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4 Australia & New Zealand Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

Celebrity Cruises South Pacific Sydney to Sydney To put our trip report into context, this was our third cruise and the first one on Celebrity. Our previous cruises had both been with Royal Caribbean which we understand owns Celebrity ... Read More
Celebrity Cruises South Pacific Sydney to Sydney To put our trip report into context, this was our third cruise and the first one on Celebrity. Our previous cruises had both been with Royal Caribbean which we understand owns Celebrity as well. The RCC ships were all a bit too gimmicky for us and we hardly ever used all the facilities and rather got annoyed by all the screaming little kids and multi-generational families you encounter everywhere. So this time, we thought we go a bit classier and give Celebrity a go. We are a gay couple in our mid 30ies and traveled together with one of our best friends who stayed by himself in a separate stateroom of the ship. We had a really good deal so we all stayed in Concierge class which turned out to be totally not worth the money had we paid in full instead of getting a discount, but more on that later. For our friend, it was his first ever cruise so we were very keen to ensure he has a great trip. As always, we did extensive research on forums like this beforehand but many little quirks had to be found out directly on the ship, as we soon realized. But let’s start from the beginning: We had learnt on previous cruises that the “recommended boarding time” is a simple measure of crowd control which can be completely ignored, as was the case on this ship. Actually, had we followed the cruise lines advice, we would have missed the lovely welcome lunch for Concierge class guests which turned out to be one of the few real benefits of this cabin class. This lunch is not very widely published and only runs from 12 to 1:30pm on embarkation day. Luckily, we arrived just shortly before 12 and the boarding process in Sydney was very fast and efficient. About half an hour after arriving all up we had cleared check in and emigration and got onto the ship. There we headed straight to the main dining room for our welcome lunch which turned out to be lovely. Great to avoid the usual zoo up at the buffet on your first day and the lunch consisted of about 5 different choices for main, plenty for everyone to find something for their taste. We had ordered and paid for both the Premium Alcohol package as well as a Dining Package for the specialty restaurants online before the cruise which helped us to brush off the constant and often borderline aggressive attempts to upsell us at every possible occasion. This is one of those many things that just don’t fit well with the so-called “Modern luxury” image that celebrity portraits in their advertising. The other big thing that is totally removed from all the happy mid 40ies couples in their ad material is the average age on this ship, which is decades older that what Celebrity shows in their advertising collateral. I actually didn’t mind it quite so much as I find most of those oldies to be very friendly and polite but my slightly younger partner and our friend found the old age rather depressing. One bad side effect of this which turned out to be the biggest issue with this entire cruise was the music played on the ship. Wherever you go, nothing but music for our parents’ generation or even older. And regardless of this rather old average age, we still had dozens of the usual screaming babies on board, I seem to attract them like a magnet wherever I go. After the lunch, we went to see the one guy who has access to the table bookings in the main dining room and had to queue up for about half an hour because the guests from hell were in front of us trying to sort out their dinner bookings for a party of 20. Once we finally got to see the guy, we were lucky that we did, as the Celebrity online systems had failed us as ever so often: We had linked our two bookings ages ago online but no trace of this was to be found once on board. We had specialty dining booked for this first night anyway which gave staff a chance to move people around and were promised to sit together (as requested all along) from night 2. Unlike some other requests, this one actually worked and we got assigned a lovely table in the middle of the MDR from the second night onwards. When we got to our stateroom shortly past 1pm, there was no trace of our room attendant which turned out to be the regular thing with her and we were disappointed to find none of the promised Concierge class amenities in the room. No trace of “Plush bathrobes” or a welcome sparkling on arrival. Once our attendant, Marion, finally showed up, we had a whole list of things to ask her. Besides the amenities, my partner uses a CPAP machine at night for his sleep apnea and we had requested an extension cord and some water beforehand but nothing was there so we asked her for these as well as all the other little things that were missing. We wanted to do the right thing and specifically took some US Dollar notes with us for tipping which is a highly unusual thing to do here in Australia so a 10$ note indeed did wonders with her. Unfortunately, we were about to learn that we had the slackest room attendant ever on this cruise which was very disappointing. She was always the last one in our hallway to start servicing the rooms compared with the otgher super efficient attendant on our floor who we saw constantly working and if you didn’t tell her every single thing, she wouldn’t do it (and even then she sometimes ignored it!). Our friend at the other end of the ship had a much better experience so I am certain it was just her specifically. Most of the time, if she would show up at all, you’d find her at the end of the hallway having endless chitty chats with other crew members and overall we had the feeling that she didn’t like working. Somehow, the cruise line managed to knock off the name tag from my partners luggage and stuffed it into an incorrect bag, missing the fact that that other bag actually had someone else’s name on it too. The missing bag was found by the late evening but it was still an inconvenience that could have easily been avoided. Let’s talk a bit about Concierge class as some of you might wonder if it is worthwhile. If you were to pay extra for it, let me assure you it is not (unless you are after the additional Captain’s club points, that is). We got our bathrobes and the free welcome sparkling later on the first day but both were nothing to write home about. The “Plush bath towels” were a total lie as they were thin and ripped and crappy on most days- if they were any worse in the normal cabins, you’d dry yourself in paper! Speaking of it, Celebrity uses the cheapest possible toilet paper which you usually only find on the lower shelves of US supermarkets, so prepare yourself to wipe your bum with sandpaper. Top tip: We found the facial tissue in the bathroom to be the much better option so do your behind a favor and use these instead! Aside this, neither the pillow menu nor the apparently upgraded bedding was anything special. As always with these “Twin bed converts to a King” configurations, we could always feel the gap between the two single matrasses- a bit like the princess and the pea. In general, we found the room to be exactly the same size and, unfortunately, also the same décor as the RCC ships we’ve been on before. The upgraded massage showerhead offered in Concierge class was also one big joke as it’s still one of those old-fashioned showerheads that are attached on the wall of the shower. I couldn’t really care less whether it’s a Grohe showerhead or whatever brand it might be, as long as I can’t remove the damn thing to properly clean my body. You really have to wonder why Celebrity can’t install a proper showerhead if every decent 4 or 5 star hotel can do it and Emirates even has one on their airplanes which is better than that! As for the “Evening canapés”, this was a typical case of on Celebrity, the only consistency being nothing being consistent: On the first night, we asked our hopeless room attendant how we order these. She, truly herself, told us incorrectly that there is no need to order and they “simply show up every night”. Only to two hours later leave an order form for the canapés on our bed (imagine an eye rolling emoji here). And then, over the 9 nights of the cruise, we experienced every single possible combination: Filled in the form, got the canapés. Filled in the form and didn’t get them. Were in the room at the scheduled time of delivery (the form tells you that you only get them when you are present at that time) and still didn’t get them. Were not in the room and got them anyway. Then one night, we didn’t get any form but canapés showed up anyway. Another night, again no form so we left a Post-it note instead asking for our canapés but guess what, nothing arrived. Writing all this, I realize that it was quite futile anyway as these canapés were always TRULY awful. And I am not exaggerating here, not only were they “nothing special” but they were always soggy and had clearly stood there for hours which (especially with the always included seafood) was nothing too appealing. Our friend never touched them at all and we tried a few but really, get some crackers with cream cheese and olives at ALDI and you’ll have (way!) better quality canapés than what Celebrity offers. Besides those canapés, the food turned out to be one of the highlights on this ship and in our eyes, the biggest difference to Royal Caribbean main line. The specialty dining in Murano was out of this world and we decided to come back a second time towards the end of the cruise (they pretty much flambé everything at your table from the lobster to the desert which is pretty amazing) and Tuscan Grill was also very nice. We were told that the Sushi place is excellent also but Silk Harvest, the Asian specialty restaurant sounds to be really awful as we are really spoilt for good Asian cuisine here in Australia (we haven’t been ourselves but our friend ate there and didn’t rate it at all). The biggest surprise, however, was the MDR. We opted for fixed seating this time as the flexible seating in our experience always ended up with being shoved to some side table and waiting in line forever and indeed we did not regret: The flexible dining always had endless lines on deck 4 while the fixed seating on deck 3 was lovely. We can only recommend to anyone to choose the fixed seating and we will definitely continue to do so from now on. Staff was always very friendly and attentive throughout even though a little bit scripted as always on these ships. This became particularly clear when our waiter raddled of the his “Tips of the day” which he had clearly learnt by heart from some prepared script and probably never eaten himself. Our favorite each night was the freshly baked super-crispy “French” style baguette which we remembered had been exactly the same on Royal Caribbean. One important point worth nothing: A lot of things on this ship are making it very obvious that it’s an American ship. We actually LOVE the US so for us it wasn’t a big deal but the food, for example, is VERY American- from whipped butter to the salad dressings and calling the main an “entrée”, it’s all clearly US-influenced. Again, we actually liked this but many Aussies would probably not agree (they even had “proper” American deep fried cheese sticks which is a rarity outside the US, yumm!). The same was true for many of the wines but unfortunately not for the beer selection on this ship- we had looked at many menus posted online but in reality, they turned out to be useless on an Aussie cruise as most of the beers had been swapped with delicious Bogan-delights like VB or XXXX, yikes. While all the menu cards still told you there nice beers like Blue Moon or Sam Adams available, unfortunately this was a lie- I tried every single bar and the only thing I could find was some rather odd leftover Sam Adams ale which I didn’t like. Luckily, you could get Heineken and Beck’s at most bars so I was happy with these. But again, no complaints at all with any of the staff at the restaurants and bars with the sole exception of two Bartenders, both Indonesian to no big surprise, who clearly displayed a whiff of Homophobia towards us- one of them at the Passport bar which was shockingly bad anyway and another one at the Casino bar which we didn’t really enjoy very much either. Not sure where they were during the Diversity training sessions that Celebrity apparently does but luckily, they were the absolute exception. Other than that, we were treated with respect everywhere in the ship and the staff was a delight throughout. We particularly loved the bartenders at the Martini Bar and the Worldclass Bar on deck 5, Alin at Martini and Janathan & Dimitri up at the World Class bar were our favorites as was our sommelier in the main dining room, Fatma. Finally, a few general observations: We found both the captain and the cruise director highly annoying when they came on the intercom which they did far too often and always when we wanted to have a sleep in- the Greek captain didn’t speak English too well and had a super annoying way of speaking and “sing-sanging” his sentences which was usually followed by the equally annoying Canadian accent of the cruise director who was strangely upbeat even on grim days with constant rain. I must leave him that though- he did a great job moderating the “Newly wed not so newly wed” game show one night which was absolutely hilarious. Similar to those announcements, there were of course the usual sales messages on the phone EVERY SINGLE DAY trying to peddle some shore excursions or worse, overpriced handbags and jewelry in the rip-off shops on the ship. And to top it off, they had nothing better to do on land days than announcing every single damn tender boat throughout the entire ship- because the weather was pretty bad on most days we opted to sleep in instead rather than heading to a deserted rainy Island and were furiously annoyed by these announcements and didn’t understand why they couldn’t have been limited to the lower floors of the ship were guests would wait for their tender boat to be announced. Regardless of the older crowd, we still had some families with small children on this cruise and while some of them were very well behaved, others were not so creating a total nuisance for everyone else on board. The highlight was that Bogan couple (“Bogan” in Australian is similar to “Rednecks” in the US or “Chavs” in the UK so uneducated, noisy, small-minded people from the country or outer suburbia) who took their little one into the Adult only Solarium to change its dipers (!). Before I could complain, some others had done so already and it took only about 5 minutes until they were told to leave the area. The smell was still lingering for a while but I did appreciate the staff to react so quickly to the complaints. What else, hygiene is a big thing on this ship, they are obviously dead scared of these Nuro viruses and hence there are cleaners everywhere. I wondered what would happen if Airlines had to worry about the same thing- would they suddenly bother to clean their planes properly? No issues on this ship at least. All the entertainment on the ship was made for an older generation and even on the Silent Disco night you had the choice between Motown (what the heck…), 80ies and “Top 40”. The two latter styles were were US-focused, no trace of some modern dance music, house, techno, trance, anything like that- nope. As a result, the Nightclub, Qasar, was always dead empty unless there was Karaoke on which was certainly not our thing. On the pool deck, they often played American country rock which was just deadly and some of the live musicians playing… I won’t go into more details but the music on ship was just absolute horror for us but I am sure the older folks would have liked it. Despite some of the criticism, we still had a good time, met some lovely people and great staff, enjoyed the food and all the alcohol that we definitely indulged in too much and all in all had a great time. So good actually that regardless of all the complaints, we went into the “Book your next cruise” office on the ship to put the deposit down for a cruise through the Greek Islands next year on Celebrity’s new Edge ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
a quick 4 night getaway on Pacific Explorer. This is my third time on this ship, and actually like the interior. The cruise was out of White Bay as there was a bigger ship in the OSPT in Circular Quay. Our cabin was a mini suite, and ... Read More
a quick 4 night getaway on Pacific Explorer. This is my third time on this ship, and actually like the interior. The cruise was out of White Bay as there was a bigger ship in the OSPT in Circular Quay. Our cabin was a mini suite, and quite tastefully furnished. The beds were comfy and the pillows are actually fine (previously the pillows had been a contention on other P&O ships). The weird thing about the mini suite is the setup of the bathroom. The shower and bath are in one area, and through the door is the toilet and sink. This means that you can't get out of the bath and brush your teeth without having to go next door to the single sink. Our cabin stewards were friendly and gave us a lot of attention. Although they didn't introduce themselves till the second night. The room was serviced twice per day. The balcony is a bit small for a mini suite, not in length but in depth. Food was actually not bad at all. We went to a taste of salt (excellent and well worth the $99 per person cover charge). We also tried Dragon Lady and Angelo's as well as Shell and Bones. The disappointing thing is that if you actually want a decent meal, you have to pay for it. No drama if it's reasonably priced. Angelo's was the star of the free meal selection. The pasta was warm and tasted excellent. The secret bar is the Bonded Store, and I can highly recommend you find this small out of the way place, it's by the blue room. Blink and you'll miss it, as it's hidden around a corner. The "nightclub" which is situated in the Blue Room after about 11:30pm was always full. I've seen this either empty or over capacity on different cruises. I guess it depends on the itinerary and if the drink packages are in operation. In Moreton Island, we took the Quad bike tour. Enjoyed this very brief excursion, and maybe P&O might consider doing a longer version, as we just drove around in the sand around a made course. Fun to drive, but not really exciting views. Overall not a bad cruise, better than other P&O cruises I've been on before. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
BACKGROUND: Took my mom on this cruise. It was #1 on her bucket list to travel to Australia. I’m 50 , she’s 71. We chose this 12 day cruise based on itinerary, not cruise line. It covered South Australia including Tasmania and was ... Read More
BACKGROUND: Took my mom on this cruise. It was #1 on her bucket list to travel to Australia. I’m 50 , she’s 71. We chose this 12 day cruise based on itinerary, not cruise line. It covered South Australia including Tasmania and was round trip from Sydney. I normally cruise on Silversea but have also cruised one time each on RCCL, Paul Gauguin, Celebrity and Azamara. HOTEL: We stayed for 3 days pre cruise at Hotel Intercontinental which is a fantastic location and beautiful hotel. I have been to Sydney 4 times and this was by the best location. Circular Quay really is the heart of Sydney and is the easiest location to venture to other parts of the city. Definitely will stay here again or Marriott which is also right there as well. EMBARKATION: very easy. Porters met us as soon as we exited limo. We went inside, filled out health questionnaire and proceeded to desk to check in., No lines, very nice staff. In a matter of minutes we were on board. FIRST IMPRESSION: I had low expectations honestly . Having read cruise critic before trip and I had googled photos. But much to my dismay, the pictures I had seen actually made it look nicer than it really was. I knew it wouldn’t be modern and shiny like Silversea and Celebrity but was shocked the second I walked on. It was terrible. Ugly dark blue carpeting, with bright red accents and the lighting was literally yellow with ugly brass sculptures and trim. I know this ship was built in 2006 but cant imagine it was even stylish back then. We made our way to deck 6 and as we walked aft to our room , I couldn’t believe how ugly even the hallway was. Ugly wall covering, peeling in most places, cabin doors that looked like cork and ugly blue funky carpeting. My heart sank..The ship is so dated and worn. I know it’s going in to dry dock for a refurbishment in May....but I’m not sure HAL will do enough to make this ship really competitive in the industry. There are so many new ships out there and ships being remodeled, I would think HAL must be losing ground. I noticed when I got home they are advertising a lot and wonder if they are beginning to have trouble filling up ships with all the stiff competition out there. CABIN: See below on cabin review...but we had a Neptune Suite 6177. LOVED LOVED the huge wraparound veranda. DINING: i prepaid 6 specialty restaurants ,,,3 for Pinnacle and 3 for Canaletto. I was happy to find out that we had the same 2 top reserved for the whole cruise in the Main Dining Room . I dont know if that is normal, a suite perk or our travel agent set it up for us, but it was a lovely surprise. I loved the food on this cruise. I thought it was better than Celebrity and not too far off from Silversea. There were lots of choices every night. After eating one night each in Canaletto and Pinnacle, we decided that although very good, I dont think they are worth the upcharge as the MDR was so good and I dont think they were better than the MDR in my opinion, so we canceled the remaining reservations at specialties. We also had very good service in the MDR>. Loved our waiter and asst waiter and we felt the service was quicker in the MDR and a bit slow in Pinnacle and Canaletto. I dont like to linger at the table for hours on end during dinner, so I appreciated the quicker service in the MDR. Every meal I had was good (except room service). The only thing we didnt like at the restaurants was a ginger chocolate cake one night for dessert. Had no flavor, seemed a bit “wet”...just blah. It wa like a major ingredient was left out . We only ate at LIdo Buffet twice as I hate buffets. We did salads for 2 lunches and they were good. LIdo Buffet dining room was always packed and hard to find a place to sit. Decor looked straight out of Golden Girls episode. ROOM SERVICE: Definitelly needs improvement. Without going into detail on each item we ordered....just seemed like it lacked someone doing quality control. Missing or short ingredients in salad, food not to temperature, omelette bathed in butter/oil, only hot milk brought for cereal, Every time we got it, we were disappointed. Fortunately, we had access to Neptune’s Lounge and there are always snacks and sweets there all day long. ENTERTAINMENT: I dont normally like cruise ship entertainment, so i didnt go to any shows , so I cant really comment . I can only say that friends I made on the ship didnt have anything good to say about the shows. SERVICE: Noordam really shined here. Everyone from our cabin stewards, to our waiters, to bartenders etc, were all excellent. Everyone was so nice and friendly and even though it’s a larger ship than what I m used to, i was surprised at how many workers knew my name and used it frequently. The only place where employees werent friendly was Explorations Cafe....I felt like I was in the “soup nazi: episode of Seinfeld. Order quickly then move down counter to collect your coffee and pastry. They didnt smile, didnt seem like they enjoyed their job, seemed annoyed if you didnt know what you wanted right away. OVERALL: It was such a mixed bag of experiences. While I loved the service and the food and the passengers were pretty social (unlike Silversea sometimes). The dreariness of the ship tarnished the experience. I loved the pool aft, big open space and never crowded. I never did the midship pool because it seemed like every time I walked through it, the roof was closed and they were doing some type of sidewalk sale from the shops and there were tons of people clogging up the space and being noisy. I loved that HAL has happy hour from 4-5 and 9-10. The bars were packed and a lot of fun and dare i say a great value for dinks on a ship! I got 2 gin and tonics or old fashioned s for $11 total including gratuity. Celebirty is outrageous...so I was very pleased. SPA: so while i dont do spa treatments on cruise ships as I think they are way too expensive, my mom loves pampering herself and so I encouraged her to enjoy. What I will say is that on day one, we did a tour of the spa and fitness area and was totally turned off/irritated. There was such a hard sell on this ship like I have seen on no other. I dont like when they wont take no for an answer. I had to get pretty curt in order to overcome their hard core selling pressure. My mom did 5 spa services and after the first one , she came back to the cabin with hundreds of dollars of unneeded and overpriced products. She’s very soft and easily influenced and the spa crew definitely knew her number. I was furious...feeling like they take advantage of an older person. GYM: old equipment and too small of a free weight area. PORTS: SYDNEY...MY FAVORITE CITY IN AUSTRALIA...BEEN 4 TIMES, LOVE IT! MELBOURNE: feel like it is overrated. Surprisingly, I didnt care much for it. We did our own thing...lots of locals at port to help with tourism advice. We uber’d Everywhere and it was easy. We did the Royal Botanic Gardens...Amazing!! It’s huge and gorgeous. Probably the best I have done anywhere. Then we went to St Kilda Beach. A great beach town south of town. Beach not as nice as many in Sydney, but clean. The village there has lots of local boutiques, restaurants etc...kind of a funky, hip town. Had a good lunch there in one of the many sidewalk cafes. Then we went to city center for some shopping. Ugh, what a mistake. Felt like just another huge city, with too many cars , people etc....it was claustrophobic....didnt feel like it was unique or interesting. General consensus of my happy hour friends that night was the same....Melbourne was a bit of a disappointment. ADELAIDE: we overnighted here. However, it’s a 45 min train ride into the city, so not as convenient. Train was free that weekend....it isn’t usually, but for whatever reason, that line was free. We loved all the beautiful architecture in Adelaide. It’s a smaller city which I liked and easy to walk. We also did the botanical gardens there which were very nice as well. Shopping is good ...they have a huge pedestrian mall/street there with anything and everything you would want...and lots of restaurants. Seemed to be the hub of the city. . Would definitely go back. PORT LINCOLN: small town of about 15k. Did a ship excursion that gave us a bus tour of the highlights of this fishing village. Then we walked around the town, poked in some shops. Some might not like it since its small and not a lot to do, but i love small towns and enjoyed the slower pace very much! KANGAROO ISLAND: wow....this was probably everyone’s favorite destination. Anyone we talked to , raved about this island. You go here for wildlife. We did a ship excursion..but you could easily do it with a rental car as my friends did. It’s a sparsely populated island and easy to drive around and see the same sights we did on ship tour. Its gorgeous, the seals are amazing, seal lions, koalas, birds , kangaroos etc...it was a very long day, but absolutely stunning and magnicient. PORT ARTHUR TASMANIA: We did a ship tour. It was an eco cruise along the coastline for about 3 hours. It was a wild crazy fun ride. Swells were huge.....but it was such a gorgeous ride. A couple people got seasick...but the rest thought it was exhiliarating! HOBART TASMANIA. We did ship tour here to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. They only gave us 1 hour here which was disappointing. Lots of kangaroos to feed and pet. But lots of other Australian wildlife. This place isi great and no one wanted to leave. Then we went to historic town of Richmond....no tour...just dropped us off the bus and gave us an hour to walk around. Town was boring...even the shopping wasn’t very good. My big purchase there was a Red Bull to keep me awake. Once back to Hobart, we walked over the city. REally cute quaint city...in particular the trendy area of Salamanca....beautiful old buildings turned in to cool restaurants and shops...loved it. DISEMBARKATION ...super easy and quick....took the ship arranged bus to Sydney airport for flight home. We had an amazing vacation and loved our trip, our time together, the food , the amazing new friends I met on the ship...just wish it had been on a beautiful ship where I felt more upscale and special. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
First of all and up front - my long term partner left me while I was on this cruise, so i'll do my best to not let that get in the way of the review. The good: Jen Baxter - The Cruise Director. After many many cruises ... Read More
First of all and up front - my long term partner left me while I was on this cruise, so i'll do my best to not let that get in the way of the review. The good: Jen Baxter - The Cruise Director. After many many cruises across several lines, Jen is a stand out. Her quick wit and sense of humour manages to balance that all too difficult line between appropriate and inappropriate with perfection. She's the equivalent of a pixar film - entertaining for the kids with plenty of hidden gems for the adults to enjoy. She's a rare beast amongst cruise directors - as she's visible just about everywhere and works hard to make a connection with everyone. There is a striking gap between what the public expect of a cruise director, and what a cruise director is 'physically' able to do (or endure). The only downside to Jen is that she makes all other cruise directors I've encountered seem lazy and the equivalent of an FM radio drive time host going through the motions in a desperate bid to appear 'fun'. The difference with Jen is, she actually seems to 'be' fun, and as a result, if she's putting it on you'd never know. The entertainment: Terrence (might have been assistant CD?) is tops. He's like SNL's Kenan Thompson in a carnival uniform. Plenty of variety and they worked hard to keep it interesting on a cruise that was almost 75% sea days. The Average: Food: The food was nothing special. Often too salty, overcooked and chewy. It was also nothing to write home about, as chances are those at home would be eating the same thing. It's a shame - and something Carnival Australia could work on improving. The service at the restaurants would always triumph over the (often inedible) uninspiring 'nanas on a thursday' style food (if nana was drunk and jacked up on amphetamines). Ship: The ship is in need of a bit of a refurb. The decor seems less 'in your face' than Carnival Spirit, but only so far as sorbet is generally less unhealthy than ice-cream. The Bad: Staff Tensions With exception to Velmir in the dining room and Rai (our steward), there was obvious tension between the asian staff and the eastern european staff. On opening night, some of the asian staff were in tears. The eastern european staff (again, with the exception of Velmir) seemed to be disinterested and very abrupt. Cultural I know, but not what one pays for aboard an american cruise line. The 18+ area on deck 9: The age limit seemed more of a guideline, as the security staff sat idly by as toddlers and teens ran amok. On a Christmas cruise where there was a large number of kids onboard, (as a reasonable person) some concession could be made - but not to the level of nonsense that existed with kids being served at the bar! Tendering in Queensland: As a QLD resident, I would urge the cruise lines to avoid QLD until such time as they introduce suitable berthing arrangements. A 45min ride on a packed tender at Airlie Beach is both uncomfortable AND totally unacceptable. Docking at Fishermans Wharf in Brisbane, almost an hour and $15 on a bus to the CBD - unforgivable. Carnival would have been better off stopping at tangalooma on moreton island (just off brisbane) and tendering again. Room Service: Most of the food served was available free from the buffet - so why not a tray charge of $5 (for the labour) instead of the overpriced 'per item' fee? The ship's best feature is the stateroom balcony - so why not encourage the use of said balcony by introducing a better 'in-room dining experience' with an expanded menu and simple tray charge. Airport transfer staff: This was a domestic cruise. Two different carnival employees at Sydney Airport had DOZENS of passengers in a 'twist' in Terminal 2 when upon arrival (pre-cruise) they were informed by these staff that they would definitely need a passport as 'the captain has decided to take the ship more than 12nm offshore'. NONSENSE, as was confirmed after quite a nervous conversation with the call centre, and upon check in. Shore Excursions: Another prime example of why cruise lines should avoid Queensland. The offering was abysmal! Port Douglas had 4 tours available, most of which had sold out before the ship left Sydney. All other ports had bugger all, most 'advertised' options on the website weren't available due to the 'holiday season'. What a load of garbage - tour operators once ashore, including those who advertise on the carnival website were spruking as hard as they could. Saved money (sure), but with no guarantees, whats the point? Overall: 7/10 - Below what i'd expected but satisfactory. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015

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