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25 Asia World Cruise Reviews

For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific ... Read More
For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was a perfect match for us, we decided not to wait for our 50th Anniversary. A major selling point for us was that there were no long flights to and from foreign airports involved. There would be little jet lag also. Two days prior to the cruise, we flew from Orlando, FL to Seattle, Washington for some independent sightseeing. On September 21, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Seattle for our incredible 78-day journey. For us it was the trip of a lifetime. For many others on the cruise, this was their forth or fifth + Grand Voyage. Our Ports of Call were Seattle, Washington, Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Kushiro, Japan, Tokyo, Japan (2 overnights,) Nagasaki, Japan, Jeju, S. Korea, Incheon (Seoul,) S. Korea (2 overnights,) Xingang, China (2 overnights,) Qingdao, China, Shanghai, China (3 overnights,) Hong Kong (2 overnights,) Phu My, Vietnam, Singapore (2 overnights,) Tanjung Priok (Jakarta,) Indonesia, Bali, Indonesia, Slawi Bay (Komodo Island), Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, Port Douglas (Cains,) Australia, Sydney, Australia (2 overnights,) Nomea, New Caladonia, Kuto (Ile des Pins,) New Caledonia, Lautoka, Fiji, Suva, Fiji, Apia, Samoa, Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii (2 overnights,) Lahaina, Hawaii and San Diego, California. If you have never taken a Grand Journey or World Cruise, perhaps you think these cruises are just like other cruises only longer. These cruises are so much more than that; they are very extraordinary experiences. Passengers on our voyage bonded together immediately because we knew that we would be together for 78 days. We soon became like a family. The "precious" (HAL's word) staff, which for the most part is hand picked by Holland America for these cruises is even more attentive and friendly for the same reason. Service is far superior, more personal, although always wonderful on all HAL cruises. The passengers were mainly seniors, American for the most part but with some Australians and Canadian; there was only one child on board for the complete cruise. Other children did join the cruise for a segment and more children were on board for our Indonesian stops (crew families.) There were so many extras for every passenger. Among the most notable were, a Travel Journal (I used mine daily,) a strong zippered lined shoulder bag including a smaller matching toiletries bag with a leather stateroom/ ID holder and lanyard, a HAL-Steiff Teddy Bear Sailor, Grand Voyage Tiffany mug, ceramic Royal Goedewaagen Grand Voyage Plate plus a sturdy roll along piece of luggage to carry all the gifts home. Everything was of the highest quality. Passengers also earn unique Grand Dollars throughout the cruise by participating in various activities. I turned my dollars in for a flash drive, two compact umbrellas, HAL cosmetic case and ear phones. MP3 Players were a quite popular choice. Many evenings there were special Gala Celebrations and formal Theme Nights such as the elaborate Black & Silver and Black & Gold Grand Balls. Other events were equally unique only more casual such as the Halloween Monster Mash Party, Alaska Salmon Bake, Kimono Night, Tropical Paradise Dinner and Hawaiian Cookout. Three of my other favorites were the exciting Masked Ball (I loved my gorgeous complimentary hot pink mask,) Oktoberfest and the Red Lantern Formal Dinner. HAL went to great expense elaborately decorating the venues for all the planned themed events. All the servers wore themed costumes. Of course we had the usual Captain's Welcome Reception and Mariner's Appreciation Night that are always lovely and well-attended. Two other themed events were the Chef's Farewell Dinner and the Grand Show Buffet. Other exciting optional events were extra cost. Everyone who attend these thought that they were worthwhile. There were a total of nine formal nights on the 78-day cruise. As we departed each port there was a Farewell Party with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, sometimes even complimentary cocktails and live band. Although we always regretted that we didn't have longer port stays (are they ever long enough?) we all looked forward to the farewell parties. The ship had the usual daily Afternoon Tea at 3 PM; I only attended the most elaborate themed ones, Royal Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and English High Teas. I photographed each lavish display of pastries. A more unusual high tea was the Cupcake High Tea. Speaking of food, on our Grand Journey there were better choices at all three meals. For example Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was always on the MDR dinner menu. For breakfast crepes were an unusual offering. At lunchtime we could always choose from a whole section of sushi, sashimi, mussels and clams in addition to other selections. Even the room service menu had more choices. Since the food is always good on HAL, I never was tempted to try the specialty restaurants or extra cost dinners although I had plenty of onboard credits to spend. I was told that HAL allots more dollars per passenger for food costs on Grand or World cruises which would explain the greater variety and quality. MDR service was uniformly well-paced. We always finished dinner in about an hour or so (really, I know it's hard to believe.) We were encouraged to linger and savor our wine. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Noel our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Grand Voyages passengers have a unique package option of a glass of wine each night and it is very reasonably priced; we took advantage of it. We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water. Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. Our room was often made up sometimes even before we returned from breakfast. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail. Arif (Lukman, earlier in the cruise) & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations. They were very professional and efficient. Our comfortable oceanview stateroom #2695 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. We requested and promptly received extra wooden hangers. HAL also provided us with a power strip that we used daily. A suggestion to HAL is that they install bathroom nightlights. After being disturbed early in the morning on several occasion from crew working on the deck above, the noises stopped after passengers mentioned the problem during a Q & A session with the officers. Other minor problems were also fixed after this session. HAL did listen. The Queen's Lounge (theater) entertainment was diverse and professional although lacking stage sets. There was always a main nightly show except when there were port night excursions or when a movie on a big screen was shown in the theater. We usually had matinee shows if there was no evening show scheduled. Entertainers often appeared twice with a different show each time. I enjoyed the talented singers and dancers even when they repeated their three shows on another segment. They were always energetic. Just about everyone on board attended the fabulous Indonesian & Filipino crew shows. The theater was packed for both 3 PM shows and the crew was so proud of their performances - so were we. The shows really helped to bond the crew and passengers. HAL should schedule these shows at 3 PM on their other cruises as well. I know that my husband, I and others do not want to stay up until 11 PM to attend the late shows. I also enjoyed the nightly live entertainment in the various lounges. Adagio in the Navigation Lounge performed beautiful classical music on the piano and violin. We were regulars at their pre-dinner performances. Debbie Bacon performed in the Piano Bar; we attended her nightly show at 7 PM. It was always fun & games with her. One night she invited her husband, Ron to join her on guitar; it was the highlight for all of us. When we were in ports overnight, Debbie performed outdoors on deck under the stars. How romantic was that! We enjoyed the Adagio guys and Debbie so much that we purchased several of their CDs, which they autographed. When these performers were off, we enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and Larry in the Crown's Next. They were very entertaining as well. Although we had a couple of long stretches of sea days, I was never bored. There were so many daily scheduled activities that I couldn't attend them all. My favorites were the wonderful Port Talks by Travel Guide Barbara who was so knowledgeable and well travelled and the Kitchen Galley Tour. I attended most of the quality computer classes by Craig who made learning fun and easy. There were plenty of history, military history and talks on the culture of the foreign countries that we visited. I attended all the culinary demonstrations (with printed recipes and samples, of course) and a couple of movies. A big thanks goes to HAL for providing various religious services throughout the cruise. Few cruise lines do this anymore. By far one of the most unusual activities on board was the special Neptune Ceremony when we crossed the equator. What fun the crew, passengers and officers all had poolside. Complimentary specialty drinks, costumes and decorations added to the festive atmosphere. The exotic Ports of Call were the main reason we booked this cruise and each was exciting and memorable. My favorite, and it is difficult to pick just one, was perhaps Shanghai. We docked right in the center of the action facing a beautifully lit skyline complete with a laser show. The city has a lot to offer visitors. My husband's favorite was Ile des Pins with its stunning beaches. We both thought that the most unusual port was Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons. How many other cruises stop here? We enjoyed all of the HAL Shore Excursion and found them to be very worthwhile. One disappointment, though, was that the scheduled Tokyo stop was cancelled due to the eminent arrival of a typhoon. The captain anticipated the problem, substituted two other exciting ports, Kanazawa and Fukuoka (Hakata) on the opposite side of Japan. We did not encounter rough seas or rain perhaps just a bit of wind. Those who had previously visited Tokyo said that these were even better ports. Special for the Grand Voyages, HAL arranged complementary shuttles in the ports whenever it was feasible. This was a huge help especially for those touring independently. In only one port did I have a problem with the shuttles. That was in Dutch Harbor where there were only two buses in service and no HAL shore excursion offered. Many passengers resorted to roaming taxis. There were a few other port challenges mostly out of HAL's hands but with a trip this long no one expected perfection. HAL did their best to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for us all. HAL provided us all with a plethora of pre-cruise documentation and throughout the cruise. We received plenty of port information sheets, maps, ship logs and multi-page Explorer Guides to the ports with things to See and Do, shopping info, dining, sightseeing suggestions etc. At each foreign port we receive an extremely handy card listing essential foreign words, phrases, and a currency conversion charts that I used in every port. It also listed emergency phone numbers of the ship in port. I made a few minor suggestions to HAL at the end of our cruise. For the Lido Buffet, I suggested adding lemonade as a beverage. I enjoyed it in the mornings poolside. Ice tea is provided but the caffeine makes me feel wired. Tall glasses are needed as it was hard to fill water bottles using juice sized glasses. I missed having no fat milk available at breakfast. I suggested more variety of music poolside. Embarkation was very slow (45 minutes,) which surprised me but we were offered cold water or lemonade. It was just hard to drink the beverage while moving along the line with jackets and hand luggage while trying to complete the health sheet. A more serious problem was the fact that the very comfortable couches in the Queen's Theater are lower than the chairs. If you sit on a couch, it is difficult to see over the heads of people on chairs in front of you. The main problem for us, though, was the absence of flex time dining. In ports, it was a rush to make it to the MDR for our 5:30 Early Dining Time. I have to say that Pondi was always accommodating to our late arrivals. Only once did we have dinner in the Lido Buffet. Many of the excursion buses in Beijing were delayed two hours returning to the ship due to evening traffic jams. We were all treated royally in the Lido restaurant which stayed open late to serve us. It was nice not to have to change clothes for dinner. What I enjoyed most about the ship was the dome over the pool area. We could sit poolside even in Alaska where the temperature was cool. Although we experience very few rainy days, whenever it got a bit windy or cool, the dome was closed. Also HAL adjusted time zone changes eastbound at 2PM instead of the usual 2 AM so we didn't lose any sleep - great idea! The well-maintained ship was comfortable although there were several plumbing problems on the long journey. The ship was just the right size to get into the smaller ports and it was easy to find my way around the ship. Hopefully another HAL Grand Voyage is in my future - what a spectacular way to cruise and be pampered. One unique and valuable bonus offered by HAL is that for every $300 you spend on board, even pre-booked shore excursions and drink packages, you earn credit for a sailing day. We reached three star level a week early due to this bonus and are now only 8 days shy of level 4 stars when you receive complementary laundry service. We booked the Back to Back HAL cruise to the Panama Canal, keeping our same stateroom. So, our vacation lasted an additional 14 days. Due to the high cost of our return flight from San Diego, it was only a little more money to cruise back to FL on the ship and simply drive home. But, that is another review.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We recently returned from our 3rd Azamara Cruise, our second time aboard the Journey. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong on Feb 17th for our journey through the China Sea, to Tokyo and finally Shanghai. The Journey had been upgraded since ... Read More
We recently returned from our 3rd Azamara Cruise, our second time aboard the Journey. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong on Feb 17th for our journey through the China Sea, to Tokyo and finally Shanghai. The Journey had been upgraded since our last cruise with new carpets, upholstery, cabins etc., and mirrored the Quest. No matter which ship you are on you feel comfortable and at home. The Journey remained over night in Hong Kong so we were able to see the Hong Kong harbour light show. Breathtaking! The next day we began our Journey, stopping at several islands in the China Sea; Xiamen, Taiwan, Ishigaki and Okinawa. This was our first trip to Asia so we booked Land Discoveries at each of the ports of call. Our guides on the tours were from the same company so we saw them at several of the islands. Their language skills and knowledge were very, very good and we would highly recommend the tours. We arrived in Tokyo on the 25th for a two day stay. Our first night there was our AzAmazing Evening. We were bused to the Japanese Matsuri Gardens, where we were greeted by Kimono clad ladies and music on traditional Japanese 15 string guitars. Lovely venue, lots of walking around room, lots to see & do. Traditional music and dancing, drumming & singing. Local artists created and shaped animal shaped lollipops. Calligraphers did our names in traditional Japanese writing. Sumo wrestlers performed for us. Refreshments were varied and abundant. Truly an AzAmazing Evening. Entering Tokyo harbour the ship hit an underwater obstacle which we later learned damaged the Port propeller. The Captain came on the PA system and told us that we would be proceeding to Osaka Japan with only one propeller so our arrival time would be somewhat later. The next morning Captain Jason gave a full presentation to the guests describing the damage, including underwater pictures of the propeller. While we were in no danger, it was decided that the cruise would end in Osaka as the ship had to proceed to dry dock for repairs. All the Osaka tours were rescheduled to accommodate our late arrival. We were very impressed at how well the Captain and crew kept us informed. Our cruise was scheduled to end in Shanghai two days later. The home office, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines flew a “GO” team of 30+ people to Osaka to ensure that individual arrangements would be made for all the guests. We were flown to Shanghai and put up at the 5 star Hyatt Hotel, on the Bund. This hotel overlooked the beautiful Shanghai harbour that, like Hong Kong, had a fabulous night-time light show. All expenses were covered and the GO Team was there and arranged our private transportation to the Shanghai airport the next day. We were also well compensated by the cruise line for shortening of the cruise and any inconvenience. The ship and its crew continue to exceed our expectations. They go out of their way to make you feel at home, and this is one of the main reasons that we have chosen to cruise with Azamara. Unfortunately we had occasion to make use of the Medical facilities. Dr Dahl and his staff were highly professional and followed up to ensure all was well. From the start of the cruise, Captain Jason and his officers of the ship were out and about every day, talking to guests, answering questions and ensuring that everyone was being taken care of. Chef Fabio’s cuisine was exceptional as usual. Cruise Director Tony kept us informed of all the daily activities and the evening shows were very entertaining. While not as incident free as our previous cruises with Azamara, the way in which the Captain, the crew and Royal Caribbean handled the technical difficulties has reinforced our confidence in and loyalty to Azamara Club Cruises. Cruise #4 is in the works!   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Over the years, we have cruised for over 240 nights on all of the 5 Silversea ships combined with the exception of the Explorer-type ships. It is very sad to report that the last two cruises, back-to-back (25 days aboard), that we just ... Read More
Over the years, we have cruised for over 240 nights on all of the 5 Silversea ships combined with the exception of the Explorer-type ships. It is very sad to report that the last two cruises, back-to-back (25 days aboard), that we just finished: voyage 3404 from Singapore to Singapore (14 days) continuing on voyage 3405 from Singapore to Hong Kong (11 days) were really a disappointment especially when it came to the overall condition of the ship and especially the cabins. We last cruised on the Shadow in September/October 2013, from Vancouver to Shanghai (27 days) and the Shadow needed big time "TLC" then; we were told at the time that it was going to go in dry dock for a refurbishing before the end of 2013. Fast forward to this year's cruises and to our surprise when we boarded in Singapore we did not see any changes or updates in the public areas. When we checked into our suite, it looked dated to say the least and really needed work, the desk area looked like a mad child had taken a hammer and made nicks on its surface, the letter area on it was scratched and worn, the sofa and arm chair in the suite had threads coming out as if a cat with long nails had used them for scratching pad and the straight chair in front of the desk swayed like a rocking chair. The bathroom hardware was so worn that the chrome had worn was almost off. The black granite counter top was so worn out that it was white in some areas although the original color was black. The shelf underneath the two sinks was sagging and a someone had placed a large screw to hold it, but it had been so long that the screw had eaten through the wood and one had to be careful not to scratch ones hand when using the shelf. I could go on but I hope that by now the reader gets the idea of the condition of the suite. Silversea usually gives you a mid-cruise questionnaire asking you to return it to the Hotel Director, in this case it was Martin Blanar, I did write a lengthy review pointing out the things that I saw wrong and expressing my disappointment. Normally, once the questionnaires are submitted the Hotel Director normally sends a reply addressing the concerns, this time, we got a call from the front office requesting a face-to-face meeting with the Hotel Director and the Stephen, Guest Service Manager. I did go to the meeting and they basically told me, after apologizing profusely, that they kind of agree with me and that very little had been done during the dry dock to the ship and that they did not know of any plans to update the Shadow, and it was out of their control, at least they were honest. The next day when we were out the straight chair was changed and I noticed that the screw in the sagging shelf had been repaired. One of my big peeves is the fact that walking into a suite at any of the Silversea ships should have the same feeling as I was walking into a room at a Four Seasons, Ritz, Shangri-La, Peninsula or similar 5 star hotels. The suite should not feel like you are walking into run down Holiday Inn, especially for the premium prices that we pay to sail aboard a Silversea ships and the hype of their advertising. I do not know who bestows all the awards that Silversea gets but I am positive that these people have not sailed aboard the Shadow lately. Why do we pay so much money for these cruises and still have to buy blocks of time for the Internet, and be mindful of not over using them and making sure that we sign off correctly. Many times the sign on and signing off is so slow (I know because of satellites) that we have to go to the IT Concierge and when we complain and in most cases he gives you the time back without any fuss. It was announced during our cruise that Silversea was launching another Explorer-type ship, I feel that instead of expanding they should use the money to retrofit the existing ships, the company seems to be getting too greedy and it going to hurt them in the long run. I could go on but I don't want to lose the reader so I would just mention the latest "improvement" to the travel experience, it is the booklet that Silversea now sends with the ticket before we leave. It is personalized and it tells you all about the shore tours you have reserved, and it also gives you a partial description of the tour and it instructs you to go to the Silversea website for further information, unfortunately the company takes the tour information down one week before the departure so one is in la la land. When I asked the Tour Desk about the information they told me that they had no written information they could give me since Fort Lauderdale did not print the little booklet we used to get listing all the tours. Also, they used to send us two "leatherette" baggage tags, those were eliminated, I guess Silversea needs to save money. The booklet also tells you that now you can make reservations in the specialty restaurants up to 180 days prior to the sailing date. Who knows a few months before what kind of dinner one wants to have on a particular evening, I thought that one of the "big" pluses that Silversea advertises is that one could eat in any restaurant wherever one wanted, only La Terrazza, Le Champagne and pool Grill needed reservations, but normally you could get one a day ahead and in many cases the same day, I guess that we need to plan ahead from now or take our chances. I guess you probably wonder why we keep coming back to Silversea, and it is the wonderful crew and the service they give you. It never ceases to amaze me how they remember you, your name, and in many instances what your preferences are. The crew goes out of their way to make sure that all your requests regardless of how minute or odd may be, are taken care of. I hope someone at Silversea reads these reviews and wakes up.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even ... Read More
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even for 2, even with the ship full. You can bring your own wine and champagne on board! ($18 corcage fee if served in a restaurant). Beautiful flower arrangements. Wonderful live classical music daily. Reasonable coffee prices. Good selection of movies in Wajang Theatre, often relevant to the destinations visited. Negatives: Way too many announcements over the PA system, in english and dutch, obtrusive. Insufficient variety in food. Taste of food varying. Melons and watermelons often near to rotten, quality of cut fruits low. Only alibi-sushi (must try the sweet potato fries though!). Few production shows (but fairly good). Many guest entertainers of varying quality, practically all british or irish. And as always on cruise ships: Way too expensive shore excursions, no information about cost of individual transportation, internet rates and speed unacceptable ($0.75/min). It's a small cabin, however with ample drawer space. But I knew this ship, so knew what to expect.  Just want to point out that in the cabin 3387 we experienced noises every night because the galley is just above. Apparently heavy objects are being moved around and bumped on the ground. This must be a permanent situation.In addition, at some point a different type of noise occurred, which turned out to be a malfunction of the steam system (whatever that is). So eventually we had to be given another, inside cabin to sleep for 3 nights, before we were moved to another outside cabin.Our neighbors at cabin 3387 told me they heard these noises as well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was ... Read More
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was excellent. We checked in at 2.10PM , probably after the initial rush. Cabin 422 ( a suite) was spotless on arrival and we were greeted by our Steward and offered Champagne. It is a large lounge area with a separate large bedroom with King bed, separate bathroom and robe area. We booked the Sterling Steakhouse for the first evening dinner, to overcome what can be difficult dining arrangements as people turn up on the first night. A good decision with a good meal , superb steak , excellent service. We dined most evenings in the Santa Fe dining room and as on previous cruises on the Diamond, experienced excellent service and good quality meals. Entertainment was excellent and production shows very good , although we do notice that the production shows are now of 28-35 minutes duration. Cruise director and his team do a very good job with activities. We ran into 3 days of very heavy weather across the Aleutian islands areas with 2 massive storms, the ship and staff coped well with having all decks and outside activities closed for 3 days. We never really felt crowded, apart from the first show in the theatre. Also the Education lectures were terrific. As experienced cruisers, we have enjoyed several cruises on the Diamond. Yes it is a large ship , but everything works to our satisfaction. This was a repositioning cruise and a means of us travelling from USA to China before flying home from Shanghai to Melbourne , australia. We enjoyed the cruise, met some lovely people, were fed well and entertained. We were very well served. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Having previously only done Princess Grill, I was looking forward to experiencing the Cunard experience that most guests book - Britannia. Embarkation in Singapore was a breeze. There were no large queues and I was on board in about 15 ... Read More
Having previously only done Princess Grill, I was looking forward to experiencing the Cunard experience that most guests book - Britannia. Embarkation in Singapore was a breeze. There were no large queues and I was on board in about 15 minutes and my suitcase arrived at my cabin about 10 minutes after I did. I couldn't believe how quick and efficient the embarkation process was. After unpacking I did a quick tour around the ship and was impressed with the maintenance, everything looked spick and span. Cunard is obviously not cutting corners with regards to maintenance. Rather than do a short story on the voyage, I will summarise my observations about various aspects of the voyage: Service: In a word - excellent. The steward who looked after my room did an excellent job. He was always cheerful, friendly and kept my room looking very smart. Our table was served by a sommelier, waiter and assistant waiter. All three were very professional and our table received excellent service; we never had to wait for anything and there were no delays in regards to wine or alcoholic beverages. Our waiter was also very accommodating with requests. On lobster night our table all requested extra lobsters, a request which were happily granted by our waiter. Throughout the ship I encountered many different staff members from various locations (Sir Samuel's, The Commodore Club, Kings Court, Todd English, G32, the photography staff, The Chart Room and the Purser's desk) and they were all great, everyone was polite & friendly and the White Star training really shows. Accommodation: I had a D5 standard inside on deck 5. This was very conveniently located between staircases B & C and decks three & seven. The inside stateroom was very spacious and very well appointed. It was perfect for one person and I never felt claustrophobic. The only issue I had with the room was the engine noise that came through the pillow. The room I was in is located next to a void on the deck plan and I discovered that I was right next to a noisy crew staircase. This must have been the cause of the noise as occupants two staterooms down the corridor reported no noise through their pillows. I solved this problem using earplugs. Food: Again, excellent. I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Britannia Restaurant and each time I found the food to be of a very high standard. I appreciate that the appetisers are a sensible size as the mains are quite substantial and this combination leaves room for the delicious desserts. I left the table each night feeling comfortably full - not slightly unwell from overeating. I heard some negative comments about the food in Britannia, comments which I cannot understand as the meals I had in Britannia restaurant were excellent. Kings Court was great for a quick snack or an early morning coffee before a shore tour. I found the layout to be relatively easy to follow and the food to be very good. I also had dinner at Todd English one night and was very impressed with the food and service. Having not enjoyed a previous lunch experience at Todd English I wasn't expecting much but boy was I wowed. I certainly recommend dinner at Todd English during your next QM2 voyage. Shore tours: The shore tours in Bangkok and Saigon were okay. There was a two hour drive to each city from the port and the guides ranged from fantastic to good. I found the 'Highlights of Ho Chi Minh city' tour to be boring and wouldn't recommend that tour. The tours were, however, well organised and we left and arrived back at the ship on time. Activities on board: Bingo was a lot of fun and the entertainment staff made it very enjoyable. G32 was it's usual let down, the fact that there was no DJ in residence (we had a fill-in from Vibez) only compounded the problem. The daily activity sheet was filled with many activities and your day can be as busy or as relaxing as you choose. I decided to do very little each day and so can't comment on the lectures or the shows as I pretty much just swam in the pool and went to the gym most days. The Chart Room is a great hang-out for those Britannia guests on late sitting. The room has a great buzz and is a very enjoyable place to meet friends for drinks before dinner. Overall: I very much enjoyed this voyage and would do it again in a heartbeat. The food, accommodation and service were excellent (baring the engine noise through the pillow) and I cannot imagine how Cunard could make it better. The public rooms in the ship are beautiful and certainly convey that 'ocean liner' atmosphere. What makes it all the more real is that QM2 is an actual ocean liner and that is something you don't get on any other ship. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
PORTS: London-Lisbon-Malaga-Tunis-Malta-Naphlion-Athens-Suez Canal-Safafa-Dubai (2 days)-Abu Dahbi-Goa-Mangalore-Cochin-Port Blair-Langkawi-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-(Indoneisa) Jakarta-Semerang-Bali (2 ... Read More
PORTS: London-Lisbon-Malaga-Tunis-Malta-Naphlion-Athens-Suez Canal-Safafa-Dubai (2 days)-Abu Dahbi-Goa-Mangalore-Cochin-Port Blair-Langkawi-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-(Indoneisa) Jakarta-Semerang-Bali (2 days)-Lombok-Komodo-Makassar-Probolingo-Surabaya (Indonesia)-Singapore ITINERARY: 50 wonderful days from Jan-March 2013 sailing from Southhampton, England to Singapore via the Suez Canal with two incredible weeks working our way across just some of the islands of Indonesia - only 6 of the fabled 17,000 islands of this important SE Asian country. This was also home to many of the ship's crew members, whose families joyously were waiting to greet them at the dock. Holland America and the Rotterdam were up to their well-regarded standards from top to bottom and played gracious host to the crew's family members who were invited on board for tours and refreshments. FELLOW PASSENGERS: Cruise Director Glenn was one of the best and along with the rest of the staff easily handled the bi-lingual demands since this cruise carried a very large Dutch-speaking contingent, which the entire staff handled with style, charm and easy humor. We first moved through history of all the major Western civilizations from Portugal, Spain, Carthage, Roman Empire, Greece and Egypt. And then on to the newer global powers of the UAE, India, Malaysia, Singapore and finally got to see both the new and old worlds of fabulous Indonesia. DINING: The ship was in beautiful shape, the food wonderful and dining settings varied for any tastes. The specialty restaurant The Pinnacle provided a very elegant setting also serving specialty night menus from Michelin rated Liberije (sp?) in Holland and Le Cirque in New York. The standard Pinnacle menus for both lunch and dinner were superb. Try them at both times for sure. Sea days breakfast, lunch and tea in the lovely, tall glass windowed main dining room was always a welcomed treat because you can see the waves passing by while you dine, allowing one to really have the sense of being on a ship. The main dining room sparkled elegantly at night with white linens and silver dinner service, but darkness kept those wonderful full window views more obscured during those evening hours in this part of the world. The specialty afternoon teas should not be missed, esp. the Indonesian and Royal Dutch ones. The Lido, Grill and Slice additionally offered a wide variety of foods for all tastes if a more casual setting was desired - with the option of indoor, poolside or outdoor dining, Along with many specialty buffets like crab feasts, Indonesian, Asian, and German sausage tests -- all very good. Wonderful array of cheeses, along with their signature desserts, good ice cream, chocolate chip cookies and the splendid little meringues. ENRICHMENT-SHORE EXCURSIONS: Enrichment lecture speakers were good to excellent and all topical for the areas we were visiting. The only major hassle was Indian immigration which was counter-productive and inefficient. Their constantly changing demands with each Indian port kept the staff up all night meeting trying to get us onshore on time. Staff was brilliant trying to respond to this. Indian regulations and their over-kill make-work officials at each were petty and annoying serving little purpose. India needs to pay attention to this tourist turn-off in the future if they want people to jump through more and more hoops just to enter their country - and enjoy it and spend our money there locally. Shore excursions offered by the ship were all excellent and well worth the prices since we were often in ports that were not used frequently by cruise ships, local traffic was intense, tourism services few to non-existent, and lots of space to cover to get the best feel for the new areas we were visiting. PIRATE PRECAUTIONS: Yes, we did go through pirate precautions that are now standard for all cruises in this Upper Indian/Ocean Red Sea area. In fact, they were less stringent than we experienced on two other cruise lines for this same area. Since this comes with the territory, there should of been no surprises to anyone choosing to travel in this continually unstable area. Can't imagine why any passenger would want to put the ship at risk ignoring these appropriate precautions. No complaints from us. Know before you go. This is not an optional exercise. The Suez Canal passage was just one of the many highlights of this trip. Be sure and bring binoculars and stay outside as much as you can to hear the plaintive Muslim calls to prayers during the day. SMOKING: I for one hope HAL bans smoking all together as it ruins perfectly good public areas for the rest of us with lingering tobacco smells which made the lovely Crows Nest forward viewing lounge almost unusable due to the lingering heavy smoke saturation. That room needs a thorough and deep cleaning and then ban smoking up there entirely, so the rest of the passengers can also enjoy this grand public space. INTERNET: No one expected or got full ship to shore communications traversing this part of the world either. Internet was slow and balky so best to do your emailing when ashore or in the cruise terminal where all the crew members set up their own laptops too. CABIN LOCATION: We tried a lower deck ocean view cabin (Main Deck 2) this time due to the length and price of the trip and found it spacious and accommodating, but missed our balcony. Saving money on the cabin allowed us to enjoy more shore excursions. We were close to open wrap-around walking deck on Deck 3 and found plenty of outdoor and indoor public spaces to enjoy, particularly the wonderfully stocked Rotterdam library and reading room - the Explorations Cafe. OVERALL: Holland America has a winner with this itinerary and the Rotterdam is just the lady to do this special Holland/Indonesia exploration. I hope many can take it for its full 50-90 day length in order to take this fabulous travel through both time and space as one moves from the Old World into the Newer New World - and the global future where over 3 billion people are rapidly moving in to the middle class. Yet while still preserving much of their ancient past and traditions as well. Long being a global traveller with well over 100 countries visited, I realized I had not really fully seen the world until I visited Indonesia - it is a new jewel in the crown of my own family of nations. And we found we loved 50 day cruises too! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered ... Read More
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered that one bag had been erroneously sent by Southwest to Los Angeles, where it was discovered on the L>A> bag carousel. Southwest apologized profusely, said the bag could not be returned prior to ship departure, and would be given to the HAL airport people when it arrived, which happened. Southwest gave me a check to buy the missing items that I could recall, and also had the taxi drop us off at the ship. Boarding was easy since everyone else was on the ship. Our cabin was as reserved, dining room table was as requested and our table mates from Canada were good company throughout the cruise. The ship was excellently maintained, clean and everything worked well: elevators, air conditioning, sound system, etc. We were told that the entire ship's staff on this Grand Cruise had been specifically selected and they were the finest HAL crew my wife and I had ever experienced: the waiters, stewards, supervisors, front desk staff, cruise director ( outstanding) , officers, hotel manager, etc. We had very few unusual requests, but all were met with a smile and done well. Food: The dining room menu was the best we ever experienced, with frequent offerings of prime rib, lobster, huge amounts of shrimp dishes, superb soups,salads, outstanding desserts. We were pleasantly surprised that the Lido Buffet was equally good, breakfast, lunch & dinner ( if we chose not to go to the dining room, especially on busy Port days). The food was always varied, appeared attractive, and the friendly servers explained unfamiliar dishes for us. Many dishes in the Lido were cooked right there, as the food in the pans was taken by diners. There were several excellent outdoor deck buffets, limited only by the number of deck electrical outlets for cooking. The dessert bar in the Lido always had a great variety, breakfast pastries were superb and varied, and the breads were also quite good. There was an Asian station in the buffet with different Asian dishes at lunch and dinner. There was a sushi station daily at lunch. There was also a Pizza and pasta station daily, which my wife ( pizza fan) says was excellent. The pool deck area had a hamburger and sausage and another pizza counter, all of which were freshly done throughout the day, but hard to compete with the great inside buffet. Food service: The dining room waiters were efficient, wee eager to substitute another entree if the chosen one was not what you thought it would be. The kitchen chefs provided items not on the menu if requested in advance ( escargot, some other items). The Lido staff rapidly cleared tables, provided ice water and coffee to the tables as needed, helped people carry plates to tables if needed. Entertainment: The showroom shows were varied. We saw the same HAL musical reviews we had seen on other voyages, since HAL keeps a costly show on stage for about 3 years. The singing and dancing was good, since the shows were familiar to the performers.On other nights,the guest singers, musicians, magicians, were good, generally better than on some other cruises. The movies shown in the Wajang theater were generally poor, films that might be shown on TV. but not in movie theaters. When we were in Japanese ports, HAL showed older Hollywood Japan-themed films from the l960's that although dated were appropriate for the location. There were several musicians who appeared in the top deck bar (Crow's Nest?)who were quite entertaining. Lectures and enlightenment: In addition to Barbara the port lecturer, the ship also had Mr. Salinger, a well travelled author, who provided much background information about Japan, China, Russia, and the the maritime industry. There was another lectuer wo is a Ph.D. naturalist who provided much information about marine life, Fish in particular, as well as other talks on nature. On board shopping: Miserable. Limited stock, inflated prices, little variety. Clerks were courteus & helpful, but limited to what management chose to put in the stores. Tailoring: A Chinese tailor boarded in Japan, measured men & women for shirts, suits,etc., which would be made while we were at sea and delivered in Singapore. We did not get anything. Ports: This cruise had a full time extremely experienced port lecturer, Barbara, who provided complete information about each Port before we reached it, so that we could use local transportation, walk to nearby scenic areas, and know what to look for on the tours and excursions. Library and computer area: The librarians were knowledgeable, helpful in finding a book, even if in the off-limits storage area. The computers were slow as they often are, but the computer technician was as helpful as possible considering the incredibly slow computers. Front desk: More knowledgeable, helpful, courteous than any staff we ever before experienced. Officers, cruise director: Outstandingly helpful, courteous, honest. Captain kept passengers informed as needed. Cruise Itinerary: The North Pacific was extremely rough, with huge swells, and much ship motion. A storm prevented us from reaching our first port, Kushiro in Northern Japan, and we sailed very close to the uninhabited Russian Kurile Islands, and into the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching first port of Hakodate.The Captain modified the actual course to avoid as much of the storms as possible. Excursions: We arranged, months earlier , to take private excursions in every port and cannot report on the Amsterdam Shore excursions. Piers: In every port, the ship docked as close as possible to the center of town: In Shanghai we were on the edge of the Bund, In Nagasaki downtown and one block from the tram station, in Yokohama ( for Tokyo) we were within a few blocks of a shopping center, and a local (that weekend) German Beer and Harvest Festival. Kobe was similar. In Hong Kong, we were at the Ocean Terminal, two blocks to the Star Ferry or Peninsula Hotel. Debarkation: efficient, easy. Our luggage was on the pier and we took a taxi to our hotel nearby, since our return flight was the next day. We took an airport bus ( about $10 USD each) from our hotel to the new Hong Kong airport, about 45 mins. drive. That bus picked up passengers at three hotels, put luggage down below , and unloaded us at out airline entry area. There are numerous luggage trolleys outside the entryway to carry bags to the ticket counters. This was the finest cruise we ever experienced, on any cruise line, and one which future cruises will be compared with. We think the underlying reason is that this was a 'Grand Cruise' which is more costly than regular HAL cruises, and well worth it. The Chef and kitchen staff produced great meals consistently, which proves that "it can be done." Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet ... Read More
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet the standards we have experienced on Cunard and Holland America at a cost of only £140 per person per day on a magnificent ship and in a mini suite with one of the largest balconies imaginable. The answer is they can't and they make little pretence of trying to. That is not to say the cruise -- which we thoroughly enjoyed -- wasn't good value. But it's a distinctly downmarket product. One gets a sense of this with the first cup of coffee. The mugs in the Lido (or the Horizon Court as Princess calls it) are melamine, as are the plates. And the coffee is pretty much undrinkable. The food there is however, very good. Bland, of course, but varied and with simple things done well. I would rate their production of breakfast as highly as anything we've experienced at sea with first class eggs, excellent corned beef hash and lean English bacon alongside the crispy American variety. The Lido is really where Princess put most of their catering effort and, in their defence, they are responding to what customers want. Huge portions are the priority and day after day, meal after meal, we watched cruisers fill the enormous oval dinner plates with massive helpings. Not surprisingly, many of the cruisers were as massive as the portions they loaded onto their plates. But in the formal restaurant, things are disappointing. Formal dining may not last much longer on Princess. On the second, 8.15 sitting, we sat in a frequently half full restaurant where the service was very good but where the food was largely mediocre and sometimes simply poor. If only it had matched the quality of the prose on the menu. One night, between Hong Kong and Taiwan, the six of us ordered Rib Eye steaks which were huge in size but with so much gristle that not one of us would have paid for them in a restaurant. The beef was almost always lacking in flavour and the kitchen perpetually struggled to produce steaks or prime rib which met our requirements. One night, medium rare beef would be nearly blue and on another almost well done. Vegetables were sad, the soups inevitably uninspiring and everything was served with far too much salt. We drank so much water at dinner that we always left the table feeling bloated. There are good things about Diamond Princess. The ship is magnificent with six pools and eighteen bars and its size meant that it coped superbly with some unusually difficult weather including, at one point, 30-foot seas and a force ten gale. The staff are always well presented, always wonderfully welcoming, and we found the bar staff outstanding. The Crooners Bar produces Margaritas to die for. But the entertainment was generally very poor with puerile comedians and two Cruise Directors convinced that their job was all about presenting an imbecilic morning show on stateroom TV. Movies Under The Stars provided an exception. The picture quality was good, the sound quality excellent and this was a delightful way to watch the cinema late at night. The cabins are the usual high quality. We had D736 a mini suite but designed for disabled customers and with two beds which would not easily fit together. But by compensation we had a huge bathroom and a magnificent balcony of double the normal size and with views to the rear as well out to sea. We had just one cabin steward who had to cope with twenty rooms on his own and we soon realised that it was impossible for him to respond promptly or sometimes at all to additional requests. The customer base is a little different to our previous experiences on Cunard and Holland America. There was little formality and only a minority of men wore tuxedos on the half dozen formal nights. On the other nights smart casual really meant that anything goes, including shorts and lots of blue denim jeans worn by men who were old enough to know better. Baseball caps in the formal dining room were a common sight. So our verdict on Princess? Good value but this is an economy product. Nothing wrong with that. But if you have enjoyed the standards of lines like Cunard or HAL (even though they might cost more) you'll find Princess seriously lacking. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Overall we 'quite' enjoyed the cruise, but it has to go down as one of our least successful. I'll get the problems out of the way first before giving an overview of the cruise ship. Some of the problems on this cruise were ... Read More
Overall we 'quite' enjoyed the cruise, but it has to go down as one of our least successful. I'll get the problems out of the way first before giving an overview of the cruise ship. Some of the problems on this cruise were caused by events in a previous sector, namely a major drug bust of 4 passengers carrying cocaine who were arrested in San Fransisco and Sydney, before we boarded. (Serious enough to have been reported on Sky News.)However, the result of these events meant that we were a marked ship, subject to the most rigorous screening (full cabin searches, dog sniffing and additional baggage and personal searches especially in remaining Autralian ports and in Bali. Bad luck for anybody carrying small amounts of recreational stuff for own use!)The worst aspect was that we were unable to visit Yorkey's Knob, from where we had hoped to visit the Great Barrier Reef after 30+ years of trying. This was because the Australian authorities decided that Yorkey's Knob didn't have adequate screening for such a dodgy ship, so we would have to be screened at Cairns - but our anchorage position remained the same, and it would have taken hours to tender all 2000 passengers and crew up to Cairns. So Captain decided not worth it at all - we wouldn't have got the the GBR that day. So that was the first disappointment. But there were other difficulties, including a taxi blockade in Bali preventing P&O shuttle buses leaving the pier (so going nowhere)coupled with the pontoon on the pier getting damaged by waves, so preventing tender boats coming to pick up stranded passengers. (Many of whom spent the whole day in a bar off the pier who must have thought it was Christmas birthday and anniversary all come at once.) The Bali authorities appeared to be unable to mend the damaged pontoon, such that engineers from Aurora were despatched to do the job. This took until about 3pm, by which time tours buses that had got through before the taxi blockade were returning. We got to the pier around 5.30 after our tour, to face a 2 and a half hour queue. Medics from the ship had been brought over to identify any urgent medical cases to get priority. Aurora finally left Bali several hours late, with some very disgruntled people (also some very drunk ones). The other 'external' cause of passenger fury was that local tender boats were used as well as ship's tenders in Koh Samui, and the one we were on had a completely incompetent crew incapable of tying up to the Aurora, so passengers sat or stood on open decks in 39 degree temperature stewing while senior P&O officers were sent down to sort things out. Being overheated temperature-wise certainly raised the emotional temperature too.On the ship itself, the only significant problem was the continuous dripping from the air conditioning. The sight of buckets everywhere, and dehumidifiers to dry out soaking carpets, became the butt of continuous jokes both by the entertainers on the ship and the passengers. The staff did what they could, but it was not an edifying sight. It has to be said the weather was very hot and humid for most of this sector. So having got the problems out of the way, how did I rate Aurora? We liked it / P&O a whole lot better than Cunard, which we also experienced this year. Drinks and excursions half the price, so less feeling of being ripped off. Most staff very good, especially cabin and dining room service. Loved the spa, and the gym (though gym far too small given the number of people attending classes), the pools were nice. Library was quite good, there was plenty of public area space, reasonably well kept (ignoring drips). There were some quite good enhancement offerings like art clubs, photo clubs and dance lessons. The theatre was quite nice but too small to accommodate half the passengers (i.e. all of first or second sitting) - which might not have been a problem had there been any alternative entertainment while the show was on. But most nights at 8.30 everything else shut down, so if you weren't having dinner and didn't want to watch the show (or couldn't get in) there was absolutely nothing to do, not even live music in a bar - oh, and the occasional quiz, which is fine if you watch TV a lot and can answer those type of questions. The standard of the food was mostly pretty good (much the same as Cunard, not as good as on the smaller luxury ships). However, the alternative dining venues were a disappointment. Marco Pierre White would not want his name put to what is served in his name in the Cafe Bordeaux. It was 'OK' but much the same as in the Alexandria / Medina restaurants. Te Pennant Grill was maybe slightly better but the heat and humidity made it a less than enjoyable experience up there. Overall, I think most passengers would have had a good time, there are a lot of very loyal P&O passengers. But for us, it confirmed what we thought after our Cunard cruise: we never want to go on such a big ship again. Having a large number of tender ports (over half) plus being forced to moor in big industrial docks well away from city / towns centres, requiring some long shuttle buses rides, the continual queuing for one thing or another, and fixed seating / timing in restaurants - not for us. We also would never go on a sector of a world cruise again.Too few ports and too many sea days, and a different atmosphere with some passengers doing the whole world cruise and the rest continually changing. I like embarking with everyone else (preferably fewer than 400 people) ans sharing the whole cruise in common with them. I did meet some nice people, and would not try to deter anyone from taking a P&O cruise. I just know I won't be doing it again. The itinerary wasn't that great either, once we'd lost Yorkey's Knob for the Great Barrier Reef. I haven't been able to rate all the ports because several are not on the list, and probably for good reason. The last few ports were very repetitive - basically the main attraction was the beach, which when it is really hot is maybe not where you want to spend hour after hour. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is very attentive. The Calypso Pool is an especially cheerful place - beautiful mosaics and dramatic lighting at night. The food was exceptionally good in all venues. We liked the flexibility of Anytime Dining. Cabin Great location - close to the atrium elevators. While Princess calls this a "fully obstructed view" many cruise lines would have called this a "partially obstructed view." We had a good view over the top of the lifeboat. (We could completely see the Sydney Opera House over the lifeboat.) I believe you would be able to see over the lifeboats from almost any of the cabins in this category on deck 8. We also had a small view down to the water, next to the lifeboat. The cabin felt fairly roomy for its size, probably because there was only an armchair, not a settee or sofa. There was a flatscreen TV, about 36", a refrigerator, vanity with 3 small drawers and a desk chair. There was one long closet, about 7' of hanging space, which felt underutilized because it didn't have any shelf space (other than the shelf above the rod in the closet) that some other ships have. The shelves were in a separate closet, about two feet wide, and the safe (which used a keypad entry) occupied one of the shelves. The bathroom was typical in size and had a shower curtain (not doors). We liked most of the ports. The towns of Airlie Beach, Port Douglas, and Darwin, Australia are somewhat similar. There is not a lot to do, especially in Airlie Beach, unless you want to go to the Barrier Reef, which we have already done in the past. Many shore excursions seemed overpriced. Taiwan was a disappointment. We took a shore excursion, but the guide's English skills were poor. The city itself seemed less prosperous than the other cities we visited. Busan, S. Korea was one of the prosperous cities. They have the second largest fish market in the world - really a sight to see! Busan goes out of its way to make cruise ships and passengers feel welcome. Shanghai was wonderful. We toured on our own without a problem. The metro is clean and easy to use, with signage in English. We rode the fastest train in the world, the maglev, from a metro station in Pudong to the airport and back just to experience it --well worth it. We shopped at an underground market at the Science and Technology Museum metro stop, then took the metro to the Bund. The buildings look like something you would expect in Brussels. The promenade along the river goes for many blocks and offers good views of both the Bund and Pudong with its world class skyscrapers and the Pearl Tower. In Dalian, China we took a shore excursion from the ship that featured a visit to the home of a local family. That was one of the highlights of the whole trip. The cruise ended in Tianjin, China, the port for Beijing, about a 2 1/2 - 3 hour bus ride to Beijing. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
I joined Arcadia in Singpore for a very relaxing cruise through Asia visiting Sihanoukville, Bangkok, Phu My, Ha Long Bay, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki, Osaka, Rabaul, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. Overall it was an excellent ... Read More
I joined Arcadia in Singpore for a very relaxing cruise through Asia visiting Sihanoukville, Bangkok, Phu My, Ha Long Bay, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki, Osaka, Rabaul, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. Overall it was an excellent cruise with some fantastic ports and excellent weather. I really did enjoy the cruise and found it very relaxing and entertaining. It had that laid back type of atmosphere onboard opposed to the fast paced mood of short cruises. Public Rooms - were all clean and well presented. Allot of the lounges and bars were spacious and it was very easy to find a place to sit down and relax and do whatever you wanted to do. Cabin - I had a balcony cabin on A deck which was clean and well presented. There was a little cosmetic wear and tear in the bathroom and on the walls, but there was no more wear and tear than you would find in a standard land based hotel. The cabin is excellent for a ship. It in no way compares to a 5 star hotel and if you wanted to compare it to a land based hotel you would be looking at around a 3 star + hotel. Dining/Food - Food is always subjective to the individual and what they like to eat. What I found on Arcadia was that the food served was far superior to any land based fast food chain like McDonalds, KFC, the average hamburger store, RSL/bowling club type food. If you have eaten at some place more upmarket then you will find the food on Arcadia does not compare to that. I found the Neptune Grill for burgers, hotdogs and fast food outstanding during the day and probably the best for day food on the ship. The Belvedere Buffet Restaurant was great for cold meats and salads but for lunch it was the slops line. Breakfast in the Belvedere was excellent as was Dinner. The Meridian Dining Room was always great and my selection always med with my satisfaction. As said above the food was much better than average land based places but not as good as the more up market places. In the 10 years I have been cruising with P&O the food standard has dropped considerably since the Carnival merger. Entertainment - This was excellent and the Headliners Theatre group always impress. The entertainment was run by a great Cruise Director and team who were very energetic and involved with the passengers. We had random guest entertainers to varied tastes on board. If you liked their style and genre then they were great. If the performer does something that your not interested in then obviously there is no point seeing them as you wont like it. Ship/Facilities - Arcadia is showing a bit of wear and tear. Whilst the public rooms that I described above are acceptable there are some small things that do pose a problem. 1. None of the whirlpool spas/jacuzzi's work at all. None of them blow any bubbles or have any jet pressure. They just dont work. 2. The pools are not being heated to a comfortable level. The Neptune Pool (the covered pool) is not heated due to it being under a closing roof and causing too much humidity when the weather is bad. Unfortnately the pool is unusable in cold climates. 3. Some of the decking is coming apart as well as some areas around the ship have leaks. There are pot holes in some of the carpet from the leaks. It is obvious that there are areas of the ship that need attention. It is not bad enough to ruin a holiday, but the lack of maintenance speaks volumes about the attitude of the management and their upkeep of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
I agree with all that 'graham 100' has said about his leg to Dubai. To start with the boarding organisation in Southampton was chaotic. The cabin was very clean and tidy - we had a good steward in Peter. The TV was about a ... Read More
I agree with all that 'graham 100' has said about his leg to Dubai. To start with the boarding organisation in Southampton was chaotic. The cabin was very clean and tidy - we had a good steward in Peter. The TV was about a 15" flatscreen which was pathetically poor together with the service it gave. The ship and decor could have done with some attention but overall it was satisfactory. The food in the Main restaurant was very inconsistent ranging from good to inedible. The Belverdere had fresher food but limited choice. We have cruised on Arcadia before and the food standards were much higher. Generally speaking the restaurant service was not good - the waiters were poorly trained and rarely smiled. Their supervision was almost non-existent. The drinks were fairly priced and the bar service was good. The Captain's 'Cocktail Party' was held in the enclosed swimming pool which was highly inappropriate/too small. The free wines were awful/undrinkable and we opted for a g and t. We had a glimpse of the Captain when he said a few words which was more than some experienced. We didn't bother to subject ourselves to the second 'party'. The elusive Captain was spotted twice when most of the passengers were on excursions! His officers were also rarely seen. The excursion programme was mostly a disaster according to most we spoke to. We had two 50% refunds because the excursions were disastrous. The guy that gave the pre-excursion talks was partly to blame because his information/photos were years out of date. The coaches used in Aqaba and Egypt were old and dirty - something P&O should have checked. There were some good speakers but some should never been allowed on board. The entertainment provided was mixed with a few good acts but mostly they were ruined by poor direction/sound control. The regular group The Headliners (Headbangers)danced quite well but their singing was dreadful. P&O's cost cutting I suspect was mostly to blame for this average and disappointing cruise. P&O are not the only cruise line that is falling into the same trap probably promoted by accountants! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to ... Read More
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to expect. Our Grand Voyage was a 70 night cruise, visiting many ports in the Far East, Australia, and a bit of the South Pacific. We sailed from our home port of Seattle, which was convenient but enabled us to take far too much luggage. The embarkation procedure was efficient. The ship was just as we remembered it; immaculately clean, an extensive art collection, beautiful floral displays. Our room, on this cruise, was an inside cabin on the Verandah Deck. We had plenty of space for storage and to move about. No noise issues. In the first hours, our Cabin Stewards made sure that they introduced themselves, and that we had everything we needed. In spite of the fact that they are now responsible for many more rooms than in the past, our Cabin Stewards did an amazing job of keeping our room clean. They still took the time to make a towel animal each night, too. We prefer to eat in the Lido, rather than in the LaFontaine Dining Room. We find that the food is just as good, but we have the advantage of being able to mix & match entrees & sides, rather than having the set plate combos that are served in the dining room. The dining room stewards on the Lido are absolutely outstanding! It took only a few days before they called us by name, knew where we preferred to be seated, served our beverages as we liked, etc. Another benefit of eating on the Lido, is that the staff are much more willing to socialize with the guests. We loved the opportunity to learn about Indonesia. On this cruise, we ate a few suppers in the Pinnacle, which we found to be excellent. Although we attended a Le Cirque night, both of us much prefer the Pinnacle's regular menu. Our ports on this cruise were many & varied. We only participated in a couple of excursions, sponsored by HAL, as most were quite overpriced. Before the cruise, I was actively involved in our Roll Call, so I was able to both organize & participate in several Cruise Critic excursions. These were all excellent - and a great value. we had a travel guide, who was supposed to share information about each port. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would sometimes use her role to get people to purchase HAL's shore excursions, rather than supporting people who wanted to visit the ports independently. The evening entertainment was not what it used to be, although there were a few, very good performers. The best shows, were those put on by the crew. We had both an Indonesian & a Filipino Crew Show on this cruise. Day time activities, on sea days, varied minimally from day to day, but there were a wide range of activities available; sports, educational lectures, water color classes, etc. We had 4 guest chefs who were on board at different times during the cruise; all provided excellent demos in the Culinary Arts Center. When we disembarked in Long Beach, CA, the process of leaving the ship was well thought out & organized. Unfortunately, the process fell apart once we were reunited with our baggage. The lack of sufficient porters resulted in mayhem. Our Grand Voyage was exactly that - Grand. We spent 70 indulgent days aboard a beautiful ship, with an entire crew that provided truly loving care. We traveled with a fascinating group of passengers. We were never bored, nor homesick. The only significant disappointment, was having to leave the ship at the end of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
OVERVIEW:Both cruises were excellent, and we would have no hesitation in recommending this line to anyone considering a keenly priced alternative to some of the 6 star ships, or for anyone on a higher cabin grade/cost on 3-5 star lines... ... Read More
OVERVIEW:Both cruises were excellent, and we would have no hesitation in recommending this line to anyone considering a keenly priced alternative to some of the 6 star ships, or for anyone on a higher cabin grade/cost on 3-5 star lines... With all the inclusions offerred (wine, gratuities, port shuttles, coffee and soft drinks) plus the fact that cabins are well appointed, laid out for max use of space, plenty of storage and well soundproofed, that excursions were fairly priced around the $80-150 mark, its a VERY good deal. Cuisine was well above average, with the finest ingredients, varied international menus and probably the best breakfasts we have seen at sea. A high standard of cuisine overall with some reservations as to SOME items - see details in section below.Add to this the excellent and friendly staff, bridge, engine and galley tours, smart casual attire and you have a product that offers a lot more value for money than we have found anywhere else. On top of this, the pretty well intelligent, professional and laid back passenger profile (UK, US, Canada, Aussies with some Euro pax), with age of pax around 38-55 means mid-agers will love it also for the lack of kids, no overdone formality or familiarity for that matter - just a friendly mix. It's a goodie !In a nutshell, for the rapid reader, here are our observations of the pros and cons, for more detail please read on after...! PROS + CONS:PROS: Company integrity and fair treatment after changes to itinerary; Overnight stays in port: pricing spot-on and included generous offerings of good wine and sodas; Staff, top service; well appointed cabins with quality toiletries and accessories, variety of entertainment, reasonably priced and well chosen excursions, shuttle buses. High degree of safety and security is a company priority. In the 'pirate-zone' special measures with costly diversions were made to protect the ship. Most of our small shipboard concerns and enquiries were acted upon and fixed almost immediately.CONS: Website a bit flaky; Some matters required referal to head office and the subsequent delay in reply from Miami meant some issues that should have been handled on board could not; Food quality superb though expertise in preparation was at times below the high standards elewhere; No AV "in" available on the LCD TV in the cabin to reveiw fotos/videos, lack of movie playing times in the onboard daily news; deck cleaning often in very late evening which made them slippery at times.ABOUT US: We are a well travelled, 50's same-sex couple of 29 years, who have a enjoyed a good few cruises, hotels, itineraries , destinations and voyages on 5 continents under our well-travelled belts. After 30 years in the travel industry and semi-retired, we now travel on FULL fares and costs are an important consideration. We chose our first trip on Azamara because prices were comparable to a one-way business class fare (very $$$ ex Australia to Europe). On reesearching, Azamara was also chosen because the cabin facilities and grade were above average, the published fares were almost all-inclusive - with fare inclusive of gratuities, complimenatry wine at meals, and soft drinks offered throughout on an itinerary with port overnights. In short - the Singapore-Dubai and Dubai Athens b2b cruises on AZAMARA ticked our boxes for a leisurely trip to Athens.Many of the other current reviews on sectors of the Azamara 2011 Asia cruises reflect the current layout, facilities and staff/service on the Quest very well, so won't repeat here, rather would like to truly review the excellent, good and 'almost good' of our Azamara experience....OUR CONCERNS BEFORE SAILING:Firstly, it was to be a long trip - all in all over 3 1/2 weeks on board for the 2 cruises. Secondly we had sailed Crystal as a premium product before, as well as cruising on 'value' lines such as NCL, so were prepared to experience, something in the middle with Azamara. Thirdly, as a same-sex couple, one of us a smoker and with this length of time at sea plus Azamara's tight smoking policy, there were some reservations as to smoking and acceptance of our discreet but alternative lifestyle. We need not have worried on any account...AZAMARA CRUISES THE COMPANY (PLEASE READ ALL !) :Having been in Management with airline, hotel and group & Consular travel services companies for over 30 years, the first consideration for a traveller should always be the company with whom you are making a transaction. Azamara was an unknown to us and when we first booked with our agent, we found the response from RCI agency in Sydney to be below par in coming back with some of the info we needed.Assuming this to be the fault of our agent, I tried myself to call. In short, it took a lot of time, yielded poor responses, often lacking in knowledge , and most especially - in the all important matter of showing empathy with your client. Turning to the website was not much better and the fact that the layout and user access to important matters was somtimes a bit "hit and miss" did not add to our initial impression.**(IF the resident Cruise Critic blogger for Azamara Club Cruises happens to read this review, I would be most grateful for a private message so that I may discuss further this review on a professional level...)**That said, our ACTUAL experience was that Azamara Cruises are an extremely fair and customer conscious corporation:-We were advised in a timely manner, nearly 80 days before sailing that due to security concerns with the Mideast situation, our port call was being substituted from Alexandria to Santorini. The company not only advised early (unlike our upcoming Oceania cruise with about 17 days notice of changes), but Azamara also offered a very generous onboard credit to each guest as a goodwill gesture. Apologies were again given onboard. This is putting the customer first - well done Azamara !The company also suffered misfortune with bad fuel being supplied in Mumbai, but prudent fuelling and navigation planning ensured we were not "running low" and despite having to dock elsewhere this did not affect schedule. In fact the planning was such that the poor fuel was carried on board all the way to Athens for eco-friendly defuelling there - I am sure at great cost, but with full respect for the environment. The ship also faced the breakdown of our escort-ship from Dubai through the 'pirate-zone' off the horn of Africa. Consequently, Azamara went to great expense in loading our security team aboard in Dubai and then to dock again at Muscat to load their armaments. Again at great cost, but with schedule unaffected as the Captain kept full speed on for a week to meet schedules. The concern for safety. security and sticking to schedule could not receive high enough acclaim. Truly professional.THE SHIP. PASSENGERS, CABIN : The Quest was the first trip for us aboard any of the R Class ships. Quest was well apointed, nicely maintained and well laid out. She rode well and provided a feel of a good upscale hotel at sea with warm and traditional "club" decor. We prefer the more intimate and low key voyages offered on such ships. However if passengers, crew or services are 'off the mark'on such ships it can make for a stressed experience. Not so on board the Quest - it was a wonderful balance on all sides. Great fellow passengers, most of a semi-professional background, middle aged, well travelled and of a pleasant and entertaining nature. Passengers mingled well , without over-familiarity and the atmosphere was indeed that of the members at a friendly club. The cruise encompassed many "at sea" days - 9 in fact between Dubai and Suez but with a varied and diverse program on board, there was rarely any time that could not have been filled should you have wished. On board program covered everything from cuisine to dance - enrichment lectures - ships tours to galley, bridge and engine control room - games - spa, gym and excellent fitness instruction. A well rounded programmed indeed. even with nearly a month at sea, we did not grow weary of our journey and were sad to leave the vessel in Athens, (with still so much that we could have done !). Our cabin - 1B Veranda - was about 10% smaller than that on Crystal but well planned in layout. It offered great space and storage and despite reading of the 'shower curtain' issue, this was NOT an issue, the curtain is well designed, locked at one end and does not "flap out and cling" from the well designed shower stall. Storage again is plentiful in the bathroom. cabin service was almost immediate with several fellow passwengers remarking on the fact that the magical 'clean-team' would literally tidy up as one left the room. Cleaning was done thoroughly, all valet services efficiently and with a smile, a professional team here.SMOKING AND OUR 'ALTERNATIVE' LIFESTYLE :As a smoker, I was initially upset on boarding to having been 'relegated' to one upstairs zone to smoke, and not being able to do so on my cabin veranda. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. As I and my (non-smoking) partner discovered the benefit of a single smoking area on the ship - In effect an outdoor, weather protected veranda on the pool deck. Here, we mingled with others (who were also, more often than not, one smoker with a non-smoking partner !). The result was a group on board that met socially as they stopped by "for a fix" whilst not inflicting their bad habits on other passenegrs. The area actually became a social venue and many friendships have developed as a result of the friendly gathering that eventuated. On the issue of our lifetyle, the ship provided a discreet meeting time each day for people of same-sex orientation and again, friends were made on board. Crew and all staff were most accepting and kind in their dealings with us. Well done Azamara ... Good policy = good outcome for all. ENTERTAINMENT: Excellent for a small ship. The shows were well chosen and varied each night. Many guest artists joined at each port giving refreshment to the evening programme. In paricular, we should mention :Johnathan Johnston, an outstanding Flautist (and certainly a virtuoso on the flute) performed to standing ovations on the 12 day Dubai-Athens leg. Even the non-classical were blown away by this incredibly talented guy. The resident Raconteur/Pianist Donald (Jim) Badger was witty, incisive and brilliant in this difficult position on any ship. Filling a lounge or cabaret with a polished and varied act nearly every day. With a lot of B2B cruisers this is not easy, but his repertoire and humourin parrying with the audience in a playful manner made him a true gem of the offering.Azamara's keen eye for the small touches such as ; - CD of crickets chirping playing on pool deck area at night ! - A special memorial service for servicemen on Australia's ANZAC Day which was held on deck at dawn by the Captain and Senior Crew for Australian, New Zealand and other guests. - A Special "Gala" day for the British Royal wedding, with live coverage and catering.Kudos to all for a well selected and varied line up. 99 % well above average and very often just brilliant.CUISINE:Serving staff were faultless, bordering on brilliant. Nothing but the highest praise for their efficient, friendly and courteous service. all done without familiarity or cheesiness. These guys were well chosen, love their work and it shows. In all venues and without individual exception they were superb.The only SMALL downside for us was some small matters regarding cuisine. To set the scene - we are NOT "foodies" , nor do we eat out in 5 star restaurants weekly back home. We are of the old-school, 'eat what is provided for you' upbringing and certainly are not menu-snobs or wannabe Chefs... We also understand catering to 100's or 1000's of guests in varied restaurants over the course of a day and at sea is never easy.What WAS provided on Quest was excellent choices. International meant just that, asian, indian, greek, itlaian, mexican, french, spanish etc. Three included dining areas and two speciality restaurants were available each day as was room service from the in-room or restaurant menu of the day. This, by the way was very well done, offering a fast and friendly delivery of hot food and most importantly, all the condiments - never had to ask for sauce or spices, they were on the tray along with generous cutlery settings. Important when you have had the experience of having to ring again for the missing items !! Azamara had room service completely and efficiently taken care of - bravo ! Service, Variety and choice were never an issue.The ingredients, provisions meats and variety of fruits and vegetables was of the very best quality. The company has spent a lot of time and money here and it should show...However, although all ingredients were of excellent quality, esp. the never-ending lobster and steaks, both well cooked and presented, the Executive Chef for the main restaurants on AZ QUEST was, to our mind, lacking in his supervision and preparation of SOME dishes. I honestly believe that the preparation is more under par than admitted to... leading to a few dishes and menu items going out to tables that shouldnt have - I will not nit-pick , but for example (soggy batter on prawns, steak 'surf and turf' served but lobster forgotten (!) in Specialty restaurant, in particular we disliked the soups, often they were over-salted or over-sweetened with poor stock bases, and some weird menu items like chocolate or strawberry soup in the savoury part of the menu, that really have no place on any menu. A good stock/soup chef and deletion of some over-fancy bizarre cuisine ideas on some of the main Discoveries restaurant menus. Buffet overall was well above average and on many occassions superior to the food received in main restaurants of other ships.That said we ate and drank very well (The complimentary wines at lunch 11.30-2.30 and dinner from 18.00-21.30 , free flowing by the way, are all bottled vintages from around the world - very good too!). So please don't regard this as an indictment on the beautiful food and quality ingredients offered. We ate well - Azamara could just lift the supervision in preparation at times.We have expressed this to Quest's Hotel Director, Ryszard onboard and understand that they will review. IMPORTANT: To be fair, this is our only real issue, and on this voyage, there may have been some kitchen complications or absent staff. But, with the rest of the ship scoring near-perfect in our book, this, to US, if fixed, would put Azamara up close there with other 6 * ships on nearly every front.THE SUM UP As two value conscious travellers, in our early 50s, we are experienced of over 100 destinations over 30 years and look keenly at quality/price/value for our trips. We travel from 3-5 star on land/sea/air and can state that that this is a very, very good product which has come a long way since their initial poor start (we understand from early CC reviews in 2007). We travelled on Azamara's regular published fares and while this review may seem too glowing it is not, it's exactly the way we saw things. We review through our other compared experiences for price quality and value. All in all we would have no hesitation in recommending Azamara Quest, we will put this company on our preferred shopping list for future itineraries. ALL of our close shipmates concurred and are also very likely to choose Azamara again. So, go for it - its a good sail and these people delivered well ! Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Embarkation: We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel ... Read More
Embarkation: We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel and dumped into a room with not enough seating. We stood for 6 hours with no explanation as to why there were no shuttles nor when there would be any. We were told "soon." Had Princess been honest we would have taken a cab. Finally at 2:30 we were taken to the pier only to have to stand in a horrendous line for 1 1/2 hours. Not a good experience after an 18 hour flight from California. This ranks as one of the worst embarkation experiences in our 22 cruises. The Diamond Princess is one of the most beautiful ships we've ever seen. Standing on a deck in Sydney Harbor was awesome. We were thrilled to be in Sydney and on the Diamond. There was a CC Meet and Greet at Skywalkers and then no other CC activities for the duration of the trip. Since there were 127 CC members we were very disappointed that we weren't acknowledged or that anything else was organized for us. Our port side balcony cabin was nice although there wasn't as much storage as on other cruise lines. As on other ships the cabin steward - Chai - was very helpful and anxious to please. Unfortunately Princess has a smoking in stateroom policy and, as luck would have it, passengers across from us smoked non-stop and, it seemed, round the clock. Guest Relations would not do anything to help us. I repeatedly asked to be moved, was even willing to give up a balcony for an ocean view, but they refused saying the ship was sold out although I knew for a fact it was not. I suffered from a major sinus infection as a result and my illness went to deaf ears, even to Santa Clarita who obviously does not care about client retention. For a ship the size of the Diamond the fitness center is inadequate. I love riding the Exercycle in front of a floor to ceiling window overlooking the ocean. That is not the case on the Diamond. There were 3 bikes all facing a wall with weights in front. There was always at least a 30 minute wait for the cycle. The room was always uncomfortably hot. On other cruise ships there were jars of water with lemon or cucumber. No water was offered in the fitness center. The scale was in kilos so I couldn't keep track of weight gain. This cruise went from Sydney to Beijing and for some reason we always docked far from town and at container ports. Most of us were disappointed that we were always so far from town and had to rely on shuttles to get to town. Unfortunately the entertainment was mediocre at best. Since the theatre did not accommodate all the passengers each show was repeated. After the first couple of shows we didn't bother going to any more. As for the comedians who appeared in other venues on the ship, the jokes were very old and hadn't been particularly funny in their prime. During the first part of the cruise we had both an Elvis and a Rod Stewart. They appeared a few times during the first few days and then got off the ship. They were quite good and it was fun to watch them. There were 2 or 3 good movies. They should have had more since this was a 23 day cruise. Movies Under the Stars had a few movies and concerts but they should have offered much more. Dan Styne, the Cruise Director did a good job and there was a variety of activities. Zumba was offered on most sea days and was very popular. We even had horse racing on three days and had a wonderful time. At $3 a race that was a fun and reasonable activity. We are seasoned travelers and know how challenging it is to feed thousands of people. However, the food in the International Dining Room was not as good as it could have been. The meat, be it beef, pork or lamb, was always dry and overcooked, as was the fish. Luckily I could order gravy and tartar sauce to drown the food. The desserts were very bland. We had pavlovas one night and I used my knife to stab the meringue shell into pieces. It was that hard. The Horizon Court is very nicely laid out. It has the feel of a restaurant instead of a cafeteria as in most ships. Unfortunately the fare was repetitive and boring after the first few days. We enjoyed having fish and chips at the English Pub lunch which was offered quite often. There were a few different brews for sale, although at a high price. The tea at 3:30 every afternoon was very well presented with a nice variety of sandwiches and little cakes. Wine tasting was very reasonable - $9.50 - and the wines were all quite good. Our cruise was shortly after Yasi. Port Douglas was still experiencing bad weather. Nevertheless we still snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef. Although visibility was poor it still was a wonderful experience. The lunch provided by Quicksilver was wonderful. Because of our late return the ship sailed two hours late. We took the Elephant Park Safari in Bali. That was one of the high points of our cruise even though it took a couple of hours to get there in very heavy traffic. We were also late getting back and again the ship sailed 2 hours late. We were so glad that we took Princess excursions as the worst thing that could happen is waving to a ship sailing away. When we docked in Keelung, Taiwan, "bankers" boarded the ship to exchange currency. Sale was from 10:00-12:00, purchase of unused New Taiwan Dollars 3:00-5:00. That was a major disaster. As soon as we got off the ship it started pouring. We could see that the streets across from the pier were dirty, dingy and ugly. We immediately returned to the ship and asked to change the currency back. We were told that we had to wait until 3:00. Luckily I showed up at 2:30 as I knew the lines would be huge. A few people lined up at 3:30 and after waiting 1 1/2 hours, the bankers left at 5:00, leaving those passengers holding useless currency, not accepted anywhere else. There was such a huge uproar that a few days later the ship offered currency exchange services - at a fee, of course. So, my suggestion to everyone, do not exchange any more currency than you can put in coin collections if exchange is not available. Although I made sure that Express Checkout meant Express Checkout - that turned out not to be the case. A credit balance must be taken care of before disembarkation. This I found out as we were trying to exit the ship when bells clanged. Since it took an hour of waiting in line at Guest Relations to clear up the credit balance I asked for help in finding the Princess transfer. My request was refused. When we arrived in the terminal there were no Princess representatives nor any English speaking people and we couldn't find our Princess transfer to Beijing - 2 1/2 hours away! This was an unbelievably stressful situation which was resolved by a Chinese lady offering assistance. The bus was parked a distance away and we got there within 2 minutes of its leaving. I shudder to think what would have happened if the bus had left and we'd have to take a taxi with no Chinese money and no knowledge of the language. There again voicing concerns to Customer Relations in Santa Clarita fell to deaf ears. They really could care less. The Diamond crew did not enforce hand sanitizers and when we returned to the ship in many ports there were no sanitizers visible. Many people entered food areas and did not sanitize their hands nor were they encouraged to. I heard that two cabins had been quarantined so I told everyone I met to be sure to wash their hands often and to protect themselves and others. Pity the crew didn't think that was important advice. So, all in all, the Diamond Princess is a beautiful ship but this is not a ship I would recommend. Nor would I gave any points to Princess for Guest Relations or Customer Service or customer retention. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in ... Read More
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in Hong Kong, a volcano in Indonesia, flooding in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we, as passengers, never gave a thought to our safety or to the bad weather we could have encountered. Dinner, dancing, shows were provided nightly. There were many formal nights - reminders of what 'crossings' were to the wealthy of foregone years. Champagne flowed, music drifted from different areas, stellar service in a professional manner was a constant. Yet, there was this feeling of family, of caring. Nothing was too much to ask for - and there was never a tone of any type used, no attitudes possessed this crew. They were there to help and please us in whatever why they possibly could and that is what they did. Oh, and did I mention the smiles -- so many wonderful broad sincere smiles to greet us every place on this ship. The crew were from Indonesia - what a honor they are to their country! Asia and Australia were educational for those of us not visiting these countries before. The Ports of Call worthwhile. So grateful to be able to see these great wonders, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Great Wall of China. Overland in China was fantastic with lovely top-drawer hotel and dining accommodations. At the end of the day, I always go back to thoughts and longings for the ship and its crew who truly provided us with the main ingredients for a beyond belief experience in travel. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was ... Read More
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was a very good Asian sampler, especially with the addition of a Tokyo stopover on the way home. We arrived in Bangkok two days early and would really recommend another day as so many flights arrive near midnight after 20+ hours of flying. Nevertheless, we arranged a private tour through Oriental Express (highly recommended) to begin at 10 am. They picked us up at our hotel (there were 4 of us) and took us to see the Grand Palace, Jade Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, canals cruise (skip this, especially on a hot day!) and the Temple of Dawn, which is visited by boat and includes views of the other temples from the river. It's all very fascinating and beautiful. We also arranged for a "romantic" dinner cruise on the Loy Nava but I would not recommend it. It's an historic rice barge and very pretty but also not air-conditioned and the food was pretty mediocre. While in Bangkok for 2 nights we stayed at the Park Plaza, which was very nice, had free internet, a great breakfast buffet, and all at a very reasonable price. However, it was too far outside the city center. I would recommend staying some place near the river. Also, be advised that taxi drivers throughout Asia do NOT speak English! So have your hotel name printed up in the appropriate language (by the hotel) before arriving. Princess did not sell a port transfer if you were not part of their tour or were not arriving at the airport the day of the cruise, so we arranged transport through our hotel. It took about 1 1/2 hours but was on a Saturday -so allow plenty of time. As usual, we breezed through Princess check-in at approximately 1 pm. We were already pretty familiar with the Diamond after having sailed on the Ruby last year. The only major changes we noted were far fewer machines in the workout area. And, of course, price increases! Photography is so expensive ($25 for basically an enlarged snapshot) that we don't even get our picture taken if we can help it. I can't comment on the entertainment as those types of shows don't really interest me. I did hear that the acrobats were very good but we were not back at the ship in time to see them as it was a late afternoon show. The things we really enjoy onboard are the lectures before each port, high tea, reading on our balcony, and dining with our friends each evening. SINGAPORE is a great port to start with as it is very pretty, easy to navigate, and so clean with lots of green space. Since we were docked at a container port, we took the free shuttle into the city and then took a cab out to the National Orchid Garden. Taxis are VERY cheap. The Garden was interesting but not what I had envisioned. Of course it was very hot and humid so that may have made a difference. From there we headed to the Raffles Hotel for a famous Singapore Sling. The hotel was amazing and the drink was yucky and VERY expensive (I think $28 US). We split one and that was more than enough. But it's the idea - and the Long Bar was beautiful. The guys in our group had requested a ride on the Singapore Flyer, which may be the world's tallest ferris wheel. While not that excited at first, everyone loved the fantastic views from 40 stories up and I highly recommend it. This is one amazing city architecturally. HO CHI MINH CITY (Saigon) was just unbelievable! A crazy mishmash of motor scooters piled high with all kinds of unimaginable things, crazy "spaghetti" wiring everywhere, beautiful buildings next to hovels, women cooking on every sidewalk, and just so many people. It's something that you have to see once. Unfortunately the bus from the port is a 2+ hour ride so bring a book or a friend because you can only look at the scenery (amazing as it is) for so long. As someone who was around during the Vietnam War, it was incredible to see the Rex Hotel and the Reunification Palace - places that we heard about so much. We had an excellent lunch in the dining room of the Rex. Be sure to ask for the Vietnamese menu so you don't have to eat the Vietnamese version of a hamburger! I guarantee that you will be exhausted by the time you return to the ship, so build in time for a nap before dinner. NHA TRANG was really a relief after Ho Chi Minh City. It's a very pretty seaside resort area and most people enjoyed just walking around. My husband and a friend had a great day taking the cable car over to the Vinpearl Water Park. The lecturer did not discuss this as an option but they said it was easy to accomplish. You can clearly see it from the starboard side of the ship. HONG KONG was the reason my husband agreed to this trip and he loved every bit of it - as did we all. The only unfortunate part was the air quality which was partially pollution and partially the result of a terrible dust storm in China. It's still an amazingly beautiful place: 2 islands surrounded by water and with an endless shoreline of gorgeous buildings - all backed by mountains! We took an all day Princess tour which included a harbor cruise, visit to the famous Stanley Market where you can get incredible deals on silk, a trip on the funicular to the top of Victoria Peak for fantastic views - well they would have been if the air had been better. Still very pretty. Lunch was a 10 course affair on the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a tourist trap for sure but the food was fine and it was quite a sight to see. We tended to drink beer at lunch as it gets tiring always drinking bottled water. Beer was very good in all the ports, especially 333 in Vietnam. That evening we ate an early dinner so that we would be ready for the famous harbor light show. The ship leaves the container port and sails right through Victoria Harbor during the light show. A lot of people head to the top of the ship but you could see everything very well if you had a starboard room. The lighting on the buildings is really incredible and it's a sight not to be missed. After the light show, the ship anchored in the harbor and from then on you had to take a 45 minute tender into Hong Kong Island. I think the speed limit in the harbor accounts for the time. The first tender left at about 9:30 pm and we were on it - along with all the young staff going out to party! My husband wanted to see the lights on Nathan Street on Kowloon Island so we set off to find a taxi that would take us through the tunnel to Kowloon. It was not easy (language was always a problem with taxis) but we got there and enjoyed seeing the crazy night life. The lights were fine but nothing spectacular despite what the lecturer said. The next morning we went back to Hong Kong Island just to walk around and check out all the alley markets. Start in the Queen's Road area and you will see hundreds of these tiny markets branching off down "alleyways". They are so marvelous just to look at - especially the foodstuffs. We ate at a local restaurant (we were the only foreigners) recommended by Frommers and it was wonderful - if somewhat hard to find. It's called Luk Yu Tea House. They are well known for their dim sum. I recommend eating upstairs in the more casual - and authentic - part. TAIPEI was really not a port I was looking forward to but it was very enjoyable. Once you take a 30 minute bus to get into town, it's very easy to do on your own. The bus drops you in front of the 101 Tower, the 2nd highest building in the world (depending on who you believe). Anyhow, it's a very interesting and attractive looking building (it's been described as a bunch of bamboo poles tied with ribbon every once in a while). We did not go up because of the air quality problem. We bought an all-day pass on the MRT and set off to see the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial which reminded me of Lincoln's Memorial. We were in time to see the changing of the guard which was cool, with lots of foot stomping and gun twirling. Then we headed to the Grand Hotel which is shaped like a giant pagoda. Had a wonderful lunch there in the Dragon room (not the tourist place). On the way back, we had time (barely) to stop quickly at another temple (I forget the name) before returning to the ship. A fun day but no burning desire to return. OKINAWA was our least favorite port by far. Both tours that our members took were poor. And it was not a place you could visit on your own because it was a short stop and too far away. My husband did the Pacific War tour and had expected to visit actual sites from the Battle of Okinawa. However that was not the case. He felt it was like they wanted to forget it ever happened and they stressed that they were not Japanese at the time of the war. My tour was of Shurijo Castle, which was impressive enough. But none of it is original - not even the furnishings. It was all completely rebuilt after the war. After that we were dropped off in some horrible (and vastly over-priced) shopping district for nearly 2 hours. SHANGHAI was another very new looking Asian city with a very attractive skyline. I have to say that I have never seen such beautiful new buildings in my life as I saw on this trip. No plain glass towers anywhere. We decided to take a Princess tour here since we were once again docked at a container port far from the city center. Our first stop was the Jim Mao Tower which is one of the taller buildings around at 88 stories. The observatory provided breath-taking views of the very pretty city. Our next stop was the YuYuan Garden which is very famous but unlike any garden I have been to before. Not a flower in sight! And precious few trees! It's all about the rocks - and the water to some extent. Lots of pagoda type buildings but VERY crowded with very pushy Chinese. There was a lot of interesting looking street food and we did try a deep fried crab, shell and all. Surprisingly good. After the garden it was on to the silk factory and then several hours on your own to shop or eat lunch. A so-so tour of a so-so city. BEIJING was our final destination on this 16-day odyssey. We were off the boat by 7:30 am on our Princess transfer into "center city" Beijing. Except it wasn't anywhere near the city center. We were dropped at a Holiday Inn where there were no waiting taxis and virtually everyone on the 3 buses needed taxis. We ended having to take a non-metered taxi at an exorbitant rate and were happy to get that. My advice would be to have your hotel or a touring company reserve transportation from the port. We stayed at a Park Plaza once again, not far from Tiananmen Square. That first day we visited the Forbidden City, the square, and the Temple of Heaven. It was a LOT of walking so take the subway when you can. My overall impression of Beijing was one of gloom and not just because the weather was bad. It seemed so dirty and the people not at all friendly like in the other Asian ports we visited. Plus the ever present police and cameras on the light posts were disconcerting. A very paranoid government. Nevertheless we enjoyed the monuments immensely. The next day we arranged for a private tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We took the cable car up and started climbing! It was surprisingly steep in some parts and often slippery because of a light drizzle. We even had some bits of snow in parts. It was thrilling to finally set foot on the Great Wall and to imagine what it must have been like to build centuries ago. We only climbed to 3 towers as it was too foggy to get much of a view. But it was still an incredible experience. This is supposedly the less touristy part of the wall (less than Badaling) but there were still plenty of hawkers selling "I Climbed the Great Wall" tee shirts! Our guide took us to a small local Chinese restaurant about half way back to Beijing and ordered for us since he was the only one who spoke English. We loved everything about it as that is the kind of experience we are always hoping for. The 6 of us traveling together met up for a fantastic farewell dinner the last night in Beijing. I know this sounds hokey but it was at the highly recommended "Made in China" restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Hotel near The Forbidden City. You have to reserve their famous Peking duck entree ahead of time but it is an amazing experience - and taste! We let our waitress order everything else for us and we were not disappointed. A wonderful way to end a wonderful trip! Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Background: I tend to be a small ship person so Cunard is a bit of a stretch for me. I first tried a QM2 transatlantic crossing on 2007 and my reaction was "too big and impersonal", but my behavior has not been very consistent ... Read More
Background: I tend to be a small ship person so Cunard is a bit of a stretch for me. I first tried a QM2 transatlantic crossing on 2007 and my reaction was "too big and impersonal", but my behavior has not been very consistent with that assessment. I left the ship with a booking for a crossing on the way home from a vacation I had already booked for Africa the following summer. I booked 2 more crossings as a result of needing to get across the Atlantic in conjunction with other travel plans, and by the time of my 4th crossing decided that like it or not, I was a Cunarder and might as well try a cruise that fit my plans. This voyage, across southern Asia with mostly countries I have never visited before seemed to fit the bill. The Queen Victoria World Cruise encountered a number of problems with snow and norovirus on the transatlantic segment and fog in Shanghai, but by my segment these problems were all a thing of the past. Hotel: In Bangkok I stayed at the excellent Four Seasons which was Cunard's hotel there. I found Cunard's price prohibitive, but my TA booked an attractive rate with airport transfer from the hotel, at I think about $500 below Cunard's price. I spoke with the Hospitality desk and booked a Sightseeing transfer to the ship for about $70. Ship info: The Queen Victoria entered service about 2 years ago, and at about 2000 passengers is smaller than QM2 but still larger than I prefer. Despite Cunard's slogan of "The most famous ocean liners in the world", this is a cruise ship. There is only one ocean liner in service today, and it's the right company but the wrong ship. It is nominally a multi-class ship, but it is really very open. The Queens Grill and Princess Grill passengers dine in their separate restaurants on decks 11 and 12 aft in a relatively small area. All other areas of the ship are open to everyone, there are ample lounges and deck space available to everyone, and the ship is very complete without any need to go near or around the area set aside for the grills, unlike the Grills Lounge and Restaurants on QM2 being on the Promenade deck. Not a real problem on QM2 but there is a bit of inconvenience not having doors to the inside from some sections of that deck. Staterooms: My inside stateroom was compact but more than adequate. I had only a shower but everything was well laid out. Cunard breaks it's rooms into many categories often with less than 10 rooms assigned to a category. Dining: Most passengers are assigned to the Britannia Restaurant on decks 2 and 3 aft. I thought the restaurant decor was a bit drab, but the service and food are excellent. The restaurant maintains traditional early and late dinner seatings around 6 and 8:30pm. Breakfast and lunch are also served there with open seating. Unlike the QM2 and coming Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Victoria does not have a separate Britannia Club restaurant. The Lido restaurant on deck 9 is open 24 hours daily, although the selection at odd hours is limited (I took a test walk through it about 3am and there were fruit and sandwiches but not much else). A more formal theme dinner is typically served in a section of the Lido by reservation, and another section is a typical buffet for dinner. The Lido Pool Grill immediately behind the Lido serves burgers with few side dishes but is close enough to the buffet that a burger can readily be combined with side dishes from there. Lunch is also available in the Golden Lion Pub on deck 2. The Todd English specialty restaurant on deck 2, with a cover charge of $20 lunch and $30 dinner serves superb meals in an intimate setting (No lunch on port days). Activities and entertainment: A wide variety of activities are offered. The Cunard Insights enrichment program is quite strong, with lectures on a variety of topics. At various points of my voyage we had presentations by 2 destination lecturers, a security expert, a chief detective, a hostage negotiator, and a music historian. The spa has a strong program with several fitness sessions and several seminars each day. There are classes in bridge, the arts, and computer usage, various games such as bingo, trivia, and dancing. In the evening there are several venues featuring diverse varieties of musical entertainment, and a daily presentation in the Royal Court Theater. The excellent Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers usually presents about 5 or 6 shows per voyage; on the world voyage they have only a couple of shows per segment with headline entertainers brought in every few days, often doing one show on their own and appearing in a variety show with other acts on another night. Other venues are the Golden Lion Pub and Commodore Cub with pianists, a DJ in Hemispheres, a variety of performers in the Chart Room, and dancing with the Queens Room Orchestra in the Queens Room. Children: There is a children's facility although there were few children present on the World Voyage. Ports will mostly be described at the separate page at the bottom of the review, but it looks like the review format only allows 6 so I'll deal with the first and last here: Ko Samui: This small Thai island (about 10 miles square, population 30,000) has no significant dock, and we anchored about 2 ½ miles from the harbor. My "Around the Island" tour made 4 stops. The first was a Buddhist shrine with 2 buildings, a temple containing the body of a beloved monk and a beautiful temple where new monks are ordained. Our second stop, a very short ride later was a coconut plantation where we learned that the work of harvesting coconuts is done by Macaque monkeys, and observed them in action. The shrine of the Big Buddha, on a hill overlooking the ocean on a platform elevated about 50 feet up a stairway is probably 50 feet high, and there are about 20 bells situated around the platform. Ringing all 20 bells is supposed to be good luck. Our final stop was for lunch at the Chaweng Resort Hotel. Dubai: While not a traditional "port of call" I am treating this as such since we arrived early at our destination and disembarked the following day, with shore excursions offered on the day of arrival. The United Arab Emirates is a union of 7 individual states, each ruled by an Emir. It was formerly a British Protectorate, with the states getting their independence about 1979 and forming a union a year later. It has a population of 4.8 million, 4 million "locals", foreigners admitted for permanent residence and 800,000 citizens. My tour was "Sharjah's East Coast". Sharjah is one of the 7 Emirates comprising the UAE, about a half hour drive from the port. We visited the Arabian Wildlife Center, with a variety of wildlife that can live in a mostly desert area. There are of course fish in the seas and various reptiles, amphibians, and birds near the Wadi's (Oasises), but also quite a variety of mammals. We also stopped at the Maritime museum, with exhibits on the hard life of oyster harvesters and models of a wide variety of dhows. Disembarkation: My segment closed with an overnight in Dubai, and I had a 9:30 flight there was no difficulty disembarking at 5:30am. Summary: This voyage covered an area I had always wanted to see. I am very pleased that I finally got to all these ports, but there are few if any I wish to visit again. Visitors to this area should be well prepared for hot, tropical weather. Cunard provides a refined, quality experience. Expect to be with a very diverse group of passengers representing a wide cross section of the world. On my voyage, about a third of the 1900 passengers were British, a sixth American, and at least 100 each from Germany, Australia, and Canada, and the remainder from 34 other countries. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
The original intention of this cruise was to get us to or near Japan where we would visit with old friends. This was actually a segment of a segment of the world cruise that was meant to begin in Mumbai. When we saw a shore excursion ... Read More
The original intention of this cruise was to get us to or near Japan where we would visit with old friends. This was actually a segment of a segment of the world cruise that was meant to begin in Mumbai. When we saw a shore excursion opportunity to Angkor Wat we priced it and decided to begin the segment in Singapore instead, and spend what we would have spent on shore excursions for a three day holiday in Bangkok, three days in Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat) and three days in Singapore where we would meet the ship. The cost of those nine days in 5 star hotels and air from Bangkok to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Singapore equalled what we would have paid for a two and a half day shore excursion offered by HAL for each of us! Such are the costs of shore excursions. The Ship The vessel is what you would expect from one of HALs flagships. It seemed to be in terrific condition. From cabins to public rooms, the ship is beautiful. I didn't see evidence of aging. Our cabin had a leak in the bathroom and there was an occasional odor of diesel fuel just outside our door, but neither interfered with our enjoyment of the ship. People are always interested in food. HAL seems to be putting the money out in the food and beverage department. The usual comfort food was available poolside, as was an assortment of pastries for a good part of the day in the Lido. Breakfasts were unremarkable which is not a bad thing. They were breakfasts and hard to fault in the Lido or DR. Lunch was a different matter. The stir fries were awful, and truly an embarrassment. The vegetable chicken stir fry had a single piece of chicken and when I asked where the vegetables were, the server found one with his tongs and added it to my dish. I would not mention it except that I saw a video of the executive chef talking about his wonderful "fresh fresh fresh" stirfries so I thought it was worth a notation. I think dinner was what you would expect for a vessel catering to North American taste. The steaks in the dining room were of generous portion. I don't think they did vegetables well and on the whole I thought dinners sort of missed. Or - it may just be that we don't eat those sorts of dinners anymore. I heard no one speak of the food in either positive or negative terms. Oddly enough, complimentary champagne flowed on two nights. As to the atmosphere of the ship, well, that was a big surprise. We were used to going on vacation cruises with other people going on vacation cruises - with all the positive energy that that implies. Cruisers are usually excited, and that rubs off on the crew. Well the majority of people on this ship had been aboard for a very long time, with a long time to go. They were "residing" on the ship as opposed to cruising on it. It seemed to be less a vehicle for a cruise than a giant apartment building with a rolling view. The atmosphere was flat. You saw it in the passengers and you saw it in the staff. I have never seen staff so ambivalent. Not nasty or lazy - they just didn't take the pains to give a darn. This was an observation confirmed to us by other cruisers who came on for a while in Singapore. "Boring" was the word that kept coming up to describe their experience. The ports themselves were interesting. Cambodia and Viet Nam were both worth the visit. though the port was quite a distance from Ho Chi Minh city. I would say I do not agree with HALs new policy of requiring no signature for beverages purchased under $20. I myself have disagreed with charges on my cruise bill on previous cruises and by producing the original signed bill, the issue was resolved. Business should be done in a business-like manner, and charges should be signed for. Bills, however small, must be signed for in the shops. When I enquired as to why, they said their experience was such that bill signing was deemed to be imperative. I agree. Also, HAL has a policy of not allowing your internet time to lapse if you are still connected with your computer. The rationale is that it is a courtesy to allow you to finish your business. But if you forget to log-out and leave your computer or ipod or device connected for an hour or so, you will be billed. I asked the administrator how that could be as it would be clear that a machine was not used over that time. He said Windows machines send message packets out periodically and that constitutes use. So Moral Hazard hit HAL. Wall Street sails the high seas. Guest Relations was surprised to hear of the new policies which are fleet wide. They sent a message to HAL about both issues. HAL sent a subsequent communication stipulating the $20 rule must be followed. I heard nothing about the internet rule. We disembarked in Singapore in what was a smooth process, and we were on our way. Would we sail HAL again - probably, but not based on their performance on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
There were actually eight ports of call, not six as shown (drop-down list only goes up to six). We had sailed on the QM2 before, on her Maiden Voyage in 2004, so we were looking forward to returning to the Queen of the Seas. This is our ... Read More
There were actually eight ports of call, not six as shown (drop-down list only goes up to six). We had sailed on the QM2 before, on her Maiden Voyage in 2004, so we were looking forward to returning to the Queen of the Seas. This is our 24th cruise in total, and sixth with Cunard. Embarkation at Dubai was pretty straightforward and we were shown to our stateroom on Deck 8 where our luggage arrived pretty much immediately. I was pleased to see that the ship was still her immaculate, beautifully decorated self. Our stateroom was spacious and well appointed; we had a balcony although our view was partially obscured by the lifeboats outside. We ate in the Britannia restaurant and the food and service were nothing short of excellent. A couple of evenings I did miss going up to dinner; not through any fault of the service or the cuisine but because I didn't want to put on any more weight than necessary! For breakfast and lunch we usually just ate in the King's Court buffet, although there were times when I chose the room service breakfast and ate in on our balcony in the balmy, tropical heat. One thing about the room service is that the breakfast was delivered bang on time each morning at the time requested. The entertainment was of a very high standard, with a selection of guest entertainers such as comedians, pianists, opera singers, magicians, dancers and musicians. The only act we were not keen on was a guy who billed himself as a "comedy magician" - I think "children's party entertainer" would have been more appropriate. We also enjoyed the daytime lectures given by guest speakers, who were also of a very high standard. The ship's library is one of the best at sea and I was able to get through a couple of books during the sea days. Our ports of call were: Cochin (India), Phuket (Thailand), Penang (Malaysia), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Phu My (Viet Nam) and Hong Kong. We stayed in port overnight in Hong Kong then disembarked for a night in a hotel before our long flight home. If I have to complain about anything, it is the absolutely extortionate prices on board the QM2. We have done five previous Cunard cruises, and indeed we are already booked on the new Queen Elizabeth, but we've never really thought that the prices were exorbitant until now. I'm sure they put them up because this was the World Cruise. My advice to anyone is DON'T buy the so-called bargain or sale-price items they try to tout to you, because you will find the items much, much cheaper back home or over the internet. Drinks prices were also way over the top. I will be comparing the QE prices later on, as I'm sure they are not normally this high. All in all though, we had a brilliant time on the ship and visited some very interesting ports of call. Long may the QM2 reign! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
This was a wonderful cruise on a ship that we had been on twice before. This time we avoided the Brittania restaurant - which is good, but has two sittings and is too large - by booking a club balcony cabin, thus having the Brittania Club ... Read More
This was a wonderful cruise on a ship that we had been on twice before. This time we avoided the Brittania restaurant - which is good, but has two sittings and is too large - by booking a club balcony cabin, thus having the Brittania Club restaurant which was just the right size, open dining, and first class service. Our last cruise was in the Queen's Grill, and although excellent, the service we received in the Club restaurant was just as good. The reason for the Queen's Grill was an upgrade due to a golden wedding anniversary. The food was excellent with such a great choice. The cabin was fine with plenty of drawer and cupboard space and the cabin service was excellent. Only complaint was that although the towels are of good quality, the size of the bath towels leave a lot to be desired. The ship was spotlessly clean and all the staff very friendly and helpful, apart from the pursers office where one did not always get the best service. O.K they are the ones who take all the complaints, but they were on several occasions, not the nicest of folk to deal with and gave one the impression of being superior, and not there to serve the guests. Two good things came out of this cruise. You can now buy Gin or Vodka (certain brands)plus 6 cans of tonic for $25 for consumption in your cabin, and they also turn a blind eye to you taking spirits or wine on board. Think they had to do it as P & O were already doing this. The prices charged in the bars and restaurants are exhorbitant especially with the 15% service charge, so we did not use them very much. One only had to look at the tables in the Brittania restaurant in the evening to see that there were not many bottles of wine on the table. They did actually reduce the price of some of their wines when we were aboard, but they need to reduce them even more for us to buy one bottle a day. Other cruise lines do not charge as much. Only did one tour as there again they are much too expensive and as seasoned cruisers we know how to do them much more cheaply. All in all a wonderful cruise, and one will always have some complaints after such a long time. I sincerely hope to rejoin QM2 in Capetown next year for parts of the cruise that I did not do this time! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Recently back from a 6 week Grand Voyage Asia to Africa on the MV Discovery from Hong Kong to Capetown - January to March 2010 DINING: Overall the food was good; with a few deficiencies. BREAKFAST was served in the main dining room ... Read More
Recently back from a 6 week Grand Voyage Asia to Africa on the MV Discovery from Hong Kong to Capetown - January to March 2010 DINING: Overall the food was good; with a few deficiencies. BREAKFAST was served in the main dining room with very nice selections. Buffet was available on the Lido deck and early riser self-serve continental items were available in the indoor Yatch Club dining venue, as well as room service. Just about everything one would want for breakfast was available all days. Eggs cooked to order, pre-cooked, ham, bacon, hot side dishes, oatmeal, cold cereals, cold buffet meat items, yogurts, fresh fruit, granolas, excellent baked goods. No complaints at all about the variety and quality of breakfast. LUNCH: Similar set up: main dining room for multi-course selections, room service and Lido buffet. Salad bar, cold meats and salad accompaniments, hot full lunch buffet items, specialty menus on different days (pub, german, asian, etc). Good variety and good quality ingredients. Lousy hamburgers (if you are an American). Ice cream cart for sundaes and cones - pretty good. Usually 4 or so varieties available each day and changing. TEA: (4-5pm) Tea and biscuits in the Palm Court. Full buffet at the Lido with a sandwich bar and variety of desserts, specialities and scones. Unlike many cruise ships, the desserts often tasted as good as they looked. DINNER: Varied and nicely presented four courses, with meat, fish and pasta choices for entrees. A full four course vegetarian option. Sugar-free (but artificially sweetened) and gluten-free dessert options. Ice cream and sorbets always available, of differing flavors. Appetizers often quite good, sometimes average, soups universally excellent both hot and cold, entrees good except for meat quality too often lacking in flavor, tenderness and menu descriptions which were enticing but not well-executed for the initial descriptive promise. This was the single dining disappointment. Portion size was very sensible and half-size was always available by request which in fact was a even better option due to all the day's accumulated eating, as well as the basically disappointing execution of the main course. LATE BUFFET: Very enticing array of finger foods and hot appetizer items but late hour after busy days and full schedule eatings through out the day left little room for this very lovely offering of both sweets and savories. ROOM SERVICE: Major deficiency. You had to pick from the day's menu which meant you had to go view the menu first at the dining room entrance and then order from that, which did not work if you were feeling sick in your room. Only that day's menu items could be ordered and there was no "sick tummy" type menu or stock items except what were "always available" on the menus (minute steak, chicken breast, salmon, baked potato, Caesar salad). The worst part is that they would only be delivered after the start of each dining room sitting so these could not be ordered at random when the need/desire arose. However, when delivered they were nicely presented and enjoyable. 24 HOUR COFFEE/TEA/HOT CHOCOLATE SELF-SERVICE - Lido deck. DH is a critical coffee fan and claimed the MV Discovery coffee on the Lido deck was the best he ever tasted. I loved the variety of teas - good quality English teas. LONG CRUISES: There was never a feeling of repeated dinner menus though the Lido buffet items were repetitive, but there was so much variety this was not an issue. What became increasingly oppressive was the lack of a flexible, evening "light" dining option. It was the formal dining room four course or the limitations of room service, or else. Plan accordingly. Formal dining room evening dining was a delightful part of the cruise experience and would always be welcome on shorter cruises, but it did become an unwelcome daily requirement on a long cruise. Ideally on the longer cruises, for me I would have preferred taking a larger lunch and then having some lighter, less formal options for the evening. Some took to preparing a good sandwich at the 4-5pm tea for later "dinner" dining in lieu of going to the formal dining room. YATCH CLUB SPECIALTY DINING (No extra charge, but limited reservations to one per week): Some dining menus themes were more successful than others. Both the Jazz (contemporary French) and the SE Asian menus were excellent. The Asian less so and the Italian (tried twice) was downright awful. Nor did the African menu look particularly appealing which was over-booked by the time we tried to make reservations so not sure this was an unfortunate missed opportunity for us or not. The concept is nice, but the Italian menu needs to be totally reworked ..... or avoided. Overall, I would give the MV Discovery a B to a B+ for dining. ON BOARD ACTIVITIES: Usually 4 excellent lectures, including and upcoming port lecture, by distinguished enrichment speakers giving rich historical, cultural, scientific and context content talks about the areas we are visiting. Since we were travelling primarily the Indian Ocean, we had a lot of background on the British Empire trade routes. As most passengers are British and Commonwealth nation residents, the talks assumed you knew your British history and institutions so some of it was a very pleasing stretch of our American memory banks. I found them all intellectually challenging and fascinating. The natural history talks unique to the areas travelling were superb and we all left with an intimate understanding of the geologic history as well as its natural flora and fauna. Including the local industries such as fishing and their impacts on the environment. We had additional talks on health and technology with supportive help for individual technology problems (cameras, computers etc - even a successful request to reprogram a computer program in Polish). There was a volunteer choir that put on a program and had rehearsals. A very active bridge player component with experts and a separate room for playing and instruction. Craft classes changed with each segment, but a few included beading and water color (for beginners). There were Q&A sessions with segments of the staff including the kitchen. If anything, there was too much to do which left little time to just sit outside and watch the world go by, but a lot of people did that too. You could always get the lectures rebroadcast on the cabin closed-circuit TV so missing them live was not a detriment. I almost wished I had done more of that so I could have spent more time just being lazy when the sun was out. There were gaps in the schedules before dinner or before the shows where one could catch up on the televised lectures. The small but highly talented entertainment group was very good. They geared their shows to the age group of the passengers and did so very competently. All shows were very enjoyable. Our talented cruise director Don put on his own solo cabaret show and it again was an excellent offering. Since we were on for three segments we did not go to all the shows at first as there were repeats with each segment, but ultimately saw most of them over our 6 weeks. Staying up late after late dinner seating sometimes was just too much for us. Again, sometimes it would have been better to have made a nice sandwich at tea time to save for an "early dinner" and then see the earlier show on sea days. Port days usually left us ready for early bed. And the beginning and end of each segment was a three day stay in port which was wonderful to have the extra time to explore an area more in depth. We had these in Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Luis, Mauritius and Capetown on our 6 week tour. At first I thought 3 days in Port Luis, Mauritius would be a waste of time, but we ended up finding wonderful things to see and get to know and went back twice to a perfect little courtyard French restaurant "Le Vieux Consiel" that was a little obscure to find and would never have been enjoyed if we just had a day tour. We finally got our credit card bill - lunch for two, appetizer, main course, dessert and drinks were total $80 for those two days. So it paid to do some in depth homework on those three day layover ports between segments. We did dine out for lunch and often for dinner if there was a late departure and enjoyed the change of pace very much. Credit card bill for an excellent local choice in Borneo close to the port was total $ US 6 for two. Sampling local cuisines (with all due precautions) is one of my great travel joys and we were glad the schedules often offered this chance. One problem we did notice as reported and did register as a complaint was the "hogging" of deck chairs. Discovery needs to enforce their own policy more and just clear out all deck chairs that remain empty for over one half hour. And make a few more announcements about this .... on a daily basis particularly at the beginning of each new segment. This is less of a problem when shade is not such a premium as it was on this voyage crossing the equator so much. There are plenty of deck chairs, but most are fully sun exposed so when it is more fun to be in the sun in more temperate climates this is probably less of a problem. Though we never used it as we brought along our own reading material or books on ipods, the ship has a very good library and a loyal daily following who gather there. It was a very pleasant spot and I know I would have enjoyed using it but most of my free time was spent in the lectures and I would have hated to miss any of them. There is a nicely equipped gym with stunning rear ship window views as you jog, row, bike or use ellipticals. Weight machines, roomy saunas for men and women, two hot tubs which were not all that hot but pleasant for warm splashing around and enjoying also the aft deck views. There was a full fitness class program with its own instructor and a variety of group or individual activities and consultations. I got a pedicure in the salon (which sells my favorite Biolage brand of hair care products) which while pricey, was very competently delivered. There were specials from time to time particularly on port days when they were not so busy. Best to bring your own favorite nail polish color, as the choices were limited. The full range of spa services were available - massage, facials and hair. As well as product oriented informational "talks" on various skin care and beauty topics. (Never attended so don't know about these - just that they were available). Obviously, no youth programs on this ship and if anyone was under 45 it would be a surprise though I think there were a (very) few younger people traveling with an older adult relative for a few weeks, but none on the longer cruise programs. Movies in the theater were surprisingly current - we even had a non-3D version of Avatar and there was a very topical selection of older and classic movies on the closed circuit TV that ran continuously - multiple channel choices but none of them live. Daily news abstracts was delivered every day for separate British, Australian and American editions. Just a few headline stories and a lot of sports and some financial news. Just as much as we wanted while we were away from it all. They additionally ran these same stories on a close circuit TV channel. We did not use the internet center but it was in a separate room with several computers and there were wireless hot spots around the ship as well for laptops. I understand the connection was slow which is the complaint I have always heard about ship board internet use. We did not find a lot of internet cafes in port but did finally check in during our 3 day stop over in Mauritius, about more than half way through our trip at a good high speed cafe located at the port. LAYOUT OF THE SHIP: MV Discovery is a smaller, older ship serving approximately 650 passengers. There are no balcony rooms and a limited variety of room size choices. We were on Deck Three - the lowest category rooms with a port hole. The standard rooms on all decks are very small in comparison to mainline cruise ships today, but occasionally due to the configuration of the ship some of the rooms on Deck 3 can be much longer and provide very adequate space extra cabin space. Check the ship deck plan to view this possibility. We felt our choice was excellent, but we also added an extra clothes rack and drying rack and used the tiered coffee table as an additional clothes storage space. Bathroom very small and badly appointed, but with a great shower and endless hot water. Rooms are inside, port-hole or window. Deck 3 and 4 port holes have to be covered up creating a de facto "inside" cabin during rough seas and when traversing the East Indian Ocean pirate zones. Always dreaded hearing the squeak of the closing of these windows next door and loved coming back to finding them re-opened. Took us a while but we learned all activities take place primarily on Deck Six, Lido dining on Deck Nine and the red stair railing were the front of the ship and the gold ones were towards the back of the ship. We needed to orient around the red railings to get to our cabin and all the other activities we liked to attend (Lido dining and Carousel Lounge shows and lectures. Our favorite outdoor decks were the forward Deck 8 sun decks which you had to enter from the red stair cases in the front of the ship. There were no wrap around decks so you had to learn which stair case to use to get to the partial decks you like to visit. Deck 8 also provided the best viewing spots for all the docking and undocking and pilot boat activities because you could look directly down the sides of the ship to the water. The main promenade deck on Deck 7 was set back from the ships side (don't ask me how) so you did not get this direct view down to the water and the dock or the pilot's activities. There were "flying bridges" sticking out from Deck 8 where the captain would be present at dockings and undockings so you could hear and see the real operations of the ship during this time. The main forward viewing deck was on Deck 9 but you could not access it from Deck nine -- you had to go down to deck 8 forward and then take the forward outside staircase up to this forward viewing deck on Deck 9, which overlooked all the captain's docking activities. There was always a friendly gathering here and some fun chat back and forth with the captain at times. This is a ship where the passengers are very engaged in all these docking activities and quite a crowd always gathered to witness the arrival and departure of the pilot. Ship gangway exits typically took place on Deck 4, forward. (Red staircase). Once we figured out the red and gold staircases, it was a lot easier to know which way we needed to go on the ship. Signage on each floor was not as good as it should be or easy to find. Sometimes you had to know the name of the deck (Coral, Riviera, etc) or sometimes the number (3-10). And how the ship was chopped up, sometimes you could not get from forward to aft on the wrong staircase. An annoyance at first, but because it is a small ship with limited activity venues it is fairly easy to learn where and how to get where you want. Though even after 42 days we still kept taking the wrong turn out of the elevators. Which is a good thing - keeps an air of mystery to this small but complex space. The Discovery shows its age, but does not lack in tender loving care. Primarily in the build up of paint jobs and that crusty invasive rust that will in time have the final say. But she was brightly painted and and crews were keeping deck boards in good repair and always clean and orderly. There had been recent decor refurbishments in the public rooms and very successful with a very pleasing sense of traditional elegance, the main dining room particularly. The cabins got brightened up and I think the higher decks had more bathroom refurbishments than our lower Deck 3 - but it all worked. No complaints and we learned how to work around it. Our best extra purchase in Singapore was a folding clothes drying rack the sent up like a two-tiered umbrella of plastic rods and clothes pin racks. It was perfect and we wished we could have packed it up and taken it home and we would have had we not already packed to our luggage limit getting there and had to discard a lot to make room for our souvenir purchases. I donated it to the staff who were very eager to get these things so I hope it finds a happy home for a long time on this ship. We never used the ship laundry and did everything for 42 days in the sink. Because our cabin was so long, there was plenty of room to stick this in a nice corner and out of the way. Not sure how much space would be available in other cabins, but its real virtue was the extension rods folded up so it stored like a pole on its tripod legs. (Like an old home movie screen) We found it in the equivalent of a "dollar store" in the working class neighborhood department store in Singapore. We also added a lot of cheap plastic drawer organizers and baskets for storage and easy retrieval. And a great hanging shoe rack that hung in the closet facing out on velcro loop. That did make it home as it was lightweight and collapsible and unlike anything I have seen in the states. Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner" Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
As a shareholder of RCCL I am really appalled by my recent cruise experience on this ship. It was like drinking warm "COLA" without the fizz!   The product was subjected to savage cost cutting by RCCL and very poor ... Read More
As a shareholder of RCCL I am really appalled by my recent cruise experience on this ship. It was like drinking warm "COLA" without the fizz!   The product was subjected to savage cost cutting by RCCL and very poor management structure by RCCl which relies on "bullying " the staff to be pleasant to passengers to make up for the shortfall of quality! The ship is managed from Miami with people there who have no idea how to treat a worldwide clientele.  The management structure is top heavy and relies on the Hotel Manager and the head Maitre'D to sort out the daily mess of the incompetent heads of some departments who are there with their partners who may also be working on board who have a very "cosy life " on board. For the first time on a cruise ship we encountered many files when boarding in Singapore and in India.   These were in two areas where people ate on tables and in the food counters in the buffet line areas - especially in the salad and sandwich bars.  I spoke to the F&S manager about this and he told me that he could do nothing more than he had already done which really raised my blood pressure and I decided to speak to the Hotel Manager and he instantly responded by adding in more processes to their daily cleaning which did help but did not completely eliminate the problem throughout our cruise and we still had flies on board on getting off at Athens.   Food - we usually eat in the buffet restaurant for breakfast and although there was lots of choice if you were not worried about your cholesterol I was very disappointed with the quality of the bread (at breakfast - because at lunchtime and dinner the bread selection was much better).  I also was very disappointed that there were no mushrooms for breakfast except for two days.  At lunch we ate at the buffet again and usually it was quite good with plenty of choice.  In the evening we started off eating in the restaurant and my wife got fed up with having her fish undercooked all the time.   I could not get a decent curry for love or money.   In all fairness they did try many times and it was not for lack of effort on their part.  I am not quite sure if the Chef was up to the job really and this was an opinion expressed by many other guests.  The maitre D' did say that they did not have the correct spices on board to make a curry.   In the end we ended up eating in the buffet area most night and the stir fry counter was absolutely superb in their stir frys and nothing was too much trouble for them.   The sushi counter was also excellent.   They always had a curry and usually some sort of sort of a carvery which was for the most part very good.  One thing to note is that in the buffet area you cannot get decent coffee after breakfast as you have to use a machine which produces very chemically tasting drinks.   The tea selection was excellent which was only let down by the temperature of the water needed to make hot drinks as it could not go above 95 degrees.  The cold drinks selection was also very good (better than on most ships). Eating in the dining room we never once had a problem getting a table for two - one negative the service was always very slow - another reason for eating in the buffet section. The in room service was second to none and very prompt and efficient and the menu selection was the best we have ever seen. Entertainment - TV - films - shows - singers/entertainers - During the day we tended to take part in the quizzes going on where they give you one stamp for turning up and one stamp for winning - if you think you are going to get a better prize for having more stamps (winning all the time like we were) then you will be disappointed as most people at the end of the cruise got the same prizes (or very nearly) - still it was a nice idea to get some prizes. The questions in the quizzes tended to be repetitive and very much aimed at a very much older crowd (over 60s). It is also worth noting that passengers were encouraged to write quizzes as the cruise activities staff ran out of ideas. As for the TV - it was a complete disappointment - free movies - the same programmes on all channels were repeated throughout the day and throughout the week and all the good stuff required you to pay for the same. Very few movies on in the evening i.e. in the cinema (cabaret lounge) and those that were on were old and for kids or over 60's again). There were only two or three entertainments that came on board and they had to overcome the absolutely bad acoustics of the cabaret lounge and ended up being way too loud to enjoy - most of the entertainment was geared for the over 60s again and anyone younger felt very much left out). There were three onboard entertainers in the evening - the harpist was very good, Jim Badger (pianist/singer) was at times quite entertaining and friendly - we also enjoyed Kenny Stringer who was a guitarist/singer who did as many requests (from his list) as possible and it was enjoyable and we were able to join in and sing along. Gym - the Life Fitness equipment was superb - however the instructor was not very on the ball with regard to health and safety as there were a number of machines that needed attention, he also allowed people to use the machines in sandals and even barefoot and sometimes men came in with just their swimming trunks which really does not promote hygiene. Tours - we went on one tour in Alexandria and it was disappointing in the lady who was conducting the tour was too much focussed on getting all the people on our bus to buy jewelry in a store we would be going to at the end of the tour. An extra hour was added on to the tour for this purpose. When we got the store at the end and were told we would be there for an hour we were livid as we did not want to buy anything and a group of us just stood outside waiting to get back on the bus and get back to the ship. It was a complete waste of our time and we do not like tour operators bullying us to buy stuff. It should be mentioned in tours in future that there will be no shopping trips and that we will not be taken to various locations just to get us to buy stuff. Would we recommend Azamara to other people? This is a hard one -not if you are under 60! If you are over 60 however and would like to go to bed at 2130 hrs then this is the ship for you. We would like to praise the Captain, the head Maitre'D and the Hotel Manager who do a great job with limited resources. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This was a fantastic cruise as we saw so many cultures in a short span of time and learned so much. We essentially cruised for 3 two week segments, back to back. Our fellow cruisers were mainly from the English speaking world-Aussies, ... Read More
This was a fantastic cruise as we saw so many cultures in a short span of time and learned so much. We essentially cruised for 3 two week segments, back to back. Our fellow cruisers were mainly from the English speaking world-Aussies, Kiwis, from the U.K. and Americans. On the second segment from Sydney to Singapore the Australians were in the majority and many of the entertainers and lecturers were also Australian which made for lots of camaraderie and fun for all the Americans too who were the next largest group. We spent our days on board eating and talking with all the interesting people we met, going to lectures and coffee talks, using the gym, playing bridge, enjoying the cooking presentations and movies, the bars, walking on the promenade deck, and the evening varied entertainment from shows to singers, musicians, magicians, and comedians. Even our religious needs were attended to as every Friday evening we were able to attend services with wine and challah provided and a Rabbi was employed onboard to lead the Passover services.Every staff member was top notch.Our shore excursions varied from those we arranged privately for a small group through cruise critic, to those arranged by the ship. We also took advantage of the free shuttle buses provided by most of the cities and towns from the dock to the center of town or major place of interest. Our only complaint was that the captain frequently shortened the time the ship was in port-making many of the shore excursions rushed. There was so much to see and so little time in port to see it all. Our favorite port was Bali where we employed a private guide with his air-conditioned car for the day. He had worked as a waiter on Holland America so his English was very good. He only charged $60 for the car. As there were 4 of us it came to $15 a person, plus lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking a verdant valley. We treated him also. We saw the bat temple, the purification temple (with naked bathers) the volcano and overlook, the wood carvers and Ubud and Mas etc. What a day. If you would like his email and name please email me. I am ellen@nycap.rr.com. We also used private tours in New Zealand and Australia with fabulous days in these First world countries. Everywhere there was wonderful food, wonderful wine, gorgeous harbors, gardens blooming with flowers, and hillsides dotted with sheep. People are friendly and helpful English speakers. Trams and buses are plentiful for getting around. Unfortunately they drive on the wrong side of the road for American drivers, a learning problem if one wants to rent a car.With the unrest in much of Southeast Asia we felt that ship tours were necessary there for safety. As a whole the ship tours employed comfortable buses and knowledgeable English speaking guides who taught us much about the culture we were seeing. In many of these hot countries, the airconditioning on the buses was a welcome relief. Also the lunches and food to taste on these tours were superb. In Bangkok we lunched at the Mandarin Oriental-probably the best hotel in the city. Also don't miss Nooch Nooch Cultural Village. The elephant show is unbelievable. They have elephants playing soccer, basketball, baseball etc. and walking over people lying on the ground. Wow!!!! Puerto Princesca has Hunda Bay with the most beautiful empty islands with huge starfish and gorgeous big fish that come to be fed if you give them bread. We did the ship's Island Hopping tour. It was a trip to Paradise on little wooden boats skimming over the azure seas. The water was so warm it felt like a bathtub. We did keep our shirts and hats on in the water so as not to get sunburned.Did I mention the Antarctic Center in Christchurch NZ-with simulated frigid conditions? How about the inclined train ride down the side of the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney or the skyride across the rainforest in Cairns to the Aboriginal park with the Creation presentation. We had so many adventures-The Trip of a Lifetime. Yours, Ellen Eisenberg ellen@nycap.rr.com Read Less
Sail Date March 2009

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