Oasis of the Seas – Service Review

Let me start by reiterating that service, top quality service, is first and foremost for me in everything in life.  I expect companies and employees to give 110% as the norm.  Average isn’t good enough.  I recognize that some people aren’t as particular as I am, so I’ll preface this review with “mileage may vary”.  I think this would be a great ship and great line for many people.

I have been on two previous RCCL cruises and I have to say, I was not impressed with them.  Granted bother were on smaller, older ships on shorter sailings, but I felt the food was not to my liking and the cleanliness was an issue.  I vowed to keep an open mind and try a longer cruise on a larger ship.  I had the chance to tour Oasis of the Seas in September 2011 and felt this should be the ship!

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We planned a ToaD group for the sailing so we would be cruising with friends.  We did not have a large group and as a result, some of our rooms were in group space while others were not.  This proved to cause a lot of difficulties when trying to set things up in advance.  I would say though that the agents who helped on the phone made it less painful, but we still had to juggle things around when we got onboard due to computer system limitations.  It wasn’t impossible and we got everything we were looking for.

We received notice the day prior to the cruise that we shouldn’t arrive until after 2 pm.  Some in our group never received a notice and others had different times.  Our private shuttle was coming at 10:30 am however so we went early.  I’m not sure if this blast notice to many passengers did the trick or if things just are that efficient at the terminal, but I was highly impressed.  There were 8 of us (four cabins) who arrived at the same time.  One went to the check in for suites, one went to the right and two to the left.  My husband usually has to get a pat down due to his pacemaker so we expected to be behind everyone.  The suite guests were checked in first and getting photos taken when our room and one other were done and joined them.  As we were getting photos taken, we noticed the last room just finishing up so they joined us as well.  I would guess from walking in the front door to taking the escalators up to the waiting area it was less than 15 minutes, including getting a bunch of photos taken.

Once upstairs we had to leave our friends in the suite and go over to the appropriate section for waiting to board.  In less than 30 minutes, we were boarding the ship.  It wasn’t even noon and they had boarded suites and the upper levels of the Crown & Anchor members already.  Again, I was very impressed.

Once onboard, we met again at the Park Cafe for lunch.  It was not crazy busy yet, but would get that way before we were done.  I took a few minutes to get our dining reservations straightened out.  I had been told that I just needed to go to one specialty restaurant and they would take care of everything for me.  I went to 150 Central Park first, mainly because of the lack of a line.  Unfortunately, they would only help me secure our 150 Central Park reservation.  I then went over to Chops to link our two reservations together for one table.  This was a bit of a challenge, but they got it worked out.  Finally, I went to Giovanni’s and waited in line.  This was a hassle because they were also serving lunch so some in line were waiting for a table and some were waiting to make reservations.  Someone at the back of the line cut ahead because they thought everyone was there for lunch.  This was not well organized.  I then was able to eat lunch and the lines were much longer now.

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I needed to set up our cupcake decorating class so I went down to the Promenade with one other person who needed to get the soda package and a duplicate key card.  While at Guest Services, I received a text message from our friends in the suite, wondering who to call about sewage smell in one of the bathrooms.  I asked the officer helping us with the card and she immediately made some phone calls, getting someone to the suite right away.  At this point, I figured maybe the service on this cruise would be much better than I experienced in the past.  Instead, it would prove that this officer was one of the nicest, most helpful officers onboard.

We checked out our room next.  This is when I realized how long the halls were.  We had the very last room facing the Boardwalk area.  Personally, I wouldn’t get one of these rooms again as there just was too much noise in the middle of the day there.  My husband believes in naps on weekends and this was difficult when the movies would start on the big screen or other activities by the pool.

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Our dinner was at Chops that night at 6:30 pm.  Service was pretty good, but nothing special.  We had some confusion with our beverage credits and ordering wine.  We ordered two different bottles but rather than offering all guests their choice of wine, the server just served one to one end of the table and the other to the second end.  We ordered two of every side to share.  The server brought out three, which was good when we saw the size of the sides.  Two would not have served a table of twelve.  Unfortunately, they did not bring us serving spoons for most of the sides.

At 8:05, we remembered that our show had been rescheduled to we thought 8:30 pm.  I noticed that the cruise director was dining near us so I asked our server if he was approachable.  I also told the server that we needed to get to the show but we also wanted dessert.  He suggested that we have the dessert delivered to our cabins.  This sounded like a great plan.  I spoke with the cruise director, Ricky, who said the show was actually at 8:45 pm and we really didn’t want to miss the beginning.  He also said the 8:45 pm show typically would fill up and our seats would be released at 8:35 pm.  He called the cruise team member who was positioned in the balcony to get a feel for the space available and assured us if we got there before the start, we should be okay.  What I didn’t know at that time was the team member held space for us.

I went back to the table to wait for our bill.  Most of the dinner was prepaid, but we needed to take care of beverages and the credit.  Instead of getting our bills prepared, our server got desserts for part of the table.  Some of our group decided not to go to the show and wanted dessert at the table.  Why on earth he would get their desserts before the bills for those of us who needed to leave is beyond me.  When we finally got our bills, two of them were wrong so it took more time to get it fixed.  This made for a very stressful end to what should have been a nice relaxing meal.

We were informed later that we made a mistake at the beginning of our meal.  Apparently we should have told our server that we had a show scheduled.  Considering that they have shows of some kind every night at around 8:30 and 10:30, I would think that the servers should always ask us.

Hairspray was fantastic!  I loved the show and the actors were great.  Jim J. Bullock played Edna and had us laughing so hard it hurt!  In fact, much of the entertainment onboard was outstanding.  We even had Abbacadabra onboard for us ABBA fans.

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After the show I decided to get the soda package for the week.  I don’t drink a lot of soda, but I do drink a lot of water.  They had flavored Dasani in the machines so we figured this was a good investment.  Oasis of the Seas has the Freestyle Coke machines, which is really kind of cool.  The glasses we received have RFID chips in them so you can’t get sodas for everyone in your party with one glass.  You are limited to one glass at the machines every 15 minutes, though you found out soon which ones were connected.  There are seven machines throughout the ship in three locations.  There are two forward on deck 5 (Promenade deck), four aft in Windjammer Cafe on deck 16 (two on each side) and one in the arcade on deck 15 aft.  You can also get sodas in the bars and restaurants by showing your Sea Pass with the sticker on it.

The problem with these machines, as great as it was in theory, is that they do not service them often enough.  Many times during the day, even first thing in the morning, the machines would be out of ice or diet.  Certain flavors would be missing more often as well.  If the Windjammer was closed, that left three machines for the entire ship.  My room was all the way aft on deck 12.  If I went to the arcade and they were out of diet or ice (or both!), I had to go to the Promenade deck forward.  This was a quarter mile walk in each direction!  I sort of could cut them some slack on this one if the soda was free but this was a service I paid for.  I expected it to work.

The first morning on the cruise we had character breakfast.  It was interesting how they did this, with just a small section of the dining room.  The breakfast was at 7:45 am with the dining room open to other guests at 8:30 am.  The food at breakfast was mediocre at best.  I was not impressed.

We were told in advance our Cruise Critic Mix & Mingle would be held on the first day at sea at 11:15 am.  This turned out to conflict a bit with the Crown & Anchor gathering, but not too bad.  We checked out the Crown & Anchor gathering for a bit then went up to the Mix & Mingle.  This was poorly attended.  We found out later why.  Apparently some of the invitations said the party was the following day at 12:15 pm.  Some said the correct day of the month, but Monday instead of Sunday.  We still had fun and met a few others while we were there.

I signed up for the internet package on this morning.  I started in the cabin and tried to log in.  I couldn’t figure out how, so I called Guest Services.  Apparently, I had to go to an internet room on the ship.  The nearest one to me was up one deck by the elevator.  I passed our stateroom host on the way there and in conversation I said I was going to sign up for the internet.  What happened next shocked me.  He offered to sell me his access to the internet.  I mentioned I needed to get a bigger package and he said that he gets much better rates than guests do.  I said that I needed to have the charge on my bill for tax purposes but thanked him and went on my way.  I doubt that this is authorized by RCCL.  Once I signed up, there still were problems with sending emails so I contacted Guest Services.  We went down there because I also had a discount coupon to apply and that needed to be done at Guest Services, not the internet room.  They told me for the problems emailing, I needed to go up to the room again, but they called and said the person in charge was there.  She gave me a new outgoing server to use.  I asked if I needed to change my port number and she had no clue what I was talking about.  She said if IT thought she needed that information, they would have provided it to her.  As a result, I couldn’t use Outlook for the week and had to email out from my web client because the port I normally use didn’t work.

Dinner that night was in the main dining room for formal night.  We had sent out clothes out for pressing and dry cleaning and they were back much earlier than expected.  I was pleasantly surprised by dinner.  The food was good, better than last time.  It didn’t wow me, but it wasn’t bland either.  The service was mostly good.  The only issue was ordering beverages.  I have seen this on other lines as well.  The server takes care of your food, the assistant server takes care of dishes, non-alcoholic beverages and water and a beverage server takes care of alcoholic beverages.  The problem was if I ordered an alcoholic drink from the assistant server when he asked if wanted something to drink, he would tell me that someone else would be by for that order.  This would be just a bit better if the beverage server would go to the assistant server before stopping by our table and finding out exactly what we wanted, without me having to repeat it to another server.

This tends to be one of my biggest issues in the service area.  A great service oriented company will have their staff help you, regardless of whether or not it is their “job”.  If we approached someone and asked a question or needed something and it wasn’t their “job” or something they knew, they would dismiss us.  One of our clients asked four crew members where the shuffleboard court was.  None of them knew.  Only the last one was willing to ask someone else and get her the answer.  He didn’t tell her he was going to do that and ended up coming to find her to let her know where to find the court.

Is it wrong that a housekeeper does not know where the shuffleboard court is located?  Not necessarily.  But great service would mean that either the housekeeper would know where the court is or would quickly make a call to someone who could tell him so he could help the guest.

One other complaint that I had was with the lack of communication in the stateroom.  We didn’t see the sign that said we could ask for additional toiletries until the last night of the cruise.  We thought it was odd that there wasn’t much in that regard in the room, but that explained it.  The daily planner was at least six pages long, which was not light reading at night.  Finally, they put a lot of messages on our TV.  We didn’t normally turn on the TV so we missed out on some messages.

Service wasn’t totally bad.  We had some very good experiences as well.  There were many activities offered on the ship.  I think the Freedom class and above on Royal Caribbean is great for pre-teens and teenagers.  There is so much that they can do onboard.

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