Royal Caribbean Cruise Was A Royal Disaster

A few months ago, a couple of friends and I took a 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean. It ended up being a horrible cruise (in our opinion and many other cruisers). Since then, I have attempted to write to the CEO of Royal Caribbean (RCCL), a couple of higher up SVP’s, and finally the Better Business Bureau. To make a long story short… they only gave us $20 credit/person, which was to cover the lunch we had to buy since the ship was severely delayed. I don’t even consider that any type of compensation, since we would have received lunch on the ship had we boarded on time (and not had to buy lunch on land for the $20). RCCL made no other attempt at any compensation at all, even though I shelled out nearly $3000 for the cruise-fare alone. My (somewhat long) email to the executive staff @ RCCL…


I am finally writing this letter / email today to express my displeasure about a cruise I took in February with Royal Caribbean International / RCCL. I expected to hear from Royal Caribbean since I have attempted to contact them, but to this date I have received no correspondence from them.

I started planning this cruise early this year, and after a lot of research, I found that many former passengers had written great reviews about Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, sailing out of Galveston, TX. Since I have cruised with Royal Caribbean before (and others), I had expectations that this was going to be a wonderful cruise. Unfortunately I was wrong on this count.

I had booked a Junior Suite for the February 18th sailing on the Rhapsody. We flew into Galveston the day before embarkation to be sure we would have plenty of time to get to the ship for an on-time departure. The evening we arrived in Galveston, we received a call from a Royal Caribbean agent stating that the ship would be late, but had no further information as to how late or why. Because we did not know the new departure time, we got to the port on-time and checked in our luggage and figured we would do some shopping. At that time we were told the ship would most likely not depart until around 11 PM or even midnight (compared to 4 PM!). We were told that the delay was because of some electrical engine problems, but we would later find out from several crew members that this was not the case, and merely an excuse because their “dry-dock” was poorly timed.

After walking around for hours, and having sore feet, we decided it was better to return to the terminal to wait there. Once we got there it was like a zoo. There were literally many hundreds of people everywhere. Everyone was told to sit on folding chairs in certain sections. We were happy to sit on chairs, compared to sitting on the ground, but after sitting there for a couple of more hours without any real updates as to the ship’s status, it became quite a bad start to our vacation. There were absolutely no drinks (not even water) provided for anyone – quite disappointing.

The ship did finally depart a little before midnight, although the experience so far was a real disappointment. One of the highlights of a cruise is being on the deck with everyone during daylight hours to watch as the ships depart. Unfortunately for us it was dark already. As for activities for passengers, there was absolutely nothing for us to do. The pool and hot tubs were closed, the casino never opened, even after heading out to sea… We were basically forced to turn in for the night, not long after sailing. Before turning in, I went to take a shower, and the cabin had no hot water. From what we heard, this was not uncommon that night, but at least we had water, unlike some others who did not.

The next day we figured that everything was going to be better now, having gone through such a bitter start. We then found out that the main eating area for breakfast, lunches, and casual dinners, the Windjammer, was closed and would remain closed for the duration of our cruise, because remodeling for dry-dock had not yet completed. It was not a minor delay either, whereby they might open a day late or so. Instead the entire floor was completely torn up, no fixtures where in place, etc, from what we saw through the windows.

Because the Windjammer was unexpectedly closed, it made meal service very frustrating. They had diverted breakfast and lunch service into the main dining room, which is normally reserved for formal “menu style” breakfast and lunches, and made it into a big buffet. The lines were absolutely horrendous, turning something that is supposed to be relaxing into an unpleasant event every morning and afternoon. Needless to say, we were quite disappointed that Royal Caribbean had turned it into a big buffet, with only a small (repeating daily) menu available during lunch. Once of the reasons many people take a cruise is for the upscale and relaxing sit-down dining, but this option was taken away from us for breakfast and lunch because of poor planning by Royal Caribbean.

Since the first 2 full days of the cruise was going to be at sea, we decided it would be a perfect day to relax at the pool. Yet again, another poorly timed dry-dock issue appeared when we found out the entire pool was closed (day 2) because they were painting it! There was literally yellow caution tape everywhere blocking the pool, while people were expecting to be able to swim and relax. That’s what we had paid for at least. The hot tubs were closed off and on throughout the trip for maintenance (day 3 and a few more times later), and the water was luke-warm until the last night, despite my two complaints to staff members who told me the water temperature was preset, so that was what it should be at (other people were also commenting how cold the water was).

Walking around the deck was an even more upsetting experience. There were rolls of old carpet shoved in corners and even a huge roll of wiring with dangerous rusty nails sticking out of it!

As the week went on, the troubles continued. During one lunch, Royal Caribbean ran out of buns and condiments for hamburgers. Another dinner service was running so late that we almost ran into the second seating. We ended up sitting at our table waiting for close to an hour for our dinner.

One day, after returning from port, we were in the room sitting on the bed, and a Royal Caribbean employee was on a the hand railing right outside of our stateroom. He looked in, politely waved and smiled, and kept on with his painting. This could have been quite embarrassing had I just come out of the shower.

Another day, coming back from port, one of the elevators was being worked on, causing quite a delay to get back to the cabins. This was just one of many problems with elevators. We heard of people getting stuck in them for more than 20 minutes!

I won’t go on with more of the negative details. Instead I would like my complaint resolved. I had contacted Royal Caribbean customer service before (including the purser during the cruise), but never got anywhere. I was also told I would be contacted, which also never occurred.

I spent $2861 just for the cruise fare alone! To make this matter right, I would like some sort of compensation, such as credit for a future comparable cruise (hopefully one that won’t have all these issues).

I am sending a copy of this complaint to the Better Business Bureau.

Secondly, if this issue is not resolved over the next two weeks I will post this experience, along with the photos to the Consumerist web site ( for everyone to see. I don’t like to resort to this, but I feel like RCCL is simply ignoring me now that they have my money.



rccl3.jpgrccl4.jpgrccl5.jpgRCCL’s response:

Dear Mr. [redacted],

Thank you for your inquiry through the Internet to our corporate office regarding the above-referenced cruise. Messrs. Fain and Goldstein and Ms. Norsworthy were pleased to hear from you and, after reading your e-mail, have asked that I respond on their behalf. As a Crown and Anchor Society member, we especially value your patronage of Royal Caribbean International and appreciate this opportunity to address your concerns.

We are very pleased that you and your traveling companions joined us onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas. As great measures are taken in all areas of operation to ensure that our guests enjoy the most relaxing and rewarding cruise experience, we were sorry to learn of your displeasure with certain aspects of this sailing. It is never our intention to disappoint our guests in any way and we would like to offer our most sincere apologies for any elements of your time with us that did not fully meet your expectations.

Feedback from our guests is always welcome and we appreciate the time you have taken to share your experience onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas with us. We truly regret any inconvenience you encountered and assure you that the observations outlined in your letter, including those pertaining to pool maintenance, menu choices and service in the dining room, and the roll of wiring left by the pool, have been directed to the appropriate management teams for further review. We are committed to continually improving our product and services and thank you for bringing these important matters to our attention.

Additionally, we regret that you were not informed of the delay in boarding. However, an attempt was made to contact all guests prior to their arrival in Galveston. Nevertheless, we offer our sincere apologies that you were not aware of this delay and the goodwill gesture of a $20.00 onboard credit offered to assist with covering any lunch costs incurred while waiting to board the ship.

While we understand you remain disappointed with this recent cruise and sympathize with the concerns expressed, we must kindly advise that we are unable to honor your request for any compensation. We are sorry for any disappointment you may have with our decision and remain genuinely apologetic for any inconvenience you encountered during your time with us.

Again, Mr. [redacted], thank you for contacting our corporate office. We look forward to regaining your faith in Royal Caribbean International and hope to have the opportunity to welcome all of you back onboard one of our ships again in the future.

Joan Bernheimer
Sr. Executive Representative


Even if you think some of the complaints are minor, these aren’t:

• closed casino
• closed pool
• closed dining area, buffet only
• cold showers
• tepid hot-tubs

RCCL shouldn’t have even put this ship out to see with passengers on it. Or, they could’ve informed the passengers that many of the expected amenities would be unavailable and given customers a chance to cancel. The $20 on-board credit is a pittance, adding injury to the insult of the copy and pasted customer service letter full of empty apologies.

Rob should write Messrs. Fain and Goldstein and Ms. Norsworthy and let them know the person responding on their behalf is a poor representative if they actually care at all about customer service.

Personally, we have little interest in getting on one of these floating prisons but if we did we would certainly hope we would be able to enjoy the full compliment of floating prison services and accommodations.

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