We really enjoyed our first adventure to Europe. We flew into Rome and spent 3 days there, then took a private car to the port of Civitavecchia. Embarkation was easy and relatively fast. Went to the Lido for lunch and then visited with new friends. Took a quick tour of the ship. Before long, we heard the announcement that rooms were ready and headed to suite SA/7044. The room was large and comfortable, but we found the decor to be rather dark for our taste and the suite was not appointed as nicely or as luxe as the suite on the Coral Princess, particularly the bathroom (curtain on the separate shower instead of a glass door?). The room steward and assistant were excellent.
Food on the ship was better than average, based on our past cruise experience, in the Rembrandt Dining Room. We had open seating, but the concierge arranged the same table for 2 each night that we ate there. The waiter and sommelier assigned to the table were personable and provided good service. We had room service several nights and it was always good, warm, and brought in a reasonable amount of time. Our only big dining disappointment was the night we made reservations at the Tamarind Grill, the pan-asian restaurant. The concierge had told us the wasabi encrusted beef tenderloin filet was really good, so we both ordered that. The ambiance was nice, the service good, and the appetizers were very good. The steak, however, was tough and chewy. We should have sent it back, but it was getting late and we were getting tired.
We enjoyed each of the ports we visited. In most places, we found the double decker busses with hop-on and hop-off and included earphones that plugged into a port and then you selected the language you wanted. It gave good information about the sites in each city and time permitting, we could hop off to actually see the attraction up close. In Paris, however, since we were there for one day and it was a 3 hour trip each way from the port to Paris, we took a bus tour arranged by HAL, as did our friends, which added to the experience. Think we saw about all we wanted to see in Paris and had a nice lunch at a brasserie that had been arranged as part of the tour...a pleasant experience compared to what we had expected (like a box lunch?) for a bus load of tourists.
Our big disappointment was with the disembarkation and the events that followed, once we got to Dover. We were supposed to disembark around 8am, but time drug on and finally they announced things were running behind because of a "baggage handling issue". We had asked the concierge for the best way to get to London from Dover, bus, train or taxi, and she recommended the bus arranged by HAL, so we bought tickets for the bus...which turned out to be a huge mistake. We finally disembarked around 9am, found our baggage, and headed for the bus. There were actually 3 or 4 busses lined up to go to London so we got on one of them. We were about 30 minutes down the road when one of the passengers asked the driver when we would be getting in London. The driver said we were not going directly to London, as a couple on the bus had missed the 2 busses that were to go to the Gatwick Airport so he was taking them to Gatwick Airport before going to London...really? Nobody told us that before we left. The driver indicated told us that it would be about another hour from the Gatwick Airport to London, once we dropped them off. About 20 or 30 minutes later, the bus driver pulled the bus over to the side of the highway, opened the door and got off the bus. He got back on shortly thereafter and told us all to get off the bus and stand by the side of the road. When we got off the bus, we could see smoke coming out from under the bus and not long after, a couple of fire trucks arrived and started spraying water under the bus. By this time, it was also raining on us. The bus driver told us another bus had been dispatched and would be here in about 30 minutes, which was not even close. He blamed traffic on the highway for the delay, which was more like an hour and a half. Then all the baggage had to be transferred, and then the passengers. By this time, some of the passengers, including us, were wondering why they were inconveniencing all the rest of us for these two people who missed their bus...it certainly was not our fault. One guy suggested they order a cab for these two people to take them on to the Gatwick Airport so the replacement bus could take us to London. Another said we would even take up a collection to pay for the cab. Another suggestion was that they take us to London before taking this couple to Gatwick, because if it was because they had a flight to catch, they had certainly missed it by now. The driver finally conceded to contact HAL. He later reported that HAL had denied the request and we were still going to be taking this couple to the Gatwick Airport. An unhappy busload of people finally arrived at the train station in London at 3pm, not 10am as we had been told when we made the arrangements. Some passengers only had this day to see London as they had a flight out the next day. We felt sorry for them as we had arranged a couple of more days in London after the cruise, but we also were extremely disappointed we missed this first day of touring London. We felt cheated out of it by HAL. We caught a cab and headed for the hotel and by the time we were checked in, it was about time for dinner and nothing else.
HAL sure knows how to leave a bad taste in your mouth if you were one of the 40 some people on the bus who they inconvenienced, but those 2 people, who were strangely silent during this whole ordeal, must have been pleased with HAL's attempts to satisfy THEIR needs. Kind of makes you question HAL's decision making, if nothing else.
We paid a lot of money to go first class on this cruise, but in the end, we were given bad advice and then treated in a very rude and inconsiderate manner by the HAL representatives.