12 Athens (Piraeus) Fitness Cruise Reviews

Picked the Cruise because of our many Viking River cruises and their fantastic service - and the itinerary that gets you to the Holy Land. Our first Viking Ocean was the Baltic in Summer of 2017 and Needless to say we were unimpressed with ... Read More
Picked the Cruise because of our many Viking River cruises and their fantastic service - and the itinerary that gets you to the Holy Land. Our first Viking Ocean was the Baltic in Summer of 2017 and Needless to say we were unimpressed with the service as we expected it to be equal to the River cruises - It is not - Many times had to get our own drinks, utensil etc - Food was spectacular, but restaurant serve slow at best and mediocre. It was exactly the same on this cruise 18 months later - So no improvement to speak of. More Comments - Room service for breakfast was punctual but quite often food was barely warm, but always a problem when so many to deliver in a small amount of time. Actually the fact that you could get room service though is a plus. As for their free wine/beer lat lunch/dinner has improved. Baltic one beer one wine - At least this time you had choice of beers - However having only a single wine at a meal - one white one red, if you did not like it you are paying then on for each glass. You should have all the wines available each night and let diners choose - OH and with the Crystal/Regent/Silver Seas/Seaborne providing most all drinks free and no mandatory tipping (30 per day per pax), certainly makes those four more attractive even in price. On Crystal, by the second visit to our favorite bar she remembered our drinks and on the third visit she was following us to a table with our drinks - You did have one male waiter do his best and eventually knew what we wanted but always had to ask first before bribing them. ON the PLUS PLUS side - Ship spectacular, crew very helpful, on/off as good as you can expect with 900 people, Staff taking care of rooms at the top of my list - Helpful and attentive. check in check out fantastic. Excursions - The freebies are just drive byes and a waste of time - We did were trying to fit two good ones in each day, but some were so long we could just not do it. The spa prices were ridiculous, more than the Crystal trip I went on and 3 times Holland America. The thermal pool reeked of chlorine so bad, (being chlorine sensitive) I could not even use the steam room, snow room, or thermal lounges. Huge disappointment. Will I go on another Viking Ocean, not sure. Right now they are a slight cut above Holland America but Holland is about 25% cheaper so their you have it - I have done 8 river cruises and will river cruise with Viking again. I feel like royalty on their River Cruises Next Ocean might be Seaborne or other top 4 or maybe go cheaper and hit Holland but book a suite and still be 1/2 of Vikings cheapest room. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
I have sailed a lot, probably close to100 cruises. On Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, I have spent over 360 days. But I was so impressed with everything about this voyage, I’m not sure I ever will go back to any other line; I think I have ... Read More
I have sailed a lot, probably close to100 cruises. On Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, I have spent over 360 days. But I was so impressed with everything about this voyage, I’m not sure I ever will go back to any other line; I think I have found my new home on the seas. embarkation and disembarkation both went very smoothly, a benefit of sailing with only 900 other passengers. This was not only the first and last day of the cruise but also for every port we visited. We were in Suite 4000, a ES1 category. Before sailing, I looked at the diagram for the owner’s suite on deck 7. I wondered if I would have wanted or needed everything provided in that cabin. Once we boarded and were settled in our suite, I was perfectly happy and would not have wanted to move upstairs. Heck, even the lowest standard cabins on Vining Ocean are better than many higher-level cabins on other cruise lines. I have often been a Grills passenger on Cunard. The Queen’s Grill on QM2 is considered by some to be the best restaurant at sea. Although Wiking does not offer dishes prepared table side, the quality and presentation and variety is equal to the food on other ships. Open dining was a delight and we never had a wait, It was nice to have the alternative dining restaurants and not have to pay extra. The rotating menu at the Chef’s Table was a deal. We ate there five nights during the month we were on board. Wine (which was not bad) and beer (which I don’t drink) were free during meals and I never paid for non-alcoholic beverages and coffee away from the restaurants. I consider it a benefit not to have a casino on the ships, photographers always wanting to take your picture, and on the shops on board lining the hallways as they apply their wares. I loved not having announcements every hour. The lecturers were very good and well-versed to discuss their topics, especially the port talks. Evening stage shows were above-average and well attended, but not the glitzy performances produced on larger ships. At least one excursion is free in every port. I participated in some of those and they were fine. The optional, paid excursions were well run and educational. Good variety of options. The gym is good, plenty of machines. Never crowded. A great spa and - since the line is Norwegian - great sauna, jacuzzi, ice water buckets AND a snow grotto. Imagine a snowball fight in the Suez Canal, I can’t say enough to complement the Viking professionals who made this such an enjoyable adventure. I liked it so much that I already have booked a one month journey next summer. I am sold on Viking! Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
When I was in high school, I read a lot geography around the suez canal, red sea, and indian ocean. It is very interesting and I am glad I get this one in my bucket list. The excursions is actually more than I expect traveling Egypt, ... Read More
When I was in high school, I read a lot geography around the suez canal, red sea, and indian ocean. It is very interesting and I am glad I get this one in my bucket list. The excursions is actually more than I expect traveling Egypt, Israel, Jorden, and Mumbai in one trip. Of course, the ship is the top of the class in service. This is better than other ships which I had travelled before. The quality of food is also above other ships except the Chef Table. I went three night in this dinner and I just like the french food only. The equipment in the exercise room are in good condition and also because it is max. 930 persons in the ship, therefore, it is not crowded in the exercise room and spa area. I used the spa every day at sea. the Scandinavian Bathing is highly recommended to utilize in the trip. I also love so many sea food in the menu in this ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
Priority embarkation, a perk of being in a suite, was a breeze and we were onboard in no time at all. We were each offered a glass of fizz or orange juice. We had a light lunch in Windows then found our Club Continent Suite, 8050, which ... Read More
Priority embarkation, a perk of being in a suite, was a breeze and we were onboard in no time at all. We were each offered a glass of fizz or orange juice. We had a light lunch in Windows then found our Club Continent Suite, 8050, which happened to be next door to a fellow CC poster's friends, so we met almost immediately, on the balcony As we’d cruised on Journey before, we didn’t need much orientation, so we checked out the gym class timetable, which was a disappointment as there were no abs classes and only two stretch sessions. I was expecting daily classes, but only seemed to be one instructor so maybe short staffed. We unpacked our own clothes rather than let the butler assist. He soon introduced himself and explained our perks. We swopped the included vodka for a further bottle of Bombay. As it happened I only consumed the rum, so took the others home for family. Next was the dreaded drill, which is a necessary chore, but those who attend punctually have to wait ages for latecomers. One suite perk is free dining at speciality restaurants so we at twice at each venue and enjoyed great food and service. One night was Azamazing buffet, another White Night and on one occasion we at in the main dining room. The White night took placed while anchored at Patmos, which was slightly disappointing, as it was a bit windy, so sweaters and rugs were required. The food was excellent, but went cold quite quickly. On a warm evening, it would have been much more fun. The included wine offerings were generally disappointing, but when we found an excellent Zinfandel we asked for it on subsequent nights. We at breakfast outside on everyday and mostly ate quite healthily. Food was generally excellent as was the service as you’d expect. We didn’t take any ship tours or use any spa services as we feel they are way overpriced. Eric was a great entertainer and CD, but we were less than enthused by some of the entertainers. We tended to retire early and rise early, to walk around deck and use gym, which provide great facilities. We also liked the perk of using the Thelassotherapy pool, which was very relaxing. We didn’t use the tediously slow Wi-fi much, as most of time we had a 3G signal, allowing us to use our UK data allowance in our included contract. Disembarkation was a breeze. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We went to celebrate our wedding anniversary on the Silver Muse, our expectations were exceded, what an intelligent selection we made. The organisation, logistic, attention and service provided are amazing, you can feel the intentions ... Read More
We went to celebrate our wedding anniversary on the Silver Muse, our expectations were exceded, what an intelligent selection we made. The organisation, logistic, attention and service provided are amazing, you can feel the intentions of the personnel to make your stay confortable, enjoyable and well taken care off. The SHIP... Oooohhh THE SHIP what a MUSE, well named! clean, neat, peaceful, happy, confortable, we enjoyed everything. Must of all the system of the different restaurant and the flexibility to make reservations at different hours, I coordinated the times according to the ports departures to have the most time at land, the wine list SUPERB! the meals exquisite high-end cuisine.The entertainment on board made us meet new friends and enjoy each show and bar with them, My Butler OSCAR FERRER a must at silver, made our anniversary night amazing! Memories we made at MUSE are a keepsake in our hearts! Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
I have sailed many many times on Princess and would recommend them HIGHLY ...until now! WOW! I will say, the ship is brand new, in great shape and my bed was upgraded from the usual hard mattress-- but that is where the nice comments end. ... Read More
I have sailed many many times on Princess and would recommend them HIGHLY ...until now! WOW! I will say, the ship is brand new, in great shape and my bed was upgraded from the usual hard mattress-- but that is where the nice comments end. The ship layout, staff and attitude is catering ONLY to an Asian guest-- and I am not even sure they were thrilled. Good for you if you are Asian and choose this ship, but if not, prepare to be underwhelmed if you loved Princess cruising. You would think that with a new ship they would have their A team as the staff -- um, NO...everyone from the Cruise staff to the room stewards were less than enthusiastic and made no effort to make you feel like a welcomed guest. The bars and restaurants all close early and the usually wonderful bar staff is no where to be found in common areas. My love of that staff ( and the tips to prove it) are usually a HUGE part of my bill, NOT the case this time. If you could find someone, again, there was little interest in service. If you like the cheesy, but fun Skywalkers lounge -- well, you will instead be treated to a DJ under lots of light in the VERY chlorinated smelly indoor pool area - such a lousy replacement. There is lots of space used for private Kareoke rooms, that cost $12 extra per hour /per person and were not used at all on this cruise. They do offer you one free drink, which is nice a useless if you have the drink package. It also had no staff around ( because of the lack of guests I am sure) so it was hard to even find out those details. The food was another MAJOR let down on this trip. We host dinners in the Crown Grill and it was horrible. Normally the steaks, presentation and service are beyond worth the extra money - um, NOT THIS TIME. It was laughable how bad it all was and so embarrassing for those of us who raved about it to first time cruisers. again -- I used to love this and now, just still so frustrated by the lack of effort by anyone on this ship. I also had a dinner at the new Harmony / Cantonese restaurant and that couldn't have been more bland and again -- so not worth the extra money. the food at the cafes were okay, but took a lot longer than usual and again -- the staff just seemed ho hum. The meals in the dining rooms were also -just okay, not really worth getting dressed for if you were expecting nice people or service. If you like to exercise, the gym is nice, but if you want to walk, good luck, there is not a level where you can walk around the ship. it is all reconfigured and the "walking path" is about 25 feet long....so you can get lots of laps in if you are super lazy. We had several first time cruisers with us and it just wasn't a great experience. As I said before, I always looked forward to my Princess Cruises, but I will be looking at other lines. Which is sad. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We chose this, our first cruise, in particular because it traveled to Israel, where day excursions took us to many places in the holy land we never thought we would ever see. Originally starting from Istanbul, we could tell the few new ... Read More
We chose this, our first cruise, in particular because it traveled to Israel, where day excursions took us to many places in the holy land we never thought we would ever see. Originally starting from Istanbul, we could tell the few new port changes in itinerary were meant to fill in for days we were meant to spend elsewhere. We chose Viking because emphasis is on experiences at the destinations, not the Mickey Mouse review or the extreme water slide. (Nothing wrong with that if you have a young family.) I particularly appreciated the ability to use their travel service (for a very reasonable charge) to make our atypical flight arrangements. We arrived in Athens two days before boarding the ship, to account for any airline equipment issues, and to take a day to explore. After the cruise terminated in Rome, we spent another week in Italy, flying home out of Venice. Viking made all the arrangements without hesitation. Viking's agent called us a few weeks before our trip with an offer to upgrade cabins. We negotiated a good price, and moved from a standard cabin to a penthouse junior suite. This was key to enjoying the trip so much more, as it was half again larger than our original room, included daily laundry services, and a wonderful steward who took such good care of us. The room was spotless and always freshened, and amenities almost new. Our in-room services were personal, always cheerful, and complete. The bathroom was large, included a double-sized shower and towel warming racks. Again, storage was more than we needed. Dining options spanned a wide range of cuisine, from hot dogs and burgers to sushi to fine dining. While mostly good, onboard meals will leave true foodies a bit underwhelmed. But that's forgivable when you're trying to serve a thousand people several times a day. We ordered in-room dining for a couple of breakfasts when our excursions were early. They arrived at or before the requested time, complete, and well-prepared. We normally don't seek out entertainment options, so I can't really speak to that. However, I/we attended several speaker sessions, and found them excellent pre- or post-excursion talks. Shore excursions were well planned, and led by extremely knowledgeable guides. Group sizes were however many could fit on the bus (about 25 people). I was grateful for the short-range radio transmitters used on all excursions. Each passenger was given a receiver and an in-ear monitor, allowing everyone to hear the guide as he/she spoke in normal tones. Unfortunately, there were some places where it would have been nice to spend more time, but, trips like this are meant to provide a glimpse into these historic locations. We can (and will) return another time. The excursion to Galilee, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem was a very long day. I wished we had had two days to cover this religiously significant area. When we weren't on shore, there were abundant books to choose from. I was surprised by one aspect of the cruise, that being nearly all the passengers were American. I hoped for a greater cultural diversity to enrich the experience, but I confirmed with our steward (who has worked Viking cruises around the world) that, regardless of trip, Americans fill the cabins almost exclusively. When we felt like being away from crowds, it was easy to find many comfortable places on the ship where we wouldn't see another soul. There we would sit in the sun and read. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
This is my first review. I am a first time British cruiser, 36 years old professional chap, who was, as I suspect many are, a little bemused by the number of alarmingly poor reviews on this site. It does make me wonder why some people go ... Read More
This is my first review. I am a first time British cruiser, 36 years old professional chap, who was, as I suspect many are, a little bemused by the number of alarmingly poor reviews on this site. It does make me wonder why some people go cruising in the first place if they hate everything. I have just come off Royal Princess for a seven night itinerary in the eastern Med and was not sure what to expect given the poor reviews this ship has had. Nonetheless I went with an open mind and wanted to make my own judgements. The consensus is/was, according to the poorer reviews on here, that the food on Royal Princess is average to middling and not as good as other Princess vessels, the cabins are minute and the balconies so tiny as to not be worth bothering with. The lifts are so poorly placed as to make moving deck to deck a real traumatic nightmare and overall the ship is a huge seventeen deck disappointment. I must say I think all of those things are inaccurate. The food I found to be good throughout and occasionally very, very good indeed depending on what you order. I’ve not been on any other Princess vessels so cannot compare, mind you. The cabins are smaller when you walk in but are absolutely fine size wise and extremely comfortable and well-appointed. Everything is well-designed and I had no issue at all. The balcony was also fine and I do wonder what people are doing on their balconies if not sitting and chilling with a book and some drinks/breakfast to state so categorically that they are unacceptably small. Granted, a game of touch rugby or perhaps a spot of rounders might be a bit difficult I accept but there is most definitely room to swing even a moderately large cat to your heart’s content. The lifts are busy but never over-crowded even on this fully booked 100% occupied sailing and waiting times never exceeded a couple of minutes, even with one of the lifts out of service for maintenance. Respectfully to all concerned, if you cannot handle a couple of minutes wait for a lift at busy times pre or post dinner/tender then perhaps cruising with 4000 other people on a giant cruise ship isn’t for you. Let me first go through the things I found very good or especially impressive by bullet points for clarity. • Royal Princess is a magnificent ship. As mentioned above she was fully booked and 100% occupied for the seven days I was aboard and at no time ever felt busy or crowded. She is a fabulously well-designed vessel, complaints over lifts/stairs notwithstanding. I was hugely impressed the moment I boarded and this only increased as I took the week to explore her. • We encountered some long 5-6m swells on the last sea day inbound to Barcelona and the vessel handled them superbly. There was astonishingly little movement. It was very comfortable and there was no sickness from my fellow passengers that I saw. I’ve worked on ships when I was younger, and 6m metre swells are very much in the “sit down, hold onto something” territory in my past experience even on some big ships, so to feel so little pitching and rolling (even on a beam sea at one point off Corsica) was very impressive. • The food in the Allegro/Concerto was uniformly good – the bread was fresh, the pasta was nicely done, the steak/meats were cooked well and to order, and the sauces seasoned very well. The menu was imaginative and held enough to keep my family and I interested. There were a few dishes that were just good, but a few that were very good indeed and a real highlight. The veal ravioli with cep mushroom sauce and truffle was a delight, for example. I recall also very much enjoying a fresh gnocchi and a hulking great bit of aged New York skirt steak that melted in the mouth. The wines were decent and service save for one night was good and unproblematic. • The Retreat adults-only area was lovely and a real tonic to the occasionally frenetic deck 16 outdoor area. • The cabin and balcony was a lovely and restful place to have a GnT. Probably my favourite aspect of cruising and the reason I cannot wait to cruise again. • The staff were a generally good mixed bunch. When they were bad they were still ok (the Russian/Ukrainian waiters and bar staff could do with cracking a smile and saying please or thank you now and again and some of the junior waiting staff in the upscale restaurants might find knowing the food and drinks menu better might be helpful), but when they were good they were absolutely terrific. Ariel and the rest of the guys on the Vines bar on Deck 5 were fabulous. The two charming Mexican ladies who looked after us in the Allegro were also top professionals and nice to deal with. Doooouglas my cabin steward was extremely efficient and personable as well. The cruise director and his very beautiful Australian second-in-command were charming throughout. Everyone was smart, well-turned out, very professional and approachable. • The Horizon buffet was well done generally and had a great choice of food with plenty going on to keep you interested. I had a braised/slow cooked beef in a dark peanut curry sauce with sticky rice one night after a few drinks that will linger long in the memory. Also the beef hash and potatoes for breakfast – really delicious. • The unlimited drinks package was excellent value and a lot of fun to explore. Recommended. The frozen margaritas are worth it on their own. • The TV on demand thing in the cabins is very good when you want an early night or some downtime before dinner. • Movies Under The Stars is a great idea but Watching Andy Murray Win Wimbledon Again Under The Sun With A Glass Of Wine is an even better one. A great way to watch sport, loved it. • One thing I was worried about was that I’d heard of cruising’s reputation for the constant upselling and hassling you to buy stuff or pose for photos or souvenirs etc or hard-selling trips/excursions etc. Whilst there was a little bit of the photo thing on Royal Princess it never felt intrusive and overall I was pleasantly surprised. • The excursions were fine – there was loads to choose from and I didn’t hear any complaints. • All the ports of call were fabulous. Kotor and Santorini especially were just stunning. The things I wasn’t that impressed with and thought could do with sharpening up. • The wifi is incredibly expensive. I want to access my emails not buy a townhouse in Marbella. • We had poor service one of the nights in the Allegro where everything that could go wrong did so in epic, rather Fawlty Towers style. To use the parlance of my home city – “They had a ‘mare”. We complained and after that the restaurant manager came over to apologise and then the head Maitre’D for the ship (charming and hugely impressive Italian chap called Genneroso, a real top pro) came over and couldn’t do enough for us after that. We were incredibly well-looked after, but the first formal night was pretty much a washout sadly. • Whilst the food in the Horizon is decent and very good in parts, why on earth do they insist on serving cheap (not Heinz! Sacrilege!) baked beans almost raw? Who does that? • The entertainment was a massive let-down. The Jersey Boys tribute act was marred by the fact that the singers couldn’t actually sing which is a drawback for someone making their living as a singer. The comedian chap does do a very impressive Tom Jones and Elvis impression. My advice would be to stick to that. The rest of it wasn’t funny and the Freddie Mercury and David Bowie impressions just downright karaoke. He absolutely died on stage the night we went to see him – I was cringing for the bloke, it was toe-curling to watch. Absolute rubbish. What is the point of having such a huge and well equipped theatre if you don’t put acts on that are worth watching? The string quartet in the Piazza was nice in an inoffensive way, the young lady with a guitar who popped up at times on the ship was also good, and the scatty house cover band that played in the Piazza was the decent side of average but beyond that it was poor. I’d heard glowing reports of the glittering entertainment on cruise ships and was shocked and a bit embarrassed at how bad it was in the main theatre on Royal Princess. I can only assume we had a dodgy sailing where (probably) the usual theatre entertainment were all struck down with botulism before sailing and we got unlucky with the stand-ins. A comfort for anyone reading this – I very much doubt the comedian chap or the Jersey Boys act will be invited back so you’re safe there! • The shops are nice but not selling i-Phone lightning / android phone charge wires or plug adapters was a real miss for me. I am an idiot who leaves these things in hotel rooms with boring and expensive monotony and the shop missed out on a lot of captive dollars from me by not selling them. • I only found out Alfredo’s is a zero surcharge restaurant after the cruise had finished. I’d certainly have visited otherwise. Need to make that clearer. • Formal nights. We got dressed up in full dinner jacket etc and felt a bit daft, especially on the second formal night. So many people wandering round in shorts and vest tops or polo shirts and jeans trying to get into the restaurants. What’s the point? Felt like half the ship couldn’t be bothered and weren’t pushed by the crew. Either do it or don’t do it. • Singles at 8 in the Wheelhouse Bar. I went and was the only one there. Either advertise it or drop it. Some suggestions for the company which other cruisers of this vessel may or may not agree with: • It would be great if there were screens in the lifts and in some of the public areas showing a moving map display like we get on the IFE on aircraft. Perhaps even an interactive one? That would be great to have. • A better selection of draft beers would be great. The US is at the vanguard of the world now (controversial!) in craft IPAs and small(er) batch lagers and ales that make my US business trips a real joy, in stark contrast to years gone by. With that in mind and the fact that Princess are an American cruise brand, I’d love to see them make more of their burgeoning craft beer culture. It’s something worth celebrating. • The drinks outlets are a bit samey. Crooners, Vines, Wheelhouse and Bellini’s are all much of a muchness. Royal Princess could do with a sports bar, a glitzy cocktail bar effort (Club 6 doesn’t quite get there I’m afraid) and certainly the Salty Dog gastropub will be a welcome addition at the next refit. The margaritas are super – why not make more of that into something a little more speciality themed? I recognise sports or margarita bars are more Carnival than Princess brand wise but with 4000 people on board and so many F&B outlets I do think there is scope/interest. • The Vista Lounge seems to be a massive space that never had anyone in it every time I stopped by. Could be half the size and be more intimate, and create the room for another bar/pub/sports lounge etc. Overall: Royal Princess is a fabulous ship to make my cruise debut on and on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was literally one meal service and some entertaining theatre entertainment away from perfection. I take the points of past reviewers but I think there is a tendency to over-criticise and slate for slating’s sake for some and I’m someone who prefers to focus on what I enjoyed instead of what wasn’t so great. Even the most ardent and committed of miseries would, I hope, concede that there is much more to enjoy and love about cruising on Royal Princess than there is that needs work. My whole family enjoyed the cruise very much as I did and it did exactly what we wanted it to – we had a stunning family holiday that we will all remember very fondly for the rest of our lives. They say great cruise ships age well and I suspect Royal Princess’ first big refit (coming soon and apparently to include Salty Dog gastropub and some other tweaks) will iron out some of the parts that need a little bit of work and thin out the complaint reviews for the terminally miserable. I’d happily pay the same again for the same cabin on her tomorrow, without blinking. I’d recommend Princess and Royal Princess to anyone. Just go, enjoy yourself and don’t stress about a very occasional few minutes waiting for a lift. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We wanted to sail the Aegean and visit Istanbul and Ephesus, and this was the perfect cruise. We sailed from Lavrion, which is about a half-hour from Athens Airport. It's far-less crowded than Piraeus, and our embarkation was fast, ... Read More
We wanted to sail the Aegean and visit Istanbul and Ephesus, and this was the perfect cruise. We sailed from Lavrion, which is about a half-hour from Athens Airport. It's far-less crowded than Piraeus, and our embarkation was fast, easy and stress-free. The Crystal is a lovely ship, spotless, with plenty of great open spaces. Our cabin was on the 7th deck, so we had a view! It was small but comfortable and cozy, and the housekeeping staff checked in and put everything in order twice a day - they were absolutely lovely. We enjoyed the food immensely - it was delicious. The buffets were endless and offered plenty of healthy options, and we loved the restaurant, the Amalthia, particularly after a hot active day - it was elegant without being stuffy, and the staff was wonderful, particularly as we usually had an exhausted five-and-a-half year-old with us. As for this particular five-and-a-half year-old, the activities were great (paper flowers, fruit carving), as was the music, both Greek and Latin - he was constantly dancing. The service was impeccable - we felt like royalty, and everyone was fantastic, and genuine, with our son. We did and saw so much, and it was organized and safe. Our stops included Istanbul, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Chios, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete (Agios Nikolaos and Heraklion), Symi (incredible!) and Mykonos. The highlights? Oia in Santorini, Knossos, Old Rhodes, Mykonos Town, Symi and the villages of Mesta and Pyrgi in Chios, hidden spots that astonished everyone on our excursion. Back on board, the gym and sauna were great. Would we go again? Absolutely! Opa. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This was my fourth cruise on Carnival after loving my experience on the Dream class ships and this experience did not disappoint! I am a spa cabin aficianado, so I booked a spa balcony on the starboard side on deck 14. It was great. There ... Read More
This was my fourth cruise on Carnival after loving my experience on the Dream class ships and this experience did not disappoint! I am a spa cabin aficianado, so I booked a spa balcony on the starboard side on deck 14. It was great. There was plenty of room, and the service was superior. I loved this ship. It had everything I like about a Carnival ship and plenty of extra benefits. I was a little skeptical with the newness of the ship and the size of it with regards to lines and logistics, but I was shocked at how fast I got service, how few lines there were for anything, from embarking and disembarking, to your time dining which I would literally just walk up to the hostess and get seated immediately, to finding deck chairs anywhere on the ship. First and foremost, the service and staff on the ship were the best I've ever experienced. Nearly everyone was friendly, accommodating, and went above and beyond to exceed my expectations. My cabin steward Ni Luh was amazing. Our dining staff with the exception of one, were fantastic as well. The bartenders at the Alchemy bar where I did most of my drinking including the superb Ioana knew our names and our favorite drinks, but could also make up a delicious drink on the spot based on her knowledge of my tastes. Dining in the specialty restaurants are the way to go if you always want the best the ship has to offer. We enjoyed the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, Bonsai Sushi, The Chef's Table, the Seafood Shack for delicious local oysters with our champagne on the balcony, and I even took some snacks to go one day from the Red Frog Pub. I highly recommend eating in the specialty restaurants for as much as you can afford to get the best food and service on the ship. As for the continental breakfasts via room service, they were modest, but adequate. They were always exactly on time with almost never a hiccup. Once they forgot forks and napkins. The food in the MDR was about 80% very good. I tended to gravitate towards the appetizers, exotic appetizer choice, or port selections for the best variety. I love the Sea Day Brunch menu as well but for my eggs benedict the poached eggs were a bit overcooked and that wasn't a classic hollandaise with it either. Fish tended to be overcooked for dinner. Knowing these things helped me to plan my MDR meals so that I could make a meal on appetizers with multiple courses or more than one serving of an appetizer. Soups tended to shine. Entertainment was excellent, from the string trio in the lobby to the roving accordianist to the excellent combo in the Havana area. The shows were the best I've ever seen on Carnival. It's clear they hand picked their top talent for this ship with singing, dancing, and special effects superb. We only got a chance to see two shows, Flick and America Rocks, but I was very impressed with the costumes, production, and talent. Getting on and off the ship was impossibly fast. I didn't have FTTF, but still only waited about 15 minutes in the waiting area at Piraeus to get on board. Disembarkation was equally fast. I couldn't believe I was on a ship with 4000 people! I could always find a lounge in the Serenity area, or even had the entire Havana deck to myself and my husband evenings looking out from a big circular lounge bed looking up at the stars with the caribbean sounds of the band softly in the background. We did a couple of Carnival excursions, and I'd have to say that they were just a little more crowded than I would have liked. I don't like getting on a bus with 50 people and having to wait for everyone to get back. Our excursion in Malta, which itself was gorgeous, had not such a good tour guide whom we couldn't generally hear. I mentioned this to the staff at the excursions desk and they gave us a discount on our tour price. I prefer to book my excursions privately or with smaller tour companies for a more personalized touch. I spent early mornings around 6am in the gym and it was virtually empty. I loved this. When it was possible, I would go to the morning abs and stretch classes which were all included in the fare held on the floor of the ocean plaza. These were generally attended by about 8-10 people. Evenings before bed I would walk down a flight of stairs and relax in the wonderful spa hot tub which had nice, firm jets to massage my muscles or relax in one of the wet saunas or infrared sauna where I could choose one of 4 scents to fill the air. None of these areas were ever crowded. With the abundance of bars all over the ship, multiple restaurants, and just plenty of deck space, I never felt like I was one of so many others. I made great friends on this trip, and I can't wait to go back on the Vista to the Caribbean for Christmas. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Our first experience with Seabourn was in 2009. Our Norwegian vessel was docked near a Seabourn ship. Seeing how the Seabourn guests were welcomed aboard was an eye opener. In 2014, we took a deep breath and book the Greek Islands ... Read More
Our first experience with Seabourn was in 2009. Our Norwegian vessel was docked near a Seabourn ship. Seeing how the Seabourn guests were welcomed aboard was an eye opener. In 2014, we took a deep breath and book the Greek Islands cruise on the Sojourn. A big step for us, but we wanted the all inclusive experience. i don't have the time or patience to attempt a complete review, but I confess to being a true believer in the Seabourn experience. I will never forget the staff members standing in front of the gangway cheering and applauding us as we came on board! So cool. We loved our cabin! It was big, luxurious, had a walk in closet and a bathtub. The veranda was big and private, and there was a table and chairs for in room dining in style. The staff were amazing. The first day I stopped by the Pool deck bar for a cocktail. The next day as I walked by the same bar, the bartender asked if I wanted the same cocktail I had previously ordered. Every one seemed to know our names. All the facilities were first rate, and the food was fabulous. The chef hosted an event where he made a fabulous paella in front of us while he chatted away about Seabourn, food, and his life experiences. We got to attend a shore event in the ruins of Ephesus where we were seated outside the coliseum and fed wine and snacks while being entertained by a string quartet...on the house. Seabourn gave us the cruise experience of a lifetime. Worth every penny. If you are considering stepping up from the more popular big ship cruises, we encourage you to consider going all the way to the finest...Seabourn. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Greek Isles Odyssey, 10-22 Sep, 2010 onboard Oceania ship, Nautica 3 days in Athens pre-cruise and 3 days in Istanbul post-cruise This is the "executive summary" or should I say, well expanded ES of our cruise. It will ... Read More
Greek Isles Odyssey, 10-22 Sep, 2010 onboard Oceania ship, Nautica 3 days in Athens pre-cruise and 3 days in Istanbul post-cruise This is the "executive summary" or should I say, well expanded ES of our cruise. It will be a combination of "here's what we did and liked/didn't like" and lessons learned from first timers (it may be worth exactly what you are paying for it ?)) Diane and I are not cruisers per se having only been on one 4-day NCL cruise in 2005. I am a retired navy guy so this is like a busman's holiday for me. Don't get me wrong, I love being at sea and the Nautica spoiled the heck out of both of us! (Okay, I've just finished this Executive Summary and found myself on page 6. So the first part will be a bullet point of key items. If you care to drudge through the full write up be forewarned that I did say 'drudge'. I don't mind answering direct questions and will read the Oceania board on Cruise Critic every so often should you have a question. Here goes.... Pre-cruise: • Join and absorb Cruise Critic boards about Oceania, ports of call and the roll call for your specific cruise. • Check out Tripadvisor dot com for city restaurants, hotel and site recommendations • Open up a separate checking account with an ATM card. Deposit funds for the cruise - protects your main bank account funds. • Use a 4-digit PIN for your cards. Do not start the PIN with a zero • Learn some language words and phrases. Audio books In Flight {Greek} Learn Before You Land and great • Pre-pack two weeks before the trip. Guys - no sports jacket is needed On board the ship • Concierge stateroom - 216 Sq. Ft including veranda; lots of storage space. Veranda a must • Board early especially if this is your first time on the ship. Lots of activities that first day • Get the small floral arrangement if you plan on ordering one • Future Cruises presentation - don't waste your time • Coffee available 24/7 in Terrace Cafe, starboard side. Machine makes single cups of coffee, cappuccino or latte. Horizons coffee and Danish service opens at 6:15ish. Room service is QUICK! Enjoy the coffee while sitting on your veranda. • In-room frig: you can get it stocked with your favorites Restaurants: • Toscana was favorite; Polo Grill excellent with unwavering menu. Grand Dining Room also excellent. • Food was well prepared and presented well. Service was fantastic with one experience in the Polo Grill being a bit too much. • Maximum time we ever waited to be seated was 3-4 minutes. Portion sizes were great. • Tapas on the Terrace was most often the choice for breakfast buffet. • Fruits and vegetables always fresh and plentiful • Can order a bottle of wine and have it available in any restaurant. • Additional reservations are made in Terrace Cafe at the start of breakfast. Line up early for better chance. • Pastries & cake were uniformly dry. Off ship activities: Port tours: Ship tours are good but don't cover as much as most privately arranged ones and are usually more expensive for what you get. Go with private tour guides who have been recommended on CC boards. Tendering: Ship tour folks have priority boarding of tenders but usually space is available from the first tender on for DIYers Get tender pass in Nautica Lounge - try and be there about 15 minutes before first ship's tour group is to arrive On board comments and general demeanor by ship's staff. • Problems and requests are handled very, very expeditiously. The entire crew is warm, welcoming and eager to be of service to make your trip the best it can be. Diane and I would rate the cruise 5 + stars Pre-cruise Planning help: I joined Cruise Critic and absorbed every bit of information that I could about the ship and the different ports that we were going to. A world of experience is available for the taking (ask your question - you'll get an answer! (in retrospect, I really don't understand anyone who complained loudly about shipboard stuff - it wasn't perfect but darn near) The roll call for our trip wasn't as active as I thought it would be but those of us who did communication were able to set up our private tours very quickly and nicely. I also reviewed TripAdvisor dot com and found that the ratings of the hotels, restaurants, etc. were fairly spot-on. Use of ATM on holiday On the advice of a CCer (Cruise Critic blogger), we opened up a separate checking account at our bank, transferred funds to meet our ATM needs while on the trip and felt much more comfortable knowing that our primary checking account was safe. !Use a 4 digit PIN that does NOT start with zero for use with European bank machines! Other stuff Learn a few language words & phrases. In-Flight Greek (& Turkish) Learn Before You Land audiobooks (under $12 through Amazon) are an easy way to learn a few key phrases in {Greek and Turkish}. Simply learning how to say Please, Thank you, good morning (and for me, "Beer") will bring you much warmth from those you come in contact with. Prepack Two weeks before our trip we pre-packed. Our goal was to travel with one (count 'em) ONE medium sized suitcase each and a reasonably sized carry-on. Pre-packing gave us an unhurried opportunity to figure out what goes where, what was missing and what we needed to take out. We made our goal! Guys, you really don't need a sports jacket! I took one but only wore it once. Next time it will stay home!! Shipboard stuff Stateroom Stateroom 7063 (starboard {right} side amidships was our concierge home-away-from home for the 12 day trip. The size was reasonable as we didn't spend very much time in it. What is nice - and I wouldn't do it any other way - is the veranda. Now I know there are lots of folks who would rather spend the $$ ion something else on the trip but having that veranda to view the waves, watch the sun rise or set and other out-of-ship experiences while sipping coffee in the morning or a cocktail at night makes it all worthwhile. We slept most nights with the slider ajar and the soothing sounds of the ship and sea along with the fresh ocean breeze was priceless. Our trip was a celebration of several milestones (we stretched the truth a tad on how close in time we were to those events}: Diane's x0 birthday; our 25th wedding anniversary and two or three other minor occasions. In addition to receiving a Happy Birthday card and a Happy Anniversary card (and celebratory dinner in the Polo Grill complete with a special cake and singing wait staff) I ordered a floral arrangement for the room. It was a beautiful bouquet which livened up the room with color and fragrance but...after 3 days it simply was in the way. At 216 sq. ft. of floor space, including veranda, the floral arrangement assumed a disproportionate amount of space as time went by. (If you are going to get an arrangement for the room - get the small one) Boarding time Next time, we are going to board earlier. On the day of embarkation, we took a private tour of Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon and planned it so that we would arrive at the port of Piraeus about 3:30. Boarding and check in was quick and painless. When the limo pulled up to the pier area we were greeted by a Nautica staffer and a crew of stevedores (I think the Greeks call them that too). The luggage was checked against the manifest, tagged (I forgot to attach the ship's luggage tags...oops) and whisked away within a minute. Carry-ons over shoulder, the security and passport check was perfunctory and the bus to take us to the gangway (FYI: It's NOT a gang-plank...that's whats ya gotta walk when yur feed to the fish...arrrgh, matey} Had we known the 10 minute wait on the bus, the 10 second bus start up and door closing and the 23 second ride to the ship could have been avoided by walking...another "next time". Before actually boarding, our passports were checked again against the manifest, another package scan and we were escorted up from the deck 3 entry to deck 5 and the Nautica Lounge. There were 3 lines for checking in: Owner's Suite Vista Suite guests (1 couple in line); Concierge level guests (3 couples in line) and all other staterooms (10-12 couples). Pictures taken, "World Cards" made and given - along with a nice amount of shipboard info to read (no test on the material was ever given). The World Card is a combination ID, room pass and charge card. (WARNING - make sure you keep the World Card from magnetic stuff or whatever causes them to go flat. We had to get new ones 4 times! What's worse, if one person needs a new one both must get new ones.). The Nautica Lounge check-in took no more than 10 minutes. Up two levels to deck 7, turn left then right to head aft on the starboard side to room 7063. A quick check out of the room and read of some of the info we were given along with more papers that awaited us in the room. Champagne was cooling in the ice bucket and the floral arrangement was beautiful. As luggage had not yet arrived our plan was to tour the ship top to bottom. Forward and up the stairs (on naval vessels those things which you climb taking you from one level to another are called ladders. On the Nautica they were STAIRS - too ornate to be plain 'ole ladders.) to deck 11 - sun deck and cabanas - down the steps to deck 10, u-turn to walk forward and into the Horizons Lounge; back across the fitness track and visit the library and peruse the vast selection of books. Chatted with another couple we had met in Athens for a few minutes as we walked out to view the pool deck partial filled with passengers who were enjoying the sunshine and water in the pool... It had been about an hour since we boarded and so we skipped the rest of the self-guided tour and returned to 7063. Our luggage had arrived and was waiting impatiently for us in the passageway. Unpacking time! There was plenty of room for all of our stuff. In fact the plastic hanging shoe bag that we were going to hang over the bathroom door wasn't needed. Lots of wooden hangers in the closet, a safe for valuables and we were set. There were dual electric outlets: 110 & 220 on the desk and another in the bathroom so using the3-slot extension cord I brought it made recharging all of my electronics relatively easy (I had fried my outlet strip in Athens so I did need to change items to be charged every night). Just as we were wrapping up the distribution of clothes the call went out for the mandatory lifeboat drill. The Orange (lifejackets) stored in the closet were donned and all passengers made their way to the Grand Dining Room. A short presentation about how to put on the lifejacket was given and we trundled off to our lifeboat station on the outboard walking area of deck 5. There we listened while Leslie Jons, our fantastic cruise director, gave the "In case of emergency" lecture to all. By the time we scurried back to our stateroom it was time to dress for dinner which was preceded by our Cruise Critic party held up in Horizons Lounge. This was a no-host event that one of the bloggers set up with the concierge ahead of time. Nautica provided us with simple snacks and the wait staff was very attentive to our need for much needed beverages. Dinner in the Grand Dining Room followed on the heels of the CC get together. Bill & Vickie from Palm Desert, California shared a table with us that first night (I was delighted to see that they were both beer drinkers!!). This night, like every night eating in the GDR there was absolutely no wait for a table. But we did linger over the scrumptious meal and waddled out about 9:30 fully sated and satisfied. It was perfect timing as the ship got underway about 10 and we watch Piraeus harbor fade from sight from the comfort of Tapas on the Terrace, aft on deck 9. As both of us were quite tired by then we shuffled off to our room and readied for bed. Our heads were spinning with all of the constant activity that had gone on since we boarded! As we paused on the veranda - Diane with her evening tea and I with a final cocktail - we both agreed that "Next time" we will board earlier so that we can enjoy the ship and the day as a much more leisurely pace. Other stateroom related info Bashi, our room attendant, was great! Never did we see him without a smile or a warm hello. He (as well as a number of the staff) was kind enough to let us into his life. We learned about his home in the Philippines, he's family and some of his life's detail. It made us feel very welcomed. Bashi made up the room twice each day. (and even worriedly asked us if he could when we had the "do not disturb" sign on the door just so that he wouldn't need to). The room temperature/humidity was higher at night than we normally like. That was easily corrected by leaving the slider to the veranda ajar. That had the additional benefit of serenading us with the sounds of the ocean while we slept. Room service is 24/7. The last day was the only time we used it for anything other than morning coffee. Which leads me to one of the absolute necessities - morning coffee. The first night neither of us slept particularly well. I finally gave up trying to return to the land of Morpheus, grabbed my Kindle and went looking for coffee. In the Terrace Cafe on the starboard (right) side just aft of Waves Grill there is a new coffee machine which makes decent single cups of your favorite hot beverage: coffee, cappuccino or latte. I wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep. If you want coffee and Danish about 6:15ish then the urns of caffeinated, decaffeinated and hot water (for tea drinkers) are set up in the back of Horizons Lounge on the starboard side (sorry about the starboard/port thing.. I just can't bring myself to say left side and right side on a ship) But there is an even better way! Room Service! Here's how to: Arise groggily from your deliciously comfortable bed, pick up the telephone handset, feel around on the floor to find the handset because you dropped it; press #02 on the telephone keypad -the metallic voice will tell you to wait a few seconds while it's paging room service; hang up the phone and about 5 seconds later it will ring. A -much too cheery for this time of the morning - voice will say, "Good morning" and you can hoarsely mumble, "Two pots of coffee, quick"; hang up the phone and go put your bathrobe on. You'll need to do that quickly because it never took more than 4 minutes (usually 2) for a smiling waiter to be at our door with our two carafes of coffee! THAT was well worth the 1 Euro tip that we gave him. In-room frig The under-desk refrigerator is stocked with an assortment of things: water, soda, wine; beer, hard alcohol, etc. You can ask your room attendant to stock it with your own personal choices. The water is free and the alcoholic beverages are a price similar to that which you pay on an airline. As has been described on the CC blogs you can bring your own booze or soda aboard and drink it in the room (or in a lounge area if you don't flaunt it). Restaurants For us the choice of where to eat {I was going to list the 3 main meals but there are other times that you can eat/dine/sup that it begins to sound like Shire-like {as in Lord of the Rings}: "breakfast and then seconds, 3rd breakfast, 11 o'clock snack, lunch, tea......")...our choice of dining venue was mostly driven by the day's activities. Breakfast was usually in Tapas on the Terrace (7:00-9:00) and the buffet line. There are two sides to the main hot buffet area, both mirror images. Between the sides is the daily specialties; French toast, omelets, pastries. On the aft side of the room the food choices are the fruits, cereals nuts and berries, yogurts, etc. Fill the plate and head out to the alfresco area (or indoors) to select an empty table and await others to ask if they can join you or select a table already in use and join them for conversation. The wait staff will get you coffee, tea, juice, etc. Diane always has fruit for breakfast and the selection of fresh fruit in Tapas was extraordinarily good & fresh. I occasional tried a pastry and quite frankly found them to be very dry. This was uniformly true in all dining venues for all pastries and cakes - the only real disappointment in eating on the Nautica. The Grand Dining Room was my choice 3 times as I absolutely needed to have the grilled lamb chops - I was in heaven. The GDR is sparsely used for breakfast. Most days we were ashore at lunch time but we did eat in Tapas and Waves. Waves has burgers and good milkshakes and smoothies. My favorite sandwich was the Mahi Mahi burger with a side of French fries. Truth be told I found the fries to be a bit saltier than I like and the shakes to be a bit on the thin side. Never did eat lunch in the GDR. Like the fruit, the salad and fresh vegetables were excellent and always crisp and fresh. Dinner time is an adventure that we savored. Most of the time at home we are very plain eaters: grilled chicken (occasional fish or meat) and steamed veggies or pasta with a snippet of sauce. Dinner is over in about 20-25 minutes, max. On board the Nautica we lingered. Drawn by the multiple courses of the meal and conversation with new found friends resulted in supper being a 1 ½ - 2 hour event. We made reservations in the Polo Grill and Toscana on line before the cruise. Choosing nights early on in the cruise would, hopefully, give us a better opportunity to snag additional meals in these specialty restaurants. Our favorite restaurant by far was Toscana. The setting is soothing, the service was impeccable and the food on both occasions was done and served to perfection. The first meal in Toscana was, in our minds, one of the top dining experiences of our life. The bread basket delivered to the table was a work of art and the breads were crisp on the outside and tender, moist and warm on the inside. Our largest challenge was the olive oil and vinegar choices. The condiment cart was wheeled up to us and there was a choice of 8 different varieties and flavors of olive oil. {I need to go back to school and take a course in oils!). Salad, appetizer and main course were all perfectly size - thankfully. The menu is reasonably stable but there are nightly specials. The choice of pasta (capellini?) with crab salad was heaven on a plate. Diane had it as an appetizer and I for the main course. The place settings on the table are beautiful and very much enhance the meal. (however, while at school studying up on olive oils I am going to take a refresher in which of the 47 knives, forks and spoons to use when). I did mention the service being impeccable. Between the head waiter, 2 or 3 wait staffers assisting, the sommelier and the maitre 'de being unobtrusively attentive we felt well cared for yet not hurried. The Polo Grill has an Englishman's den feel to it. Leather upholstered chairs and china that evokes visions of fox-hunting pay compliment to the wood paneled room. We ate here three times (third visit was a gift from the Maitre 'de, Georgios (sp??). The food was good but first meal porterhouse steak was gristly . As I mentioned before, we found the portion sizes in the restaurant venues to be a good size (un-American like because the sizes weren't gigantic). In the Polo Grill it was a bit different. The steak was put in front of me and I took one look at it and said, "This isn't a Porterhouse steak, it's a porter mansion!" and I ordered a small one. I simply can't even imagine trying to wrestle with a 32oz steak! The first dinner in the Polo Grill also felt somewhat rushed. We were seated promptly (good) a menu was ready to be handed to us even before we sat down, drink order taken, and immediately the waiter was there to take our order. Bread, salad and main course seemed to come before we were finished with the previous course. Both issues turned into positives, as far as I'm concerned: On our mid-cruise comment card I made mention of both negatives from our visit to Polo. That card was turned in at the reception desk on deck 4 in the morning. By that afternoon we had received a call from the Polo Grill chef and Georgios, the Maitre 'de. The chef said he was glad to hear of our problem and assured us it would be looked into and taken care of - all future cuts of meat were excellent. We didn't get a chance to talk with Georgios about the rushed feeling but during our second meal in the Grill, 3 nights later, he stopped at our table and spoke to us at great length about our concerns. He apologized and then offered us another reservation, which we took. During the second evening in Polo the service was much better, less hurried. By the third visit we are positive that Michael, our head waiter, had been told to ensure that we were well cared for. We enjoyed Michael all three times there as he was very personable and very good at his job! The Grand Dining Room dining was also very high quality. Naturally the room is a bit noisier than the smaller venues but still within reason. The wait staff was usually prompt and took good care of their charges. There was only once when it was necessary to ask about our food delivery. Food was generally very tasty, well presented and the right temperature. Twice we couldn't decide between two entrees and opted to have both delivered together...made for a crowed table. Room service meals - The only time we had room service for other than our morning coffee was the last day. While packing we ordered some cheese and crackers. It was delivered within about 10 minutes and was a nice arrangement of several types of crackers and a good assortment of cheese - including, as our video showed - Limburger. I haven't tried Limburger since I was a pre-teen when my grandfather and I would take cheese and pistachio nuts down into the basement to share. It definitely is an acquired taste which we still have yet to accomplish....and really are not going to try. While we are on the subject of dining: There are several things which, in my opinion, make dining onboard Oceania Lines even nicer and one that's not so great: • You can order a bottle of wine with a meal and have it available later in most of the ding venues: Toscana, Polo, GDR and even Tapas. • Tip is automatically included with drinks and, of course, there's no tipping in the restaurant. It is very nice that when you are finished with a meal or a drink at the bar you simply get up and leave • Michael the head waiter in the Polo Grill • Making additional reservations in Toscana and the Polo Grill is cumbersome. The ONLY way to get additional reservations above and beyond your room's allotment is to go up the Terrace Cafe and wait in line before breakfast starts. I tried it twice arriving each time about 15 minutes before the restaurant opened and was about the 7th to 8th person in line. Didn't get additional seating either time. There's got to be a better way. Other shipboard related stuff Tours at each port It is not difficult to learn a great deal of information about most places that the ship will stop. Googling the name of the city/area will reveal a wealth of information. Tripadvisor dot com is a good site to find out information about restaurants, hotels and even places to visit. Of course, the tried and true book guides: Frommer's, Rick Steves (excellent!) But the best spot is the Cruise Critic boards. There you can ask very specific questions and learn from the experience of well-seasoned travellers (ya might say that some are...wait for it...old salts!) We decided, after extensive research on the various ports to do some DIY, some with a privately arranged tour and, to gain the experience of it, some shipboard tours. Most private tours that we took were much, much better than ships tour because we saw more sites, learned a greater amount of detail, could customize the tour to suit the tastes of the fewer number in the group and for the most part were less expensive that the ship's offerings. With a ship's tour there is always the necessity to ensure that ALL of the tourists in the group are on the bus or with the group as you explore. This means that the pace is CONSIDERABLY slower than a small group. Of course, due diligence must be taken when setting up the private tours: ensure the extent of the services that will be provided by you guide: transportation, dialogue while riding; qualified (and licensed) tour guides at major sites (Or at least arrangements for such a guide); itinerary and naturally the price. Confirm the arrangements about a month before the date of your tour AND confirm a day or two before. Using a cell phone is easy and relatively cheap in most places and well worth the dollar or two it costs to use. The use of tenders by those who are DIYing it or taking a private tour is painless. As can be expected, these on a ship's tour have first priority on the tender. However, if there are extra seats on a tender others may use them. We never found a day when we weren't able to get on the first tender leaving the ship. In the daily bulletin the ship's tours will be listed along with the time to report to the Nautica Lounge to pick up the tender tickets. If you are taking a ship's tour the voucher(s) for that tour will be in your stateroom when you board. Take the voucher to the Nautica Lounge at the appropriate time and trade it for a tender ticket that has on it the number of the tender to which you are assigned and bus pass. Wait in the Lounge until your tender is called (A nice Swedish voice will gently call out, "Those on tender #1 may now proceed to deck 3". Follow the leader down to the debarkation deck, deck 3. If you are DIYing or private touring and you want to get off the ship as early as possible be in the Nautica Lounge about 15 minutes before the first ship's tour people. Go up to the check in desk and they will give you a tender pass. If there are seats on tender #1 that's when you'll go. We took private torus in 4 or 5 ports and were always able to get on the first tender. Most of the time when we DIYed it we didn't leave the ship until an hour or two after the first wave of tenders departed so there was never any wait. In fact, the cruise director will announce when open tendering starts so you don't even need a pass. Returning to ship is even easier. Hopefully you've remembered where the boat pulled in (suggestion - take several pictures of the surrounding area so that on return from a long day of walking/shopping the location can be confirmed) There was always a welcoming Oceania umbrella with a table that had cool drinks of water or juice and a few chairs. Ship staff is on hand and greet you with a nice smile. The shore based staff will check your World Card to ensure that you are headed to the correct ship. Of course, if the ship is pier side there is no restriction on when any passenger can disembark. Other minutia and opinions: Cost of "extras" onboard. DIY vs. Laundry service. Opinion - we were on vacation we did not want to spend our time in the Laundromat. Even with sending out underwear to be cleaned and several loads of shirts/slacks/dresses our total laundry bill wasn't any more that $50 {yes we did rinse out our socks in tour bathroom}. Booze: No more costly than could be found at a decent bar/restaurant. $4.50 for a 'standard' beer and $6.00 for the two or three premium ones (Guinness, Grolsche). $9-10 for a martini. {I recently went into a local bar complete with pool tables and one or two patrons drinking shots & beers (NOT a high class joint). My bourbon on the rocks cost $8} Shipboard booze cost is really not excessive. 18% gratuity automatically included: I'll ask you this: If you got out to dinner at a nice restaurant and wait for your table at the bar with a martini or two, what will the bill be and how much tip will you leave? I see a $20 tab, I'm probably going to add 3-4 dollars - 15-20%. $12/day/person added to your ship's invoice: Again consider what would it cost if you would eat breakfast and dinner at a restaurant (the adjective 'nice' is assumed). Breakfast would cost $15-20 and dinner $60-80 at a minimum. Total per day would be $75-100. A 15% tip would then amount to between $11 & $15. Considering all of the other services rendered $12 ain't half bad. Port touring: I had meticulously planned a combination of ship & private tours and several stops where we DIYed it. Those DIY days were to be lighter on the shore based activities. Alas we didn't follow through with that plan. Reflecting back, we wished we did have more time on board the ship to lounge by the pool, join in some of the activities and just relax. NEXT TIME Future Oceania Cruises presentation: If it is anything like the one they gave on our cruise, don't bother. It was simply a reading of the list of cruises coming up. (If one of my students had made a presentation like that I would have flunked him/her) Response to 'suggestions' (read: problems). Whenever there was an issue that was brought to the attention of a staff member it was addressed immediately. You will notice that I didn't say "most of the time" because it was dome EVERYTIME. This is an extraordinarily superior service (and obvious mandated goal) of the ship and by extension the company... (The response was so good that one needed to be mindful of off handed comments because it may result in an unnecessary immediate response). Cases in point: Mid-cruise comments. This was filled out about the 5th day of the cruise and turned in to the reception desk before going ashore about 9 AM. When we returned in mid-afternoon, the door in our room was fixed; there was a note about reusing towels on our bed and a message from both the chef and the maitre 'de from the Polo Grill on our telephone's voice mail. The chef spoke to us about the quality of the meat cut and assured us it would be watched - never had a problem in the next two visits there. We missed being able to take immediately to the Maitre 'de, Georgios (from Corfu) but he came to our table 3 nights later and we spoke at length about the service. This concern was attended to and we were offered an extra reservation in the restaurant - which we took. A mention to Bridget, the trainer in the gym about missing towels brought an instantaneous supply; a question about use of the equipment launched a full blown demonstration on the equipment and some good info on work out routines. Bridget, by the way, was delightfully upbeat and pleasant any time we saw her in the gym or elsewhere on the ship. General ship's crew demeanor: The treatment and pleasant willingness of ALL of the crew was another very strong point of the ship. Especially those with whom you have numerous contact; room attendant, waiter, bar tender they were not only pleasantly polite but genuinely happy in their positions. Learning about their lives and families made the trip even more special because you felt a bit like you were with your own family. Was the entire ship-board experience perfect? NO, but then again perfection wasn't expected. But overall, 99% of the time we felt pampered and felt that whatever we wanted we could have. It was delightful to be spoiled and for us... NEXT TIME will definitely be Oceania Read Less
Sail Date September 2010

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