24 Barcelona Gourmet Food Cruise Reviews

We did the Norwegian Epic cruise out of Barcelona, Spain on July 14 - July 21, 2019. To be honest, I was very apprehensive about the cruise after reading so many negative reviews on cruise critic BUT it was WONDERFUL!!! In fact, I joined ... Read More
We did the Norwegian Epic cruise out of Barcelona, Spain on July 14 - July 21, 2019. To be honest, I was very apprehensive about the cruise after reading so many negative reviews on cruise critic BUT it was WONDERFUL!!! In fact, I joined cruise critics roll call and was able to gain a lot of insight from other travelers on what to do and things that others had learned. We are avid cruisers and Disney is one of our favorite cruise lines but we decided to do Norwegian because of the price. I will attempt to give an overview. We boarded in Barcelona. We took a cab from the airport to the port. It was a fixed price of 36 or 39 euros. Check in was so smooth and fast! I did the on-line check in prior to us leaving and it was one of the fastest check-ins that I have experienced. The ship was very well maintained. I did not see dirty or stained areas. We were on floor 8 in a balcony cabin. I did not care for the lay out of the room but we only got ready and slept in the room. There were 3 of us in our cabin. I did not like the frosted shower-like doors for the toilet area but we lived with it. Once again, we just got ready and slept in the room. The dining was amazing. We had 3 free specialty dinings (for the first 2 of us) and we paid for my daughter. We ate at La Cucina, Le Bistro, and Cagney's. The food and service was superb. This was our first time to ever do any extra charge restaurants because I think you already have so much on a cruise, but since it was free, we tried it. I will say we loved it!! You felt so special, at ease and relaxed and knew you had one-on-one service. BUT, there free dining is also amazing. There is such a variety of foods. The buffet had a different them each night. (Mexican, Mediterranean, Grilled, Italian and I don't remember the others.) Also, there was a person making fresh, made to order crepes at the buffet. That may have been all nights but I used it Tuesday - Thursday for sure. Everyone in the dining rooms and dining areas were very attentive. The dining rooms and buffet areas were beautiful. They all had windows where you could look out and view the water. The front dining room at The Garden Cafe buffet was beautiful and all windows. LOVELY VIEWS!! The food reminded me of when we first started cruising 20+ years ago and that was what you looked forward to. I cannot give an honest opinion of the activities because we were off the ship each day in port and by the time we came back, got ready, and ate, we were ready to crash for the night. We did go to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but left. I knew it would have drag queens but there were too many other things that I felt were inappropriate and were not for me nor my family. We did see a comedian and he was funny but they really needed to use a larger venue because we were packed into one of the areas and there was standing room only. We missed Burn the Floor and we choose not to do Cirque Dreams because we did not want to pay for a show. We saw the Beatles Mania show and it was enjoyable. Our cabin steward was very nice and always checking on us. He checked with us each day to see if everything was OK and if there was anything that we needed. I did want extra blankets and when we got back to the room, they were on our bed. Everyone on the ship, from guest services to the gift shops, seemed pleasant and friendly. I know some people asked about laundry and ironing of clothes. They have a laundry service on the boat but of course it is high. On Wednesday, there was a flyer in the room that advertised that you could fill a bag with clothes and they would be washed and returned to you by Friday. The cost was $19.95. We did fill a bag with our underclothes and tshirts and they were washed and back in the room by Friday evening--all for $19.95 You do have to write the special or promotion on the bag of laundry in order to receive it. I will try to give a run down of what we did each day. We did not book any excursions through Norwegian. We used outside tour companies that were less expensive and fewer people. I gave them a poor on shore excursions because of the prices. I learned this a few years ago when we did a cruise around the Greek Isles. Day 1, we embarked on Sunday in Barcelona and Day 2, Monday was a day at sea. Thank goodness for that!! We were exhausted after our flight from the US. We slept in and just roamed around a little on Monday. Every other day, you are at a port. The day of rest helped us--- I don't know if I could have gotten on in Civitavecchia and then had to do ports with no rest, if I could have made it! Day 3 - Tuesday was Naples Italy. We used Italy Tours and booked Pompeii, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. There were 14 people in our van and it was wonderful. Our driver met us at the port, we loaded into the van and started our tour. We got back to Naples about 1 1/2 hours before we had to be on board, so there was time to go into Naples if you wanted. Day 4 - Civitavecchia (Rome)--We did not book a tour because we visited Rome for several days in 2016 so we did our own thing. We got off the ship and there were many people at the port where you could book tours or take a bus to Rome. We got on one of the Smart Tours buses and once the bus was full, they brought you to Rome. You were dropped off at a point near the Vatican and then they gave you a time to be back and the bus picked you back up at the same spot and brought you back to Civitavecchia to board the ship. The cost was 23 or 25 euros per person and you had to pay cash. They did not accept credit cards. When we got on the bus, it was almost full so we only had to sit about 15 minutes before leaving. From what I heard, some people sat on the bus almost 1 hour waiting for others to get off the ship and board. You may want to keep that in mind. Italy Tours had some small group tours for Rome but since we had spent several days here a few years ago, we just walked and revisited some of our favorite things and took our own tour. :) We stayed far away from the Vatican that day because it was Wednesday and the Pope was doing mass so it was VERY CROWDED. Make sure to get gelato. This will help cool you off and Rome gelato is so very good. Day 5 - Livorno - We did a small group tour with Italy Tours. There were 7 of us in our group plus the driver. We did the tour called the Best of Florence and Pisa. Our driver met us at the small port (it was very easy to find him) and we went to Pisa first and then to Florence. We got to Pisa by 8:15 and the first group allowed to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not until 9:00 so we were able to get our tickets and be in the first group to climb the tower. Walking and viewing the grounds was great! It was a highlight for us to be able to climb to the top of the tower. After doing this, I would suggest being in the beginning groups. The lines get longer as the day goes on and it gets HOTTER!! Also, you could not bring any bags in the tower. You had to lock purses and backpacks up in a secure area before climbing the tower. We then went to Florence and met up with a guide and were put with some other group for this guide. Florence was beautiful and even with the other group, we were still only 15 and our guide. Our tour company offered to add the skip the line tickets, which we purchased, and went to the academia to see the original David. The additional group of people that we joined up with in Florence did have an elderly lady who had trouble walking and keeping up and those persons eventually left the tour and said they would go on their own. Florence is an amazing city--the bridge with the shops on it is just amazing. Day 6 - Cannes - We did not do a tour with an outside company (but if you start early enough, you should be able to). You have to tender into Cannes. Make sure to book your tender early and don't waste 1/2 day on the ship waiting to catch a tender to get off. Once in Cannes, we went to Monaco. You can take a train from Cannes to Monaco and it is about a 50 minute ride. If you decide to do this on your own, here are a few tips that we learned the hard way! :) To get to the train station, once you walk out of the port area and get to the main road, take a right. When you get to the Cannes tourism office (it is a big mirrored building on the right), take a left onto the street that is across from the tourism office. You will walk several blocks down that road and then you will see the train/bus station. If in doubt, ASK. Once inside, DO NOT try to use the kiosk to buy your own tickets. Go in the station and go to the ticket office to the left (it is inside more glass doors and it has a working AC). Once inside, pull a number ticket and wait for your number to come up and then ask the agent to help you buy a ticket to Monaco. It was 36 euros for all 3 of us. BEFORE you board the train to Monaco/Nice, make sure you find the yellow VALIDATION machine and validate your ticket. I think you get in major trouble if you do not validate your ticket before boarding. If you don't see a machine, ask someone where to validate the ticket and they will show you. Take the train to Monaco and then follow the signs (brown, historical) to the palace. There are lots of things to see and quaint little shops near that area. We did not go to the casino but that is also available. When you are ready to leave Monaco, you can get off the train in Nice on the way back to Cannes and do some wandering there. We did not do this because we lost time trying to find the train station and getting the wrong kind of ticket and having to switch out. If you have plenty of time, others say this is wonderful to do. We spent all of our time looking around Monaco and then we were having to sprint to make it back to the ship!! Day 7 - Palma De Mallorca - To be honest, when we booked this trip, I had never even heard of this place. I was thinking in my mind that we would probably be so tired from our other tours and adventures, we could just stay on the ship. DON'T STAY ON THE SHIP!!! This place is beautiful. It is the largest island in all of Spain. Once again, we did not book any tour. There are shuttle buses that take you from the port to the town center. BOOK YOUR SHUTTLE RIDE BEFORE SATURDAY MORNING. The shuttle ride from the ship to town is $15 per person. Book your shuttle Thursday night or Friday. If not, you will spend a long time in line on Saturday morning to buy a shuttle ticket. For those who do book their shuttle ticket prior to Saturday morning--when you get off the ship and you see a LONG line of people that look like they are waiting to get on a shuttle, do not go to the end of the line and get in line. These are the people who are waiting to purchase their shuttle ride. Let someone know that you already purchased your shuttle ticket, and they will tell you to go straight to the shuttle bus. Meaning, you will by-pass this long line of people who did not pre-purchase. Once you ride the shuttle, it will bring you into town near the church. There is a hop-on hop off bus tour you can buy here that will bring you around the entire island. I think the HOHO bus tour was 18 euros per person. This island has many sights to see and some amazing shopping. It is beautiful and I think it would be a great place to visit on a future vacation. Once again, this was an AMAZING CRUISE, with amazing food and ports of call. For all of those who are concerned because of the negative reviews, my advice would be to ignore them and go expecting a great time and have an awesome vacation. We loved it and will definitely be trying more Norwegian cruises. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
NORWEGIAN EPIC REVIEW Some background on me to begin. I’m a 32 year old male bachelor. Norwegian Epic was my 17th cruise overall, and the 2nd that I’ve taken with NCL. Others include 9 with Celebrity, 5 with MSC, and 1 with ... Read More
NORWEGIAN EPIC REVIEW Some background on me to begin. I’m a 32 year old male bachelor. Norwegian Epic was my 17th cruise overall, and the 2nd that I’ve taken with NCL. Others include 9 with Celebrity, 5 with MSC, and 1 with Carnival. Like many of my cruises, I sailed with my 76 yr old father who has some health issues. —And although, it’s a cruise to spend some father/son time together as we live in different states, he usually goes to bed quite early, and I enjoy the night life well into the wee hours of the morning… So, inevitably It ends up becoming a “singles” cruise for me. Before I describe the ship and everything else about this amazing cruise, I think it’s important to point out a Difference with Norwegian as I see them.... First off, this is not going to be a doom and gloom review... As I do view this cruise, and ship very favorably.... But I’ll start out with a fundamental disagreement that I have overall with NCL. As Compared to the other lines that I’ve sailed with....(Twice now with NCL), they are the Kings and Queens of overly casual. Very few people dress up. I guess that I’m a rare traditionalist millennial when it comes to this opinion....I wear a sport coat often to work, and that’s in south Louisiana where it’s needless to say, quite warm for most of the year. I also, as a bachelor enjoy when women take the time dress up. Cruising is the last romantic way to vacation. There’s something about going to sleep at 2AM with a bottle in your hand in the middle of a beautiful ocean and awaking in an exotic location somewhere in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. Buuuuttt, in a nutshell, I guess that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “Freestyle Cruising”. —It’s not so much the dress attire that turns me off, it’s the fact that very little if anything is structured at all. For instance, virtually every other cruise line particularly my 2 favorites (Celebrity and MSC) have two main entrainment shows per night. —You organize your dinners(whether it’s a specialty restaurant, or one of the main dinning rooms around whichever show that you choose to attend.) —It’s a real simplistic way to cruise. There’s no overthinking it...It comes a little more natural. Freestyle cruising is more like trying to decide most of your shows, dinners, and evening hour activities on the first day of the cruise or even pre-cruise. Nothing is actually “freestyle” about it... You’re forced to decide your show times, or speciality restaurant times or even dinning room times in some cases by the end of the first evening unless you want your dinner at 11pm. I get what Norwegian is trying to do with freestyle cruising. —I understand that they want to give passengers options...And I truly see why they’ve had so much success doing this... **But I also see why other lines have been reluctant to head in their direction. And I get it now. ON TO THE POSITIVES: The EPIC might be the perfect cruise ship for the Mediterranean. It’s not quite Norwegian’s best or biggest ship. As I thought that the ESCAPE(which I sailed in 2017 was nicer and much more updated and had better social gathering points and creature comforts and cabins). But it has all of the things that modern cruisers want(including me). Plus your itinerary, and getting to see some of the cradles’ of civilization(especially those in Europe) is something to greatly credit. Although the ship holds over 4000 passengers, you rarely ever feel crowded. That’s a small advantage to a ship that was built 10 years ago, as opposed to some of the newer ships that are only a few years old that I’ve taken recently. The ship was also refitted 5 years ago... So you hardly notice any wear and tear at all. The ship also flows very well. Unlike some of the newest ships, there’s very few instances to where you can’t walk from one end of a deck to the other. —It really helps with getting around. EMBARKATION: A+ If you’re reading this about to take a Mediterranean cruise out of Barcelona or Civitavecchia, do yourself a favor and opt-in on the transfer from the airport to the cruise port. —You can do this directly on the NCL website. Well worth the $50(round trip) per person. So $100 total for two people. We were sailing out of Barcelona and took the transfer charter bus from the Barcelona Airport to the cruise port(which took around 20-25 mins or so with traffic). —It’s only about 10 miles apart. It really is the easiest route to go. The cruise port check-in was a breeze. Maybe 20-25 mins from entering the port to stepping on the ship. Barcelona only has 3 cruise ships on a Sunday, so it doesn’t seem to back up with people quite as much as Miami, or Lauderdale. Also, we arrived pretty early at the port as our flight was a red-eye into Barcelona. (We were on one of the first transfer buses from the airport to cruise port)....And credit to Norwegian for allowing you into your stateroom by noon. It was great to set down cary-on bags and get a view of the stateroom before exploring the ship. THE SHIP ITSELF OVERALL: A- I found the ship pretty easily navigable. My advice would be to take the time to really explore the ship on the first day, and you should be pretty good to go by day two. I tend to explore any ship that I sail as much as I can on the first day and make it a point to have a drink at every bar. —That usually gets you around pretty well ;) My advice, if you’re sailing the Mediterranean, and flying in that day from the U.S., make sure to do a little exploring around the ship before you pass out for your cat nap before the vacation begins. STARTING FROM THE TOP The Pool Deck(s): A+ The Pool Deck is spacious, and really has A TON of deck chairs that they’ve found every nook and cranny to put in. Like most cruises, deck chairs fill up quickly with towel clips, bags, and magazines holding chairs for sometimes hours before they’re actually occupied. But, I legitimately found very little overcrowding on any of the pool decks(including the actual pool deck 15). There was always available lounge chairs at any time of day(including sea days). Like the majority of newer NCL ships, slides and kiddo pool areas take up a large portion of the deck, but they really weren’t a nuisance(even if you’re looking for less kids and more relaxation).... If somehow the slides or kid areas near the main pool do bother you, EPIC smartly made “Spice H20” which is a smaller pool deck towards the back of the ship also on deck 15. —It’s an adult only pool. But I seriously found plenty of relaxing areas in the main pool area. Spice H2O also has several nighttime parties throughout the cruise. There’s also a Pool deck up high(even if you’re not a Haven passenger) on Deck 18. You access this via the main pool deck right near the outdoor part of the Buffett. Not much on 18 except deck chairs. The Bars/Lounges/Clubs: A- EPIC really does have a solid variety of bars to satisfy most tastes. I really enjoyed “Shakers Martini Bar” as the best overall bar itself. VERY VERY good drinks. It’s also near several of the speciality restaurants on Deck 7, and is right above the casino and near the theater. “Shakers” also has several pianists who play sing along music in a subtle non-annoying way. My other favorite drinking spot on the ship was “Bliss Ultra Lounge”. It typically starts off in the evening as a karaoke bar, and transcends later in the night to a full night club. Trust me, if you’re young and single, this is most likely where you’ll find your cruise romance lol. There were other honorable mention bars as well. The main pool deck bar(name escapes me as I write) is one of the largest pool deck bars at sea. Although it’s probably one of the most crowded on the ship, again you rarely have to wait more than a min or two before your drink order is taken. Also, if you’re a big craft beer person, O’Sheeans Irish Pub is very popular. O’Sheeans also has bar food like wings, cheese sticks ETC... Casino, Shops, and General Areas B+  As it’s well published, NCL EPIC has one of, if not THE largest casinos at sea. It seems to go on over half of the entire Deck 6. Stretching from Manhattan Main Dinning Restaurant(rear of the ship) all the way to O’Sheeans Irish Pub(which is mid-to-forward of the ship) If you like the tables, slots, or simply watching the action like me, It’s truly a massive entertainment center of the ship. If you’re a player, this is YOUR SHIP. SHOPS: Some of you might not care much about the shopping of the ship considering the destinations within your itinerary. I found the shops decent. (Not great/not bad)… The best store in terms of variety on the ship is the cosmetics and fragrance store(don’t remember the name). The watch store also has a pretty good variety. Other than that, nothing really comes to mind. Seems to have fewer shops and duty free alcohol stores or much smaller than ships equal of Epic’s size. —Not a big deal as like me, I’m sure very few of you choose a ship for the shopping. GENERAL AREAS: The general areas on Epic are pretty good minus one glaring exception…The vast majority of newer ships have main promenades(which serve as the central gathering points of the interior of the ship). —You’ll typically have bars, a dance floor, restaurants nearby, and a view of either 3 or 4 decks at one time. --Those of you who like Celebrity know that that area of the boat is near the martini bar on Solstice Class ships, and the Edge. Those who like MSC know that that area is around the Swarovski Staircases. NCL EPIC doesn’t seem to know where to send people in the interior, and it almost spreads people out too thin, limiting the action and interaction between passengers. Again, seeming to cater to the “Freestyle” cruising idea. In other words, “you choose wherever you wanna go”....Even Norwegian’s newer ships like the ESCAPE do a better job having a true main promenade. Again, some of you might roll your eyes at that, or think that I’m knit-picking on that one. But, if you cruise often like me, and aren’t necessarily entirely loyal to one line, you might get what I’m trying to say. The interior of the ship is very very nice though with lot’s of variety. No complaints at all about the condition of the ship, or the décor. All very nice! –I’m sure that this was improved during the refitting in 2014-2015. THE FAMED AND CONTROVERSIAL EPIC STATEROOM LAYOUT DEBATE: B+ Like pretty much all cruise ship cabins, it was small and served it’s purpose. Like I said earlier, I am a 32 year old bachelor... and although I always get a balcony room on any ship that I sail on, I can’t tell you that I ever spend much time in my state room other than to sleep and get dressed. But, for what it’s worth, the state room was very nice, and modern. You are on a cruise ship to have a good time, and be around other people, and get some sun. —You can’t do any of those things by staying in your room. One huge plus is the closet/drawer space. —Amazing for your sized stateroom. On to the big debate about the bathroom lol... I’m sure that most of you have read the controversy over the bathroom set up. There is no doubt that many others have nailed the fact that it is definitely unconventional....The toilet is on one side of the entrance of the stateroom with a sliding fogged glass door for privacy. And the shower is virtually a twin copy of that on the other side. Then, the sink is just outside of the shower openly in the stateroom. —I really think people overly pan this situation unfairly. —It’s really not that bad. One big argument to play the devils advocate for those hatters of this situation is that if you’re a married couple, one spouse can shower while the other is using the sink to get ready without being on top of each other like you’d be in a regular cruise bathroom. Also throw a kid into the room with that couple, and it’s logical and realistic that a wife can be doing her makeup at the sink, the husband is showering, and the kid can still use the bathroom all at the same time without stepping on each other. What other conventional stateroom can you do that in??? It’s really NOT THAT BAD. Buuuuutttt, strange layout nonetheless. THE PASSENGERS AND CREW: A+ This cruise had a very fun crowd! I was absolutely shocked at how many millennials and Gen-“X”ers were on this cruise considering the expense for American’s to take a Mediterranean cruise, and the added costs associated with traveling to get to Europe in the first place. But, there were many young professionals on the ship. Norwegian seems to do a great job at attracting younger passengers without stooping to the spring break Carnival college kid crowd. Although there were lots of younger people on the ship, NOT ONE AGE GROUP seemed to dominate the masses. One of the most balanced cruise crowds that I’ve ever seen. I was shocked at how balanced the crowd was. Also, tons of single millennials on the ship to hang out/flirt with. I’m not saying that I was necessarily looking for a “target rich” environment… But It certainly makes things more interesting if you catch my drift haha. ***Although, I have no data to back up my numbers…. I would guess that the age of passengers on the ship was: 30% Gen X, 25 % Millennials, 20% Baby Boomers, 15% Seniors, 10% Gen Z/Children Nationalities on board were: 45% of passengers were American, 40% European, 10% Latin-American, 5% from other parts of the world. Crew: I cannot say enough great things about the EPIC staff! These people, no matter whether they’re a stateroom attendant, buffet bus person, or an officer were simply perfect. They’ve mastered the art of service. I would give you specific examples, but we’d be here all day. One thing that I’ll point out was the bartenders were great! All were friendly, fast, and after a few days would remember your drink. —Truly remarkable for thousands of people circulating in and out week after week. SPECIALITY RESTAURANTS, MAIN DINING ROOMS, AND BUFFET My father and I ate at 5 of the 7 speciality restaurants on board. This isn’t super typical of everyone who adds speciality dinning to their cruise, as most people will eat at between 2 or 3 restaurants. In no particular order, opinions/grades on the 5 that we ate at: * Le Bistro (French) B+ The food at Le Bistro was pretty good. Not great. I heard several others sitting around us that they were really enjoying the cuisine but there’s a huge caveat for me with the fact that I’m from Louisiana and live in New Orleans. Please understand that I have access to some of the best French food available in the US on a daily basis. * La Cucina (Italian) A+ The food at La Cucina was excellent! Great starter salads, beautiful charcuterie board/antipasto and ton’s of Italian favorites. I had the veal and it was excellent! * Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant B- The meal was decent. But Not nearly the best Chinese food that I’ve had at sea. Much better Chinese on Celebrity Equinox....Called “Silk Harvest”. Their biggest problem is that they are missing some of the American favorites of Chinese. No General Tso Chicken and many other thing’s that Americans would expect from a Chinese restaurant. * Cagney’s Steakhouse D+ Unfortunately one of the worst meals that I’ve ever had at sea. I ordered my ribeye “medium”, and it came out still mooing. Also, the ribeye was 50% fat. I love ribeyes and cook steak often at home, and understand that that cut of meat will have extra marbling, but this was absurd. My father ordered his steak medium-well, and it came like a piece of leather. We both ended up just eating our salads and sides(which were fair at best), and cast aside the steaks. —The staff tried to make it right though. (Plain and simple, Cagney’s just sucks. Tried it on the NCL Escape as well, and thought the exact same thing). —You’d think a steakhouse would be one of the easiest to operate. * Teppanyaki (Japanese hibachi) A+ This was the second best meal that we had behind La Cucina. The food was excellent, as was the enjoyment of the hibachi experience. And the hibachi chef’s were entertaining and hilarious. The food was excellent. Great variety of Steak, chicken, shrimp, muscles, veggies, and rice. ***As you can see from above, 4 of the 5 were good, with 2 being great. Very disappointed in Cagneys on both the Escape and the Epic. MAIN DINNING ROOMS: A+ There are two main dinning rooms on EPIC. “Manhattan” and “Taste”. Manhattan is a little dressier with a little bit more formal setting. Whereas Taste is a little more laid back with more of a traditional menu. We only ate at Manhattan once, and both really liked it. —Very similar menus and atmosphere to other comparable ships. BUFFET: A+ Good choices for breakfast and lots of variety. Pretty typical for a mega ship buffet, but added variety. They seem to a little better job on breakfast than other lines (particularly with omelette stations)... They have omelette stations and other quick to order stations all over to try and get it to you fast. Although we only ate lunch once at the buffet, again there was a good variety of American favorites and various salad bars, and other ethnic cuisine. One thing that we loved was the burger/grilled items outside near the pool deck. Easy to grab lunch and to get back to your deck chair. ENTERTAINMENT: B+ If you remember my opening, you know that I don’t particularly care for “freestyle cruising” because of having to schedule everything so early... Nothing is more prevalent of that than the main theater shows on EPIC. THE SHOWS: “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Burn the Floor," are the Two main headliner shows in the theater. Both were entertaining and high energy. Really liked “Burn The Floor”. Drag isn’t necessarily my thing, but still thought Priscilla was hilarious. Unlike most cruise lines, I do give NCL a lot of credit for their (what I call) “sub-shows”. —Which are smaller venues with comedians, or other shows within smaller venues around the ship. The best show on the ship hands down was called “Cirque Dreams Epicurean” Held in the “Spiegel Tent”. —Which a smaller dinner theater near the main theater. Given the small theater and the rapid changing of the various stages, you feel like the actors and acrobats are right on top of you! It’s interactive as well! There is a charge for this show as they serve dinner as well. It was about the price of a specialty restaurant. Book early! The shows fill up rapidly and were sold out for most of the cruise. Another “sub-show” was “Howl At The Moon” located in Headliners Comedy Club —Free and open to anyone, three musicians play various instruments and take requests from the audience for hours... They were AWESOME! Plus, you can come and go as you please. They typically play for about 4 hours. 8-11PM is clean in case kids are there. After 11PM is uncensored(which is more enjoyable) Speaking of Comedy....One MASSIVE negative which robbed my ENTERTAINMENT GRADE OF BEING AN “A” was no comedy show at all! —Not Even in the comedy club! —I’m not sure if this was just for this cruise, or whether NCL plans on ceasing comedy shows or what the deal was??? MISCELLANEOUS POSITIVES: -I found a lot less nickel & diming on EPIC. -One of the biggest varieties of speciality dinning, along with free speciality dinning options. -The ship really does well with excursions which is important when you’re in Europe given the language differences. -NCL Might have the best premium drink package on earth! Way less expensive than Celebrity and MSC, and you can order virtually anything. They also don’t “drink count” as I call it. In other words, if I ordered two drinks at a time, I didn’t need two cruise cards. They just did it(Believe me my friends, that is rare) MISCELLANEOUS NEGATIVES: -The WiFi was the worst I’ve ever had at sea. Mind you that both my father and I bought the premium unlimited packages on that. Had to constantly re-boot and try for sometimes 7 to 8 times to just to sign on. I get it, I was on vacation and some of you will say that I should’ve unplugged. But, I’m in management with a media company and have to check my email once a day during weekdays for emergencies even when on vacation. -No free bottled water. —Seriously. With a premium drink package, you can order all the Patron, Grey Goose, or Johnny Walker Blue Label you want, BUT NOT bottled water unless you want to pay out of pocket. Otherwise, you get a glass of tap water. Never seen that on 17 cruises except this. IN CLOSING: This cruise was amazing because of the three main factors. 1.) The itinerary, 2.) the people on the ship 3.) the crew. Yes, the ship is nice. But you’d be dazzled by some of the newer ships that other lines have come out with recently. I give the overall grade of B+ to the entire cruise. Inconsistencies in the food, the WiFi, freestyle cruising and a few lesser things narrowly cost EPIC an “A”. —Still a great cruise. Cheers to you on your next voyage! -Matthew from New Orleans, Louisiana Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We chose this cruise because we had not been to Spain (except for Barcelona which we love), Lisbon or Porto, Gibralter or Morocco. The ports of call and shore excursions were fantastic. We saw many beautiful sights and learned a lot. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had not been to Spain (except for Barcelona which we love), Lisbon or Porto, Gibralter or Morocco. The ports of call and shore excursions were fantastic. We saw many beautiful sights and learned a lot. The ship itself was truly wonderful. The captain and officers were friendly and affable (not to mention very competent), the Executive Chef talented and sooooo personable, the Cruise Director (Handre) phenomenal and the cabin stewards perfect. All the wait staff in the restaurants were professional and at the same time welcoming. The entertainment was over-the-top wonderful. Seabourn does things right, and makes every trip a special adventure. One of the reasons that we love Seabourn is that the all-inclusive program makes the voyage so relaxing. The food is quality over quantity, and every meal was terrific. The deck parties were very enjoyable (lobster on the grill, dancing, champagne and caviar in the pool), and we were impressed by the "specialty restaurant," the Grill by Thomas Keller. One of our favorite activities was shopping in the market in Malaga with Chef Jes; the fish and produce were as fresh as they could be. The excursions were expensive, but the quality of the guides was excellent. The only negative on the excursions was the "hard sell" venues we were forced into in Casablanca and Tangier. They should offer a shopping excursion for passengers that are interested in buying rugs. One of our pet peeves, however, is that the internet service is ridiculously expensive. Since Oceana is offering free internet to its passengers, all other cruise lines should follow suit. We would highly recommend the Ovation for your next trip! Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We chose this cruise ship on the advice of our travel agent. It was amazing! We chose to spend one day in port on the ship, we planned a couple of excursions on our own through Viator, a couple of transfers through Azamara and one on our ... Read More
We chose this cruise ship on the advice of our travel agent. It was amazing! We chose to spend one day in port on the ship, we planned a couple of excursions on our own through Viator, a couple of transfers through Azamara and one on our own. Everything went perfectly! The one "excursion" that we planned on our own was the Great Italy Tour of the Bocelli Winery and restaurant. Here is the link: https://greatitalytour.com I cannot recommend this tour enough! It was the most incredible and personal day ever! From the first time I reached out to them, to the pickup at the port, touring the countryside, the food and wine and the best driver and tour guide EVER, this was the best excursion we have ever been on in all of our travels. This was the most expensive of the excursions that we planned and almost considered not booking it but, on the recommendation of a friend, we did and are so glad we made that decision. My advice: Spend the money and cut back somewhere else if need be. It's that good! Now, the cruise: The staff of this particular cruise went above and beyond at every turn, the ship is beautifully decorated and we loved that this cruise was all inclusive; beverages, food and gratuities. I honestly don't know how anything could have been better on this ship. It was a perfect holiday! Highly recommend! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
The ship is huge! No question about it but it doesnt really feel that big since it has so many rooms which is the reason it makes it big. However, I love the neighborhood concept which removes the monotony from the ship. The shows were ... Read More
The ship is huge! No question about it but it doesnt really feel that big since it has so many rooms which is the reason it makes it big. However, I love the neighborhood concept which removes the monotony from the ship. The shows were phenomenal (Flight, Hiro,1977 to name a few. I personally felt that the amount of area wasted on the aqua theater for just one show was not justified. I think that area could have been used for something else while the show was not happening. The Mexican restaurant was awesome and had a lot to offer. The Solarium is an awesome place but the food is not up to the mark. The windjammer restaurant was busy as usual with a good spread and courteous staff. I have to also mention the adventure club. The club was very spacious. The 7-9 room did not have much of stuff but they seemed to do a lot of active stuff (sports games etc) the 3-5 room had a small playset etc. the kids enjoyed the time there with extremely good care for lunch and dinner. They did seem to see a lot of television which I wasnt very happy about but we were on vacation so who cares. The pools were clean and fun. The rides did not seem to have too much of a line which made it fun. I was upset about the zip line as they were not organized. They asked me to go fill a waiver after standing in line, then I got back and they mentioned that I couldnt ride with sandals ( belted type). I asked them if I could ride bare foot and they said I couldnt but if I had a pair of socks it would be OK. that was complete BS. Overall, great ship, lots to explore, and advice not to do more than 3 excursions on a 7 day cruise if you want to do justice to the ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We choose to travel on Horizon for many reasons, firstly the sailing dates suited us very nicely and also it was a maiden voyage of Horizon. We came to know many fantastic staff on board during our cruise, Ms. Erbu from Turkey who was ... Read More
We choose to travel on Horizon for many reasons, firstly the sailing dates suited us very nicely and also it was a maiden voyage of Horizon. We came to know many fantastic staff on board during our cruise, Ms. Erbu from Turkey who was very nice, caring and helpful to us, , Ms Melina from Romania, Felix- from Peru, Vicktor from Hungry, David from Peru, Nikolina from Bosnia, Milutia from Bosnia , Frank who kept our rooms clean and tidy, There were many more staff that we had met and they made our our trip a great and memorial one. You had a great cruise director Mike. He made all the shows great and enjoyable for everyone. They was many varieties of food on board, We, both have highly recommended cruising to many of our friends. The shows every night was fabulous. we look forward to our next cruise on Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Overall, nice cruise-however very frustrating how they try to CONSTANTLY nickel and dime you to death. You have to pay extra for a "drink package"-yes-even water you have to pay for. You have to pay $12.95 per day for internet ... Read More
Overall, nice cruise-however very frustrating how they try to CONSTANTLY nickel and dime you to death. You have to pay extra for a "drink package"-yes-even water you have to pay for. You have to pay $12.95 per day for internet service, you have to pay an $8 surcharge for room service, you have to pay for any bar drinks, you have to pay for any of the other restaurants other than the main dining hall, windjammer, and pizza place. I'm sorry I just get very annoyed when you spend literally THOUSANDS of dollars to be there and very little is "included" with that purchase. The ship however was the pinnacle of efficiency! The port calls, baggage, all details were handled in the smoothest way possible-very amazing! The cabin staff and dining staff went above and beyond to make sure they were friendly and you had a great trip. The food was OK-not sure about the other restaurants because I was not willing to pay $hundreds more to try those out as well-but something tells me that their food was superior to the included places. Fun experience overall though! Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
This was my fourth Seabourn (SB) cruise, and DH’s second, with one prior on the Quest summer 2016 we both shared. We have done a dozen cruises on luxury lines, so the review below compares this cruise with prior experiences, and provides ... Read More
This was my fourth Seabourn (SB) cruise, and DH’s second, with one prior on the Quest summer 2016 we both shared. We have done a dozen cruises on luxury lines, so the review below compares this cruise with prior experiences, and provides some guidance for newbies contemplating taking a SB cruise for the first time. We also did a detailed semi-live blog during the cruise, with photos, on the Cruise Critic SB subforum, so if you wish to see more details about the ship and the ports than are provided below, copy and paste this link (or if it does not work, then just search the forum for my entry entitled “Not-quite-live from the Seabourn Quest, Barcelona to Dover, 4/15/17-5/1/17). Photos start at post 9. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2488142 OVERALL: Overall we were both pleased with our experiences on the Quest on this 16-night “epicurean” itinerary cruise from Barcelona to Dover, 4/15/17-5/1/17 to the interesting ports of Gibraltar, Portimao, Lisbon, Bilbao, La Rochelle, Bordeaux (overnight), Portland UK, Rouen (overnight), Cherbourg (from which we went to DDAY's Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Arramanches) and Brugge. However, there remains room for improvement in some of the food, and on some services. We rate it a 4.3 overall on a scale of 1 to 5, (and thus round down to 4 on the overall CC scale). It is still the best overall inclusive, primary English language luxury line we have sailed on so far (comparisons: Silver Sea, Regent, Crystal). We did not think the food and service were quite as good as on Hapag-Lloyd’s (HL) luxury ships Europa 2 and MS Europa last year, however, HL is a line where wine and spirits are not included, where the primary language is German, and which is on average more expensive, so it is not directly comparable. EMBARKATION: very smooth and easy, almost no waiting, friendly welcoming personnel in Barcelona, large bags were immediately taken. We arrived shortly after 12 PM (though the official embarkation time is 2PM we could get on earlier even though our room was not ready), and then went to a buffet at the Colonnade indoor/outdoor casual dining venue (personnel can hold your hand luggage there for you while you take lunch, or you can keep them at your side). The buffet and service were both basic and adequate, nothing special, but we were happy to have lunch on board before official embarkation time. We found all our luggage already in the suite after we were allowed access around 2:30 PM. We had pre-ordered a foam topper for what we knew would be a relatively hard mattress, and it was put on later that evening after we reminded the stewardess. Muster followed shortly thereafter and took less than a half hour. It simply involved going to the MDR according to our stations where we listened to the safety instructions without wearing the life preservers,and where personnel took roll call. GENERAL ATMOSPHERE : Relaxing and uncrowded overall, though sometimes cleaning staff yelled personal conversations and joked loudly in hallways. The ship was well-maintained and clean. Smoking was no longer allowed on suite balconies or in the Observation Lounge, just in a couple small designated outdoor areas. Unfortunately a lot of the furniture, although stylish, is uncomfortable for me, but I am very sensitive due to musculoskeletal problems, so I found the stiff main entertainment lounge/Grand Salon chairs, the mostly stiff Observation Lounge chairs, MDR chairs, and especially the in-suite hard couch, unpleasant. To help get comfortable, I would often carry a small cushion with me. Overall, with some exceptions, there was a calm atmosphere and long lines for anything were not common (the long line waiting in the sun for a special cheese tasting notwithstanding). However, sometimes the Colonnade and MDR had slower than ideal table service at peak hours due to apparent staffing shortages, slower than I have come to expect from luxury cruise lines. All staff I saw, many of whom are of Eastern European origins (and some of whom looked like they belonged on fashion runways rather than carrying vacuum cleaners or drink trays around), seemed to work very hard to keep up, but some lacked adequate training for some tasks, and English skills were variable. There just were not enough staff for peak times (especially in the Colonnade, e.g., once we had a waiting time of over 20 minutes to get sparkling water). Table availability at prime hours was also routinely scarce in the Colonnade and at the Patio Grill, so when combined with the matching service problems, we preferred taking both lunch and dinner in the calmer, quieter, guaranteed-seating MDR if at all possible, which also played calmer music at lunch, and where pax were also more sedate. Passengers we met at optional communal or hosted tables, on excursions and cocktail get-togethers, or in the hot tub (perhaps a biased sample, e.g., with the hot tubbers) were generally pleasant, well-off, well-traveled, and well-mannered, with a few odd and loud or boorish exceptions. DEMOGRAPHICS.: The ship was full, with the vast majority of pax English speakers from the U.S., (252) followed by Australia (56) and the UK (30), Canada (16), Germany (12), and remaining pax in single digits. Average age seemed to be in the mid to late 60’s, give or take a few years depending on genetics and sun block usage, and I only saw one child pax. Pax were mostly do-everything-together couples, but there were also some couples traveling with other couples or extended family. LGBT pax are welcomed on SB, confirmed to DH after a long discussion with a hot-tubber who has done dozens of cruises with SB and absolutely loves it. Most pax were reasonably mobile, though there were some with wheelchairs and walkers, and appeared to be well-cared for. Some of those pax unfortunately also repeatedly opted to go on group excursions that were clearly marked as not designed for those with significant mobility impairments, and SB did not enforce mobility requirements for excursions. It was hard to spot a solo traveler (which is not surprising, as SB pricing is not solo-friendly), but there appeared to be a few, and they often opted to dine at hosted tables. DRESS CODE: Pax usually followed the designated evening dress codes, which were most often the very general “elegant casual”, e.g., for men long trousers and a nice collared shirt or a sweater, though many chose to wear jackets without ties to dinner. There were a couple “formal” nights with jacket required in the MDR on which most male pax wore jackets with ties, rather than tuxedos. Blue jeans are officially not allowed at dinner in the MDR. There were a few pax who occasionally showed up for dinner in overly casual clothing which was definitely not “elegant casual”, and they were not turned away, but no one looked like a slob. FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Food opinions are subjective, but overall we found the food on this cruise very good to excellent in the MDR, good in the Thomas Keller Grill, good at the Patio, mostly just ok at the Colonnade buffets (some exceptions that were very good), ok at breakfast room service, and definitely good enough to do a SB cruise again on the right itinerary. A highlight of our experience was interaction with the wine steward in the MDR, Antoni Pradeep, whose pairing suggestions were excellent, and who also provided us with a list of included wines on my request to help guide our choices. I would not sail again on this ship just for the food experience, even though this was billed as an “epicurean” cruise, but combined with the excellent itinerary and other benefits of SB, it was still a good overall choice for cruising this itinerary. The food quality and variety were not at the level of the food on HL’s Europa 2 and MS Europa on our cruises in 2016. SB had a decently priced but limited special order wine list, though we only resorted to ordering off of it twice as we could typically find an included wine that worked for us with our meals (even though we are from northern California wine areas and can be picky), and ordering off that list was not aggressively advocated either. Included champagne was Nicholas Feuillatte brut reserve, available at will. Wait staff typically came around at dinner and initially tried to push an inexpensive included sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio (we sampled all that were offered and only liked one, from NZ) before we had even had a chance to look at the menu, but we simply chose what to order first and then either looked at the lists of included wines to find an appropriate pairing, or talked to the wine steward. We ate at The Grill restaurant only once, the first night, where they served the new highly touted TK grill menu, included in the fare. It was fine, solid quality upscale American style food, steak, lamb, fish, but nothing spectacularly unique. First came celery sticks with radishes and cucumber pieces and green goddess dressing, all fresh but not unique, as we can get these at home. DH’s steak and my Dover Sole Meuniere were fine. We did not go back, primarily due to the acoustical assaults in that venue, e.g., loud and annoying music pulsated overhead, just as it did last year, apparently to create a 50’s and 60’s cool diner vibe and atmosphere, plus pax and staff conversations tended to be loud and the room has poor sound muffling, so the noise enhanced a sense of stress. I regret that the delightful and unique old R2 small-plates-with-pairings restaurant concept has been discontinued. The food in the MDR both at lunch and dinner was usually prettily plated, very good and usually interesting, (though basics such as simple steak and Caesar salad were also available nightly), and I found the TK offerings there better than last year. There were only a couple entrees that tasted boring. I enjoyed most of the vegetarian dishes which I tried when I wasn’t very hungry (a state easy to get into on SB due to constant food ingestion), even though I am not a vegetarian. Portions sizes were reasonably small, which suited us perpetual weight watchers fine. The only time I asked for a double portion was when I ordered a steak tartare appetizer and was skipping the entree, but large, young and very active men (on this cruise that would be only crew members and perhaps one other pax DH met who was a mountain climber) might want to ask for double portions right from the start to secure adequate calories. There were also TK offerings on a few nights in the Colonnade, by reservation only, with only one entree offering per night, e.g., fried chicken, ribs or clam bake, but we did not go this year because last year we had been underwhelmed with the odd ribs-related experience. A few people we met during the cruise who had done the “family style” TK ribs in the Colonnade this cruise, however, greatly enjoyed the experience. We like trying a little bit of many foods when we travel, so our favorite kind of venue is usually an upscale buffet, but this year due to more limited selections of buffet food, Colonnade crowding and inside noise, plus odds of more significant service problems there which could create annoyance, we preferred the MDR for both lunch and dinner. There was a different official food theme in the Colonnade each day, e.g., French, German, Japanese, Tuscan Market, Baltic night (this was much better than last year), pasta, etc., though not uncommonly the same thing was served at the salad bar and dessert bar day after day, just with a different name. Breakfast buffet was ok for usual English-speaker tastes, but the bread, cold meat and cheese choices put out were more limited compared with on HL, where the buffet is more European style. We used room service for breakfast when we had early morning excursions, and also a couple other times (e.g., usually between 9:30 and 12:30, when typically no dining venue is open other than room service or SB Square simple little pastry snacks). A room service hamburger was very good, compared with a Patio Grill burger on the patio, excellent last year, this year mediocre. I am not sure what caused the discrepancy. Room service breakfast offerings were basic, from a list of fixed choices you check outside your door on paper before going to bed, (if you deviate you may receive some comical deliveries), and usually though definitely not always arrived on time. Breakfast pastries and breads in general on board were improved compared with last year, e.g., on a few days French baguettes were baked, and the rolls trended towards appropriately crispy rather than rubbery like they were last year when we cruised. Snacks and specialty coffees at Seabourn Square varied in quality, although the offerings did not vary from day to day and were not particularly enticing, but I definitely appreciated having these between-meal options available ( closed 6-9 PM). The calm Observation Bar also offered self-serve coffee (variable quality), tea bags, OJ and little pre-made breakfast pastries at 6:15, for those of us who do not wish to communicate with humans until we have caffeinated. Observation bar and Club snacks we tried before dinner were tasty. SERVICE The best way to describe SB service this cruise is that it was generally good, though I did find myself getting a bit annoyed with occasional service deficiencies by lower level crew who need more training and understanding of what a luxury cruise is supposed to be. The exceptions often involved violations of the Do Not Disturb sign, the most egregious of which was a woman from laundry services busting into our suite to discuss a minor, non-urgent issue relating to trousers when I was in the bathtub and had a privacy sign up, and then not immediately leaving, but also involved poor communication between staff. Many staff seemed fixated on just doing their specific narrow job and showed a disinclination to get involved with resolving a problem in a way that would best accommodate guest's comfort. I spoke with the empathetic customer care coordinator Melissa Selling about these issues but it is unclear if anything was done by her other than to fill out a paperwork report, as a couple of the issues of concern (some of them comical) continued the next day . Some of the room stewardesses and eating venues personnel were not entirely well-trained or well-organized, and some appeared exhausted, especially at peak hours when they struggled to keep up, so SB would do well to improve training and staffing back to the level they had previously (though this might involve raising prices). Laundry and dry cleaning services are available on board ($50 per laundry bag stuffed so solidly it could serve as a cosh, 2 day service, 50% upcharge for same-day service on items), nothing was permanently lost or transformed into a child’s size though I did have to pursue a disappeared bag. There is also a launderette for self-serve we did not use, and a clothes-line is available over the tub for drying your own items. You can also get as many towels and pillows as you want for your suite, which this pillow princess definitely took advantage of. SB Square personnel were friendly, and there were either no or short lines to talk to them. The phone was not always answered immediately, but I only fell asleep once while on hold. When we got home we found a large charge to our on-board credit card to an airline for a person we have never heard of, which was processed immediately after the charge that closed out our bill on disembarkation day, and which we think was likely made in error by SB ( we are pursuing details on this through our credit card fraud protection and with emails to SB customer relations). SPA, EXERCISE AREA, AND POOLS: loud music played not just in the exercise area , where I would expect pep, but also in the communal manicure/pedicure/hair care area, which was not very relaxing as the customers’ conversations and blow dryers there were also competing for attention, and stressed front desk personnel could be snippy. So I only used the area once (I prefer quiet, solo chambers, with calming music, for manicure service, rather than forced listening to stories about other pax problems, e.g., their split ends or toenail problems. DH frequently enjoyed the relatively private hot tub in the bow on deck 6, which is also a good place to meet people. There were also four other hot tubs (two in the very public area near the main pool, often closed off, and two closer to the smaller pool on Deck 5 aft outside the Club lounge). The pool was nicely heated but not used much. DH also used the fitness center, it was fine, usually uncrowded except at peak time on a sea day, with an ocean view, where nothing was broken and there was a trainer there ready to help who may not have been named Hans or Franz, but should have been. ENTERTAINMENT was overall pretty good, better than last year, especially for such a small ship, e.g., it featured both popular and classical music by Australian pianist Gary Walz, and also a female former West End singer with a terrific voice. We went to most of the shows. Brit Davey Howe performed innovative and comedic musical works with trumpet, piano, shower hose, and walker leg and was my favorite. There was a funny British comedian, a not so funny or magical female comedian magician, and a singer who had starred in The Lion King who did an assortment of cool-sexy-guy type covers who was very popular with the crowd. The base SB band itself was very good, and the singers could sing, though sometimes sung boring old songs like The Girl From Ipanema at the Patio. The Trio with sultry singer Emma in the Club should not be missed, if she is there. The entertainment this year was much better than last year on the Quest, which was a positive development. INTERNET was bad. Ship wifi was usually very slow, and in our suite typically non-existent, a constant struggle, as it often is on ships, even luxury ships. We had opted for the unlimited plan for $399 for the 16 days of the cruise to avoid the stress of sensing the clock ticking and price rising while on-line with a slow connection. Only one person per suite could be on at a time which required some coordination (on HL two could be on, but for comparison there was no unlimited plan, there it was 0.19 Euro/minute). It worked best in the Square and in a fellow pax room directly below a router, which ours was not. We thus relied heavily on our cellular service and created hot spots, to get any major work done ensuite. DH, who is technically inclined, communicated with SB Square three times about the issues, and the personnel there smiled and noted the concerns, but not once was he contacted directly by anyone from IT, (we just got promises there would be contact), only some indirect information was communicated by a non-technical lady SB crew member, and the issues (beyond the issue of speed, e.g., cloud services blocking) were not resolved. Ship wifi was one of the weakest aspects of this ship, and it thus rules out future trips where there would be no escape option to use local cellular, e.g., transatlantic or remote area trips, for people who must have reliable internet access when they travel. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS There were no complimentary excursions offered by SB, all were for an extra charge. Most were reasonably priced and ok, some were excellent, a few were poor values. Buses were uncrowded and typically had a max of 26 people on an excursion ( a couple exceptions), and had reclining seats and at least passable AC. Sometimes there was a functional WC on the bus, you never knew in advance when there would or would not be one. BARCELONA — our embarkation port, where we spent 3 days pre-cruise on our own (we had previously been here for several days before). This popular and excellent bustling port city has a lot to see pre-cruise, or post-cruise if you end here. I would recommend at least four days, and preferably take a private tour of La Sagrada and other Gaudi masterpieces in the area, plus a trip outside to Montserrat, and spend a few hours in the Picasso Museum (go early and buy tickets online if you are not part of a tour, as it gets very crowded). The more off the beaten path Catalonia Museum on a hill has excellent modern and Romanesque art collections, as well as city views and adjacent is a massively sized organ. I could easily spend a full two weeks in Barcelona -- every year! GIBRALTAR — a very interesting small territory town with a lot of history, owned by Britain. We did the excellent though strenuous (marked level 2 out of 3 by SB but it should have been a 3/3 in difficulty) uphill “City under Siege” excursion, where we toured the military siege tunnels, and also the museum in town where there are restored Neanderthal woman and child skeltons. We also saw the interesting indigenous monkeys of the island roaming about who have a history of their own (e.g., during siege, they were food for troops). Beware of the risk of extra high cellular charges by your cell phone company for this separate “country”. PORTIMAO — the port itself, which tends to be very warm, was out of town, so other than seeing a closed down sardine factory museum within walking distance nearby (worth a look — the video story in Portuguese with English subtitles is both interesting and humorous), there was not much to do directly near the ship. We were bussed on the “A Taste of Algave” excursion to the seaside town of Alvo (old and new features), which has restaurants and shops both near the water and up an old-town hill, and could be more fun to tour without the time pressures of an excursion, followed by a trip to an unremarkable local winery for a tasting with fish dip and chips. This was not the greatest excursion, but ok for an overview. LISBON — we were only docked here one day, but this hilly and scenic city deserves at least four days if not more (which I had spent last year prior to another cruise), depending on how many museums you want to see and how much Fado you want to hear, even more if you want to do day trips. We did a non-SB group excursion to the medieval walled town of Obidos, about an hour away, which was fantastic, very scenic, with restaurants and shops, it would make a good full-day trip. We also visited the beautiful Santa Quintana winery for tasting and an upscale lunch, which was fantastic. It would be a good idea for SB to do an overnight in Lisbon. BILBAO — we toured the modern art Guggenheim Museum on a SB excursion, which everyone should do at least once to appreciate the craziness of four-story flower dogs and a giant metallic arachnoid, which have revived this previously dying town. We preferred spending our elective, non-group time on the higher levels where the art, to us anyway, was more interesting (Kandinsky and Picasso rather than Koons). Next time, we’d also like to send more time walking the city streets of this old Basque town, people-watching, and dining locally. LA ROCHELLE — we did an excellent full-day 5/5 SB excursion to the little market town of Saintes, (you could spend a day there just shopping and eating and visiting the churches), where I loaded up on the best ham I’ve ever eaten, and after a terrific excursion French lunch at a nearby Michelin-rated restaurant Le Relais du Bois Saint-Georges, toured the Chateau de La Roche Courbon castle, which has beautiful grounds. BOURDEAUX — here we docked for an overnight right in town, right next to a colorful Sunday food market selling all kinds of delicacies (you may want to skip breakfast on the ship if the market is running), and an easy walk to many interesting sights, several fantastic churches, fountains, and saw the new Wine Museum modern structure which we did not have time to go into. There are many reputedly excellent restaurants and museums in town, and we unfortunately did not have enough time to fully take in and appreciate this city. We did a forgettable (and overpriced at $275/person) SB-sponsored “exclusive” excursion to a winery that was anything but exclusive (70 people were bussed there and played follow-the-leader on the winery tour), with (by French standards) mostly mediocre food, served with some good red wine, on beautiful grounds. It would clearly have been better and much cheaper to book a private winery tour and exquisite French dinner, next time we will know better, or at least ask how many people will be on the “exclusive” tour before booking. We also did an excursion to the very cute town of St. Emilion, where there is a fascinating underground ancient church, and where you could also easily spend a day winding through the little streets, eating, and window shopping. PORTLAND, UK — the locals here are happy to see cruisers, serenaded us with a uniformed band and fired cannons at sail-away. We did a very nice excursion to the beautiful Minternes estate and gardens, where the 93-yr-old Lord of the house hosted us with interesting stories of the past, and we were then served scones. The gardens are exhiliarting and worth a trip, you could spend the whole day there (I recommend skipping the scones and just head straight for the garden to maximize your time wandering around there, then go down a series of long, gentle paths lined with rest benches, and loop back, a mile or so). We drove past the “Rude Man” Cerne Abbas Giant chalk figure on the way back to the ship, but he was off in the distance and his most famous body parts were barely visible. ROUEN — (overnight). We cruised down the scenic Seine to this out-of-town industrial port, which itself is unremarkable though there is a church and there are some shops, but it served as a base for excursions. We did a late afternoon/early evening excursion to the picturesque seaside town of HONFLEUR (don’t come after 6 or all the museums are closed, or between 4 and 7 as we did, when the major restaurants are closed, if you want dinner, as dinner does not start until 7). Next time we will visit Honfleur without a SB excursion and allow time for a leisurely French meal. We also did a SB excursion to Monet's GIVERNY Gardens, where much was in bloom. The flowers were exquisitely beautiful, but the place was oppressively crowded, as the venue does not limit ticket sales. It was hard to pass with so many international tourists (including us), many with selfie-sticks keen on getting themselves into staged pictures (absolutely not us), and with super-long waits for the women’s WC, as there were simply not enough toilets for the female components of the crowds. If you have a weak bladder, I recommend going easy on pre-excursion coffee and keep yourself on the thirsty side. CHERBOURG -- we went on an all-day excursion (1.5 hour + bus trip each way) to DDAY's Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Arromanches-les-Bain, where the “Mulberry” artificial harbor and docks were set up to allow many ships and supplies to dock in Normandy during WW2, and which has an interesting museum with exhibits, multi-lingual tours, and an informative movie. There were also excursions available to other battle sites through SB, e.g., Utah Beach, and Sainte-Mere-Eglise, offered by SB, but we only had enough time for one. The American Cemetery is beautifully laid out, very peaceful, and well-maintained, over 172 acres, with tasteful memorials and graves of 9387 American military dead from the Normandy invasion campaign. It has thousands of crosses and over a hundred Stars of David, all that remains of known and unknown young American soldiers who died in that campaign to liberate Europeans from unspeakable tyranny, including my immediate family. We did not see nearly as much as we would have liked in this historic place, for that we will need to come back for a full week in Normandy. Our guide was also less than ideal, as he seemed to just go through the motions in his descriptions of the important historical events rather than showing any enthusiasm or true interest in them (I felt like grabbing his microphone on the bus and taking over the narrative), perhaps due to his own background which was almost certainly not on the side of the Allies. Unfortunately on the bus the guide also seemed equally interested in proudly telling us about France’s mandatory 35-hour work week limitations, wonderful social welfare benefits, and humorous driving habits, with perhaps greater fervor than he talked about the events of 1944, and although these were interesting facts, they seemed inappropriate to discuss on this kind of sobering tour. Halfway, the tour stopped for an included group lunch at a nicely located restaurant with a water view where we were served local pate, chicken, and creamy dessert, with plenty of $5.17/bottle Bourdeaux table wine included in the excursion fee. This was overall an ok introduction to this area, considering we were only there for a day, but when we come back (and we must come back) we will almost certainly get a private guide with greater interest in WW2 history. I highly recommend reading Steven E. Ambrose’s book “DDAY”, or similar, to prepare. BRUGGE. This is a a beautiful city with a lot to see, including canals and chocolate shops, museums and churches, and we booked an excursion to it which SB called “Romantic Brugge” , which was anything but romantic. Unfortunately it was a 3-day weekend and the city was a solid mass of tourists, and it was very hard for us to keep up with our oblivious, insensitive guide who seem to stride briskly to Chopin's Marche Militaire through the city, with senior citizen pax in her group mostly fending for themselves. The excursion was rated 2/3 but should have been 3/3 difficulty given the strain of walking several miles at a brisk pace, with little time, while dodging horses, scooters, carts, baby carriages, Segways, and other fall hazards. The 30-minute canal ride, however, was lovely. I do not recommend this tour in high season or on weekends if you are in any way mobility, cardiac, balance, or pulmonary impaired. If we return, it will be without a group guide, and not on a busy weekend, and on our own (SB offered a busride to and from Brugge without a group tour, which would have been better, but the huge crowds would still have been there in the key areas). I rate this as the worst excursion of the cruise, 2/5, but sadly in one of the most beautiful cities. IN SUMMARY, we enjoyed the cruise, the itinerary, and generally good SB service, exceptions noted both above and in more detail in my referenced blog. I was a bit disappointed in the decline in quality food offerings and variety in the Colonnade, and in some service deficiences apparent now that I had not seen in 2015 when I did my first two SB cruises on the Odyssey, but was pleased with the improvements in the MDR foods since we were on the Quest summer 2016 and in the TK offerings, breads and included wines. We realize no cruise is perfect, and SB must be compared with other English language luxury lines. We have put down a deposit for a potential future cruise that would give us a 5% discount, but have made no irreversible commitments. We have a few more cruises booked with HL instead of SB on similar itineraries, which we are not canceling, as that is where I thought the overall food and service were 5/5 instead of 4.3/5 like on SB, (and where Do Not Disturb signs were always strictly respected), but as noted, has other disadvantages. We have posted some pictures of the cruise and the ports in this beautiful, fascinating, and history-rich area, to which we plan to return. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Overall, trip was well described as to ports and time tables were perfect at each stop. Weather was not an issue. Distance from ship to transportation was an issue for those with limited mobility. Rome was easy to get to but you better ... Read More
Overall, trip was well described as to ports and time tables were perfect at each stop. Weather was not an issue. Distance from ship to transportation was an issue for those with limited mobility. Rome was easy to get to but you better know the train time tables for leaving. As for weekends, trains don't run as often back to the ship. Felt more time was needed to see Rome and Venice. Those are major stops from all cruise ships so don't think they can extend dock time in those areas. It would be great, if they did. Eating at the late dining was necessary, as our tours ended close to the ship leaving port and rushing back to early dining was not an option. Many went for the "anytime dining" but some evenings we saw a line waiting for a table. So we stayed with the 8:30 pm seating. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
The cruise is more than our expectation. The food in Deck 15 was so excellent. The free show are also professional. With daily news report, you always can get some idea what ship activities you can join. The check in process is very easy. ... Read More
The cruise is more than our expectation. The food in Deck 15 was so excellent. The free show are also professional. With daily news report, you always can get some idea what ship activities you can join. The check in process is very easy. Also they provide a quick check out process which gave us enough time to catch the flight at 9:40am in BCN airport. when we returned from our port tour, always have people serve us water and towel and make us feel back to relax home. We also tried one free Dinning restaurant TASTE, the food and dessert are so good there. We also joined the dance class inside Deck 7 bar club (suggest them to put a sign in the front). We also have a lot fun to play the water slide near by swimming pool. The only issue is that we can't hear the public announcement inside stateroom. And, need to open the door to see what happen now. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
From start to finish, this was the best cruise we've ever taken. The ship was extremely comfortable and spacious, with every detail being well-thought out. Our cabin was very roomy and extremely comfortable, and our cabin steward ... Read More
From start to finish, this was the best cruise we've ever taken. The ship was extremely comfortable and spacious, with every detail being well-thought out. Our cabin was very roomy and extremely comfortable, and our cabin steward attended to our every wish. The meals were absolutely delicious and rivaled some of the best meals we've eaten in gourmet restaurants on land. The meals and wines accompanying them were specifically prepared with fresh local ingredients, featuring the cuisine of whatever country we were visiting at the moment. The onboard entertainment and enrichment lectures added immensely to the enjoyment of our cruise. The lectures on the history and geography of the areas we visited made our shore excursions so very much more enjoyable. And to top it all off, our cruise director, Heather Clancey, was not only extremely talented vocally, but her port talks were extremely enriching as well. We had such a wonderful time on this cruise that we have already booked a 29 day Viking cruise for 2018. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We had taken the Grand European river cruise with Viking and thought the quality of the vessel, the staff, the excursions, and food were such that we thought Viking would be the best for our ocean cruise. Although the cost initially ... Read More
We had taken the Grand European river cruise with Viking and thought the quality of the vessel, the staff, the excursions, and food were such that we thought Viking would be the best for our ocean cruise. Although the cost initially appeared higher than other cruises lines, we compared what we got for the money with Viking versus other lines and stayed with Viking. I would suggest Viking make a bigger point of these, e.g. free excursions, free soft drink and snack refills in the room, no charge room service, no charges for upper scale restaurants, no casino, sushi bar (fantastic), home made ice cream, etc. The second most key issue for us with this particular Viking cruise was the inclusion of the stops in Turkey. Although I under stand and would have made the same decision as Viking to drop Turkey from the itinerary I would suggest that it be put back on the itinerary at the earliest appropriate point. Many of our fellow travels also had these same thoughts. Every thing on the Viking Sea was wonderful. The live music through-out the ship greatly contributed to a more relaxing time. The Beatles retro was WONDERFUL. I would suggest more comedy acts as entertainment. Other lines I had been on had the entire crew compete to do a talent show. We really enjoyed these and suggest Viking consider this. Due to flights and time on the bus we did not arrive at the Viking Sea until about 1630hrs--a real let down. Otherwise the embark and debarkations were very smooth and effortless. A massive thank you to the disembarkation and transfer staff that provided my wife help after she injured her knee (old recurring injury which Viking was not at any fault for). The excursions were by and large excellent. The only stop that was rather under-whelming was Corfu. If I had the money to travel more I would do this one again and stay on board to relax more and/or go out on my own. We really liked the ship for NOT having many of the activities for younger adults and children found on other vessels. As the cruise went on we found some service staff in the World Cafe would at times pass our table by and ask others if they would like a refill of a drink when we had been sitting a while and had nothing. We joked that we must smell bad. The spa (which costs extra on some lines) was a special retreat for us and made the trip that much more wonderful. We think the passengers in too large part may have been unaware of this wonderful facility. We talked with several that did not use the spa since it was thought they would be charged for its use. The library or libraries throughout the ship was another highlight for us and we made constant use of the exceedingly excellent book selection. Bottom line- a great ship, staff, activities, and excursions. We have and will continue to recommend Viking. Thank you to those that supported us for a wonderful cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We just disembarked from our Windstar cruise from Barcelona to Rome and were very happy and satisfied with our experience. The number one difference at Windstar is the Personal experience and how it is enhanced by the extraordinary crew! ... Read More
We just disembarked from our Windstar cruise from Barcelona to Rome and were very happy and satisfied with our experience. The number one difference at Windstar is the Personal experience and how it is enhanced by the extraordinary crew! In just 6 days, we knew all of our servers and staff by name and they greeted us by name. It is so much more personal to travel this way and never feel like a cattle call. The cabins were very nice and quite large and again they were clean and refreshed all day long. The food was wonderful and plentiful and the 24 hr room service was a great hit with our constantly eating sons who were traveling with us. The special events and barbecue night were fantastic and though we had to change itinerary due to Italian port alerts, the staff quickly changed excursions to make everyone happy. We will really miss One, Barus, Caroleena and Dody who made our cruise so special and made us sad to say goodbye. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
The ship was an exact replica of the Summit so we knew exactly where everything was. It is a nice ship but nothing new. The food was spectacular, as always. There was no need to go to one of their gourmet restaurants when you have 5 ... Read More
The ship was an exact replica of the Summit so we knew exactly where everything was. It is a nice ship but nothing new. The food was spectacular, as always. There was no need to go to one of their gourmet restaurants when you have 5 start food and service in the regular dinning. I have never been a big fan of their entertainment, mainly because they mostly cater to an older age group. The service was outstanding. The restaurant staff, bartenders, and stateroom staff were fantastic. We went on the 8 night Adriatic and Mediterranean cruise which had great ports. I would recommend this cruise to anyone. We stopped in Cannes France, Rome, Salerno, Kotor Montenegro, Zadar Croatia, Ravenna, and Venice Italy. They were all lovely ports and Celebrity had numerous excursions with very different activities for everyone to be able to choose the activities they wished to partake in. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Oceania lover has fling with Seabourn Barcelona to Monte Carlo 25-07-2016 to 04-08-2016 Background This was a special surprise gift for my mothers **th birthday. The last couple of years I have been cruising on Oceania (previous ... Read More
Oceania lover has fling with Seabourn Barcelona to Monte Carlo 25-07-2016 to 04-08-2016 Background This was a special surprise gift for my mothers **th birthday. The last couple of years I have been cruising on Oceania (previous on Celebrity en Star Clippers) but this itinerary looked just perfect with lots of small ports and the price for a V4 Verandah suite was the same as a Penthouse Suite on O. So I decided to give Seabourn a try and I’m happy I did. Pre-cruise We flew to Barcelona a day before the cruise and stayed at the Arts Hotel. A beautiful big hotel at the Port Olympic that is just steps from the beach and night live. We had a corner suite that was just absolutely stunning. One of the best rooms I have ever stayed in. Staff very friendly and helpful. We ate at Carpe Diem a small trendy restaurant close to the hotel and on the beach. Most shops are closed on Sunday so do a day of sightseeing instead. Ship We took a taxi at noon to the World Trade Center Port that is centrally located. Our luggage was immediately picked up by the porters and carried away. We filled out the health questionnaire and checked in. A few minutes later we boarded Seabourn Sojourn. The exterior of the ship or yacht as Seabourn calls it is glamorous but my first impression of interior was underwhelming. Compared to the opulent interior styling on especially the Oceania-class ships with crystal, polished wood and impressive artwork, Seabourn choose a far more subdued style. Beautiful in some area’s like the ‘The Restaurant’, Pool and ‘Seabourn Square’ but also a tad boring like in ‘The Club’ on Deck 5 that gave me the impression of being in a third party airport lounge. The styling of ‘Restaurant 2’ is more glitzy and eclectic and I hope the new Thomas Keller restaurant that will be replacing R2 will have a modern feel to it. For a ship launched in 2010 it just looks a somewhat dated. We totally loved the abundance of deck space and small quiet areas like the sun deck (6) with whirlpool (but no shower) and the small pool deck at the stern of the ship (5). The sunbeds are pretty but very firm and could use a cushion. The level of service was also fabulous. Smiling and truly attentive staff throughout the vessel that made us feel welcome and special. They knew our preferences by day 2 and really did everything possible to exceed our expectations. Our stewardess Ivana was a gem and the best ever. Not only did she keep our suite spotless, she also provided a wealth of information about the ship and services. Always great for first timers! Cabin Our V4 Verandah Suite (707) was light and roomy (only the space between the bed and dresser is tight). Oceania penthouse suites are larger but we were perfectly happy with the size of our small suite on Seabourn. I loved the bar and tv cabinets and being able to draw the curtains between the sleeping and living area. All very elegant! The mini fridge was stocked with our preferred soft drinks and there was a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us. I ordered a flower arrangement in advance and it was big, nice and lasted the entire trip. The seating area has a well-designed layout but the fabric and colors of the chairs and especially the couch are an acquired taste. I don’t know if it was meant to be and art-deco theme but we didn’t fancy it. The beds are very firm not to say rock hard and the pillows gigantic. The bed linens are soft but the whole experience does not compare to the wonderful beds and linens that Oceania provides on its ships. We did love the small make-up vanity and the bathroom is spacious with separate soaking tub and shower. Molton Brown provides the luxury bath products and you have dual sinks, with high-end fixtures, marble tiles and good lighting. I would have loved to have a night-light there. A pair of drawers would have been a welcome addition to the bathroom since shelves and storage are limited. The suite also features a walk-in closet, safe and two bathrobes. I missed electrical outlets near the nightstands for charging my phone or tablet. The air-conditioning did what it is designed for and we had no problem getting the ideal temperature for our suite. We liked sitting on the balcony late at night with a glass of wine and listen to the waves and talk about our day. Food I love food! Buying it, preparing and of course sharing and eating it. My friends tell me that I’m a pretty good cook. Due to my line of work I have dined in many great restaurants but I also love a simple bistro or well-prepared hamburger. My loyalty with Oceania has to do with their food. The variety of their restaurants and high quality ingredients is splendid and although the menus could use a little more modern influences I do love that they have products like lobster, scampi and other seafood, premium cuts of beef on every menu every day. The food on Seabourn is good but compared to Oceania more limited. Fine products like lobster, caviar and premium cuts are hard to find on the menus and only available as a special order in advance. We don’t like to pre-order because it makes us feel uncomfortable. This food on Seabourn is very well prepared and tasty. Compared to Oceania the dishes served on Seabourn are more modern and lighter with less double cream and butter. Pizza, burgers and gelato were also very good. All our meals were good but only a few were very memorable like our experience in R2 and the Thomas Keller night in the Colonnade. We choose the more casual Patio Grill many evenings since the weather was wonderful and we like dining al fresco. I know many guests have mixed feelings about the partnership with Thomas Keller but we liked it a lot. Our night featured a modern take on the classic Waldorf salad and a beautiful bone in prime-rib with roasted broccoli and silky mashed potatoes. Seabourn could improve the quality and selection of breads, baguette and pastries. Drinks We aren’t big drinkers but like a good glass of wine. Most evenings the selection was fine with a few highlights like a Pouilly-Fuissé, Chianti Classico and Sand Tropez Rosé. A few bottles shouldn’t have been offered like a €3.99 bottle of J.P. Chenet that you can find in every cheap grocery store in Europe. Cocktails, champagne and digestives were always available and offered throughout the day by the pools and in the bars. We love that you didn’t have to sign for every drink. That really is a luxury! Seabourn could improve the quality of the coffee they serve. I got a cappuccino at Seabourn Square every morning but I couldn’t get the very friendly barista to get me a proper cappuccino made with a strong espresso and some foamy milk. The Barista Coffee Bar on Oceania wins hands on and I also missed those very tasty mini pastries featured on Oceania like the canelés and madeleines. Fellow guest It seemed to us that Seabourn caters to a crowd that is very hard to please. This was our only real disappointment during our cruise. We met so many people who seemingly had only one hobby and that was to complain about the food, drinks, service, menu and we even met a couple that told us that Seabourn should do something about the heat in the ports we visited. I’m not kidding! I have to say that being surrounded with so many people who felt to urge to complain out loud didn’t do much good for the overall atmosphere. This cruise had one day at sea and all sunbeds were already ‘reserved’ at 8:00 am by sophisticated guests like they do in those cheap all-inclusive resorts. Internet The system is slow and works with only device at a time. This is how most ships work…BUT charging a staggering $400 for 10 days is a total rip off. That’s almost 10% of the cruise fee. A luxury brand like Seabourn shouldn't charge for Wi-Fi at all and if it does it should be for a friendly fee. It's 2016 and 90% of the guests use the Internet. Smoking I don't smoke and after reading so many complaints on the cruisecritic.com board I was afraid I would have to endure smoking everywhere. I experienced no such thing and was pleasantly surprised. I never smelt smoke outside and we used the balcony a lot and never even got a whiff of smoke. I really don't understand what all the fuss is about. We got the message that Seabourn is going for a much stricter smoking policy in the near future. Victory for al the vocal complainers but this non-smoker didn’t have any problems with the current Recap We enjoyed every minute of our cruise with Seabourn. We had a fabulous itinerary, attentive staff, and a relaxing atmosphere with an abundance of space, good food and smooth sailings. Seabourn leaves little the wish for and tries very hard to give its demanding passengers a refined luxury experience. I'm afraid some guests on board are impossible to please and hearing so many complaints and seeing so many rude, snobbish people did spoil the atmosphere at times. No cruise line is perfect, there is always room for improvement, but I think Seabourn offers a sublime vacation. Would I choose Seabourn over Oceania? It totally depends on price and itinerary. If Seabourn and Oceania keep the same price level, I would book with Seabourn again depending on the itinerary. I really liked the small ship experience with small ports, no waiting for anything (except on sea days), no signing for drinks, good food and very attentive and well trained staff. But I do like Oceania's a little over the top decor, variety of restaurants, menus and the large penthouse suites. So my love for O is still burning but I do have a serious fling now with Seabourn. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
If you love the Nautica, Insignia or Regatta you will love the Sirena - it is the same ship (almost). I have done over 35 cruises and 10 on Oceania. I sailed on the Sirena when it was the R4 and when it was the Pacific Princess. I love ... Read More
If you love the Nautica, Insignia or Regatta you will love the Sirena - it is the same ship (almost). I have done over 35 cruises and 10 on Oceania. I sailed on the Sirena when it was the R4 and when it was the Pacific Princess. I love Oceania and loved our most recent cruise from Barcelona to Lisbon. Some observations - Oceania billed this as a "renovated" ship" - I was not able to see much "renovation". New bed and new carpet - but that was about it. The food in the Grand Dinning room was even better than before and we chose it over the specialty restaurants on occasion. The loss of the Polo Grill is no big deal and the addition of Red Ginger is great. But Tuscan does not compare to Toscana - Tuscan was actually quite disappointing. Saw too many kids on the cruise - never saw that before on Oceania - not well received by the typical Oceania passenger. Oceania entertainment has always been third rate - they added a small production group to our cruise and it improved to 2nd rate. I had hoped with the presence of NCL that the entertainment would improve. The rooms are comfortable and the room attendants are terrific. As usual, Oceania's tours are grossly over priced and we continue to book our own when possible - did twice as much in Casablanca for 1/3 of the cost by booking our own tour. I see that a number of reviewers complained about how hard it is to get additional reservations at the specialty restaurants. You should know that the higher priced cabins can make reservations on line early - before the cruise and also get more guaranteed reservations. You need to go to the Terrace Cafe during the day and ask to put on wait list for the specialty restaurants. All in all - it was Oceania - we just booked two more cruises on them! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We just returned from Oceania's Riveria 17 day cruise(Medieval Meanderings) from Barcelona to Rome. This was actually two cruises combined - July 3 cruise Barcelona to Lisbon and July 10 cruise Lisbon to Rome. This was our 5th ... Read More
We just returned from Oceania's Riveria 17 day cruise(Medieval Meanderings) from Barcelona to Rome. This was actually two cruises combined - July 3 cruise Barcelona to Lisbon and July 10 cruise Lisbon to Rome. This was our 5th Oceania cruise. We cannot say enough good things about how fantastic this cruise was including the Oceania staff, food, ports, excursions and ship. We used Oceania Air arriving and departing day of cruise. I was somewhat concerned about this but it all worked out well. They provided tickets from Miami-to-Atlanta to Barcelona returning from Rome directly to Miami. We lucked out going over because we arrived in Barcelona at 8:15 in the morning and only waited about 15 minutes to go through their airport passport review. We heard later that people arriving had to wait over 3 hours for this process. We took a cab from the airport to the ship which only cost $39 euros and not a problem getting a cab. Oceania transfers were far more expensive. I was concerned about the return flight since it left at 10:40 in the morning the day we arrived in Rome but we used Oceania transfers at 7:00 am. (expensive $139 each) and we were at our gate ready to depart by 9:05 a.m. so it was not an issue at all. Once arriving at the port around 10:30. They had chairs in the waiting area and we were so happy that we hadn't run into issues with the travel we didn't mind the wait at all while talking to other passengers also arriving early. Oceania started boarding around 11:00 and we were able to get on around 11:30 since we did not have one of the priority cabins. We could immediately go to lunch on the ship. I cannot say enough about the quality of the food on the ship wherever we dined, the service, our stateroom attendants (OLGA) and general customer service. We believe the food and service has even gotten better if possible than our previous cruises. We had an inside cabin which is 175 feet. Only downside is the shower is very small. Most of our prior cruises have been in balcony cabins but with this cruise all day almost everyday at a port we were very happy with our cabin. We was center of the ship, quiet and good use of space. The best improvement with Oceania from our previous sailing is that for us we each had seven excursions included with our price and we thought the excursions were terrific. Also some of the stops Oceania provided shuttle to town center which were excellent. Aliciante Spain - since we arrived the day before we did not want to book an excursion here. We enjoyed taking the free shuttle from the ship walking around town. Almeria Spain - Oceania excursion - Clisol Greenhouses & Almerimar Marina - Wonderful. We visited one of the largest greenhouses, the owner explained the planting and harvesting process and we had a tasting. Then we strolled through the coastal resort town of Almerimar. Gibraltar, UK - we booked an excursion with other people on cruise critic. We used Rock Tours Gibraltar. Fabulous tour including the rock, the caves, castle, monkeys, beaches etc. Only complaint is that the guide did not return us to the port. He dropped us off in town telling us it was a 10 minute walk to the port. Walking fast it was almost 1/2 hour and this is not what was promised when we booked the trip. Being tired after touring all day he should have taken us at least to the security entrance at the port. Casablanca, Morocco - Oceania Tour - Imperial Rabat - Fascinating. This was the only port that was poor and in sharp contrast to the rest of the trip. We saw Al Fez mosque, Kasbah area etc. Lunch was provided in a local restaurant in the Kasbah (chicken). The food was okay but paled in comparison to any meal we had on the ship. However, eating lunch in this area is essential to being part of the local culture. We heard some comments from other people touring with us that they did not like the tour while others loved it. For us we are so glad we did it to see the actual life in Morocco and this is difficult to go outside of Casablanca on your own. Seville (Cadiz Spain) - Oceania Tour Scenic Cadiz & Flamenco - One highlight of our trip. First a city walk then Flamenco dancing with Tapas. I thought it strange when we signed up that the dancing was in the morning but it turned out great. The dancers were wonderful and the atmosphere of the restaurant wonderful. Tapas was just cheese and ham (which we don't eat) and 2 soft drinks and beer. Lisbon Portugal - Oceania Tour - Portuguese Riviera & Sintra - Explanations as we drove out of Lisbon about 1 hour ride to Sintra which is a beautiful mountain town. Toured the Queluz Place and then a little time to walk around time. Stopped on the way back to Lisbon at a picturesque harbor area to take pictures. Since we had 2 days in Lisbon the next day we did the hop on and off bus which gave us a great detailed view of the city. Beware however the bus did not stop at all the stops in the brochure and even though we boarded the bus near the port we had quite a walk back on the way back because he did not go back to that stop due to construction. Malaga, Spain - We met friends and road a horse and buggy around town. It is a beautiful place and after our ride we walked around the city and enjoyed visiting the market. Cartagena, Spain - Easy walk into town and enjoyed exploring Roman ruins the shops and going to a craft market that had items made by local artists. Ibiza, Spain - Oceania tour - Island Discovery and all day tour seeing the entire island with lunch. Saw a lot . Only objection is we took a long time driving to the north end for lunch in Portinatx at a restaurant with a beautiful view of the water. Seafood Paella was served which we didn't like at all. We've had other Paella in Spain that we like. Even the ice cream for dessert was inedible with chucks of ice (low quality). We has seen so many beautiful towns on the way here we would have been better off eating elsewhere. Barcelona Spain - We've been here many times before so we arranged for an English tour of the El Palau de la Musica Catalana. Just fabulous! Another highlight of the trip. We walked from the shuttle drop off (Columbus monument ) (about 20 minutes). Provence (Marseille) France - Oceania tour Aix-En-Provence & Marseille. Walking tour of Aix but this was a day after the terrible Nice attack and we were surprised how crowded the city was. The tours to Nice were cancelled. Good way to get to around but finding our bathroom was a major issue. Oceania should have something arranged for people on this tour. Only one of 4 public bathroom was working with a long waits and not convenient to where we were touring. The guide told us to use a bar after purchasing a meal. Everything was extremely crowded and this took away from our enjoyment of the area. We loved Marseille, the views from the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica and walking around the boat area. Monaco - Right at the port is the hop on and off bus (20 euros) and this took us all over town. Fabulous way to see the city. We also visited the Oceanagraphic (14 euros) which was crowded. But we hadn't been to an Aquarium for a while so we enjoyed it. What an exciting place to dock. Fantastic views of the city, and enjoyed eating and watching to boats. Portofino Italy - Oceania Tour - Scenic Rapallo and Sestri - We walked through part of Portofino first then boarded a modern boat (good bathroom on the boat )to visit the other town. Another highlight of the cruise. Portfolio is small and the shopping is expensive. Beautiful riding along Italy's coast and seeing life in the towns. The tour was very well run with just enough time in each of the town we stopped at to enjoy walking around. The boat left each place exactly when they said so beware to be back on time. We elected to remain on the boat the last day of the cruise to relax before the long trip home. We had toured Florence before. Every meal we had on the ship was a work of art with taste to match even in the main dining room. Except for one day you could also have lunch there. Afternoon tea is wonderful even though with the full itinerary we only attended once. I can't express enough how the staff went out of their way to help us. The last night after 10:00 pm I realized I had a problem with the private transfer I had arranged to the airport. Even though the destination service desk was closed they were able to get us on their airport shuttle from the ship at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. That says it all. Also the Internet was hit and miss. Not as good as home but even in our inside cabin one of us using at a time we could at most times access it. When not many people were on the ship it was speedy, other times slow but very usable. We also had use of the computers in the computer room with our free internet access one at a time. Lecturers on the ship were good discussions of the history of our various ports of call. If unable to attend the lecture I was able to watch it on the TV in the stateroom. We enjoyed many of the shows on the ship. Nolan Dean is the best cruise director at sea. We loved listening to Emmanuelle Adda and she did a fantastic show with the music of La Mome Piaf. Also, the World Beat show was one of the best shows we've seen at sea and we've sailed Royal Caribbean, Holland, Celebrity etc. One problem we've never had on an Oceania cruise before. It was summer so we expected some children on the ship. As a grandparent I love children around. However, some parents allowed their children to run up and down the halls at all hours. We did not complain but I know people across the hall called the reception desk. After their formal complaint the running in the halls ended. We've done many trips but we never enjoyed, saw so many beautiful places, fantastic food and customer service as this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We had never travelled on Oceania but our travel agent recommended this cruise as we were going with our parents who are older people and need help in many ways. She said the service was great and the food was excellent and the itinerary ... Read More
We had never travelled on Oceania but our travel agent recommended this cruise as we were going with our parents who are older people and need help in many ways. She said the service was great and the food was excellent and the itinerary was also interesting for all our age ranges (from 10 to 82). Since we embarked the cruise we felt a personal service, we went to have lunch at the buffet and the waiters were ready at any moment to help my parents carry their plates or ask them if they needed something else. Before the drill someone from the crew came to my parents cabin and told them he was in charge of taking them to the drill station, help them put on their life jackets etc.. very nice of Oceania to do that. The cabins are very spacious and the shower is great. The cabin attendants great and the laundry area in each floor very useful. The food is simply fabulous either at the buffet or at any of the dinning rooms. You have many options to choose from. What I really liked is only the staff serves you the food from the buffet, you are not allowed to serve yourself which is good because you reduce the risk of transmitting viruses. We loved the ports, and the excursions were great. The Destinations crew was very professional and open. We were lucky that is was not too hot. The pool area is also very nice and the afternoon tea was great. My mom hurried us every day from the excursions so she could arrive in time for tea. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Having travelled with Celebrity X during 2015 we were keen to do so again in 2016 to celebrate an 80th birthday and a wedding anniversary. Having checked out the Equinox for July found that there was a gourmet cruise on 2 July which ... Read More
Having travelled with Celebrity X during 2015 we were keen to do so again in 2016 to celebrate an 80th birthday and a wedding anniversary. Having checked out the Equinox for July found that there was a gourmet cruise on 2 July which sounded just wonderful. Michenlin Star chef Josh Eggleton from Bristol was on board to host a tasting menu on one evening and on shore in Italy Chef Gennaro Esposito (another Michelin Star chef) hosted a tasting lunch in his restaurant on the Amalfi coast. Both these events came with appropriate wines and were absolutely superb. I should emphasise however, that the standard of the chefs employed by Celebrity X is first class anyway so my comments on the Michelin Star chefs in no way demeans those on board the ship and the quality of all the meals served. The week was over too soon, but we shall be back for more! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
This is a cruise for more discerning foodies who want quality, service and luxury and don’t want to be herded along with thousands of other passengers on a monster ship. After reading other reviews below, two alarm bells rang in our ... Read More
This is a cruise for more discerning foodies who want quality, service and luxury and don’t want to be herded along with thousands of other passengers on a monster ship. After reading other reviews below, two alarm bells rang in our minds. Firstly, that the ship had serious Norovirus problems during its recent Caribbean stint and secondly, that Oceania has recently been taken over by Norwegian and that standards and quality may have dropped. Fortunately, both concerns proved to be entirely unfounded. There has been no signs of norovirus aboard the ship since it crossed the atlantic to Europe. As to the second concern, the onboard service, portions and quality of the food and the overall attention to detail was also top notch. Not having sailed with Oceania before, if it has indeed deteriorated since Norwegian’s takeover, then I can only assume it was previously of Michelin three star quality! We did a 7 day cruise from Barcelona stopping at Palma, Marseille, Monte Carlo, Portofino, La Specia (Cinque Terra), Livorno and disembarking in Rome. The average age was about 50 ish, lower than we expected. Among the typical middle to older age cruisers were a noticeable number of younger couples and a few 3 generation family groups. Passengers were about 40% American, 30% British and an eclectic mix of French, Germans, Belgians, Russians and surprisingly, several Argentinians. Everyone was friendly and generally well behaved (unlike on certain larger cruise ships I could mention!). Embarkation was a breeze at 12.00pm with almost no queue. We were onboard within 15 minutes of exiting the taxi. Despite the slightly younger age, the ship was typically deserted each night by 11.30pm save for a handful of die-hards in the bars and casino. Perhaps this was due to the slightly limited entertainment options, or the port-intensive itinerary on this particular cruise, or perhaps just the rather high drinks prices. The Gym was well equipped with many cardio and weight machines plus limited freeweights. CONCIERGE LEVEL / LOUNGE Our cabin was about 6 doors away from the Concierge Lounge, which features 24 hour hot and cold drinks and biscuits/cookies, newspapers, an internet station and a periodically manned Concierge desk to assist with planning and info. So is a Concierge Level stateroom worth the €300 or so extra? Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Basically, the cabins are identical to non-Concierge balcony staterooms. You get to board the ship at 12.00pm as opposed to 1.00pm with the regular guests (whilst suite guests come aboard at 11.00am). There is a free bottle of drinkable champagne (real French variety, but an almost unknown brand). You get a laptop PC in your stateroom (or an ipad on request), priority advanced booking on the speciality restaurants, bulgari toiletries, an Oceania Tote Bag to take home, plus a few other odds and ends thrown in. I’d say that if you use the lounge frequently (it’s actually good for grabbing an early morning coffee and newspaper) then it is just about worth the extra. Otherwise you might as well book a regular stateroom. THE SHIP The ship is beautifully decorated and has a real opulent feel throughout. Being a medium sized cruise ship, it is possible to explore all the major areas of the ship in about 45 minutes, something that is definitely not possible on the larger behemoths. It is extremely easy to get around the ship. You can reach most places on the ship within 5 minutes. There are plenty of elevators and we never had to wait more than 10 seconds for one to arrive. There is one reasonable sized swimming pool (saltwater chlorinated) and two Jacuzzis with an ample supply of deckchairs and several bali beds. The only time we couldn’t get a chair directly around the pool was during 2 different sailaway times when everybody seemed to hit the pool deck. There are several bars on board, none of which ever seemed to be full and getting a seat was never an issue. SERVICE The service could not be faulted. The high crew/passenger ratio means that whatever you are doing, there always seems to be a crew member (or three) ready to assist you. In the buffet restaurant, this almost gets annoying. Perhaps due to the norovirus risk, every station is manned with numerous personnel waiting to pick out the items you select and place them on a plate for you (no passenger is allowed to touch the buffet food!). More waiters then even offer to carry your plates to your table (I can carry my own buffet plate thank you!). It is great however if you forget your drink, or need a sauce bottle, etc etc. Almost all crew members greet you when you pass in the corridor and several will remember your name next time they see you despite there being 1200 passengers on board. Service levels are clearly drummed into them from day one. FOOD / DRINK One word, outstanding! We did not have a bad meal during the entire week and we sampled each and every dining option at some point. The food is fresh and tasty and there is no feeling of mass production that you get on the larger ships. The buffets are both amazing with a wide selection. Each of the speciality restaurants even has its own dedicated galley, ensuring each particular restaurant runs like clockwork. Our favourites were Polo Grill (an opulent Steakhouse with warm wood and button leather chairs you sink into) and Red Ginger (Asian fusion cuisine with sushi, Japanese, Indonesian and thai dishes. Red Ginger elicited a “wow” from every passenger we spoke to. Polo Grill served delicious Black Angus USA meat which did not disappoint. Jacques (French) served fantastic typical French food, but we were not particularly impressed by the décor, which seemed disjointed and somewhat clashed with the surrounding ship fittings and layout. Toscana (Italian) was also impressive and elegant, but we find Italian food very samey and predictable, and this restaurant did nothing much to stand out from the crowd. If you like Italian, you will surely love it though. Drinks onboard are very expensive. Everything is in US Dollars. A half-decent glass of wine, a cocktail or a name-brand mixer will cost you $15 once the 10% Spanish sales tax and 18% onboard gratuity has been added. Piña Coladas are particularly bad value given that the non-alcoholic version is available free in all bars, so you are basically paying $15 for a shot of rum! The frequent happy hours (2 for 1) can help a bit, but many people swore the measures were smaller during happy hour. The wine selection was reasonable but rather limited for Spanish wines (the ship sailed from Barcelona after all!)The mark up is also very high. For example, Protos Crianza Ribera del Duero (which costs $18 in most European supermarkets) was over $75 onboard including taxes etc. Knowing this, we brought onboard our full allowance of 3 bottles of wine per stateroom, for which you can open in the restaurants and pay a $25 corkage charge. If you enjoy bottles that cost over $30 in the supermarket, you will definitely save money doing this, plus you will draw envious glances from fellow diners who are stuck with a $15 value Zinfandel and wish they had done the same. We saw one theatre show (an excellent tribute to Edith Piaff) and we saw the comedian in Horizons Lounge one night. Entertainment on Riviera is low key, so if you are the type that needs to be constantly entertained, then best to choose another ship. All entertainment takes place only at 9.00 – 10.00pm, so if you like to eat late, it is easy to miss everything. We explored certain ports independently, as the ship excursions were ridiculously overpriced. PALMA We took the free shuttle round the harbour to the cathedral. We then walked a couple of blocks behind the cathedral where there is a bicycle rental shop. We rented a couple of bikes and followed the extensive trail of bike paths throughout the city and along the seafront (runs for several kilometres). We booked lunch at Ola Del Mar in Portixol, easily the best seafood restaurant for the money in the Palma area. MONTE CARLO Catch the Bateau Bus (water bus) across the harbour and then explore all the main sights on foot. The town is all steep hills but there are several public elevators dotted around to assist you if you know where to look. PORTOFINO We did the hike across the headland to San Frutuosso (about 2.5 miles). The views are spectacular but the trail is difficult in parts and not for the unfit or the faint hearted!!! We had lunch by the beach and then caught the ferry back to Portofino, which leaves from the far end of the bigger beach every 30 minutes past the hour (weather permitting). For an easier trip, simply catch the return ferry between Santa Margarita – Portofino – San Frutuosso and spend an hour in each place. CINQUE TERRA (LA SPECIA) A free bus takes you to the cruise terminal. We then walked 400 yds along the promenade and then caught the ferry, which stops in turn at each of the 5 famous villages. There is also a train line serving all but one of the villages. Best to do some internet homework on which village you want to explore. The only one with a sandy beach is Monterrossa and only the train goes to Corniglia. ROME After getting the free bus to the port terminal, walk the 15 minutes or get a taxi to the train station then catch a train directly into Rome. For Vatican area, stop at ‘St Pietro’, or for Pantheon/Spanish Steps/Trevi Fountain/Collosseum etc, go to ‘Termini’. Train ticket is about €7 each way and takes 45 mins to an hour depending on being a fast or slow train. Overall, we loved the ship and would thoroughly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Its an excellent value for the money compared to may upscale cruises. Everything first rate and staff could not do enough. Some of the excursions just okay but still fantastic. I'd rather they gave less excursions but better ones! ... Read More
Its an excellent value for the money compared to may upscale cruises. Everything first rate and staff could not do enough. Some of the excursions just okay but still fantastic. I'd rather they gave less excursions but better ones! The food is the finest I've had at sea. They could use a cigar room on board-they have a place for cigarette smoking but not cigars which seemed rather unfair. An older clientele-ranging from 60-70 years mostly. Make sure you take drink package otherwise you will feel ripped off if you like to indulge. Cabin nice size and beautiful tile bathroom which was quite comfortable size fore a cruise ship. Dont pay extra for concierge service didnt find it necessary or that helpful. I liked the casual country club dressing-stylish yet comfortable. The shows were nice but I wish they had more music and dancing for 50's crowd. Wouldve like to try the culinary classes people seemed to genuinely enjoy them. If you go to Marseille dont bother getting off the ship-dirty and a little unsafe-take an excursion and go to Provence or stay on ship to relax and enjoy the beautiful ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
this was our first cruise on Vikings ocean ships. The Star is a very beautiful ship. Cabins are roomy, bathrooms larger than most ocean ships we have been on. Entertainment excellent. Dining and food was excellent. Service in the ... Read More
this was our first cruise on Vikings ocean ships. The Star is a very beautiful ship. Cabins are roomy, bathrooms larger than most ocean ships we have been on. Entertainment excellent. Dining and food was excellent. Service in the World Café not so good. Tables not cleared so people ended up sitting at a dirty table until staff came around to clear and wipe it down. embarkation and disembarkation very efficient, best we have had on a ocean cruise. We had an outbreak of Norovirus and my self and husband were confined to our cabins for 2 days each. Doctors and nurses very considerate and tried to help us through this bad time. Cabin person very good at trying to keep everything clean. Because of this problem the ship had to adjust ports and delay sailing from Bordeaux France, we missed Greenwich and shortened time in London. We missed the included shore excursion to Paris because of our illness. We feel a lot of the reason we sailed with Viking Star was missed so that was the reason for not giving them an excellent rating. Viking promised to reimburse us for adjusted stops etc. and for our illness . We received a voucher for $250. each on our next cruise, which we feel was not enough and called customer service to register our complaint, they promised $500. each which we never received.. May not cruise again with Viking Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Was this inaugural voyage cruise interesting? Yes and no..... yes because.. Christening Ceremony is probably a once in a livetime event. Several special gifts.... With J. Pepin and Claudine abord,you can expect some ... Read More
Was this inaugural voyage cruise interesting? Yes and no..... yes because.. Christening Ceremony is probably a once in a livetime event. Several special gifts.... With J. Pepin and Claudine abord,you can expect some excellent food,and they delivered it,for the time the Pepin's were abord ( 2 may ? ) after that date there were some hits and misses. No because... This ship was NOT ready to sail....it was not finished....too much work still had to be done. They still have to build A TEAM in the GDR ( had some bad exp with a waiter,really bad.) It took 3 hours for the starter the first night !!! Some someliers know nothing about wines ( terrasse cafe ) and are not interested at all.Not trained? Although we had some excellent exp. Waves,very slow service with drinks. What i liked about Sirena ( THIS VOYAGE ) We opted for the house select package ( o life ) Very good choise. The chef,Maarten Smeets, was excellent and very visible. Still the best food at sea. The CD Lesley was more than OK.His version of "if i were a rich man, was very,very good. The lunch in the GDR ( J.Pepin ) is a good idea I.M.O. Entertainment OK The itinerary Again with Oceania SIrena? Yes,when they have the time to finish the job and at a price not higher than the other little sisters. Don't cry because it's over,smile because it happened. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We were unsure if we would EVER take a second cruise after our first experience on a Megaship. That experience sank us right into a funk. We then received a brochure from Viking Ocean Cruises and started doing some investigating.....LOTS ... Read More
We were unsure if we would EVER take a second cruise after our first experience on a Megaship. That experience sank us right into a funk. We then received a brochure from Viking Ocean Cruises and started doing some investigating.....LOTS of investigating. We booked the cruise and waited almost 19 months before the start of the cruise, from Barcelona. The best way to describe it was "AWESOME". There wasn't one thing that we would change with respect to the ship, crew, itinerary, service, food, drinks, excursions. Embarkation took approximately 15 minutes and everything was "smooth sailing" from that point (no pun intended). EVERYTHING was far beyond our expectations and we came home and immediately started planning our next cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises and we are again planning our future cruises on Viking. We firmly believe we will never take another Cruise Line after experiencing Viking. We cannot thank you enough for providing us this experience. My wife and I have been discussing how we would love to see Viking offer a Caribbean Cruise that included the ports from Miami to L.A., which would amount to a 22 days cruise. We feel very confident that there would be a LOT of interest in a cruise like that. Only time will tell, I guess. KUDO's Viking......You are WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2015

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