Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas - A Right Royal Cock Up
CRUISE WITH ROYAL CARIBBEAN OUT OF SOUTHAMPTON 13th MAY 2009 ON VOYAGER OF THE SEAS. MISREPRESENTATION WITH A CAPITAL âMâ.
We set sail on RCCL's Voyager of the seas with high hopes for a luxury holiday of a lifetime, on 13 May 2009 from Southampton, looking forward to a well-earned, well advertised, brochure stunning, luxury holiday cruising the Med.
Sadly, it was not going to be. Every day major maintenance work was being done with severely limited access on the top decks.
Of the two upper decks around the pool areas not only was the area roped off, so no access could be obtained from either end but they started resurfacing areas up top and around the pool area, ripping up the older surface and laying down dangerous irritant chemical based resin, sand to resurface major areas and then renew all the paintwork (blue) and varnish handrails. Without any warning signs we got covered in varnish from the rails that were still wet. We weren't warned or told anything about limited facilities or limited access for major and minor maintenance works prior to, or during sailing.
We were perturbed on the very first day to find the crew ripping up the surface of the running track that went the whole way around the top deck. We noticed that the staff all wore p. p.e. and face masks, the chloromethane volatile solvents being used were marked with irritant labels that we could see and photograph, and in an area where the stacked tins were on public view. There was red two inch thick sticky tape around cordoned off areas but not barricaded off enough to stop young children bobbing under the tape to try to get to the pool areas. Two children slipped and go the irritant mixture on their hands and shoes.
At no time were we advised either verbally or by letter that this major and minor maintenance work would take place in nearly every area of the ship. During the cruise we were told and noticed that carpets were still being laid in public areas, (rolls are clearly seen in the photograph on the top deck). We were also told by irritated passengers that their cabins had had new carpets fitted but prior to that all of their personal belongings had been turfed out into the hallways. One couple with young children who contacted us told us that they had been travelling with their young children and had returned to their cabin to find that their veranda was being painted and were told the paint was still wet, so they couldn't use it for three days. (The fumes were bad enough from the paint, let alone not being able to use the one facility that they had paid an extra Â£500 for). Another couple told us they were woken up at 5:00 A.M. to see a plumber fixing pipes in their bathroom!
We would not have gone if we had known what to expect.
Until day 10 of our 11 day cruise, areas around the pool were still shut off and being re-surfaced. We could see the cans of chemicals stacked on deck and being used above the deck where passengers were sat.
The sand that was thrown on top of the resin, could be seen coming down on passengers heads.
Maintenance crew had to be being fully aware that passengers could only sit in just one area of the pool - all the other chairs were stacked behind barriers in any case. Although there were labels saying "highly flammable" the maintenance staff were working directly above the smoking areas and passengers who were smoking did not even know that they were in danger of inhaling the solvent and in danger of catching themselves and their fellow passengers alight. (The crew wore face-masks and can be clearly seen in several of our photographs).
Being a flammable solvent we expected to see fire extinguishers. There were none visible that we could see.
Another facility shut was the adventure area, specifically for young children - in the stern of the ship. This was closed and cordoned off for the whole of the cruise.
In the Windjammer restaurant, one whole side was sectioned off each time the ship was in port and yet there were hundreds of passengers that choose to stay aboard as the ship making it nigh on impossible to find a table. With the hundreds of people crammed in like sardines a lot having to hold their plates of food and wait until a table became free it was like trying to find your way through Harrods January sale just not as enjoyable.
I felt like road runner in my wheelchair trying to spot and grab an available table on several occasions and trying to get pasta and sauce on to a plate at eye level meant every day I increased my washing by a machine load with some passengers obviously thinking that I was starting a new trend. I realized they thought that copying my idea was a good one and took to wearing spaghetti-meatball-red t-shirts twice a week.
Being in a wheelchair (an injury I suffered whilst on board), it was not possible for me to get off and on coaches for trips as disabled passengers with wheelchairs were not catered for and in any case some passengers chose to stay aboard because we were asked to pay to either get the shuttle bus (no passengers were allowed to walk from the ship on quite a few of the port days) or the shipâs tender.
Both were chargeable. This was not as expected-I have never ever had to pay to take a shuttle bus or tender whilst cruising with any other line than Royal Caribbean.
In the adult only section around the Solarium area, on actually managing to secure a metal sun bed (the only ones available in the adult area), the arms were extremely hot in the sun, so I burnt my arms. Choosing to wallow in the adult only Jacuzzi we thought we would be safe from burnt arms, noise, fumes and power tools, we were both bemused to notice maintenance men taking off the tiles, replacing them and re-grouting them just behind our heads in one of the two jacuzziâs. One man who stayed in the opposite adult only Jacuzzi complained to us as a crew member was using a power drill whilst he was sat in the water - he was told by the crew member ânot to worry.. it isn't electric.â.
The exceptionally loud power tools in the both ends of the main pool areas made conversation impossible, even when you were able to get a sun lounger. Looking around all you could see were passengers silently herded like cattle into small groups in hard-to-get-to areas and then roped either end for the re-surfacing major maintenance work to continue.
On tackling Captain Patrick face-to-face (a group of us), demanding to know why were were not warning, asked if we preferred not to cruise on a ship that was not ready in several areas, shouting to be heard over the noise of the power drills and vacuums removing all the saw-dust, he calmly told us and others to "sit somewhere else if we didn't like it". We thought this was appalling and very sadly, he said this to a lady stood by my husband who told him that she had only weeks to live. She told him she had hoped to prepare to die peacefully. Later, when we called for an interview with the Operations Manager and we recanted this conversation we were told by Gary Huyton "there you go, don't talk to the driver; what does he know".
The pools themselves were roped down without being filled with water until day 7 as according to Captain Patrick it had been âtoo cold and too wetâ. He told us that he hadn't expected anyone to want to use them. Sadly, WE did expect to see them, photograph them sit by them. At least that what the brochure photographs had shown us. There were no photographs in the brochure that showed roped off pool areas with stacked high sun beds and chemicals stored on deck, or ripped up running tracks, or shut Adventure play areas for the little children and many, many cordoned off areas. Again, misrepresentation with a capital "M" is what we thought; beside words that cannot be printed here!
The Operations Manager Gary Huyton told us that the Miami had been informed of the 170 written complaints that had been made whilst at sea. He stated that after 9 days in dry dock in Southampton inclement weather had prevented the crew and sub-contractors from completing the necessary work needed before they set said. He stated that they had constructed a giant tent over the ship and this had blown away. He also told us that Miami had instructed them to set said in any case and to do the maintenance whilst at sea and that complainants were to be told "no action" would be taken by the Miami office if passengers complained about anything.
Gary Huyton admitted to us and many others who contacted us during and since the cruise, that they were culpable and had broken their service contract and had failed in their duty of care towards their passengers and that the brochure had been misleading offering us a luxury cruise, but if we spoke about it to others in a public area we would be breaking the customer charter.
We had been told two days before by security if we complained about it to anyone in a public area then we could be put off the ship. (This was said in front of the customer services desk with many witnesses). Not being a violent person, I held my tongue.
The entertainment was one 70's "party" which consists of some of the entertainment staff dressing up in 70's costumes and dancing on the Royal Promenade - we watched and it was entertaining but that was it.
One night in La Scala Theatre we were treated to "Fountains" where the entertainment crew dressed up in Toga's and spat water at each other. We did not consider this the equivalent of a West End Show and professional level of entertainment we were promised in the brochure. Again, we felt this was misrepresentation with a capital âMâ.
We did not consider the daily Bingo, Karaoke or Trivia Quizzes to be amazingly or sensationally entertaining either. Sadly the friendly well-mannered entertainment staff did their best with what they had been provided with but in all honesty, did not speak English very well so the audience kept having to correct them in one way or another each day.
The funniest question being "What book was Zon Linnens murderer carrying when he was shioit..". That did make us laugh. We felt sure that John Lennon would have appreciated that.
Karaoke, Bingo and trivia quizzes were the order of the day - We felt Butlins Holiday Camp would have been a quarter of the price and would have offered the same facilities and in some areas of the shows - an improvement.
That said the American Dreamers a copy act of the Drifters were very good as were the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers but again sad the show was 90 minutes long and they were on only twice during the cruise with the Dreamers making one appearance. We felt, not the spectacular West End Shows with well-known performers as advertised in the brochure, either.
We were disappointed that there were pool games, exercises, music, entertainment around the pool areas that were accessible. No b-b-q's as advertised in the brochure No deck entertainment, just recorded music on the last day (and you could hear it as they stopped the power tools). No midnight buffet due to the credit crunch, stopped as they said, due to the amount of food wasted. (What about the amount of money we had paid to enjoy this advertised thrilling event?).
That said, there was a small display of dazzling ice sculpture, but, if behind the first row on the available bit of pool area - as we were - you could see nothing. From my point of view trying to see anything from wheelchair height was not possible, I just had to use my imagination!
We again collared Captain Patrick and asked why no pool games? Why no exercises around the tiny areas of the pool space? Why no b-b-q on deck? Why no dancing on deck? Why no live music around the pool areas when it was accessible? He said, quote: "It has been too wet and too cold" to provide any.
Of course we sympathized and nodded we understood that it was too late for us and the other 3,000 passengers, they had our money.
Over the last 11 days we have put in several verbal complaints and joined the other 170 passengers in written and e-mail complaints to RCCL in Surrey, England and Miami.
We are mesmerized into the fact that not only were we not told that we would be paying up to thousands of pounds to sit aboard a floating building site where there was severely restricted access every single day of the cruise with only noisy power tools and disruption but that the Voyager of the Seas published and paid for facilities were almost non-existent including the in-line skating rink, the adventure wall and putting golf with the cordoned off pools with everything barricaded off for maintenance at some point every single day throughout the whole cruise.
(Please excuse me whilst I take a breath and get yet another cup of coffee to steady my shattered nerves â I did this cruise to relax and have fun. I have an ankle injury, only one working kidney with 40% function â was I stupid to expect that everything in the brochure would be as advertised?).
My husband couldn't climb the adventure wall until the last day as it had been "wet". We laughed until we cried. (Incidentally there was no rain throughout the cruise although it was 12 degrees when we left Southampton, so it was a bit chilly).
The âwetâ was from the hosing they had just given the deck area at 9:00 A.M. when we turned up eager and ready to do battle with the wall. We did though, get to do it when the staff requested the emergency doors be able for us to have 15 minutes alone to climb the wall so long as we came back 8.5 hours later and it would be opened just for us â there was no access from deck 13, it was sealed off for resurfacing. So that was the highlight of our cruise, and âYes!â I was determined to try as I didnât board the ship in a wheelchair!
Did they stop Hilary from climbing Mount Everest because there was snow?
The restaurant staff, the stateroom attendant could not be faulted for their customer service. They were very helpful with my wheelchair and their manner was polite and helpful, all nationalities some not even speaking any English. However, laid alongside what we did have to suffer for 11 days for a cruise that was nigh on Â£1,000 each for 11 days of torture to say we were extremely disappointed is an under-statement. No-one should look forward to returning to work!
We felt we had little fun except for when we were stuck in the lift between decks 13 and 14.
The lift stopped and got stuck between two floors. Great fun in a wheelchair and having to be dragged up by your elbows! Thank God my husband was strong enough to get hold of and pull up my wheelchair! This was one of the few "adventures" we had!
I am and still remain truly gutted.
There is more, including video of Captain Patrick trying to placate us. I trust you can get an idea and flavour of what we suffered.
What was the most appalling was the use of dangerous and irritant chemicals and the lack of forethought and care for RCCL's passengers in regard to Health and Safety issues and yet on day 1, Captain Patrick stated âHealth and Safety is an issue that concerns us all â it is everyoneâs responsibilityâ.
I work for Kvaerner the company that built Voyager of the Seas. I have done loads of cruises in the Med and in the Caribbean but never with Royal Caribbean. For my husband this was his maiden voyage and took me five years to talk him into taking me (as my birthday present). For us personally, we feel we will never again, from a personal prospective, ever cruise with Royal Caribbean again. We called it a Right Royal Cock-up.
We await RCCL's comments regarding our verbal and written communications but will not hold our breath for either an apology or compensation.