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8 Canary Islands Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time ... Read More
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time with “Fred”, although we’ve cruised a lot since getting the bug a decade ago. Compared with other lines, we were delighted that there was no constant hard sell, ship wide announcements were kept to an absolute minimum and queueing was practically non-existent. Of course the ship photographers were there as you ate at the gala dinners, but not always as you got on and off the ship - perhaps by the time we disembarked, they were on the excursions looking for material to go on the DVD. We always buy one and are looking forward to watching it on a snowy day – they’re really a great way to remember the cruise. One morning, I saw a photographer having breakfast, so took a photo of him, then told him it would be ready the next day! I thought it was funny, but have no idea what he must have really thought - he simply smiled very politely, then got on with his breakfast! Embarkation was truly straightforward, as was disembarkation (we cannot fathom why people sat on the stairs waiting to get off the ship when there were plenty of places to sit and wait). The only time we could have queued was at the Captain’s Receptions, but even then, we sat nattering to other passengers and waited until the queue had gone down. That really is the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship. I’ll get the one downside (British Night) out of the way so we can concentrate on how lovely everything else was. With the way politics are, perhaps something more neutral might be more appropriate. Why on earth would you travel abroad and bring that horrid jingoistic nonsense with you? We’re there to see the world and be ambassadors for our country, not to tell people we rule the waves! We were on second sitting, and rather tired that night, so watched the show from our cabin. We were astonished that the Boomtown Rats (Irish), Debbie Harry and Meatloaf (both US) were featured as the “Best of British”, not to mention Riverdance! And don’t get me started on the bit where they all dressed up as school children. Anyway, that was the low point of the cruise for us, and I’m sure other opinions are available. I made my own little protest by wearing a blue shirt with a yellow bow tie which surprisingly got some very positive comments from those who had cottoned on to the colours of a certain flag it resembled! I also wore a red, white and blue rosette (or was it perhaps bleu, blanc, rouge?) We bit our tongues on the “B” word and tried to forget that many of our fellow passengers had probably voted for the mess the country has found itself in. Such a shame, as we’ve never met such a friendly bunch on a cruise ship. It is sensible to steer very clear of any mention of politics, not wanting to ruin our holidays, nor anyone else’s! Anyway, before I lose you completely, let’s go back to all the positives, and that must start with the cruise highlight - the pantomime. This will be etched in our memories forever. It was definitely worth Andrew Robley (the Panto Dame) bringing 14 suitcases aboard, even though his mum was found clambering over them in her cabin! The theatre entertainment overall was a high standard and very enjoyable. Inside Cabin 4154 The cabin was small and the L-shaped layout of the beds made the best use of the space available, although the unit housing some drawers and the console for lights, announcements etc went behind one of the beds, just giving an extra shelf (which came in handy for my husband’s birthday cards to be displayed). The console itself had a button to turn off ship announcements, with a handy red light to let you know that one was being made. Our cases were on the very large side, so didn’t fit under the beds, especially as there was a wooden plinth in the middle. One case went in the wardrobe, the other between the chair and the bed. My husband has a habit of bringing extra coat hangers, not always necessary, but it’s not particularly a battle I care to fight. Thirty years together has taught me to agree to disagree, and if packing too many coat hangers is the worst thing, then we’re not doing badly! An extra couple of hangers might not have gone amiss, but he’d managed to pack over 30, so we had far too many! I’m sure they’d have brought us some extra, had we asked… The layout of the cabin meant one bed didn’t have a bedside lamp or table, which was a little bit disappointing – I suppose we could have asked for the bed to be made the other way round, so the drawer unit could be used. Being two men of a certain age, neither of us have much hair, so having not one but two hairdryers in the cabin made us laugh as did the fact that our Christmas crackers both contained combs! Daytime activities (especially after 5) are extremely low key (or non-existent), so we enjoyed the interactive TV’s on-demand film and TV programme options which we were very pleased to find came at no extra charge. The cabin was towards the back (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the blunt end), so when the ship was coming into port, the engine noise was fairly loud – and when moving in high winds, it did tend to creak, so earplugs are very much recommended. Having said this, for most of the trip, it wasn’t a problem. One cabin we would advise avoiding is 5143 – there was a really loud vibration noise outside, not sure if it was audible inside that cabin, though, but it would surprise me if not. We were delighted with the kettle in the cabin. Perhaps a little saucer for used teabags wouldn’t go amiss, but we used one of the glasses to put teabags in. We brought our own redbush teabags, but they were available in the tea station, along with a large selection of other teas and infusions. Our cabin stewardess came from Thailand and was very good and thorough. We didn’t get any towel animals, but perhaps, like the baked Alaska parade, also missing, that’s another thing of the past. We had a couple of very minor issues with the cabin (both of our own making). They were dealt with very speedily, with a short note afterwards to say they’d fixed the problem, but reminding us not to hesitate to get in touch if the problem hadn’t been rectified to our satisfaction, or if there was anything else they could do. A very nice touch, we thought. Dining – Table 301, Spey We’d asked for a table of 8, but were given a table of 6, but were only 5 diners – pleased to say we got on exceptionally well with our fellow travellers, three solo women. We were tucked into the corner by the door and it was very noisy at times, which apparently is unusual for the Spey. Being next to a serving station made it even noisier, cutlery and plates were thrown into bins by the waiters. Once we’d had a word with our servers it was better - we did this a couple of times during the cruise, simply saying that the noise levels had increased again. Had our table mates not been as brilliant as they were, we might well have asked to be moved. Service was impeccable – no problem with menu variations, for example having a starter as a dessert. With a couple of rare exceptions, we were very happy with everything we were served, although we did wonder why the rather tasty soup called borscht didn’t contain any beetroot! On the one night things really weren’t to our taste (the burnt nut roast incident), alternatives were found very quickly. We immensely enjoyed a late breakfast in the buffet sitting outside by the pool (heaters were on when it was cooler) – and rarely used the Ballindalloch main restaurant. One tip - for breakfast and lunch, all three restaurants have both a waiter served menu and a very similar buffet, but the menu items aren’t available in the main buffet. At breakfast, I very much liked the selection of nuts (Brazil, cashew and walnut) along with the goji berries. We didn’t partake of the sparkling wine at breakfast on formal nights, but I poured the orange juice into champagne flutes to give a sense of occasion! Much to my husband’s disgust (being on second sitting we’d not long had dinner), I liked to have a “look” at the midnight buffet, which was varied and certainly not at all leftovers from dinner! Needless to say, this “look” generally turned into something landing on a plate and into my mouth… Portions at dinner were on the meagre side - I’m sure double portions were available but we never asked - a couple of times we had two main courses, or an additional one to share. There’s no way anyone could go hungry! Christmas/New Year The ship was wonderfully decorated throughout and at guest services, we thought it was a lovely touch that you could help yourself to satsumas and nuts. Christmas Eve had a carol service after which port, sherry and mince pies were served in abundance. We got back to the cabin to find that instead of a chocolate on our pillows, we had a small bag of chocolates to share. Christmas Day had a deck party in the morning, with a free egg nog station, which helped things along rather nicely! Lunch was just a normal sea day – they actually forgot the lunch I’d ordered from a waiter – I asked several times over 30 minutes - but I did get a free glass of wine to compensate! I just thought it was hilarious as we were on an all inclusive package. But as they say, worse things happen at sea, and I certainly didn’t go hungry for long! In the afternoon, my husband had a sleep and I went to see the Queen’s speech which we all ended up listening to, as something was wrong with the technical setup. I very much applauded her sentiments against tribalism and the need to get on with ones neighbours, but bit my tongue! The entertainment team then played a game of charades, which was quite funny. We slept the rest of the afternoon until it was time to dress for the Captain’s reception. One of the entertainment guys was dressed up as Santa in the Captain’s parade on the way in, so I told him “all I wanted for Christmas is EU”, in quite a loud voice! It was Christmas, and I was well behaved for the most part! We thought our waiters seemed a bit rushed on Christmas Day, until we understood that they were all trying to synchronise and sing a few Christmas carols, which was another nice touch. We were very surprised to see that cocktail parties for certain loyalty level guests made up the main entertainment on Boxing Day, leaving very little to do for first time guests like us, or people who didn’t want to drink at 11am, but it did mean we got seats at the quiz, which was usually oversubscribed if you didn’t get there early enough. New Year’s Eve was great. There were two alternatives – one in case of rain, one for dry weather. The weather wasn’t too kind and we were glad to have brought rain ponchos with us which we put over our dinner suits. It’s a very comfy cruiseline and there isn’t any obvious stuffiness and pretentiousness we’ve found a couple of times on other lines. We were comfy and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what mattered! After dinner, we went to the show, then before we knew it, champagne (well, fizz) was flowing and the fireworks started which were absolutely fantastic and every bit as good as Sydney where we were lucky enough to see them on our honeymoon. One thing we didn’t hear, however, was a countdown, that’s not to say it didn’t happen. The festivities lasted long into the night and I knew it was time for bed when the conversation turned to football and all I could think to say on the subject was that some years ago, we’d really enjoyed seeing the Beverley Sisters – one of whom was married to a footballer. As I said, it was well and truly time for bed! I was very fragile the next day (one of the waiters even asked a couple of days later if I was still fragile!), we finally surfaced and went to brunch in the Spey at around 11.45am, after watching the ex-policeman’s talk on airport security on our cabin telly. We were surprised that it wasn’t really a brunch, but breakfast simply morphed into lunch at mid-day. After lunch, we went back to the cabin and watched a great film called What I Did Last Summer. After paying a visit to the future cruise desk, we sat at the back of the ship with a cuppa watching the most magical sunset, in a nice warm spot thanks to the outdoor heaters. Ports We’d been to most of the ports before - and all of them were very easy to walk to from the ship, as long as you’re able bodied. None of the ship excursions took our fancy, but we were most impressed with the booklet and maps that came before the cruise, although they could have done with a little more information about the ports themselves. The destination guide, Graeme, did a good job of giving some hints and tips and not being too centred on the excursions. However, his appalling pronunciation of place names left a lot to be desired! As a linguist I picked up on this and his pronunciation would probably have confused local people if you were asking for directions. For some reason, exact docking timings weren’t given until the day before, which made it a little difficult to plan too much in advance, but having said that, we did seem to be in port for longer than other cruises we’d been on. Lisbon We did a Free Walking Tour (you just pay a tip at the end) of the Alfama and Mouraria districts – you can easily book in advance online – they did stipulate a €2 deposit for not showing up, but were very accommodating when I said we were on a cruise ship and it depended on the weather if we could dock. The tour was excellent, even though we’ve been to Lisbon countless times, and I’d even spent a month here in the 80s, we learned quite a lot from our guide. The tour ended near to the Church of Graça, where there is an amazing panorama of the city, along with a wonderful little outdoor café serving light snacks and sandwiches, the ideal antidote to the fancy meals we were having onboard. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Our extended stay let us go a little further under our own steam. We went to Vegueta, the old town, on the number 12 bus for a couple of Euros, taking about 20 minutes. The architecture around the main shopping street, Triana, is beautiful and rather reminiscent of some parts of Old Havana. We visited the Museum of the Canaries which was a bit old fashioned and apart from a room full of skulls, not overly interesting. After a nice lunch, we went to the Christopher Columbus Museum (my Yorkshire upbringing and infantile humour still makes me giggle when I see the word “Colon”, his Spanish name)… It’s a fascinating place, with lots of old maps of how people thought the world looked, and housed in a beautiful old building. Highly recommended. After getting back, we still had time to go for a walk along the beach front and have a quick look around town, and even to the shopping centre by the port. One little tip – the port wifi reached into the ship, so on returning, I had a quick look at my emails, although we had taken advantage of free EU roaming earlier in the day. Gran Tarajal (Fuerteventura) It was too windy to dock, so we diverted to Puerto del Rosario, the capital. Not the prettiest of places, and with the exception of a very small museum dedicated to a philosopher who escaped from Franco and a shopping centre, we didn’t find too much to do here, so went back to the ship for lunch. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Once again, we were in port until very late evening, so we went by tram to the charming little town of La Laguna (the tram stop is called Trinidad and at the end of the line, making it very easy). After visiting a museum, we went for lunch at an old Canarian Restaurant (Patio Canario) which is housed in an old building. Far from being a tourist trap, most of the clientele were Spanish - the food and service were excellent, as were the prices. The tram ride cost a couple of Euros and was a very pleasant journey taking about 20 minutes. San Sebastian – La Gomera We hadn’t been here before, and I was intrigued that they have a whistling language, so was delighted to see that a local troupe do a demonstration of this, along with local dancing. Apart from that, we didn’t really find much else to do – we were only docked for the morning, so enjoyed a coffee in the main square with two of our table mates before heading back to lunch on the ship. Funchal - Madeira All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our attempt at visiting a Madeira wine lodge was thwarted by hoards of people. This was the only day where the weather was unkind with rain on and off, but we still managed to have a walk round. When it threw it down, we had a simple lunch (forgetting how large Portuguese portions were!) Walking round, we found parks wonderfully decorated for Christmas, and stopped by the lovely Christmas market, where we just had to have a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in a chocolate cup, followed by a Madeira wine in a chocolate cup, then another just in case. And perhaps another, but I can’t really remember. We got back to the ship and slept it off until it was time for the Captain’s Reception and Gala New Year’s Eve dinner! La Coruña This is the one place I’d love to have spent some more time exploring. I’ve never really understood why you’d want to be off the ship for 8am when shops don’t tend to open until 10am or so, although if you’re on a tour to Santiago de Compostela, you would need to set off quite early to make it worthwhile. It’s a real shame we left La Coruña so early at 1.30pm as it was a lovely place for a wander around. We found a very quirky café and I enjoyed a black coffee while my husband had the most delicious thick hot chocolate. No wonder he didn’t have room for the midnight buffet! Walking round, it looked like there were a lot of interesting places for lunch which hopefully we’ll try next time. Ship activities We’d both been very busy before the cruise, so were very glad of time to relax. To be honest, we didn’t see too much of the daytime entertainment staff – there were no napkin folding/cookery demonstrations etc, but we did enjoy the talk with the dancers and singers explaining how things worked backstage. What daytime activities there were had a tendency to clash, for example the quizzes and the speakers. Most evenings there was very little to do after 5pm until dinner - that said, bridge players or dancers were probably very well served. That said, one night, there was a Mr & Mrs competition. We were going to join in, but by the time my husband said yes, we were pipped at the post by another couple. Probably just as well. Our meals meant that we missed the 10pm quiz, as it would have been too much of a rush to get to the theatre show afterwards. I’ve already mentioned Andrew Robley, who not only was brilliant as the Panto Dame, but also entertained us a few times during the cruise (both on and off the stage as he was around and about the ship quite a lot). There was also a comedian, a singer and a magician (to whom I joked that the passengers do a brilliant magic act – they can make food disappear at an amazing rate!) One thing we were surprised at was the suggested themes weren’t adopted by the waiting staff – we thought they should also wear a touch of red, tartan etc. We had a lovely and relaxing time and we’ve already put down a deposit on a future cruise, so that says it all, and we’d have no hesitation in recommending our cruise to the right demographic of mainly over 50s. It’s definitely more hip-op than hip-hop, Fred Olsen definitely know who their clientele is and look after them exceptionally well. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We’ve recently returned from a 14 night cruise of Spain and the Canary Islands. It’s our second time on this ship and our fourth with RCI. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this holiday because I did, but there were a few issues that ... Read More
We’ve recently returned from a 14 night cruise of Spain and the Canary Islands. It’s our second time on this ship and our fourth with RCI. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this holiday because I did, but there were a few issues that prevent me from giving this a five star review. The ship and the staff are incredible. Despite being very busy we didn’t encounter any of the over-crowding problems mentioned in other reviews. It never took more than a couple of minutes to get a drink, even at busy times. The food was generally good. The main dining room seems to have slipped a little since last year, but it’s still good. The speciality restaurants are all excellent and not too expensive if you pre-book a dining package before you get on board. I enjoyed all the bars and felt we received great service from the staff right across the ship. The delux drinks package is well worth having, with a great selection of spirits and cocktails. What lets it down is the quality of the wines. The reds and whites are pretty poor and the “champagne” is awful. It’s a non-descript sparking French wine which smells like a clogged drain. Our cabin, a balcony on deck 6, was okay. It looked a little tired in the places and the carpets and curtains were outdated, but it was a good size and kept clean and tidy. I slept well every night, even in rough seas, so the bed was very comfortable. The entertainment was excellent. There’s a first-rate production of Grease and the ice shows are stunning. The themed nights on the promenade are good fun though they do get very crowded and hot. We had a party under the stars one night on the upper decks which was fun too. What let the holiday down for me was the large number of children and teenagers onboard. We deliberately went during school term time but this seemed to make no difference. I know the Scottish half term took place during this fortnight but most of the kids were English, meaning they’d been kept out school for this trip. It resulted in all the issues raised in previous reviews: kids running around unsupervised, playing in the lifts late at night, etc. We were also unfortunate to encounter a lot of Diamond class snobs on this cruise. They bragged about the Diamond lounge like it was the holy grail, then proceeded to moan about it: how small it is, how common it’s become, how there are too many diamond members on the ship and they were forced to mingle with the “riff raff”. We had four of these people on a table of eight at dinner and I found the constant moaning to be a drain, especially in the second week. Not RC’s fault, just the luck of draw for table seating. I wouldn’t like to think I’d ever go on a huge, beautiful ship and spend most of my time sitting in a single cafeteria-style room, not matter how many points I’d achieved, just to feel special. The itinerary was good, with a nice balance of sea and shore days. I always enjoy the sea days with plenty to do across the ship. We had a bit off iffy weather on the way back: 5 metre waves and 60 mph winds, but the ship handled it well and with the stabilizers engaged it wasn’t too bad at all. It took about six hours to get through the worst of it, which we spent on a low deck, midship with little to worry about. So, to summarise, Independence is a wonderful ship with lots of do and enjoy, let down by the odd issue here and there. But with the recent refit designed to appeal to families rather than couples, I don’t think I’ll be sailing on her, or any RC ship, anytime soon. I’d rather book with an adult only company and guarantee a child free, more relaxing cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
About the Reviewer: I’m a 33 year old male who traveled with two friends I made on a previous cruise in the studios. This was also my 33rd cruise overall and my 21st Norwegian Cruise Line cruise. I’ve been on other lines including ... Read More
About the Reviewer: I’m a 33 year old male who traveled with two friends I made on a previous cruise in the studios. This was also my 33rd cruise overall and my 21st Norwegian Cruise Line cruise. I’ve been on other lines including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and twice on Carnival with my last cruise being on the Carnival Inspiration. I sailed on the Norwegian Epic in 2011. The Epic recently underwent an extensive refurbishment so some comparing may take place in the review from the way she was before to now. The following is a review surrounding the Norwegian Epic’s 10 day Canary Island itinerary which departed on November 29, 2015 from Barcelona, Spain and returned on December 9, 2015 and is done in the order of which the ports, entertainment and specialty restaurants were done. Pre-Cruise Stay: H10 Raco del Pi I arrived one day early and stayed at the H10 Raco del Pi. After a cab ride from the airport to the hotel, check-in was fast and efficient. I stayed on the first floor in an astoundingly spacious suite for the price paid. The room had a balcony which overlooked the street below and featured his and her sinks, Jacuzzi tub with shower and huge bathroom for European standards. Cost was $100 USD for the night. I was surprised by the size of the room for the price paid. Day 1 – Embarkation Day – Sunday, November 29, 2015 I shared a cab from the hotel to the pier and arrived shortly after noon for check-in. The check-in lines were split with new comers to the cruise line in one queue, lower tier Latitudes (past guests) in another queue, Gold and Platinum Latitudes in another queue, Casinos at Sea in another queue and lastly the Haven and Suites guests in the last queue at the end. There was no one in the queue for the Platinum Latitudes which I was so I got waited on very quickly but had to wait for my two friends who were in the much longer Bronze and Silver Latitudes line. Overall, everyone’s check in was fairly fast and smooth or so I thought. We headed up the gangway. On the way up cruise staff were by the escalators greeting us and welcoming us to the Epic for the week. When I boarded the ship and was to be swiped in, my photo and keycard were not working already! I couldn’t get swiped on and had to go to guest services immediately and get a replacement keycard. Since we were on our way to lunch at Taste Restaurant, this was on our way there. There was no line at guest relations and we were on our way in a jiffy to Taste for a cruise kick off lunch. I had a philly cheese steak without the bread. During our lunch which was no closer to 1:45 when we finished, the cabins were announced as ready. Cabin 11570 – Studio Cabin The Norwegian Epic was the first ship in the Norwegian fleet to have solo studio cabins. The original is always the best as the studio cabin featured four multi-lighting schemes over the block containing the sink and closets. Featuring the colors of white for day, blue for night, red for love and green for the sake of it, the color change feature is missing on the newer Breakaway class ships. As a 100 square foot room, if you know how to pack it right, you have plenty of space to move about. The room was well maintained and the bed was soft to sleep on. I would NOT recommend staying in this specific cabin if you’re a night owl as when the ship pulled into port you were vibrated out of bed and definitely awakened. As a side note, this room was not a connecting room so I could blast my music from a portable speaker as loud as I wanted to. The room was so far aft that it had its own separate entrance from the aft elevators with separate keycard access. Given the amount of vibration felt in the cabin during the morning hours, I will not pick this room again as I like to be up late. Touring the Ship After dropping off the carry-on bag, it was time to explore the ship and see what changes were in store. I was excited to see the newly re-done Bliss. Gone are the cages on the side of the stage where you could get in and dance if you wanted to. The color scheme was also brightened so it was not as dark as I remembered. The lights could be raised and lowered depending on what event was being held in there. The bowling alley was also removed in favor of more seating. The lighting refresh also included low to the ground tables by the ramps which had housed lamps. On a previous cruise a passenger tripped over the table and crushed the lamp. The tables are a huge trip hazard at the end of those ramps and should be removed. While I didn’t encounter any issues with them, several of the other passengers on the sailing did trip and end up with bruises on their shins and almost falling. It was mentioned to the cruise staff a few times during the nightclub hours but nothing ever came of it. Other areas of the ship changed but the most noticeable was the change at LaCuccina which was not open the first few days of the voyage as they had to finish up some of the tile work which was not done during the dry dock. The large tree and the Olive Garden décor was replaced with marble and a fountain sink in the middle of the floor to wash your hands. Moderno also had two sinks installed for handwashing during dry dock as it has the buffet. Carpeting was refreshed everywhere and you could tell by how plush it was and it was shedding in some places. The casino seemed a lot less smoky this cruise compared to the last time I sailed on the Epic. I don’t know if they added more air purifiers or what but they were always on, even when the casino was closed to help make sure the smell of smoke stayed in the casino only. The shops received a refurbishment as well and I would pass through the center shop every night heading from my aft cabin to Bliss Lounge forward. Ship Demographics It was noticeable early on in the cruise that there were several ethnicities on the ship as the announcements were coming in English, Spanish and German. The number one country represented was the UK followed by the US. Israel, Germany and Japan all rounded out the top five ethnicities on the ship. Why this was important is because the different cultures have a different way of doing things and putting them together meant some ruffled feathers amongst other passengers. There were also far less children on this sailing. The average age was much higher as well. The 10 day length probably helped that. Nightly in the studio lounge at 6PM is the solos meet and greet hosted by a cruise staff member. This weeks was hosted by William. Lots of people showed up and we met some new people. This cruise had a diverse set of solos ranging in age from 29 on up to late 70s. Most people were just looking for dinner companions and maybe people to share a game or two with. I had dinner companions already but we found a new one this night and would dine together and hang out together for the rest of the cruise. After the solos gathering, it was time for the Friends of Dorothy gathering or the GLBT gathering at the Shaker’s Martini Bar. This is nightly and unhosted from 7PM to 8PM. The first night’s turnout was amazing and so big in fact that we ended up taking over the whole bar seating area. There was a nice bar waiter from Argentina who took very good care of us during the cruise. SPECIALTY DINING: Shanghai Restaurant Our first dinner on the Epic was at the fairly new non-cover charge Asian restaurant. We ordered all the appetizers to share at a table of four of us. We had several of the main dish plates including the General Tsao’s chicken, sweet and sour chicken, veggie rice and some seafood dishes. Thereafter, it was late so I checked out Bliss Lounge for the first night’s social mixer and welcome aboard party. The opening hour of the nightclub featured beats by DJ Alegre who played some interesting mash ups and kept a constant beat going with awesome transitions. When the DJs switched, it was noticeable. I approached the DJ Alegre and told him that I appreciated the mixes and looked forward to hearing him more during the cruise. Sadly, the other DJ who was just hired and came from RCCL (can’t remember the guy’s name) sucked and killed the vibe so I cleared out by 1AM. Day 2 – Sea Day – Monday, November 30, 2015 I was up early and decided to head to the gym to catch the Fab Abs class at 7:30AM. It was tight but I made it and had a nice abs workout augmented by using some of the other resistance machines in the gym. I did a 1.5 hour workout. The gym was well appointed and all the equipment was in good working order. After grabbing breakfast at the buffet and dining outside in the windy and somewhat chilly Mediterranean air, it was time to freshen up for the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. Held at 11AM in Bliss due to the size of our Cruise Critic group, the officers stopped by and said hello. I saw some of the officers I recognized from previous sailings and talked with them briefly before the CC roll call leader did a raffle for answers to random roll call questions. It was very well done by the Group Service Coordinator on the ship. After the CC Meet and Greet, the group of us grabbed some lunch and visited the box office to fix the shows. We had pre-booked the shows before sailing but when we arrived we had discovered the show times were all changed and conflicted with dinner plans and other social events happening during the evening hours. After getting that straightened out, it was time for lunch in Taste before heading out for some cold sun and scoping out the top decks for the best place not to freeze to death. Tonight was Norwegian’s Night Out and after having dinner in the Manhattan dining room, it was time to go to Bliss Lounge. For the second night in a row, Bliss seemed to be stuck in a 70s / Latin circular setup with no changes to anything remotely close to Top 40. It was a complete buzz kill and I turned in early as I had to get up early for the next day’s tour. Day 3 – Tangier, Morocco – Tuesday, December 1, 2015 NCL Shore Excursion: Cap Spartel & Tetouan The full day tour started with a narrated bus ride to Cap Spartel for a brief stop for photos before heading to Tetouan. Unfortunately the guide failed to mention how far Tetouan was from the first stop resulting in several passengers needing to use a bathroom. The tour bus did not have a bathroom on it and passengers were in need. At one point the bus pulled over to let male passengers get out and pee on the side of the road. Classy with the rest of the bus looking on. Eventually there was a stop made at a restaurant for ladies to use the facilities. The tour continued into Tetouan and we arrived at the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts where artisans of all ages are making traditional handicrafts to be sold later. Across the street you enter old medina surrounded by a wall and several little streets within. A traditional Moroccan lunch was served in a restaurant which provided entertainment of a belly dancer, percussion band, string band and a fire dancer. On the way back to the ship, the driver let us all sleep and did not provide much narration. The cost of this tour raised since I booked it. It was a good tour but highly overpriced. Back on the ship, it was another dinner in the Manhattan room with great service followed by a short stint at karaoke before Bliss turned over to the nightclub. Tonight’s theme night in Bliss was the 50s and 60s Sock Hop Party. Unfortunately the party was only supposed to last 1 hour but carried on well past midnight so I went to bed at 1AM. Day 4 – Sea Day – Wednesday, December 2 Another early start to a relaxing day at sea. The weather had finally started to warm up a bit and since I was up early, I figured I would head to the Fab Abs class at 7:30AM. I made it up there with time to spare and when the stretch class ended, a group of people from the tour group went right in and ignored the line. I was forced to be outside the door due to the rudeness of these passengers. I was not happy but still managed to enjoy the workout anyway. Latitudes Perk: BEHIND-THE-SCENES TOUR: The rest of the morning was taking a behind the scenes tour for Platinum Latitudes members. The tour featured stops in the provisions, recycling, laundry and main dining room galley. This tour was the most informative tour I’ve taken in a while and went way beyond the time it was scheduled to because of it. George Kassis, the CruiseNext Manager, led the tour and explained what we were seeing along the way and how the crew lives. The provisions master explained how they stored the fruit for a 10 day cruise since the ship only provisions in Barcelona on such voyages. The head chef in the galley tour brought us to all the stations in the kitchen and explained how it worked for the menu preps. He was very thorough in his explanations and when I told him I loved strawberries, he arranged for me to get some whenever I dined in the main dining room (breakfast or dinner). It was very nice of him to do! On this sea day and every sea day that Moderno restaurant had a themed buffet lunch. Today’s theme was Mexican cuisine with burritos, rice, soup and salad offered. It was a nice buffet lunch! After a leisurely afternoon attempting to get some sun while not freezing in the crosswinds up on deck, it was time for an arranged birthday party in the studio lounge. Some of the solos on the Cruise Critic roll call arranged a birthday party for those who just had, were having or about to have birthdays! One person brought cards and had all the officers sign them at the Cruise Critic meet and greet earlier in the voyage so it was really personalized! What an awesome thing to do! Latitudes Perk: LATITUDES COCKTAIL PARTY: Held at 7PM in the Bliss Lounge this cruise it combined many of the latitude tiers because there were so few higher tier members on the ship. I was able to go with my friends who had not yet attained their Platinum status. We hung out at the bar and mingled with the cruise director and hotel director. Both of them were open and receptive to some suggested changes for Bliss and making the music a little more current. It was nice that they were listening and taking the comments to heart. Tonight’s dinner was in Taste Restaurant which ran really late. After it was over I checked out the FABBA party which ran from 10:30PM to 11:30PM before the rest of the night being the Glitter Ball 70s party. I went to bed early as I was feeling exhausted and the music was just more of the same in Bliss as it had been since embark night. Day 5 – Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands – Thursday, December 3 Today’s port call featured touring via the public transit system. My friends and I hopped city bus number 30 direct to Masoplomas in the southern part of Gran Canaria to see the beach, dunes and ride the camels. The bus pass cost $12.50 EU for the entire day with as many uses as you wanted. When we arrived in Masoplomas, there was a brief walk to the camel vendor. The camel ride was $12 EU per person. The camel ride lasted about 40 minutes and took you through the dunes. It was a nice jaunt and the camels were extremely photogenic. The guy leading the camels took pictures with people’s cameras if you asked which was nice of him. We had a brief lunch at a shopping mall close to the bus terminal and bought some souvenirs. We headed back to Gran Canaria and went into the supermarket inside the huge shopping mall right at the pier to get some goodies. Just a note during our bus ride at one of the stops, a pick pocketer tried to steal a tourist’s wallet. This guy happened to get caught doing it and the bus driver chased after him. It was an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair. Just be careful with your wallet at this stop. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Teppanyaki Tonight the solos went out to celebrate the birthday of William, the Cruise Staff overseeing the solos for the week. Teppanyaki is dinner cooked before your eyes with a show. The chef put on a show and did a great job. Unfortunately the waitress took forever to return with the dessert and the check. She pushed it so late that I barely made the show and had to stand in the back. EPIC Entertainment: OTHER GUYS: The late show was at 9:30PM and featured tunes from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The performance was great for standing room only audience and last approximately 45 minutes. I stayed the whole performance as it was enjoyable. They would play again at Headliners at other times during the cruise as well. After the show ended, I went up one deck to Bliss Nightclub for a 90s music hour with DJ Alegre. Thankfully tonight’s one hour of dance songs was amazing and I FINALLY got out on the dance floor. I was sure to thank Pedro, the Cruise Director and the Hotel Director for taking the disco out of the 70s it had been stuck in during the preceding nights of the cruise. It was a long day so I retired around 12:30A when the other DJ took over and threw us back into the same 70s and Latin music that was heard the other nights of the cruise. Day 6 – Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands – Friday, December 4 Today was another independent tour day which featured the Hop On, Hop Off Bus. The bus takes you around Tenerife with a narrated tour in different languages that you use ear buds for. It was cost effective and gave you history of the city while dropping you at different sites to visit. I enjoyed the large park. There was a large department store also during the route which had very reasonably priced souvenirs for sale. It was the perfect thing to do at your own pace. The problem was that the busses were crammed with people as there were three other large ships in port with us. Make sure you get off the ship early in this port to avoid lines for the bus. Cost was $18 EU. EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert What an amazing performance by the cast. Keeping the musical true to the actual movie, the show flowed seamlessly. A small technical glitch with the computer that ran the LED wall for visuals gave the audience a few moments pause between acts but the show went on with the same energy and vigor that was in the first half. The show features two drag queens and a transsexual who head on a bus to the center of Australia to perform with the lead character hiding the fact that he was married and had a kid waiting there. The show has some suggestive scenes and at times some raunchy language so it’s definitely not for the easily offended and not for children either. With that said, it was a perfect show for adults and it is very progressive of NCL to offer such a show at sea. I LOVED IT! I sat second row center for this performance and it was so good I had to go back again! SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Le Bistro We were sat promptly at a window seat at 9PM for our reservation. This was the Latitudes perk dinner with some friends who also attended the show prior with me. I had escargot, the lamb and crème brulee. It was a nice dinner service. I tried another person’s scallops and they tasted horribly fishy like they had gone bad. It was the first time I had tasted bad food while at sea. Dinner service was great and attentive though and food was always hot and presented nicely. Tonight was 80s night at Bliss. I didn’t even bother going and just went back to the room and to bed. Day 7 – Funchal, Madeira, Portugal – Saturday, December 5 A Cruise Critic member organized a huge private tour group with David Madeira Taxi with four separate tour busses. The cost was $18 EU per person and featured all the major stops the ship tour was doing. If you wanted to do the cable car up to Monte it was additional and the toboggan ride back down was also additional but still far less than what the ship was offering. We drove all over the island to amazing heights and along the side of mountains. Since I have a fear of heights, my anxiety level was elevated the whole tour. The tour operator Sergio spoke perfect English and was very knowledgeable about the island, the places we were visiting and what was best in the short time we had at some of the stops. My favorite part was the little fishing village we stopped in. The tour was just over 5 hours long. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Moderno For $20 it’s an all you can eat meat fest! I love Moderno restaurant. The salad buffet has an extensive selection, not just of make your own salad but other salads as well. Picanha, garlic beef, filet mignon, chorizo are all my favorites and I had plenty of them while dining off to the side. In dry dock they did put handwashing sinks in this restaurant since it includes a buffet. Very neat but poorly used by the guests. We spent just about 2 hours in this restaurant eating. The papaya cream dessert is amazing too! Shout out to Melvyn, the restaurant manager, and the maître ‘d who got us attentive service so we could make the second show of… EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Yes, the girls and I went back to see the show again at 10PM. This time the show went straight through with no intermission and it was just amazing. It was the last show of the cruise for the Priscilla cast. They truly brought their A game after performing many times already in the week. It was hilariously enjoyable and I sat stage left in the third row back. Great sightlines no matter where you are in the theater. The tunes are catchy and it’s a toe tapping good time! Glad I got to check it out again and my friends tagged along as well. They were not intending on seeing it a second time but after the first time they wanted to as well! It was just THAT good! Tonight was Country Western Night in Bliss so after the show and stopping up briefly, the vibe wasn’t there so I took off to bed. Day 8 – Sea Day – Sunday, December 6 It was a quiet day at sea. Not too much was going on except getting some sun while bundled up to stay warm. It was chilly on the top deck with highs in the 60s in the sunlight without a cross wind, which there was one. The buffet lunch in Moderno was Mediterranean cuisine with an extensive selection of Spanish and Portuguese items available. After lunch it was back up to the sun deck for a little while longer before a disco nap. Dinner tonight was in the Manhattan dining room with service which was fast and efficient until dessert. I don’t know why when you ask for coffee and dessert, service seems to slow to a crawl. It happened every night coffee or tea was asked for. It made some of the people I dined with miss the show. EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Burn the Floor I barely made it into the show. It was standing room only at the back. During the opening number, a female dancer missed her mark and fell. The audience gasped. She got up and continued as gracefully as she could. It set a bad tone for the entire production. I don’t know if it was the format of it but for burning the floor, the production lacked passion, fire and a desire to engage the guests. They had a high energy Burlesque number and it was so subdued it seemed tortured. I love the Burn the Floor production on the Norwegian Breakaway but this one was just awful. I stayed until the end hoping it would get better but it never did. When you have songs with a beat, it helps if the cast is actually bringing it. The group choreography was also off. Being up the back and in nose bleed gave me the vantage point to observe it all from a distance. The singers, who were from the Priscilla cast were great but the dancers and the routines need some help. Breakaway’s Burn the Floor production blows this one out of the water. EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: White Hot Party The White Hot Party kicked off with the obligatory line dance songs for the first hour and really rolled into a huge dance party with DJ Alegre taking over for after hours at 11:30PM. I stayed up much later than I had planned as the music was on point. It was the BEST night of the disco the whole trip second to the 90s night. DJ Alegre didn’t disappoint and I was happy the night stayed true the south Florida roots of the White Party from which it was based upon. Well done DJ Alegre. I stayed in the disco until 2AM, having wings afterward and being up late enough to catch the ship transiting the Strait of Gibraltar at 2:45AM. Day 9 – Malaga, Spain – Monday, December 7 After sleeping in most of the morning, it was time to get off the ship for a walking tour or so I thought. It turned out we were an hour off from when we thought to meet and didn’t make it. An alternative was the hop on, hop off bus around the town of Malaga. Once again the HOHO bus was on point with history lessons between the stops of what we were driving by and about the upcoming stop. For $21.50EU, it was a good deal for the day. Most of the stops worth seeing are coupled in the Eastern side of Malaga with the Western side being more for connecting to other methods of transportation. For lunch we dined at El Pimpi, a famous tapas restaurant in Malaga. Get there prior to 2PM as locals tend to queue up at that time to get a table. We sampled some of their signature wine along with some tapas. I got the pallela for lunch with calamari and clams. It tasted great and it was a great time to sit down and have an outside piazza style lunch. We walked all over the old town afterward before I headed back on the HOHO to other stops I missed. On Malaga beach there’s a sign that’s a good photo op. Back on the ship I got to enjoy a special dinner with my friends who I made during the Breakaway cruise the previous year. It was a great dinner arranged by Grace, the Hotel Directors Secretary and meant to be special. It’s not often that you can reconnect with people you’ve cruised with in the past. It rarely happens that schedules can come together like they did on this voyage. Thanks to Grace for the special evening and the Hotel Director for having her arrange it for us. EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Four Stations The 9:30PM show in the theater featured four guys from four different cities in Spain. A tribute group to Il Divo largely but included some Spanish favorites and Spanish covers to other popular English songs. It was a good show. Keeping with the Latin theme, it was Latin night in Bliss. I was exhausted so I just went to bed. Day 10 - Sea Day – Tuesday, December 8 A leisurely day at sea meant having a leisurely breakfast in the Taste Restaurant. It was far too cold to be topside for sunning so after a nice breakfast in Taste, it was the future cruise presentation with some friends to try and plan a reunion cruise. Lunch was in the Moderno restaurant again with a Spanish style buffet featuring Spanish rice and salad bar. It was a very nice lunch. It was a quiet afternoon which became the evening and time to say goodbye. I missed the studio lounge solos gathering but my friends made it and got the contact info for me. It was the last night for the GLBT meeting as well so everyone was exchanging information to keep in touch. We dined in the Manhattan room one last time with some of the new solo guests we had befriended during the voyage. The dinner ran later than expected and then it was time to head to Bliss for one last night. DJ Alegre took over at 11:30PM and did a great job to close out the cruise. Day 11 – Barcelona, Spain – Wednesday, December 9 – Debarkation Since the ship vibration woke me up in every port of call, I felt our arrival shortly after 5AM local time. NCL was not joking around about getting the passengers off the ship either. I had breakfast in Taste Restaurant. Debarkation started with easy walk off very early on around 7AM and all passengers were off the ship by 10:30AM at the latest. We got off the ship around 9:30AM and they were calling all the passengers off shortly thereafter. It was a fast and efficient process. While NCL was offering a bus transfer for $30 USD per person to the airport, if you had friends going like I did, the $39 fare for a taxi was a much better deal being split 3 ways. NCL did offer varying departure time busses depending on when your flight out was. Debarkation was fast and efficient. It’s not a good cruise without the crew being there. It’s important to thank the good crew members in a review so they get the recognition they deserve. Some of these folks were given a Vacation Hero card on the ship as well. With that said, these crew members made the trip an amazing experience: Quimson Aquino, Bartender at Spice H2O and Bliss. Quimson recognized me and I him from the Norwegian Jewel which I sailed on quite a few times in 2010. George Kassis, the Cruise Next Manager for helping out with a special request and for an incredibly informative behind-the-scenes ship tour. He also provided the tape I needed to fix my luggage which was destroyed during embarkation. Grace, the Hotel Director’s Secretary for being available and making our reunion dinner one to truly cherish and remember. DJ Alegre for being a great DJ when he had the late night slot in Bliss. With two DJs you never know who had the late night slot but when DJ Alegre had it, he did a phenomenal job. Jaime on the Cruise Director’s staff for being a positive energy experience no matter where I saw her out and about on the ship. Melvyn Lobos, Restaurant Manager for helping get our dinner service going so we didn’t miss any shows and the Moderno restaurant manager (female – can’t remember the name) who really stepped up that night. A ship is only as good as her crew… by and large this crew was super friendly! Overall, this cruise was a good cruise. It wasn’t great for reasons stated already throughout the cruise but it wouldn’t stop me from sailing on the Norwegian Epic or Norwegian Cruise Line again. The warm welcome back by familiar faces is one driving factor which keeps me returning to NCL. The fellow passengers and their behavior was out of the control of the cruise line so I can’t fault them for it, however, it did annoy the heck out of me at points during the vacation. Priscilla is not to be missed and the cast members who were out and about in the ports were equally nice and friendly to talk to. The show is something truly progressive at sea and I’m happy NCL offers it. It’s my favorite production show now on NCL (replacing Elements). This itinerary was a cold weatherand it’s something I knew going in but it is not an itinerary I would likely repeat at the same time of the year. It was far too cold but warm service from the crew and staff helped to make it a good experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Background We are two guys who decided to take our respective Mums on Britannia to celebrate their 80th Birthdays. We have cruised with P&O, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We chose this cruise because of the date as it encompassed ... Read More
Background We are two guys who decided to take our respective Mums on Britannia to celebrate their 80th Birthdays. We have cruised with P&O, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We chose this cruise because of the date as it encompassed one of their birthdays, the itinerary because it was the Canaries and should deliver better weather at this time of year and finally it was a chance to try this new ship with its focus on a British clientele which we thought would suit our Mums better. We had veered away from P&O in recent years due to their two tier fare structures but the lure of double on board credit (£320 pp) incentivised us to try Britannia departing 28th March. There is a lot of detail here but there is a summary at the bottom should you wish to skip my ramblings. Cabins We had two adjoining obstructed view balconies on Deck 8, G510/G512. We knew about the lifeboat obstruction but the price difference for a non obstructed was too much especially when paying for two cabins. The lifeboat roof came up to about a third of the glass balcony screens with a clear view out to sea, so not fully obstructed at all however the cabin next door had two large white mechanisms in front of their balcony and looking to the aft several cabins down the lifeboats where taller and came above the balcony rail so we were very pleased with our choice. The balconies are all the same size and are the smallest we've encountered. Equipped with two reclining chairs, a table and foot stool. The divide between the balconies can be opened but given the limited depth the folded back door then obstructs about a foot of the balcony door of one cabins. We had seen the promotional pics online and knew what to expect. The specific grade of cabin was an IC which we knew had the benefit of a sofa instead of a chair and has two instead of one bedside tables (most standard balcony cabins have a single chair and the vanity unit performs a dual function as a sort of bedside table i.e. 2 less drawers available for storage due to missing a bedside table). The sofa was nice to have but is compact and cannot be used as a sofa bed. The cabin is approx 18" longer than a standard balcony cabin as exhibited by the way these jut out into the corridor more than the other type. The layout worked fine with a large walk in wardrobe, a tall cupboard with shelves and a safe and a vanity unit by the balcony door which has a wide drawer containing the hairdryer but space for much more and a mini fridge and chair. The decor is pretty contemporary and modern. There is a large flat screen tv on the wall with a wide choice of free tv episodes, 6 live TV channels and a good choice of TV and mainly free films. Strangely though you cannot access your onboard account or order room service via the TV. The TV cannot be angled and the HDMI ports are not accessible. There are no individual bedside lights. To read you would need the three overhead lights on over the bed which would affect anyone else in the room. The bathroom is compact. A similar size to Ventura and Azura but with a glass shower screen rather than a shower curtain. Its functional but lacks storage having just three shelves but in particular it lacks colour. Its just a white room. Compared to Celebrity Eclipse the bathroom disappoints. We found the bed very comfortable, firm but very nice with lovely new bedding. The cabin steward was lovely and very efficient. We made a small list of a couple of issues with the TV, a towel rail and wardrobe rail and within hours maintenance fixed them all. All in all a comfortable place to come back to. Food We've done 5 previous P&O cruises. We departed to Celebrity for the last three and thought the food was a lot better on Celebrity. This was a return after 2 years to P&O. We thought the food was excellent. Firstly the buffet is vast. Yes it is busy however its the largest buffet we have seen and is very well laid out. Imagine a H symbol but with two across lines each of which is a buffet section. Each buffet section mirrors itself so there are two of every serving station at each buffet section. You can cross from seating on one side to the other easily. The seating areas are well laid out in rows so its easy to pass between tables. There is a choice of seating, from large booths, tables for four or two and high seat tables and benches. It really is about the best designed. buffet area on a ship Ive seen. We always managed to find a table whenever we were there. Yes its busy as there are lots onboard but credit to the designers. The choice is very good. Breakfast has everything you could want, full English, continental, porridge, buns, pastries, omelet station and eggs to order. A nice touch is that mugs are laid on tables and servers circulate to offer tea and coffee if you don't want to help yourself during breakfast and afternoon tea. Lunch has the typical P&O selection of a roast dinner, pies, lots of curry choices and an extended salad selection plus a wide choice of desserts. We didn't eat in the buffet in the evening but each night had a theme, Seafood, Indian. Mediterranean etc which was strongly adhered too and there was a nightly quiz in there. The decor is clean, modern and stylish and the food serving areas very bright and well thought out. Well done P&O. I have to mention hygiene though. There are trough like sinks as you enter the buffet with three taps and they look impressive but are pretty pointless given the high throughput of passengers and after the first day most gave up on them particularly as the sensors for the water and soap were very temperamental. There are Purell dispensers by where the trays are provided however many ignored them and if you walked straight into the buffet food stations and grabbed a plate without a tray you would not encounter a gel machine. Possibly the ship most likely to spread Noro that we have been on particularly as there is not even a hint of enforcement. (edited.........one of our Mums got Norovirus on day 8. She is extremely careful about hygiene and uses gel and hand washes continuously. Our first experience of Noro on 10 cruises and although its impossible to be sure our guess is the buffet was the culprit. We did sit the next day at lunch and looked at one entrance to the serving stations and less than 1 in 10 used the gel machines. Out on deck is the burger/hot dog/fried chicken outlet and offerings are placed like fast food joints on the counter and you help yourself. The burgers for instance are fully loaded with onions tomatoes cheese etc but if you want a specific request then you can ask and its quickly taken care of. The burgers were delicious and our favourite. Think McDonalds but way better. There is a pizza station and again the pizza was always available and you helped yourself to slices. There was an ice cream outlet (chargeable) plus a first as far as we know a Grab n Go section. Here there was a chiller cabinet with a good choice of ready made salads, pre-packed sandwiches and desserts (think M&S take away section) plus opposite were some warm items such as pasties or other warm tasty items pre-wrapped. It was a popular outlet and a really nice touch though whether all its customers really needed more food was questionable. Breakfast take away muffins with egg, bacon, sausage combinations could also be 'grabbed'. I cannot comment on the speciality restaurants as we didn't visit any (we walked past the Epicurean at afternoon tea and only saw 6 tables of customers). The main reason we cannot comment on the paid restaurants.......the main dinning room food was too good! We ate in one of the two freedom dining restaurants, the Meridian. This is below the other freedom dining restaurant the Peninsular just off the atrium. Club dining is in the Oriental restaurant wayback on deck 6 aft. The layout of the Meridian was really nice. Whilst a large area, there was a feel of separation with wine bottle walls, glass walls, and panelling so it felt a lot more intimate and more like a restaurant at home. We did visit the Peninsular (the other freedom dinning restaurant) for breakfast several times and it has a different decor and layout and not quite so much separation. The decor in the restaurants is modern, clean and pleasant with good lighting and space between tables was the best on any ship we have sailed, even the tables for two were well spaced and plentiful. Breakfast in the restaurant was excellent and choices were very nicely cooked. In the evening we turned up at various times and only had to take a buzzer twice for a max of 25 mins. The choice of food was excellent. The right hand menu changed nightly and on the left was the always available menu. My OH is a veggie and was brought a veggie menu each night to select from for the following night that had around 6 starters and mains plus they brought the next nights main menu to view which had at least one veggie starter and main.....to quote someone who is use to compromising...' The best food choice out of 10 cruises'. Public areas The atrium is impressive and is the hub of the ship. Its a pleasant space and the starburst sculpture centrepiece impresses and the mood lighting changes throughout the day. Interestingly the reception has been moved to an offshoot corridor as has the more routine shop selling books, giftware and toiletries. The ground floor has the Market Cafe and the Blue Bar to each side with the Blue Bar servicing the ground floor atrium seating too. We never saw anyone buying a cake from the Market Cafe throughout the cruise despite how nice they looked (do we need to pay £2.95 for cake when its free in the buffet or with a coffee from the Java coffeeshop?) The next floor up has the high end shops and the top level has The Glass House and the Java coffee shop each side with lots of seating. The glass house is a little disappointing compared to Azura as its smaller and open to the atrium so has less of specific character. Even so it was very popular and a good spot to people watch. For those who have been on Azura/Ventura there is some similarity in layout with deck 7 being the main deck for public areas from the Headliners Theatre at the fore and the Live Lounge show bar at the aft. However its so much bigger and the walk from front to rear is lengthy. This feels (and is) a much bigger ship than Azura/Ventura. If you enjoy pre dinner drinks in the crows nest but are on club dining in the oriental, then allow a good 15 minutes to get to your restaurant, The Live Lounge has the house band and visiting acts but its no bigger than its Azura/Ventura counterparts and doesn't rake so much so sightlines are pretty poor and its depressingly dark even when there is no act on. I have to say the house band 'Pulse' was excellent and could take on any style really well. If you wanted to see a visiting act in there then you needed to be in really early, say 45 mins when the Take That tribute were on and even then if you were not sat in the front section your view could be blocked by latecomers standing in front of you. The Crystal Room is a lovely room for dance and very popular amongst traditionalist with ballroom dancing every evening accompanied by a live band and dance instructors. The band were again excellent. The studio is a multipurpose space for demonstrations, talks and cinema. We didn't visit it but it looked well laid out. Brodies is the 'pub' and is a big space, about twice the size of Azura's counterpart and hosts a series of quizzes, musicians and TV sport. Its a very popular venue. The casino is to one side of Brodies and whilst popular is compact. The Limelight club is a dinner & show venue costing £22. On our cruise non of the acts appealed and the menu looked more limited and less appealing than the main dining room, especially for vegetarians. However as we didn't attend I cannot really pass judgement apart from passing during dinner one evening and noting more empty tables than occupied ones. Is there a theme here re chargeable venues? (The Limelight Club space would have made a lovely area for a larger Glass House). The Headliners Theatre is another area that disappoints somewhat. Its fairly bland with only one tier and its pretty small for the size of the ship. Celebrity Eclipse carries 1000 less passengers but its theatre holds 215 more passengers. The Crows Nest is way up high on Deck 16 fore. Its a nice space with great views. The decor departs from the rest of the ship and hints at previous versions on other ships with a more nautical style. It is however very popular and has great views. The Sunset Bar is aft of the buffet and has masses of seating for those wanting to eat their meal outside or sit and have a drink. It really is a very nice area and surprisingly underused. Most of it is covered so a good shelter from the rain. The library is small and is a room tucked away up on Deck 16 next to The Crows Nest. You don't need to visit it to get an internet package as you can do it from your PC and phone/tablet. We bought a wifi package and coverage is shipwide, if rather slow. I cannot talk about this ship without mentioning the lifts. Yes I knew the midship lifts had no accompanying stairs apart from between deck 5, 6 and 7 and yes this is a drawback as it was for with us as we had rooms on deck 8 and may want to go down to deck 7. However there is a lot of pressure on lifts across the ship and if you were planning to get somewhere by a certain time you had to factor in lift waiting time. As people became more unhappy waiting for say a down lift they would get in an up lift and ride it out till it came back down. You could wait for a lift on the top floor of deck 16 midships and when it arrived it could be full of people wanting to go down who had simply acquired any lift. When you caught a lift then it would stop on every floor making journeys lengthy. Also at midship the lifts they are really badly laid out. There is a spread out bank of 4 and two separate ones opposite but you have to press the button on the main bank and on the two separate lifts, three buttons, and the two separate ones act independently. Also the lifts are small, the smallest we've seen on any ship. Our Mums are part time wheelchair users and two wheelchairs would fill a lift requiring us to split up more often than not. Its a design floor flagged up when the Royal Princess had its first voyage and should have been fixed while they had the time during the Britannia build. The circulation areas around the lifts is small and leads to congestion. It didn't help that at midships one lift was out of order the whole cruise and then two lifts out of order for part of the cruise. The lifts also had a habit of reaching a floor and the doors would not open requiring you to go to another floor, get out and try and get another lift. If you are claustrophobic then you may not like the lift set up on this ship as people try to squeeze in. The spa area is very nice, not that we had any treatments but we had a 10 minute tour and its very smart. One Mum had her hair styled which was priced at £37 but her bill was almost double due to up selling, an added tip (never mentioned on any price list of Horizon paper promotion) and a pricing error. We complained and they discounted the original price but with no explanation of why we had been told one price and she was charged a higher one. The gym has been separated from the spa and is way up top on deck 17. Its well equipped but somewhat dark. There is art around the ship, all of which is abstract and modern. There is no promenade deck around the main public decks, just platforms that sit outside of the glass house, java and live lounge areas. Deck 18 is called a promenade and has a marked walking track around it though it only occupies around a third of the length of the trip. The feel of the ship and decor is modern but classy. Apart from The Crows Nest its not nautical but more like a classy, contemporary hotel. The furniture is very nice with some lovely seating styles. Pool decks The main pool deck area has two pools, a splash area and is pretty large with nice new loungers. Its has a bar, a burger/hot dog outlet, a pizza outlet and a grab n go area. There are loungers in the open and wide undercover seating areas with plenty of mixed styles of seating and tables. The upper surrounding tier is well laid out with Jacuzzis, plenty of loungers and dozens more stacked up to use. Towards the front there is the serenity pool for adults only. This really is a nice area, very wide with a mix of loungers and lovely seating areas and on our 'during school holiday' cruise was a godsend as the other pools were chock a block with kids. However given we had 600 onboard the lower pool decks were the only place their presence was really noticed. The Retreat area is segregated at the front and takes up very little space, thankfully. Its not visible from anywhere so I have no idea how popular it was on our cruise. The small pool on Deck 17 aft is for teenagers only but has nice seating areas around it. The layout of the main pool decks is interesting. As well as the loungers by the two main pools there is copious seating underneath the overhang with nice chairs and conservatory seating. The upper tier around the pools has Jacuzzis and a nice mix of seating areas and types. If you are happy to sit away from a pool then there are lots of hidden areas with rows of sunbeds but you may have to climb to deck 18 and 19 to access them. P&O have really excelled themselves here in planning to make use of the space so most can find a place to rest and by providing a mass of sunbeds. It may not be in your favourite spot but if you explore there are places to be found and there are spares loungers stacked up if needed. Fellow passengers As Ive said, this was a cruise over the Easter school holidays with Easter itself sitting right on the middle weekend. We were told we had 2,500 previous P&O passengers and 1,200 people new to P&O plus 600 children. Its interesting the number of people new to P&O that may have been lured by this brand new ship. This did lead to a mix of passengers which was more varied in age than our previous P&O trips with less people of retirement age and more people with families although it has to be spread there was a fair spread throughout all ages which was really very pleasant. Whilst there were a lot of kids as said before they only really made their presence known in the main pools in good weather and appeared occupied by the kids clubs and sports arena up on 18. Overall passengers were very pleasant and friendly with hardly any moaning types encountered. This led to a nice atmosphere onboard and generally courteous behaviour. There were a lot of wheelchair users as is expected on a no fly cruise. One point here is that during times when rooms were being serviced by the stewards a wheelchair will not fit down a corridor as the attendants trolleys block access. We had to plan well to avoid our Mums repeatedly having to get out and back into their chairs. Entertainment. The Horizon paper had the usual list of daily entertainment from quizzes, lounge music and deck games. There did seem to be a lot of spa related talks which were aimed at promoting chargeable treatments under the guise of information. The evening brought live bands and visiting acts in various lounges with a nightly piano player in the Crows Next ( not the best piano player we've heard as even when playing gentle numbers he had a tendency to sound a little strident ). The main theatre held shows by the ships resident entertainers. We saw one featuring a mix of music including songs from the musicals which had some great voices and 'Gravity' another music jukebox type show that made great use of floating LED backdrops. We watched 'Adaje', a visiting french mime type act who were excellent physical performers mixing gymnastics with aerial acrobatics....probably the best visiting act we've seen on a ship. As there were only two performances seats were at a premium leaving loads of unhappy passengers who could not get in. The productions shows by the resident performers would have three performances (7.00, 8.30 and 10.30) with visiting acts generally on at 8.30 and 10.30 pm. There was a recent film in the studio two or three times per evening (though always available on your TV). The Live Lounge had a nightly band plus visiting performers. It was sad to see that even though a magician and a comedian were billed as late night adult shows there were families still in there......it made me wince hearing swearing in front of young kids, not the performers fault but the parents. Service I've previously commented on forums about comparisons between service on P&O and that on US cruise lines generally feeling P&O falls short in this area. Well something has changed. We found service to be pretty much excellent all round. Staff would always greet you if passing by and dining room waiter service was very, very good. Bar service was very good, plentiful waiters always ready to take a drinks order. Waiters all used tablets to place drinks orders and this seemed to work smoothly. I'm sure the pleasant atmosphere generated by this friendly attitude rubbed off on passengers and helped produce a relaxed feel across all onboard. We did think that boarding and disembarking at ports would be difficult given the size of the ship but in fact it was extremely smooth at all times and very well organised. Our initial boarding at Southampton started at 12.00 and we were onboard within 15 mins. The allocated arrival times issues by P&O were not checked or enforced. Final disembarkation was terrible due to the lift situation. Allow a good 30 mins to get to your meeting point for disembarkation. Summary I am normally pretty good at getting used to the layout of a ship quickly however this one stumped me often and I had to carry the guide around for the first week. As advertised this is the biggest ship designed for the UK market and it is big. If you don't like big ships this isn't for you. If Azura/Ventura was too big for you then this certainly will not suit you. However if you like a wealth of choice of venues, good food options, a contemporary atmosphere and good service then its a great base to cruise around in. It tries to cover all bases appealing to families with children, ballroom enthusiasts, sun worshippers and those seeking to be entertained or a relaxing corner to read. I cant say we had a wow factor but it is a very pleasant vessel with some nice design touches and a few annoying niggles (lifts, lifts and lifts). Plusses; Clean, modern ship with lots of choices for dining and entertainment. Modern, if compact, cabins Main dining rooms well laid out with lots of space and very good choice of food Big pool decks with lots of seating/loungers and areas to explore. Good service with no additional service charges. A great buffet layout with lots of choice Lots of quizzes Good bands, singers. Good on board shows. Cons: Lifts, lack of lifts, small lifts, lifts not working, wait for lifts, crowded lifts, lifts not opening on a floor. Small venues (theatre, live lounge) for the number of passengers. On the cusp of having too many chargeable restaurants options (The Market Cafe is a waste of space especially with the Java cafe two floors above in the Atrium). Daytime entertainment relies a lot on spa talks leading to possible extra costs. Sinks in public toilets have sensors for soap and water:- soap is produced in minute quantities and the water sensor doesn't sense your hands unless you wave them directly in front of them i.e. behind the actual sink. Its impossible to manage to get a steady stream to get hot water flowing and these sensors are in every public WC. Would we cruise on her again? This is a hard one. For the ships second ever outing there were no teething problems to be sorted out which surprised us. If it wasn't for the lift issue I would say yes if the price and itinerary were good. However I know it may sound like I'm banging on about one issue but it really does affect most aspects of the cruise. Our Mums missed the start of the passenger choir performance despite leaving our cabin 25 minutes before it started as we could not get in a lift. Its an issue pretty much everyone was talking about. Perhaps on a term time cruise with fewer passengers the issue may not be quote so much of a major issue but I can only comment on our experience. When we finally got a lift on disembarkation day someone in it said 'thank god this is our final lift journey on this ship' and everyone laughed. Its something they cannot resolve apart from helping by ensuring the lifts are all working and unfortunately it is caused by trying to replace public space with cabins and on this occasion they have tipped the balance too far. So we are unlikely to be rushing back unless there is a bargain deal to be had. There is a lot of info here and its hard to ensure everything is covered. If you have any specific questions feel free to ask plus I have hundreds of pics to get round to sorting out that may help others. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
Whilst this was my 15th (8th with NCL) cruise it was my first on one of NCLs small ships after having sailed on Epic, Breakaway and Getaway and RCCL ships like Independence of the seas, all of which are double Spirit's size I was ... Read More
Whilst this was my 15th (8th with NCL) cruise it was my first on one of NCLs small ships after having sailed on Epic, Breakaway and Getaway and RCCL ships like Independence of the seas, all of which are double Spirit's size I was slightly worried about going back to a small ship. However I loved the ship layout and the crew were probably amongst the best on any cruise I've done. Whilst the weather was a bit poor with some cold days and winds that caused some movement (again so used to the larger ships that hardly move) it was very enjoyable. The cabin was looking a bit tired, and some things like the toilet flush were a bit temperamental the bed/mattress seemed new. I missed the interactive TV feature to check onboard account etc and of course no iconcierge app for booking restaurants. The theatre is weird entering by the stage, so also a lot harder to sneak out mid performance!! Loved the wrap-around promenade deck and so plenty of sea views. The Raffles buffet was always great for breakfast with plenty of "overspill" tables on the terrace which was very useful. Ate at Cagneys one night. Food was good but service was slow. 2hrs from seated to dessert. Teppenyaki was better service but only one table so books up fast. But for me the crew, especially the bar staff in the Biergarten and Henry's made it really enjoyable. From Barcelona the embarkation and disembarkation are always simple and efficient. I'd definitely consider her again for a future cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
My partner and I have served back to back tours in Afghanistan, so we wanted to make my R & R leave extra special, given that we haven't seen each other a lot these last two years. I also didn't have a lot of time to plan ... Read More
My partner and I have served back to back tours in Afghanistan, so we wanted to make my R & R leave extra special, given that we haven't seen each other a lot these last two years. I also didn't have a lot of time to plan things, so we thought a cruise was the logical choice. We chose Crystal Cruises because I like a more formal atmosphere. In that aspect, Crystal delivered. The women always dressed stunning on the ship on formal nights -- even on some casual ones. The men were always at least in suits on formal nights, but many more wore tuxedos, which was nice. We found the following things to be especially good about the cruise: 1. The service. We can't say enough about how willing the staff were to cater to your needs and how cheerfully they did so. 2. All inclusive. We could not possible have eaten or drank anymore. And all inclusive does not give you rail drinks. It gives you pretty much anything short of Louis XVII Cognac, which they have for an upcharge. Glenlivet or Glenfiddich, though? It's on the house. 3. Food. Prego and Silk Road are always booked, yes, but both made for a special experience. Book them early, and don't expect more than one seating at each. It won't disappoint you that much, though, as the Main Dining Room fare is excellent and varies each night. 4. Friendly cruisers. We met many interesting people and shared plenty of great conversations. We didn't encounter any bias as a gay couple, at least we didn't perceive any. 5. Avenue Saloon and the Connoisseur Club. The Avenue Saloon was by far the best bar on the ship. The piano player was great. The Connoisseur Club was my favorite room on the ship. If you like cigars, it is amazing. Though I might suggest bringing your own cigars (prices were a bit high), their premium alcohol prices (30, 40 year old cognacs, etc.)were very reasonable. A couple of minor complaints, neither of which will deter us from cruising wiht Crystal again: 1. The internet. We realize that it's a cruise and there are logistical issues to getting connectivity. Perhaps these issues are so great that the charges and problems with the internet onboard are justified. But it seemed overly expensive. $50 got you two hours of internet and $200 got you 10 hours. That's pretty steep, even if you have the money to pay for it. All that aside, it didn't even work half the time. 2. Demographics. I don't know if its always this way on Crystal, but the crowd seemed very old. We expected an older demographic, but this group seemed to be 65 or even 70 plus, with a small smattering of other ages. I heard some comments from some of the older patrons to this effect that the crowd seemed older than usual, so perhaps this was an anomaly. Like I said, we had a wonderful time, but we feel the cruise could benefit from a more mixed crowd. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
I know you get what you pay for and this was a well discounted cruise but we went on this ship 10 months ago, in the same stateroom, and the ship has definitely gone downhill. Embarkation was straightforward and efficient. The public ... Read More
I know you get what you pay for and this was a well discounted cruise but we went on this ship 10 months ago, in the same stateroom, and the ship has definitely gone downhill. Embarkation was straightforward and efficient. The public areas clean and comfortable, though too much space is given to the casino (for a European market), the photo shop and jewellery store, the latter two being deserted during most parts of the day. The pool area was clean and bright and guests were valient in their attempts to sunbathe on quite cool days!. Finding a seat in the library, foyer - which was the hub of the ship - and other open areas on sea days was impossible. Dining was dire. The food in the MDR was usually cold, stodgy, lacked flavour, often either over cooked (chicken) or under cooked (fish) and vegetables were scarce. The Freestyle dining meant waiting for 15-20 minutes every night for a table, unless you wanted to eat after nine, and even when sharing a table. This time was not sufficient for you to "relax in a bar" over a drink, as was suggested to you. In the Garden Cafe the situation was worse and guests joked that you could get anything you wanted besides a table and chair. Tea became scarse halfway through the cruise and the coffee was ghastly. The waiting staff, who were usually friendly, were often overworked and did not have time to clear tables yet alone help guests with drinks, etc. No trays in this buffet area meant you spent ages traipsing backward and forwards in order to collect what you needed for a meal. We went to two of the speciality restaurants, the Chinese was good but the Italian was of a lower standard than an average high street restaurant. The fee paying restaurnats were mainly deserted except for the Tempenyaki, which was full each night. The mini-suite we had was comfortable but was showing its age. However, it was dirty. On embarkation we found a jumper, stiff with age/dirt between the sofa and the door curtain; there were quavers and a CD cover under the bed. Mirrors, wood laminate and horizontal surfaces all showed finger marks and other stains. The bed had two matress toppers and was still lumpy. The entertainment is a positive feature of this ship, however, the main shows had not changed in 10 months, nor had the quizzes, lectures, etc. The reputation this ship/cruise line has for nickle and diming was well deserved and a main topic of conversation between guests was in relation to how they were feeling ripped off. For us, the highlight of the cruise was the itinerary and our fellow guests, a very international mix, who were overwhelmingly charming and friendly. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
This was my partners first cruise and as we would be celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary and my birthday while away thought it would be a nice "Taster" cruise for him. I have cruised before as i used to work for P & O ... Read More
This was my partners first cruise and as we would be celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary and my birthday while away thought it would be a nice "Taster" cruise for him. I have cruised before as i used to work for P & O years ago, and although i realised it would not be luxury cruising standard i thought that Ian my partner would feel at ease with the relaxed cruising experience. We had read some terrible reviews on here about this particular ship so to be honest we were hesitant what we were letting ourselves in for. Our flight was good and the seats realy comfortable although Ian did find the legroom tight we did manage to dose off, the transfer from airport to embarcation was easy and professional and before we knew what was happening we were boarding the Island Escape - In the dock she looked a glowing white and very welcomeing, the registration process was easy & efficient. We were on deck 4 in an outside cabin with two portholes, standard twin room whih was converted to a double for us - on entering our cabin we were greeted by the chocolate dipped strawberries, Moet & Chandon, and a huge beautiful basket of fresh flowers as we had gone for the "Celebrate in Style" package and it was well worth it. The cabin was standard and in desperate need of refurbishment, i would call it tired but it was exceptionally clean, had ample storage and the en-suite was adequate for our needs, i am by profession an Executive Housekeeping Manager for Hilton Hotels so do know the difference between tired and dirty. We then went around the ship to get our barings and popped into the Beachcomber restaurant for some well deserved lunch while awaiting the arrival of our suitcases - lunch was lovely and plentiful and we were inpressed by the choice on offer. we returned to our cabin after and our cases had been left in the corridoor outside so we unpacked and showered then went for another mooch to get our barings. The public areas are similar to the cabins needing refurbishment but were clean we found a nice seat on deck to have a drink and the weather was lovely, so nice to feel the sun after the snow in England. Hilda served us and was very friendly and professional she called us by our first names after delivering our drinks and did so throughout the rest of the cruise - we both commented on the fact that this was "Good Customer Service". Afternoon tea was served 4 till 5 and again was as delicious as lunch with cakes, biscuits, scones & jam with cream and sandwiches. Restaurant service was efficient and friendly & after afternoon tea we went back to our cabin for a snooze as it had been an early start that morning, we slept very well although i am not a lover of Foam Duvets and pillows as i tend to find they make you over perspire. The shower in our en-suite was great and very powerful so then off to dinner which like our other experiences of The Beachcomber restaurant we were not disapointed, We then attended the sailaway party and had a great time. The day after we tried the Island Restaurant for all our dining and found this as good as the Beachcomber although the fact of sitting at large tables with complete strangers is not realy our thing, the standard of food was great and plentiful. The time on board seemed to fly by with so much to do, and we did book two excursions: 1st was Funchal, Madeira which we thoroughly loved and it was money well spent and everyone that we spoke to on it agreed, the guide was knowledgable and we could have listened to her all day. 2nd excursion was Lanzarote and although informative the guide did not stop for breath and it did your head in after a time. We did get off for an hour at Agadir and made our own way into town but did not stay that long as the place is a shithole and your mithered from start to finish - thank god we got back on board to our home from home, Island Escape. All the other ports of call we did our own thing in but loved the experience. The 9th February was our Anniversary and my birthday and we had recently booked to eat in the Oasis Restaurant this night via Clair at the Celebrations Desk, The food well there is only one word for it and that is "Outstanding", Service was 2nd to none and anyone celebrating was at some time during the evening serenaded at there table by the staff (and although this sounds corny they do have good voices and can hold a tune)- Anyone going on the Island Escape has got to try the Oasis Restaurant, a huge thumbs up..... The rest of the cruise went to fast but we enjoyed enery minute or should i say highlights were: 1) Friendliness of staff, these people cannot do enough to please 2) If your a fussy eater there is something here for everyone 3) Island Chat Magazine very useful for all daily activities 4) The Pub / Sundowner bar on deck 7 has great caberet every night, we loved it in here Downsides were: 1) Resident group "Increase" were terrible and would not even be allowed on Britains got talent 2) Very Small swimming pool 3) Internet access very slugish and slow 4) Not being a lover of haveing credit cards i found it strange that there system does not allow you to use your Visa Electron Card 5) A lot of the retired passengers on board seemed to find it necesary to try and single handedly demolish and eat the entire buffet at every meal time - but failed miserably as the staff replenished it too quickly Read Less
Sail Date February 2010

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