Sep 10, 2014

Our Baltic Cruise a.k.a. The Cruise We Do Not Speak Of


Where to begin, where to begin. I guess I should preface this post with a little disclaimer...the ill-feelings I feel towards our Baltic cruise that sailed in July of 2013 had almost nothing to do with the Baltic countries we visited, but more to do with our terrible cruise ship/staff. The trip started out fabulous, as all of our cruises do...with D and I on a vacation high, ready to explore and be pampered while floating around Europe. This cruise was a bit different because it was the very first cruise we'd ever been on with a group of friends from Germany. 6 other couples, to be exact. We had been planning for months and months (even before we'd started planning our INCREDIBLE Mediterranean cruise), and growing even more excited about our trip together as we booked plane tickets and final arrangements in Stockholm, our departure port. I have to say, had it not been for our amazing group of friends, D and I wouldn't have made it through this cruise with our sanity intact. After our sailing, we were all in agreement that it truly was the worst cruise any of us had been on (and I felt so bad for the first time cruising couple we had with us!) and if we all had to endure it alone, we likely would have jumped ship after day 3!

So, guess you wanna know what cruise line and ship we sailed on, huh? I hesitate to tell, because I know this cruise line isn't known for having horrible sailings and they've more than righted their wrongs since, but for the sake of awareness...if you can help it, avoid Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas. It's the oldest ship in RC's fleet (launched in 1998) and it TOTALLY showed. I like to tell people it was like walking into an episode of Saved By the Bell...peach and teal green geometric carpet, a 13" white tube stateroom TV (really), outdated shows, outdated furniture & decor, outdated technology (think PowerPoint clipart), 90's music playing at the pool (on a loop!)--we'd literally stepped into a cruise ship time warp. At first we were all kind of whatever about it...we weren't there for the decor. But as the week rolled by, all the other issues that arose made the small things seem even more annoying. The attention to detail that we were used to from Celebrity (RC's sister company, hard to believe!) was lost on this ship.



The worst of all was the lackadaisical, impolite, and impatient staff. We were all shocked. There were two specific encounters that stand out in my mind...one where a staff member blatantly & disrespectfully refused to serve a glass of water to our friend one evening. When asked his name, the bartender covered up his name tag and told our friend to get the *bleep* lost. D and our friend's wife were witnesses to the exchange and said it was the strangest thing. Of course, our friend complained to management and management confessed this particular bartender had issues in the past, so the manager apologized on his behalf (ahem, why the bartender wasn't made to do that is beyond me?) and gave us a free bottle of champagne to share at dinner. The second issue happened during the White Hot party on our overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia. We were all dressed up and making our way through the hors d'oeuvres line on the pool deck when an overstepping staff member came up beside me, offered me sushi, and whispered a lewd remark about my skirt. I was taken aback, of course, but politely walked away without engaging...or engaging D who was just feet away (because that wouldn't have gone well!). Later that evening I informed D on the issue and after deciding not to hunt down the guy, we added it to our laundry list of complaints to review with RC after our cruise.

Another awful issue? The toilets on our floor and the 2 floors above us on both sides of the ship were clogged for 2.5 days. I'm talking feces-filled toilets that wouldn't flush and started to overflow into staterooms. Unfortunately, 2 out of the 6 couples we traveled with experienced this horror firsthand. To add insult to injury, even if you weren't one of the affected staterooms, you could smell the issue...EVERYWHERE. I still gag thinking about it. Needless to say, it was rough having to sleep and get ready in our rooms those two and a half days. Thankfully it was resolved before our cruise ended, but not before we were all scarred for life. 



I honestly could go on...the 5am paint scraping along the sides of the ship that woke everyone up two days in a row, the lack of organization of the cruise excursion staff, the fact we never ever saw our stateroom attendant (if you've ever cruised before, you know you see them all the time--they acknowledge you as you leave and sometimes even become friends, if they're good)...we left the ship with more grievances than we did compliments. The only bright shining star of the sailing was our amazing wait staff in the main dining room. Our head waiter went out of his way to make sure we were taken care of, so we all looked forward to eating dinner each night. Normally we hand out a handful of envelopes to exceptional staff members our last night onboard, but he was only the only one that received a tip from any of us. Makes me sad to think about. Oh, and the couples massage we got was the cheapest we'd ever seen on a cruise, so there's that. Although, I'm not sure what that says about their spa. Either way, we count that as a small win.

So, there you have it. The reasons you've never heard me utter a word about our Baltic cruise thus far. I've still got a rather bad taste in my mouth about it all. I realize that we had sort of been spoiled rotten with exemplary service prior to our Baltic sailing because Celebrity provided us with an outstanding experience on our Med cruise just 2 months before. Even so, those high standards should be something all cruise lines should strive for, no matter the cost incurred to its guests (believe me, a Baltic sailing isn't cheap!). As I mentioned before, after sending a lengthy email to the president of RC on behalf of our entire travel party and being called by the president's office, RC thoughtfully apologized (over and over) and monetarily remedied the situation. Which we really, really appreciated and helped to rebuild our confidence in their company. Even further, the Vision of the Seas underwent a complete refurbishment a month after our sailing ended. This is not because of anything we complained about...it was already scheduled to be done prior to our cruise. Only wish we'd known that before we picked those dates for our vacation. Might have saved us all some stress headaches! I hope since its upgrade that the ship (and staff) have improved tenfold, so if you've been on it since last July, let me know what you thought! Will we ever sail with Royal Caribbean again? Probably. Cape Canaveral is one of RC's largest hubs and since it's right down the road, I'm sure we'll give them another go. We just might stray away from the Vision of the Seas. And by might I mean DEFINITELY.

 Now that you know the scoop, I'm ready to share recaps from all our Baltic ports of call! YAY travel! Look out for the first post tomorrow!

Have you ever had a bad cruise experience?

33 comments:

  1. Ah that does sound horrible! Has the couple that had that crappy experienced for their first cruise cruised since? I'm not sure if I could!

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    1. They haven't just yet! But I know they have plans to before they move back stateside next year. They weren't deterred from ever cruising again, thank goodness!

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  2. Yiiiiiikes. What is it with cruises and toilet issues? Bleh!

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    1. Girl, I know! I thought Carnival was the only one offering poop cruises! I'm sure things like this happen from time to time, just wish it hadn't happened to us!

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  3. So to hear you had a bad experience. I have never been on a cruise before. I plan on doing it some day.

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  4. How HORRIBLE! That's just nasty. Esp. the toilet bit. I've always been very reluctant on taking cruises as I've heard all kinds of stories about it. Probably 50% good and 50% bad. Hm! But since we are gushing, lemme tell ya to never EVER fly Pegasus. Just saying!

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  5. UGH. How horrible. Thank goodness you had other cruise experiences before that one, but goodness does that stink (literally) for your first-time cruise friends. I've only sailed on RC, so I have nothing but good things to say about them, but that sucks about your time on that ship.

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  6. Oh my goodness, that sounds horrible! We are big cruisers and have sailed Royal, Princess, Carnival, and Celebrity, and in general, we are pretty loyal to Royal because all we've had was wonderful experiences with really nice and attentive people. I can't believe you never saw your stateroom attendant! That just makes me sad. :(

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  7. Yikes! I've never cruised and I'm dying to but stories like this make me paranoid. Glad management at least helped you out after the fact.

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  8. I'm really glad to hear RC was responsive in addressing your concerns. I would have gone crazy and gotten off the ship for sure!! Excited to hear about the port cities though :)

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  9. Wow! We sailed the Navigator of the Seas in the Mediterranean on RCL and loved every moment! I have been on an older ship too- for our honeymoon in the Caribbean we sailed carnival and I know what you mean about a time warp- our state room had peach PLEATHER couches, but at least the staff was fantastic as was the food, service, etc. So sorry you had this experience, but good for you for reaching out to them!

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    1. A true testament to anyone ever considering a cruise...every ship, cruise line, and experience can be totally different from another! I'm so happy to hear that your experience with RC was a great one! I look forward to giving them another try again someday. :)

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  10. Oh that's sounds awful! I'm glad y'all survived it!

    Sara
    Www.506miles.wordpress.com

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  11. Well done Casey for putting it out there. I think honest, responsible reviews are so incredibly important. I review pretty much everything on TripAdvisor because that is how I make decisions on our next travel destinations. I trust other travelers over hotel and vendor websites any day of the week.

    Not every experience is going to be phenomenal, that's life. I think you've done well with presenting the facts in a respectable way. Okay, I laughed a little too...not AT you...WITH you....right? Hehehe

    V
    Life+1

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    1. So glad to hear you say that! I was hoping no one would think it was sort of bitchy of me to write so publicly about it even after the wrongs were righted by the company. I also thought it was important to note that our concerns were heard and not just brushed off by RC...shows they really DO care about their guests and value our opinions. I totally agree with you...it's VERY important to know what kind of experience you could expect with a vacation from other traveler reviews. Shoot, it's part of the reason I write this blog...so I can share our experiences, good and bad, with anyone who might ever travel the same road.

      And girl, I don't blame you for laughing! We did a lot of that ourselves...if only to keep lighthearted about a crappy (literally) situation! HA! :)

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  12. I'm sad for you Casey that you experienced such an awful cruise. I sailed on an old Celebrity cruise ship, the Century to the Mediterranean. Although I can't compare it to the Celebrity Solstice lines, I'm happy that our cabin was fully refurbished before we sailed on it. The Century will be retired from service in May next year and I hope RCL would do the same for the Vision of the Seas.

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    1. Good! I'm glad it was refurbished! I think any ship older than 2003 should be updated...it's like a whole different world now! Thankfully the Vision of the Seas has now been refurbished. From what I looked at online, it looks SO much better than before. I think I'll still stay away...but I'm glad it's been updated for other travelers. :)

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  13. Oh goodness, that's horrible! I want to go on a cruise so bad for the experience and getaway, but stories like this make me wonder if there are any good cruise lines out there any more (that aren't ridiculously priced). Some of the stuff you said happened was jaw dropping, I'm shocked.

    Sunflowers & Love

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  14. Ugh...that sounds horrible. I'm not sure I could have dealt with the clogged up toilets! Well done for making it through to the end...and the tips on which ship to avoid if we ever think about a cruise! Looking forward to your ports of call posts!

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    1. It was pretty crappy (pun intended!). HA! But thankfully 3 out of the 4 sailings we had last year were great!

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  15. that sounds awful, and what a shame for the couple who were having their first time cruise. It's a good job they monetarily remedied the situation, but what a disappointment after so much planning! I hope you all get a chance to go travelling again together.

    Lizzy at Nomad Notebook

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    1. I know! So awful for them. Thankfully they're not scarred for life when it comes to cruising. :) I think we're all planning to do another cruise somewhere around the Caribbean once we're all situated back stateside again. Fingers crossed!!

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  16. I have only been on one cruise but would love to go on more, thankfully my only cruise was great no complaints but that cruise you had sounds terrible

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  17. Yikes. Talk about a horror story! I'm so sorry you had to go through that! I've never been on a cruise, partly because the possibility of something like this happening reaaaally scares me. At least the company compensated you for your troubles. And it's encouraging that you've had other positive experiences with them!

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  18. Wow what a terrible experience! I've done two Mediterranean cruises with Royal Carribean, both on older ships (Legend of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas). All was fine but would definately aim to go on one of their flash new ships next time!

    www.sarahseestheworld.com

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    1. Brand new is the way to go! Both the ships we sailed on with Celebrity last year were either brand new or 2 years old. They're so much different than the older ships...and that definitely makes a difference in your overall experience.

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  19. Holy cow!! That is pretty awful. I cannot believe the toilettes...gross!!

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  20. Yikes, that sounds horrible.. So sad when a holiday is ruined like this because of bad service! Good thing you had fun in the different ports! I really like Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius myself. It'll be fun to read about your experiences there :)

    www.renatesreiser.com

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  21. Bummer about that awful experience, but thank you for sharing! I currently live in Lithuanian my husband and I want to do road trip. I look forward to hearing more about the places you visited!

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    1. No problem! A road trips sounds like a fun way to explore Scandinavia!

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  22. I am so sorry you had a poor cruise experience. We have never had anything like that. But I totally can't wait to read about your ports of call.

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  23. We did royal Caribbean cruise line on our honeymoon and it was absolutely amazing. We had both been on different cruise lines before and liked this cruise line the best. We were blown away by how well organized everything was how nice everyone was and how much there was to do!!!

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