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Sail Date: January 2009
We joined Queen Mary 2 at Fort Lauderdale having crossed the Atlantic from Southampton on Queen Victoria. Some two hundred passengers had chosen this method of joining Queen Mary 2. The transfer between ships was handled efficiently by ... Read More
We joined Queen Mary 2 at Fort Lauderdale having crossed the Atlantic from Southampton on Queen Victoria. Some two hundred passengers had chosen this method of joining Queen Mary 2. The transfer between ships was handled efficiently by both ships. (The only hiccup was a delay due to a high number of German passengers trying to disembark Queen Victoria by ignoring the transfer muster instructions given them, this despite those instructions having been translated into their native language.) The two Queens were berthed on either side of a wide jetty and each had their own embarkation hall. We had had fun at breakfast in the QV's Queens Grill watching our next stateroom on QM2 being cleaned and the balcony washed. There was a wait for check-in to open, our transfer having run so smoothly, however refreshments were provided by Cunard staff. Check in for our group was uneventful despite Cunard having to undertake additional visa checks. The introduction of the ESTA Visa for non US citizens plus Brazilian Visa checks for US citizens: who are currently undergoing a tit for tat visa programme, similar to ours with India. We had again been upgraded from Princess to Queens Grill. A smiley greeting awaited us as we embarked and although we were well capable of finding our stateroom, assistance was on hand had we needed it. We were impressed by our welcome from both our new Butler and his assistant. Our speedy arrival at our suite, within minutes of check-in opening, saw the butler dispatching his assistant to expedite our luggage. My first priority was to checkout my dining table arrangements. I need not have worried. Our Maitre d' on Queen Victoria had emailed his opposite number on QM2 with my preferences and that is exactly what I got. A nicely positioned table for six at the rear of the Queens Grill. The only other priority was to register for an internet package. Cunard generally offer an additional 20 minutes bonus to their timed internet packages if you register on day one. Bingo! between us that was 40 minutes gained. With four back to back Atlantic crossings on QM2 to our credit, this was to be our first 'cruise' with her and we were excited at the prospect of 43 days onboard and to see what differences would exist between a QM2 'Voyage' and a 'Cruise'. Sailaway was delayed by just over an hour so we bided the time cracking a bottle of Cunard's Champagne on our balcony and waving farewell to the Queen Victoria who got away smack on time. Lots of sirens and high spirits abounded as we bid farewell to her. The itinerary for this cruise was what particularly attracted us to it and we were not disappointed. First stop was Grenada. Idyllic, tropical and hot. QM2 was at anchor and the tender service was just fine. We just took a water taxi to Grande Anse beach, rented a couple of sunbeds, and did what we do best. Other visits included Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, rounding Cape Horn and a transit of the Magellan Strait, Santiago from Valparaiso and Lima from Callao, Acapulco and to complete the first leg, Los Angeles. The second leg took us across the pacific to Hawaii, Pago Pago, Auckland and Sydney. Without exception every destination was a great visit. We took Cunard tours at Rio, Santiago and Lima. Without exception these were excellent tours, well guided and reasonable value for money, particularly when considering the meals and wines that were included. One particular gem that I became aware of was that wherever meals are included in a tour Cunard send a team, including one of the executive chefs and a Maitre d', to carry out a health and safety inspection of the premises. Queen Mary 2 is a big ship and it is physically impossible for her to berth at many of the ports premium terminals. Wherever this was not possible commercial facilities were used and free shuttle bus services provided. At Acapulco a tender service was provided which again was pretty efficient. Entertainment onboard was variable when compared with that provided trans Atlantic. A new production team of singers and dancers joined at Fort Lauderdale. They were all talented but, for whatever reason, managed only four full shows and four repeats over our 43 days onboard. The remainder of the 'Headline' entertainment was a variety of musicians, singers, comedians and magicians. Some were particularly good, others mediocre. Whatever ones personal choice for entertainment, there was certainly variety. Including our trip on Queen Victoria I could have seen 4 different violinists. However, the two I did watch were quite outstanding in their field. Other venues around the ship provided further variety: piano, classical strings, jazz and of course the Ballroom and G32 nightclub for dancing. Certainly I would say that the concentration of high quality entertainment is provided transatlantic. The Cunard 'Insights' programme, normally of such a high quality on Atlantic crossings, was definitely dumbed-down during the first two legs. With the notable exception of two speakers, Colonel Hellberg and Captain Haymen, who were both outstanding, the remainder hovered between pretty poor and abysmal. One American female author(!) read entirely from a script and followed that with her finger while a Sherlock Holmes expert again read his entire presentation from hand held A4 paper notes. The Royal correspondent of a down market British tabloid completely broke the world record for the use of 'uuming' and 'aarings' The internet facility onboard proved both popular and busy. There is an abundance of work stations, speeds are variable but very interestingly they became very fast around the equator areas. Timed packages were available which reduced the overall cost. Generally, the quieter the period the faster the connection speed. Wifi is available throughout the ship for those preferring their own laptops. It was great to see Cunard providing full electronic versions of British and international newspapers. These were freely available to read most days around 9.00am , both in the ships library and in the Grills Concierge lounge. Requests that they not be removed were generally adhered to though I did on one occasion spot a woman tearing out a page to spirit away: not exactly a white star passenger. Launderette facilities onboard are reasonable and sufficient if used with common sense. Three commercial washers, three dryers and two ironing boards on each deck. Detergent is provided complimentary. Alas common sense does not always prevail and logjams were experienced when people did not adhere to the simple instructions written in three languages, or when downright stupidity and ill consideration were practiced. On the 28 day first leg of this voyage Cunard instigated four 'special deal' laundry offers of forty items for $30 dollars. Not to be sneezed at when compared to the cost of even the cheapest staterooms. There were 18 Formal, 7 Semi-formal and 18 Elegant Casual nights and dress standards were in the main well adhered to. The usual 'oddball dress rebels' occasionally appeared around the ship in their 'variations': guaranteeing to lower the tone of otherwise glamorous evenings. Fortunately most confined themselves to the Kings Court eateries in the evenings. . I just guess these people want to tell their friends they've been on the QM2 but in reality they could never admit that they have 'lived' her experience. The Kings Court buffet food areas often attract criticism on this site. It is actually ergonomically well laid out, well signposted for the various food options, and should not be difficult to understand. Though never actually eating there I often passed through the area during the day and it certainly appeared to be a popular eating venue. During the evenings the different areas are very tastefully divided and decorated with a series of sliding partitions to form separate dining options. We dined at the Lotus Oriental style restaurant and The Piazza Italian section on two occasions and on both occasions the setting, food quality and service were very good. The Boardwalk Cafe on 12 Deck proved an interesting find. Easily accessible from the upper decks, Grills Sun Deck on Deck 11, and the covered pool area. As the weather improved al fresco tables and a bar increased its popularity. Queens Grill food and service were maintained to their usual high standards and nothing was too much trouble for the friendly and professional staff. The table d'hôte menu was similar to that in the Britannia Restaurant with the option of choosing alternative dishes from the Grills a la carte menu. I have on many occasions voiced my opinion regarding the poor positioning of the Grills Restaurants on QM2. With the onset of the sunnier climes my views remain extant. Due to the length of this cruise we did, on a number of occasions, take a break from dining in the Grills and arranged through the Maitre d' to join a similar size table in the Britannia Restaurant for second sitting Dinner. We met some lovely fun people, were made most welcome and enjoyed excellent food and fine service. Queen Mary 2 does not suffer from a shortage of either deck space or sunbeds. Her more traditional stepped stern areas offer an abundance of space, as well as the upper decks and Promenade Deck. Vacant beds remained available throughout the sunniest days at sea. We found the majority of staff onboard both courteous and efficient. They certainly react well to a smiling face and friendly greeting. . Cunard caters for a truly international clientele and has in recent times, certainly the past 14 years, recruited its staff likewise: it has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever recruited primarily from the Indian or Oriental countries. That is its style. On this most recent cruise, at a table for six that I shared in the Queens Grill, we had the following nationalities; Maitre d': Italian, Head Waiters: French and Turkish, Sommelier:Indian, Table waiters: Chillian, Romanian and Macedonian. Two other waiters that I recognized from previous Grill restaurants were Indian and Filipino. Our Stateroom Butler was an immaculate Indian and the cabin steward again a Filipino. Just along the corridor could often be heard the delightful Liverpudlian tones of a female butler. Hardly a hotbed of Eastern European cheap labor recently claimed on these pages. During the first leg of 28 days, and out of some 29 nationalities, British passengers were the biggest single nationality but did not form the majority of passengers. The second leg saw our numbers barely reaching third place, considerably behind both Australians, taking first spot by a high margin, and Americans. In summary the Queen Mary 2 is a magnificent ship. She is well suited to these longer legged world cruise itineraries where her sheer speed can dwarf distances. Otherwise this was a tale of two legs. We found the conviviality, so prominent on Atlantic crossings, somewhat tempered on the first leg. This changed dramatically between Los Angeles and Sydney when the Australians arrived in force. They were there to have a good time and boy did they know how to enjoy themselves. All venues came alive and the atmosphere certainly became more convivial and lively. We did miss the quality and personality of Ray Rouse, Entertainment Director on all previous voyages. The Gentlemen Hosts, all of North American origin, were not the best we had seen. No matter what though, if one activity or venue does not suit your taste, there is always an abundance of quality alternatives on QM2: as long as you have the will to enjoy yourselves. .....and finally. I noted on our final day, one particular nice touch by Cunard. During the early morning arrival to Sydney, restaurant staff were on hand on a number of open decks with trolleys serving a variety of hot drinks, Danish pastries and croissants and rolls. Thank you Cunard. We had a lovely time. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
The QM2 is a very interesting and rewarding experience. Unlike today's contemporary cruise lines which are trending toward Las Vegas in their look and feel, the QM2 hues to a more subdued approach where old-world elegance is more ... Read More
The QM2 is a very interesting and rewarding experience. Unlike today's contemporary cruise lines which are trending toward Las Vegas in their look and feel, the QM2 hues to a more subdued approach where old-world elegance is more valued that surface gloss. The weak point of the experience was boarding the ship in Los Angeles when 1800 new travelers came aboard. For the fortunate, it took only an hour to board. For the later arrivals, it took up to 3. Unlike the Crystal line, where each on coming guest is escorted to their room, Cunard simply takes your mug shot for their computer, a welcome aboard photo to sell later and let's you find your own way around. Our room, a premium balcony on the 12th floor, was average for contemporary cruise lines. Materials were solid, space was sufficient for our two week jaunt and the glass walled balcony was just roomy enough, with its two chairs and single table, to allow the door to be opened even while one was on the balcony. But the suite lacked the latest amenities such as basin sinks as found on the Crystal Symphony and there was no flat panel TV. Just an old fashioned Philips CRT. Our fellow travelers, as we later learned, included 320 folks who were going all the way around (the world), 365 Americans, 350 Brits and 1200 Aussies along with representatives from various other countries. Total passenger count was just below 2500. One of our fellow passengers guessed that the average age on the ship was 75. It may not have been quite that high, but I felt I was in the bottom quarter and I'm 63. Happily we were assigned to the Brittania Grill. Nestled into a back corner of the huge Brittania dining room, it offered us our own table for the evening with no restrictions for late/early seating. We liked the flexibility to eat when we chose as it allowed us to mix the early and late show entertainment depending on our own degree of fatigue. Days are well spent on the QM2. With compelling enrichment lecturers, trivia contests, dance and bridge lessons, afternoon tea, 2 golf simulators and 5 swimming pools, we were never bored and always had something to do. Of particular note is the planetarium where 150 could be shown one of 4 shows about the cosmos. Food on the QM2 is interesting and varied. On arrival to the ship we signed up for 5 specialty events: two in the Chef's Galley where around 40 of us received menus, a cooking demonstration and compelling food; one each in two of the "specialty" buffet areas that become upscale restaurants at dinner and one in Todd English. While the food in the dining rooms is very good, Meg and I thought it was just a cut below that available on the Crystal Symphony, the specialty dinners in the buffet area were perhaps slightly better and were more varied due to their ethnic focus, Todd English served the best food we've ever had on a cruise ship. In my opinion, their regular menu is approaching a Michelin 2-star experience and their deserts have already made it to 3 stars. I should also add that the beef served in the Brittania was superb. Service on the ship is personable and one does not get the feeling that the crew's main purpose is to extract extra money from the guest's pockets but it falls a little short of the very warm experience we've had on Crystal. For a simple illustration, at a Crystal buffet, guests are not expected to find their own table or even to carry their own tray. A crew member does bothand for every guest. On the QM2, guests find their own table and carry their own tray. Other features on the QM2 were exemplary. Ball room dancing on the ship is second to none with live and recorded dance music every evening. In fact, the overall level of musicianship on the cruise was the best I've experienced. The library is tremendous. Two hall ways are filled with board games and the tables and chairs on which to play them. Beyond the main theater which seats 1100 and could be crowded after early seating, no area of the ship seemed crowded. The bars and lounges were inviting and their always seemed to be space for the next arrivals. The exercise area was ample with plenty of treadmills, stair climbers, etc. The extra cost "water spa" experience was very enjoyable and probably worth the extra cost even to a cheapskate like me. The promenade path on Deck 7 was sheltered from the wind at the ship's bow. For an understanding of its size, 3 laps of the deck covered 1.1 miles. Entertainment on the ship was a bit of a mixed bag with classical or near classical musicians, comedians, a magician, singers and large shows. One even had a 22 piece orchestra. It must have included nearly every musician on the vessel. While the main shows lacked the integration of singers and dancers that seems common on most cruises, the dancers12 Russians with 6 boys and 6 girls were clearly the best we've seen on any cruise. The 4 singers were merely OK. WiFi internet is available in all areas of the ship. I purchased 4 hours of access for about $180.00 and although it was more like dial-up than broad-band, I was able to keep up with the main issues at work while I was gone The ship made only 4 stops: Honolulu, Pago Pago in American Samoa; Auckland, New Zealand and final departure in Sydney. The available excursions, although they are probably typical of all cruise lines, were not the best we've had and one QM2 policy defied explanation. In both Hawaii and New Zealand we took 5 1/2 hour tours that did not include lunch. Instead of real sustenance, we got a bottle of water and a Nutrigrain bar. The odd part: both tour operator's told us that the tour usually included lunch but that Cunard had asked them to omit it. We finished the cruise with two great days in Sydney. We walked the old section of town (the Rocks) and took a ferry to Manley Beach on our first day. The second day we went to a wildlife "zoo", petted Koalas, fed the kangaroos, etc and then toured the Blue Mountains. It was a day well spent. On our return, our biz class upgrades on United finally came through at the airport and we discovered that seating from Sydney had been revamped and now included chairs that became completely flat beds. We liked it and jet lag has been the least we've experienced when returning from such a long trip. All in all, it was a great trip. Although not quite up to our Crystal experience, the lower cost gave our trip good value. And finally, 6 formal nights for a guy who owns three tuxedosheaven. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
The final leg of the world cruise left from Dubai, where we flew to from Sydney, spending many hours in the airport waiting to embark. Embarkation was rather slow, Dubai seems to be in the process of building its new cruise terminal- ... Read More
The final leg of the world cruise left from Dubai, where we flew to from Sydney, spending many hours in the airport waiting to embark. Embarkation was rather slow, Dubai seems to be in the process of building its new cruise terminal- should be better when that is completed.The itinerary, which included 3 ports in India, 1 in Thailand, 2 in Malaysia and Singapore, before returning to Australia, was the reason we took this particular cruise. The cabin was smaller than others we have had (on Royal Caribbean and Carnival) but it was adequate- just a bit hard for more folks to fit in when we were entertaining!. Dawn Princess has obviously benefited from the recent refurbishment, public indoor spaces are attractive and comfortable, but the pool and recreation areas were small and a bit run down still. Food was OK, Horizon Court had the best choice, and the special feature days (e.g.. Italian fiesta, Indian fare)were the most interesting. The Pizza restaurant was very good. We had late sitting for dinner in the Venetian dining room every night, the menu became a bit boring, but the attention paid to my partner's food allergy was excellent, with special meals ordered the night before, and gluten-free bread made available every day. The activities each day also got a bit repetitive, but the cruise director, Sammi, and her staff were wonderful. The entertainment was patchy, some acts really excellent, others mediocre. The nightclub, Jammers, was the source of many a joke on board but we had some fun times there. The port excursions we did (Mumbai,Goa,Cochin and KL) were fantastic, with very informative tour guides, and the interesting places visited gave us a really good idea of the places we saw.( We usually avoid tours and do our own thing.) The sea days cruising through the Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef were enjoyable, we had a reef pilot on board who gave plenty of information to us, which enhanced the experience. Although this was not the best cruise we have done, the itinerary, great weather and smooth seas meant that overall we had a very pleasant experience. We met lots of new people,and had a gay old time. The service was faultless, which is the lasting impression we took of Dawn Princess. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2009
After a long 14 hour flight and then 3 nights at a B & B in Sydney, we embarked on the Star Princess for our 30 day adventure back to Los Angeles. We stopped in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand. Unfortunately we ... Read More
After a long 14 hour flight and then 3 nights at a B & B in Sydney, we embarked on the Star Princess for our 30 day adventure back to Los Angeles. We stopped in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand. Unfortunately we missed Christchurch due to bad weather conditions in Dunedin. Our guide for the NZ ports, Des from Indigenous Trails, met us in each port to give us fantastic tours each of the 3 days. Through the tours and Des, we learned a great deal about the Maori culture and traditions and now have a true appreciation for the Moari people. New Zealand is a beautiful country and the people are SO charming and friendly.We LOVED NZ and Indigenous Trails!! In Suva, Fiji we had hired Sun Vacations. They met us at the dock and we went to the Arts Village and had a nice day seeing the fire walkers and learning the traditions of the Fijian people. Then on to Apia, Western Samoa where we went to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum (very interesting) and then to a a beautiful beach for a BBQ lunch. Unfortunately the original beach we were supposed to see was destroyed by the recent Tsunami.Still had a nice day. Pago, Pago, American Samoa was our next port of call. We just walked around the town and sadly saw a lot of after effects of the Tsunami. After a few relaxing days at sea, we arrived in Moorea.We rented a car from Avis (they met us at the dock) and drove around the island stopping to see sights along the way. It was a great way to get around and very easy! Papeete was next. We got off the ship and hired a driver to take us around the island. He was very knowledgeable and when we stopped at various places, he walked around with us and explained everything. In Bora Bora we took a tour on an outrigger canoe with Patrick. Went out to a reef to snorkel and then to walk in the water surrounded by Sting Rays. We then went into the ocean and swam with lots of fish and black tip reef sharks. Another great day! Our next stop was Honolulu where we took a private tour in a yellow hummer. We love the TV program LOST so had signed up for a 10 LOST tour. Our guide, Jeff, was fantastic. He was so knowledgeable about the program and made the day a lot of fun! Last port was Maui...we just walked around town, shopped, drank beer and then stood in the long long to get back on the tender! The trip as a whole was wonderful! We would not hesitate to take it again in the future! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2010
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show ... Read More
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show "Desperate Housewives" and instead I found my own live version right on the ship. The stories I heard were unbelievable. There was a big drama on the ship—and I bet there is one every year—and you are either in the know or being made fun of. It is better to in the know than to be left out of the loop, welcome to Desperate Cruisers! This ship had just come out of dry dock and it was in good shape, all new carpeting in many rooms and only one elevator was out of service for several weeks. This is the old Renaissance #3 ship for those who are interested in this. The public rooms were beautiful. The elevator in repair was a Godsend, the food was outstanding and plentiful and I needed incentive to walk those stairs. I spent a lot of time in the Pacific Lounge, the Cabaret Lounge, and the Casino Lounge—Steven the bartender in the Casino lounge was very nice, he made a mean virgin Margarita. We had a lot of rough sea days; however once I got my sea legs nothing bothered me. For many days walking through the ship was like snow skiing, rather tiring but great exercise. I also love to walk around sideways; I am really good at it! :) I stayed in a balcony room by myself and there was plenty of storage for me alone, but sharing this space for a month with my husband might present a challenge because space is much more limited than on a traditional ship. I do need to learn to pack less things, this is the bane of my existence when I travel alone and have to schlep my own stuff around. The bed was very low and a bit hard for me; they don't have real egg crates anymore, only puffy pillow tops which are not as soft as egg crates. I got one bar set up for 27 days, not the weekly set up I though I was getting. I was a little bummed out to learn this after I had given away all my booze and stuff because I had been told the wrong info by another FCC person on another ship. Live and learn, I though it sounded too generous for Princess to do this but I did not listen to my own instinct. I got one set of shampoo and conditioner and lotion for the whole 27 days, fine by me because I don't like the stuff anyway and I always bring my own. I got a nice array of elite amenities and used them for the boat building contest. I did not get any upgraded towels or bathrobe; I don't know why they bother promising them since I have never gotten them as elite. The occasional thick towel is such a treat! I had a weird dining experience initially as I was seated with a loud and unpleasant person who was traveling solo like me. Thankfully I was also seated with a couple, Ken and Peter from Australia, who were fantastic and they totally saved an otherwise problematic situation. We got stuck with an unpleasant person who had made no friends on the first leg of the journey and demanded "young" people be seated at the table. This person treated the waiters like they were personal slaves and we all found ourselves getting more and more uncomfortable with this poor behavior. I finally spoke up in front of the group and asked this person to refrain from speaking to the waiters poorly in from of me. Then the whole table ignored this person, and we talked over this person for several days. Finally this person decided to change tables; this was the only way we could get Princess to take action. We could not get Princess to change this mean person's seat for us because nobody in the dining room wanted to sit with them. This person ultimately became a great source of humor for the remainder of the trip, suffice it to say we saw the humor in a bad situation and choose to find the joy rather than the bummers. Nancy No-friends (the name my friend Ken gave her) sat alone every night! This person terrorized a few individuals on the cruise; Princess did nothing to manage this person because they were bragging about bringing 100 people on the world cruise next year. This was a joke; this person talked a big game but had nothing to back it up with. You know the kind of person who manipulates situations to their advantage. We were all amazed that this person never got booted from the cruise; instead they continue to cause a tremendous amount of trouble for some individuals and a huge annoyance for the rest. If you are going on a segment this year you will meet this person, just don't say I didn't warn you! The food was great; I really enjoyed the variety and abundance of options available for such a small ship. We had a late dining table that seated up to 10 and we had a few empty spots that we used to invite people to join us, especially after ridding ourselves of our problem tablemate. The MDR was a little more traditional with the Head waiters preparing pasta and pineapple flambe, and the food was truly standout fare. We also loved the Bistro, they had their own menu and you could also order off the main dining room menu and you did not have to dress. A fantastic solution to no anytime dining, we loved the bistro! On port days the buffet stays open for the evening, otherwise it becomes the Bistro. We had a few loud and large dinners there and really enjoyed it. I did not want for anything during the entire cruise, there was more food around than you can possibly imagine on such an intimate ship. I learned a secret; you can order things like Lobster and Filet Mignon in the MDR if you give 24 hours notice on any night. We only had 2 formal nights in the whole 27 days and I guess this reflects a general lack of interest in dressing up when one cruises the World. I seemed to be the only one who knew about the Elite and Platinum lounge but soon lots of people were frequenting it. I regularly stopped by for nibbles, especially since I had late seating, we didn't usually get served until 9pm thanks to our poorly behaving tablemate. They had a lot of food and drink parties in the Pacific Lounge, with skewers of Pineapple and Shrimp and all sorts of fruits, kind of a happy hour thing with reduced priced drinks and stuff. Room service was great; I ordered lots of fresh fruit for those late night moments (LOL) where food is necessary. I got to know my morning coffee and toast kid well, he dutifully served me for 26 days and I miss him a lot. I got several trays of fancy strawberries and stuff sent from captain's circle, plus I got to order stuff as an elite perk. This was very nice, and boy did I get spoiled. I had brought my own coffee press and fresh ground Cubita coffee but the press broke in transit and I was not able to get it fixed and then I just got used to the syrup coffee and gave up on brewing my own. I did bring my bag of coffee down to the coffee bar and asked them to brew me a cup which they did, I though that was very nice. I had issues with some of the waiters in the dining room, one in particular was very petty and mean to me based on who was sitting at my table (mean person) and kept handing me scalding pots of hot milk for my "best friend" (mean person) who quickly became the bane of my existence! I realize that when people are mean to waiters, they can become curt and slow but imagine how it feels to be seated as a solo traveler with someone who is so nasty that their reputation becomes yours! This happens quickly on small ships and I found that I suffered the sins of this mean person, as did my other table mates, until we took control of the situation by making this person go away. Meanwhile, I do think it is dangerous to have waiters who target people, even the bad ones, because my hand got burned badly and I was not able to use it for days. I hope none of you get this waiter and if you email me I will give you his name! I did turn him in but nothing happened to him and he is still in the MDR. Be careful of him. My room steward Victor was very good, he had 16 rooms to care for and yet he took outstanding care of me. He made me feel safe and secure all the time. He was never obtrusive, always there when I needed him and kept my room clean and tidy. My laundry was handled perfectly; they never lost one single pair of the junky target undies I bought for the purpose of not caring if they lost or damaged them! Go figure... There were some very interesting lecturers on the ship including an Astronomer, a Middle East Crisis expert, a style adviser, an Academy Award winner, a nice Port Lecturer, and a WWII Historian. We had at least 2 lectures on Sea days. There was also a Water Color paint teacher who gave regular lessons in very high surf! We had Concert Violinists and other wonderful musicians and singers, and we had several dance shows done quite well on the very small stage by the excellent Princess Singers and Dancers. We had several lounge acts, all very talented. There was a wonderful fitness instructor who taught Yoga and Pilate and she had her Appendix burst while we were in Honolulu so we lost her, she is doing great back in Sydney and getting better. By the time her replacement came several weeks later, I had given up on Yoga and Pilate. Oh well, some things are not meant to be. I got much exercise righting myself on such a rocking ship for almost all of the sea days. Karaoke was very fun, we got the whole place going one night and it was very fun. My first Karaoke song ever was "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" which is the longest Karaoke in history. I loved it! Sadly there was only 2 Karaoke sessions during the whole 27 day segment and there should have been more! We had a fantastic crossing of the Equator Ceremony, it was so funny and messy and everybody had a blast. I am no longer a pollywog, now I am a shellback! Many of our sail-a-ways included Champagne although I am not a drinker so I did not have any. The ship building contest was also quite fruitful, all the ships were great and I got to donate all of my "elite amenity items" and my Obama Surfer Bobble head doll to one group who should have won but didn't. Must have been the crappy elite amenity items! I took a Princess excursion in Vanuatu to see Ekasup Cultural Center, it was nice but limited to that place only. I did not get to sit with the people I went with, this always happens when I take Princess tours. I liked the place we visited, a fake tribe who also appeared on Survivor. Survivor was filmed on this island, on the other side of the island but fairly close to Vila! The port had lots of junk to buy, mostly from China but I did manage to find me some Kava. ;) I took a Princess excursion in the Bay of Islands to see the Kauri Forest and Glow Worm Caves and that was really fun. We got to see much of the area including some artsy toilets, there was plenty of stops for postcards and junk and opportunities to hike a bit if you wanted to. It was a good excursion. I took a Princess excursion in Picton to see the area via land and sea and this was a classic bummer made so by an individual who showed up late (they waited) and then who "got lost shopping" at a 10 minute stop and caused another half hour delay, all of this amounting to a shortened excursion. This is why I hate ship excursions. I don't mind so much when we go slower because of handicapped people, but I go crazy when some selfish loon shows up late (duh) or wanders off to shop at a toilet stop! I took private excursions in all the other locations. In Honolulu we rented a car and spent the day tooling around the North shore and more. It cost 50 bucks for the whole day, plus $15 in gas. Several folks rented cars as well, one man who drove to buy flowers and to see the Diamond Head lookout point later told me he was suffering from Macular Degeneration. Be careful driving when the World Cruise is in town! In New Caledonia we took one of the petite tour "trains" around on our own and that provided for a nice overview of the Island, which is quite beautiful and civilized if expensive. We were in town late, we got to port at noon and that is when the market closed for the day so we missed that. It is an expensive place, one can hardly afford to blow ones nose at $7 a box of tissues. I did manage to find a jewelry store open and there was this Gold Tiki I could not resist... We walked on our own in Auckland and Sydney and had a blast. We took local buses and ferries and walked as much as we could. The only HOHO we took was in Sydney Harbor, a boat you could hop on and off but we did not end up using it in that way. The Botanical gardens in Sydney were outstanding, we saw tons of bats just hanging around and mating (flying foxes) and so many different birds, bugs, and butterflies it was amazing. This was a perfect place to end our stay in Sydney. We found a wonderful restaurant 14 years ago in London and were pleased to find it again in Auckland and Sydney, it's called Wagamama and it is well worth a visit. You have to try the Passion Fruit & Lychee Sorbet, with a shot of Sake. All in all it was a nice cruise, it was just the right amount of time to be away and though I did enjoy the cruise I was ready to get off the ship after so many Sea days. I am not sure I could handle being on such a small ship for such a long period of time (107 days) with the same people and the same staff. While some staff was a delight to be around, others seemed tired and battered and ready for a break. The same was true of the cruisers, many were delightful and happy, but there were the occasional grumps that got grumpier as time moved on. I was happy to leave the mean and the grumpy but very sad to leave the wonderful friends I met on the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
My wife and I have done around 25 cruises. This cruise departed Sydney, circumnavigated New Zealand, returned to Sydney and then circumnavigated Australia. It lasted 48 days and was on the Holland America Volendam. We found the best ... Read More
My wife and I have done around 25 cruises. This cruise departed Sydney, circumnavigated New Zealand, returned to Sydney and then circumnavigated Australia. It lasted 48 days and was on the Holland America Volendam. We found the best airfare to Sydney was V Australia out of LAX. We didn't use any hotels in Sydney. We found internet access off the ship to be easy and a lot cheaper than on the ship. In NZ it is free at all public libraries. Otherwise there are a lot of cafes and at most it is 5$ for an hour. The ship and the room were generally good. The only complaint was that a number of the elevators did not work. Dining was good and despite the length of the cruise the menu was good. The entertainment aboard was a little disappointing but the enrichment speakers and the travel guide were excellent. Embarkation was late due to a tsunami warning and disembarkation was very easy. We did visit a large number of ports and did most on our own with private tours. We did a couple of ship tours. While onboard we were told that everyone onboard would have to get an Indonesian visa for Komodo Island. The ship tendered and you had to have one even if you did not get off the ship. It cost around 25$ pp. A couple of people had arranged with the Komodo park service directly, everyone else had to use the ships tour or you could not get off of the ship. The ship tour was fine and it was worth it to see the dragons. The other ship tour was snorkeling the barrier reef. At Cairns and Hamilton island they offer snorkeling. We tried to book private trips but none of the private operators could get us back in time. The ship tour from Cairns was more expensive but you had more time on the reef. Both trips were very similar and if you are interested in snorkeling it is a must do trip. In Tauranga we recommend Mount Classics at mctours.co.nz and driver Ian Holroyd. In Wellington we took a coast tour with Crown Chauffeur with Colin Miller. It is a lot of tour for the money. The best tour we had was Milestone tours in Auckland. It was a little expensive but we went places and saw things that no one else got to see. Finally since our departing flight from Sydney left at 8:30pm we had a whole day in Sydney. We had our luggage but wanted to see something. PJ tours was the only company that I could find who would pick us up near the ship and drop us off at the airport at the end. We went to Blue Mountain and spent a wonderful day there. Peter is a great guide and happy to work with us. We visited many ports, from big cities to cites of 800 people. Eden was a very small city but very interesting while Exmouth is also small but there is not a lot there. Overall it was a great trip. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Holland America's ms Volendam Circumnavigation of Australia 14 March-17 April 2010, roundtrip out of Sydney, 34 days with 18 ports of call. We sailed with about 1250 passengers, primarily from the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. ... Read More
Holland America's ms Volendam Circumnavigation of Australia 14 March-17 April 2010, roundtrip out of Sydney, 34 days with 18 ports of call. We sailed with about 1250 passengers, primarily from the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. Pre-cruise Travel I elected to fly United Airlines to Sydney because I have elite status with them and can enjoy Premium Economy seating and free baggage. I selected to fly via San Francisco because the airport is more compact and better organized than Los Angeles. The flights went well with only minor turbulence and we arrived just few minutes late in Sydney. I had pre-booked online with KST Airport Shuttle for transportation to my hotel. They charge 12.60 AUD (pre-pay) or 14.00 AUD (pay at time of service). There was a little bit of confusion finding my driver in the airport and he had other passengers to drop first, but I find their service reliable and easy to use. I flew into Sydney two days early in order to have time to unwind, do a little sightseeing, and more importantly to have a cushion of time in case of flights going awry. There were several people who missed the ship in Sydney and had to catch up in another port, and several others who did not have their bags arrive on time for our sailing. The ship was scheduled to sail from Darling Harbour Pier 8 which is over the hill from the more famous Circular Quay area. I wanted to find affordable lodging within walking distance of our pier and I succeeded well with Napoleon on Kent at 219 Kent St., a two-block downhill walk to the passenger terminal. The cost was 150.00 AUD per night (a quite affordable rate for Sydney) for which I got a studio apartment with full kitchenette. Shops, cafes and public transportation were all within a few blocks, although mostly uphill from my location. For pre-cruise sightseeing I had planned to take the train out to the Blue Mountains but discovered at the last minute that there would be no service that weekend due to repair works on the track. A quick email to Sydney's tourist bureau lead me to Grayline Tours which offered an all day Blue Mountains On Your Own tour for 129 AUD. The tour included return bus transport from a pick-up point a few blocks from my hotel to the terminal and on to Katoomba where I was given an all-day ticket for the Blue Mountain Explorer hop-on/hop-off bus which has 29 stops. The pamphlet they give you is very helpful identifying what is located at each stop and recommending walks between stops, of which I took full advantage. The main tourist spot in this area is Scenic World which offers both cable car and "train" access to the valley. The train is a near vertical ride based on the old line used by miners long ago—a sort of mini-thrill ride—whereas the cable car is smooth and pleasant. On the valley bottom there are several boardwalk trails with some historical displays from the mining era as well as interesting flora and wildlife. For the more athletic there is a trail on the rim leading out to the Three Sisters rock formation. Embarkation On embarkation day I walked down to the pier arriving about 10:15 am as check-out time at my hotel was 10 am. There were already quite a number of people waiting in the terminal, some of whom had disembarked and were still waiting for transport. After I dropped off my checked luggage, I was directed to wait outside the terminal where there was some seating; we were told check-in would begin about 11 am. At some point someone came around and passed out group numbers for check-in and handed out immigration forms for us to fill in, but it was closer to 11:30 before we were allowed into the terminal by which time a large group of travel agents had already appeared for a tour and luncheon on the ship. By then things were getting confused. It eventually turned out that those of us who were already Mariners and had done our documents online were suppose to check-in first (Priority Check-in) before Group #1 which meant of lot of line shuffling at the door. More confusion happened mid-day for those of us who wanted to go back into town and reboard later—which way did we go? I got sent back through the whole check-in process again in error. The problem turned out to be locals hired to help at the terminal who were not properly trained. I think there should have been more HAL supervision here. Once on board it took a while to find someone who could tell me where we could store our hand luggage; staff kept directing everyone straight to the Lido buffet. I finally found the location in a corner of the pool area but there was no one there to staff it; that took contacting several more crew members before someone appeared. Then it was off to a pleasant lunch and walk around the ship while we waiting for the "your cabins are now ready" call. While waiting, though, we heard an announcement telling us lifeboat drill would be at 4 pm even though we were not scheduled to sail until 6 pm. That had several people upset, myself included, as many of us had planned on walking around the city that afternoon. In the end the ship scheduled a second drill the next day for those who missed the first day's event. What was nice was that we did not have to bring our lifejackets nor was roll taken. Stateroom I only booked this cruise in late October 2009 and I was booking as a single hoping for the lowest single supplement so my choices were a bit limited. The only lower mid-ship cabins left were next to elevators so I went with a deck 2 inside aft cabin (#2672) which looked to be a quiet location and at a great single rate of about $176 a day. The cabin looked fine upon arrival but the smell—smoke! I immediately went down to the Front Desk to report the problem and to remind them that I had notified the Special Needs department well in advance of my allergy to smoke, but they said they had no record of that. Anyway to make a long story (already reported in detail on CC's Holland America message board) short, it took three days of deep cleaning my cabin, multiple visits to the Front Office, two phone calls to HAL's main office, and the intervention of the my travel agent for them to admit the problem could not be solved (there was a heavy smoker across the hall and the smoke was in the air system). The eventual solution worked out well as they moved me to a nicer cabin, but it should not have taken three days to get there nor should I have been denied an appointment with the Hotel Director which I requested twice. Caveat: if you are allergic to smoke you cannot be guaranteed of a smoke-free cabin on any Holland America ship, so if this is an issue for you look elsewhere. My second cabin, #1902 deck 1 outside mid-ship, was very nice and huge! There was so much storage I didn't know what to do with it all. For those needing extra storage there were two drawers hidden under the foot of the bed and a padded stool that was hollow with a removable seat. The bathroom had one of those mini-tubs of which I'm not a fan, but they provided a rubber bath mat so it was not slippery to get in and out of. The extra tub space gave me more clothes drying room so that I never needed to get in line at the self-service laundry down the hall. There were only two electrical outlets, one U.S. and one European, on the desk so it pays to bring a multiplex extension cord. I use a CPAP machine by the bed and my cord just barely reached. The bed was very comfortable and I had a small loveseat and arm chair as well. They provided this small padded stool for the desk, but I used the armchair there instead—much more comfortable especially as I had brought my laptop for use in the cabin. Even though I was only about 4 doors down from the elevators there was never any noise problem; there were no crew work areas across the hall. However, since I was on deck 1 there was some engine vibration/humming noise with an occasional tapping/chain noise from below (perhaps a repair shop?), but this never bothered me. This cabin was smoke free although by the end of our voyage there was a lingering smoke smell occasionally in the hallway. Ship Information The Volendam is a mid-sized ship with about 1,400 passengers, most of the amenities folks want and nicely decorated. With only nine decks and not a vast length, the Volendam was easy to get around. Many passengers really appreciated the full wrap-around promenade deck for walking. I heard that the ship is due to go into dry-dock spring 2011, but honestly it should have gone this year. Towards the end of our cruise there were often only one-half the passenger elevators operating. There was a small section of cabins portside on deck 1 that was flooded out twice during our cruise, and during a heavy rainfall a "waterfall" suddenly appeared in the ceiling of the Fran Hals Lounge. The crew worked diligently to keep things working as best as possible, but that damp carpet smell never quite left our hallway. Dining I happen to be a great fan of buffet dining as it's quick and you can have small amounts of several things, mixing and matching as you please. Our Lido buffet manager was the best; he was always keeping an eye on things and any problems were quickly resolved. I especially loved the beef and the staff was always willing to additionally cook my portion if there wasn't any "well-done" already available. Overall there were a lot of choices and my only complaint is that sometimes the side dishes were not as hot as one would have liked. Continental breakfast was served beginning at 6 am and hot breakfast started later. The one miss here for me was the lack of fresh whole berries for my granola or waffles in the morning. Both lunch and dinner had a wide assortment of hot and cold entrees, sometimes with theme specialty bars (e.g. Indonesian, Indian, etc.). The evening dessert buffet choices were limited, but the lunch had a wide range of pastries, puddings, cookies, etc. The ice cream bar was open from 11:30 am through dinner and that was often my choice for sweets. I do wish we had lemonade available in the afternoons in addition to ice tea; it makes a nice treat on a hot day. And milk was only readily available in the mornings; otherwise you needed to request it from the back. I only ate in the Main Dining Room a few times. I had Opening Seating which I liked as we could go into dinner right at 5:15 pm whereas First Fixed Seating was not until 5:45 pm. Service was fine and the food good. At 3 pm each day the Dining Room offered Tea, which on a few afternoons had special themes. The most popular was the Aussie Tea with local favorites such as Anzac cookies and scones. The Dining Room was also the location of the Mariner luncheons which were scheduled throughout our voyage based on star level. There was no Mariner luncheon on embarkation day because the ship hosted a large group of local travel agents that day (something they repeated in several of our ports). I ate at the specialty restaurant Pinnacle Grill ($20 charge) just once when the Cruise Critic group got together near the end of our cruise. I was not very impressed. Yes, you got very personal service and the cut of steak was just a bit better than the regular dining venues but the chocolate soufflE was tasteless, and I did not think it was worth the extra charge. We had two other small dining outlets on the ship. The Terrace Grill offered hamburgers and hot dogs as well as a small salad bar, a taco bar, and pizza. It was not a very attractive set up and there were no drinks, not even water, available so that you had to bring something from the Lido buffet or order from the bar on the opposite side of the pool. The Explorations Cafe next to the library offered specialty coffees and teas for sale and provided free pastries and appetizers. On other cruise lines I've been able to get hot milk for free at the coffee bar (I bring my own special hot chocolate mix) and I was unpleasantly surprised when the man staffing the bar turned me down, quite rudely I might add. My only option for hot milk was in the mornings in the buffet. There are, of course, several bar areas as well as a Wine Tasting Bar on board but since I don't drink I cannot say much about them. However, I did want to thank the Beverage Manager, Nigel Thomas, who helped organize several meetings for our Cruise Critic group. Activities Athletic facilities on the ship included the two pools, a fitness center, a basketball court, a small tennis court, and a short jogging track. The fitness center was well equipped and there was a small wood-floored class area that could be used for stretching and yoga. The aft Lido pool was right next to a smoking area so I never got to use that pool. The other pool had a sliding covered roof which gave it some protection during inclement weather. The most popular physical activity on board, however, seemed to be walking around the promenade deck—all ages, all physicalities were out there every day in all weather chugging their way around. The daily program listed several culinary and craft activities each day but since I never participated I cannot comment on them. Although I do want to note that one of our own Cruise Critic group members, Peter, won the cook-up contest with his special chili. The ship also offered some group games and the team trivia seemed to be the most popular. The lectures that were offered on board were quite good and on sea days we usually had three offered. From Sydney to Freemantle we had on board two biologists from the University of Tasmania who lectured on flora and fauna and environmental issues; whereas from Freemantle to Sydney we had two retired military officers who focused on military history, in particular World War II. From Darwin to Brisbane we added a special local reef pilot to guide us through the Great Barrier Reef and he provided additional lectures as well. The ship's Tour/Port Director, Chris Fisher, offered port lectures as well as a few history and wildlife lectures of his own. His background happened to be in birding so he helped organize an ad hoc birding group; we met on deck several times to look for sea birds. I did participate in the computer classes that were offered in a special classroom sponsored by Microsoft. Classes covered the new Windows 7 operating system plus the programs that come with it including web pages, movie making and photo editing. The instructor Kristan was excellent. The classroom was also open for "lab time" for passengers to work on their own photo projects. The Photography Department teamed with the instructor to offer a photo contest in several categories which was quite popular. The Volendam's library was fantastic with a large selection of both fiction and non-fiction books available for checkout. There were also a large number of travel books for help in planning for this cruise and future cruises. The very comfortable chairs and couches were often full on sea days. There was a large table for picture puzzles, another with a globe and atlases, and board games available. Combined with the library was the internet center which had about 14 computers; wireless was available throughout most of the ship. Internet packages were available from about 25-65 cents a minute. I purchased a 500 minute package thinking that would be more than enough, but discovered that their service was very slow and not always reliable. I ended up having to buy another package later. In addition to the regular daily activities, the ship occasionally organized a special event. One at-sea Sunday we had a "Market Day" by the pool. The crew decorated small carts and served special drinks and food. The on-board stores had specials flea market style including half-priced t-shirts. When we anchored for an evening in the Great Barrier Reef, they provided a whole tropical paradise setting with a giant floating fountain in the pool, palm trees, and music. That evening was capped off by the arrival of dozens of migrating birds who mistook the ship for an island; they perched all over the top of the Sun Deck. Services The Tour Director (called Port Director on most ships) provided us with lectures on every port that included a bit of history with practical information such as docking location, transportation, sights, etc. I really appreciated the fact we did not get the awful "shopping talks" you get on many ships that do nothing but point you to the nearest jewelry store. In addition to the lectures, he would have desk hours each at-sea evening and he was dockside on port days where he would answer questions (or try to). The one frustration here was that on occasion I would be told that this was a new port for them and so they were unable to answer my question. This same thing would happen with the Front Desk; one would refer you to the other, or to Shore Excursions, and back again. There were a few ports where I had more information than they did. I do not believe that a port being new to the ship should ever been an excuse for the staff not having done their homework. The Volendam had the usual spa and beauty salon offerings but I did not make use of any of them. Personally I love massages but I do not enjoy the high-pressure sales pitch for over-priced spa items that always seems to accompany any service provided so I stopped using and on-board spa years ago. The Photography Department was quite active on this cruise. They provided the usual port disembark "mug shots," but they were not pushy about it as they are on some cruise lines. The prices for individual pictures, though, were too high I thought so I never bought any. They also offered passengers a chance to create their own book combining pictures of themselves with stock cruise photos. What really appreciated was that in every port they sent photographers and videographers on shore, and from their material they created a two-disk DVD of our cruise. Since my husband had not been able to come with me on this cruise, this DVD has given him a chance to vicariously experience many of the sights I saw. There was the usual selection of shops, with emphasis on jewelry, and the art auctions. The Front Desk offered currency exchange at a reasonable rate and also sold local stamps which were convenient. There were just a few children on board and the Volendam does have a Club Hal/Oasis for them to take advantage of. Entertainment The Frans Hal Lounge offered the usual evening entertainment series, but I never attended. This was a long cruise so a variety of entertainers were rotated through from various ports plus the ship had its own traveling troupe of entertainers. I did, however, attended the two special shows we had with locals. At Hobart the Royal Tasmanian Police Band came on board for a very rousing performance accompanied by some young local Celtic dancers. And in Cairns we had a local aboriginal provide a demonstration of the didgeridoo. I did attend the movies quite often and delighted by seeing a number of quite recent films. Popcorn was provided but they always ran out. The theatre seating was all on one level so many folks came early to fight for the few seats with unobstructed views. Each cabin also had a DVD player attached to the television and DVDs were available for checkout at the Front Desk. Shore Excursions Our first day on board found our Shore Excursion manager, Kevin, running ragged as the ship had just found out we would not be able to visit our second scheduled port of Bateman's Bay due to a problem sand bar. Within 48 hours Kevin managed to completely organize all new shore excursions for the new and very small port of Eden—quite a feat. However, all was not perfect with the Shore Excursion department. Another of our planned ports was Exmouth, a very small town in western Australia, for which pre-booked shore excursions filled very rapidly online. I, happily, got the one I wanted (Glass-bottom Boat Reef Cruise) —or so I thought. Apparently there was some computer glitch along the way and some bookings, mine included, were lost. Even though I had written confirmation of my booking in hand they refused to honor it; instead I was put on a waiting list. And to top that off the staff person (not Kevin) was very rude about the situation. I eventually got another, less attractive time slot for the same tour, but that was due to the fact that they pressured the provider into adding several more trips that same day. The upshot of these additions, however, was that the trip was shortened and we did not get to venture very far from shore. Folks who just went ashore on their own found an independent tour operator who gave them a fantastic trip which was longer and for less money. Note: Individual Port and Tour information given at end of review Disembarkation Since I was flying straight home after the cruise, I had arranged in advance to use the ship's transfer to the airport as this meant I did not have to find my bags in the huge pile in the cruise terminal and then haul them to a taxi or whatever. That part worked well as I walked straight off the ship at my designated time and straight onto the bus. However, when we got to the airport our driver had no idea where our bags were located as they had been shipped earlier by truck. There really should have been a HAL representative at the drop off location at the airport to provide directions. Eventually someone found another passenger with HAL tags on his suitcase and he pointed us to the far end of the terminal. Once there we waited in line to retrieve our bags only to discover there were no bag carts available there; they were back on the outside sidewalk where we were dropped off. Again having a representative there to let us know to take a cart with us would have helped greatly. Then came the wait. Even though my flight was not until 2:30 am I had been given a disembarkation time of 8:00 am. At Sydney the check-in counters do not open until 3 or 4 hours before flight time; in my case it was due to open at 10:50 am. Fortunately I had printed out a terminal map in advance and was able to find the small food court (with Starbucks!) that was hidden away behind the check-in area. Sydney is a very large and busy airport and the lines were long. Thank goodness for my elite status as United's Premier line was much shorter than even the First/Business class line. Once through security I was able to enjoy the Air New Zealand Star Alliance Lounge which offered recliners and hot food as well as an open bar. From there it was smooth flying home via San Francisco. Just a note for future cruisers: 200 of our lucky passengers who remaining on board to continue on to Vancouver were dismayed to discover that they had to report to immigration on the afternoon of disembarkation day along with the newly arriving passengers to be cleared for the continuing voyage. Some had planned overnight trips out of Sydney and had to cancel at the last minute as this requirement was not announced until our disembarkation talk the day before arriving in Sydney. Summary Holland America is a wonderful cruise line with large comfortable cabins, good food, interesting enrichment programs, and, for the most part, a nice older, educated clientele. And this particular itinerary was fantastic! It was the best introduction to a vast country as you can imagine. To have done this itinerary by land would have entailed several plane flights and long rental car drives. That said, however, I simply can no longer tolerate HAL's outdated smoking policy which allows smoking in all the cabins and on verandahs. This policy presents both health and fire hazards for everyone on board. Because of my experience on this cruise, my husband and I cancelled our other Holland America booking for later this year. Instead we've booked a similar cruise with Oceania although, unfortunately it is costing us quite a bit more as we lost any early booking discount as well as our on board credit. If HAL ever decides to change their policy, we will be back because we really do love the cruise line. ____________________________________________________________________________ Ports of Call Newcastle, NSW: Newcastle, formerly just a coal and industrial town, is re-inventing itself as a tourist attraction. We docked at the commercial port and were tendered across the Hunter River to the town dock from where you could easily walk or take one of the shuttle buses provided by the town and staffed by wonderful local volunteers who pointed out the sights along the way to three different drop-of points. Avis provided last minute car rentals right at the dock. With a heritage walking map downloaded from the tourism website, I enjoyed the morning walking out the spit to the lighthouse and then around the fort and into the town center where I took advantage of a nice bakery cafe. Many passengers, however, headed directly for the Hunter Valley wine region either with the ship's excursion or on their own. As an extra treat as we sailed out of the harbor at sunset the old fort saluted us with three cannon shots. Eden, NSW: "The little town and could—and did!" This port was a last minute substitute for Bateman's Bay with its navigational issues. With just 48 hours notice, they provided us with several shore excursions and organized a little open market/fair on the green for us. I took the tour to Ben Boyd National Park where we had a couple of nice walks, one out to the point. We did not see as much wildlife as I hoped in the park, but first time Australia visitors got a kick out of seeing a mob of kangaroos on the golf course as we headed out of town. On the way back the driver took by past a beautiful beach with dolphins playing in the water; I elected to get off here and then just walk over the hill into town. In town the center of attraction is the Killer Whale Museum which many passengers visited before walking down a winding path back to our tender dock. Port Arthur, Tasmania: This was a half-day stop offering tender service into the historical park; passengers had to pay the park fee if going ashore or be on a shore excursion. Since I had visited the park before I elected to stay on board but I do highly recommend taking a tour as it's the best glimpse of Australia's beginnings as a penal colony available today. Hobart, Tasmania: We were docked right in town from late-afternoon one day until midnight the next. I had visited Hobart the year before so I knew right where to head first—Salamanca Square which is lined with cafes and small shops. Unfortunately we were not there on a Saturday so we missed the famous open market. Several excursions were offered and I selected the one scheduled to visit New Norfolk, Russell Falls, a winery, and Bonorong Wildlife Park—all sights I had not seen the previous year. The tour turned out to be long drives with rushed stops and an awful lunch. We never stopped in New Norfolk but went to Richmond instead; it's a beautiful historic town with wonderful shops but I had been there before. At Russell Falls we were told it was a ten-minute walk and we only had 25 minutes there. It was a beautiful location that deserved far more time and many of our passengers simply could not walk that fast. For lunch we visited a winery where there was a tasting session (but I don't drink alcohol) and that was followed by a lunch of oysters, sausage, assorted raw vegetables, and dry, tasteless brownies. Another guest next to me and I just had bread and butter—that was it. From there we went to a small wildlife park which was very nice; you could hand feed the kangaroos and get up close to Tasmanian Devils and wombats. Melbourne, Victoria: Australia's "second city" but my (and many Aussies') favorite. We docked out at Port Melbourne where you can usually catch a tram into town. However, due to a traffic accident in town the tram was down for the morning. A few last minute shuttle buses were found to take us to a drop off point at the Southbank Arts Centre in town, and by mid-afternoon the trams were working again. Melbourne offers wonderful museums, parks, shopping and food so it was easy to do this city on your own. The city provides a free City Circle Tram hitting most of the sights including the famed (and huge) Victoria Market. If you wanted to venture outside of town you needed a rental car or to take one of the shore excursions as it was Sunday and train/transit options were not that frequent. I spent the day in town visiting my favorite chocolate shops, the Sunday arts market, and a Thai Festival being held in Federation Square. Adelaide, SA: Adelaide strikes that unusual combination of a bit of Old West with multi-cultural enclave into a small city surrounded by parks, museums, and universities. You can have huge grilled stakes in a heritage saloon than walk a block for authentic Chinese food. This city also provides a free circular bus for getting around, but the port is located a good distance outside of town and on our visit the usual train out there was undergoing track work. The ship offered a paid shuttle bus for those passengers not on shore excursions. Having spent time exploring the city the year before, I selected the Hahndorf tour. Hahndorf was one of several German settlements founded in the 19th century in the hills above Adelaide. Unfortunately our visit was a bit rushed as our guide insisted we drive around the city quite a bit before heading up into the hills. I wish the port area had rental car facilities as this would have been a much better option. Esperance, WA: What a paradise, even if the weather did not quite cooperate. It's a little difficult to fully enjoy pure white sugar sand and gorgeous turquoise water with lightning bolts all around. This was another of our wonderful small town ports, but our only docking option was the commercial port where we were required to take a shuttle bus from shipside a short distance to the town beach park—no walking in the port was allowed. I had pre-reserved a rental car with Avis but had to fight the crowd of "claim jumpers "in the tiny office to get my car. Once on the road we headed out to Cape Le Grand National Park where we encountered said lightning bolts and incredible scenery. On the road in we saw wild emus and kangaroos. Since we cut the park visit short we took in the Ocean Road drive suggested by the tourism website taking us past Pink Lake and the beautiful wild coast land on the other side of town. Many passengers took advantage of the ship's cruises out to Woody Island in the RecherchE Archipelago for wildlife viewing. Albany, WA: This was a tender port and a slightly larger town than Esperance with a few small historical buildings and museums; it's an old well-known whaling port. I elected to take the Billabong Track excursion which was described as a 5 km walk along the famed track that eventually goes all the way to the west coast. I was a bit disappointed as the walk turned out to be a 2.5 roundtrip and we had those pesky non-stop talkers which meant bird watching and listening to the crashing waves was difficult. Had I known I would have rented a car and done it on my own, but I thought I'd get a longer walk if we were dropped off in one location and picked up in another. Fremantle, WA: Back to the "big city" feel. Fremantle is the port gateway to Perth, Australia's only large western city; it appears in the glimmering distance almost like the city of OZ. We were docked on the edge of town where one could easily hop on the FreeCat shuttle bus into and around Fremantle. Downtown Fremantle is filled with cafes, bars, and shops; we arrived on a Sunday evening and it was hopping. For those who wanted to head into Perth the train station was a short walk from the cruise terminal and commuter trains left at regular intervals. Also within walking distance was the ferry to Rottnest Island (or Rat Nest as named by the Dutch for the unusually large rodents living there). Being an animal nut, of course I had to go. The quokkas are, in fact, not rodents but related to the other marsupials; they are cute and exist nowhere else in the world. The Rottnest ferry docks right in the village where you can catch the paid Bayseeker bus which circles the island delivering snorkelers, surfers, and hikers to various bays and inlets. As an alternative you can take a wildlife cruise or hire a bike for exploring the island. I elected to take advantage of one of the free historical walking tours offered by volunteers from the old Salt Store. Geraldton, WA: Now we are beginning to get the "outback" feel, although Geraldton itself is a good-sized town and was an important military base during World War II. This was a tender port and the various rental car agencies in town provided shuttles, although there were far too many people to fit and it was chaotic. A bright spot at the dock was a visit by a wonderful local woman and her golden retriever for whom all pet-starved passengers made a beeline. She said she always brings him down to the dock when a cruise ship appears and he loves all the attention. Once I had my rental car and all my passengers we headed north to Oakabella Homestead only to discover the ship had a "lock" on the place for the whole morning and the owner wanted to charge us $50 a head for morning tea and a tour! Since the ship's excursion bus had not arrived yet, we asked permission to walk around for a few minutes to take pictures and then we left. From there we continued north to the small town of Northampton where we had our much cheaper "tea" at a local cafe and walked around the historic church and other buildings. Coming out of the post office I encountered a local man who asked if we were from the ship (it had been the lead story on the radio news that morning); he then told me about his life growing up in the area and actually knowing Monsignor Hawes who designed and help build the church here as well as the cathedral back in Geraldton. Had I the time I think he would have talked all day. That's what I really love about Australia—the people who are just so open and caring. After Northampton we headed south past Geraldton to the historic settlement of Greenough with its wonderfully preserved buildings. We would have gone to the Hotel for refreshment but we saw the ship's bus just headed there and didn't want to discover we were shut out again. With the heat close to 100 degrees we headed back to town and the ship. Exmouth, WA: Our smallest and most remote Australian port proved both a disappointment and a small joy. We tendered into a small marina outside of the town center; a few shuttle buses were available. This was the port where the "computer glitch" screwed up the shore excursion pre-bookings. Originally there were only a couple of glass-bottom boat cruise times for the Ningaloo Reef available and they filled quickly. However, due to passenger demand the ship pressured the company to offer several more sailings. As a result our cruise time was shortened (but not the price) so we barely moved away from our beach embarkation point and that, combined with the fact it was coral "spawning" season, meant we saw very little and photography was impossible. Some other passengers got the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks and others went four-wheeling through the national park area. Learning about the town of Exmouth which had been created to service a massive military radar installation and an air base was quite interesting. As with Eden a few town folk brought out arts and craft tables to supplement what the few stores had to offer. But for me the highlight was a local wildlife rescue group who brought along two joeys (baby kangaroos) which we allowed to hold while they took our picture. Komodo Island, Indonesia: What an Easter morning to awaken in a small bay surrounded by palm-filled islands and pink and gold clouds sliced by a vertical rainbow! The entire island is a controlled national park and passengers were only allowed ashore if they were on a shore excursion or had made special arrangements in advance with the rangers and had written proof of that arrangement. As our tenders were being readied you could watch nearby islanders arriving in their small boats to set up shop for all the potential customers; lots of carved dragons, post cards, and jewelry would be available after our tours. We were met at the tender dock by our guides and handlers (two for each group with long sticks to "manage" any dragons that came too close). We walked a fairly level and not very long trail while our guide talked about the flora and fauna of the island. Half way along two rangers had rounded up a large dragon for us to observe and later back in the small camp area two smaller dragons made their appearance. One got a little excited about all the potential "fresh meat" around and started to charge us but was corralled by our keepers—one reason why all were counseled to never wander off. On backing up from our charging dragon we ended sheltered under a tree until one of the villagers cautioned us as there were two small snakes wound in the branches. A later shore ex group got to watch a feeding session while the independent tour members went on much longer walks to and saw much more wildlife. Darwin, NT: We arrived amid a cracking thunder storm and drenching rain; it was definitely still "The Wet" up north. We were held on the ship until it was decided if and when various shore excursions would be able to go. I was booked on the longest one, Litchfield National Park, so I was worried, but the Captain eventually agreed to stay in port longer and we left an hour late. We saw no rain the rest of the day. This shore excursion turned out to be another of those "too-long rides/too-short stop" trips and I regretted going. Although the waterfalls were beautiful, we were not allowed to swim in the pools due to seasonal issues in some and not enough time at the one open pool which was a disappointment. I wish I had either rented a car or just stayed in town which was reachable on a longish walk or by shuttle from the pier. Cairns, Queensland: The ship docked right in town. The terminal parking area was under renovation so you had to walk out to the street to get a taxi as pick-ups dockside were not allowed. I had signed up for the Kuranda Experience tour as the guidebooks said that was the best one-day trip. However, heavy rains a few weeks earlier had wiped out part of the rail tracks and the trip was cancelled. Eventually the ship put together a substitute trip using a bus but many of us elected to just go on our own. Several of us got together and took taxis up to the cable car station which cost $23 per taxi; later we learned that there was an express city bus from town that was a much cheaper option. I'm glad we went very early as by the time the cable car opened the line was huge. The cable car offers the option of two mid-way rainforest station stops on the way up to Kuranda. Each stop has displays and a short boardwalk trail. From the Kuranda station you can walk directly into town or follow both the river walk and/or jungle walks. A more challenging hike to the falls is an additional choice. I did both walks in a little over an hour and finished with a short uphill walk into town for lunch and leisurely shopping. Kuranda is designed for tourists with souvenirs, art galleries, and cafes everywhere. From Kuranda I was able to catch one of the $4 buses back to town. I was very glad to have done this trip on my own; many of the passengers who took the substitute shore ex complained they only had 45 minutes at Kuranda. Back in town it was HOT but I did a few errands and then headed back to the nice air conditioned ship. Many other passengers did reef snorkeling/diving trips at this port and they enjoyed the experience tremendously. Townsville, Queensland: Townsville has two cruise ship docking locations, one near town and the Sun Ferries pier and the other in the commercial port; we ended up in the commercial port. The ship offered a paid shuttle to town and there were taxis available dockside. I had originally planned to take the ferry to Magnetic Island for the day but got talked into going with some other CCr's to the Billabong Sanctuary. We were going to rent a car but discovered they were only available at the airport on a Sunday and there was no shuttle, so we booked private transport through a local tour company (Abacus) recommended by the Sanctuary. They were late picking us up (they also run airport shuttles) and there was no shade at the pier so we were really hot. But the park was quite nice and we had the opportunity (for money) to have our picture taken with a koala, a wombat, or a crocodile and snake—I opted for fur and the wombat photo is my favorite of the whole cruise. Even though we were late arriving we had more than enough time here and we were glad of the covered porch and snack bar to kill time until our return pick-up. Hamilton Island, Queensland: We anchored among the Whitsunday Islands and tenders were provided to Hamilton, a resort island with a small tourist town. I had pre-booked the Knuckle Reef tour and was looking forward to my first-ever snorkeling experience as I had read that this particular company handled beginners well. Unfortunately this was another tour where the ship pressured the company into taking more than the usual number and we ended up on a long, crowded boat ride without even enough seats for everyone; it was 2 ½ hours each way to the reef. One treat on the boat, however, was an onboard masseuse. For $40 I got a 20-minute wonderful back & neck massage, but it's not for the shy as this was done right in the middle on the lounge with just a towel as front cover! When all our passengers descended on the pontoon we were given the options of a free semi-submersible and/or glass-bottom boat ride in addition to snorkeling or diving. Because of the size of the crowd the boat rides were shortened (again!). Consensus among passengers seemed to be that the glass-bottom boat was the better choice. Beginning snorkelers were offered a paid class but I opted to try it on my own with mixed results. The company provided all the supplies: stinger suits, masks, fins, and float vests—I think I looked like a short colorful whale after being fully suited up. There were two roped-off areas for snorkeling and steps down to platforms for easy entry (easy that is unless you've never worn fins before). As suggested I used the rope as guideline as I was off—what a wonderful experience. There was a small rescue boat in each area in case you got into trouble as well as look-outs on the pontoon. The paid class group got to go off in a separate area and had much better sightings so I would recommend this option. Lunch was served buffet style upon arrival. The staff at the pontoon was absolutely great; I would highly recommend this tour. We only ending up having about 2 ½ hours out on the pontoon although our tour description said at least 3 hours; I imagine this was due to the greater numbers and longer load time at the ship. Brisbane, Queensland: We were docked downriver from town but within walking distance of the Brett Wharf CityCat ferry which many of us utilized for transport. Again the ship provided a paid shuttle bus service. Originally I had planned to go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with another CCr but she could not go so I took the ferry downtown and elected to take the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus which gave me an inexpensive narrated city tour as well as the chance to stop at the Botanic Gardens for a walk before returning to town where I found a wonderful farmers market in progress. I had planned to visit some aboriginal galleries but the addresses the guide book had provided all turned out not to be extant any more. No worries. By this time of the cruise we were all pretty tired and many of us returned mid-afternoon by ferry to the ship. Sydney, NSW: "Home" again after traveling a total amazing 8,136 nautical miles! Our itinerary gave us a full day and overnight here before disembarkation. Sydney really is a city to see on your own; there is no need for a shore excursion, especially since we docked this time right in Circular Quay at The Rocks historical district. Within a very short walking distance you have access to Sydney's ferries and the train. Sydney Explorer buses provide two different tour circuits and your all-day pass is good on either or both; there are very few sights that are not located at one of their many stops. Directly across from our dock was the famed Sydney Opera House where you can purchase a one-hour tour for $34 or check to see if tickets are available for any of the performance spaces (drama, ballet, opera, or symphony). In addition to the Opera House tour, I spent the morning doing last minute shopping, walking around the city, and visiting the Art Gallery, which was bit disappointing; I thought the museums in Melbourne and Adelaide much better. After packing that evening, I went to sleep with the lights of the harbor and Opera House framed in my cabin window. What a nice ending. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
Background This was our 10th cruise, 2nd with Princess. Our previous Princess cruise was on Sun Princess (sister ship) in the Mexican Riviera. Back then the Sun & Dawn Princesses were run as American ships but as they now sail ... Read More
Background This was our 10th cruise, 2nd with Princess. Our previous Princess cruise was on Sun Princess (sister ship) in the Mexican Riviera. Back then the Sun & Dawn Princesses were run as American ships but as they now sail full time from Australia they have been adapted to Australian tastes both in food & entertainment. Embarkation Very slow. We arrived about 1pm hoping to get onboard for lunch but when we arrived they were still disembarking passengers. Inside the makeshift terminal (we embarked at Barangaroo) it was a big mess. Very crowded with too few seats & the check in process was running pretty slow. We had to wait a long time for our number to be called before we could even line up to checked in & then we had to wait again for the number to be called to embark the ship. Ship The ship is still in pretty good condition. In looks she is pretty much the same as the Sun Princess. A bit awkward to get around as the aft lifts only go down to deck 7 & the glass lifts in the centre only go between deck 5 & 8. So going to dinner from our cabins aft on deck 10 we had to take the lift to deck 7, walk through to the glass lifts in the centre & go down another 2 floors to get to our dining room, which is located in the area between the aft & glass lifts. Cabin Had an inside JJ cabin. A bit small (no sofa like RCCL cabins) but fine as I had the room to myself & there was plenty of space in the closets. The bathroom was a good size overall but the shower stall was tiny and a strange half diamond shape so a bit hard to move without coming in contact with the shower curtain. Fellow passengers All the passengers we met on the ship were very nice. Many were elderly (someone said the average age was 70) but there were also a few children on this cruise. Also unlike all our previous cruises the majority were Australian. A few people we met had done the around the world cruise & this around Australia cruise as a B2B so were spending 132 days onboard. Way too long for me. Dining We thought the food in the MDR was good for lunch & dinner however some soups were over salted (didn't enjoy breakfast in MDR, which is normally a treat for us). They were a bit disorganised with the seating & we were only 2 on a table for 8, so we asked to be moved. We ate dinner & lunch several times in the pizzeria where the food was also good & for the first time we also ate dinner several times in the buffet which was a bit hit & miss. Entertainment & activities The entertainment was good overall. Liked the MUTS with free popcorn in the evenings & during the day there were lots of trivia & game shows like family feud. Especially liked a horseracing game during the day called Dicey Dicey Wooden Horses where they threw dice to move horses along a grid on the floor & you could place bets for $3 per horse. There was lots of hilarity, cheering etc. The casino was very small with mostly pokies that we see in Australian casinos. Ports Brisbane - On our own. We went around Brisbane on the HOHO bus, which made it very easy. The Roma Street Parklands are a must. Port Douglas - Unfortunately mum was ill so I only wondered around for a very short time on my own. Port Douglas is very small so you can easily walk to & from town/pier, although there was a bus available for a fee. Darwin -Ships shore excursion. We took a short drive around Darwin & down to the marina, visited the Darwin museum where they have an interesting exhibit on Cyclone Tracy & then visited the Military museum. Broome - Ships shore excursion. We took a short drive around town & over to Gantheaume Point to see the dinosaur footprints & amazing rock formations. Then went to Matsos Brewery where we tasted some amazing mango beer. Bali - We couldn't face the 45 minute tender each way so we stayed onboard. Fremantle/Perth - On our own. There was a short 7-10 minute walk from the dock in Fremantle to the train station where we took a train direct to Perth. Once in Perth we used the HOHO bus to get around easily. Bunbury - Ships shore excursion. We went on a dolphin watching boat tour which was fantastic. Stayed out for about 2 hours & saw so many dolphins (a bit luck of the draw as the tour after ours saw none).Then went to the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Albany - On our own. We took the ships shuttle into town. Wondered around the small town & had a look at a pretty church. At a kiosk in the park we booked a trip out to Whale World, which was interesting if a bit gruesome. Adelaide - Ships shore excursion. We opted for a shore excursion which took us into the city & then out to Glenelg. Unfortunately the drive around the city did not show many things & the stop at the rundle mall was very short (by the time everyone got off the coach we barely had 20 minutes). Glenelg was a pretty seaside suburb but not much to do there in a short time other than shop. Melbourne - On our own. We were able to buy tram tickets at a counter inside the cruise terminal & the tram stop is at the end of the pier across the road so very easy to travel into Melbourne. We went to the Fitzroy Gardens where we saw Captain Cooks Cottage & a conservatory full of beautiful flowers. The tram also has a stop of the casino. Burnie - Due to very strong winds the captain was unable to dock in Burnie so we had an extra day at sea. Hobart - On our own. We were overnight in Hobart & had been there previously so on the 1st day we took the ships shuttle into town & then a bus to the Wrest Point casino. The second day we again took the shuttle into town & just spent the day shopping. It had snowed on Mt Wellington so we felt it was too cold for any outdoor activities. Summary We had a great cruise. It was good to see places in Australia that we would otherwise probably never have seen. We are still partial to RCCL & "American" cruises but we really enjoyed this cruise & loved the ease of departing from our home port rather than having to fly overseas to emberk the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Our cruise on Queen Victoria was one sector of the ship's 2010 World Cruise, ie San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand. We have just booked another cruise (Venice to Fort Lauderdale) for later this year and on looking at the ... Read More
Our cruise on Queen Victoria was one sector of the ship's 2010 World Cruise, ie San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand. We have just booked another cruise (Venice to Fort Lauderdale) for later this year and on looking at the reviews on this forum have been absolutely staggered at the degree of negative responses to Cunard and its ships. It almost seems that some travellers simply set out to be as negative as possible. Obviously there are going to be the occasional problems with any airline, hotel or cruise operation .. especially when you are dealing with 2000 passengers and 1000 crew ... but our experience was that when these were brought to the attention of the proper person they were promptly fixed. We cannot speak highly enough of the officers and crew on QV - and on the ship itself that provided all the service and comfort that was expected. We look forward to our next Cunard adventure and suggest to some of the critics on this forum that they should take a deep breath and enjoy themselves. Isn't that what cruising is all about? Disclaimer: We are not associated with Cunard or any other travel organisation and have submitted this review as personal feedback. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2011
Embarkation in Southampton was good it took less than one hour to get on board the ship. the initial observation of the vessel was good large bars and lounges and plenty of deck space. The balcony cabin was fine , bathroom was large ... Read More
Embarkation in Southampton was good it took less than one hour to get on board the ship. the initial observation of the vessel was good large bars and lounges and plenty of deck space. The balcony cabin was fine , bathroom was large and seemed fine. But after 3 days all this changed. the toilet kept on breaking down 10 times on the whole journey 3 times spilling water and raw sewage onto the bathroom floor.Each time when we complaint the problem was fixed so we thought but again and again it happened.We asked to be moved on 3 occasions but the request was totally ignored. the Headliner shows were great the best we have seen on a cruise ship for a long while.but otherwise the daily entertainment was to say mediocre the cruise director was never to be found and the cruise staff are very badly trained. Food in the Belvedere leaves a lot to be desired, always cold and very little variety. Our waiters in the main dining room were fine and the food was of good quality. Food in the Rhodes is excellent well worth the extra cover charge. The screening room must be the joke of the century, 30 seats for a ship with 2000 passengers.Would we ever go again on this vessel NO WAY. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal ... Read More
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal undercover in two minutes Day 2 24th Nov. We flew with Singapore Airlines, Manchester to Singapore with a short stop for fuel and some more passengers in Munich. Excellent service and food, the seat back entertainment was exceptional over 50 films + comedy shows+games and TV programs on a 10inch screen. Easy on-line check-in 24hrs prior to flight. Day 3 25th Nov .The pick up from the airport was excellent a gent with a board with our name was there, he showed us where to wait whilst he went for his brand new black Mercedes and took us straight to The Traders Hotel, the room was small, as reports had said but was adequate and aircon was good, the pool was excellent, shopping in Orchard rd, shuttle bus to town and routes, we did [a groggy "Orchard Road"] The shops in this city are awesome [not cheap] and everywhere they have Chrissy decorations up, it all looks so good!! Spent some time by the hotel pool in the sun at lunchtime until it clouded over and p-----d down for an hour! Had a meal in Tanglin Mall [attached to the hotel] and bought some food and wine for the evening Day 4 26th Nov. Hippo Bus tour, got over the journey, now up at 7am, today we are doing the hop on hop off bus around all the tourist spots for a quick view of Singapore! This was an excellent way to see the sites in a very short time with a running commentary as to where you were and what to see. We booked this via Viator on the internet and paid '£11pp on the day it would be $S23 It takes 1hr to do each of the two routes, then you can choose where to go and get off at that stop, then rejoin the trip when ready. We had an exceptional meal on Clarke Quay whilst on the route and even though it rained we were under cover and had excellent service and views, had a take away in the room that night and crashed out. Day 5 27th Nov. Lounged in the hotel in the morning chatting to the friendly staff and other people who were going on the cruise, There was one thing to mention, the maid had put a Kitkat on our bill, so we spoke to her and she said we had taken it and that she found the wrapper in the bin! {WE DID NOT HAVE THE KITKAT] so reception removed the charge, as we left the Hotel the next day we noticed a Vodka and Tonic had also disappeared!! Make your own assumptions, then the Taxi to the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre to book in for Transfer to ship [only S$10], this was poorly organised we are Elite so we are supposed not to have to wait but wait we did, in a grotty hall on uncomfortable seats until a bus took us thro a massive container port about 25mins drive away to join the ship, we then booked into the ship had a meal and relaxed. We went for dinner 2nd sitting looking forward to meeting our new companions, they were a gentleman of approx 90yrs by himself and a family of 4 mum, dad and two boys one 9yrs and one 10yrs all from Auss. During the meal the 10yr old was unwell and mum went out with him twice on the 3rd occasion they came back he had the waste bin from the cabin with him! Within 5mins he was being sick in the bucket at the table!!! We resolved to move tables the following day. [And did!] We went to see the show and enjoyed the performance and went to bed! Day 6/1 28th Nov. Day at sea had breakfast on the balcony [room service Free] then decided to spend some time in the sun. It was partial cloud all day so we had a lazy day on deck but unfortunately got a little sunburn. The evening was formal night and Champagne fountain plus our new table [what will we get?] We also had a meet and greet with our friends in the Cruise Critic group at 11am to 12pm for drinks with the Captain, Cruise Director and staff which was good fun followed by another meeting some other good friends we had met on Facebook Rollcall and had had some Video chats with prior to the cruise at 6pm, this went on till Dinner at 8.15 and was an absolute brilliant party!! Then off to dinner at the new table, we couldn't have been more pleased we had a lovely lady from Sydney Sue, and her husband Max[who was Italian and was fluent in many languages] they where a joy to be with. Then another couple from Yorkshire turned up and the table was a delight, pleasant intelligent conversation with a bit of banter all night, then off to the show again till late, then bed. A thoroughly brilliant day!!! Day 7/2 29th Nov Ko Samui. Tendered to the shore for 9.15am which was poorly organised and time consuming then a mini-bus to Chaewang Beach, left to ourselves from 10am to 12am $29 each with Princess. The beach wasn't exceptional, many in the Caribbean and Med are much better, swam and enjoyed an expensive beer and returned on time. Had lunch with some people we had met in the Singapore hotel, it was to hot to sunbathe so we chilled out in the room with a few drinks. Went to dinner enjoyed a pleasant meal with good company then crashed out with a Baileys and brandy. Day 8/3 30th Nov. Bangkok/ Pattaya Took the FREE shuttle bus to Pattaya 45mins, what a brilliant place great shopping right on the beach [not sure about swimming though] spent most of the time spending money and choosing clothes great fun, Sandra bought a silk dress and I bought a pair of trousers. Shuttle back to the ship, crash out and relax with a drink!! Very happy with Pattaya went for dinner with our four companions Sue and Max, Sue and Allen, we have a great time with in depth conversations about just about anything, and we are always the last people out of the dining room. It's a relief to have such good company. Received our first laundry back today all properly cleaned and pressed and free!!! Day 9/4 1st Dec. Day at sea. Woke up this morning the sea is like a millpond not a cloud in the sky, we tried to buy some sunscreen yesterday on the ship but they only had factor 4!! Breakfast on the balcony Spent the day in the sun watched a Movie "Cowboys and Aliens" funny! A few drinks plenty of relaxing. Time for evening meal enjoyable as ever, then off to bed!! Day 10/5 2nd Dec. Vietnam. Decided the 2.5hr drive to Saigon would be to boring [which was confirmed later by people that went] so we took the free shuttle bus to a small town market 45mins away, what a treat, started at a decent supermarket then thought there must be more to see so we walked 2 blocks and found this huge 3 story local market with a food market next door, spent ages routing around clothes shoes belts everything you could think of, all genuine designer goods [not!] I bought an Armarniish belt! Ha Ha. Then off to the food market, OMG fish drying out in the dirt on the pavement, what a stink and flies everywhere, next the Veg. Market what a difference beautiful food everywhere the vendors were the classic ladies sitting amongst the produce sorting, cleaning, peeling and posing for photos, so friendly, indeed everybody was friendly, giggling as we tried to talk to them [apart from the occasional guy pushing sunglasses at you on the street]. A great morning out [except some poor cruisers didn't walk the block and missed all the local stuff, we told a few when we got back to the bus and they them went off to see the local market!] Bought a bottle of wine and twelve cans of coke and tonic with the rest of the Dongs and went back to the ship. Enjoyed the sun and the peace as most had gone to Saigon and we almost had the ship to ourselves! Excellent dinner, had a little argument with Sue who was a NHS worker supporting the strike! So I couldn't let that go and we had a ding dong [which I enjoyed but I don't think she did!] Day 11/6 3rd Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [ Chillin all day!!!] Dinner, atmosphere was ok all forgiven! Day 12/7 4th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 13/8 5th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 14/9 6th Dec. Bali Elephant Safari This was great fun, up early tender to the shore was 40mins and it poured down with rain, the people who got on first where on the open top of the tender and got totally soaked!!! Then a 1.5hr drive to Elephant park in the mountains of Bali. First we fed them then had a half hour+ ride on them thro the jungle, it poured down for 10mins, but they gave us capes for that and there where huge spiders all around us in the trees, then an Indonesian meal [not me normally!] but it was very enjoyable! Then an hours drive to a local market [just sold crap!] and back to the ship. A good day out and very enjoyable. Great meal that night and good company, we were late as usual. Day 15/10 Wednesday 7th Dec Day at sea Lovely hot day, too hot went to the room for a drink at 2pm and stayed till 3.30pm sunny on the balcony. Tonight is Captains Circle night so Formal and free drinks should be good!! Plenty of free drinks; the most cruised person was an Aussie who had done 1500 days at sea [over 4yrs at sea] now thats a lot!!! A good meal we don't bother with shows, so a walk around the decks and off to bed! Day 16/11 Thursday 8th Dec Day at sea Getting hotter as we reach the equator, Had to do Aussie customs today before Darwin tomorrow, all done by midday, sunbathe, but so hot, always above 30C we had to retreat to the spar for a break. Day 17/12 Friday 9th Dec Darwin 37C walked off the ship, passed the protected beach [protected from Box jellyfish] to a lift which took us 5 storeys up to the road into town. Walked into town and explored the shops, very pleasant, with lots of shops. Went to buy some wine in Woolworths, they wouldn't let us as we didn't have photo I.D. a friendly Aussie bought 3 bottles for us and we paid him [ace] Day 18/13 Saturday 10th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 19/14 Sunday 11th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 20/15 Monday 12th Dec Port Douglas, The Great Barrier Reef We where taken to the port by local tender to join the high speed catamaran for the journey to the Outer Barrier Reef [approx 90 mins] where the boat tied up to a pontoon above the reef, we were then given any equipment we needed [$5 for a latex stinger suit ref the Box jellyfish] and were then free to snorkel in the large protected area. The visibility was about 10 metres, there were plenty of fish large and small, We then had a semi-submersible ride around the reef for about 35mins, next we had a pleasant lunch on the pontoon or in the cat. We the returned to Port Douglas and due to time we where transferred straight back to the ship and missed Port Douglas itself [shame]. A long enjoyable day on a trip that has to be done. Day 21/16 Tuesday 13th Dec Airlie Beach, Daydream Island Resort, The Whitsunday Islands we arrived at 10am and had a right mix up with the tenders from the ship, it seems that they didn't have enough Auss customs officers to do both sides of the ship so we were delayed, we finally went to this beautiful island by cat arrived 12pm and watched the hotel staff feeding the fish on their living reef, it was very hot! We had a look around the 7 pools, it was now lunch time at the Fishbowl Restaurant after 30mins it started to rain slightly, we were sitting with a Scottish couple having a good natter and the wind suddenly changed direction. A mini Cyclone went straight thro the whole resort, smashing tables, glasses, chairs, and taking down a number of large trees, one landed on some sun beds crushed them and fell into the pool!!! It was one of those times when you say Wow! that could have been deadly. Luckily nobody was hurt and the sun came out and we enjoyed the rest off the day, 5pm to 7pm with low cost cocktails $3.99 in Skywalkers, "Rob Roy" was the best [Chivas Regal base] Day 22/17 Wednesday 14th Dec Day at sea This was a lovely day slightly cooler than all the others [we are heading south out of the tropics] still very sunny and warm, sunbathing and a few drinks, we then had a goodbye party with the Facebook crowd at 4pm, till 5pm and cocktails in Skywalkers [Cocktail was "Chairman of the Board", Bombay Sapphire base] next changed for the formal night and free drinks at the captains farewell party, superb beef wellington and great company till late. Day 23/18 Thursday 15th Dec Day at sea Last day of the cruise, weather changed as expected, a lot cooler 20C and cloudy, packing has to be sorted as they take the cases tonight after dinner [or before if you want] sort out all the admin. Day 24/19 Friday 16th Dec Sydney, The Sail into Sydney Harbour to Circular Quay was amazing with fantastic views of the city, the opera house and the bridge! Disembark and get a taxi to the hotel [ only $A15 The 4 Points Sheraton Hotel, This is a lovely hotel, check in was perfect, no effort, bags taken to room. The room was a harbour view with a large picture window overlooking Darling Harbour excellent! That morning we chose to buy a joint ticket to The Aquarium, The Wild Life Adventure and The Sydney Tower. The Aquarium was brilliant with lots of exotic sea creatures that you don't see in the northern hemisphere, The Wildlife Centre was just what we wanted, we stroked Kangaroos, saw a Duck-billed Platypus, a giant crocodile, a Wombat and best of all we cuddled a Koala. Next a short walk, to the Tower fabulous 360 views of Sydney. Finally an evening having a meal and a walk around Darling Harbour, this was amazing, Christmas Tree, Carol singers and buzzing with loads of people having a great time in all the bars, a great day all round. Day25 Saturday 17th Dec Sydney Today we had breakfast in a Restaurant on Darling Harbour, the weather was a little cloudy but warm. At lunch time we decided to take the ferry from the harbour to Manley Beach. This was so easy $13 return every 20 mins, about 30mins to get there, the weather was now brilliant and hot, we were surprised how beautiful the area was, lots of shops, a beautiful prom and a fantastic beach, loads of surfers, people having barbecues on the beach, a market, lots and lots of things going on everywhere! That night we went back to harbourside and had a meal, It was Saturday night and was all set up for a fireworks display so we went back to the hotel to watch from our grandstand view room. It was a brilliant display especially with some chocolate and a bottle of wine. Prior to this we had to call our pick-up for the airport the following day to confirm, when we did we couldn't get thro' so I asked the Concierge to help, he tried and said they were closed, however, he went onto the internet and looked up their web-site, got an out of hours number and confirmed our pick up with them [all without me asking him to do it] absolutely excellent service!!. We then needed to check in to Singapore Airlines and print our boarding cards, I went customer services at the hotel and asked about the printer and the girl on the desk offered to do the whole job for me!! I gave her the flight details and she sorted everything out and printed the boarding passes!!! Another example of fantastic service by the hotel staff. Day 26 Sunday 18th Dec Fly home, We had the morning at leisure as our flight wasn't until 4.15pm, so we strolled around the harbour, had breakfast and did some last minute shopping. We were picked up on time by a company called Sunbuses and taken to the airport. Dropped the bags off waited for the flight to Singapore on the Airbus 380 8hrs, then a 2hr wait in Singapore for a flight to Munich 12hrs, then stay in the plane for an hour whilst some passengers left and others joined and the wings were de-iced then a 2hr flight to Manchester. Day27 Monday 19th Dec collect car Arrive at Manchester call APH, they sent a bus to transfer us to the car park. The car was parked ready to collect then off to home 40mins Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
We have Just returned from the world cruise, we had a wonderful time, we never had any complaints about the food what so ever the waiters were always polite. We dined in the Sorrento Restaurant on a few occasions and the service we found ... Read More
We have Just returned from the world cruise, we had a wonderful time, we never had any complaints about the food what so ever the waiters were always polite. We dined in the Sorrento Restaurant on a few occasions and the service we found was Just fine. We also had a meal in the Marco Pierre White restaurant on our Wedding Anniversary very enjoyable. all I have read is a load of whinging from the Ozzie's who all had a very good deal to come on the cruise and yes they were very loud and had no Idea how to dress for black tie and smart nights, and they never tip the waiters or cabin boys. The only problem we had with the cruise was the cabin we were one of the unlucky ones who had a cabin on the port side aft, the vibration was dreadful on leaving Southampton we had two nights without sleep the deck supervisor jaze tried his best for us, another two nights before we arrived in Dubai with no sleep yes some passengers did go to the front desk and ask to see someone and did become rather cross. Captain Cambey came on in Dubai and we had a meeting with him and the Purser he told us that new parts would be coming on in Hong kong and everything was then would be O.K and he was right. When we left New Zealand we had a water pipe burst outside the cabin which flooded the end two ours and the inside cabin my husband has now had enough as it is 4am and the noise outside the cabin where they were sucking up the water was horrendous so he went down to the front desk and asked for another cabin which they gave us and we were in there for two nights whilst they dried out our cabin. Entertainment Staff were brilliant loved the Headliners theatre company. Would we Cruise with P&O again Yes Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
I want to express our experience to you about P&O Aurora World Cruise 2012 as follows. Besides that I also have to mention that the crew and especially the cleaning staff, waiters and assistance at reception did extraordinary jobs. ... Read More
I want to express our experience to you about P&O Aurora World Cruise 2012 as follows. Besides that I also have to mention that the crew and especially the cleaning staff, waiters and assistance at reception did extraordinary jobs. The cruise started for us with asking P&O office for assistance or at least the right information in case of a lacking India Visa. We were told by P&O office that without the Indian Visa we are not allowed to enter the ship which later on at the departure date turned out as not being the correct information that was given to us. Because of that we needed to change flight schedules for several hundred's of dollars and phone calls for over a 100,00 Euros because of being forwarded from one department to the other without not getting helpful information. Finally the result was that all these expenses were not necessary but because of non sufficient information given from P&O office and Visa department in Southampton. An employee from P&O at Southampton Port allowed us to enter the ship but informed us that if we didn't have this Visa we would be unable to board but would have to disembark in a port prior to India. So I would say there is a lack of information from one office to another with P&O employees. At the same time we received the information that the port in Acapulco/Mexico was canceled because of safety issues without replacement nor any compensation. Shortly after we got announced that also Cochin as the second Indian port was canceled, but later on replaced with Muscat/Oman. We were told because of problems with landing slot's in Cochin!? The day as we entered the ship we were told that the so called "Noro virus" (vomiting and diarrhea) was on the ship. The rumors in between the passengers was that the virus was already on board before embarkation. Aurora's captain told it was brought by the passengers. From the first day we were bothered with several daily announcements about this issue and got "forced" to hand sanitizing around every corner of the ship until the rest of the cruise even that it was told later the situation was solved before the port of San Francisco. The next change was made in Colombo/Sri Lanka (regular scheduled inbetween 6 am. and 16:30 h) because of the tide in Mumbai. The stay at this port of call from finally 8 am. To 12:30 h was reduced by another 5 1/2 hours. After Madeira the ship started leaking in certain sections through broken and corroded water pipes. There were buckets placed all over the ship so that later on officials made jokes "that is for providing drinking water to the drug sniffing dogs". Towards the end of the cruise more buckets got added because the problem got worse. I am talking about having buckets on the ship, in the theatre, hallways and staircases over more than 90 days! We were just lucky that we did not sit down in the "Curzon" theater as a pipe broke there and caused lots of damage and flooded the place that there was no entertainment for almost 2 weeks available. There was a drug bust starting in San Francisco which caused inconvenience for lots of passengers including us who were not even involved. Drugs were found on the ship which is of course not a problem of P&O but to keep going with their standards and comforts as well as the promised itinerary for us passengers I will count P&O cruise line responsible for it. We were just lucky that our cabin (might!) not have been searched by officials getting under common suspicion and having drug dogs sniffing through our personal stuff. The next complication out of that was another cancellation of the port of call in "Yorkey's knob" Australia without replacement nor compensation. This because of demands from the authorities having again drug searching facilities available on the landing site. Because the new allocated landing spot was too far to reach by the tender boats the port was canceled entirely with the single replacement of another 5 hours in Abu Dabi. Further on at least on 23 ports of call (including Singapore) we had no proper cruise terminal. It was either a container port or tender boat operation for disembarkation within all it's inconvenience that it takes. I know that the landing fee's for those proper cruise ports are probably high 5 digit if not 6 digits amounts for those like Singapore and Sydney! Because of "security issues" the stay in the port of Istanbul was also reduced by approx. 12 hours not allowing us to leave the ship again at night on the first day and on the second day like the itinerary stated. Then early in the morning at 6:45 am a short term announcement was made that the ship will leave at 7:00 am. We were expecting to have a breakfast and coffee outside the port at the same day and having had left some Turkish currency for that reason besides the general inconvenience being involved in another change or reduction while expecting the presence of the scheduled itinerary until 11 am. for the 4 th of april. Passengers were not allowed to leave the ship anymore after 10:30 pm the 3rd of April. As the ship was leaving the port of Istanbul another big cruise liner came in and it was looking like we were almost "pushed out" of the pier. The above mentioned problems I would call general organization and maintenance matters as well as not taking care or not feeling responsible for advertised itineraries like promoted prior to booking. Now I want to mention the following situation on our stateroom on C-deck. The cabin was making noise all day and night due to the location above the engine section. The subdivision and ceiling panels of the cabin were vibrating on a high frequency so that I needed to get up almost every night to press or shake the panels to just interrupt it for a while. After complaining we were told that there is a ventilation unit behind the cabin and offered to move to another cabin. Because the shown cabin was far from the convenient aft deck and was also making noise we decided to stay in our crackling cabin. The toilet flush in our cabin was malfunctioning at least once every other week so that sometimes bad smelling sewage was drafting back from the entire system because we were the last cabin on this deck. Sometimes the bad smell remained for hours in the cabin because of that problem. And it was a repeating problem. Also one night the bathroom was flooded by water back drafting out of the toilet. Of course it is P&O's decision to do major maintenance on railings during a 3 month world cruise but I have never seen before that the entire wooden railings got taken off step by step and got sanded and varnished and replaced during regular cruise business as well as paint jobs. For more than 2 month there were signs "wet varnish" sticking on the railings and floors upfront one after the other day telling you not to touch them. Those inconvenient procedures were nor mentioned nor expected when booking the cruise and they seem to be very strange to us. By the way we believe it's wise to mention in P&O world cruise advertisement that the promenade deck will be shut from 6 pm until 6 am. because of probable piracy attacks. The promenade deck including illumination was shut down for approx. 2 weeks of the cruise and not available at these times inbetween Mumbai and Port Suez. Of course all this in consideration of safety concerns!? During several tender boat operations the engines broke down at least 3 times as far as we know and caused huge delays for all passengers besides our booked Cairo excursion at 3:30 am that day as they started fueling the tender boat before we could get on board. We were sitting 45 min. in the boat because of an actually 10 min. boat ride that morning as the engine of a tender boat broke down in front of us. The peak of it all was our "wake up call" at 1:30 am on the 9th of April as a waterfall caused by a corroded pipe was running down the cabin door and started pouring in our room. The water was pouring in huge amounts for almost an hour and flooded inside the cabin as well. To minimize damage we had to put towels in front of the door and lift up certain things and gather personnel items at 2:30 in the morning before getting relocated to another cabin on deck 10 with a tooth brush, wet jeans and flip flops. Putting our impression and experience of this P&O world cruise together even though comparing an average daily price we paid for this trip towards former cruises we have taken in the past by receiving higher quality standards regarding the ship itself and level of entertainment to a way lower average rate for instance with Cunard, Holland America and Celebrity. We must say that we were far from our own expectation and far from P&O promised and advertised standards which made it an unforgetable experience of vacation which of course it was but in the opposite way. We were also far from almost every scheduled itinerary and the amount of ports of call which was an important fact for booking this cruise on the Aurora. P&O never responded to any complaint If I put it together in one short term: forget about P&O! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2012
When a world cruise is not a world cruise -- Cunard Queen Elizabeth World Cruise 2012. It has taken me six months to distil my thoughts on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth's full world cruise 2012. I was travelling with my partner and ... Read More
When a world cruise is not a world cruise -- Cunard Queen Elizabeth World Cruise 2012. It has taken me six months to distil my thoughts on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth's full world cruise 2012. I was travelling with my partner and my brother. He was travelling as a single passenger and was paying almost as much as we were for both of us. I am a diamond Cunard world club member. On a personal level it was a trip of a lifetime and a most rewarding experience. Needless to say this experience could not have been achieved except in the context of the full world cruise. Of the 2000 passengers who sailed on board the Queen Elizabeth on 10 January, approximately 800 were on board for the full world cruise which returned to Southampton on the 27th of April. The voyage lasted a total of 107 days. In 2009 we had sailed on board the Queen Victoria for of the final two legs of its world cruise voyage from Singapore to Southampton. That voyage lasted 33 days. Through the advanced booking system for the year 2012 world cruise we had requested the two state rooms with forward views on deck six(6001 & 6002). The state rooms are classed ocean view C1. They are wonderfully positioned under the bridge and we enjoyed many hours throughout the trip gazing ahead and enjoying the views. My first serious observation is that the Queen Elisabeth is not a ship designed for transatlantic crossings. The Southampton to New York section of the voyage found the ship having to cope with very difficult sea conditions. In the words of the Captain "we will do what we can to make you as comfortable as possible. This is a cruise ship and not a transatlantic liner and its design means that we will bounce our way across to New York" and bounce we did! What was most difficult to cope with was the constant banging of the bulbous bow of the ship as she pitched through the very stormy Atlantic Ocean. We were also unlucky with the six day section of the voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii, when the ship again encountered rough seas. Yes I know that there are readers who would say "well what else would you expect" my answer is quite simple; you would expect to be sailing in ship capable of dealing with those conditions, without the passengers experiencing such a great deal of discomfort. My suggestion to those considering taking the full world cruise from Southampton is that they consider flying to New York and boarding there. You might also consider taking the Queen Mary2 to New York. My second observation relates to the expectations of passengers taking the full world cruise. We had been planning the trip for approximately 2 ½ years. Our expectations were very much focused on the AROUND THE WORLD aspect. This had conjured up in my mind a seamless and integrated experience which would last 107 days. My most serious criticism is that this expectation was not achieved. What Cunard provide is a cruise around the world taken in a number of stages or legs but NOT a world cruise. My expectation of the world cruise was shared by the vast majority of those full world cruise passengers with whom I spoke. Many of them were scathing in their commons and a significant number had decided by the end of the voyage that they would never sail with Cunard again. The result of the linked leg approach by Cunard to the world cruise is that routine and sameness are clearly established by the end of leg two of the six legs. Crudely and bluntly it was obvious that Cunard's policy is to keep the" leg passengers" happy. Instead of finding it possible for the full world passengers to get to know one another better as the cruise moved on, we in fact got lost and dissipated in the constant changes that were taking place as hundreds of passengers left and new faces arrived at the end of each leg. This policy impacts on the passengers who are taking the full world cruise. For example no accommodation was given in the dining room to the "jackets required" dress code policy. While sailing in the Pacific on warm and balmy nights the full world cruise passengers were still required to comply with the dress code policy. This was to keep the marketing image of Cunard in place, for those passengers who were taking shorter legs of the journey. Who would wear a jacket to dinner on 107 consecutive evenings in their own home? A further example of this "leg" policy in operation was that the only crew who knew who the full world cruise passengers were, was the restaurant staff and the cabin steward. This resulted in a sense of indifference from bar and deck staff in the public areas. My suggestion to those considering taking the full world cruise is that they alter their expectations in advance from the notion of a seamless 107 day experience, see it as a number of cruises which are linked together and which takes you around the world without having to move from one ship to the next. Look at other cruise lines other than Cunard and see who they approach the Full World Cruise concept. My third observation relates to the payment of our hotel charges. As full world cruise passengers our hotel charges were built into the ticket price. It was a shocking disappointment to find that while our hotel charges were taken at source that we were not allowed to see that those crew whom we considered to have given superior service, could not be singled out for special award from within the hotel gratuity. Passenger is who were taking shorter legs were allowed to cancel the automatic hotel charges and award whoever they liked! When we raised this matter with the hotel manager we were told that we could always reward any member of the crew whom we wished to. However this in fact means that we were required to make a double payment of the gratuity to those whom we wished to recognize. My suggestion is that you talk to your travel agent in advance of making your final reservation about this matter. Finally as I get the last of my photographs into my album, I can say that it was an incredible experience shared with my partner and my brother and many wonderful passengers and fantastic crew. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
NOTES FROM A CRUISE In February ROBIN KNIGHT* and his wife Jean spent 24 days on board the 90,000 ton Queen Elizabeth as the cruise ship sailed 9,200 miles from San Francisco to Sydney on her second world voyage. Here he reports his ... Read More
NOTES FROM A CRUISE In February ROBIN KNIGHT* and his wife Jean spent 24 days on board the 90,000 ton Queen Elizabeth as the cruise ship sailed 9,200 miles from San Francisco to Sydney on her second world voyage. Here he reports his impressions. The first thing that hits you as you board Queen Elizabeth is the design -- somewhat boxy and top heavy on the outside, stately and classical inside. The dominant art deco theme inside the ship works as well today as it must have on the original vessel when she was launched in 1938. The centrepiece is the magnificent 18ft David Linley marquetry panel carving which dominates the Grand Lobby. But all over Queen Elizabeth one finds elegant, imaginative touches -- Great Gatsby-era light fittings, nostalgic black-and-white photos, display cabinets full of Cunard memorabilia, 1930s signage, deep pile carpeting, an eye-catching glass statue and a fine new portrait of Queen Elizabeth 11. Some facts and figures: the average age of passengers on our cruise was 75. One lady celebrated her 97th birthday and a man died of a heart attack while eating breakfast in the cafeteria. If you get exasperated shuffling behind walking sticks, zimmer frames and wheelchairs, this is not the cruise for you. On the other hand, the atmosphere is calm and civilised. Between San Francisco and Sydney the ship carried about 1,850 passengers (some 200 below capacity) including 640 Brits, 200 Germans and 100 French journeying around the world on a three-month long cruise at a minimum cost of £25,000 a head. Thirtyseven nationalities were represented among the passengers and 50 nationalities in the 1,000-strong crew. Most of the senior officers were British or Irish. Service: generally attentive, friendly, flexible, obliging. We moved our dinner table reservation without difficulty to escape a garrulous neighbour. On Valentine's Day Cunard sent us a rose and a card. Our stateroom (never cabin -- a Cunard affectation) steward was conscientious and reliable. The Purser's Desk (vital for all queries) was well run by a multilingual team of capable, polite young women. When a screw came loose on our balcony panel during a stormy spell, it was repaired quickly by a technician who strapped himself to the railings to avoid falling off in the high winds. Real dedication! Numbers: congestion resulting from the presence on board of so many other passengers was not, on the whole, a problem. Occasionally it was -- when getting into small tenders to visit and depart from Fiji, queuing up for food in the Lido cafeteria early in the morning, finding a seat in a bar before dinner and, above all, using the guest launderettes. Charges: Cunard seems bent on emulating Ryan Air. Just about everything discretionary came with a hefty price tag -- and the total mounts up during the best part of a month on board. Many drinks cost more than in the UK - $20 for two pre-dinner glasses of wine in the Commodore Bar and a minimum $30 for a bottle of wine with dinner. In Fiji and again in Dunedin, New Zealand, we purchased wine, gin, tonics and beer and were allowed to bring the haul on board. Still, the fact is that it cost $25 to buy a photograph of oneself from the photo team and $25 to attend a wine-tasting session. Shore excursions could be pricey (about $75 per person on average) but were worth it. The minimum charge for Internet access was $50 (everything is denominated in US dollars). Tips are included for every service and automatically add $12-15 a day per person to one's onboard account. Cabins: with three main categories and more than 30 price grades on offer on Queen Elizabeth it is hard to generalise. We had a light and airy balcony cabin measuring about 300 sq ft. Drawer space was rather limited and there was no bath (only a shower). But the bed was comfortable, linen was changed regularly and the furniture blended in well -- as did the invaluable balcony. Laundry: charges ($8 for a shirt) seemed set to deter usage. However, each deck has three washing machines and three driers for free use. The difficulty was that they were never sufficient. On our deck a queue of (largely female) users formed at 7.30am most mornings and the machines went non-stop for the next 12 hours. People even sat waiting for an empty machine and angry confrontations were not unknown. On a long cruise, this is a real Achilles' heel for Queen Elizabeth. Passenger behaviour: Superficially, it seemed reasonable to us. Behind the scenes Cunard was finessing numerous issues. In particular there appeared to be an endless stream of minor complaints -- about cabins, exchange rates, restaurant tables, staff service, invoices, smoking in cabins (banned), email access and so on -- maybe reflecting the seniority of many of the cruisers. Dress code: Formal evening wear was mandatory (except in the Lido cafeteria) on about one in three evenings when we were at sea (not in port). Dressing up suits the traditionalists but is a bit of a bore for anyone who imagines they are on a relaxing holiday. Activities: Cruise passengers are adept at entertaining themselves. But to help them Queen Elizabeth offered a huge range of activities starting with a 6,000 volume library, games of all descriptions (cards, board, bingo, deck quoits, life-size outdoor chess), golf nets, lectures, shore excursions, crossword puzzle competitions, seminars on iPADS, a health spa, table tennis, satellite television, choir singing, whisky and wine tasting, dance classes, clothes sales, talks about stress. One clear evening we received a brilliant, laser-guided talk given by one of the Second Officers on the night sky in the southern hemisphere. Magic! Entertainment: A downmarket trend was apparent. None of the entertainers on this QE cruise could be termed top rank. Some were American, others British, Australian, Maori and German. One of the stars, in our view, was the resident band -- a disparate international grouping that proved versatile, engaging and professional. Much of the rest was no more than average although there were a couple of stand outs -- Valerie Perri, known for her role in 'Evita' in the USA; and Bruce Morrison from the UK -- another strong all-round singer/performer with a background in musicals. For us the number one attraction proved to be a stylish young American harpist called Hannah Kuipers who played soothingly at venues all over ship most afternoons and evenings. The lectures (always an onboard staple) were a mixed bag. The main feature was a nine-talk series on the Pacific region given by an American anthropologist. In quick-fire fashion this covered the whole vast region, its history and culture. Two superior talks were given by the recently-retired head of the Australian armed forces. Port destination presentations -- crucial preparation for passengers not sure if they were visiting Honolulu or Pago Pago - were the responsibility of the efficient tours department. Food: Opinions varied about the quality if not the quantity. Feeding thousands of people several times a day -- 12,000 meals are served daily when the crew is included - will never be simple however good the chefs. Queen Elizabeth also operates a rigid, old-fashioned class system which separates Princess Grill and Queen's Grill passengers from the common herd who must make do with the 878-seat two deck Britannia restaurant. An alternative is the a la carte Verandah restaurant where main courses cost $25-30. At the Britannia level (ours) breakfast was always excellent, dinner uninspired. The best rule, we found, was to order the simplest item on the daily-changing menu and avoid elaborate-sounding sauces. In the Lido cafeteria, food was varied if routine. Rather late in the day we stumbled across a top notch pub lunch option (yes, there is an authentic British pub on board). The afternoon tea experience in the Queen's Room -- all white gloves, string quartets and cucumber sandwiches -- is not to be missed. Weather -- the Pacific is wrongly named. Based on our experience, it is anything but pacific, being enormous (one third of the Earth's surface), ultra deep and subject to strong winds and currents. We learned this the hard way. Between San Francisco and Hawaii Queen Elizabeth battled 55 knot headwinds and 16ft seas. Taking a shower became a balancing act and there were many complaints of seasickness. Outside decks were closed and evening performances by dancers in the theatre company cancelled as the stage was lurching around so much. Things were little better as we rocked-and-rolled across the Tasman Sea. Crises: leaving Fiji for Auckland, New Zealand, I received an email from home about a potential family crisis. We calculated that it would be at least five days before we could get back to the UK. This is one of the downsides of cruising, especially for the elderly. One "world cruiser" developed an ulcer in San Francisco and was hospitalized. Then he and his wife had to fly to Hawaii to catch up the ship. Travel insurance didn't cover the emergency and the couple ended up paying £3,500 in additional charges. Cruising concerns: With more and more cruise ships at sea, port capacity is becoming an issue. In Sydney (where cruising is worth $400mn a year to the city's economy) there is only one quay for a ship the size of QE. Eight times last year Carnival (owners of Cunard) had to anchor a ship in the outer harbour with all the attendant transport difficulties involved. Disputes also are cropping up everywhere over shore-based facilities such as baggage trolleys in terminal buildings -- who should pay for them? In Wellington and Sydney Queen Elizabeth was made to arrive at 5.00am before first light to avoid disrupting local ferry traffic. In American waters, there were innumerable security checks to navigate as each port of call insisted on its own inspections. At Port Melbourne the authorities made all passengers disembark from a single gangway to enable sniffer police dogs to check that no one was importing a banana into Australia. As a result it took two hours to leave the ship. Later it took the local ambulance service nearly an hour to rescue an injured passenger who had to be moved off Queen Elizabeth to hospital -- to the irritation of the Captain who made his feelings known over the public address system. Downsides: The air conditioning system on Queen Elizabeth is erratic -- alternately too cold or too warm. Many passengers (including me) caught nasty chills as a result. Over-friendly strangers are an occupational hazard on all cruises; Queen Elizabeth had her fair share. We also heard many gripes from young crew members about their lack of time off and their tough work contracts. Our Captain twice blotted his copybook by failing to respond to written enquiries about his ship. Overall impressions: After a shaky start to its cruising career the newest Cunard Queen has bedded down pretty well. Today the general experience is restful and classy if a tad more staid than on a ship like P&O's Arcadia, perhaps reflecting the upmarket retailing strategy Cunard favours. Children are conspicuous by their absence. Queen Elizabeth also is staunchly British in character, which may not appeal to everyone. Our bottom line? We returned home delighted to have had such a wonderful experience. Robin Knight was a foreign correspondent for an American newsmagazine for 28 years, working all over the world. He now runs his own corporate writing company Knightwrite Ltd Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Firstly may i say we are easy going people and do not expect the best in everything.We embarked in Melbourne and found that the Flight co-ordinator who was also doing the embarking proceedure had taken my photo on the incorrect pasport so ... Read More
Firstly may i say we are easy going people and do not expect the best in everything.We embarked in Melbourne and found that the Flight co-ordinator who was also doing the embarking proceedure had taken my photo on the incorrect pasport so after about 30 more minutes we boarded the ship.On arrival to our room i inserted the card to find someone else in our room,we were in touch with the persers desk and we were given another room. The interior of the ship is clean and different decor to other ships i have sailed. Meals in the buffet were just ok and mostly warm only.The dining room was much better but not as good as we previously have had on some other lines.Buffet breakfast was repeated every day with no variation and was very boring.No fresh milk was available the entire time we were on the cruise so long life milk was the only option including the coffee shop. Our room was kept very clean and no complaints in this area. A lot of disgruntled passengers on the ship who have been on since the start of the cruise.English while speaking to the crew was strange as many only knew basic words and they mostly spoke to each other in there native language. Disembarking was trouble again for us as we had transfers booked from the ship to Perth airport but when we asked why we didnt have tickets delivered to our room (once again the flight co-ordinator)she said they were not booked even though we checked 2 days prior and were told we were booked. We were also told there was no shuttles availabe and she could not do anything for us.We luckily have a daughter in perth so we had to get her to come and get us from the ship and take us to the airport as we only had 2 hours from debarking and catching our flight home. After all our debarkle we got to the airport on time for our jurney home. Would i ever cruise P&O UK again the answer is NO. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
An interesting cruise for less than US$100 per night for 34 nights (obstructed view cabin). Ft. Lauderdale-Panama Canal-Limon (Puerto Rico)-Guajaquil (Ecuador) - Lima (Peru) - Easter Island (Chile) - Pitcairn (British) - Papeete (Tahiti) - ... Read More
An interesting cruise for less than US$100 per night for 34 nights (obstructed view cabin). Ft. Lauderdale-Panama Canal-Limon (Puerto Rico)-Guajaquil (Ecuador) - Lima (Peru) - Easter Island (Chile) - Pitcairn (British) - Papeete (Tahiti) - Auckland (N.Z.) - Burnie (Tasmania) - Sydney (Australia). Taxi from Fort Lauderdale airport to ship is US$20. The only problem is the free shuttle dumps you at a different terminal to yours. A clean ship built for 700 pax. max. and because of the low number of passengers on board a friendly atmosphere develops and one gets to know the different nationalities and passengers meet on the same tables in the restaurants and get to know one another. The itinerary mentions equator and dateline crossings, which hides the fact of many days at sea and which are not really destinations but at least the King Neptune party breaks up the days at sea. Pitcairn was not a destination but was truthfully advertised as a cruise past and islanders came on board to sell honey, souvenirs and stamps and one could meet relatives of the mutineer Fletcher Christian. But what nearly led to mutiny amongst the passengers was the disaster of not getting off the ship at the mysterious Easter Islands. This led to far too many days at sea between Lima and Papeete (Tahiti). One must assume many bookings on this Pacific Princess world cruise were due to the magic that Easter Island evokes. But it is a fact that only one in four ships can berth due to swell (Source: National Geographic) and had that fact been made available in the Princess literature, then passengers would have been more understanding of the possibility of disappointment. A suggestion would be to nominate an alternative, like Bora Bora to break the many sea days. Those of us craning our necks to see the Moais (stone statues) of Easter Island at the railings on deck 9 also missed the commentary from the bridge, which apparently pointed out the locations and names of the various platforms (Ahus). As compensation the ship steamed around the island. There must have been communication problems with the outside speakers close to the railings. And to add salt to the wounds we all missed out on the Tapati Rapa Nui festival, which lasts for 14 days on the island at the beginning of February when we were there. If one does not mind non-working air-conditioning and older busses, then independent travel can make the excursion costs drop by half compared to what Princess charges and shuttle busses from Princess from the ship sometimes drop passengers off nowhere near tourist bureaus, where further excursions can be booked. The entertainment on Pacific Princess was commendable, the library well-stocked, the staff courteous and helpful, cooking and dancing classes, trivia challenges, films, lectures by experts, like the talk about the Concorde by a retired Concorde pilot Captain Les Evans filled the sea days. Every interest is catered for and Christian and Jewish mass is conducted. The food was simply overwhelming in its variety, especially during Sunday brunch at sea. Prepared by internationally well-known chefs the food included all known sea foods plus escargot, pheasant, etc. and international themes ensured every nationality did not have to miss out on their favourite foods. The patisserie section with its specialities like Sacher Torte and Linzer Torte was just too tempting. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
We originally booked to go to Buenos Aires on Adonia but felt that the ship had limited facilities/entertainment so we transferred our booking to Arcadia but now including Chile & the Pacific Islands to Australia. We are first time ... Read More
We originally booked to go to Buenos Aires on Adonia but felt that the ship had limited facilities/entertainment so we transferred our booking to Arcadia but now including Chile & the Pacific Islands to Australia. We are first time cruisers & knew that we were taking a risk but we saw it as a romantic adventure travelling with a well established company, P & O Cruises. Our first disappointment was the cancellation of the visits to all the Argentine ports. We were not able to pull out without losing our deposit but our primary reason for going had been removed from the schedule. The 4 days missed were replaced with one day in Salvadore & an extra day in Montevideo - hardly a generous substitution. When we embarked at Southampton there were long delays in the process and we took 2 hours to get on board. Our cabin was quite adequate, but what a tiny TV screen and the bedside lights were archaic, placed behind the head. Lets hope that the planned refit sees to some upgrading of the cabin fittings. Our first days were an eye opener. Everyone seemed to have cruised extensively and many had done world cruises several times. They were only too pleased to relay their experiences, but most ended up with a litany of complaints, especially against P & O, which seemed odd as they were returning cruisers. We determined not to moan but to enjoy the good parts. But the cruise turned into a curate's egg - good in some parts but poor in others. The good parts were that the ship was very stable and although we rocked & rolled a bit she comfortable to travel on. The whole vessel was very well maintained and the cabins and public rooms were very clean & cared for. Our cabin girl, Jocelyn was first class. Likewise all the staff were approachable and cheerful - none more so than our waiters in the Meridian who were quick and efficient, cheerful and nothing too much trouble. We found that this extended to all the other service areas. First class gym and amazing Palladium theatre. Very good shows at night and plenty of activities to choose from during the sea days. Good sail away parties and pool events like the crossing of the equator. We felt that the Entertainments Team worked very hard and maintained an incredible cheerfulness in all circumstances! Also some of the more ad hoc shows such as the Arcadia Pantomime and talent show were well recieved. The food was good in the Meridian - not over-facing and the Belvedere self service offered a good choice. The daily Horizon was well produced, informative and always on time. But the down-side starts with the Arcadia cough - well catalogued from previous cruises. In the Palladium theatre the coughing & wheezing had to be heard to be believed. Whilst most of the germs were probably transmitted person to person there has to be a question about the air conditioning. How often are the ducts & filters cleaned? Is this an item that will be followed up on the refit? One boards the ship in good health and disembarks with a barking cough which some 3 weeks later still persists. Someone at a senior level should take responsibility for sorting this out. Perhaps the ship should have a red cross painted on her to designate a hospital ship until the cause is found & rectified! The ports that were missed have already been mentioned, but the turn round & flight from the Falklands was another disappointment. Easter Island was a slow cruise by, too far out to see much. The excursions were well planned and executed, but there was always the time pressure to get back before the ship was due to sail. The internet facilities and cost were not appreciated. Often very poor connections (we were advised to use our Notebook in our cabin with the door open to get better reception), and from time to time the ship left the cover of one satellite before coming to another. We needed to stay in touch with family & business in the UK throughout the cruise but were often frustrated. The exodus of passengers and staff to use the WiFi facilities at the ports was noticeable and this was sometimes free or charged at modest rates. As the majority of passengers nowadays have laptops, notebooks, Ipads etc could not the internet facilities be charged in the ticket price? Most good hotels provide WiFi foc nowadays. And will a better internet facility be installed at the refit? Overall we enjoyed the cruise but there are so many frustrations not least all the queuing and short tempers that then ensued. For a first timer it was an experience. We are glad that we did it and we saw the periphery of South America & some South Pacific Islands that we would never have seen otherwise. Would we do it again? I am afraid not because we found that we lost our independence. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
Assuredly a very damning summary - but we disembarked from Arcadia on the completion of this voyage very disappointed at what we had endured for so long. We are not new to cruising, nor are we new to Grand Voyages - but this was our first ... Read More
Assuredly a very damning summary - but we disembarked from Arcadia on the completion of this voyage very disappointed at what we had endured for so long. We are not new to cruising, nor are we new to Grand Voyages - but this was our first experience of Arcadia and of P&O -and it will certainly be our last. Anyone who has booked, or is contemplating booking a 'Grand Voyage' cruise on P&O's Arcadia should very seriously think again. The Cruise : The first half of the cruise from Southampton to Sydney was a nightmare - by the time the ship reached Sydney the morale of the passengers was such that as well as the 600 plus Australian passengers who were desperately glad to be disembarking, the vast majority of those remaining on board would have joined them if they possibly could. Particular details of all that went wrong can be gleaned from the vast number of adverse reviews and comments already on the Internet relating to how passengers on the Arcadia were treated on this voyage. In short, no-one likes feeling that they have been duped, cheated, short changed, commercially exploited and are being treated with dismissive contempt. Moreover, the dismissive contempt continued once back on dry land. Communications with P&O regarding their gross negligence in NOT complying with their own 'Booking Conditions' were replied to 'cut and paste' responses consisting of sequences of platitudes and gibberish totally unrelated to the issues raised IF P&O had fulfilled its contractual obligations and the ship's management had treated passengers as if they were on a Cruise Liner rather than as interlopers on a Cargo Vessel - would we have enjoyed the cruise ? - Definitely not - and here are some of the reasons why : The 'Grand Voyage' : The Arcadia carries well over 2000 passengers - and at any one time 75-80% are on board for only one or occasionally two sectors of the 'Grand Voyage' Arcadia is one of the newer breed of 'Vegas' resort ships designed to provide the mass market with relatively short 'fun' cruises with lots of alcohol,gambling, mindless loud music and very dim lighting in all public areas from 1800hrs onwards, holiday camp/end of pier quality entertainment and singalongs coupled with the provision to gorge for 24hrs a day on mass produced,low quality meals typical of a works canteen or supermarket cafeteria. The so called 'Grand Voyage' was nothing more than four such 'fun' cruises (sectors) strung together. When the first sector was complete everything (menus, entertainment, lecture topics, films etc - even the errors and mis-spellings in the daily entertainment guide were for the most part repeated on each following sector. The 'Ship' ; Consistent with the 'resort ship' model large areas of Arcadia are devoted to revenue generating activities in contrast to the minimal space afforded to non-revenue services addressing the interests and comfort of passengers. eg: the small library with cramped seating for 10, the 30 seat 'cinema' and the ridiculous laundries are 'not fit for purpose'. In contrast the casino,totally unoccupied for most of the day has an enormous floor area housing four card tables, two roulette tables and 65 slot machines and boasts a seating capacity for 112 passengers. Public toilets are small in both space and number, are often 'out of order' and very basically equipped. The buffet restaurant has the ambiance of a motorway cafe with formica topped tables,unset for breakfast and lunch - pick up a tray,plate and cutlery, join the long queue to choose your food and then search for a seat !! Again consistent with the 'resort ship' model all vestiges of past elegance and refinement associated with cruising - particularly on Cunard - and to a lesser extent on P&O - have disappeared from Arcadia and been replaced with pretentious nonsense which fools but few. The most glaring examples relate to evening dining in the main restaurant: To gain access one must adhere to the ship's 'dress codes' - Problems occur when the dress code is 'Smart' - interpreted by P&O as meaning 'gentlemen must wear a jacket' - Hence, males wandering around the decks in trainers, baggy trousers and T-shirts can grab a jacket and gain access unchallenged whilst gentlemen elegantly dressed for dinner in tailored trousers,smart shirt and tie are refused entry! Upon gaining entry you will be presented with a menu adorned with dishes described in mouth-watering language with lots of 'juz' and 'drizzles' which bear little relation to what eventually appears from the kitchen. Set plates are augmented by 'silver service' - consisting of never more than potatoes cooked in a different style from those already on the set plate plus one other,usually overcooked and tepid vegetable. On the topic of food, apart from the general low quality of what is provided in the 'set menu' restaurant, prospective passengers should be aware that many items- particularly fruit, salads and cold meats and seafood - displayed in the 'buffet restaurant' are often well past their 'sell by' date - photographs of heaps of sweating, rotten bananas, pears etc are available on request. Also on view in the buffet from 3.00am onward would be tray after tray of pre-cooked fried eggs left to rubberise until being reheated when the restaurant opens!!! I could go on and on but .....!!! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
I have cruised since 2002, previously with Holland America (excellent experience & after Cunard regard them as much better value for money),Princess (very good, would choose them again) & P&O Australia (probably not again - ... Read More
I have cruised since 2002, previously with Holland America (excellent experience & after Cunard regard them as much better value for money),Princess (very good, would choose them again) & P&O Australia (probably not again - well, enough said). Embarked in great expectation, but found as the cruise progressed, pre cruise publicity not very accurate. The disappointments came fro a lot of little things. I will fill you in in 'dot point' fashion. I would probably think hard about going with Cunard again as the value is not there when compared with other cruises I have experienced. * Embarkation & De-embarkation - very smooth & easy (looked like P&O ground crew being used) * Found stateroom quickly (A lot smaller than other ships of same vintage & older) but not cleaned or prepared for 3 of us. * Went to Kings Court for a 'cuppa' ( & experienced our first taste of unhappy crew - sniping at each other) * Dined in Britannia Restaurant that evening (& most evenings), stewards and Maitre D welcomed us - great, but meal was good but not special. Our table stewards' service was excellent but took some time to warm up (again suffering from unhappy crew syndrome, may be because of many & varied cultural backgrounds)I must add that our table steward proved excellent. * Speciality Restaurants were booked out in a very short time after boarding. * Afternoon tea was a disappointment with soggy sandwiches and often stale cakes, &, often cold tea. * Ship ambiance, excellent but looking close at the timber panelling etc. showed how clever people are with the artificial. * Meals followed our first meal experience of being mostly good but not great. * We partook in the formal night activities and enjoyed them (your choice). * Kings Court, the few times we went, the food was pretty ordinary but always quick & easy. * Stage shows typical of cruising, not a lot of variation from other lines shows. * Illuminations would have been OK if special reclining seats were repaired or replaced. * Cunard Enrichment activities were good, informative & worthwhile - Library & Bookshop worth visiting. ( Commodore Rynd was available for book signing one day but I think was overwhelmed with response with many passengers turned away). * It was good not to feel overcrowded - on board passenger/space ratio excellent * Room Service excellent (better than buffet for quality) * Cabin Steward very obliging * reception staff very good. * Overall ship appearance - at just under 10 years old and following previous maintenance & upgrades, the ship is showing some lack of regular/ongoing maintenance (tired looking, bad rust in some areas) * We had 2 tender ports which was good but some new crew had difficulties with tenders (got to learn sometime somewhere I guess). * Entertainment throughout the ship was excellent * Guest entertainers ( mixed quality) * Ports were all good particularly Akaroa and Fiordland - bonus at Milford Sound where Cunard had arrange some publicity shots allowing us extra time in that beautiful place, even maneuvering/navigating within a few metres of a waterfall. * To repeat it was a lot of little things including some unhappy crew that let the ship down. Overall enjoyable cruise to a lovely area but not quite as publicity generated expectations. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the ... Read More
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the passengers from the previous cruise were still disembarking, so HAL decided to treat us to a two-hour bus tour of Sydney while we were waiting. We had a nice tour around town and a stop-over at Bondi Beach. Once back at the Oosterdam, we were shown to our cabins without further ado. We were so pleasantly surprised by our stateroom; it was on the Navigation deck (8079), starboard center, with a gigantic verandah. The room itself was spacious and had ample luggage and storage room. Our two cabin stewards, Indra and Sutarno, were outstanding in every way. We got to know them quite well while on our twenty-seven day journey on the ocean waves. I would describe the Oosterdam as an elegant ship, neither dazzling nor garish. She was more cozy and comfy, with some nice artsy touches. Everything seemed to be spotless, which is, as they say, next to godliness. I noticed the profusion of hand-cleansing dispensers scattered around the ship. This gave me a clear impression that the management was dead serious about stopping the spread of bacteria and viruses through unwashed hands. Good for them! The food in the Lido Lounge was, um, average-to-slightly above-average most days. The best meals in the Lido, I think, were the breakfast omelets, Panini sandwiches, pasta bar, and dessert bar. The entrees could be hit or miss, depending on the day. There was also a little hamburger station at the Lido pool which served great burgers and hot dogs. A "Mexican" station was also set up by the Lido pool, and I hear the best item was the shrimp/guacamole/mandarin salad. We only dined in the Vista Lounge twice, and both times our steaks were as tough as a cadaver. With almost a month on board one gets a good feel for the ship's milieu. The Oosterdam was no exception, as we became settled into a routine on sea days. I know my husband complained a little about there not being much activity on board, and a slight insouciance by the athletic staff to organize sports activities during the day, especially table tennis. It would also be safe to say that there was very little activity for young children or teenagers onboard, as the Oosterdam is geared mostly for mature adults, although, ironically, the adults we spoke to all said that there should be more sports activities around the Lido pool area for adults. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the Oosterdam was the Crow's Nest, a lovely atrium-like area with great views and a nice little library and computer area. Each day the Cruise Director would host a Team Trivia game, and this proved to be a big hit. There was also Happy Hour at the Crow's Next bar and the Queen's Lounge, where passengers could buy their second drink for $1. I won't go into detail about ports visited, except to say that the process was very smooth indeed, even when we had to use the ship's tenders. One memorable occasion was when our tender was halfway between the ship and the Akaroa dock when the engine stopped. We floated for a good fifteen minutes and then, voila, the engines started up again. I'm glad they did, because Akaroa was a beautiful little town in a most picturesque and sheltered bay. There were many highlights of our cruise on the Oosterdam, not the least of which was our good fortune to meet some lovely people from Australia. These folks made our trip so memorable, along with the excellent Oosterdam Captain Arjen Van der Loo and his outstanding crew. All in all, it was a terrific experience and one I won't soon forget. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
If you are staying on Bajah deck be careful of your cabin choice - 2 storms 2 floods in the cabin. Cabin became smelly and hallways were allergy enducing/terrible. The the cabin staff were wonderful trying to dry everything but the smell ... Read More
If you are staying on Bajah deck be careful of your cabin choice - 2 storms 2 floods in the cabin. Cabin became smelly and hallways were allergy enducing/terrible. The the cabin staff were wonderful trying to dry everything but the smell remained as did the fans constantly in your ear. If you have a special diet it takes some working out-if you are like me you just want to be treated like all other passangers, not miss out on anything and not be mad a show of. Well if you want that you have to take the time and explain it to the staff as you will not get it without doing so. The ship itself is getting a little tired but we still managed to enjoy the activities onboard. It was really nice getting to know all of the cruise staff and once there was a change in cruise director half way through thing improved out of sight. A change of chef half way through the cruise and the food improved 100% even the scons were not like hockey pucks. The special lunches were excellent and we even got to meet the chef on a number of occasions. The movies onboard were disgusting and I suggest you take your own on a hard drive and watch on your computer if you can. Live entertainment for the most part was good and some were extra good but too many comedians, most very poor.Espresso Coffee on board cost $30 for a card and is pretty good value but there was only one bar on board that made decent coffee. I really think they need new machines or they need to clean them more often. The staff are supposed to be Baristas but they are not. The Indian Visa was a big issue and not only were we very annoyed by the amount of money for the visa but the total inconvenience of how you get the visa. As it was a port we had no desire to visit Princess needs to look at arrangements for people to stay on board if you dont have a visa. We in fact were told wether we stayed on board or not we had to have the visa or we would not be allowed to board the ship in Sydney. That was a total lie as many people had no visa they boarded the ship and weree allowed to stay onboard in India. Princess would not accept any responsibility for the messup an annoyingly had to be pushed into following up on the problem - nothing was ever resolved despite a partition from passangers onboard. Princess advertised a speedy embarkation for priority passangers/another problem as we waited in line for a very long time. The also so say priority disembarkation we just not so for us we waited 3/4 hour for our luggage to come off the ship after us. People who came off the ship after us go their luggage before us and left whilst we were still waiting. Really just not very good at all. One thing to be aware of is the lack of seating in public areas, my suggestion is to get there very early for any of the big shows or functions or you will stand. Also if it is a Captains Cocktail party stand near where the waiters come out or you may not eat or drink. Princess and customs need to share ideas it took 4 hrs to get through customs in New Your leaving us only a few hours to see the place, it was really bad and we were standing the whole time.   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2014
Arcadia world cruise 2014 Auckland to Southampton We returned to UK from a month touring in NZ by 51 days on Arcadia. This was our first time on P and O and we chose this cruise because of the port calls which seemed to us a wish list of ... Read More
Arcadia world cruise 2014 Auckland to Southampton We returned to UK from a month touring in NZ by 51 days on Arcadia. This was our first time on P and O and we chose this cruise because of the port calls which seemed to us a wish list of many places in the world we wanted to see and we were not disappointed. Sadly, the planned calls to Egypt could not take place because of the security situation; P and O substituted Sallalah in Muscat which was a waste of time as the majority of passengers did not get off the ship, and also Aqaba, which gave us an excursion to Petra and was the high point of the trip. We liked: our cabin (E deck next to midships gangway), the promenade deck, some of the lectures and entertainment, the art tutor, the Captain who is outstandingly good, reception staff, the port presentations, the excursions we took. The entertainments staff worked hard but there is a great reliance on quizzes. Headliners theatre company are very good, but on a long trip you eventually get repeats of the same show. The ship is modern and comfortable but not glitzy. Disembarkation was rapid and efficient. We disliked: the food, quality was very variable. In particular, preparation and cooking of vegetables and selection was poor (‘not peas again’). For vegetarians it was difficult. Meridian restaurant menus became somewhat predictable. Belvedere self service was often over busy and with bizarre choices, some days lots of curries, other days none at all, some days plenty of non meat choices, other days none at all. The beauty salon is over priced and not very good, I had a poor experience myself and heard many unhappy stories from other women passengers. We would have liked: better lecture choices, (there was rather a lot of history of the second world war), an experienced choir leader and I was surprised that the ship does not carry a chaplain. A lot of passengers seemed to be ill towards the end of the cruise. While P and O do have some hygiene procedures in place, they do not enforce rigorously, nor remind people as often as they need to. I think there is specific problem on a world cruise, where new groups of passengers, up to 600 at a time, are embarking for a particular sector, and bring with them a lovely selection of winter infections which they then fail to keep to themselves. Those of us who had been away from the UK since January did not stand a chance. Overall this was a successful cruise which met our expectations but we would probably not travel with P and O again, as we now know that we prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
I boarded Queen Elizabeth in Southampton on December 23rd and spent Christmas and New Year on board before returning to Southampton Jan 6th.2015. I then crossed to Hamburg and back before setting off on my half of the World Cruise Jan ... Read More
I boarded Queen Elizabeth in Southampton on December 23rd and spent Christmas and New Year on board before returning to Southampton Jan 6th.2015. I then crossed to Hamburg and back before setting off on my half of the World Cruise Jan 10th., finally disembarking in Auckland on Feb 27th. Having enjoyed over 40 cruises to date, reaching Diamond Tier on both Seabourn and Cunard, I feel more than qualified to give a frank and fair review of my own experiences of the Queen Elizabeth My first cruise on the ship was in April 2014 from Dubai to Southampton and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. However, I did decide that April that my next trip would be in a Club Class cabin in order that I would dine in the splendid and comfortable surroundings of the elegant Club Restaurant. There I recently enjoyed over 2 months of wonderful service. The Maitre'd Tetiana was first class. Elegant, attentive and charming. As were my server Lhea and Sommelier Miroslav. 3 top professionals who all went to great lengths to ensure that my every wish was catered for. On the first night, I requested bread sticks.These were brought immediately and presented on my table every night without further reminders. Miroslav's knowledge of wines, plus him charm and humour were exemplary and between us I explored a wonderful wine selection throughout my cruise. Personally, I found the Eastern European staff to be mainly very good. Of course, some are better than others and this applies to ALL nationalities, but '' you'll never please.............'' Due to the high number of cruises I have enjoyed on Seabourn, one of the world's top lines I am aware that standards are higher on that line. However, cost for cost, I find Cunard better value £ for £ I am booked again on the Elizabeth for 7 weeks starting November 18th and very much looking forward to embarkation. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Probably the best ship in P&O's fleet, having sailed on her, around the world and elsewhere, several times since 2007. Sadly her recent refit has removed one of her most loved features - The Bordeaux Restaurant, and replaced it ... Read More
Probably the best ship in P&O's fleet, having sailed on her, around the world and elsewhere, several times since 2007. Sadly her recent refit has removed one of her most loved features - The Bordeaux Restaurant, and replaced it with The Glasshouse which was noticably deserted for most of our cruise. Her well stocked Library is now crammed into the Cyber Cafe (dont think of sitting there quietly with a good book). The Sindhu restaurant has replaced the Library - OK for those who want a particular style of Indian food. Clealy the new features are centered around profit generation, but I doubt they will realise significant revenue as they are not in keeping with the British style of cruising. The change from the Pennant Grill to the Beach House does offer an alternative dining experience on the back of deck 12 which is recommended in the warmer climbs, possibly not so appealing on the Atlantic routes. The newly installed bulkhead which now divides the Vanderbilt room to provide a kitchen for the Sindhu restaurant lacks the original build quality, evidenced by the creaking whenever the ship gets into a lively sea - something which both Aurora and Oriana have not suffered previously. The multi million pound refit could have benifitted from removing the flaking paint and rust which is particularly evident around Deck 7 and elsewhere. On a more positive note Aurora still rides very well in rough seas - Coming through the Tasmin Sea in a Force 11 she remained very stable - so if your sea legs are not the greatest, this is the ship to choose. Read Less

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