I sent our passports in for renewal. I actually have an e-mail stating that it will be no problem.

Guess what? RCL forgot to tell the people at the Port of Seattle that they would accept Nexus, so our friends with passports and our kids with just birth certificates were allowed to board. But we were held outside the security area until someone came all the way down from the ship to tell them that it was OK to take Nexus cards. Are you kidding me? Were we really the first people the entire Alaska season to walk up with Nexus cards? Give me a break. Our friends from Canada had also tried boarding with their Nexus cards and the same thing happened to them but luckily they had brought their passports as well. Ours were (and are) someplace in the State Department being renewed.

Once we got that screw-up fixed (took about 25 minutes), we were told we could go through security and that the young man (who looked to be 12) would scan our cards and our boarding passes. Of course he messed that up because he scanned Kathleen’s boarding pass and paired it with my Nexus card and then could not figure out how to undo what he had done. So we had to wait while someone could escort us up through the security line, get us cleared through the X-ray machines and then take us to someone who could fix the young man’s screw up. All this time, our family and friends were getting further and further ahead of us. I know that may not seem like a big deal for you but I paid for the kids to go so I could see their faces when they first boarded a cruise ship. Thankfully we did get almost everything cleared up in time for us to do that, but… 

One of the other things the woman fixing the mistake told us was that we were now on a completely cash account. She said the credit card we had registered when we did our boarding passes had been compromised and somehow been linked to another stateroom with a family named Anderson in it and NOT Bellomo. She apologized but said that meant that we could not use that card. I told her that the Andersons were my daughter, her husband and my two grandkids and that my card was supposed to be covering the charges to their room as I was treating to this cruise as their Christmas presents. The woman could not fathom that? Seriously? It took her about 15 minutes to figure out what I was trying to do and to fix the problem. 

At this point they started boarding the ship in the absolute worst way I have ever experienced in 28 cruises. Even Carnival never did that back in 2001. No numbers, no lines, no priority, just everyone going for the door. Mass chaos. Total anarchy. Thankfully most of the people waiting were nice about it but I still can’t believe there was next to no supervision. From time to time someone would make a totally unintelligible announcement on the public address system but after hearing at least six of them, I have NO IDEA WHAT WAS SAID ON ANY OF THEM. Sounded like the Muppets Swedish Chef speaking Korean. I was told later that he was announcing that Crown and Anchor Diamond members (their loyalty club) which we are could board first. Even if we had heard the announcement, how were we supposed to get to the front of the massive crowd of people??? And they were also making announcements for Celebrity Solstice at the same time.

So now we are with our kids going out of the terminal and up the gangplank. We get to the top to get on the ship and we get on! Yeah! But wait, the kids and grandkids who have been cleared and even have giant RCL stickers on their boarding passes that says
“CHECKED IN” are told, “You haven’t checked in yet.” Please excuse my French but WHAT THE HELL! How did they get through to that point and how did they those big CHECKED IN stickers on their boarding passes. Luckily a very nice lady from the ship got them taken care of in about 10 minutes but once again, a Royal screw-up.

Once the entire family was onboard (our Canadian friends were way ahead of us), I was sure that everything was going to finally get better but I was wrong. 

We decided to go get lunch (we had planned to do some other reservations before lunch but we were held up for so long, the kids were really hungry and you don’t mess with a five year old’s lunchtime) at the 270 Cafe, a little bistro type place that Kathleen and I had scouted out on our travel agent visit two weeks before. They served (from the looks of it when we went by on our visit) sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts. They did but it was our first introduction to Ovation food and it has proven to be true through lunch today—their food sucks. Only dinner last night was remotely passable. And we lucked into that one. Will explain what I mean by that later. 

The paninis were sad little things that remotely resembled a panini sandwich, a tiny slice of meat with some melted cheese that they microwaved, not pressed. Awful. After trying the sandwich I decided to try one of the salads so I ordered the “chopped salad.” The guy at the counter scooped me up a bunch of lettuce mixed with a few other ingredients, tossed it in a bowl and said, “Here you go.” I said, isn’t a “chopped salad” supposed to be chopped? He shrugged. I said, “Could I at least get some dressing on this?” His answer was that It was already dressed. Well you could have fooled me. And this was one of the better things I have eaten. 

For dinner we have early seating (which on this ship is TOO early at 5:00 pm), which means we have two tables of six for us and our Canadian friends, right next to each other in the dining room. Early seating on this ship is 5:00 pm (our Brit friends Paul and Gail call that lunch) and at 5:15 they close the doors. We had not planned on eating in the dining room on our first night. 

For the first night we had decided that the one thing the kids really wanted to do was drive the bumper cars. And the only time they do bumper cars is 4:00 to 6:00 pm. WTF? The only time? OMG. Talk about ridiculous. And there are more ridiculous scheduling things to talk about later. But let’s get back to dinner. We went ahead and did the bumper cars (which were tons of fun—pics below) but then thought we would head to the buffet to eat dinner. But this time it is 5:10 and the kids are getting hungry. We get to the door of the buffet and it is closed. It doesn’t open until 6:00. Again, WTF? We have NEVER seen a buffet with locked doors on any cruise before. And why would you start dinner in the dining room at 5:00 but not open the only free alternative until 6:00??? SO we rush down to the 3rd floor and barely slide into the dining room (I think they were letting people in late because it was the first night.) We get seated and have a wonderful time service-wise. Our waiter and our assistant waiter are awesome. But the food was just OK. Had I had any of it on a Celebrity ship, I would have sent it back. The prime rib was fatty, I ordered escargot to gross out my grandson and to dare him to try some and amazingly he did and liked them. Who would have guessed. But it was sad. Four tiny escargot swimming on a flat plate of melted butter. We did have a nice key lime pie for dessert. 

And that’s how our first day ended. Totally disappointing and it only got worse before it got better. More tomorrow. 

Get used to disappointment—Inigo Montoya

18 thoughts on “This did not start well

  1. Bob

    I don’t ever need to experience another embarkation like that. Was my worst one also. I never went back to 270 for food again. Awful paninis . The roast beef carved for my grand kids sandwich es that they built them selves was really good though.

    There are no exaggerations in today’s blog.

  2. JHC… especially in great detail in this blog, highlights how very wrong RCCL got it this time out.

    Boarding nightmare aside, drama about the credit card “folio“ permission you gave, The Windjammer not even open until 6 PM.

    Seriously, wrf ?

  3. Kathleen

    For those following, it does get better. The 1st day was a true fiasco on so many levels. Apparently there was a delay in offloading everyone which contributed somewhat to the issues. 1st day food was ugh but it got so much better. P.S. For those who don’t know, I’m Jim’s wife.

  4. Mike Preisman

    I am looking forward to hearing about some good experiences on the cruise. Your first day certainly was unacceptable on RCL’s part.

  5. Mary Jane(MJ)

    Hope it gets better and better for all of you. Looks like the grandchildren are having fun. Nice to be so young and not have responsibility for so many.

  6. Gail Howard

    So sorry that you had such a disappointing start to your cruise. I know how much you had both been looking forward to introducing the kids to cruising. Hopefully the rest of your trip picked up!
    As for RC, you know our views on them after our experiences last year on the Jewel. Unfortunately standards have slipped.
    Meanwhile your photos of the kids are great and they look to be having a wonderful time. (If the kids are happy, then you can be happy) xxx

  7. Paul Howard

    Ditto to what Gail said about RCI. We were really disappointed. When we first started cruising seriously and had done a couple of RCIs, we were told to try Celebrity because they were a “step up”. To us, that step has become a staircase!

  8. I love cruises and love hearing about how different cruise lines do things (which also seems to vary between ships even on the same line). Letting people board in one long line is crazy! I hadn’t heard of THAT before!

  9. Robert Roth

    Sorry you had a bad experience. We were on the same cruise, and just didn’t. Boarding lobby was crowded, and the announcer did sound at times like a NYC subway announcement. However, we could decipher enough to hear our loyalty level called and we were onboard within 10 minutes after boarding started. Main dining room food was great, and our seating was at 5:15 PM. They never closed the doors after that time, and we sometimes didn’t arrive until 5:30 or later (we were in Chic), Were we on the same cruise? Ovation 7/26/19, right?

    1. Yes, we were on the same cruise. The difference is (look at the copies of the daily schedule) we believe those when it says 5:00 pm and “doors are closed at 5:15.” We tend to follow directions. If you had early seating, they asked (read it one the daily schedule) you to be there by 5:00. There was no regular 5:15 seating and it doors will be closed at 5:15. Main dining room food (when compared to other cruises we have been on (20 on Celebrity) was boring and bland. Our wonderful waiter kept bringing us Indian cuisine so we had something that had some taste to it.

      BTW: Did you read my entire review so far? If you think my biggest problem was the time of dinner or the food, you have missed the entire point.

      1. Robert Roth

        I’ve read every word of your review, which is why I felt sorry you had a bad couple days to start. The pier idiocy alone would have set a bad tone to start the cruise for me as well. i’ve been on more than a few cruises myself, and my experience with the food was different than yours. That could be because I haven’t been on other lines for a few years. My cruise planner had 5:15 as our dining time, and I went with that. My prior experience with Royal dining told me that you could arrive later, and they often wouldn’t open the doors at all before 5:15, but that didn’t happen this cruise. I also had quite a bit of Indian cuisine, since I requested something spicy. They really delivered there!

  10. So we were on the same cruise (Ironically I saw my Father-In-Law in one of the photos you posted from Seaplex!). I have to agree. I actually posted on Cruise Critic forums about some “minor complaints” on Day 2 of the cruise, but felt overall things were good — things went downhill after that for us as well. I’ll never sail RCL again.. The ONLY saving grace was that our Wait Staff was hands-down the best we’ve ever had on a cruise, and our Cabin Steward was equally awesome. Food – blah. Entertainment – Blah. Crowding of Ship – Ugh. 15+ min waits for elevators – ugh. At the end of the day, our entire family (10 of us) was together, and we really had a great time together – I mean, we were on a cruise! But the ship was a big disappointment.

    1. I think you and I liked the same things. I haven’t gotten to the good stuff yet and there was some good stuff. Our dining room staff was some of the best I have ever had as was our cabin steward but you are right, that doesn’t make up for everything else. I do think the ship was in great shape and it was one of the nicest staterooms we have ever had (tons of great storage). Elevators never bother me because I take the stairs but my family complained about their slowness and there were many times I was able to go up 8 or 10 flights of stairs and beat the elevator they were on. That was amazing.

      I can’t say that I won’t sail RCL again because we are on Allure of the Seas in October and if you have little kids, there aren’t a lot of options. Disney is too expensive and not a great value, NCL charges for just about everything and the waiting times are worse in many cases so I don’t know where else you can take kids on a cruise. Thanks for your comment.

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