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40 Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

I am writing this review to let others know what actually happened to "me" alone, on the Trans-Atlantic Crossing of Holland America's "Oosterdam". I took Holland America this time, (my 23rd Tans-Atlantic) ... Read More
I am writing this review to let others know what actually happened to "me" alone, on the Trans-Atlantic Crossing of Holland America's "Oosterdam". I took Holland America this time, (my 23rd Tans-Atlantic) because my usual line, "Celebrity", had become less than acceptable. I must say that Celebrity gives me tremendous "Frequent Cruiser Benefits". Much, much , much better than Holland America! MUCH BETTER! But, Celebrity has gotten much worse over the last few years. Their food, which was once fantastic, has changed to the worse. Don't know why, but they did. I had received an amazing offer from Holland America's Casino, for Caribbean cruises last Fall and realizing that I couldn't possibly cruise for 1 week for what they were offering me, I took 2 cruises, one in "January", on the " Westerdam "and one in "February" on the "Nieuw Amsterdam". They were both fantastic. Yes truly excellent. It was because of that, that I booked the "Eurodam" for April to Barcelona, from Ft. Lauderdale. With a 100% charge, plus 60% surcharge for a single occupancy in an ocean view cabin, I decided it was a wonderful deal and started getting ready for it. (sad, that I had to pay a 160% surcharge, but it is what it is) I found out later that several friends were going on the Oosterdam in March and I changed to that cruise. They were able to offer me a balcony cabin for only $25.00 total upsell, for the 13 day cruise. I should have smelled a rat, shouldn't I? Yes, I most certainly should have. But alas I did not. This is where my story actually begins; I actually met quite a few people that were more than charming on this crossing. They were a rather interesting group. Mostly we met at Trivia. On Celebrity we got trivia 4 times a day. On Holland America, only 2 times. And the 2nd one was during dinner hour. 1st one at 1300 hours. 2nd one at 1900 hours. (1PM and 7PM). I think it was the most popular activity for the entire crowd. When I played on Seabourn, it was attended by 50% of the entire ship. Trivia is extremely popular. Regardless of that, I was able to meet most of the people at Trivia and again at "Happy Hour". Holland America has a "Happy Hour" every day, between 1600 hours and 1700 hours. They are only held at the "Ocean Bar", and the "Crow's Nest". If you don't know about it, then you're out of luck. Now you know about it! I would like to say at this time that the bartenders at the "Crow's Nest", Santos and Bong, were amazing. If you see them, please say hello to them for me, Howard. The entire bar staff at the "Crow's Nest" were truly terrific. The problem with the Crow's Nest was that at exactly 1700 hours, the "Harry James Orchestra", which was mostly comprised of horns and was 16 players strong. If you've ever been in the Crow's Nest on the Oosterdam, then you know what I am talking about. If you haven't , then I'll explain. It's a rather small-ish room with 9 foot ceilings. Totally wrong for this venue. Once cocktail hour ended, all conversation came to a close. There was a very lovely elderly couple that took to the floor every night and showed everyone how to dance Ballroom Style. The choices of food was to say the least, tedious. Yes, this was a low cost cruise and as such, not expected to be able to offer caviar, but in actuality they offered much less. No one could find Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad, now Egg Salad. One day I noticed the Executive Chef speaking with one of the Matre' D's and asked him why these Salads weren't available on the "Salad Bar" and he told me, and I quote, "They Cheapen The Display" on the Salad Bar. I told him that I and many other Americans like "Tuna Salad", and he said that I could easily make it myself by combining the "Ahi Tuna Flakes" with Mayo and make my own, and me telling him that I didn't come on board this ship to make my own Tuna Salad. Having owned my own restaurant, many years ago, I would have given him his walking papers. One should never tell a customer to make his own , anything! I ate every meal in the Dining Room. Why? I like being served, when I am away. Plus, I get to meet many interesting people. I love meeting people. I have more friends this way than I could any other way. I would rate the dining room very good for breakfast and lunch. Dinner was mediocre at best. But, at least I had great company. AND, great service and excellent wine Stewards. I can't say enough about the service personnel in Cabin and Dining and Lido Deck. Bravo Gentlemen. I usually never go to the shows. But on this cruise there were some fabulous singers. Especially the "FLY BOYS. WOW what a great group of guys. Think A CAPELLE with music. Sensational. There were also some not so great players. I won't say, not I won't mention the string duet, no, I won't so don't ask again. Why do cruise lines not tell their passengers that there is a free "Shuttle", from the pier to the City Center? WHY? Telling me that they never heard of such a thing is inexcusable. Even us neophytes know more than this. Come on People. If the entire "Tour Department" is changed every week, it should be still in the computer. Oh and the Computors were abysmal in every possible way. seriously dreadful. My toilet overflowed 4 times. Yup, 4 times. I called and called the front desk and got nowhere. Zip, Nada, nothing. I asked for a meeting with the Hotel Director, so sorry, says Ms. Guest Relations , Annie. Not happening. The buck stops here. Seriously? Yup, and there was so so much more. I lost my I-Phone somewhere between the UBER car and the Checkin Desk. Like what a WOW I give to the ladies at Check in. They bent over backwards to help me re-unite me with my phone. I owe you ladies big time. I got it by the way. It took 1 week but I did find out that I got it back before I did. That was lucky because I also found out that my bank froze my account even though I did tell them that I was going on a cruise. Quelle Dommage. There were workmen on board the ship from the moment we left Port Everglades. There were even more workmen when we got to Funchal, home to a free shuttle bus from the pier to the city center, for all cruise lines. We received more and more workers and when we got to Rome about 2,000 more got on. It would have been impossible not to notice them during the cruise. Those passengers that didn't notice them were quite blind to everything. Do not get on any ship that is going into or coming from "Drydock". It doesn't matter how much you pay for a cruise if you're going to be interrupted with dangling cables and missing ceiling tiles and closed decks and missing infrastructure. I'm sorry, I did not pay you for this. If you're giving it to me for free, well then, OK. If I'm paying anything, no, not so nice. My friends and I went to the specialty restaurant called, "Pinnacle" , supposedly a NW Steak and Fish House. I say supposedly because if a chef in a steak house doesn't know how to cook steak properly, they should not be working in a steak house. Not too hard to understand. When I call over the Matre' D', I expect him to know what I mean by overcooked. Is that too much to expect? Is it? no, it isn't . I had an amazing round of luck in the casino. Thanks guys. You're all deserving of many accolades. I paid for my cruise basically. Which is a good thing. Because if I had not, I would have been a very unhappy camper. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: My cruising history - this was my 16th cruise (1-Carnival/1-Celebrity/3-Norwegian/11-Royal Caribbean). I decided to try HAL because I was looking for a little "step up" from RCL for things like ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: My cruising history - this was my 16th cruise (1-Carnival/1-Celebrity/3-Norwegian/11-Royal Caribbean). I decided to try HAL because I was looking for a little "step up" from RCL for things like service, food, entertainment, etc. I believe I have found it. My biggest concern was that I've always heard that HAL tends to be a older crowd (I've heard it referred to as the "Q-Tip Cruise Line") and while I found it to be true - there were many more "younger" people than I expected (I'm 55). I was traveling alone on this cruise (as I am finding that's the way I want to cruise more and more these days). I was happy to see that HAL tends to be less on the single supplement than most others which certainly helped my buying decision (and will help future buying decisions). SHIP INFORMATION: I will start by saying that I know this ship was going straight into dry dock after this cruise so I won't spend any time on how it needs to be refreshed. I was pleased with the layout of the ship. Everything was easily accessible and laid out nicely. While I have sailed the larger mega ships, I tend to like the mid-sized ships better and this was no exception. Things like the teak wood flooring on the promenades/pool deck and upgraded furniture outdoors was a nice surprise. The decor choices are certainly reminiscent of the time it was built, but I feel sure that this will change with the facelift. One thing I noticed that there is much less "open" space on this ship compared to some of the newer ships. Many of the passage ways (halls) from one part of the ship to the others felt dark and claustrophobic as opposed to open and bright. Overall, it is a lovely ship and the down sides did not get in the way of enjoying the ship that much. ACTIVITIES: There were many activities available on the ship and I took part in some of them but not all. The things that were a highlight for me were 1.) The Screening Room 2.) The Destination lectures 2.) The Fitness facility 3.) The sauna was nice (I wanted to purchase the Thermal Suites but they only sell 40 per cruise and I waited to long [day 2] to purchase it and they were sold out) 4.) I got a haircut in the salon and it was great and well priced ($25). I didn't try any of the cooking activities but heard they were great. SERVICE: This was one of the things I was hoping would be great and it was. I have sailed on so many other lines where crew members have a hard time doing something as simple as saying hello when they pass you, but overall, this crew gets it! Service across the board is better than on any other cruise line I have sailed. It's not just about DOING your job, but being genuine while doing it. I felt like I was special more times than not because of good service. Not every line can say that. My cabin stewards were the best Ive ever had on any line (Putu and Kadek). PORTS & SHORE EXCURSIONS: I loved each of these ports but did not do any shore excursions. I tend to like to just get off the ship and explore myself. Each of these ports allowed me to do that. EMBARKATION PORT: Since this was my first HAL cruise and I don't have "frequent floater" status with them like I do with RCL, I was concerned about the board process. I have to say that my worries were unfounded. The process of being in GROUPS to board was incredibly easy and I only waited about 30 minutes to get on board once arriving. I loved it! CABIN: I traveled alone on this cruise and had an inside room (6075) and loved it. The layout of this room was more "square" than long and skinny and it offered much more space. I think it was a Large Inside (Category I). The closet space, the bathroom, the bed position - everything felt oversized. The quality of the linens was wonderful and the bed was very comfortable. The room had a DVD player under the TV which was nice. There were 4 electrical ports on the desk (2 for U.S. and 2 for European). I brought 2 currency converters so I ended up having all the plugs I needed (4 U.S.). The only thing that would have been more perfect was if there were outlets by my bed. I liked the fact that my cabin steward brought ice into my room each day without me asking for it. I also loved the complimentary shoe shine service from my cabin. DINING: I ate in ALL of the outlets and loved everything. The quality of food, the presentation of it and the choices were very good. There seemed to be lots of option, even for vegetarians and folks who need gluten-free. There were plenty of sugar-free options and I even tried some of them and they were good. I had read in previous reviews about the "pre-packaged" sandwiches and how people didn't like them. I tried them and found them perfectly fine. Overall, the food in all the outlets I tried was quite good (Vista Dining Room, Dine-IN, Lido Buffet, In Room Dining, Caneletto, LeCirque, Pinnacle Grill). CHILDREN'S CLUBS: I didn't see them, but I met some folks who had kids (3 & 5) and they loved every aspect of the service they got for their kids. The kids wanted to spend more time in the Club than they did with their parents!!! ENTERTAINMENT: I found the entertainment to be equal to or better than any other line I've sailed. Shout out to the FLYBOYS - a group brought on board for this cruise. They were 4 guys from the UK who took contemporary songs and laid a decidedly 30s-40s feeling on top of them. There was also a special orchestra on board for this cruise called the Harry James Orchestra which was a 16-piece band that were AMAZING! The only down side to this group was their female singer. Being a trained musician myself, I tend to be a little hard on entertainers and she was flat most of the time and struggled to stay on pitch most of the time. You could tell she knew her stuff, but was just having a hard time (every time I heard her). The ship's singers were amazing - some of the best Ive ever heard. I liked the variety of entertainment around the ship. There could have been a little more entertainment, but overall, what was there was good. DISEMBARKATION: Very easy. I liked being asked to wait in my stateroom instead of some public lounge until my number was called. I didn't have to wait long at all once I made it to the embarkation deck. Overall, I loved it. OVERALL: I was very happy with HAL since this was my first cruise on them. I look forward to cruising them again and would highly recommend this line to anyone who is used to the level of service and quality found on RCL or NCL. HAL takes it up a notch and made it work. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
After 15 cruises of various cruise lines including 4 previously on RCL I found the 14th March 2015 sailing on the Independence Of The Seas to be way below expectations in several areas. However the short comings did not curtail having a ... Read More
After 15 cruises of various cruise lines including 4 previously on RCL I found the 14th March 2015 sailing on the Independence Of The Seas to be way below expectations in several areas. However the short comings did not curtail having a great family vacation. My wife and I traveled with our two sons, daughter in law and 11 month old granddaughter. One son used Choice Air traveling from Wichita, KS, flying into Fort Lauderdale the night before the cruise. Second son, my wife and I drove to Fort Lauderdale from Orlando. We coordinated and arrived at the pier around 11:00, we all had JR. Suites (upgrade courtesy of RCL) and swiftly went through the embarkation process. We decided to hang out by the pool until the rooms opened up at 1:00 which was fine. Only negative on embarkation is the ship left from pier 29 and the closest parking is the mid port parking garage which was not very convenient. Our staterooms were on deck 10, 1356, 1360, and 1364, three adjoining Jr. Suites. We found the rooms to be spacious, clean and well appointed. I asked to have the balconies opened between the rooms which was accomplished but not until day two and asking several times. My room steward Herbert was very helpful and friendly throughout the cruise. I had several prolonged and interesting discussions with him. The room steward for the other two rooms was Naida who was also excellent and very helpful with the 11 month old. Only accolades for staterooms and room stewards. We enjoyed a total of three days at sea around the pool and ship. No issues finding chairs or lounges around the children’s pool area. We took advantage of the climbing wall and Flow Rider. In fact the Flow Rider was so much fun we decided to book it for a private one hour session. Unfortunately I suffered a bad fall on the rider, injuring my shoulder. The flow rider staff did not insist or suggest that I visit the infirmary to have it looked at which in retrospect I believe they should have. We enjoyed two fine meals, one in Chops Grill the other in Giovanni’s Table. We ate breakfast in both the Windjammer Café and the MDR. Lunch was either ashore or in the Windjammer. We utilized My Time Dining with reservations which resulted in having the same servers each evening at the same table on the window which we very much enjoyed. Both our main waiter Yasser and assistant waiter Wilmer were outstanding, particularly taking care of the needs of the 11 month old. Other than the meals in the two specialty restaurants we found the food below the standard of past RCL cruises and far below the quality of the food on their sister line Celebrity. The food was not bad just not the outstanding experience I have become accustomed to after 40 years of cruising. The choices were repetitive with the names of the dishes changing but the preparation of the meals changing little. Dessert choices were limited and portions small. The servers however were helpful and on occasion brought courses not ordered so they could be sampled by those at the table. Steak and Lobster was not offered as one meal but as separate meals requiring me to order both resulting in wasted side dishes. The breakfasts in the Windjammer were ok but we preferred the quiet breakfasts in the MDR. Lunch in the Windjammer Café was far below our expectations. Although there was a reasonable selection it changed little from day to day. The pasta sauce tasted as though it came out of a can rather than freshly made as did the soups. Bread for sandwiches was not fresh if not outright stale. However we did not go hungry at lunch and always found something marginally to our liking. I found the production shows to be boring and repetitive which I found out of the norm for RCL. The entertainers were talented but the productions gave them little to work with. The Invitation to Dance Show became very boring after the first 15 minutes although the singers and dancers did their best to keep the energy going but they simply lost the audience. Under The Big Top and Once Upon a Time had different themes but similar content. Unfortunately I missed what may have been the best show, Beatlemania “Live” which I heard several passengers commenting positively on. The one show my family and I enjoyed was A World Adventure On Ice, it was lively with a diversity of music. It even kept the 11 month olds attention for the whole show, a very good production on ice. We also enjoyed various other evening activities such as the karaoke events and the "Quest" event. Another disappointment was the casino. I enjoy playing a little Blackjack and on most ships tables are offered with a $5.00 minimum bet but not on this ship. Except for a very short 2 hours the minimum bet stood at $10.00. Since I play for entertainment this minimum did not allow me to play for a sufficient amount of time to engage in the activity at all. With many tables standing empty and others partially seated it makes no sense to me not to entice the clientele with a lower minimum as the cost of running the facility is fixed and I doubt the returns to the house would differ little with the lower minimum perhaps even increase due to a greater participation. We visited Maho beach and the Sunset Bar and Grill to watch the planes land in St. Maarten at an affordable cab ride. Ate at a restaurant along the boardwalk in Phillipsburg and had a good Caribbean lunch, again at a very affordable price. In St. Kitts we visited the Brimstone Hill again an affordable cab ride, but the cabbie only gave us an hour there as he wanted to get back for another fare. I suppose I could have paid him additional to stay longer but it didn’t occur to me at the time. I was underwhelmed by Basseterre, little to see and poor choice of restaurants for lunch. The best shopping is in the duty free area on the pier but all your standard Caribbean shops like Diamond International. The port enjoyed the most was Old San Juan; unfortunately we spent little time there. We did get to see the beach though; one son did a little surfing. A gentleman at the beach rented us his board for $15 asked simply that we not ding it up. We also got to visit the Del Morro fortress. Wish we had more time than the 5 hours we had there. Private beach in Labadee Haiti, not much to say other than it is another opportunity for RCL to transfer more of your vacation dollars to their coffers. Disembarking at Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) we chose to self disembark the ship around 9:00, carrying our bags, which took about 15 minutes from stateroom to car. Going through customs was painless with no lines. I summary it appears to me that RCL is cutting back in little ways across the various entities that comprise the cruise experience. I suspect that they are doing this to keep the basic cruise cost affordable while attempting to increase stockholder value. This seasoned cruiser would rather they retain the luxury cruise experience of the past even at the expense of slightly higher prices. Will I cruise RCL again probably but it is also as likely I will spend my limited vacation budget on the more luxurious lines either within the RCCL family or with their competition.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
This was our 14th cruising experience. We had a delightful week. As Platinum members with RC, embarkation was a breeze in Ft. Lauderdale. We got there a day early and enjoyed a stroll down Seabreeze Blvd. Saturday morning along the beach. ... Read More
This was our 14th cruising experience. We had a delightful week. As Platinum members with RC, embarkation was a breeze in Ft. Lauderdale. We got there a day early and enjoyed a stroll down Seabreeze Blvd. Saturday morning along the beach. Had dinner at Coconut Waterside Grill Friday night - wonderful and we're sure to return. Love the Independence of the Seas. Size of ship offers enhanced amenities, Best fitness room ever. it seems so much easier to get around that on other ships over the years. Dinner room staff and room steward were certainly pleasant and adequate, no complaints, but didn't stand out in comparison. Had a few minor issues/encounters with staff, and they were superb in the attitude and ability to resolve issues. Food was good, entertainment was fun, at sea days were fun - no rain but a little too much wind, ports were very good - St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan, Labadee. Wasn't especially looking forward to San Juan or Labadee, but both proved to be enjoyable days. Walking around San Juan is very nice. Labadee feels like Disney Caribbean. Wish we had skipped the excursion in St. Maarten (Philipsburg) and just enjoyed the public beach by the water taxi depot. All ports had dock facilities, so we didn't have to suffer tenders. Bought the unlimited WIFI package which covers two devices and shared with friend. WIFI service gets better and better. We had a 10 bottle wine package we had bought pre-cruise, but apparently they are now doing away with those packages. Based on our cruising experience, RC is certainly our prefer cruise ship company in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Embarkation as is most of the time with Royal Caribbean no problem. We got out of our cab and were on the ship in less than 15 minutes. We found our cabin and were very happy with what we saw. The map that we saw prior to arriving in ... Read More
Embarkation as is most of the time with Royal Caribbean no problem. We got out of our cab and were on the ship in less than 15 minutes. We found our cabin and were very happy with what we saw. The map that we saw prior to arriving in Florida showed the Diamond lounge on deck 6 our deck, but it has moved to deck 4 aft, close to “My Time” dining. The Cabin is very spacious as far a cruise cabins go. It has a small bath tub that we never used. The closet is great. More than enough room for any seven day cruise with no need to put the suit cases under the bed – plenty of room in the closet. The cabin can be divided into sections with a curtain. I came back to the room early one afternoon to nap and wife closed the curtain and it worked out just fine. The Oasis of the Seas turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. We were its sister ship the Allure of the Seas three years earlier, so we knew what to expect: The shows were a major draw for us and we were really looking forward to these six shows: Cats was enjoyed by us a great deal, but at the intermission I think half of the audience left. We were in the second row, loved the music and the costumes. The people we talked to after the show said that they did not follow the show – well I think that they were putting way too much thought into it. Comedy Show was again great in this author’s estimation, even though a few people walked out on it. I would say that it was “PG.” but I am sure every show on the Oasis is different. Headliner, Paul Boland was fair, yet it seems I am again swimming upstream. Most people that I talked too enjoyed it a great deal. It was a family show and children were welcomed. Ice Show, everybody loves the ice show. It is really amazing what they can do on such a small arena. Come Fly with Me, Ok but I expected more. I has a cast of thirty with some Circus so le acrobats. The Allure’s “Blue Planet” was so good we went stand-by to see it a second time. Diving, once again it is amazing what they can so in such a small place. Due to weather I think that our presentation was the only one (they schedule four). Dining, first night was horrible. They really seemed like amateurs very slow and no follow up. My prime rib had nothing going for it. The following nights in the dining room were much better. We had a waiter from India named Ryan and he was excellent. Followed up and it seems as if the food was even better. Most mornings we had breakfast in the main ding room. This is a great way to meet fellow passengers and we meet quite a few and enjoyed most of their company. We did the Windjammer just once and were not impressed, but nothing that we had to do again. Chops, food was very good. I paid extra for the dry aged steak, not sure if it was worth it, but it was very good. Service again not so good they seemed to have no leadership. Giovanni’s Table again the service was a bit better than Chops, but the food did not seem to be as great. I have a feeling that Royal Caribbean is going through a bit of growing pains. We were told that there are plans for four Oasis type ships one more (they have two the Oasis and the Allure) coming on line in 2016 and another two Quantum Ships one coming on line 2015 an another coming in 2016. That is a lot of cabins to fill. We will be back but it will be a few years. Hopefully they will get their act totally to together.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
While the hotel staff is caring and concerned, the condition of the ship is awful. Upon boarding, at least 50 cabins on 2 decks had no air conditioning and many of the public rooms were too warm including deck 8 which encompasses the ... Read More
While the hotel staff is caring and concerned, the condition of the ship is awful. Upon boarding, at least 50 cabins on 2 decks had no air conditioning and many of the public rooms were too warm including deck 8 which encompasses the library and internet cafe. At first, HAL staff tried to tell us that it was a result of the temperature change as the ship had been in New England and was now in the tropics, or because so many doors were open during embarkation. Repairs took over a week and were never complete as passengers experienced extreme cold or lack of A/C sporadically throughout the voyage. The plumbing wasn't much better as flooding of some cabins or restrooms was pretty much a daily occurrence. Our cabin flooded on day 39, soaking the luggage and laundry within. The deck 8 aft restrooms smelled like a sewer. About halfway through the trip, that smell had dissipated - unfortunately not because the problem was fixed, but because housekeeping placed deodorizers in the affected areas. On some faucets, the hot and cold water was reversed creating a burn hazard. We changed cabins twice on a 42 day voyage due to the issues, which was a pain. The menu has been updated and food is pretty good. Ports were nice and the staff was attentive. None of the positives outweigh the poor condition of this ship which is well below HAL standards, and mine. The Maasdam is well past its prime and should be avoided.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Carnival Freedom Pros • Guys’ Burger and the Blue Iguana Café – great additions • Friendly staff • Spacious balcony cabin • Ice cream machines are open 24 hours • Serenity Deck for adults • Camp Ocean seemed to be a ... Read More
Carnival Freedom Pros • Guys’ Burger and the Blue Iguana Café – great additions • Friendly staff • Spacious balcony cabin • Ice cream machines are open 24 hours • Serenity Deck for adults • Camp Ocean seemed to be a hit with the kids Carnival Freedom Cons • Limited hours (usually 12:00 – 2:30) for the Mongolian Wok – many times a wait of 15-30 minutes • Change in policy for bingo (winnings applied to Sail & Sign Card) • Pools and whirlpools were crowded • Difficult walking on Deck 5 at night when pictures are being taken. It gets very crowded when trying to walk to the Victoria Theater. Ports - Recommendations • Shopping  Shop in St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and pier area in St. Kitts. There really isn’t much shopping in Grand Turk at the port. I noticed my favorite stores are not listed on Tripadvisor or have any dealings with the cruise lines. • Beach  Beach days should be in St. Maarten, Grand Turk, and St. Kitts. We prefer Orient Beach over Mullet Bay in St. Maarten, the area around Jack’s Shack in Grand Turk, and Cockleshell Beach in St. Kitts.  Your best snorkeling will be on Grand Turk. Though we had a great time on the catamaran with Leeward Island Charters, St. Kitts isn’t known as a snorkeling destination. You will have a wonderful day if you decide to go with them! Day 1 – Sunday, June 1 (Flight & Embarkation) We had an early 6:10 am flight out of MCI (Kansas City) on Delta. We flew from Kansas City to Detroit and then on to Fort Lauderdale. I purchased extra leg room seats for the trip to Fort Lauderdale and will do this from now on. We ended up arriving over 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The taxi charged $25 to take us to the pier. I must say that the port area in Ft. Lauderdale is not pretty. I do not like how luggage is put in bins outside. We did notice people carrying their own luggage on the ship. Check in to the ship was a breeze. We were on the ship by 1:30 pm and went directly to Guy’s Burgers. I must say that we loved Guy’s Burgers. This became one of our favorite places to eat. After lunch we went to our rooms and met our cabin steward (Rey). He was wonderful. In fact, the staff on the Freedom were friendly and helpful. We had balcony cabin #8422. It is located on the aft just behind and below the Lido buffet restaurants. We liked the position of our room. We noticed that balcony cabins on Carnival are a little larger than balcony cabins on other cruise lines that we have sailed on (Norwegian and Royal Caribbean). We participated in the muster drill and then ship headed out to sea. We did experience a little rain after leaving port. Dinner was at the Blue Iguana Café and Buffet. I really liked the pork and chicken tacos. Our friends enjoyed the fish tacos. Day 2 – Monday, June 2 (Sea Day) We woke up to cloudy skies and windy conditions. Part of the ship (upper decks) was closed off due to the winds. I decided to try a breakfast burrito at the Blue Iguana Café. It was ok. I will admit that I prefer breakfast tacos over burritos. I also had French toast, bacon, and banana bread from the buffet. The banana bread was great. It was moist and had walnuts in it. I wish the same recipe was used for the banana bread the entire trip. We were very tired after getting up at 3:00 am on the previous day so took a little nap. Lunch was at Guy’s Burgers. I liked condiment section. I always put mushrooms and bacon on my burger. Guy’s Burgers has got to be one of the best additions to Carnival! The buffet had a chocolate cake that was great. The rest of the afternoon was spent on the deck getting sun and going to the casino. I enjoy playing the slots a little when on vacation. We ended up eating at the buffet. The selection at night time seems to be less than during lunch. We saw the 88 Keys Production. It was a fun show. Go to the shows early enough to get a good seat and to see the pre-show. We felt the railings in parts of the balcony prevented a good view of the show. Day 3 – Tuesday, June 3 (Sea Day) We went to Sea Day Brunch. This is a nice change of pace from eating in the buffet for breakfast. I really liked the basket of pastries that was brought to our table. Both of us ordered steak and eggs. Though the portions are on the small scale, they were tasty. We then headed to the Lido deck pool area to play bingo. There were a few sprinkles throughout the morning. The prizes for bingo have mostly changed on the ship. No longer, except the last 2 days, are people awarded cash for bingo. Instead, the winner receives the award to be credited to their sail and sign account. This can be a problem if you don’t charge a lot on your card. The main pool appears to be smaller than on other ships that we have been on. However, we haven’t been in a pool on a ship yet! Chairs can be found on various parts of the ship. You may have to go to the aft or forward section on the upper decks, but they can be found. There was a chocolate cake served in the buffet at lunch that was delicious! We went to 2 shows this night: Comedy & Juggling and Love & Marriage Adult Comedy Show. Manuel Zuniga is very talented and funny. The Love & Marriage Adult Comedy Show is supposed to be for those 18 years of age and up. I don’t understand why parents brought he children who couldn’t be above 13 to the show. Anyhow, this was a great show. One couple that were up on stage had been together for 56 years. Late night snacks included hot dogs, chips, and cookies. Day 4 – Wednesday, June 4 (St. Maarten) We arrived in St, Maarten and took a water taxi to Phillipsburg. We did this on our last trip to St. Maarten and enjoyed it. You can purchase a round-trip ticket for $7. After arriving in town we spent time shopping. I took off to my favorite store (Helena Jewelers) and purchased a gold ring. I really like this store. I found the value and quality at this store to better than many other stores in the Caribbean. A word of caution: make sure to get a price before getting your hair braided. Our friends purchased this for their 2 girls and were charged $96 for just one of them. We took Tony’s Taxi Service to Mullet Bay. He was a great driver and took us to Maho Beach. The drive to Mullet Bay was much longer than we expected. Perhaps it was because the area around Simpson Bay is so built up and busy. One plane flew directly over us at Maho Beaach. We then went on to Mullet Bay. The beach at Mullet Bay is nice and there are 2 places to purchase food. I ordered the ribs and they were good. The incline is a little steep when going down to the water. It’s not too bad, but more than what I expected or read about. Several catamarans came into the bay and brought people to swim while we were there. Though we like Mullet Bay, we would return to Orient Beach. We thought Orient Beach is calmer and flatter. Tony stopped at a lookout for us to take pictures on the way back to Phillipsburg. We then spent another hour shopping Front Street. I almost purchased a bamboo shirt. We took the water taxi back to the ship. Day 5 – Thursday, June 5 (St. Kitts) We woke up and ate breakfast at the buffet and then visited the shops around the pier. There are several neat shops in the area. We did walk downtown (1 – 2 blocks) to go to a bank. I was not happy that a neat store (Batik) downtown is no longer there. Our snorkeling excursion with Leeward Island Charters left at 10:30. You should not have high expectations about seeing a lot of fish in St. Kitts. St. Kitts is not noted as a snorkeling destination. The staff at Leeward Island Charters is great. They make sure that everyone had a good time and enjoyed their day on the boat. We did experience some rain going out to the snorkeling destination. I highly recommend this company. After the excursion we shopped around the port. I did purchase a glass jelly fish Christmas ornament. One thing that made me feel a little better about the port is that the monkey handlers now have to be licensed. I explained my concern to a couple handlers which led to some good discussion. I sincerely hope the monkeys are being taken care of. At least this is a step in the right direction. Some owners of the monkeys allow you to take pictures for free while others charge. We went to Guy’s Burgers once getting back on the ship. You can see how we liked this place! Of course the ice cream machine was also a hit. Day 6 – Friday, June 6 (Puerto Rico) I don’t like the time the Freedom was in port. We were only in port from 7:00 – 2:00. We have visited Puerto Rico several times, so we know what we want to do and see. However, for people who haven’t been to Puerto Rico, this doesn’t give them the opportunity to see much of the area. Our friends took a tour to El Yunque and enjoyed it. They especially liked their tour guide. We spent the day shopping on San Francisco and Fortaleza Streets. We did purchase some neat souvenirs. We also went to the local grocery store (Super Max) in Old San Juan and purchased Puerto Rican coffee to take back home. Once back on ship we decided to eat. I had chicken and pork tacos at Blue Iguana Café. I also was able to get a slice of pizza at the pizza station. Dinner at the buffet was better tonight. It included steak and turkey. I liked the lemon chiffon cake. After dinner we went to the Comedy/Magician Show. I will say that it was mediocre at best. I did not connect with the humor or magic acts. The magician performed small magical acts (card tricks) on a large stage. Other people enjoyed the act, so this is personal preference. Day 7 – Saturday, June 7 (Grand Turk) After breakfast we departed the ship, walked thru Margaritaville, and headed down to Jack’s Shack. I read mixed reviews about Jack’s Shack so I was skeptical about going there. However, the beach and water is MUCH better around Jack’s Shack than at Margaritaville. Yes, prices are a tad high (ship prices), but you can’t beat the location. We were the first people at Jack’s. I had to try the jerk chicken. It was tasty. Some people tried to get me to try the fired conch, but I couldn’t get the nerve to try it! The only negative about this place was that the day went by too fast. This was probably our best beach day. Our friends booked 2 excursions through Carnival: Submarine and Sting Ray Encounter. All of them enjoyed the sting rays and snorkeling. There were mixed reviews on the Submarine excursion. It was a tight fit for people. We went to the opening production of “80’s Pop to the Max.” This show includes some great technical features, singing, and dancing. We liked the show so much that we brought friends to the late show. You should plan pm getting to the Victoria Theater early to see the pre-show. The rist show was much more crowded than the late show. This show will only be on the Freedom for 5 weeks as it will be moving to other ships. I met the film crew and they told me about the shows. Playlist Productions are now producing the shows for Carnival. “80’s Pop to the Max” will be featured in upcoming commercials and on You Tube. Walking to the Victoria Theater was difficult from the Alchemy Bar to the Fun Shops on Deck 5 due to pictures being taken. Something should be worked out to deal with traffic flow. Day 8 – Sunday, June 8 (Sea Day) We spent the day playing bingo, lying outside (tanning), and shopping. We didn’t win at bingo, but did come close! I did end up buying an Invicta watch on the ship. I am aware of prices on watches and did get a good deal. For those who smoke, I noticed the Fun Shop was selling 3 cartons of cigarettes for $80. We received a notice in our box about purchasing Express Luggage Checkout for $20. The ship picks up your luggage at night and you don’t see it again until you arrive to your final destination. I must admit that I was a bit nervous when I saw that the luggage tag’s final destination was listed as ATL. However, I was told that it would arrive at MCI and they were correct. I would definitely pay the $20 again for this service. Day 9 – Monday, June 9 (Debarkation) We tried to waste a little time prior to leaving the ship as our flight wasn’t until 2:40. There was still a line checking off of the ship. You might want to get off of the ship at 7:00 am if you have an early flight. I would definitely do my best to get a flight that left before noon on our next cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale. The only negative experience with Carnival staff was outside the building while trying to get a taxi. Two staff members gave different information in an unpleasant tone of voice.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Ship is beginning to show its wear & tear. Staff was top notch and cabin attendant tackled every problem. Unfortunately, since HAL seems to cater to those over 60 you have to deal with those fellow passengers that have difficulties ... Read More
Ship is beginning to show its wear & tear. Staff was top notch and cabin attendant tackled every problem. Unfortunately, since HAL seems to cater to those over 60 you have to deal with those fellow passengers that have difficulties with any walking. Entertainment in main room was okay but movie theatre projection system is very out of date and poor quality. Note: they did have recent movies but again with the limited seating that was available was almost useless to watch a movie there. Internet of course was a joke - when will cruise lines get better Internet service and charge a fair price. Had a package and cancelled it after it took 15 minutes to download just 5 msgs (no pictures just text). The transatlantic portion was fairly smooth - stabilizers really helped. Captain had a great sense of humor. The day talks during the crossing were by a retire Navy officer and very informative. There was a Catholic mass everyday (a standard only on HAL) - There probably would have been a priest anyway because the cruise was over the Easter period. The specialty dining was the delight of this cruise. The Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind Restaurant for lunch, Le Cirque, De Librije and Master Chef’s Room was the majority of our on-board bill. Booked our excursions privately like the CC suggested. We did not take a HAL port excursion. Layout of room - not very efficient - couldn't pass each other around the bed without coordinated moves. - SUGGESTION: place bed closer to Verandah and leave the common area closer to entry.  Not enough storage in cabin for a 23 day cruise - need more shelves in bath - need more drawers (underbed drawers were already used for blankets and covers for bed - so there was no room for our personal items). Cube stool storage was used for needless refridge bar items not requested.  Did not need ornamental water fountain on desk - so all it did was take up space. Small Flat screen TV 20" - inferior resolution and size of screen. A CRT had better resolution.  1st DVD player (cheap) didn't work - replacement also marginal and failed to read some DVDs.  Did not need iPhone speaker system on desk (note: it isn't compatible with our Android phone plus the unit in our room didn't even have the powercord - so all it did was take up space. I placed it behind the cheap TV to free up desk space. Did not need or use yoga mat. Bathrobes - did not fit a man of 6'2"  Cabin had sewer smell at various times. Of course not enough electrical outlets - with all the chargers for readers, laptop, etc - advise you take a power strip like we do. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
Everything from check-in to disembarkation was fantastic. The dining room Grand Cuvee was great from ambience to service to the food taste and choices. We had dinner every night in the dining room. We enjoyed our waiters and out table ... Read More
Everything from check-in to disembarkation was fantastic. The dining room Grand Cuvee was great from ambience to service to the food taste and choices. We had dinner every night in the dining room. We enjoyed our waiters and out table mates--8.There were ample choices but always something for everyone. Our waiter explained the daily chef recommendations in detail and kept us abreast of daily activities and informed us of the time changes (six). They could not have been more accommodating and I only wish we could receive service like this in the US. The shows were diverse with something for everyone every night. A Beatles touring group was unbelievable, cirque de soleil show, comediennes and Broadway shows were inviting and something to look forward to daily. The Captain (Dimertius) was very funny and extremely accessible.We also loved the cruise director Lisa and she was professional funny and even entertained one evening with her beautiful voice. We were in Concierge class and I would highly recommend it.. Larger rooms, bedding, pillows, towels and bathroom with great shower head and afternoon canapes..Room service was good and was right on time with every order. The lawn club on 15 was a nice touch for playing Bacci ball and croquet. There was always something to do and the ship was full but you never felt cramped or overcrowded. The Aqua Spa was a nice relief indoor with not children allowed under 16 with great organic food, AHI Tuna and other fresh assortments.i All the staff was extremely accommodating and couldn't do enough for you. WE have cruised most every cruise line before but this was out first Celebrity cruise but will consider Celebrity first and exclusively in the future. The fitness center was beautiful and had all the equipment that you find at your local higg end gyms. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I wanted to share my observations from our recent cruise of the MSC Poesia. We traveled December 1-11, 2012 and were in cabin 10126. We are experienced travelers and this was our first cruise with MSC. We were asked by friends to join them ... Read More
I wanted to share my observations from our recent cruise of the MSC Poesia. We traveled December 1-11, 2012 and were in cabin 10126. We are experienced travelers and this was our first cruise with MSC. We were asked by friends to join them for our wedding anniversary and in total there were five couples traveling together. It is always helpful when giving feedback to start out with positive things, and there were things I liked about the cruise. I thought the ship itself was very pretty, and well maintained. The ship was clean and attention paid to detailing. The evening entertainment was very good in the Bar De Poeti, both Greg and the dark-haired woman with whom he performed, were very good. The four-piece band in the same room was excellent and good for dancing, providing a wonderful variety of music and tempo. The two bands in the Zebra Lounge were very good and entertaining, although their Latin music repertoire was lacking in salsa music. The evening shows were very good and the acrobats and adagio dancers were very entertaining. The excursions were very good, and we found them well organized and informative. The port in Jamaica was especially pleasant for walking around and shopping. Staff that was especially helpful was Henry at the reception desk that helped me resolve a problem that I was having with the Internet. The bar staff at the pool bars were very good, they made good drinks and the serving staff were attentive around the pool deck, without being over-bearing. The food and service in the dining rooms for lunch and dinner was not as we had expected. The first three mornings we had breakfast in the buffet, and it was so awful we had the remaining breakfasts in the Le Fontane Room where we could order our food and it would be served hot. The breakfast buffet had consistently cold and overcooked scrambled eggs. The bacon was undercooked, not crispy and wallowing in grease. The breads were consistently dry, flavorless, and tasted like cardboard, especially the muffins and croissants. The orange juice was just colored yellow water, with a tinge of watered down flavor. There was no nova served in the buffet. The toasted breads, English muffins, and bagels were cold and stale. Breakfast in the Le Fontane Room was served warm, the breads were generally more normal tasting. Mario, the matre de of the breakfast room had the staff well-trained and most of the time we got what we ordered timely. The lunch buffet was generally unappetizing and had few tasty dishes that were enticing. The hamburgers were consistently overcooked and dry. Sandwiches were sparce, and we never saw deli sandwiches with roast beef or turkey (the turkey sandwiches that were served was one lone slice of processed turkey on stale bread). The International corner offered good dishes, but were spicy and most of the women would not eat it because of bad breath and upset stomachs from eating curry dishes. Fortunately the pizza was consistently! The dinners on the cruise were horrendous. Consistently for ten nights, our dinners would come out cold, overcooked, tasteless, and in some cases spoiled. When we would ask out matre de Fausto to assist, he would return dishes to the kitchen and then never follow up to see if we were properly served and people were satisfied. My wife resorted to eating the Caprese salad, a Caesar salad, and the consomme 8 of the 10 nights! The first evening the struggle with our Captain and servers was getting soda water (water with gas) served to us at no extra charge instead of flat water. After considerable debate and insistence, staff relented and brought soda water to six of the ten guests who preferred that beverage. Staff was trying to charge us per glass for the water or asking us for soda coupons and we refused. We were not asking for cans of soda, but rather soda water from the bar gun. The Caesar salads were generally good, but one night one the Caesar salads came out without any dressing? How is that possible? We asked for some anchovies for the Caesar salads and Fausto brought out an entire dinner plate of anchovies nightly, to make the point to the annoying Americans. On the second night one of our dinners came out with pieces of aluminum foil in the dish. The salmon served every night were typically inedible because they were so badly overcooked and often were laden with bones. The sirloin steaks with Bernaise sauce were 3/8 of an inch thick, and were consistently overcooked, tough, and inedible. There were sent back by numerous people at our group, numerous times. The only steak in the ten days that was edible was the tenderloin medallion on evening 9. Twice during the course of the trip, appetizers with baby shrimp and scallops were served. The first time, the shrimp were totally mushy and smelled bad. Five of us returned the dish back letting the server and Fausto know that the shrimp were bad. We asked him to let the chef know. In a subsequent conversation with the head chef, he was never advised of the problem. Meaning our concerns was killed by Fausto and the problem not corrected. Several days later (evening 9) another shrimp appetizer came out and it was mushy, sticky, and did not taste right. We brought matre de Mario to the table and brought this to his attention. He agreed with our assessment and promised to let the chef know. On the second formal night there was a surf and turf dish offered. Five of the 9 persons having that dish returned the lobster for being soft and mushy, and inedible. Mario was called over, once again recognized the problem, and took the dishes to the kitchen. Three plates of new lobsters were brought back, but two of the wives never received their dinner. Mario did not follow up to make sure everyone was served and that it was followed through. By the time we asked our server what had happened to the other dishes, it was late, the women were angry and not wanting any food (it had already been over an hour and 20 minutes since we sat down and now approaching 9:45 pm). The pastas that were served were bland, and the sauces were not very appetizing. Many of the dishes were left unfinished. Overall, the food at dinner in the dining room was unappetizing, inconsistent, and very disappointing. We referred to our cruise as the "Weight Watcher Cruise" because most of us usually left the tables hungry, or ate more salads to fill us up. The desserts were fair, but in the ten days we never saw any pies, or chocolate cakes. On the 10th day, for the first time ever, we saw a brownie served at lunch. We ate at the sushi restaurant one night, and the food was pretty good. Very expensive, but good! I also want to bring to your attention about a challenge I had with the Internet service. I bought the very expensive 8-hour package, and one night I clicked the log out button but did not wait until the window had closed (there is apparently a lag time because the service is quite slow). As a result I did not log out completely and burned through several hours of my valuable Internet time. When I realized the error I went to the reception desk to ask for assistance and restoration of my time. Front desk clerk, Henry, was calm and very helpful. He was trying to contact the IT Manager, but could not get anyone to answer the radio pages, or telephone. Finally, the assistant IT Manager, Irene, came and was very uncooperative, and did not offer to solve the problem. Henry had to write up a memo that was sent to Italy. Due to the time difference, we then had to wait nearly 12 hours for a reply to see if my time credit was restored. Irene, said she did not have the authority to solve the problem, nor gave me a code for a small credit of time so I could solve my business emergency. I had to wait until the following morning, until Genoa staff could respond. I was eventually given several hours credit and expressed my gratitude to Henry. Why is your IT staff not empowered to solve problems immediately, and more importantly, what I was looking for was a little reassurance that my request would get to the proper authorities in a timely manner, and not fall upon deaf ears. I had a very sensitive time frame to solve a very important business challenge. Instead of Irene saying, that she would send the email out right way and let me know when the message was confirmed, I had to throw a fit to get her take action. She wouldn't even give Henry proper direction to make the problem go away. She just walked away from both of us! This is unacceptable behavior, on so many levels and evidences poor training, poor supervision, bad attitude, etc. I was at the reception desk when a woman approached the staff saying that she had just fallen down and hurt herself. The infirmary was apparently closed at this time, and she could not go down there for timely attention. Instead of staff following through with the woman and letting her know they would check on her later in her cabin, or offering to have the nurse check on her, she was told to go to the infirmary on her own when it opened four hours later. Really? We also enjoy dancing very much and thought the disco was a great room. Unfortunately, the room never had any people in it. The problem is that the average cruise age group is fairly old, (well over 50, as we are) and there are not that many younger people who would enjoy contemporary disco music. Because the disco first opens at 11pm, most of the cruise passengers are heading their cabins by that time. Moreover, none of the entertainers in the lounges promoted or reminded the guests that the disco was opening at 11pm. Those passengers that are still awake are not really aware that the disco is open. It is suggested that the other music venues cross promote and let people know that the disco is open. Other suggestions are to hold receptions, or special promotions in the disco during the happy hour to get people up there, and or open the disco at 9pm so that people after dinner can first go up there, and be enticed by special drink promotions or mixers. The gym equipment on the ship was extremely limited and outdated. Compared to our experience on the Freedom of the Seas ship, several weeks earlier, this gym is grossly under-equipped with outdated machines. There are only hand weights that go up to 15 pounds and many of the guys were complaining about this. There should be a water dispenser in the gym area, in addition to the one by the hot tubs. For a ship that allegedly just got went through a total rehab, and a makeover, what happened to putting in state-of- the-art equipment? The Spa was very nice, but when I had a massage and the girl was asking for a tip, I was unable to add a tip onto my charge. I explained that no one in gym clothes carries cash with them, and in fact we are not supposed to carry cash anywhere on the ship, because virtually every activity on the ship is driven by your ID card and 15% gratuity added to every activity automatically. My masseuse was unfortunately denied a tip because I had no ability to add a gratuity by my receipt. I don't care that the Spa is a separate franchise; not my problem. If I can sign for goods in Duty Free, or the Bar, or the various items sold on the pool deck, or signing out a towel, I should be able to add a gratuity to a spa service. It's not rocket science. Overall, I can tell you with 100% confidence that I would never take another MSC cruise, even if it was given to me. So please don't send me a voucher or coupon for a cruise discount. It's wasting paper. Dinner and food service for our group was a running joke. Two people in our group are travel agents, and the couple that invited us on to this ship are MSC VIP's , and they each vowed never to book anyone on MSC. I found the lack of training for the serving staff (often no silver ware, not checking water glasses, no picking up dirty dishes in a timely manner, not getting the orders correct, not following up on dishes served or returned, etc.) the poor skills of the matre de, especially Fausto, to be unacceptable. The inconsistent food quality and presentation was bordering on incompetent. How can food leave the kitchen without any quality checks? I had to make the matre de sit down and taste some of the awful food so he could believe we were not exaggerating. Considering that this was our wedding anniversary cruise, it was most disappointing, and we can promise you that we will not return, and we will not be recommending this line to our friends, and that we have let our travel agent know about this, and I will be posting this letter on TripAdvisor.com. You have a lot of work ahead of you if you plan to be marketing this cruise line to Americans and our ports. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Recently returned (Friday!) from a 13 day cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Civitavecchia, Italy on HAL's Eurodam. I shared a cabin with my 80 yr old parents, and my sister and her husband also traveled in their own stateroom. We booked ... Read More
Recently returned (Friday!) from a 13 day cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Civitavecchia, Italy on HAL's Eurodam. I shared a cabin with my 80 yr old parents, and my sister and her husband also traveled in their own stateroom. We booked directly through HAL, and got our air tickets through HAL. Traveling to Ft. Lauderdale was effortless, and we grabbed a taxi and went to the Total Wine Shop (minutes from the ship) to buy a couple of bottles of wine and some soda before boarding the ship. The stateroom was small, but we did ok. We didn't use the balcony much (it was cool, and we encountered some rough seas). Next time, we'd probably opt for an inside cabin (I hear they are larger) but only if we also get a cabana, like we did this time. (See below. I LOVE cabanas and will ALWAYS book one henceforth!) I purchased (and therefore paid) for many amenities in advance of the trip, hoping to avoid a staggering credit card bill when I got home, and to prevent my parents from finding out how much I spent on massages, the thermal suite, and the cabana. This had some upside (smaller bill due when disembarking), but also some downsides. The wine package I paid for came with four dinners at the Pinnacle Grill, and HAL (shoreside) said it wouldn't be a problem to use all four dinners at one time, so I also purchased a fifth so we could all eat together. In addition, HAL extended us all five dinners at the Pinnacle Grill as part of a VIP package, but never explained this to the ship personnel, which meant continuous backs and forths with the manager at the PG, who has yet to respond to my post-trip email documenting the five dinners gratis from HAL. (She said there was no way HAL gave us five dinners. Oh yes they did.) I don't mean to sound small minded, but HAL gave me a gift of five dinners, and when the manager found no record of it, she said I could pay for the 5 dinners and straighten it out after I returned. Yeah, right. I paid over $2400 out of pocket before I ever set foot on the ship for the amenities. If I can trust HAL with $2400 for several months, it would seem that they could have trusted me for $120 (5 dinners at the Pinnacle Grill) for a couple of days. That was disappointing customer service. But I try to cruise with the attitude that I am not going to let the little things get me down, and overall, we had a glorious time. I did splurge and get a cabana (four persons) on deck 11, which allowed the family to meet without having to worry about deck chair hogs. We were served champagne and chocolate strawberries, fresh fruit, you name it. Mark and Ryan were our cabana servers and they were delightful. I will always try to book a cabana in the future. I found the deck 11 cabanas infinitely nicer than the Lido cabanas, but take a look and decide for yourselves. My sister and I also booked lots of spa services for all five of us, including the thermal suites for all five of us, hot stone massages, facials, and I also had the seaweed wrap. I loved all of them! We even got our elderly parents to each have hot stone massages. You should have seen the look on my dad's face when we told him he would be naked under the sheets!!! I purchased a wine package that came with four dinners at the Pinnacle Grill, two wine tastings for two, and five bottles of wine. It was nice having wine at dinner, but I felt the choices were limited. Also, the premium wine tasting was held on a very rough sea day, when all the outside decks and promenade decks were closed, and my brother in law was seasick, so I checked to see if we could substitute the wine and chocolate pairing tasting later on. Was told yes and this led to another series of interminable discussions back and forth with the front desk. Again, for the amount we'd already spent, I didn't think those sorts of conversations were conducive to good customer relations. Food was great. We ate twice at Pinnacle, twice at Tamarind, we did the Le Cirque, and also Cannaletto. I love the steak Diane at Pinnacle, ADORED Tamarind, will probably not repeat Le Cirque, and also loved Cannaletto (ate there twice). I found the main dining room to be loud and not conducive to dinner conversation. But, having said that, I also found all the servers to be fast, attentive and polite. The ports of call--Madeira, Malaga, Alicante, and disembarking at Citivecchia, were wonderful. I would definitely go to ALL of these ports of call again. In Madeira, I paid for a driver (through JD's Taxis) to take us all over the island. Our driver, John, was knowledgeable and was careful to accommodate my elderly parents. I strongly recommend JD's taxis. Madeira is LOVELY! In Malaga, I hadn't arranged any excursion in advance, wanted to see how my parents were doing, and we got burned. We spent a lot of money on a driver whose English was poor and his knowledge of what we were seeing was even worse. I overheard at dinner several people who had been on HAL excursions making the same complaints, though. Malaga is an ancient, fascinating city, and there's lots of history behind it. The next time I am there, I will plan a tour well in advance. Great bars in Malaga and even better food! In Alicante, we swam in the Mediterranean (brisk, but very swimmable!) and enjoyed the topless beach. If you don't have an excursion planned, use the Hop On Hop Off bus--10 Euros pp and worth every penny. Disembarking in Italy was painless. Really appreciated having spent the extra bucks to get on a HAL bus to our gate to come back home. Service was excellent everywhere. Our cabin stewards were very attentive and our room was always neat, which was nice, as it was crowded with three of us. There must have been a disco or bar beneath us, as I could hear the music late at night. No problem for my (deaf) parents though. In short, a very memorable trip. This was my seventh cruise, my first cruise over one week in length. I am still learning how to cruise (like, bring every piece of correspondence with you when the cruise lines promise you something in case there's some crossed lines of communications), but it was the best cruise ever. Funny. I say that every time I finish a cruise! And I never thought about work once for two solid weeks. Now THAT'S the sign of a good time! Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Eurodam Transatlantic Cruise -- April 14th to 27th, 2012 My DH and I drove to Fort Lauderdale from Ontario, Canada to board the Eurodam April 14th for its transatlantic cruise. This was our first TA cruise and our first time to Europe ... Read More
Eurodam Transatlantic Cruise -- April 14th to 27th, 2012 My DH and I drove to Fort Lauderdale from Ontario, Canada to board the Eurodam April 14th for its transatlantic cruise. This was our first TA cruise and our first time to Europe so needless to say we were very excited. We had a very nice drive down to Fort Lauderdale taking two nights on the road. Sail away day April 14th was a very rainy morning. We had a precruise reservation the night before at Comfort Inn Suites on Federal Ave. We found the hotel with no problem by using our GPS and drove through torrential rain just as we came in FLL. It was a very quick and easy checkin and the room was very clean and spacious. It looked as if room and been refurbished. We had a livingroom area, flat screen tv, coffee table, queen bed which was very comfortable. Although the hotel looked like it was a bit dated, it was still a very good price and what we especially liked was the fact we could park our vehicle there at no charge for the duration of our cruise. I booked an overnight stay for our return April 30th. When we returned, the vehicle was fine. We had a nice parking spot near the building under a roofover so it had been somewhat protected from the elements. We met up with about 6 or 8 other couples from the Cruise Critic Message Board for dinner at a nearby restaurant in FLL the night before embarkation. We had a nice time meeting everyone. The morning of the cruise my husband realized he had forgotten to pack his underwear!! LOL. Just had to share this. I had asked him too prior to leaving home if he had packed this and that, underwear was mentioned and he said yes. So needless to say that morning he rushed out to find a store nearby to buy some. Luckily there was a Ross store where a couple of hundred crew people from the ships were buying up their needs. My DH actually ran into someone we knew from our previous cruise onboard the Ryndam. He is Indonesian and a really nice guy. His name is Walter. Come to find out he was going to be on our ship, the Eurodam!! So we had fun chatting with him throughout our cruise. We took the hotel's shuttle over to the cruiseport at 11:00 a.m. April 14th after having a nice continental breakfast at the hotel. Shuttle only cost $6.00 each which also included your return pickup from the airport. The return shuttle was prompt in picking us up after phoning from the airport when we returned. No problems at all. Luckily the rain had stopped as we arrived at the cruiseport. Our luggage was taken away and we proceeded through the checking procedure. Everything went smoothly and efficiently and we were onboard by 12:00 noon!! We loved the Eurodam. It is a very beautiful ship and of course immaculate. We were in VE5078. It had a nice balcony which overlooked the lifeboats. Not sure I liked this as I would rather look straight down at water but this was fine too. The balcony was shorter than what we had on the Ryndam so there was no room for a lounger, just two chairs and a small table. Of course the bed is amazingly comfortable. We had a small frig incorporated into the cabinet underneath the TV. This was very nice. There were no drawers other than the two night tables but plenty of shelves in the closets. We had a nice bathroom with tub and shower. Our cabin stewards always had fresh ice in our ice bucket every day without having to ask. Our luggage arrived at 2:30 p.m. and we began to unpack. I love that time as you know you have the WHOLE cruise ahead of you and it's fun organizing your stuff and tucking the suitcases under the bed. We spent some time exploring the ship and marvelling at the gorgeous live flower arrangements and art everywhere. There are many lovely lounges and bars tucked in here and there. I especially liked the Silk Den on the 11th deck which was near the Tamarind Restaurant. This has stunning views and very calm and peaceful with beautiful colours of greens and purples. I would come here once in awhile with my laptop to do some emailing. Muster Drill was at 4:00 p.m. Everybody has to attend. The Captain was even threatening to have anyone who didn`t go, to be put off the ship and not be allowed to sail. There were a number of cabins called which were not present at our Muster Stations. I don`t know why and am not sure if anyone was put off the ship. This drill has to be taken very seriously. We did not have to wear our lifejackets. Those rules have been changed. After Muster Drill we checked out the Rembrandt Dining Room to see where our table was located and luckily we did because we were not very happy with the location. We were tucked way back in a far corner near a serving station. We were told to see the Maitre`D and he was very helpful in having us moved to a better location. Clouds began to breakup, just perfect timing for sailaway at 5:00 p.m. At 5:00 I went to the spa for their raffle draws but didn`t win anything. Afterwards met my husband at the Crow`s Nest for Happy Hour. Sailaway didn`t happen until 6:30 p.m. for some reason. I was wondering if it was because of those people who didn`t show for the Muster Drill. There were other ships that had to sail ahead of us so maybe this caused a delay. Finally she blasted her horn and we were on our way, waving to people onshore as we slipped away from Florida. Awesome. The sun was just starting to sink to the horizon and there were lovely fluffy clouds in the sky. So pretty. We could see the coast of Florida for miles as we sat outside on our balcony. Nothing like being on a ship !! So beautiful. I won`t go into too many details of our day to day adventures. There is so much to do onboard if you want to keep busy. Every night we read the itinerary and I highlighted what we wanted to see or participate in the following day. We went to a few cooking demonstrations, computer classes which were wonderful, art auctions, coffee chats with the Captain or other senior officers, or just sitting in Crow's Nest enjoying the view. There were many talks in the theatre about interesting subjects one of which was about the Bermuda Triangle. Of course the Travel Guide, Ian Page, gave this presentation AFTER we sailed passed Bermuda! LOL. We had mostly cloudy weather across the ocean with some drizzle and wind. The swells were quite large on April 17th which caused the ship to rock more than usual. People were being affected but my DH and I were OK. We went walking on the promenade deck to do some laps but I was sidetracked by the awesome waves. I took a few photos and videos of the ship crashing into the swells and sending up huge sprays of water. There was some rain this day but mild. Ship was going UP and DOWN. The Captain announced that he slowed the ship down to make it a little more comfortable for everyone. The next day the seas calmed down somewhat but was still cloudy and rainy. From time to time, I could see whales shooting their spouts of water up into the air. That was exciting to see. Rembrandt DiningRoom: We thoroughly enjoyed our meals in the diningroom. We ate most of our dinners here at the late seating of 8:00 p.m. One night we had Beef Wellington and French onion soup. So delicious. Our Indonesian servers were so pleasant and always hopping -- serving with a smile constantly. Not sure I care for the ceiling decoration. Just one of those things -- I would rather see pretty light fixtures than wooden inverted triangle type structures. We had our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet on our first day of sailing. There were quite a few people and we had a nice time meeting everyone and exchanging our gifts that we brought as an ice breaker game. We planned a few activities throughout the cruise such as a slot pull and a cabin crawl. It was fun seeing some of the other cabins on different decks. Quite a few of us participated in that. Lido Buffet: I always love the live orchids on each table in this area. A very elegant touch. Food was varied and very good. It always seems to be a bit congested in this area though when it`s meal time. People coming and going in every direction with plates of food can get very frustrating at times. Tamarind Restaurant: Loved this restaurant. The ambiance and decor are very lovely with spectacular views out over the water. This restaurant is located on the 11th deck featuring Pan Asian cuisine. The service and the food presentation were very lovely. We had a window seat with the amazing ocean view. We made our reservations a few days in advance for 6:30 seating. If you wish a good time then I would recommend making all of your specialty restaurant reservations a few days in advance. We never were able to get a reservation for the Canaletto as we left it too long into the cruise to make the reservation. A few days into our cruise, a Code Red (or whatever it`s called) was announced due to the numbers of people coming down with a gastrointestinal illness. That was discouraging as from now on all crew had to serve in the Lido buffet and at all dinner buffets. All the nice hand towels were taken out of the public washrooms, etc. We were advised to wash our hands more diligently. Fortunately, my DH and I never did catch it. Pinnacle Grill: We had our reservation at 6:30 p.m. and we were seated near the windows. The atmosphere is lovely. I had lobster bisque, lobster tail with whipped potatoes, asparagus and for dessert baked Alaska which was flambed next to our table. It was delicious. All the flavours were perfect. My DH ordered a shrimp cocktail and the shrimp were enormous. We found the service to be wonderful -- not too slow or too fast. Sunday, April 22nd -- Medeira Island The weather was absolutely perfect for our day here and all the rest of the cruise. The sky was clear blue and very nice temperatures this day. The town of Funchal looks very quaint as it is built up the sides of the hills and all buildings are white with orange tile roofs. Every square inch of land is planted in gardens it seems. Hills are terraced as well with all sorts of things growing. We had arranged with another couple to take a taxi on a private tour. The driver took us up narrow cobbled streets up and around hills going higher and higher. The views were stunning! We could see the clear smooth blue ocean in the distance with our ship anchored at the dock so far below. Beautiful. The higher we went, the higher and more rugged the mountains became. We drove to the top of the hill where the cable ride ends and then we watched the Portugese men running down the hill with riders in the wicker basket toboggan. This is a very old tradition dating back over 100 years. They go flying down the street. Very funny to watch. We then were taken into the higher mountains along switchback turns and steep cliffs. WOW -- gorgeous views and scenery. I would have been nervous except the roads are very good with good guide rails and our driver was excellent as well. Only trouble was that there were many buses trying to navigate the switchback turns around the mountainside which caused a bottleneck of traffic from time to time. A few times we even had to backup to allow the buses to get around. I would NOT like to be in the buses for that excursion. Too scary. We were taken to a lookout point where there were stores and a coffee shop. Their coffee was delicious. We also tried their chestnut biscuit or roll. Very good. There are many handmade items here to purchase. I bought a handmade sweater for my mother for 25 euros. You can buy Medeira wine here as well. We made our way back to downtown Funchal and we were dropped off at the flower displays. Medeira Island was celebrating the Flower Festival this day which was a bonus for us !! Lovely long mats of flower blooms arranged in beautiful patterns were on display in the parkway areas and booths filled with flowers that could be purchased. So beautiful. There were many flowers I had never seen before. At every turn there was a photo op. At 4:00 they were having their flower parade but alas we had to be back onboard the ship by 4:30 p.m. Fortunately we were able to sit on our balcony and watch the festivities from afar with our binoculars. There were tons of people lining the roadway. We could hear the music and the children singing. Ship blasted her horn a few times as we pulled away and we were away at 5:15 p.m. The weather was absolutely perfect from here on in with calm seas and clear blue skies. Temps. were in mid 20`s C. No rain at all. Malaga, Spain -- April 24th We sailed along the coast of Spain early this morning. We ordered room service for breakfast. I can see mountains in the distance. Just saw my first castle !! As we approached the port there was a castle up the slope and in good shape -- not in ruins. I was surprised though at the urban sprawl and unending apartment buildings along the coast. My DH and I had the morning to ourselves but then had a ship`s excursion booked for a countryside tour to a little town in the mountains called Mijas at 1:00 p.m. We were one of the first off the ship after the all clear to disembark. We walked and walked and made our way to the castle at the top of the mountain which overlooks Malaga. Unfortunately we were told by the man in the tourist information booth to just walk up that roadway there and it would be about 15 min. So my DH and I set off all excited to see our first castle up close and personal. But by about half an hour and unending curves in the road which was going higher and higher and becoming steeper and steeper, we were beginning to lose our enthusiasm and stamina !! The views were breathtaking though.... literally. LOL. If we had known, we never would have started out but by this time I said we can`t quit now we must be there soon. A young girl went ``jogging`` by us and I asked her how much further. She said we were ``almost there``. FINALLY we made it to the top and paid our way in. Price was 2.7 euros total. I thought my legs were falling off at this point. We wandered in to see the ruins of the castle at the top of the mountain and marvelled at the views. At some point my DH wandered off and we were lost from each other for awhile. I was not very happy about that but finally I found my way to the entrance and finally found my DH. We had our wires crossed. He thought he had told me to meet him here and I know that he did not. So we had our moment of disagreement. We then realized that there was a road here at the back of the mountain where the buses and taxis drove up to the entrance. Oh dear. Now we know. At least we got our exercise for the week. Why didn't the man tell us this down below? We took the public bus down to the main area of town. The streets are so lovely with WIDE sidewalks lined with tropical trees and gardens. There are many shops and cafes along winding narrow side streets which are bustling with well dressed people. I am loving Spain. We made our way to the massive cathedral on a square with outside cafes. We stopped to have a break and a sandwich with a delicious cold beer and marvelled at the architecture. We didn`t have any more time to explore Malaga on our own as we had to make our way back to the port area for our bus trip at 1:00 p.m. We then walked up a huge red carpet covered street! What is this about we wondered. We realized afterwards that today was their Film Festival !! WOW. If I had known, I would have been watching for celebrities! It was quite crowded with many people along this street as there was no traffic allowed. Not sure if this is every day or it was because of the Film Festival. We began our bus excursion to the town of Mijas at 1:00 p.m. We had a very nice and knowledgeable guide who told us many things about their area and country as we drove up into the mountains. The mountains are very high and rugged and it is quite arid here. We arrived about 1:40 p.m. and we had our alone time if we so chose, to wander around and enjoy the town. There are many shops and outside cafes and restaurants. You can take horse and buggy rides or donkey taxis. We took a nice horse and buggy ride. I was not happy about the donkey taxis. I feel that the donkeys were being exploited. They were standing for hours and no water pails were evident anywhere in the immediate area. They were tied so that they couldn`t even put their heads down all the way. I would never rent one of these. I really felt sorry for them. They were hot and looked very miserable. One of them was even crying or wailing like a baby. April 25th - Alicante, Spain Another gorgeous morning. 8:00 a.m. and water is like glass. Arriving at Alicante at 9:00 a.m. Temperatures reached 25 C this day. We were off the ship by 9:30 a.m. We took the shuttle to the uptown area. Wow....so beautiful!! The marina is full of yachts, sailboats, and there is a huge replica of a Spanish galleon docked here. We wandered around on the gorgeous walkway made of millions of bits of marble which came from the ancient wall that had surrounded the city at one time. Castle St. Barbara is perched on the high hill overlooking the city. Palm tree lined promenade is so amazing with lots of greenery and flowers. Shops and cafes abound. We walked to the old part of town called the Santa Cruz area. These are traffic-free small streets that go up and down the hills with many marble steps. The small streets are lined with many pots of flowers and geraniums in front of private small homes. This area is next to the ancient wall around the castle. We walked up to the wall and saw the wonderful views until we decided we weren`t going any higher. There are so many quaint narrow streets everywhere. Every turn is another photo op. We walked by the Basilica de Santa Maria which was originally a Muslim mosque then became a Christian church. This church was built on the medieval wall to improve the defense. There are cannonball holes in the stone and we saw TWO cannonballs still stuck in the wall from the 1691 bombardment. Very interesting!! We walked through the old part as well as the new. I had tapas and beer in the square in front of the old Town Hall. So lovely. We also went inside the Cathedral of San Nicolas where a Mass was being held. Very beautiful. Organ was amazing as well as the alters, etc. We watched for a few minutes. We stopped here and there for a cerveza and people watched. Every street was a picture waiting to be taken. Back to shuttle and onboard by 4:00 p.m. Tonight was another formal night and the dessert extravaganza! Wow - what a sight to behold. This was held at 10:00 p.m. in the Lido pool area midship. There were tables and tables of amazing desserts that are like works of art. We have late dinner seating so needless to say I was too full to enjoy much of it. They even had a cabinet full of beautifully decorated candied apples! Last Cruise Day: Well, the usual flurry of activity during our last cruise day. Packing that night and setting out luggage by 1:00 a.m. with our coloured tags on the suitcases. Where did the time go? But I am excited about seeing Rome. My DH and I have booked a hotel for 3 nights in Rome and then flying back via Newark, N.J. and on to FLL where our vehicle is parked. We said our goodbyes to the Cruise Critic friends and our servers in the D.R. and our cabin stewards. Took lots of pics. They had the Baked Alaska parade. It was fun and done a little differently. April 27th - Rome, Italy Disembarkation went so smoothly. 6:50 a.m. we docked at Civitavecchia. Sky is still clear and blue with not a cloud. Very calm seas last night. We were off the ship by 8:15 a.m. We found our luggage in the warehouse quickly and outside within minutes waiting for our driver that the hotel arranged for us. He was there within 10 minutes with a black Mercedes!! Nice. The driver was easy to look at as well - young and dark and so handsome. He had lovely long black eyelashes. My husband was even willing to agree that he was definitely attractive. He couldn`t speak English very well though. Away we went and after driving about 1 hour and 20 minutes we were at our hotel north of the Termini Station - Hotel Gambrinus. Very nice area. I was so happy as I just couldn`t be sure since I did all my research on line, you never know until you see it with your own eyes. The hotel was quaint - not too big and had a lovely white marble lobby. Since our room wasn`t ready, they allowed us to store our luggage and away we went to sightsee. We didn`t return until 7:00 p.m. and our luggage was waiting for us in our room on the second floor. The room was spacious with very high ceilings, air flow was always moving so it never became hot in the room. We had a flat screen TV, frig, free internet, king bed, although it was a bit firm for me, coffee maker with complimentary water. The bathroom was large with a rain head shower. The room was very quiet. Every morning they served a beautiful hot buffet breakfast in a dining area below the main level. There was a wonderful selection of items. Rome is WOW !! This a quick overview or this will become a novel. It was overwhelming at first but once you become "Romanized", you start to settle into the hustle and bustle, noise and commotion. Thankfully our hotel was in a quiet area away from the main attractions so it was our little quiet oasis to come back to after a long and tiring day. We saw many sights by walking such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Palentine Hill, the Forum, the Pantheon, National Museum, etc. I also had pre-booked our Vatican visit online so the next day we had the front desk call us a taxi to take us there in the morning. Beautiful beyond words! So much to see and do, it`s difficult to take it all in but we saw as much as we could in three days. In fact I did too much walking as my back seized up on me the last morning just when we were to fly. I was sure wishing I had a bathtub to soak in. It took a few days to work itself out and fortunately it didn`t hurt while sitting because we had the long plane flight ahead of us. We loved the ancient Roman ruins, the gorgeous Basilicas and cathedrals, the quaint narrow hilly cobblestone streets lined with Victorian buildings. We also enjoyed the little eateries and pizzerias. Loved the cafe con leche. Loved the gelato. Italian people are very well dressed and very friendly (at least with those whom we met). We hope to return as we did toss our coins into the fountain! There were just so many people though to deal with around the main sites. This made it very exhausting. The traffic too is very congested but everyone seems to know what they are doing. Organized chaos! Stay away from the Hop On Hop Off line called GreenLine. They were awful. The other buses came and went before they came along so you were left standing in the sun for way too long. The earphones didn`t work right so I could not hear some of the guided talk about the sights we were passing by. We were totally ripped off as we used it only once. They charged us 44 euros which was far too much. The red line seemed to have many more buses. The Roma Pass was well worth it. We bought ours at Termini Station. Use this for your first 3 attractions and for transit. Well worth it. We loved the fresh clean cold water fountains that are everywhere in Rome. Fill up your water bottles. They are always flowing. Our hotel desk staff arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 6:00 a.m. to take us to the airport and it was right on time. Final comments: We loved the Eurodam. We did not notice constant undue vibrations. Just once in awhile when we were in bed we did feel vibrating of the ship at night but thankfully it did stop after a bit. It was bothering us but then it went away. This was just from time to time for some reason. I was disappointed that they don`t have self-service laundry. You have to send your clothes out to be cleaned. I did this once and the items came back the next day nicely pressed. We had no issues with the food except the lobster night in the D.R. we found the beef to not be the best. Other than that, we loved the selections and the soups especially. Of course the service is wonderful. The staff bend over backwards to please and always with a smile. We would definitely sail on the Eurodam again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We sailed transatlantic and then back to back Mediterranean, so we were on the RCL ship 21 days. The dinner menu basically had one vegetarian alternative -- Indian. I like Indian. Often eat at Indian restaurants. But I don't like ... Read More
We sailed transatlantic and then back to back Mediterranean, so we were on the RCL ship 21 days. The dinner menu basically had one vegetarian alternative -- Indian. I like Indian. Often eat at Indian restaurants. But I don't like Indian food enough to have it for dinner 21 nights in a row, in addition to having it for lunch as well. Moreover, the Indian fare for dinner gave me heartburn every night I had it (the Indian dishes at the lunch buffet didn't). Rarely did they have other vegetarian entrees. My wife ended up eating a baked potato and salad nearly every night. RCL had a different menu each night of the transatlantic, But the next 7 days of the Mediterranean cruise repeated 7 of the TA menus. If RCL wants to encourage back to back cruising they should have different menus for the first cruise after a re-positioning cruise. Coffee was not good -- too strong & bitter. We were told it was Seattle's Best, which we like. Since I don't eat eggs I requested scrambled tofu in the dining room for breakfast; every morning I got the same blank look. After several mornings the cooks actually learned to cook the tofu and not just warm it a bit. I appreciated the head waiter who facilitated my getting the tofu. For nearly the whole cruise one of the pools was empty. That made the remaining pool crowded. Customer service ran out of euros very early (even though the news letter each day encouraged passengers to change their money there). Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
This is my 37th cruise with 7 cruises on Princess. My DH(60) and I(59) along with my parents(83,86) drove from Kissimmee to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday morning. We parked in the Park and Go lot which was 7.99$ with the on line coupon. Due to ... Read More
This is my 37th cruise with 7 cruises on Princess. My DH(60) and I(59) along with my parents(83,86) drove from Kissimmee to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday morning. We parked in the Park and Go lot which was 7.99$ with the on line coupon. Due to Noro we knew boarding would start at 2 so we left a little later than we normally would. We arrived at the park and go at 2 and were greeted at our car by the van driver who took our luggage. We did have to leave our keys with the people at Park and Fly so they could park our car. We have parked here several times and it has always worked well. We got right in the van and were taken to the ship where our luggage was given to the porters. Since they were cleaning the ship for Noro we had to go to the convention center to check in. We used the priority check in line and were given priority boarding passes. Since they were at our number we were able to board right away. Every thing went very orderly and we were on the ship in about 30 minutes. The lifeboat drill was pushed back to 4:30 and the ship was able to leave at 5. We were told that the ship was on code red and we would be served the food and drinks in the buffets and there would be no salt and pepper shakers on the tables. We were reminded every day to wash our hands frequently and to try to use the restrooms in our staterooms. By the end of the week the code red was lifted. We have been on the Ruby before and she is a beautiful ship. We had a large balcony cabin on the Caribe deck which had plenty of room to store stuff. The balcony had 4 chairs and a table. Two of the chairs reclined. Our cabin steward Atilla was great. He brought everything we asked for promptly. I don't care for the duvet as I find it too hot so we asked for a sheet and light blanket and they were on our bed that evening. We also always had plenty of ice. We had anytime dinning and never had to wait for a table. We went to the Michelangelo between 6:30 and 7 and were always willing to share a table. The service was hit or miss. Some wait teams were very good others could use improvement. I enjoyed most of the food but there were some things that I just didn't like. That was more personal taste than bad food. The best night I thought was the Chefs Dinner on Friday. I really enjoyed the seared scallops, goat cheese souffle and French onion soup. There were a few things that were not on the menu and you had to ask for like the French onion soup and escargot. We enjoyed the entertainment on board very much. We really liked the Ballroom dancing production show. We thought the Stardust show was a little boring and didn't stay for the whole thing. We didn't go to see the Dream production show but my parents enjoyed it so much they went to both shows. Some nights the shows were 8:30 and 10:30 and others they were at 7 and 9. The 10:30 shows were not as crowded as the earlier show. The comedians were in the Explorers Lounge for 2 nights each and always seemed to be SRO. There were also lots of different games to play like liars club, majority rules, marriage show, lots of trivia and the Quest. We didn't care for the movies playing in MUTS so we never saw any. There was also a lot of live music being played; piano players in Crooners and Adagios, various musicians in the piazza, and the Wheel house bar every night. Since we are Platinum we both get 150 minutes of free internet so I brought my net book with me. Most days I was able to log on easily and the speed was pretty good. But if I got on at a popular time it wasn't good at all. I never could get on Friday night and Saturday morning. But it worked fine at lunch on Saturday. We were also able, on most days, to use a Magic Jack to call our sons at home. Sometimes it wasn't real clear but we still were able to check on things. We had been to most of the ports several times except for Grand Turk. We really enjoy the beach so that is what we did in each port. We spent a wonderful day at Princess Cay. The weather was perfect. Cool enough for a long walk along the beach to see the graves and walk a bit further. Warm enough for some afternoon snorkeling. The day started out a bit cloudy but soon cleared up to be bright and sunny. We were on one of the first tenders in the morning and on one of the last to leave in the afternoon. I thought the lunch was pretty good. There was grilled fish(a bit overcooked) and chicken, Hotdogs, hamburgers, ribs, and sausages along with several salads. There was also fruit, cookies and muffins. We ate at the grill on the cabana side which seemed much less crowded then the main beach. We had another perfect day in St Martin. We rented a car and drove to Margot. We walked up to Fort Louis which overlooks Margot and walked around the outdoor market. We then headed to the beach for the rest of the day. We arrived in St Thomas at 6AM in the morning and they actually cleared the ship by 6:15. I couldn't believe it when I heard the announcement and it was still dark out. My DH and I walked out to the main road and took a 2$ taxi that the locals use to Sapphire Beach. It was a 40 minute ride and one of the locals helped us know where to get off. We have done this before to Red Hook so we kind of had an idea where to get off. We spent a few hours at the beach snorkeling before heading back to Crown Bay. The sail out is really pretty as the commodore has to swing the ship around in a tight place. We watched from on top of the bridge so it was a real cool sensation as the ship spun around. This was the second formal night. The first formal night was the first sea day on Tuesday. On Grand Turk morning we got to sleep in. The clocks were turned back to EST that morning which gave us an extra hour. We arrived at Grand Turk at 12:15 and were able to disembark at 12:30. The water is a beautiful shade of blue. The ship docks very close to shore so it's an easy walk to the beach. There are plenty of beach chairs and the pool is huge. Margaritaville is right there at the pool so you will hear Jimmy Buffet music all day. We walked down the beach to the right past the point and found some decent snorkeling. Don't bother picking up any shells because they will stop you from bringing them onboard. The x-ray people look for them. We saw the Friendship 7 memorial and looked in the shops. We saw a beach bar right outside the cruise area that offered free chairs and free WiFi. All in all this is a very nice port. The last sea day the seas were nice and calm. There were all kinds of things to do. At 12 noon we walked around the top deck and there were no empty chairs near any of the pools. We really enjoyed our balcony so we didn't need to worry about chairs near the pool. Disembarkation this morning was easy. It started at about 7. The Horizon Court is open until 9. They give you a list of the color tags and numbers so you know what time each tag gets off. If you don't like your time just go to passengers service desk and request the color and number of the time you want. We like to eat breakfast at 8 and usually get a tag for 8:45. They do immergration and customs together so only one line to wait in. We called Park and Go when we got outside and they sent a van right away. This was a great cruise and I'm ready to go again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
As this was a 'Get Warm' cruise, I will skip any mention of the ports as we had been to them all before and they are pretty standard for the Caribbean. After not sailing on HAL for 7 years, we were looking forward to seeing how ... Read More
As this was a 'Get Warm' cruise, I will skip any mention of the ports as we had been to them all before and they are pretty standard for the Caribbean. After not sailing on HAL for 7 years, we were looking forward to seeing how they were stacking up these days -- mediocre I would say. Was thankful the staff had stopped pushing drinks constantly, so that was a bonus. Because it was the week before Christmas, there were a lot of families and children -- which was a nice change actually from the usual Old Folks Home feel (and we are in that category also). The Eurodam is 4 years old they say -- pretty ship, but like other HAL ships, they can't seem to get away from those winding walkways and small bars. The public rooms were all nice, and we particularly like the Crow's Nest where the Library (glad to see the daily quiz was still available), Games, Internet, and bar were combined. The comfortable lounge chairs to view the ocean was a very nice touch. There is only 2100 people on this ship, so it never felt crowded and appreciated the show lounge was big enough for a change. What's with the only one show a night (usually at 10:15 p.m.) on most nights. Speaking of the shows -- singers and dancers did 5 of the 7 nights -- come on. And the shows reflected it too -- not good. The quality of the singers and dances was less than expected, which wasn't helped by lame production numbers. The lighting and sound were not done well (every night). The comedian and magician were very good. We liked the Piano Man and the Jazz trio, and the house band and singer were good but not available when convenient for us. Happy Hour in a couple of bars a day was a great idea, and we took advantage of that most days. The wine was a different manner -- usually on a cruise one expects to pay $40 for a $15 bottle of wine, but $40 for an $8 bottle of wine is awful, and not good wine at that. And there is an $18 corkage fee -- apparently you can bring your own wine on the ship, but you would never know that by the website, which should spell that out. The food was good (not great), but good overall. We did anytime dining and spent over 2 hours on several nights on dinner -- we also sat in the regular dinner service a night and it was the longest wait of all. The service staff, while friendly and competent, seemed to have to cover too many tables and food was not coming out of the kitchen. The staff overall were friendly and like others on here, think they used the language thing to their advantage when they wanted. We had an aft balcony cabin, something new being on the very end of the ship. Nice room, good sized deck. Noisy. It's a long walk to the end of the ship. But a nice cabin once there and loved having a bathtub. My one BIG compliant (and it is not just HAL) is that there is FOX News on the TV. There is also CNN, but that changes to international and also at least shares both sides of news. Either add MSNBC for your liberal cruisers, or better yet take FOX News completely off the ship. I hate having to explain to non-US residents that we don't all believe the un-truths spread by FOX News. While we enjoyed our cruise, we'll probably head back to Princess where there is more to do and see. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
It was no Oasis....5,000 people jammed into small venues with the feeling that it was flash mobs 24/7. In short: The dining room food was pedestrian; offset by two great waiters. That was after a table move as I was placed next to a ... Read More
It was no Oasis....5,000 people jammed into small venues with the feeling that it was flash mobs 24/7. In short: The dining room food was pedestrian; offset by two great waiters. That was after a table move as I was placed next to a huge pillar that only a lefty could have used for the dining experience. The buffet was short on value and choices. Giovanni and Chops Grill were well worth the money; with service and quality to boot. The ship is beautiful, with so much wasted areas. The Boardwalk was spectacular, with less than wonderful donuts and venues that were in the hot, humid outdoors. Central Park was well planned, with high end stores and a total outdoor experience with heat, humidity and rain. Crew running with umbrellas was comical. The shows were wonderful and worth the wait on line in one instance. Something must be done about those who cut into the lines. The crew seemed to not want to be bothered wit this issue. Poor manners are never acceptable. The crew lacked the friendliness that I experienced on the Navigator and the Freedom of the Seas. Those passengers who have sailed on the Allure was aghast that the same ship ( ok...4 feet shorter) could be such a dismal experience compared to the Oasis. It was a floating hotel with small pockets of venues. it never felt as if there was cohesion between the structure itself, the crew and , of yes, the passengers. The On- Air venue was usually empty; except for the same movie shown daily. Not much choice of movies here. Shopping was less than exciting. High and low end items were displayed well and trashy respectively. At time the promenade looked like a flea market. Moderately prices items were lacking. Trivia used to be fun. Our Swedish crew member had obviously brought many wrong answers with her. i have these musical memories at home. she was arrogant and made for a lackluster and most annoying hour.Finally, the fire hazard on the seas...cigar bar ( planned as a crew bar) was on DECK 17...up a flight of stairs...(sorry for those cigar smoking handicapped persons)...It was outdoors in wind, sun, rain and all...with comfortable seating for four... It was not so comical if you sat there watching small table tops almost airborne as ashes flew. Of course cigarette smokers had the pool deck, complete with ashtrays and deck chairs. Did someone say...second class citizens? I think my ancestors who over in the lower decks of the trans Atlantic ships of the 1900's had better status than cigar smokers. Cramming people into the dining room and other areas does not work. What should have been a fabulous cruise was a GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT ....We are looking for other cruise lines for next time. Oasis may not be the Walmart of the Seas, but it was beginning to look like All Glitter and Not Much More of the Seas.... Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Oasis of the Seas is a fabulous ship. It was beautiful and clean. The crew were pleasant and helpful. My over all review is very positive. Another reviewer suggested bringing a power strip and I'm happy we did as this made ... Read More
Oasis of the Seas is a fabulous ship. It was beautiful and clean. The crew were pleasant and helpful. My over all review is very positive. Another reviewer suggested bringing a power strip and I'm happy we did as this made charging things and using the hair dryer much easier. My biggest tip for anyone taking this cruise is take the time to sign up for all the shows, shore excursions, and specialty restaurants online before you get on the ship. You don't want to spend your precious vacation time waiting in lines to get to do these things only to find that the show you want to see is already booked. About the shows, SEE THEM. They're worth it. "Come Fly With Me" was great. "Frozen in Time" was so entertaining. The comedians we saw had us laughing hysterically. "Hairspray," while my least favorite was really quite good. There are so many activities planned all over the ship. We went to a few of the trivia contests and some of music games and they were a lot of fun. The piano bar was hopping on some nights. There is a guitar player who takes requests in the Globe & Atlas that had people singing and was very upbeat and fun. You have to choose to be bored on this ship. There are so many things to see and do. Cruisers looking for physical activities will enjoy the basketball court, the rock climbing walls. The fitness center is great. There are lots of treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and free weights. There is a two lane track, one lane for joggers and one for walkers that is quite nice. There are ping pong tables which are fun on cooler days. The miniature golf course is cute and we had fun playing it. The Flow riders are great and I highly recommend the lessons if this is your first time trying to "surf." For the women trying the Flow rider wear a T-shirt, preferable one that dries quickly, not cotton. There is the zip line which I would say that if you have to wait in line, don't. There are far better things to do with your time. Another suggestion for those who like to be physical, take the stairs. You can justify eating all the great food and won't waste precious vacation time waiting for elevators. We ate at most of the specialty restaurants and they were all great. Let me say that Royal Caribbean hasn't given the Solarium Bistro enough attention on their website. I didn't expect much from the Solarium Bistro and the food absolutely blew me away. It was beyond fabulous. The food was delicious, artfully presented, and HEALTHY (but you won't feel like you were deprived). Our waiters (we had dinner there twice) were the right amount of attentiveness and very knowledgeable. I cannot possibly say enough about the food at Solarium Bistro. From the bread to the entrees it was my hands down favorite. (I have to give the best dessert to Chops) You must try it for yourself. If you only go to one specialty restaurant go to Solarium Bistro. Giovanni's was fabulous. We had lunch and dinner there and both meals were great. They have a great menu and the staff was very nice. Get the chocolate torte and you won't be disappointed. Chops was delicious. As I've said their dessert was the best. Their "outdoor" eating area is somewhat enclosed and since it can be quite windy in Central Park this makes their outdoor area the best. If you are looking for a serious steak it is the place to go. 150 Central Park gets the intimate atmosphere award.The food presentation is beautiful. You won't find more artistic plates anywhere. The food was prettier than it was tasty. It is a set menu except you do get to choose between two entrees. You are introduced to six different kinds of salt. That doesn't happen everyday. We only had two meals in the dining room. The food was good but the atmosphere was chaotic and the service was lacking. You're best off taking the buffet route. Solarium Bistro is a buffet for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is great there but it is healthy. Ask for butter if you want it and be prepared for turkey bacon. For lunch check out Park Cafe. The roast beef sandwich is a MUST and they make a great salad. You pick out the ingredients and dressing and they toss it all together for you. Very nice. The free doughnuts, PASS. Not worth the calories. But the Cupcake Cupboard is worth every penny and every extra bit of weight gain. If you want a peaceful deck experience try the Solarium pool. It is adults only. From there you can see the deck on 14 and there were hardly any people there. There are lounge chairs you can put anywhere you like and a nice view of the helicopter pad plus two viewing stations with telescopes that you could have all to yourself. You have to walk through the cabin area to get out on the deck on 14. I think that is why there were hardly any people there. Well that and no bar service. It was very nice. My one big complaint is how Royal Caribbean deals with the smokers. They don't. People are smoking everywhere. I was not happy that I couldn't enjoy the balcony of our room because of the smoke from balconies more forward. Before I'd go on another cruise I would want some assurance from them that I will be able to enjoy the balcony that cost a lot extra without having to breath in second hand smoke. As for half of the casino being no smoking forget it. The smoke fills the whole place. They probably would have gotten more of my money if I had been able to enjoy some fresh air. The Royal Promenade is full of smokers. You have to make a conscious decision not to let the smokers ruin your day. We enjoyed all of the shore excursions with the exception of Labadee on Hati. At Labadee the beach was so crowded. You are better off getting a raft and floating in the water. The lounge chairs are packed together right up to the hammocks there's barely room to walk. (And people are smoking everywhere. The beach is really just a giant ash tray now isn't it?) We paid to ride the jet skis. This was a total waste of time and money. We had to ride "follow the leader" style never being able to to have any free time to have fun. Speed was totally controlled by the person in front of you. Then we were led to a place where while we had our engines off local men came up to each jet ski on kayaks and tried to guilt each person into buy local crapts. It was hard sell tactics and we were basically hostages there until our guide would let us start up our engines to crawl away. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Ship Info: The Poesia is very sophisticated and has a quieter "feel" about it. Ship has two very large lounges which are great for dancing and activities. Ship is not overly smokey...like other ships, one side for smokers, and ... Read More
Ship Info: The Poesia is very sophisticated and has a quieter "feel" about it. Ship has two very large lounges which are great for dancing and activities. Ship is not overly smokey...like other ships, one side for smokers, and some totally smoke free. I thought this might not be the case, but I have been on other cruise lines with more smoke issues. Ship is very clean and staff is well trained and very polite. Input on some specific areas: - swimming pools are well designed/there are 2. If you don't want to fight for loungers, just go to the pools and use the "edge"...no problem. - there is a large screen forward, by the pool...but unlike other ships, they keep the volume tolerable and it was not a distraction. -SPA: great area. They have a juice/coffee bar in the reception area, as well as a lounge area. There are 3 hot-tubs/indoor/with a great view outside there, and nice/ large/ all tile mens and women's steam rooms. Also a sauna. All complementary. -Gym: small. not alot of equipment, ie, no rowing machines. Does have bicycles, elliptical and treadmills. Free weights. No organized classes in club area...if you want classes, yoga or otherwise...not offered on this ship. -NO CHAIRS ON PROMINADE DECK. This is a big deal for me. If you want to read outside, look at the waves, be out of the sun and crowds......no can do. - no typical "Jamaican" band poolside. They play a variety of taped music. - since they make major announcements in 5 languages, they keep them to a minimum, ie, no major daily events "hawking" / announcing excursions/ etc. Ship is therefore quieter. - ship has NO SUNDRY store. If you need an aspirin or any Over the counter medicine/ peptobismal, etc, you must go to medical. If you need batteries for your camera, you are out of luck. -you are unable to leave a message when you call someone's cabin. Activities: -the ships "team" does a nice job of offering varied programs. The crafts projects looked fun and were popular. The Dance lessons were fun and the skits and contests were well attended. Service: -cabin stewards did a great job. Always had ice and any request taken care of. -bar staff does not push the drinks, a nice change. -front desk a bit "brisk", but were professional. -dining room wait staff did a great job. 2 seatings/ 5:30 and 8:00. Shore Excursions: -the MSC web site is a bit different, and when you investigate excursions, they give no TIME of day for the event. In fact, even once you reserve it, you do not know when you are going until you receive the "program" in your cabin at 2100 or so the night before you go! So if you want to try and do more than one activity in a port, plan them yourself. They have you "muster" and leave the ship together for excursions, but they run them well, in a low-key way. I found some of them to be very reasonable, unable to book privately at any better price. -The ship did change the times to be in port for one stop/ St Maartan between when I booked and departure. Stateroom: - appear slightly smaller than others. Saying this as room had only a single chair in it, vs "sofa" many others have. Most rooms have "bunk beds" on the side bulkheads, which fold down for use. As a result, the cabins lack shelving on the bulkheads and the "nook and cranny" storage other cabins have. -they provide body wash and shampoo in shower dispensers. -believe that only certain categories of stateroom receive a robe. -climate control was excellent and accurate. Dining: - food is adequate. I would say it is the lowest rated in presentation, preparation and selection of any of my cruises. They repeat the menu if you do a B2B. Also, some entrees were excellent first week, and poor the second. They have an american/ italian/ and "offered every night of the cruise" sections. - gelato is offered for dessert each night in the dining room. -Pizza in the buffet is always hot, fresh and good. -Buffet line vs "Pod" design is a major flaw. Lines/ crowds/ congestion were there, but I have been on ships with worse. Lunch menu is the same most days. Port side has "grill" offerings, starboard side has the pizza. Sandwiches and cookies, the more American idea of lunch are offered at 1600. Sandwiches the same each day: tuna, chicken, egg and shrimp salad. -room service food is limited to above sandwiches, fruit plate, salad...don't think anything hot. -AM room service is continental only: coffee, rolls, juice, yogurt. No cereals. -Cappuccinos and espresso's are reasonable at the many bars...I think $2/$3. -In the dining room, there is an option of a house red or white which is very reasonable....$3/glass and $8 a carafe....also full wine list/bottles per usual. Entertainment: -They make good use of the entertainers on board...many do slightly varied acts on different nights. -They have at least one opera night....go for a change of pace. -"Production" element of theater performances is not as high as others. Simpler can be good also. - the female headline singer is very good. Male acrobats are super. -if you do a B2B, some of the shows are repeated....good time to visit other lounges! Embarkation/ Disembarkation: -embarkation was well run and staffed. -disembarkation was comfortable and calm in getting off the ship....once off, the wait for customs and taxi was a bit much. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Embarkation This was very smooth and we wer eon the ship within 30 minutes of arriving. The ship I found it a departure from the norm. We had just travelled on Eurodam around the Caribbean and found it to be an excellent ship and its ... Read More
Embarkation This was very smooth and we wer eon the ship within 30 minutes of arriving. The ship I found it a departure from the norm. We had just travelled on Eurodam around the Caribbean and found it to be an excellent ship and its nautical heritage was obvious, you really felt like you were on a ship. Solstice is very contemporary and you feel like you are in a building that is a cross between a modern office block and a shopping mall. I think the central location of the elevators and the open plan environment gave me that feeling. I loved it. We had one of four family cabins on the ship. When we booked the fine detail of the cabin layout was not available as the ship was still being built. The second bedroom has no natural light and this made us nickname it "the cave". Although this was disappointing it gave my father in law his own separate and private space, which is a rare commodity on a ship unless you book a really expensive suite. The TV was so much more than a TV and we were impressed with the many things you could do on it. The room was large and very spacious, were were not crowded at all. I suppose this results from the cabin being on a corner of the ship. The furnishings and surface finishes were not very upmarket and looked quite cheap. Having just got off Eurodam the day before we embarked on Solstice gave us a good comparison. Eurodam furnishings and surface finishes were rich and inviting. Storage space was very inadequate and there were a number of walls that could have been used to mount wardrobes or other storage space. The balcony was rarely used as the wind was far too strong when the ship was underway. The two front facing windows were great as you could see where you were going and they gave lots of natural light. The roll away bed for my daughter was poor quality. The bathroom was excellent, plenty of space given it was on a ship. The cabin attendant was very helpful, no complaints. I did not like our location in the main dining room, it was on the upper level next to a window but on rectangular tables that were too close together. We did not feel like we were in the main dining room as we could not see the lower level and lost the ambiance of the magnificent ceiling displays. The ice bar was a popular meeting point but I felt it was too crowded. The alternative restaurants are all located at the rear of the ship and I felt you lost some feeling of exclusivity due to them being so close together, I preferred the spread out restaurant locations on Eurodam. The Bistro on Five is a good alternative restaurant and well priced at $5 a head and I was surprise it was not well patronised. I did not like the coffee shop coffee. The baristas need more training and there should be a choice of milks. Australians like 4% fat milk as it makes a better latte. The enclosed indoor pool area is fantastic for relaxing but I was annoyed at the selfish people who leave books on a seat to reserve it then walk away. The staff did not police this very well. I loved the sea days and would have liked more of them. As much as I enjoy the port visits, the sea days are very relaxing. I also enjoyed the evening entertainment, both the shows and also the musicians playing around the various bars. Very professional. The library was poor, very few books and over two levels it was difficult to go up and down. The library looks like it was designed as a pretty show piece for guests to see as they went up and down the lift. The library on the Eurodam is perfect, Celebrity should copy what HAL do. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We left Spokane at 0 dark thirty to fly into Ft Lauderdale the day before our cruise and checked into Hyatt Place North as recommended by members on Cruise Critic. We stocked up on wine at the nearby wine store as HAL allows any amount of ... Read More
We left Spokane at 0 dark thirty to fly into Ft Lauderdale the day before our cruise and checked into Hyatt Place North as recommended by members on Cruise Critic. We stocked up on wine at the nearby wine store as HAL allows any amount of wine and champagne in your room. Really appreciate that rule! After serving us a full breakfast the next morning, Hyatt Place took us to the Port at 10:30 and we sailed thru pre-boarding in a matter of minutes. Since the Westerdam had just come out of dry dock, our cabins were ready for us. We deposited our hand luggage, admired our room and balcony, asked Denis (our cabin guy) for a corkscrew and wine glasses, and headed to the Lido for lunch. The crew in the Lido and outside deck were such a pleasure! There was nothing they couldn't do for you and thought of it before you did usually. Very attentive but never in the way and this continued for all 20 days! We requested the late seating for dinner (8pm) and 6-8+ table size. There were 10 of us and we laughed, shared stories and food, (What is that you ordered?) and generally had a wonderful time. Dining was a highlight. The food and service were wonderful and the company from all over the U.S. and Canada was great! Our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet was set for 11:00 the next day (our first full day at sea) but HAL double booked the Crow's Nest and moved us to a meeting room on the Promenade deck which wasn't large enough as we had over 100 Cruise Critic Members signed up. HAL thought it would be OK as not everyone shows up. The Officers couldn't move about the room any better than we could as it was truly jammed. HAL re-booked our Meet and Greet for the next available time in the Crow's Nest and served us complimentary Mimosas served with lots of apologies. Never under estimate Cruse Critic Members! They also gave us early entrance to the buffet lunch in the galley. This was something new they were trying and judging by the lines behind us and later, it was a huge success. No first hand report here as I got claustrophobia in the galley hall before actually entering the galley so excused myself and my husband all the way back out. At dinner that evening we were told that the galley was gleaming with stainless steel appliances, food was delicious, and you took your buffet meal out to sit in the Pinnacle Grill Dining area, which is sumptuous. The Pinnacle Grill is the 5 star restaurant that charges an extra $20. per person and serves truly 5 star cuisine with service to match. We ate there with 2 other couples from our regular dining group one night. My husband had the flaming Steak Diane and I had the Fillet Mignon. We had 3 flavors of Creme Brulee (coffee, chocolate, and caramel)for dessert since my husband had just been in a cooking class earlier in the day where they were making Creme Brulee. It was truly a wonderful evening. At some point on a dress up night we had a wine tasting party (again for more than 100 people) in a penthouse suite. Our Cruise Critic hosts were a hard working young couple with a 6 year old daughter and her Au Pierre and it made for a lovely experience. It was right after our 1st port of call,in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, which includes Blandy's Wine Lodge, and a lift to the top of the mountain where you are 20 yards from people's terraces on the way up. Great Madeira wine and wonderful views. Next stop, Cadiz, Spain - We have been to the fascinating old city of Cadiz 4 times and we have been lost 4 times. We love Cadiz! It's historic old buildings are wonderful and we are always sure we will not get lost "this time". Great city to lose yourself in! Almeria, Spain - Why take a tour when the Alcazaba Palace (2nd in size only to the Alhambra) is minutes walking distance from the port? Pretty impressive and the views are breathtaking! Ajaccio, Corsica, France - lovely relaxing day just touring the town at our own pace. Postcards are .40euro and postage to U.S. is .85euro, so keeping our 90 year old mom informed is not cheap. Civitavecchia, (Rome), Italy - Courtesy bus shuttles take you to Civitavecchia where you can walk quite a few blocks to the train station and take a train into Rome which takes about 1.25hrs. This is an awesome experience. Don't get off at the 1st stop which is St. Peters Square if it is Wednesday, as the Pope is holding audience and it is packed with people. Go to the second stop and then catch a bus.....I'm lost. We had a lovely couple from Cruise Critic to guide us to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, several other places, and back on the bus, then the train, and since it was a Holiday in Rome, we had to go around something to get to the shuttles back to the ship. We will forever be grateful to Cruise222 for our day in Rome. Naples, Italy - This was one of the more enjoyable walking cities. We have awesome pictures of my husband and I sitting a table with wood blocks under the legs of the "downhill side" of the table and chairs at a restaurant where no English was spoken and we don't know Italian. The menu of the day way fish or beef...we got that part. We were served wine and course after course until finally the main course (fish for my husband and beef for me) came. We were so stuffed and the bill was still only the advertised 10euro per person. Fun times! Messina, Sicily - Another very relaxing day just touring the town at our own pace. Oh, we did need to restock some of our wine supply here. Wine quality - excellent. Prices - extremely low even with the disadvantageous $ to euro that we had then. Sarande, Albania - We just walked around town, amazed at all of the fairly new unfinished construction of hotels or high rise apartments. I think this is a new summer retreat for wealthy Europeans or that is the plan. It is a beautiful setting. Split, Croatia - Our favorite day of all! When you get off the tender, cross the street and enter the Diocletian Palace. The Palace itself is not just an historical ruin but is part of the fabric of the city of Split with numerous working businesses within the actual palace walls. Keep looking up, the architecture above you is outstanding. The Diocletian Palace is one of the best historical sites in Europe. So much we can't explain, you have to see it to believe it! Finally, Venice, Italy - We spent 5.5 hours on Monday in Venice just trying to find our hotel, (Rezidenca del Doge) for the next day. It was worth the effort. Both our bathroom and our bedroom had windows that opened and you were looking out at a quiet intersection of smaller canals. Since the next day when we actually checked in, we would become virtual prisoners here by the rain, we were grateful for our spacious (by European standards) accommodations. Briefly, we returned home. Venice to Dublin - Trinity House Hotel was very good to us. They kept our larger suitcases while we took a train across Ireland to Galway, (Sea Breeze Lodge outside of Salthill is awesome!) the Cliffs of Moher, Ring Forts, and Dunghiare Castle. 2 more Days in Dublin at the Trinity House before Aer Lingus took us to Orlando and the Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham. The Hawthorne Suites took care of us wonderfully for a very reasonable price ($76.) The next day SWA flew us back to Spokane. Email me if your have any questions about any of our stops or HAL. I'll try to help if I know the answers. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We have cruised about a dozen times with IOS being our largest ship to date. We had concerns about the size of the ship, fearing that the cruise would be impersonal. We had additional concerns about the ship being full of kids on spring ... Read More
We have cruised about a dozen times with IOS being our largest ship to date. We had concerns about the size of the ship, fearing that the cruise would be impersonal. We had additional concerns about the ship being full of kids on spring break. The ship was full, there were plenty of kids but for the most part the cruise, the ship, the staff, far exceeded our expectations. Embarkation was very busy as Port Everglades had a half dozen ships going out the same day. We had no problems with the porters or with the check in since we had done everything on line in advance. Our cabin (E2 hump balcony) was roomy, well thought out and had a sweet balcony. Our steward introduced himself the first day and we barely saw him again but the room was always attended to on time and he answered our every request. My DW was disappointed that we did not know in advance that all we would get would be shampoo (in the shower) and soap for toiletries. She wished she had known that we were not entitled to lotion at the E2 level (or robes). Minor thing which was a source of irritation. Food wasn't gourmet great but it was very good for the most part with some winners (leg of lamb, prime rib) and some losers in what we sampled. We would have enjoyed some more savory choices that did not involve curry which seems to be the default seasoning for leftover meat. We enjoyed the Windjammer selections at dinner almost more than the MDR but only went there once due to the large number of unsupervised kids dominating the area. As is often said, it is easy to find something that will appeal to you at every seating and one should never go hungry. A couple of gripes: Musical entertainment seemed to be available at the cocktail hour and then again after 10PM. Very few venues had entertainment immediately after dinner which caused us to miss many of the large productions which did not start often until 11PM. The entertainment on board seemed above average and the production numbers were excellent but the scheduling left something to be desired. Gripe number two and our worst experience on board was disembarkation. They offer the opportunity to walk off the ship if you can carry your own bags. People are not assigned times but must gather in one room at random times. Everyone tried to gather at one time and the staff could not handle the crowd. The elevators were tied up and not all running. People's worst behaviors were saved for this process as it was just a little short of chaotic. Angry passengers wielding heavy luggage running each other over with few apologies. It is unfortunate that this is the final memory of the cruise which was otherwise excellent. We have been on other lines which offer carry off but they still assign color coded disembarkation passes with an assigned time to walk off. RCI might want to look into this or elminiate the carry off option. If they do not change the policy we would recommend not participating in the carry off. We were treated wonderfully by every staff member we encountered throughout our cruise. The ship was beautiful and one of the cleanest vessels we have ever been on. I believe a good time was had by all. We would not hesitate to return to the IOS in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Myself and DM sailed on the Solstice on Feb 21st, and we both have nothing but god things to say! We have sailed Carnival and RCI a number of times, and this was our first Celebrity cruise. Right from the beginning it was obvious that X is ... Read More
Myself and DM sailed on the Solstice on Feb 21st, and we both have nothing but god things to say! We have sailed Carnival and RCI a number of times, and this was our first Celebrity cruise. Right from the beginning it was obvious that X is a step above the aforementioned mass market lines. I am 24 and DM is 52, and I was a bit concerned about the demographics of the ship. I though maybe I would be bored and there wouldn't be anyone my age. More about that later. Embarkation - We have sailed a few times out of Port Everglades and this was the easiest embarkation we've ever had. The Solstice sails out of the new Oasis terminal so it is well equipped to handle twice as many people. From the time we got to the terminal (around 12:30) to the time we were on the ship was not more than 20 minutes, if that. Our rooms were ready at 1, and after dropping off our carry on bags, we went for lunch and did some exploring to orient ourselves with the important amenities. Our luggage arrived between 4 and 5, during the emergency drill. Cabin - We were in cabin 1604 on the Penthouse deck. As it was "hump" room, we did have a larger balcony, however it is a forward facing balcony so it did get quite windy. The bed was near the window, we didn't really have a preference, but I will agree that the sofa could have been a bit shorter (we didn't use it at all) to give more access to the closet. As well, the above-bed cabinets were great, but had we been 3 people in a room, there wouldn't have been nearly enough space. The Aqua Class shower was pretty good, and the glass doors were really nice. Plenty of storage space in the washroom, even for two women. Food - We ate in Blu 3 nights, MDR 2 nights, Silk Harvest, and Tuscan Grille. I thought Aqua Class was worth it just for Blu, the food was definitely better, the best meals we had the whole week were there. Silk Harvest was OK, the sushi was great, but they neglected to tell us that it was "family style" so 4 of us ended up with enough food for 16 people. Tuscan Grille was very good and the view is incredible. MDR was pretty good, definitely better than Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Service was impeccable, if we ever made an alteration to a dish it was always perfect, and everyone was very nice. The Oceanview Cafe (Lido buffet) was quite good, breakfast had TONS of options, and the pasta station was fantastic. I also has lunch one day at the Bistro on 5 and my Mediterranean crepe was delicious and well worth the $5. I did not try the Mast Grill but it looked very good. Entertainment - Best we've had on a cruise so far. The Solstice Show was amazing, the acrobatics and performers were great. Adam Trent, the magician, was also great, very entertaining and his family was travelling on our cruise so we met him in the nightclub one night and he's a great guy. I was a bit bored with the showtunes production, but every other show was great. There were theme nights and parties (70s night, 60s night, Poolside Latin Dance Party, etc) which were all fun. We really enjoyed Will Foraker, the pianist, and Metro Park, the a cappella group. We saw the comedian who was very amusing, and joined in on trivia and some other activities. I can definitely say I was never bored. Other guests - This was an older crowd, as was expected based on the cruise line and time of year. There were a lot of wheelchairs and walkers. A small handful of children. As a 24 year old, I was definitely concerned that I would be in bed at 10 pm, bored. Turns out I was terribly mistaken. There was a small group of us in our early 20s, (about 15 of us) which was just fine with me. We closed up the club every night and had a great time. Also, because we were such a small group, we were able to get to know each other better and I'm sure we'll stay in touch. For the most part, everyone was very nice. There are always exceptions (such as the lady who was not impressed when we inquired why her and her husband required 3 pool chairs for two people), but said exceptions were few and far between. Ports of Call - Meh. San Juan has a lot of history and I REALLY wanted to do the Segway tour, but it was sold out before we even got on the ship. We ended up doing the old and new city tour and it was just alright. We could have walked around on our own and been equally as satisfied. St Kitts is really stunning, but a number of shore excursions were cancelled due to wind and sea conditions. We walked around the port and admired the scenery, then got back on the ship. St. Maarten we took the water taxi to town ($6 return) and shopped. Nothing incredibly exciting. Miscellaneous - I bought the beer package ($241 for 7 days) and essentially drank for free for the last 3 days. It was well worth it, I never had to sign for drinks and didn't have to be concerned about racking up crazy bar tabs. We brought wine on board but didn't end up drinking all of it. I brought a 1.75 L bottle of wine and my mom brought two 750 mL , and it was more than we needed. I know that a few of the other people I spoke to also brought liquor on board and didn't have a problem with it. I had heard some comments that Celebrity created the Aqua Class as a way to sell the undesirable rooms on board and I can't say I disagree with this. The AQ rooms are located directly beneath the pool and it was definitely not quiet, especially the night of the Latin pool party. DM and I really didn't use the Persian Garden or relaxation room, as they were often crowded and not terribly relaxing. We also asked our (wonderful) stateroom attendant to stop bringing the canapEs, as they were not very appetizing. We went to the buffet when they started serving sushi and brought it back to our room instead. Well I suppose that is all for now, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
My wife and I booked on a Christmas Cruise on MSC Poesia and were anticipating a wonderful time. We should have known something was up when our cabin was changed at the embarkation desk, with no reason being given. The embarkation process ... Read More
My wife and I booked on a Christmas Cruise on MSC Poesia and were anticipating a wonderful time. We should have known something was up when our cabin was changed at the embarkation desk, with no reason being given. The embarkation process went relatively smoothly, and we were escorted to our cabin. We had asked for second seating on the meals and were assigned to the first seating. We joined a long line of disgruntled passengers on the first night who shared the same problem we did. We were successful at getting the change in meal times and ended up at a table for four with a wonderful couple from Miami. Our meal service was severely lacking, to say the least, and we attributed the poor service to a lack of training. It may seem like trivial issues, but when you add them together, it mounts up and ends up with a poor experience. Things like, not taking meal requests from the women first, no water at the table, forget about ice or a second glass, no introductions by the waiter or his part-time assistant, wine service arriving at the completion of the meal, reaching in front of guests to remove plates and utensils. We had purchased the wine package for our meals and the waiter could make no recommendations to us, primarily due to communication issues, but he made no attempt to seek assistance to answer our questions. The menu choices and presentation were also lacking, one entree, called a Bolognese Delight consisted of three meatballs and a quarter of a potato!!!! When we ordered fish, it was overcooked and very dry, and forget about ordering a cut of steak, it appeared to have been boiled. Coffee was served cold and when brought to the attention of the ass't waiter, he laughed it off, but he did bring another pot. Mid-week, my wife and I were offered an evaluation form about the service in the dining room, our table mates were not offered this survey, but after requesting one, they got one. We were honest in our evaluation, and the next night, some of the points we brought up had been addressed and changes were made. In fairness to the staff, I can't blame them, they did not get enough training to perform their jobs correctly. The ship was extremely clean, and our cabin attendant was excellent, that offset some of the negativity we encountered in the dining room. The entertainment was lackluster by the dance team, the singers were adequate, and the contortionist and gymnasts, etc were above average. We have to consider that the make-up of the guests was primarily European, and most of the entertainment was in a language other than English. We were disappointed in the types of excursions that were available, and as a result we negotiated on our own with local vendors. We were able to receive tours and excursions at about half the price quoted by the ships personnel. Overall, it appeared as though the crew was uninterested in customer service, they seemed to be more interested in walking around looking bored. We had conversations with others on the cruise who shared our views and we will certainly make other choices for our next cruise. Hopefully, MSC will read these reviews and take what is being said here as constructive criticism, and they will learn from it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
BACKGROUND: My wife and I have taken 6 cruises, all on HAL. This is only our third HAL ship, so comparisons are a bit limited. This was a 26-day "combination" cruise of 16 days Transatlantic, plus 10 days Mediterranean. ... Read More
BACKGROUND: My wife and I have taken 6 cruises, all on HAL. This is only our third HAL ship, so comparisons are a bit limited. This was a 26-day "combination" cruise of 16 days Transatlantic, plus 10 days Mediterranean. STATEROOM: This was our first disappointment. Ever since our first cruise, when we booked an outside room on the Veendam, we have always booked the "inside standard". HAL has usually upgraded us at some point, and this was no exception. We were upgraded from MM to J, supposedly a "Large Inside" stateroom. It was the smallest stateroom we have had on HAL, regardless of class. The Front Office confirmed that it was one of the smallest on the ship, regardless of its "higher" class. There was just enough room to walk on either side of the bed. There was no "dresser" or "bureau" as we had become used to in other ships (including the "old" Noordam). It was made to feel even a little smaller by the round table that sat at the end of the bed and generally was in the way. If you like to sit in your stateroom and write (or work on a laptop), good luck! The "desk" space is almost nil once you take into account the obligatory bowl for fruit, the ice bucket, and a few magazines and books. The bathroom was your basic prefabricated bath/shower unit. There was barely enough room in the cabinet for the toiletry items we brought. Lighting was good. The toilet worked fine. Water escaped from the shower every time we used it. DINING: This was our next disappointment, approximately on a par with that of the stateroom size. The best cuisine we experienced was on the Veendam in 1999, when she was almost new. The "Old" Noordam, which we sailed on 3 times, was not up to the standard of the Veendam, but nevertheless was still very good. The Veendam in 2008 was not quite as good as in 1999, but still very good. The "New" Noordam was a disappointment. One major complaint was with the saltiness of the food. After my wife and I and some others at our table sent back dishes, the assistant dining room manager finally arrived at a solution to the rejection of dishes by giving us the menu a day ahead. We chose our dishes, and then they were prepared with "no salt added". The food was also usually almost cold by the time it got to us. And many times the "advertisement" in the menu barely resembled the finished product when it arrived at the table especially when pertaining to desserts. Our service was slow, and we tended to be almost the last table to be served. To our surprise, our table stewards were visibly uncomfortable with people and almost seemed to resist "getting familiar" with the guests. This was a marked departure from prior cruises when the table stewards went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and "at home", and was a shared feeling amongst all 8 of us at the table. I think about the only time our main steward smiled was the time he and the other stewards sang "Happy Birthday" in Indonesian to my wife. We had mixed-up orders, incorrect orders, etc. They always fixed things, but rarely apologized for errors, slowness, cold food, etc. Food in the Lido was pretty good to very good, and it was consistent. The coffee machines were a pain it took about two weeks before they got them both working properly. Innumerable times one or the other would/could not produce decaf coffee. They were better at coming up with excuses than repairs. HAL "sub-divided" the Lido for dinners, to produce the "Canaletto Restaurant", specializing in Italian food. It was included in the cruise price, and therefore no extra charge. It was a good experience we ate there twice. The menu was a little limited, and appeared to be the same each night, so we didn't continue to book it. ACTIVITIES: We love HAL and the Noordam for the variety of activities available. One of the things we enjoyed most on our second-last cruise (on the Veendam) the Culinary Arts Centre was spoiled on this cruise by the Noordam "hostess". Rather than allowing the chef to cook and talk about what he was doing and why, she insisted on trying to be a "poor man's Martha Stewart" and asking inane and sometimes downright stupid questions. We attended two sessions and were so irritated we skipped the rest of them. Too bad, because we considered these a highlight of our previous cruise. We love the Explorations Cafe and the Crow's Nest. The library was excellent, with a great variety of good, and current books, including best sellers. And there always seemed to be something available for entertainment. SERVICE: See "DINING" for comments on Dining Room service. I should note that the young lady who was Assistant Dining Room Manager was "a breath of fresh air". She was responsive, friendly, outgoing, but always professional. Our room stewards were excellent, as always. The stateroom was kept flawlessly clean. The rest of the ship was likewise scrupulously cleaned and polished. No complaints there at all. And the service staff, especially in the Lido, were attentive, prompt and friendly. Another major beef with the Noordam is that they have no laundry facilities on the ship. For a 26-day cruise, this was almost intolerable. Of course, you can always "pay through the nose" for HAL's on-board service. But I heard some people complaining about the delays in getting their laundry back, so we decided to "make the best of it" and do what we could in the stateroom. This was really a pain, and we encountered numerous people who felt as we did about this aspect of the ship. ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment was very good. The Noordam has an updated stage setup that they utilized as fully as possible in staging some good shows. The guest performers were of a very good quality, except for one young lady they billed as an operatic-style singer. If she was half as good as she thought she was, it would have been a great performance. We, along with MANY others, left after about the third song. The string quartet, which used to be "The Champagne Strings" on other cruises, were very talented young ladies from Europe - Czech Republic I think. While each was a good musician, they lacked the polish and timing that we had become used to in other groups. What we heard in other lounges and areas seemed to be of pretty good quality. PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS: HAL tends to price their shore excursions pretty highly, so when we did take an excursion, we booked ahead of time with a third party. EKOS Tours in Turkey (Ephesus) were excellent. The ports we visited were great, with the exception of Katakolon. If you weren't going to Olympia, then you were stuck in "the Skagway of Greece" as the ship tour guy called it. While I'm on that subject, "Tom the Tour Guy" (my name for him) was really good to work with. He was a do-it-yourself kind of guy, as we are, and loved to walk the ports on his own. Therefore he was able to give some great tips for the DIY'ers like us. And his port talks were very interesting, and not the thinly-veiled commercials for HAL-sponsored shops that one usually encounters. GRATUITY: This is one of our hot buttons. We appreciated HAL for it's "tipping not required" policy, and were disappointed when they finally broke down and went the way of most of the rest of the cruise lines. We strenuously object to the "flat rate" approach. We went to the Front Office and declined the entire fixed charges, and then gave cash to the people we felt deserved it. The HAL Front Office lady's remark was that the crew have to split up the cash donations. I think this is deplorable, and I told her so. DISEMBARKATION: HAL charge exorbitant amounts for transfers. For example, from the Rome port city of Civitavecchia to a downtown hotel (only one of the hotels HAL put people in) was $99 USD per person. We made the train trip for under $10 USD each, all the way to Roma Termini, which was 3 blocks from our hotel. And HAL did almost nothing to organize things on the pier. Everyone was left to their own devices to figure out where buses would arrive, which were port buses, which were tour buses, where to stand, etc. It was mass confusion with scores of angry, upset passengers milling around. Dumping over 2000 people onto shore with very little coordination was not a good thing. However, they were flexible with allowing us to determine our own disembarkation time, and retaining our luggage in the room and taking it off ourselves. This helped to minimize OUR confusion. But many other people were very frustrated by the experience. SUMMARY: Some parts of this cruise were as good or better than expected. The price we got on the cruise was great under $2100 CAD each for 26 days. The ship was beautiful, and well-appointed. It was very seaworthy, and overall a very enjoyable ship. However, as noted, we had a number of disappointments on this cruise, which were all reported to HAL. This experience has caused us to re-think our dedication to HAL. When it's time for another cruise, we will be seriously considering other cruise lines (for the first time). Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Transatlantic Ruby Reviewhttp://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=19626312#post19626312 We had an incredible time on this 28 day Transatlantic Crossing, we are both in our early to late 50's and very active types who ... Read More
Transatlantic Ruby Reviewhttp://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=19626312#post19626312 We had an incredible time on this 28 day Transatlantic Crossing, we are both in our early to late 50's and very active types who like to research ports and history of locations we visit.   The Ruby Princess was really nice, this was my first time on a ship this size, and I loved it.  Everything was clean, and the food was really great.  Embarkation was easy, we were in our rooms within 30 minutes of arriving at the port, which we did at noon.  We stayed at the Resiassance Hotel on 17th street but hated it and checked out the first day.  We checked into the Hilton and had a fantastic room with a perfect view of the Ruby Princess for Sail in viewing.  I did catch the sail into Ft. Lauderdale, it was great. Our Stateroom was B748, and aft stateroom that we really enjoyed.  The room was small but functional and the shower seemed larger than the same room category on the Island and Coral Princess ships.  The balcony was large, with 6 chairs and 2 tables, and it had a slight wrap around to the port side since it is a corner room.  Fully covered, this provided extra space for living and we were able to use it regardless of the weather. I am pretty sure Ignazio D Agostino the Maitre D Hotel is an angel, he is one of the reasons we love Princess so much.  Sadly he had a terrible family tragedy in the middle of the Atlantic and had to leave the ship in Madeira. Generoso Mazzone joined us in Sardinia taking over as Maitre d Hotel, exceeding all our expectations of what it means to be the 'cream of the crop'.  Generoso became like family to us, he totally made our cruise incredible.  We are huge fans of Generoso; we will be following him around whatever ship he is on! We had our first CC meeting and the captain showed up, what a nice guy.  Captain Tony Yeomans has a great personality and seems very approachable and certainly charming.  He was warm, and honest, and very informative.  I find this to make the difference between a nice cruise, and a great cruise. We went to the Captains circle party; there were so many members on this cruise they needed to have four parties!  It was a great party as these things go, with plentiful drinks and of course the best company.  Dinner was exceptional that night.  I didn't eat the Lobster but everybody said it was wonderful.  We had a chicken dish stuffed with mushrooms; it was the most delicious thing ever.  The cold soup, Oranges with tea, was so good and the desert sorbet was a Lime Basil that was to die for.  OMG my diet is shot!There were tons of activities onboard daily, dancing, trivia, games, movies, sports, shopping, spa, and more.  We couldn't do as much as we anticipated because the 23 hour days were killing us and we never considered that.  Not a big deal in the larger scheme of things.  We did the ultimate ship tour, it was awesome, it lasts 3-4 hours and you get to visit lots of behind the scene places. The best part was having time with the Captain Yeomans on the bridge. He is so friendly and personable and we talked with him for almost an hour. They only have 10 people on the tourthere were 60 people in the lottery for those 10 spots. We were lucky to get in.  The day after the tour we got two big fluffy bathrobes, two chef's jackets, personalized stationary, two beautiful frames and 4 large pictures each of various stops on the tour. Not only was it totally cool, it was the biggest bargain ever! You have to do this!My back hurt from the motion at the back of the ship during a few of the bad transatlantic days but it did not last long and those were the only real bumpy days of the 28 day journey.  I also got a bug (hard to say the F word these days J) that put me down for several days, I did not really care to ponder what was wrong with me!  I was completely grateful to be on a cruise, and even more grateful when I recovered! We saw the new production "Once Upon a Dream" and it was fantastic!  It used the most advanced technology combined with talent and creativity to bring us something entirely new and refreshing, hooray Princess.   Songs included selections by Pink, Enya, Simon and Garfunkel, and a hefty serving of Beatles!  We all loved it, a real stand out for us.   You will love it.  We also saw "Stardust" another new production show developed for the Ruby Princess.  It was nice, the dancing was spectacular and the singing was great!  We all enjoyed the show and thought it was just a little better than the first show, which was a Broadway review.   We missed the Hypnotist, who I heard was great, because of the intensity of this itinerary we are often too pooped to party!  We were able to do less as the ports became more intensive. I got a chance to pour a bottle of Champagne at the waterfall with Generoso—my first—and it was simply a blast!   I adore this man, he is classy and sweet and very friendly.  Generoso really knows how to make us passengers feel like Kings and Queens, and we all love it!  Bless him for making this cruise so special for all of us. Trivia had been boring, there was one team that won every game and nobody could beat them, yes I felt sour grapes!  Its funny, I applaud their knowledge base of trivia (lots of cruises) but recognize the need to offer different, more challenging questions that are not repeats.  Hey I want a chance!  Speaking of which, I turned Elite on this cruise! Our sail into Venice was fantastic and while we got to the port at 1 PM everybody was out on the top decks by 11-11:30.  We were so excited to finally get to Venice, although it was bittersweet because we were soon leaving the Ruby, our home for 28 days!  I loved this ship, the crew made all the difference they were all great.   Our last evening together they sang happy birthday to me, I turned 53!  Yikes!  I was spoiled again by Generoso who sent over the best desert wine I had ever tasted, along with good wishes and great recommendations.  He is the most charming man I have ever met!  We had the misfortune of getting a cabin surrounded by smokers, and I am an ex-smoker who had such a hard time quitting.  After being smoke free for 14 years I couldn't breathe when I was in my room; everything smelled like smoke, and I seemed to get my smokers lungs back.  I am not bashing smokers and I still don't want to breathe smoky air in my room.  It smelled bad on the ship where ever there were smokers who smoked in their rooms and the staff spent lots of time spraying chemicals to alleviate complaints, I was not the only person bothered by it.  I have nothing against smokers; I just can't handle breathing the smoke.  That's it. Princess was very kind to me about the smoking problems I had during the 16 day transatlantic.  They offered me several rooms around the ship, but I declined because nobody could offer me a guarantee that smokers won't pollute my air when most of this cruise disembarked/embarked in Barcelona and I hated to give up my beloved aft corner.  Turns out the on the second leg of the cruise there was only one smoker near me and they confined there smoking to their balcony (thank you) which did not impact my room. I loved that they tried hard to help me with my problems with the heavy smoking around me, Princess has good people in management on this ship and I appreciate them for that.   I would love them more if they were willing to rethink separating smokers and non-smokers where it really counts for us non-smokers to be on different floors, or even different sides of the ship.  I'm easy; just keep that smoke far from me so I can breathe.Had many final sales during the 28 day cruise, I had to buy an inaugural Ruby shirt (got so excited to get it at half price) and a few other things all from the Caribbean.  Of course all the standard stuff was there as well at 30 to 50 % off.  I bought gifts; my people are on a lag so they know they will probably get Hawaii stuff on the Mexican cruises, as well as Alaska stuff from last year.   No fill a laundry bag for $20 yet, but the laundry rooms were not too crowded and we had an easy time doing our laundry.  Try starting it before dinner, dry it right after dinner and it is ready after the show!  On sea days it's very crowded, so plan accordingly.  By our last sea day (between Gibraltar and Sardinia) we had finally achieved our time change!  I did not move through the time changing—jet lag moments well, they seemed to last the entire week of the Atlantic crossing.  It was brutal on me; I met people who were struggling like me and others who had no issues with it.   I don't know why.  The Maitre D Generoso takes his vacations during these crossings because the time changes are tough on him going both ways!  Good to know. I have to admit that I was not expecting the food to be great this cruise because the prices were so good I expected the food to reflect that.  Not so on this ship, the food was been absolutely "to die for".    I couldn't stop eating, my waiters were awesome, and I had to learn how to not ask them to compare dishes because then both came (I loved it) and they were both wonderful.  Furthermore, my waiters were reading my mind as if it were an open book.  They knew what I want to drink before I did!  The service had been so good.  From the Maitre d Generoso, to the room service waiters, everybody was happy and kind.  Disembarkation was shaping up to be a nightmare—at first they said no self disembark (what?) and many people sleepless and worried about making their 6 am flights, needing to disembark at 4 am!  We blew it off, knowing that eventually you will get exactly what you need if you just wait.  Low and behold today we were all allowed to make self disembark plans to suit our needs.  Lesson learned, relax and wait because it always works out!  Guides and Port Reviews I used a lot of private guides throughout the cruise that I got from the Cruise Critic boards with great success.  It seems to almost always be better to use private guides rather than ship tours because private tours are smaller and more intimate, something hard to achieve on a ship tour.  I took one ship tour in Cadiz and hated it.  The only port we missed was Monaco and I needed a sea day then anyway!  Many of us cruisers were thrilled with the occasional missed port—those sea days are precious gems that we need.  We had another May Day in Europe and it was fun, we had spent several May 1's in Paris where people routinely stand on the subway and give libertarian speeches (in French) then they sit down and go about their business! We always visit Pere Lachiase Cemetery!  The first thing I uncovered in my research was about this concert in Rome, scared the beegeebees out of me, I don't want to bump into hordes of kids partying while I am trying to trace the steps of Angles and Demons!  We decided to stay out of Rome and visit the countryside instead. 4-24-2009 Madeira, Portugal: Guide Daniel R. de Freitas www.daniel-taxidriver.pt.vu  or jd@netmadeira.com We hit land yesterday and it was very cool!  I am under the weather, got a dumb cold and indeed have been relaxing with a capital R!    We arranged for our guide to pick us up at 2:30, so we didn't bother getting in line and relaxed and ate leisurely instead and it was so much more relaxed that cueing up to disembark!  After the initial crowd, we walked off easily and there was Daniel our taxi driver waiting so we were whisked away quickly.  Way ahead of the tour buses. We found Daniel R. de Freitas through CC; he was incredibly knowledgeable about the history, and the flora and fauna of the area.  He had maps and pictures and info about the area and he kept us ahead the crowds most of the day.  We took the sleds down from Monte first thing to avoid crowds, it was the best fun.  Somewhere along the run they snapped our pictures and by the time we got to the end of the run, they had those pictures for sale!  I had to laugh, and they were awesome photos.  Of course we bought them. Next we went to the Nun's Valley, we drove up through the lush forests of Eucalyptus, Banana, Flowers everywhere (and Daniel knew all the names) wild Birds of Paradise.  Madeira is an amazing island, former volcanoes had left the island with very fertile soil and everything grows here.  We also visited the Mini Grand Canyon, and the second highest sea cliff in the world.  We had some astounding views.  Daniel dropped us back at the ship with plenty of time to spare, I would have stayed in town but I needed rest.  I have to say Daniel was a great guide, he can be found at http://www.daniel-taxidriver.pt.vu/  or jd@netmadeira.com.  I bought some Banana candy and a floaty pen with the sled ride floating by.  Total cost 4E!  Back on the ship, we leave at around 8PM but I am fast asleep already, trying to get well ASAP because after tomorrow, we are in Cadiz!  We ordered hamburgers and ravished them, then passed out from exhaustion!  4-26-09 Cadiz, Spain Cadiz was nice, yes we did not go to Seville but we did go to Arcos de los Fronteras with a Princess tour.  The town was beautiful but the guide was terrible, she did not wait for the older folks, several fell on the cobbled streets trying to keep up with her, and a few gave up because they couldn't do it.   We didn't see much but I huffed and puffed a lot (and I am fit) and at a dead run down the cobbled streets, we did managed to keep our eyes on the tour guide so we know she was leaving 45 minutes earlier than she told the group to meet (meet at 12:45 but she made us leave a 12:00) so we barely kept up.  When the bus was loaded, there was 6 people missing, the tour guide would not go back up the hill to look for them, she said 'oh well they must have gone on another bus" and left them!  We were in shock, this was an expensive Princess tour where they are supposed to leave people, and they did.  My private guides would never do that!  Never.Later we bumped into the 6 people and they followed her instructions exactly, it could have easily been me, and after figuring that she had left them, it cost them almost 500 E to get back to the ship!  I felt so bad for them, really nice people.  Needless to say their day was ruined.We did walk through Cadiz, it is a great town and I wish I could get better so I could walk more because I am having trouble breathing.  Anyway, I've already ranted about the smoking problems on this ship so I'll spare you all.  Beware that taking Princess tours does not necessarily guarantee you a safe return to the ship.  4-27-2009 Gibraltar, GB Gibraltar was nice especially with the great weather we were having.  It was easy to do on our own, with lots of shopping (but no room in luggage :)  We did laundry and enjoyed a slow and unplanned day and it was nice.  Bitchen sail away viewing the Pillars of Hercules.   They also call it Jews gate, I have no idea why?  The weather was warming (70 today) and the seas were calming.  Good news for my May 4th friends who I soon would meet!  May 1, 2009 Civitavecchia, Italy.  Guide: Fabricio Melaragno http://www.allarounditaly.net/ We finally hit Italy (Rome) and the tour with Fabricio (allarounditaly.net) to Orvieto and Civita di Bagnoregio and everybody concurred that it was the best tour ever.  It was a day to end all days, these two towns were both incredible, but Civita di Bagnoregio was a "once in a lifetime" moment that all who took the time to visit recognized.  We were appropriately blown away! Our guide Fabricio was both knowledgeable, and hilarious.  We laughed so much I got cramps.  We learned so much, and it was fun.   We did twice as much as the tours available on the ship, and Fabricio surprised us with wonderful towns and villages in addition to our planned itinerary because we had the time to take it slow and cover a lot of ground.  And Fabricio got us past Police and blockades to places no bus and many locals could not get to, I'm not going to give away his secret but you will laugh and be so happy you booked him when you see this!  A real treat. There were 15 of us on this tour, 8 in Fabricio's bus and 7 in Alberto's (also very nice) although everybody wanted to be with Fabricio because he is so alive, so filled with good humor and good intentions.   We decided to cancel all the Princess tours and go with him everywhere!  So that will be 5 tours with him in Italy, and I highly recommend him to my cruise critic friends.  He promised us cheese everywhere, it was a joke and we really appreciated how funny he is and what a good guy he really is.  So I don't think that will be an issue but if it comes up, I'll report it.  Don't miss Civita di Bagnoregio!   Orvieto was pretty cool too, we visited the catacombs and tunnels in the Tufa rock there and that was very interesting as well.  The Cathedral in Orvieto is magnificent, probably one of the nicest I have ever seen.  It was a great day! May 2, 2009 Livorno to Florence with Fabricio Having our guide pick us up again at Livorno, we all now feel like family with Fabricio!  He got us early, before any large buses had left the port and it was much easier than I had expected.  I had heard that this port was more difficult to maneuver, and I was expecting it to be a pain—somehow I imagined that I would not be able to find my guide, or that I would have to walk far to find him.  Not so, all private guides all right by the ship, in case anybody has the worries I had. We zipped out of the port with our van filled to the brim with very happy campers; everybody by now has experiences a "large bus" tour and recognizes the gift of the private guides and small vans.   We don't drive any expressways; instead we take country roads all the way into Florence.  Fabricio has many surprises in store for us today, we stop for some astounding views, he is trying to fill everybody's wishes and it feels really good to know how much he wants us to enjoy this day.  We love him, and now we cannot imagine being without him anywhere. We zip into Florence, passing crowds of people and lots of parked buses; they cannot get 5 steps from Academia like we can...  In the sea of 'umbrellas held in the air' we walk past them and straight into Academia (OK 2 minutes wait) where we are free to explore at our own pace.  Academia is perfect for a first timer; it's beautiful but not too large so it's a reasonable amount of beauty that does not overwhelm too much.  Well David is magnificent to see in person, as are Michelangelo's haunting unfinished pieces—think prisoners in stone.  They are incredible, don't miss Academia.  As we step out of the museum, Fabricio is waiting for us.  We head back too the van and despite the massive crowds, he gets us to the Piazza Santa Croce in a few minutes.  5 steps and we are in the square.  After a brief explanation of the church, we get an hour to wander, shop the markets and grab a delicious sandwich all in the shadow of this beautiful church.   Next we head to the Brunelleschi's Duomo, the lines are daunting and we decide not to try to get in.   As the day goes on the crowds become overwhelming to all of us and we spend more time walking and less time visiting monuments.   We shop a little then head toward the Ponte Vecchio which is way too crowded for me.  Luckily I pass this Cameo shop and I find the most beautiful Cameo I have ever seen1 Never mind the price. Fabricio has gotten us no more that 5 steps from every monument, Piazza and Palace and he still has not tried to sell us any cheese!  I think he is actually allergic to many cheeses.  Anyway no cheese, but lots of special and personalized treatment that makes everyone who meets him really like him.  I am sad to not see him for a few days; he won't drive to Monaco or Barcelona for me!  May 3, 2009 Monaco Today we missed the port because of wind and gratefully our wonderful Captain kept us safe and canceled the port.   We really appreciate how he has no power over the weather and are always grade when our safety is considered first.  Thanks Captain Yeomans. Lots of people bitching and complaining about this, really embarrassing for many of us who know there is nothing nefarious about missing a port.  I think it has to do with knowing that tomorrow is their last day, meanwhile we continue on to Venice and the weather has been divine.  For us it was a great unexpected sea day, we loved every minute, except the ugliness of the laundry room mid morning! May 4, 2009 Barcelona, Spain We pulled into port this morning and it was clear and sunny, I know it would be a perfect day!  We had booked GoCars in Barcelona and were planning on meeting friends at 9am sharp.  I took the opportunity to scout out other rooms on the ship since this was a disembarkation day and I could!  Wahoo, cruise critic friends had said to check out the aft Emerald deck minis and they were awesome!  I had booked the most aft room on the Port side and my jaw dropped when I saw the size.  My tour guide could pitch a large tent there and I wouldn't even see him!  This is a cherry cabin, glad I booked it for next year! We jammed off the ship and took the ridiculously time consuming port shuttle which took precious time and turns out, with 4 it's cheaper and faster to grab a cab.   We learned that coming back; it saves us an hour of waiting.  When we finally got to the GoCars place, it was closed for business.  Oops, guess our credit card deposit is gone, beware if you are planning to do this.  In any event, we did switch plans on the spot and just jumped on the HOHO bus, gotta be flexible when you travel.  It was very crowded in Barcelona and we passed up Sagrada Familia when we saw the huge line snaking around the Church, having spent this holiday weekend in Italy we were all not feeling like fighting more crowds. We visited Park Guell, very interesting, and we hopped back onto the Hoho to Las Ramblas.  We visited the market which was nice, had a few nibbles and walked.  We veered off to the ancient town where we visited the oldest synagogue in Europe, but you had to use your imagination a lot since it was just excavation pits.   I enjoyed connecting with my own history here too.  I found a hidden synagogue in the Barri Gotic (I've abandoned spelling) today where they had a small but powerful display on the ancient Jews that once thrived in this city.  I noted that the small size of the remains seems to accurately reflect the amount of Jewish I am!  I like this, it appeals to my sense of balance.  Of course I have to buy something, I notice something that I actually don't want to like but of course I have to ask what it is—it symbolizes the deconstruction of the ego and I know this is mine!  Man talks, God laughs. We really didn't feel unsafe at all in this city, I had heard a lot about pickpockets and such but frankly, I did not find this town any more daunting than Los Angeles!   I feel this was all over Europe, I feel silly about all the safety backpacks and junk I bought because Europe is no different than the US in terms of safety issues. Back on the ship, we enjoyed not having to do muster again, nanana J  I notice that as the days float by, I am really having a great time.  But I miss Fabricio, LOL, and the experience!  This has been my "yes" journey so far.  I love being able to be different, try different things, say yes to whatever presents itself, push the resistant reflexive crap out of me just be.   This ridiculous woman with lipstick painted over half her face (the boat is not moving that much) asked me to play trivia and I said yes.  She turned out to be brilliant and her husband an accomplished Yogi!  I loved every ridiculous inch of her. May 5, 2009 Monaco finally with Guide Michael of Revelation Tours. We got to Monaco slowly but surely and actually did not tender, instead we docked at the floating dock (as Captain Yeomans had told me) and had perfect weather to boot!   Captain Yeomans parked us perfectly and we were off the ship within minutes of getting there.  Our guide Michael from Revelation tours was waiting with a large sign and we were off once again, beating all the bus tours and making great time.  We visited St Paul de Vence first; it was as wonderful as I had remembered.  After a brief rundown on where we could go, where and when we should meet him, we were off exploring this wonderful town.  Incredible, filled with Art stores and quaint shops and every turn a surprise nook or alley.  We loved it here. We drove through Nice, a waste of time in my opinion, if you want to see a place you have to stop and if you don't stop why waste time driving through its traffic?  Nice is like Santa Monica, I would go to St Paul and Eze and not even want to drive by Nice!   I've spend several days there in the past to be fair, but its nothing special like Eze.  After the long drive, we went to Eze.  Eze is incredible, even better than St. Paul de Vence if this is possible.  Smaller and less touristy, and I say that with reticence since you could hardly describe it as touristy, Eze is filled with the narrowest alleys and quaintest nooks ever.  This was a wonderful place, and across the street from the entrance to the small town are several perfume factories that have great stuff, I love Fragonard. May 6, 2009 Volterra and San Gimignano (out of Livorno) Guide: Alberto from allarounditaly.net  Leave as early as possible to avoid traffic!  We started out at 8 rather than 7:30 and it made a big difference in the amount of traffic we hit since we had to drive close to Florence—it took us a grueling 2.5 hours to get to our first stop San Gimignano.  Later I realized that our guide had taken a more scenic road that was slower and we had to drive through the outskirts of Florence.  I would leave early and take the toll road to get as quickly as possible, and I would go to Volterra first because it is much more charming and there will be the greatest opportunity to be alone in this town without many tourists Having said that less is definitely more on this excursion.  We were going to try to fit in Sienna as well but this significantly reduced the amount of time we would have had to wander these lovely towns.  We ended up choosing to spend more time in each town and less time driving around because it's not fun around Florence, just congested.  Volterra is incredibly interesting and quite walk able, there are nooks and crannies everywhere and lots of ancient churches and buildings, including many towers.  We found an ancient Greek forum, a fort with walls you can walk, and lots of photo oops everywhere.  This is the place to buy Alabaster; we found demonstrations and great shops selling the most unique items including statues, lamps, tiles, and dishes. May 7, 2009 Rome with Fabricio http://www.allarounditaly.net/ Woke to perfect weather, we pulled in to Civitavecchia, docked and were able to disembark by 7:15 am.   Our guide was Fabricio again so we were all looking forward to an experience!   I had a check list of things to do, not so much the classics because I've been several times on the classics tour, but the weird and wonderful interesting sights that I've never had time to see.  We had 2 van loads of people, we all went to the Coliseum and forum first and then we broke off into different tours, this worked out well because some of us dud not want to go to the Vatican and others had to.  I found the best "then and now" books at the entrance of the Coliseum—it's large and red with a DVD—for 25 E and it is the best book.  I had looked for this one in the states, but its costs a fortune on Amazon.  It's an awesome book; you cannot do the Forum and Coliseum with out it.  You also cannot find it anywhere else in the city, including inside the monuments, so don't pass it up! Next we went to San Clemente Church, an incredible 3 level church where you descend to the bottom level and discover the other river that runs through the city—underneath the city and it runs right through this church.  At the bottom is the ancient pagan church filled with ancient frescos and just so incredibly old.  Next the old Roman empire church, filled with more recent ancient artifacts!  Then of course the current church with its Mosaics and Marble statues.  Wow! Next stop San Pietro in Vincoli where the famous statue of Michelangelo's Moses graces this most beautiful of churches.  Where can you ever see this for free?  Also on display are the chains of St. Peter.  One side Catholic, one side Jewish! We visited the keyhole, an incredible place on the Palatine hill, as well as the mouth of truth!  Now I stumped Fabricio, lol, I wanted to go to the Museum of Walls (Museo delle Mura) which he had never heard of.  It was so cool, you get to climb the ancient walls and walk around the ramparts—truly a hidden gem here and we were the only people in this museum.  Yes, it was good to stump someone as knowledgeable as Fabricio—he grew up in Rome! Onto the Ghetto and Trastevere, we walked around the oldest area of Rome and had a great falafel!  Next we went to the Pantheon, probably my favorite building in all of Rome.  It's so awesome, inspiring in its simplicity and beauty with its megalithic columns and gorgeous marble floors. We did a quickie at the Trevi fountain then finally hit the highlight; the Capuchin Crypt where we visited the best crypt in all of Rome, a must see.  Really interesting, you won't believe your eyes! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009

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