Voyager of The Seas: giving guests a reason never to cruise again


A "veggie burger" in the Windjammer buffet.  If I wanted mashed potatoes, I'd choose mashed potatoes.

After spending a month on the Anthem of the Seas, I was looking forward to a trip on a different ship. And this trip was going to include the entire family, some of whom had never cruised before, so I was looking forward to them being impressed with a week on the Voyager of the Seas.

Voyager is a smaller ship than Anthem, so I knew in advance there were some missing amenities. Still, they were all part of the Royal Caribbean corporate ecosystem, so the overlapping elements, like the quality of the food and service or the accuracy of the "Cruise Compass" (a digital or paper calendar detailing everything there is to see and do onboard, from dining times to the location of trivia contests to where all the many musicians are playing) should be similar.

It wasn't. The week we returned home, we canceled our future transatlantic cruise on the Voyager. We never want to experience this again.

The lowest points? Food quality (remember what cruises are known for?). Event cancellations. Smoking areas and table tennis locations. Rude trainers.

When you travel with a 5 year old, you make plans around things like laser tag. When it is canceled with no notice and no explanation, you have to explain it to a 5 year old. Not fun. One of the table tennis tables is literally next to some low-hanging structural beams. You should never have to worry about hitting your head on a steel beam when playing ping pong.  My noggin wishes it were so. The other table is next to the smoking area. Nothing makes the game more enjoyable for a non-smoker than the nicotine-laced haze seeping over the deck.

And the traditional 7 AM stretch class and 7:30 abs class? What does it mean when the trainer comes in and announces that the class, listed on "Cruise Compass", has been canceled because a guest wanted a personal training session? And then the guests are told that, if they had concerns, they should contact his supervisor? On two other occasions, the trainers simply didn't show up, resulting in a guest, Caroline, leading the class. Oh, the two trainers were literally standing outside the room, chatting! 

But the food! It was as if the operational directions for the chefs was to dilute everything. Try the watery scrambled eggs. When you get tired of "egg runoff" soaking that small bran muffin (seriously... at least 20% smaller than on the Anthem), try an omelet. Maybe yours won't be burnt? Make sure you stir the oatmeal to avoid the watery separation (I mean... who ruins oatmeal?). When grapefruit finally showed up in the Windjammer, instead of being cut so that you can eat the entire fruit, it is pre-scooped to a depth of about 1/2 inch. And since there are no sharp knives available for cutting the sections, you are left with trying to drain the juice with a spoon... a messy prospect at best. Small fruit pieces, no seedless watermelon. Seriously, the staff seemed to be working with the mentality of a cheap buffet like Golden Corral.

Breakfast fruit on the Anthem (above) and Voyager (below).

There were 8 people in our party. Two ate meat, two were pescatarians, and the other four were vegetarians. We all went hungry.

First, for the pescatarians (vegetarians that eat fish), good luck. Usually, your fish choice in the Windjammer was "fish".

Although Royal Caribbean boasted as recently as six weeks ago in a blog that a key part of their sustainability initiative was "sustainable seafood sourcing", with a goal "to source 90% of wild-caught seafood and 75% of farmed seafood from suppliers certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council—a first for the cruise industry," there is no way the generic "fish" label can be considered compliant. Staff can't or won't tell you what this fish is. And the "salmon" served onboard, all produced through aquaculture, is of such poor quality that even the dye that is added to all farmed salmon to make it pink isn't consistent through the fish.

Uneven color in salmon served on the Voyager, indicative of low standards.

The seafood industry recognizes that "Pale or uneven red color in salmon muscle is increasingly being reported as a quality problem for Norwegian farmed salmon." The RC buyers apparently are unconcerned about this trend, but for some reason it never occurred once in five weeks on the Anthem. I suspect the staff purchasing salmon for the Voyager had no problems buying and serving poor quality seafood.

Spinach Quiche... where's the spinach?

Shrimp cocktail... three on Voyager, four on Anthem.

Au gratin potatoes... raw. Another time I chose a baked potato. It was so hard and dry that I couldn't cut through it with a fork.

I asked for real cream or half and half for my coffee in the MDR. I got... these.

And my two final food complaints are the Caesar salads and the veggie "burgers". Now, on the Anthem, I had probably had a Caesar salad every day, for lunch and for dinner. In the Windjammer buffet, I'd prepare it myself. In the MDR, it was prepared for me. The prepared Caesar salads, with Romaine lettuce, croutons, flakes of Parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing, were fresh, consistent and tasty. My first MDR meal on the Voyager, however, had me tell the waiter that there was no dressing on my salad and no croutons. He apologized, and brought another, but the second one seemed to have a combination of grated and flaked Parmesan cheese, and the grated cheese was soft, clumped, and smelled rancid. Upon closer inspection, the flaked cheese was multi-hued, and I can only think this was because it was from the rind of the cheese. Regardless, it had a sour taste (had it been cleaned before flaking?). And the dressing was so watery, I realized, that there was no taste.

I didn't eat the first salad, and I couldn't eat the second. The next time I could order a Caesar I did, and I couldn't stomach it either. Others at my table found theirs inedible. That was the last of the Caesar salads on this cruise. There are people who say I should have complained, but I just didn't want to say that the cheese, or the dressing, or both were off. What, they were going to bring me another? I already tried that.

Then there was the veggie "burger". On the Anthem, they were "Morningstar" brand quality, and often prepared in advance so there was no waiting for one to be prepared. On the Voyager, this "burger" was... mush.

View of the "burger", straight off the griddle.

View of the same patty after checking out contents with my fork, then holding the plate... vertical. Paste couldn't have performed any better at holding on.

As I mentioned earlier, four of our party were vegetarians. The choices for them were dismal, especially in the Windjammer (quality issues).  If you are a meat-eater, you've got all the choices, from the steaks to the chicken parts, and you can also choose the one or two non-meat options. If you are a vegetarian, you've got one or two choices. And if you are not fond of eggplant, or mushrooms, your options are down to one or none. We were told that there is always a vegetarian Indian dish available. I don't know about you, but I don't cruise to eat Indian food daily.

The upshot of this is people were ordering meatless spaghetti from the kids menu, asking for dinner-sized salads, or ordering multiple appetizers. Doing this once is the name of the game for vegetarians. But having to do it repeatedly is not appropriate for cruising. And these people were athletes, spending an hour or two in the gym, running on the track, and playing pickleball. These very low protein meals were often unsatisfactory and not sufficient.

Royal Caribbean states that "We make every effort to accommodate our guests' dietary requirements whenever possible. We can accommodate dietary needs such as: food allergies, gluten-free, kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium." But... "A variety of vegetarian meals are available on all menus in the Main Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe every day. Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals."

So get this... RC will "make every effort to accommodate our guests' dietary requirements" except for vegetarians, because RC knows better than the guest what they should eat.

I should mention that one of our party has a MS in human nutrition and was a Registered Dietitian for three decades.

For vegetarians, the Windjammer was even worse because of the meat-centric menu and the quality issued discussed above. I mean, do the chefs even taste what they are serving? After we left the ship in Barcelona, we spent the night in the Hotel Santa Marta. Their continental breakfast (below) put the Windjammer to shame. Here's a sentence the RC CEO should never hear following a cruise: "Finally, thank goodness for some great food!".

And the day we disembarked we ate at the Restaurant del Barri. Here's what pizza and a salad should look like for vegetarians. We had to leave the ship for tasty, well-prepared food. "Say it ain't so, Joe."

There were other issues. We received conflicting information about where a five year old could play in the Adventure Zone, and whether a parent could stay with kiddo until kiddo felt comfortable ("You're not allowed here. You have to leave." "Yes, you can stay with your child here.") There were no chai tea lattes for the first two thirds of the cruise. The story? "We misplaced the pallet." And in an extraordinary blow to gender equality in sports, the Sports Court on Deck 13 was surrounded on all four corners by statues of... men? RC, you do realize that more women than men cruise, right?

With all of these issues, I can't leave this discussion without saying that some aspects of the Voyager were great. For the most part, the staff were friendly and helpful. The performances were terrific. The pools and spas were clean.

Ice show on the Voyager.

Here's the bottom line.  We had a great time on the Anthem of the Seas for five weeks. One week on the Voyager was a real disappointment, and an embarrassment to me for promoting it to my family. We never want to experience this again.  I wonder if the CEO of Royal Caribbean is ever embarrassed...

From the Anthem's Solarium Bistro. A vegetarian's delight!


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