The cruise industry has long been a European and North American exclusivity. But as the cruise industry matures, companies are trying to open new markets such as in South America and the Middle East. Asia is definitely the biggest nut to crack and Royal Caribbean is sending some shiny new ships to the region in an attempt to grow their presence. Today, I review the Spectrum of the Seas, one of the biggest and newest cruise ships of the Royal Caribbean fleet and specially built to attire the Asian markets. And as it sails from its home port of Singapore with a heavy Chinese and Indian presence, Royal Caribbean made sure they would please the most guest as possible with a multi-cultural Asian-oriented ship. But is this formula as easy to pull off as what it has been championing in the West for the past decades? This is what I will cover in this review…
In This Article...
- Check-in / Check-out: 3/10
- Entertainment onboard: 7/10
- Ship Common Areas 4/10
- Theater Shows: 10/10
- Ship Comfort: 5/10
- Room Comfort: 6/10
- Service Quality: 6/10
- Food: 6/10
- Cleanliness: 6/10
- Quality/Price: 4/10
- Overall satisfaction: 5/10
I have long been a fan of what Royal Caribbean has been doing in the cruise industry. I have even set the standard of my cruise reviews on this website to compare ships against Royal Caribean, which, in general, excel in every category evenly to around 8/10. Nothing is outstandingly better than the rest, but neither is anything worst, RCCL has always been able to please as many guests with their excellent ships, top-of-the-line service, and great amenities. But this time, Royal Caribbean has had to reinvent itself to please the Asian market. And to me, this has been a disappointing experience as an experienced cruiser. I hope this is just a breach of the standards and the company did not descend into bad management. But in my experience, almost everything that Royal Caribbean was doing right, went wrong on this ship… I felt like with this mega ship, they were trying to impress the crowd with shows and do little more in other departments. To me, the experience summarizes as a show at sea, with a cheap overnight stay…
Check-in and Check out
The check-in on the ship was nothing more less than pathetic, to say the least. We arrived at the Singapore cruise ship facility at the port, to find a totally disorganized lineup of thousands of people zigzagging in the parking lot, with absolutely no order whatsoever. This has to be the worst check-in experience I have ever seen out of all my cruising career. It was hard to believe that Royal Caribbean would allow such chaos to occur to welcome their guests, and not even attribute any staff to put order in the line.
People were trying to find the end of the line, and countless people found that the best solution was to simply jump the line in front of everybody, without any control or reprimand from the unregulated areas, sometimes bringing their whole family of 15 or more to jump in front of everybody else, with no shame whatsoever.
The check-in experience on any cruise ship should be a priority of any company, to give a welcome experience to their guest, and we felt totally abandoned by Royal Caribbean in this case. They definitely know how many guests they expected on this cruise, and so they definitely knew this chaos was to be expected, yet they were deprived to bring in some staff to take care of the situation. Needless to say, I wouldn’t want to experience such an experience again, just for the check-in process, even if I was given a free room… At least, until they assure me they have cleaned up their act.
Entertainment onboard “Fun Factor”
The animation team on the ship had nothing to do with what is presented in north american cruises. Pleasing the crowd with game shows had little effect and the “fun factor” was consequently affected. The activities were not very interesting and few people would join and interact (except for the morning exercise which was so popular that they had to do it in the main promenade…”). The shows at night were not very interesting, and the musicians were not as talented as they tend to be on north American cruises.
Entertainment onboard: 3/10
Ship Common Areas
The ship was massive. But despite that, we did not find it to be very practical. First, it really felt like it was built with a hierarchy system in mind, having several classes onboard, starting with the general member areas, some sort of gold member areas, and other higher elite areas, etc… This took a big part of the primed location of the upper decks and deprived the general public to be able to reach the best real estate of the ship with great views. For example, the overview area, which overlooks the pool, is usually reserved as a nightclub, or a bar. On this ship, it was reserved exclusively for those who could spend extra money to pay for a privileged area… I felt this system was unfair and restricted the general public to the bottom of the boat like a second class like on the Titanic days… Having an elite area is usually common on cruise ships, but never had I seen several classes occupying such a big part of the ship exclusively for them…
The main common area in the ship is made in the form of a promenade surrounded by private shops. this is not ideal as there were not that many bars where one could hang out, compared to older ships. Instead, it was more of a shopping experience, like a mall. I prioritize bars and salons, over shops as we are cruising for the social experience, not a “Mall at sea…” I guess it must be more profitable for them.
Worst of all, some essential amenities that are always standard on every ship, were plain simply almost eliminated. For example, the Gym area, which is usually a big room in the back of the ship, taking the whole width of the ship, was restricted to 3 tiny rooms in a corner of the ship. The premises were always overcrowded, and cramped. We visited once and never came back…
The highlight of the Spectrum of the Seas was its 360-degree viewpoint, but it was only opened at certain hours and was overcrowded with hours-long lineups each time. The same could be said with the surf station and the parachuting simulator, which was pretty much impossible to try without wasting the whole day waiting in line…
Entertainment onboard: 4/10
This has to be the BEST shows I have ever seen at sea. Period! And this is probably the strategy Royal Caribbean has taken to let people talk about their experiences when back home. Some sort of Marketing strategy, I would guess! There were two theaters, one for the main shows, and one for the special acrobatic show which in this case was Indian oriented musical. Not surprisingly, the acrobatic musical was so popular that it was literally impossible to attend and reserve. The reservation system would announce “fully booked” for the whole cruise only 5 minutes after having checked in our cruise on day 1 (around midday on check-in day)…
People were then asked to line up on the night of the show to get the worst seats upstairs, and when we presented ourselves 45 minutes before the show, there were already over 50 people in the line. The lineup quickly extended uncontrollably around the corridors of the ships…
This is a definite lack in the booking process and makes me believe some people must have had a privileged priority to attend and book first (like probably the ones paying elite class, for example…). To me, it was a disrespectful system that discriminated against some of their dear guests, who obviously had come on the ship primarily to see this show, judging by the heavy presence of Indians to see the Bollywood-themed show. However, disregarding this aspect, we attended the show and were blown away by it, so it is understandable how popular it was. It would probably be better for Royal Caribbean to make it a paying show, in order to provide an equal chance to everybody to book a seat.
The regular shows were also very good! The traditional Broadway-style shows with singing and dancing were presented every night, and the quality was at its finest! Very impressive, and deserves, that alone, a good reason to book on the spectrum of the seas!
Result Theater Shows: 10/10
Big Modern Ship, Small rooms. this seems to be the standard nowadays. The formula has made it to every company and packing as many guests on a ship is the way to go. This is why I always privilege older ships on my cruises and disregard the massive ones. The rooms were in general very small, and the comfort was average. Nothing special to note here.
Result Room Comfort: 6/10
In general, we found the service to be below par in the industry, and definitely under par in terms of royal caribbean standards. This was disappointing as I have always been a fan of Royal Caribbean style of service. But this time, I felt like the team was rather newly formed and might have lacked directives to always provide attention to the guests.
Result Service Quality: 6/10
The food was interesting in general, but lacking in variety. I was expecting a feast of Asian food which is definitely some of my favorite food. But the choice was not as I had imagined. In the main buffet, many dishes were repeated in different areas, and every day the same food would be showcased. It was also impossible to find a seat, which was expected considering the size of the ship. the fruit bar was small and the salad bar as well.
The main dining room had good meals in general, but we were disappointed with the service, which was ok in general but almost abusing us every night to give them a rating of 1 to 10 (obviously, asking directly the client will tend to give a 10 under pressure…) This was the first time I’ve seen this practice.
Result Food: 6/10
Overall, I would have preferred not boarding the spectrum of the seas… Because for the first time, I have seen a negative image of Royal Caribbean, and can no longer say they excel in every aspect. The ship is trying to attire to a new crowd in a new part of the world and has forgotten to keep standards to the highest. As for the ship, it is too big and lacks the “fun factor” that cruise ships are known for.
Sure, the shows were mind-blowing, and it does feel like many people had boarded the ship exclusively to see what they had heard about. It felt as if they didn’t even want to participate in a “cruise experience” which could have affected how the Spectrum of the Seas lack the feeling of a normal cruise.
Maybe for a new cruiser, this experience will be fun. But as I am comparing everything with all the other companies around the industry, the experience, for me, was a failure. I would be curious to see in the future if Royal Caribbean can replicate its excellent Royal Caribbean formula to new markets, but as for now, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Overall satisfaction: 5/10