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5 Europe - Black Sea First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

We went on the Thomson Spirit highlights of the black sea August 2015. Had a really good time. There was a wide selection of food, could either have self service with alot of variety, eat in one resturant being served, with limited choice ... Read More
We went on the Thomson Spirit highlights of the black sea August 2015. Had a really good time. There was a wide selection of food, could either have self service with alot of variety, eat in one resturant being served, with limited choice which was from the self service resturant anyway or pay a supplement to go to the 3rd resturant, we didnt go. Our room was a good size with a double wardrobe, 2 single beds, a double would of been better but we didnt pay to reserve our cabin. The decor of the ship was quite dated but still nice. The only bad thing was the size of the swimming pool as it was very small plus the price of the drinks package when some people were offered them cheaper. We didnt get the drinks package in the end and it worked out cheaper. The itinery and trips were really good. We went on a city tour of Istanbul which was well worth the money, we did the bike tour in romania which was really good and then a beach transfer in Greece. This was quiet expensive for what it was but it was still a good day. We have already booked our trip for next year as we loved it so much! Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of ... Read More
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of the time was used to rest for the next day! this tour was non stop once on the boat! Every day we were in port for most of the day except the day going through the Iron gorge. If you haven't exercised in a while, make sure you start walking NOW!!! we averaged about 5 miles a day walking. At 53 I was the youngest passenger out of 81 (ship was only partially full!) - Budapest was AMAZING! We stayed at the lovely InterContinental, 9th floor overlooking Buda - the beauty of the city at night reflected over the Danube and was simply beautiful. Both Buda and Pest sides were fascinating - old in Buda, new in Pest,,,,and they did an excellent job of infusing the old and the new into a gorgeous city. The local food was delicious but be wary of restaurants that have buffets sitting out, even if it's behind a counter! We ate at a Chinese restaurant but as the food was sitting out and then reheated for eating, my companion got very ill. Luckily it passed before we boarded the ship the following day. Take the Hop on Hop Off and jump on the Funicular to head up the mountain to the Castle district. Also visit Margarita Island, but find out exactly where the Hoho boat picks you up!!! there are NO signs anywhere so get exact directions (it's the first boat launch area facing the Pest side) - other than graffiti all over the city, the place is stunning! And visit the Grand market for souveniers, especially Hungarian Paprika! great deals and everyone at home loved them!! The first day of the trip we met with the passengers and cruise director - the 2nd day we had a morning city tour and did our own thing in the afternoon. The following day we did the Hop on Hop off and in the evening boarded the ship. Boarding the ship was very easy. Everyone travelled by bus to the ship where we got on! that simple. Turned in our passports, got our room key, and it was done! Food aboard the ship was delicious - awesome steak, and soups!! terrific!! Salad dressings other than the Ceaser were mediocre, but everything else was great!!! and eating while sailing and so close to the water was a great experience! The Danube is a beautiful river that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime! Serbia city tour was very interesting, as was Vir Lipinski - an ancient civilization excavated on the banks of the Danube - during our travels through Serbia the Captain even let me steer the ship!!! :) Bulgaria - Belgradchik Rocks is a must (included tour) - and the restaurant where we ate lunch was fabulous as well. Lovely views, but again, the graffiti is overwhelming and detracts from the beauty of the city. Most of the folks on the ship gave locals any extra currency they had before leaving the country - and make sure if you like to shop, you get local currency for at least Hungary and Romania. The other countries would prefer their own money but we did use Euros - but the exchange rate isn't the greatest. Romania was very interesting, and a side trip to Transylvania was a interesting as well.. ..the castle Bram was in a lovely part of town but didn't resemble what tourists imagine it to be! well lit, light in color, and housing a bunch of modern day costumes! the views overlooking Transylvania were spectacular. We went with Avanti tours which took us to a 2nd castle which was fully designed as in the day it was used by royalty, and was the highlight of the trip! Plenty of Dracula items to purchase outside of the Castle Bram. Plan on a very busy day, unless you choose to do your own thing. Our normal day on board was wake up at 630, breakfast at 7, done by 8, on the bus at 820 and returned late afternoon, dinner at 7 with everyone, and then bed by 930. then the next day same thing!!! it rained and was chilly most of the time which was perfect for me, but remember to bring an umbrella, a rainproof poncho, and a raincoat if you get tend to get chilly!! we did not find any places to shop except H & M in Bucharest, but it was pouring and the bus stop was too far to walk over !! normally I like to buy clothing from Europe but did not have a chance this trip...just no locations that we visited were in a "city" but more of town visits. Flight home was long, 28 hours total travel time! next time I fly to the western portion of Europe, stay a day or two, and then fly directly home to the US! too many layovers makes for a very long trip!! Everything else was very smooth and well done!! the only disappointment was that I was expecting a presentation on what we would be seeing the following day, but the nightly chats were more of an itinerary for the following day- I was hoping for history lessons of what to see, look for, etc but that did not happen. The ship was small, lovely, clean, no sundry shop so make sure you have everything you need! Crew was excellent! it helps if you learn a little of the languages before you go (simple phrases, often included in the Avalon packet!) - thank you, please, hello, etc. Very much enjoyed this and would highly recommend a river cruise for people who are interested in history and education over beaches and personal activities! both are great vacations!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Our first ever cruise and it lived up to our expectations. Our Cabin, Veranda Suite, Deck 8 was roomy with a walk in closet and very good bathroom. Balcony not huge but big enough for both of us to have our feet up on the lounger. ... Read More
Our first ever cruise and it lived up to our expectations. Our Cabin, Veranda Suite, Deck 8 was roomy with a walk in closet and very good bathroom. Balcony not huge but big enough for both of us to have our feet up on the lounger. The restaurants were all good and we particularly liked being able to eat outside in the Colonnade as well as round the pool in the Patio Grill. Not having to pay for drinks was great and sitting round the pool with the staff bringing round Pina Coladas (or getting whatever you wanted) was exactly the cruise experience we were hoping for. Excellent range of films and TV Staff uniformly good The speaker was pleasant but there was very little intellectual depth or logical flow to the two talks we went to. We went on an excursion to the Danube delta from Constanta which was marred by constant racist comments from the tour guide - I complained about this and the Seabourn rep seemed to take it seriously. Overall - we were very happy and will be going on more Seabourn cruises Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Me and my father had participated in a Holland America cruise with MsPrinsendam from 2 to 14 October this year at Black Sea. It was a round-trip, we sailed from Piraeus and disembarked there after visiting the following ports and places: ... Read More
Me and my father had participated in a Holland America cruise with MsPrinsendam from 2 to 14 October this year at Black Sea. It was a round-trip, we sailed from Piraeus and disembarked there after visiting the following ports and places: Volos-Pelion in Greece, Sinop in Turkey after cruising the Dardanelles and Bosporus, Sochi in Russia, Sevastopol in Ukraine, Constanta in Romania, Burgas (though initially Nessebar was out port of call) in Bulgaria, Istanbul (Constantinople) in Turkey and Mykonos in Greece. I would like to make a few comments on the destinations, before I go on with our experience on the ship. I come from Greece and three ports were actually in Greece, but I’ll try not to let this color my review. • I am sure Athens was a top destination for many travelers who flew from other continents, as Americans, Canadians, Philipinos and Australians. • Volos and especially Pelion with its unique architecture and autumn colors was a marvel even for us who have visited before. * Cruising Dardanelles and Bosporus, this area so heavy from memories and history, where different continents and cultures meet, was a special opportunity for lovers of history and for photographers as well – watching Constantinople from every angle as the ship sailed through Bosporus was spectacular! • Sinop was the first port where many of us wandered: “why did we really stop here???” It’s a small provincial town with almost nothing to show in terms of natural or urban environment, apart from the Walls, some Mosques and a few old Greek style houses. Though for Greeks (7 out of 750 passengers) Sinop might have some sentimental value (we visited an interesting Archaeological Museum with Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine relics), I am wandering how much money Holland America has saved by wasting one day here and not at some other important port as Samsun, Giresun, Ordu or Trabzon. Nevertheless people at Sinop were very hospitable and warm and they offered tasty pies and the traditional tea in their shops. • Sochi in Russia was a good example of how a communist city transits to black economy “development”. This usually means: ugly expensive hotels, casinos and malls, where all the upstarts –God knows how- come to show their culture or the lack of it. This could be a gate to Paradise, built across the coast of Black Sea and at the roots of Caucasus with all its beauty and botanical diversity. Anyway, we didn’t see much of it, since we needed Visa, and our travel agent had given us the wrong impression that the ticket to the off-shore excursion to the Nature Reverse would be the ticket, for a few hours, to the land of the (still) highly suspicious Russians. • Sevastopol is a city which we will have nice memories of: built on hills and small peninsulas entering Black Sea, gave me the impression of a city of Ancient Glory, as we were entering the harbor at sunset and its simple but imposing buildings were turning into gold. It’s a very clean city, very friendly to pedestrians, with a lot of open public spaces and trees. However, there is something always and everywhere present, in a rather disturbing and loud way: the Russian Army and the monuments for its participation to the great wars. Russian Army and Navy still uses this place as its basis, so there are numerous buildings with the Russian Flag on the top and people in uniforms coming and going in and out of them. We didn’t follow any excursion, it’s a waste of money anyway, and we took an old small bus (marshrutka) from their bus station and went to Bakchisaray, an old village with the Khan’s Palace, once the capital of the Crimean Tatar Khanate, where Khans had ruled for 400 years before Russians came to impose their dominance. On the way, the Cave monastery is a very interesting place, with monk cells caved in the rock, but unfortunately there was no time to make a stop. I would come back and explore the whole Chersonessos of Crimea. It’s a very cheap destination anyway! • Constanta takes the “Decadence Award”! One a charming and vibrant city is now full of deserted buildings and houses one step before collapse and it’s a shame. When we visited, the municipality was undertaking restoration and reconstruction work on streets and public areas and hopefully they will save some of the city’s previous glory. As for saving their culture, I do not think there are many hopes for that! Along with the poverty everywhere you would turn your eyes, you see the signs of a lustful consumerism: on cars, on west-style malls and on people’s behavior: aggressiveness and indifference, especially of their drivers. Constanta has left a rather depressive feeling in most of the travelers… • Next day we couldn’t dock at Nessebar so we went to Burgas, which was a pleasant turn of events. In spite of the obvious poverty and cultural confusion due the fast development of Bulgaria (some get rich but a lot of others stay in the dark), Burgas is a clean city with very interesting architecture. However, we still wanted to visit Nessebar, since we had heard a lot for this World Culture Heritage Monument. We used public transportation to get there. Today, it is solely a “tourists’ exploitation” destination: all its numerous 12th century churches, wonderfully restored, have a fee and they are surrounded with taverns and shops with souvenirs. Still, it is a picturesque place with cute wooden houses, but its lack of connection with today’s life has created a “fake” feeling in me. Like Sinop, I do not think this should be a destination by itself. Burgas or Varna, with the option of an excursion here, could be better . The company’s interests once again… • And then Istanbul which I visited for the second time – what can I say! It is the City of Cities – we should have spent 2-3 days here, but they are never enough. It’s a place you have to visit many times in your lifetime. Words are poor… • Mykonos at last is always a disappointing destination for me: picturesque but so exploited and so badly used. Lesvos or Chios would be a much more interesting destination. To end with, from all the ports we visited I would only choose Sevastopol and Constantinople: the first will stay in my mind, the second in my heart. Cruise experience As it is obvious above, only a few destinations in the cruise itinerary were worthwhile. In general, the cruise was unjustifiably expensive for what it offered. The whole ship is old and needs either to be removed or renovated, especially the cabins/staterooms. Though the bathroom was OK, the furniture in the room and other amenities are not even close to the “luxurious” ship we were told about. The air condition was horrible in many rooms and we spent two of the coldest days in rough sea …with cold air, so we had to cover our sea-sick heads with a duvet and a blanket. Then they supposedly fixed it and we spent the rest of the journey in a tropical envrionment with super-warm air. At the same time, the toilet blocked, but at least that was fixed after a few hours. Noisy room, near the machines of the ship. The food was mediocre. The choices were not as many as one would expect from a “luxurious ship”, so we had chicken, beef and salmon over and over again. In two occasions, fruits were one step before rotting and the slices of bread had signs of mold. In general, it was OK and the choices helped you maintain a healthy diet. I will remember one night we had Indonesian food served by staff dressed with traditional clothes. The food tasted more authentically, perhaps because it was closer to their hearts… We found entertainment awful, and this was how most non-Americans felt. Despite the talent of some of the performers, there were very few “canned” choices that were mostly directed to elderly Americans. The only performance I would distinguish was that of Mr. Cristian and Mr. Valentin on violin and on piano respectively. They performed with real passion diverse peaces from different parts of the world which created a very romantic and nostalgic atmosphere. These two gentlemen, who are also very kind and interesting people, have literally saved me during this cruise. Another issue that was inconvenient and unpleasant for us and many other passengers was the amount that was withheld from each passenger (60 dollars per person per day) and the tips that were mandatory. I do not know which policies apply to other cruise lines, but to find out that a couple needs more than 1300 dollars to be disposable, even if they do not intend to spend it them on the ship, is still incomprehensible for me. A cruise is not for everyone something they do whenever they wish. For my father and me it was a “once in a lifetime” thing and personally I didn’t have 700 dollars extra. “Tips’ policy” is another issue. I do not disagree that this is a way to honor those really hard-working people, and I do that wherever I go. But it is me who judges who deserves it and I make sure that she/he gets and not the owner of the company/store etc. I am almost 100% that the tips do not go to these poor people’s pockets and that they rather make up the minimal salaries of hunger they are paid for 16-18 hours of work each day. And this leads me naturally to the service from the lower staff in the rooms, restaurants/bars and machines of the ship – all those people we never really see and to whom our journey relies on: it was excellent, human, warm and thoughtful. It was overwhelming for me to watch these low-paid tired people smiling even though their feet hurt and needed sleep. Someone would say that they are treated better than in their homelands (mostly Philippines and Indonesia) and that they have the chance to see the world and make a budget to build the house or the shop of their dreams in their hometown when they return. But they deserve much more: better salaries, better work conditions. And this is something Holland-America should have in mind: these people never complain but many passengers know what happens. The shore excursions then: “canned” just like the entertainment aboard. Much money for less time and fewer places. Do not follow. Use the local transport: you’ll get a deeper look in everyday life than when you’re lead by others stacked in a bus in a predetermined root. Should this option intimidate you, book a local guide before your journey. And of course, read before you travel. Before I conclude, I feel that I should mention the cruise director of Ms Prinsendam which me and many other passengers found arrogant, rude and disrespectful of other people’s cultures and status. A lady from Turkey was insulted in a multiply racist way when she dared to complain about certain incindents on the ship: her origins, her experience from the rest of the world and her ability to speak and understand foreign languages were questioned. Holland-America should consider her replacement. Of course, I could have made all these complaints to the company directly but you know what? Although, they asked us to feel in a form with our e-mails, nor me nor the lady from Turkey have ever received their survey to complete it… Am I suspicious?...   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
I am writing in defence of the Discovery. Yes, she is old and a bit tired, no balconies, no flash crystal chandeliers, a leaky roof etc. But we had a fantastic itinerary in the Black Sea. The excursions were excellent and tour guides (with ... Read More
I am writing in defence of the Discovery. Yes, she is old and a bit tired, no balconies, no flash crystal chandeliers, a leaky roof etc. But we had a fantastic itinerary in the Black Sea. The excursions were excellent and tour guides (with maybe one or two exceptions) were brilliant. We learnt so much history and saw so many things we would have missed if we had tried to do our own thing. Istanbul, Yalta, Odessa and Sevastopol were the highlights for me and so interesting - Stalins Dacha, the winter palaces, the secret submarine base at Balaclava, Troy - I thought it was all fascinating. We opted for 2nd sitting a table of 8 and met some great people. Food was good - not too filling. Breakfast whivh we usually had in the Lido was good. Lunch, which we also usually took at the Lido buffet was also good. Drinks were a reasonable price. We often had the gym to ourselves in the early evening and sat in the jacuzzi under the stars. Our cabin was nice (although we paid quite a bit extra for a junior suite at the front, it was worth it on a winter cruise when you spend more time in the cabin). Quality of lectures was poor in general. It would have been nice to learn more about where we were visiting. And the shows were very amateurish. The comedian Andy Rudge was very popular and judged his audience (mainly of a certain age) impeccably. No swearing or too blue jokes. We met some great people. Everyone was nice and friendly. The ship had a lovely, friendly ambiance. You felt you knew most of the passengers. The itinerary was brilliant. I assume that most people doing a Black Sea cruise are there for the interesting ports of call, rather than a boozey, loud time. Indeed most people were in bed by 11! I did hear a few complaints about the ship being a bit down at heel, but to be honest, I felt those people just didn't "get" it and would have probably have been happier in a 3 star hotel in Benidorm. They were often the ones who did not take the excursions and came back to the ship saying there was nothing to see! This was our first cruise and I loved it. However, I am not sure I would like one of those enormous gin palace ships with thousands of passengers - and I would only cruise somewhere like the Black Sea which would be impossible to get to see any other way. Lastly, we were originally booked to go on the cancelled Northern Lights cruise mentioned by other reviewers. In hindsight, I think we had a lucky escape - you may want to choose a bigger, newer ship with better stabilisers to venture into the North Sea in winter!   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013

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