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15 Europe - British Isles & Western Gourmet Food Cruise Reviews

Pacific Princess is the smallest of the Princess fleet, with a capacity of only 670 passengers. When I booked, all the suites were sold out, so I booked a mini-suite, which was later upgraded to Club Class. Right after I paid the fare, we ... Read More
Pacific Princess is the smallest of the Princess fleet, with a capacity of only 670 passengers. When I booked, all the suites were sold out, so I booked a mini-suite, which was later upgraded to Club Class. Right after I paid the fare, we were upsold a forward suite (#7005, Marquesas Suite). I'm always aft, but I love those suite perks, so I jumped on it. This was the largest suite I've ever seen and had a bath and a half, with a wall of closet space, along with all the usual suite perks like that sumptuous Sabatini breakfast. Interestingly enough even though she is very tiny, Pacific Princess never felt crowded, but because she is so small, it was easier for my elderly mother to get around. The food and staff on this ship are amazing, and the maitre d' came by our table at every meal to make sure everything was going well. Chef Giuseppe was the brains behind the original Chefs Table Experience years ago, and we were thrilled to experience Chef's Table with him. This was a great cruise with a great itinerary that we would absolutely do again, no questions asked! Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
Husband's Big 80 birthday - chose Oceania as previous experience on Riviera was very good. Love our food. Very nice itinerary, so we thought, out of Southampton finishing up in Barcelona. Ship - very similar to Riviera. ... Read More
Husband's Big 80 birthday - chose Oceania as previous experience on Riviera was very good. Love our food. Very nice itinerary, so we thought, out of Southampton finishing up in Barcelona. Ship - very similar to Riviera. Beautifully decorated and spotlessly clean. We had Penthouse Suite which was excellent. Very good design. Everything worked except WiFi which was dreadful and you could only have one device working (if it did!) at any one time. Cabin staff were excellent - always cleaned and ready for when we returned. Butler was helpful but we don't really use the Butler. Concierge was awful, rude, arrogant, ignorant both to me and about other guests. Overall the food was good as you would expect from the Cruise line that advertises "The best food at sea..." However........service was slow and seemed disorganised in the Grand Dining Room, the buffet area you had to have everything served to you, often not what you really wanted, which slowed down the process. Often plates were taken away before you finished your last mouthful which I hate! It was over busy at times - I think because the Grand Dining Room was certainly not up to standard. When we did go to the GDR for breakfast there were issues. The worst kipper and smoked haddock I have ever seen - so awful we walked out! Speciality restaurants were good but we were not keen on the Italian Restaurant. Polo Grill, Red Ginger and the French restaurant were all good. There was little coordination between the booking systems and the actual restaurants. Wine was very expensive. The added on gratuities plus another Spanish tax made it a ridiculous price. Entertainment was mixed - some excellent and some awful. Art loft..... well I've never seen such awful examples of a tutors work. The sessions were ok but overcrowded and chaotic. The Culinary Centre was good. Fun and informative . The Special Dining in Prive was an experience, interesting and the food delicious. There were some booking issues for other guests though - they were not happy! Gym was good, classes limited. Front Spa area not serviced, loungers uncomfortable, jacuzzi far too hot on one occasion and outside shower not working. Ports were very interesting - we do not do Ships excursions as we prefer to be independent. Transfers to the ship however were poor in a number of the ports and trying to get accurate info difficult. This did cause us issues as often long waits for buses without any seated waiting areas - my husband cannot stand for long. Some very long unnecessary walks off the ship into the port - little consideration for anyone with any disability. Other Cruise lines seem to have far better in port service. We had a number of Public Holiday days in ports which meant access to attractions was limited and shops closed. The 2 nights in Bordeaux was not 2 nights as they moved the ship on the second day making any independent excursions very difficult especially as it was a public holiday. We saw the Captain once during the whole cruise. He did not attend his drinks party nor did he attend the Thank you parade for the staff. Poor! Would we travel with Oceania again?. Sadly I very much doubt it. I think if we go 6 star again we will try another company. The rudeness of the Concierge was unacceptable. Oh and they got our final account wrong... so beware - we have never had that on a cruise before they are normally spot on! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Selected this cruise for itinerary, perceived cost, and I’ve never sailed princess so I thought I give it a try. Room was fine. Entertainment was fine. Food was severely lacking. I had higher expectations reading other reviews. ... Read More
Selected this cruise for itinerary, perceived cost, and I’ve never sailed princess so I thought I give it a try. Room was fine. Entertainment was fine. Food was severely lacking. I had higher expectations reading other reviews. Variety was fine, but please season the food!!! I understand keeping buffets vanilla to appease the other 3799 passengers, but in the steak house and Italian restaurants ($30/person...) season the food. Don’t make salt a garnish!!! Celebrated an anniversary and were surprised with balloons and a note. We presented the note at dinner hoping for a glass of champagne. Nope. They brought us a second dessert after we already had our dessert on the table. Seriously?! Way to make us feel special! This was after a $15 corkage fee for wine at dinner. To cap it all off, they sang- off key- a la TGIFridays! Uggghh Pre booked a reso for the lotus spa. 2x 50 min massages. After buying a bottle of oil, 2 massages and gratuities we spent $410. When I presented the $50 off coupon they gave us, they told me it was only good for a 75 min massage. I told them I just spent $400 and they said there was nothing they could do. I got the wrong massage. Recommend get a single 75 min massage for a little more in order to get the $50 off for less than the 50 min massage. Since princess nickles and dimes it’s guests, nickle and dime them back. This ship is too big. Cattle call for dinner- especially at sea days. Cattle call for excursions. Cattle call getting back on the boat after excursions. Normally it was ok getting back on, but we did stand in the blazing sun at St. Peter Port for over an hour. Overall, the trip was just ok. Boat was nice and clean. Embarkation in Southampton was super streamlined. Nice job! Staff was mostly just ok. I don’t think I’d recommend princess. They seem to just want to charge for this and charge for that all the time. I recommend paying a little more for a more inclusive cruise. You’ll save more in the long run. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
Well you have heard it before, reading all those negative reviews and then discovering that they were not even closely accurate. This will be the case with this ship. The ship is in very good to excellent condition- cannot understand at ... Read More
Well you have heard it before, reading all those negative reviews and then discovering that they were not even closely accurate. This will be the case with this ship. The ship is in very good to excellent condition- cannot understand at all what others are seeing in their overly negative reviews. The food is very good to excellent- the best dining room food we have ever had at sea, and I have cruised 4 other lines. I am a foodie and saw no need to go to any specialty restaurants. The entertainment is limited, but excellent- BB Kings played jazz to blues to dancing music, and the band and singers were outstanding. Billboard 100 which is a duel piano sing along type bar/ club- was by far the most attended just for good old fun. The shows were also great- the dancers all could be on dancing with the stars. Piano player/singer, opera etc. were all excellent. Crew were all genuinely attentive and friendly- and in talking to them can see they love working for Holland. The only thing people need to learn is to book their excursions privately, as the cruise lines rates are absurd. One caution- if you go to book "Landscapes and Sheepdogs"- you will pay $200 pp to be taken to a gift shop (Called "Scottish Woolen Center"- its a gift shop) that has Free, I repeat Free sheep dog demonstrations. We felt deceived and grossly overpaid for this. Other than that one negative experience- we loved Holland, loved this ship, and loved the crew from the Captain to the waiter. Book this trip with confidence that you will love it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We reserved this cruise over a year in advance based on the itinerary; we had not visited any of the ports listed. There was a new stop every day between Lisbon and London, including two days in Bordeaux and London and a visit to Omaha ... Read More
We reserved this cruise over a year in advance based on the itinerary; we had not visited any of the ports listed. There was a new stop every day between Lisbon and London, including two days in Bordeaux and London and a visit to Omaha Beach. As an expedition cruise, all of the tours, and there were many to choose from, were included. This, and the fact that it was all-inclusive, was enough to sign me up. After that, however, it only got better and better and exceeded our expectations. A person was waiting at the airport for our private car transfer to the hotel (Lisbon Sofitel), which we booked (through Silversea) for a one-day pre-stay. At the hotel, a dedicated hospitality desk was available from 9 to 6 to handle all our questions, advise walking tours, restaurants and sites. On sail day, a luxury bus took us the 20 minute ride to pier and check in at Lisbon was quick. Although it was a our first time in Lisbon, we were never left to feel lost or easy tourist marks. (This was true of the all of the ports we visited). The ship was recently refitted and has furniture and appointments generally similar to the new Silver Muse. Style is subdued and elegant and lacks the Las-Vegas-Disney style glitz so distracting on the 3,000 passenger ships we have previously sailed. Although I knew this was an "expedition" cruise, I did not know until later that it was a "culinary" expedition cruise, with lectures on food, wine and cooking demonstrations. that does not say it all, however, as they also offered highly entertaining talks on military history, medieval cultural history, plants and animals. The tours offered reflected these particular interests. All of the tour guides were local and highly well informed. The passengers ran from about 50 to 80 years of age. I was particularly impressed by the care and attention given by all of the expedition staff on the tours. A crew member was always available to make sure no one got lost and everyone got back to the ship on time. Many ports had courtesy desks set up so that you could strike out on your own. Although Silversea does attract an older crowd (there were no children aboard), many of the tours required an admirable level of fitness, including several walks of several miles over various terrain and bike rides of several miles, and the passengers were more than up to this. They go in all weathers! By evening, passengers were happy to spend a few hours enjoying the evening meal, or a cocktail in the two lounges with pianists/vocalists. We did not miss the absence of broadway song and dance shows, which we usually skip anyway. The level of service was outstanding; you only had to catch the eye of the steward for the merest moment for them to be rushing to your side. Yet, it was not intrusive. Each cabin has a butler as well as a steward for cleaning. In our case, the butler handled in-room dining and assisted with clothing care and was generally always available nearby. About 30% of the passengers were US, the rest were Brits, Aussies and a smattering of others. All communications are in English. A red and white wine is selected every evening for dinner; they are of medium quality but usually locally significant. The cocktails are uniformly imaginative and superb. Although I have no interest in an Antarctic cruise (which is more than 50% of their expedition business), I would definitely sail with Silversea again on another type of expedition cruise. The one thing I would change next time is to make my own flight arrangements. Silversea offered a good price for the flights to and from Europe, but there was an upcharge if you did not want to fly back immediately after the cruise (ie, if you want to stay a day or more in the place of debarkation). It has nothing to do with the day of week on which you were leaving; it was just the mere change of departure date. Further, although you pay for the flights at the same time as the rest of cruise (which could be more than a year in advance), they do not actually "buy" the flight and assign the seats until shortly before you leave. Therefore, whereas you should get a choice of seats months in advance, you get whatever is left only 4 to 6 weeks before you fly. In our case, this meant that we were relegated to the last boarding group and were told we could not bring hand luggage onto the plane because there was no more room. This caused quite a bit of consternation at the outset of the trip. The last thing you want is to be kneeling on the floor at the departure gate trying to move valuables and medication from one bag to another two minutes before boarding.. I suggest that you price the flights before you make your cruise commitment.and see if you want to do your own flights and transfers. One last tip: Silversea has a "My Silversea" link on their website which allows you to review and reserve all tours, specialty dinners and spa services in advance. I did all my reservations on line and was not disappointed once. Many of the tours booked up on the ship and there was only a waitlist. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I took this cruise because it was a James Beard Food Cruise. The suite offered very little I wouldn't pay extra for it. This is the second time I booked on this cruise line and was disappionted both times.The communication was ... Read More
I took this cruise because it was a James Beard Food Cruise. The suite offered very little I wouldn't pay extra for it. This is the second time I booked on this cruise line and was disappionted both times.The communication was not good aboard the boat. There were activities that were not listed except if you found something in small print so you had to make sure you kept up. Examples the chefs on shore food purchases were not communicated, the galley tour was orly communicate and so was the star light dinner. So for a person who paid top dollar did not get any benefits. Other lines provide a person that takes care of the suites . I think they should adopt that practice. Food on the ship was ok even though it was such a small boat and a special James Beard cruise. Entertainment was limited but acceptable. This is an al carte cruise so everything is extra. While annoying we knew that going in. The staff was great . Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
This was my fourth Seabourn (SB) cruise, and DH’s second, with one prior on the Quest summer 2016 we both shared. We have done a dozen cruises on luxury lines, so the review below compares this cruise with prior experiences, and provides ... Read More
This was my fourth Seabourn (SB) cruise, and DH’s second, with one prior on the Quest summer 2016 we both shared. We have done a dozen cruises on luxury lines, so the review below compares this cruise with prior experiences, and provides some guidance for newbies contemplating taking a SB cruise for the first time. We also did a detailed semi-live blog during the cruise, with photos, on the Cruise Critic SB subforum, so if you wish to see more details about the ship and the ports than are provided below, copy and paste this link (or if it does not work, then just search the forum for my entry entitled “Not-quite-live from the Seabourn Quest, Barcelona to Dover, 4/15/17-5/1/17). Photos start at post 9. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2488142 OVERALL: Overall we were both pleased with our experiences on the Quest on this 16-night “epicurean” itinerary cruise from Barcelona to Dover, 4/15/17-5/1/17 to the interesting ports of Gibraltar, Portimao, Lisbon, Bilbao, La Rochelle, Bordeaux (overnight), Portland UK, Rouen (overnight), Cherbourg (from which we went to DDAY's Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Arramanches) and Brugge. However, there remains room for improvement in some of the food, and on some services. We rate it a 4.3 overall on a scale of 1 to 5, (and thus round down to 4 on the overall CC scale). It is still the best overall inclusive, primary English language luxury line we have sailed on so far (comparisons: Silver Sea, Regent, Crystal). We did not think the food and service were quite as good as on Hapag-Lloyd’s (HL) luxury ships Europa 2 and MS Europa last year, however, HL is a line where wine and spirits are not included, where the primary language is German, and which is on average more expensive, so it is not directly comparable. EMBARKATION: very smooth and easy, almost no waiting, friendly welcoming personnel in Barcelona, large bags were immediately taken. We arrived shortly after 12 PM (though the official embarkation time is 2PM we could get on earlier even though our room was not ready), and then went to a buffet at the Colonnade indoor/outdoor casual dining venue (personnel can hold your hand luggage there for you while you take lunch, or you can keep them at your side). The buffet and service were both basic and adequate, nothing special, but we were happy to have lunch on board before official embarkation time. We found all our luggage already in the suite after we were allowed access around 2:30 PM. We had pre-ordered a foam topper for what we knew would be a relatively hard mattress, and it was put on later that evening after we reminded the stewardess. Muster followed shortly thereafter and took less than a half hour. It simply involved going to the MDR according to our stations where we listened to the safety instructions without wearing the life preservers,and where personnel took roll call. GENERAL ATMOSPHERE : Relaxing and uncrowded overall, though sometimes cleaning staff yelled personal conversations and joked loudly in hallways. The ship was well-maintained and clean. Smoking was no longer allowed on suite balconies or in the Observation Lounge, just in a couple small designated outdoor areas. Unfortunately a lot of the furniture, although stylish, is uncomfortable for me, but I am very sensitive due to musculoskeletal problems, so I found the stiff main entertainment lounge/Grand Salon chairs, the mostly stiff Observation Lounge chairs, MDR chairs, and especially the in-suite hard couch, unpleasant. To help get comfortable, I would often carry a small cushion with me. Overall, with some exceptions, there was a calm atmosphere and long lines for anything were not common (the long line waiting in the sun for a special cheese tasting notwithstanding). However, sometimes the Colonnade and MDR had slower than ideal table service at peak hours due to apparent staffing shortages, slower than I have come to expect from luxury cruise lines. All staff I saw, many of whom are of Eastern European origins (and some of whom looked like they belonged on fashion runways rather than carrying vacuum cleaners or drink trays around), seemed to work very hard to keep up, but some lacked adequate training for some tasks, and English skills were variable. There just were not enough staff for peak times (especially in the Colonnade, e.g., once we had a waiting time of over 20 minutes to get sparkling water). Table availability at prime hours was also routinely scarce in the Colonnade and at the Patio Grill, so when combined with the matching service problems, we preferred taking both lunch and dinner in the calmer, quieter, guaranteed-seating MDR if at all possible, which also played calmer music at lunch, and where pax were also more sedate. Passengers we met at optional communal or hosted tables, on excursions and cocktail get-togethers, or in the hot tub (perhaps a biased sample, e.g., with the hot tubbers) were generally pleasant, well-off, well-traveled, and well-mannered, with a few odd and loud or boorish exceptions. DEMOGRAPHICS.: The ship was full, with the vast majority of pax English speakers from the U.S., (252) followed by Australia (56) and the UK (30), Canada (16), Germany (12), and remaining pax in single digits. Average age seemed to be in the mid to late 60’s, give or take a few years depending on genetics and sun block usage, and I only saw one child pax. Pax were mostly do-everything-together couples, but there were also some couples traveling with other couples or extended family. LGBT pax are welcomed on SB, confirmed to DH after a long discussion with a hot-tubber who has done dozens of cruises with SB and absolutely loves it. Most pax were reasonably mobile, though there were some with wheelchairs and walkers, and appeared to be well-cared for. Some of those pax unfortunately also repeatedly opted to go on group excursions that were clearly marked as not designed for those with significant mobility impairments, and SB did not enforce mobility requirements for excursions. It was hard to spot a solo traveler (which is not surprising, as SB pricing is not solo-friendly), but there appeared to be a few, and they often opted to dine at hosted tables. DRESS CODE: Pax usually followed the designated evening dress codes, which were most often the very general “elegant casual”, e.g., for men long trousers and a nice collared shirt or a sweater, though many chose to wear jackets without ties to dinner. There were a couple “formal” nights with jacket required in the MDR on which most male pax wore jackets with ties, rather than tuxedos. Blue jeans are officially not allowed at dinner in the MDR. There were a few pax who occasionally showed up for dinner in overly casual clothing which was definitely not “elegant casual”, and they were not turned away, but no one looked like a slob. FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Food opinions are subjective, but overall we found the food on this cruise very good to excellent in the MDR, good in the Thomas Keller Grill, good at the Patio, mostly just ok at the Colonnade buffets (some exceptions that were very good), ok at breakfast room service, and definitely good enough to do a SB cruise again on the right itinerary. A highlight of our experience was interaction with the wine steward in the MDR, Antoni Pradeep, whose pairing suggestions were excellent, and who also provided us with a list of included wines on my request to help guide our choices. I would not sail again on this ship just for the food experience, even though this was billed as an “epicurean” cruise, but combined with the excellent itinerary and other benefits of SB, it was still a good overall choice for cruising this itinerary. The food quality and variety were not at the level of the food on HL’s Europa 2 and MS Europa on our cruises in 2016. SB had a decently priced but limited special order wine list, though we only resorted to ordering off of it twice as we could typically find an included wine that worked for us with our meals (even though we are from northern California wine areas and can be picky), and ordering off that list was not aggressively advocated either. Included champagne was Nicholas Feuillatte brut reserve, available at will. Wait staff typically came around at dinner and initially tried to push an inexpensive included sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio (we sampled all that were offered and only liked one, from NZ) before we had even had a chance to look at the menu, but we simply chose what to order first and then either looked at the lists of included wines to find an appropriate pairing, or talked to the wine steward. We ate at The Grill restaurant only once, the first night, where they served the new highly touted TK grill menu, included in the fare. It was fine, solid quality upscale American style food, steak, lamb, fish, but nothing spectacularly unique. First came celery sticks with radishes and cucumber pieces and green goddess dressing, all fresh but not unique, as we can get these at home. DH’s steak and my Dover Sole Meuniere were fine. We did not go back, primarily due to the acoustical assaults in that venue, e.g., loud and annoying music pulsated overhead, just as it did last year, apparently to create a 50’s and 60’s cool diner vibe and atmosphere, plus pax and staff conversations tended to be loud and the room has poor sound muffling, so the noise enhanced a sense of stress. I regret that the delightful and unique old R2 small-plates-with-pairings restaurant concept has been discontinued. The food in the MDR both at lunch and dinner was usually prettily plated, very good and usually interesting, (though basics such as simple steak and Caesar salad were also available nightly), and I found the TK offerings there better than last year. There were only a couple entrees that tasted boring. I enjoyed most of the vegetarian dishes which I tried when I wasn’t very hungry (a state easy to get into on SB due to constant food ingestion), even though I am not a vegetarian. Portions sizes were reasonably small, which suited us perpetual weight watchers fine. The only time I asked for a double portion was when I ordered a steak tartare appetizer and was skipping the entree, but large, young and very active men (on this cruise that would be only crew members and perhaps one other pax DH met who was a mountain climber) might want to ask for double portions right from the start to secure adequate calories. There were also TK offerings on a few nights in the Colonnade, by reservation only, with only one entree offering per night, e.g., fried chicken, ribs or clam bake, but we did not go this year because last year we had been underwhelmed with the odd ribs-related experience. A few people we met during the cruise who had done the “family style” TK ribs in the Colonnade this cruise, however, greatly enjoyed the experience. We like trying a little bit of many foods when we travel, so our favorite kind of venue is usually an upscale buffet, but this year due to more limited selections of buffet food, Colonnade crowding and inside noise, plus odds of more significant service problems there which could create annoyance, we preferred the MDR for both lunch and dinner. There was a different official food theme in the Colonnade each day, e.g., French, German, Japanese, Tuscan Market, Baltic night (this was much better than last year), pasta, etc., though not uncommonly the same thing was served at the salad bar and dessert bar day after day, just with a different name. Breakfast buffet was ok for usual English-speaker tastes, but the bread, cold meat and cheese choices put out were more limited compared with on HL, where the buffet is more European style. We used room service for breakfast when we had early morning excursions, and also a couple other times (e.g., usually between 9:30 and 12:30, when typically no dining venue is open other than room service or SB Square simple little pastry snacks). A room service hamburger was very good, compared with a Patio Grill burger on the patio, excellent last year, this year mediocre. I am not sure what caused the discrepancy. Room service breakfast offerings were basic, from a list of fixed choices you check outside your door on paper before going to bed, (if you deviate you may receive some comical deliveries), and usually though definitely not always arrived on time. Breakfast pastries and breads in general on board were improved compared with last year, e.g., on a few days French baguettes were baked, and the rolls trended towards appropriately crispy rather than rubbery like they were last year when we cruised. Snacks and specialty coffees at Seabourn Square varied in quality, although the offerings did not vary from day to day and were not particularly enticing, but I definitely appreciated having these between-meal options available ( closed 6-9 PM). The calm Observation Bar also offered self-serve coffee (variable quality), tea bags, OJ and little pre-made breakfast pastries at 6:15, for those of us who do not wish to communicate with humans until we have caffeinated. Observation bar and Club snacks we tried before dinner were tasty. SERVICE The best way to describe SB service this cruise is that it was generally good, though I did find myself getting a bit annoyed with occasional service deficiencies by lower level crew who need more training and understanding of what a luxury cruise is supposed to be. The exceptions often involved violations of the Do Not Disturb sign, the most egregious of which was a woman from laundry services busting into our suite to discuss a minor, non-urgent issue relating to trousers when I was in the bathtub and had a privacy sign up, and then not immediately leaving, but also involved poor communication between staff. Many staff seemed fixated on just doing their specific narrow job and showed a disinclination to get involved with resolving a problem in a way that would best accommodate guest's comfort. I spoke with the empathetic customer care coordinator Melissa Selling about these issues but it is unclear if anything was done by her other than to fill out a paperwork report, as a couple of the issues of concern (some of them comical) continued the next day . Some of the room stewardesses and eating venues personnel were not entirely well-trained or well-organized, and some appeared exhausted, especially at peak hours when they struggled to keep up, so SB would do well to improve training and staffing back to the level they had previously (though this might involve raising prices). Laundry and dry cleaning services are available on board ($50 per laundry bag stuffed so solidly it could serve as a cosh, 2 day service, 50% upcharge for same-day service on items), nothing was permanently lost or transformed into a child’s size though I did have to pursue a disappeared bag. There is also a launderette for self-serve we did not use, and a clothes-line is available over the tub for drying your own items. You can also get as many towels and pillows as you want for your suite, which this pillow princess definitely took advantage of. SB Square personnel were friendly, and there were either no or short lines to talk to them. The phone was not always answered immediately, but I only fell asleep once while on hold. When we got home we found a large charge to our on-board credit card to an airline for a person we have never heard of, which was processed immediately after the charge that closed out our bill on disembarkation day, and which we think was likely made in error by SB ( we are pursuing details on this through our credit card fraud protection and with emails to SB customer relations). SPA, EXERCISE AREA, AND POOLS: loud music played not just in the exercise area , where I would expect pep, but also in the communal manicure/pedicure/hair care area, which was not very relaxing as the customers’ conversations and blow dryers there were also competing for attention, and stressed front desk personnel could be snippy. So I only used the area once (I prefer quiet, solo chambers, with calming music, for manicure service, rather than forced listening to stories about other pax problems, e.g., their split ends or toenail problems. DH frequently enjoyed the relatively private hot tub in the bow on deck 6, which is also a good place to meet people. There were also four other hot tubs (two in the very public area near the main pool, often closed off, and two closer to the smaller pool on Deck 5 aft outside the Club lounge). The pool was nicely heated but not used much. DH also used the fitness center, it was fine, usually uncrowded except at peak time on a sea day, with an ocean view, where nothing was broken and there was a trainer there ready to help who may not have been named Hans or Franz, but should have been. ENTERTAINMENT was overall pretty good, better than last year, especially for such a small ship, e.g., it featured both popular and classical music by Australian pianist Gary Walz, and also a female former West End singer with a terrific voice. We went to most of the shows. Brit Davey Howe performed innovative and comedic musical works with trumpet, piano, shower hose, and walker leg and was my favorite. There was a funny British comedian, a not so funny or magical female comedian magician, and a singer who had starred in The Lion King who did an assortment of cool-sexy-guy type covers who was very popular with the crowd. The base SB band itself was very good, and the singers could sing, though sometimes sung boring old songs like The Girl From Ipanema at the Patio. The Trio with sultry singer Emma in the Club should not be missed, if she is there. The entertainment this year was much better than last year on the Quest, which was a positive development. INTERNET was bad. Ship wifi was usually very slow, and in our suite typically non-existent, a constant struggle, as it often is on ships, even luxury ships. We had opted for the unlimited plan for $399 for the 16 days of the cruise to avoid the stress of sensing the clock ticking and price rising while on-line with a slow connection. Only one person per suite could be on at a time which required some coordination (on HL two could be on, but for comparison there was no unlimited plan, there it was 0.19 Euro/minute). It worked best in the Square and in a fellow pax room directly below a router, which ours was not. We thus relied heavily on our cellular service and created hot spots, to get any major work done ensuite. DH, who is technically inclined, communicated with SB Square three times about the issues, and the personnel there smiled and noted the concerns, but not once was he contacted directly by anyone from IT, (we just got promises there would be contact), only some indirect information was communicated by a non-technical lady SB crew member, and the issues (beyond the issue of speed, e.g., cloud services blocking) were not resolved. Ship wifi was one of the weakest aspects of this ship, and it thus rules out future trips where there would be no escape option to use local cellular, e.g., transatlantic or remote area trips, for people who must have reliable internet access when they travel. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS There were no complimentary excursions offered by SB, all were for an extra charge. Most were reasonably priced and ok, some were excellent, a few were poor values. Buses were uncrowded and typically had a max of 26 people on an excursion ( a couple exceptions), and had reclining seats and at least passable AC. Sometimes there was a functional WC on the bus, you never knew in advance when there would or would not be one. BARCELONA — our embarkation port, where we spent 3 days pre-cruise on our own (we had previously been here for several days before). This popular and excellent bustling port city has a lot to see pre-cruise, or post-cruise if you end here. I would recommend at least four days, and preferably take a private tour of La Sagrada and other Gaudi masterpieces in the area, plus a trip outside to Montserrat, and spend a few hours in the Picasso Museum (go early and buy tickets online if you are not part of a tour, as it gets very crowded). The more off the beaten path Catalonia Museum on a hill has excellent modern and Romanesque art collections, as well as city views and adjacent is a massively sized organ. I could easily spend a full two weeks in Barcelona -- every year! GIBRALTAR — a very interesting small territory town with a lot of history, owned by Britain. We did the excellent though strenuous (marked level 2 out of 3 by SB but it should have been a 3/3 in difficulty) uphill “City under Siege” excursion, where we toured the military siege tunnels, and also the museum in town where there are restored Neanderthal woman and child skeltons. We also saw the interesting indigenous monkeys of the island roaming about who have a history of their own (e.g., during siege, they were food for troops). Beware of the risk of extra high cellular charges by your cell phone company for this separate “country”. PORTIMAO — the port itself, which tends to be very warm, was out of town, so other than seeing a closed down sardine factory museum within walking distance nearby (worth a look — the video story in Portuguese with English subtitles is both interesting and humorous), there was not much to do directly near the ship. We were bussed on the “A Taste of Algave” excursion to the seaside town of Alvo (old and new features), which has restaurants and shops both near the water and up an old-town hill, and could be more fun to tour without the time pressures of an excursion, followed by a trip to an unremarkable local winery for a tasting with fish dip and chips. This was not the greatest excursion, but ok for an overview. LISBON — we were only docked here one day, but this hilly and scenic city deserves at least four days if not more (which I had spent last year prior to another cruise), depending on how many museums you want to see and how much Fado you want to hear, even more if you want to do day trips. We did a non-SB group excursion to the medieval walled town of Obidos, about an hour away, which was fantastic, very scenic, with restaurants and shops, it would make a good full-day trip. We also visited the beautiful Santa Quintana winery for tasting and an upscale lunch, which was fantastic. It would be a good idea for SB to do an overnight in Lisbon. BILBAO — we toured the modern art Guggenheim Museum on a SB excursion, which everyone should do at least once to appreciate the craziness of four-story flower dogs and a giant metallic arachnoid, which have revived this previously dying town. We preferred spending our elective, non-group time on the higher levels where the art, to us anyway, was more interesting (Kandinsky and Picasso rather than Koons). Next time, we’d also like to send more time walking the city streets of this old Basque town, people-watching, and dining locally. LA ROCHELLE — we did an excellent full-day 5/5 SB excursion to the little market town of Saintes, (you could spend a day there just shopping and eating and visiting the churches), where I loaded up on the best ham I’ve ever eaten, and after a terrific excursion French lunch at a nearby Michelin-rated restaurant Le Relais du Bois Saint-Georges, toured the Chateau de La Roche Courbon castle, which has beautiful grounds. BOURDEAUX — here we docked for an overnight right in town, right next to a colorful Sunday food market selling all kinds of delicacies (you may want to skip breakfast on the ship if the market is running), and an easy walk to many interesting sights, several fantastic churches, fountains, and saw the new Wine Museum modern structure which we did not have time to go into. There are many reputedly excellent restaurants and museums in town, and we unfortunately did not have enough time to fully take in and appreciate this city. We did a forgettable (and overpriced at $275/person) SB-sponsored “exclusive” excursion to a winery that was anything but exclusive (70 people were bussed there and played follow-the-leader on the winery tour), with (by French standards) mostly mediocre food, served with some good red wine, on beautiful grounds. It would clearly have been better and much cheaper to book a private winery tour and exquisite French dinner, next time we will know better, or at least ask how many people will be on the “exclusive” tour before booking. We also did an excursion to the very cute town of St. Emilion, where there is a fascinating underground ancient church, and where you could also easily spend a day winding through the little streets, eating, and window shopping. PORTLAND, UK — the locals here are happy to see cruisers, serenaded us with a uniformed band and fired cannons at sail-away. We did a very nice excursion to the beautiful Minternes estate and gardens, where the 93-yr-old Lord of the house hosted us with interesting stories of the past, and we were then served scones. The gardens are exhiliarting and worth a trip, you could spend the whole day there (I recommend skipping the scones and just head straight for the garden to maximize your time wandering around there, then go down a series of long, gentle paths lined with rest benches, and loop back, a mile or so). We drove past the “Rude Man” Cerne Abbas Giant chalk figure on the way back to the ship, but he was off in the distance and his most famous body parts were barely visible. ROUEN — (overnight). We cruised down the scenic Seine to this out-of-town industrial port, which itself is unremarkable though there is a church and there are some shops, but it served as a base for excursions. We did a late afternoon/early evening excursion to the picturesque seaside town of HONFLEUR (don’t come after 6 or all the museums are closed, or between 4 and 7 as we did, when the major restaurants are closed, if you want dinner, as dinner does not start until 7). Next time we will visit Honfleur without a SB excursion and allow time for a leisurely French meal. We also did a SB excursion to Monet's GIVERNY Gardens, where much was in bloom. The flowers were exquisitely beautiful, but the place was oppressively crowded, as the venue does not limit ticket sales. It was hard to pass with so many international tourists (including us), many with selfie-sticks keen on getting themselves into staged pictures (absolutely not us), and with super-long waits for the women’s WC, as there were simply not enough toilets for the female components of the crowds. If you have a weak bladder, I recommend going easy on pre-excursion coffee and keep yourself on the thirsty side. CHERBOURG -- we went on an all-day excursion (1.5 hour + bus trip each way) to DDAY's Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Arromanches-les-Bain, where the “Mulberry” artificial harbor and docks were set up to allow many ships and supplies to dock in Normandy during WW2, and which has an interesting museum with exhibits, multi-lingual tours, and an informative movie. There were also excursions available to other battle sites through SB, e.g., Utah Beach, and Sainte-Mere-Eglise, offered by SB, but we only had enough time for one. The American Cemetery is beautifully laid out, very peaceful, and well-maintained, over 172 acres, with tasteful memorials and graves of 9387 American military dead from the Normandy invasion campaign. It has thousands of crosses and over a hundred Stars of David, all that remains of known and unknown young American soldiers who died in that campaign to liberate Europeans from unspeakable tyranny, including my immediate family. We did not see nearly as much as we would have liked in this historic place, for that we will need to come back for a full week in Normandy. Our guide was also less than ideal, as he seemed to just go through the motions in his descriptions of the important historical events rather than showing any enthusiasm or true interest in them (I felt like grabbing his microphone on the bus and taking over the narrative), perhaps due to his own background which was almost certainly not on the side of the Allies. Unfortunately on the bus the guide also seemed equally interested in proudly telling us about France’s mandatory 35-hour work week limitations, wonderful social welfare benefits, and humorous driving habits, with perhaps greater fervor than he talked about the events of 1944, and although these were interesting facts, they seemed inappropriate to discuss on this kind of sobering tour. Halfway, the tour stopped for an included group lunch at a nicely located restaurant with a water view where we were served local pate, chicken, and creamy dessert, with plenty of $5.17/bottle Bourdeaux table wine included in the excursion fee. This was overall an ok introduction to this area, considering we were only there for a day, but when we come back (and we must come back) we will almost certainly get a private guide with greater interest in WW2 history. I highly recommend reading Steven E. Ambrose’s book “DDAY”, or similar, to prepare. BRUGGE. This is a a beautiful city with a lot to see, including canals and chocolate shops, museums and churches, and we booked an excursion to it which SB called “Romantic Brugge” , which was anything but romantic. Unfortunately it was a 3-day weekend and the city was a solid mass of tourists, and it was very hard for us to keep up with our oblivious, insensitive guide who seem to stride briskly to Chopin's Marche Militaire through the city, with senior citizen pax in her group mostly fending for themselves. The excursion was rated 2/3 but should have been 3/3 difficulty given the strain of walking several miles at a brisk pace, with little time, while dodging horses, scooters, carts, baby carriages, Segways, and other fall hazards. The 30-minute canal ride, however, was lovely. I do not recommend this tour in high season or on weekends if you are in any way mobility, cardiac, balance, or pulmonary impaired. If we return, it will be without a group guide, and not on a busy weekend, and on our own (SB offered a busride to and from Brugge without a group tour, which would have been better, but the huge crowds would still have been there in the key areas). I rate this as the worst excursion of the cruise, 2/5, but sadly in one of the most beautiful cities. IN SUMMARY, we enjoyed the cruise, the itinerary, and generally good SB service, exceptions noted both above and in more detail in my referenced blog. I was a bit disappointed in the decline in quality food offerings and variety in the Colonnade, and in some service deficiences apparent now that I had not seen in 2015 when I did my first two SB cruises on the Odyssey, but was pleased with the improvements in the MDR foods since we were on the Quest summer 2016 and in the TK offerings, breads and included wines. We realize no cruise is perfect, and SB must be compared with other English language luxury lines. We have put down a deposit for a potential future cruise that would give us a 5% discount, but have made no irreversible commitments. We have a few more cruises booked with HL instead of SB on similar itineraries, which we are not canceling, as that is where I thought the overall food and service were 5/5 instead of 4.3/5 like on SB, (and where Do Not Disturb signs were always strictly respected), but as noted, has other disadvantages. We have posted some pictures of the cruise and the ports in this beautiful, fascinating, and history-rich area, to which we plan to return. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Cunard Queen Elizabeth 7 Day Iberia cruise October 2016 We are experienced cruisers, but have been ‘resting’ since 2012. It a bit long and rambling I’m afraid. This was our second Cunard cruise, but were classed as first ... Read More
Cunard Queen Elizabeth 7 Day Iberia cruise October 2016 We are experienced cruisers, but have been ‘resting’ since 2012. It a bit long and rambling I’m afraid. This was our second Cunard cruise, but were classed as first timers as there are no records of our first cruise on QE2 in 1991, a 2-day voyage to nowhere, a prize in a competition. Been lucky in competitions, Paris and Vienna and 2 luxury hotel breaks in the UK as well! As always we travelled down the day before and stay in a hotel near Southampton, in this case the Holiday Inn near Winchester, a modern clean hotel with good service we have used before. As we had a 12.30 check in, so we had a little retail therapy at M&S at Hedge End, which we managed to squeeze in the cases, before we set off for the Mayflower terminal. We arrived around 11.20, the car was quickly unloaded and we made our way to check in. We were in a Princess Grill suite, and were directed to the Suite check where we were quickly checked in, and directed straight on board, passing through security on the way. Up to our suite on deck 6, no cases, but I wasn’t surprised considering how fast we boarded. Loved the room, we had seen one on a ship visit, and viewed some videos online, And it was just right for us, doubt we will ever bother to go up to Queens Grill grade one. The dreaded Pol Acker was there, and put in the fridge for safety. We bought it home to use when we have unwanted guests! Lunch was at one o’clock, so we went to the Queens Lounge for a soft drink (my wife cannot tolerate alcohol), and started wondering what sort of table we would be getting, we had requested a ‘quite’ table for two, and had suggested one we had seen in photo’s of the restaurant. The Princess grill opened, the Maitre' d greeted us and showed us to the table we had asked for, what a result! We soon met the rest of the team, and we were ready to enjoy the service! All I can say that the food and service we received that week for far superior to any we have received on our other cruises. As new comers to Cunard, we did not notice the menu cuts, and always found some thing to please us, although the menus in the suite sometimes did not coincide with the restaurant! Although I tend to go for vegetarian options, I do appreciate a well-cooked meal, and the tenderloin beef was the best I have ever had, the vegetarian scotches egg and stuffed pepper were also excellent. The whole team in the restaurant were excellent, the only problem I had was a vegetarian spring roll that nearly set my mouth on fire, and it was so hot, a change was quickly offered, but I carried on! My wife prefers small portions of food and Tio our waiter and the chefs really catered for her requests. As for the entertainment, the dance show was OK, but not really our scene, on the other hand Allan Stewart was fantastic, we had seen him before, but it was either new material, or we had forgotten his act! Seeing comments on some reviews about the condition of QE, she looked OK to us, yes, there is rust in places, but it must be a nightmare to keep her ship shape. The bay was a bit bumpy, so we took a Sturgeon when we got up, and it was no problem. And so to the ports, we have done all the tours we want to do, so it’s just DIY these days. First port was Vigo, on a Sunday! A quick walk round, a few shops were open and a few Euros spent on presents for our grand children, then back to the ship. Lisbon the next day, and although we were fairly close, it was to far for us to walk as we both have slight mobility problems, so as we had been before, decided to enjoy the ship instead. Lunch in the Courtyard was memorable that day. Then Porto, a shuttle in, but it dropped us in a completely different area from where we had been before, so we did a little exploring and shopping, then back to the ship for lunch. We often used to dine ashore for lunch, but no way were we going to miss the PG for lunch! Back across the bay and on to our last port, Cherbourg, which was new to us. Again a shuttle in, and it was market day which we found quite interesting, and we had made quite a few purchases there, its somewhere we would like to go to again sometime. The shuttle bus also called at a shopping centre, which we had a look in. There was a Carrefour there, so a few food purchase were made there as well. Disembarkation like boarding was a dream. We had an 8.15 time, and had to assemble in the Britannia restaurant deck 3. A full breakfast was served in PG, our waiter would not believe that on our last cruise on Celebrity we were given paper plates and cups in the disembarkation lounge. We docked exactly on time, self disembark was scheduled for 7.15, but I saw people walking off at 7.05. We went to the Britannia about 7.45 and newspapers, snacks and drinks were available, we were called at 8.05 and soon located our cases and collected our car, and were well on our way home by 8.30. Children, dress code and smoking, those emotive subjects! We only saw 2 children on board, both under fives I would guess. Smoking, never saw it or smelt it. The dress code was well followed, just the odd person who think the rules don’t apply to them, but that goes on any line or ship! After 2 disappointing trips on Celebrity, this cruise really restored our faith in cruising. One or two small niggles, but they can’t have been that bad, as I can’t remember what they were! Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We chose this cruise because of the date, destination and my birthday. Our documentation stated the cruise left from Edinburg and the address on the ticket was for Edinburgh; however, when we gave our ticket and documentation to the cab ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the date, destination and my birthday. Our documentation stated the cruise left from Edinburg and the address on the ticket was for Edinburgh; however, when we gave our ticket and documentation to the cab driver, he took us to the port. When we arrived, we had to find a harbor master to locate ship-then we discovered we were to leave from Dundee. 75 miles away! We were lucky, our driver could take us and we arrived just in time to leave-$290.00 later!! We called the "emergency numbers 3 times-no one returned our phone calls-so don't bother calling them!! Our cabin lacked furniture by the bed and we had to charge phones, iPad and lay them on the floor with reading glasses and other nighttime things! First day, excursions were in chaos and we waited over an hour for the buses to arrive!! First day, we had booked an excursion to see a castle with falconry demonstration. Our guide decided we need to be back early 3 hours for lunch??) so she cut the trip short!! She treated us like we were small children and regaled us with stories of her teaching " dumb" royalty in a private school. The special exhibit for this trip was watching a high school band perform. Seriously!! A part of that trip-we were taken to a battleground with a nice Visitor's center-BUT! Our same guide did not let us go inside!! Instead she led us outside and lectured for 30 minutes! Guess she knew more than the historians!! When we returned, Windstar was contacted-which acted like all was our fault because we were ignorant and did not read our documentation! We are two doctors who travel a great deal and were insulted! We spent 4 days pre cruise in Edinburh-thank goodness-on our own or I do not know I'd we could have seen the city. Their excuse, we did not pay their transportation fee to port! And did not stay at their hotel. We stayed at a beautiful Trip Advisor boutique hotel which we loved!! We were less than impressed with Windstar-this was our second-had it been our first-it would have been our last!!after they have your $$, you are totally written off!! Trying to communicate with their staff before we left was a nightmare as well!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
This was our fourth cruise within three years having previously sailed with Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess. We are a couple in our mid-thirties. We chose this cruise because it fitted in with times we could both take holiday, ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise within three years having previously sailed with Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess. We are a couple in our mid-thirties. We chose this cruise because it fitted in with times we could both take holiday, left from a UK port, and was going to places we hadn't been before (in France) - a final important check\consideration was that Crystal was reasonably well rated well by recent passengers. The ship was in superb condition, arguably better than younger ships; everything was polished, clean, and in 'close to new' condition. A fairly small ship by today's standard we found it to our advantageous as it cut down unnecessary time walking between different venues. A similar size to Ryndham (Holland America) however a key difference we observed was that it never felt crowded on Symphony, in fact it was the least crowded ship we've sailed on yet. There are potentially two reasons for this; either it was undersubscribed (possibly because people concerned about terrorism), or the age of the passengers meant they slept a lot or otherwise entertained themselves - possibly a bit of both. We stayed in cabin 7087, which is the E1 category with a limited view, for which I've written a separate review in the cabin section (and hopefully it will let me upload a photo so you can judge the level of obstruction for yourself). Dining; breakfast was very good and we always ate it in the Lido cafe (I think you could also go to main dining room). I like healthy breakfasts and wasn't disappointed as there were a lot of tasty options including birchers, smoothies, yoghurts, fruit, as well as the usual eggs, sausages, beans, bacon (for less health conscious people). I was very happy with the variety of juice on offer, and had fresh carrot juice almost every day - while other cruise lines have also offered variety of juice, other than fresh orange, it's always been from the carton, so this was a step up for me. Lunch was also very good with a reasonable variety of food, and different things served each day so we didn't get fed up with the same thing, and again we opted to eat lunch in the Lido cafe. Dinner was reasonable to excellent - the three courses in the main dining room were to a good standard, we also ate in both of the specialty restaurants (at no extra charge) and found them both (Japanese & Italian) excellent even though I don't eat sushi (luckily there were other options at the Japanese restaurant). The Italian restaurant Prego was my favourite though, and it's the first time I've ever been served soup within a bowl made of bread (maybe I've led to sheltered a life!). Besides these dining options there are also other smaller venues where you can grab a sandwich, burger, or cakes depending on your fancy - these places were never crowded. As Crystal is all inclusive, all drinks are free unless you order something really special (I'm not sure what as I ordered anything I liked and was never charged). There are a number of bars you can get drinks from (also available when dining or lounging by pool) and staff are very available to take your order and will even walk to a different bar for you if the one your at doesn't make that kind of drink. As well as my juices I had a number of cocktails, mocktails, beers, wines, and penacolada's (apology for the spelling?!), and I saw a lot of other passengers enjoying copious amounts of what looked like champagne. Entertainment was low key, the main show entertainers were really good performers though they are only on for 45 minutes a night and generally do a bit of singing and dancing which while excellent, I would have liked to see a proper full musical play (even a mini one) instead of just excerpts of musical plays. That said though, it was good enough to go back to each night as they did mix\change it up so it didn't get repetitive. There was also a magician on board however you needed to book to see him which we didn't so I can't whinge about that as my own fault. The rest of the entertainment consisted of people playing piano, some big band playing, some jazz, and a bit of pop music from different era's - nice and pleasant to listen to while having a drink but all fairly laid back. Activities consisted of some lectures (mostly UK monarchy and WWII), knitting / needlework classes, how to use your ipad, and some other things I can't recall. All said and done, there wasn't much going on and to be honest given the age demographic I don't think there was a lot of demand for much to be going on. For myself this was a bit disappointing but I can't complain too much as I knew the activities would likely be tailored towards the older generation. For information, about 95% of guests are probably in bed by 10 pm - the upside is you'll always find a seat and ready waiters in any bar around the ship!! In fact I think a lot of the staff seemed underused so it really was very quick service in all respects no matter what the time of day. Our ports of call were; Tilbury (we live in London so no point discussing this), Honfleur, St Peter's Port, St Malo, and Bordeaux. Honfleur was quaint and lovely, St Malo was amazing and I wish we could have stayed overnight (as well as going around the city we also went swimming in the sea). St Peter's Port was a bit boring but perhaps that's because I'm British and it wasn't so novel to me as I may be to an American. We got the plane back to UK from Bordeaux so can't comment on it - though I have stayed there a week once in a chateau which was refreshing. The age demographic is slightly older than other cruises we've been on, I'd say 97% of passengers were over 60, I'd guess the average may be around 70. That said they certainly weren't geriatric and there were almost no zimerframes in sight, they were mostly pleasant to talk to - even the ones voting for Donald Trump. Although we are in our 30's we were looking for a laid back \ lazy holiday as our last one was a tour of Iceland in a rented motorhome followed by a week in New York, so we were not objectionable to the pace of life on board as we felt like being less active than our previous holiday. The library was well stocked with DVDs including some very recent releases. There was also a cinema on board though we didn't take the opportunity to use it. Worth a mention is that this is the first cruise where they didn't try and sell us art, jewellery, or pointless crap they we don't want and don't need, in fact the shops were barely open at all - quite refreshing! All in all, a good cruise, and recommended to those who want a laid back holiday and be able to order whatever food and drink they like without thinking about the cost or tipping. I would go again if in a similar mood and I liked the ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
If you love the Nautica, Insignia or Regatta you will love the Sirena - it is the same ship (almost). I have done over 35 cruises and 10 on Oceania. I sailed on the Sirena when it was the R4 and when it was the Pacific Princess. I love ... Read More
If you love the Nautica, Insignia or Regatta you will love the Sirena - it is the same ship (almost). I have done over 35 cruises and 10 on Oceania. I sailed on the Sirena when it was the R4 and when it was the Pacific Princess. I love Oceania and loved our most recent cruise from Barcelona to Lisbon. Some observations - Oceania billed this as a "renovated" ship" - I was not able to see much "renovation". New bed and new carpet - but that was about it. The food in the Grand Dinning room was even better than before and we chose it over the specialty restaurants on occasion. The loss of the Polo Grill is no big deal and the addition of Red Ginger is great. But Tuscan does not compare to Toscana - Tuscan was actually quite disappointing. Saw too many kids on the cruise - never saw that before on Oceania - not well received by the typical Oceania passenger. Oceania entertainment has always been third rate - they added a small production group to our cruise and it improved to 2nd rate. I had hoped with the presence of NCL that the entertainment would improve. The rooms are comfortable and the room attendants are terrific. As usual, Oceania's tours are grossly over priced and we continue to book our own when possible - did twice as much in Casablanca for 1/3 of the cost by booking our own tour. I see that a number of reviewers complained about how hard it is to get additional reservations at the specialty restaurants. You should know that the higher priced cabins can make reservations on line early - before the cruise and also get more guaranteed reservations. You need to go to the Terrace Cafe during the day and ask to put on wait list for the specialty restaurants. All in all - it was Oceania - we just booked two more cruises on them! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Regent Seven Seas markets its cruises as first class. In some ways it almost is but other parts are so bad that it ruined the good parts. This cruise line goes the cheapest route when it comes to airline travel and hotels. Regent is ... Read More
Regent Seven Seas markets its cruises as first class. In some ways it almost is but other parts are so bad that it ruined the good parts. This cruise line goes the cheapest route when it comes to airline travel and hotels. Regent is EXPENSIVE and only if you drink and eat an extraordinary amount will you get your money's worth. Bad -- Emergency situations: Disastrous. Their emergency number took over an hour to answer, then put us on hold, when our air transportation got changed by them and we were marooned. Air Travel -- we were supposed to have Business Class and instead they booked us on a third rate local airline and it resulted in us missing a connection and a whole day's vacation plus paying $500+ for hotel and taxi to a different airport which Regent refused to pay. We later learned from experienced Regent travelers to check what flights you want and then insist they book you on them. Internet -- we had no internet for most of the cruise, despite being told we would and printed marketing material indicating full time internet. If you have to do business while traveling, do not take this cruise line. One fellow passenger missed an important stock trade and was hysterical because there was no internet. Despite promises to fix it, it never was fully functional. Embarkation/Debarkation: Disorganized, confusing and way too time consuming. Ditto for baggage handing. Hotels: They book you into average hotels with basic rooms, definitely not first class. Our hotel room in Reykjavik was so small we couldn't even turn around, also hot and stuffy. In Copenhagen we inquired about upgrading our room and were told that Regent only books "Basic" rooms, not first class. Good: Fabulously well trained staff especially our private Butler. The best part of the trip. All other staff on board were very polite and helpful. However, lowly staff can only do so much when management is lacking. Entertainment was excellent but for first time Regent cruisers it should have been better explained as to how to be seated, etc. Most food better than average except the premier Prime 7 where we had two bad meals. The French restaurant, Signatures, was very good. The basic restaurants Compass Rose and the Veranda were good and wine selections were also good. Overall, all service on board was excellent, including our Butler, cleaning staff, servers, bartenders, etc. Word of advice, this cruise is not for families as it is appeared to be older than average crowd. Some patrons were much too elderly/infirm to do the excursions and yet were allowed to participate, resulting in inconveniencing everyone else. If you are looking for a totally first class experience, we would suggest a different cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We have been on all of Regent's ships and had wanted to do this itinerary in the past, but dates and pricing never lined up. We were very pleased to be able to do back-to-back 10 day cruises through the British Isles and over to ... Read More
We have been on all of Regent's ships and had wanted to do this itinerary in the past, but dates and pricing never lined up. We were very pleased to be able to do back-to-back 10 day cruises through the British Isles and over to France and Spain. The ship is very comfortable, but the staff is the best reason to sail with Regent. Every member of the crew is just as hospitable and friendly as possible. They couldn't be better. We really enjoyed this itinerary and particularly Mont St. Michel, Cork, Bordeaux. Every stop had something memorable, though. We went on excursions most days, but sometimes just took the ship-provided shuttle into town and wandered. Some excursions were much more than we expected. In Belfast, for example, we went on a tour that included the Titanic Museum. That wasn't very impressive. However, a tour of the dry dock was fantastic - largely due to a guide who was part historian, part actress and totally enthusiastic. The Blarney Castle was interesting, but you really should be prepared. The Blarney Stone is at the top of the castle and to kiss it you have to be on your back and leaning over the edge - not a good plan for older folks. The stairway up is quite a challenge. It's steep and, in several places, both of my shoulders touched the walls and I'm not overly large. It was quite strenuous for anyone with mobility issues. In Torre Lorizags, we saw an incredible collection of mint-condition Rolls Royces. You have to see to believe. Really fantastic. While in Southhampton for a day at the mid-point of the cruise, we took a personal tour to Winchester. Winchester College and Winchester Cathedral are both incredible. Finally, our favorite stop was Alnwick Castle. Parts of Harry Potter were filmed there and two Christmas specials of Downton Abbey were filmed in this castle, which remains an active home for the Lord and Lady. It is truly spectacular. Lecturers from the Smithsonian Institute really enhanced all of the ports. Food and service were superb, as always. You just can't go wrong on a Regent Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Boarding was excellent. Great service, staff were amazing. Really great shows and entertainment. Lots to do for children. The only thing I would recommend is a ocean view balcony as not a really nice bar were you can sit and watch the sea ... Read More
Boarding was excellent. Great service, staff were amazing. Really great shows and entertainment. Lots to do for children. The only thing I would recommend is a ocean view balcony as not a really nice bar were you can sit and watch the sea go by. Most things on this ship are internal. The ship was kept very clean. The cabins are really nice with lots of storage, the safe is small. American and European sockets. We eat in the American icon grill every night prebooked late dining, the food was very good and the menu change every night. There was also a set menu that didn't change. The ship was easy to get around with everything being internal you could see where you were from the lifts. You just have to remember boardwalk is deck six back of ship. The gym was fab, lots of machines, the spa area very nice and the solarium lovely with lots and lots of beds and chairs. Loved the rising tide bar was very nice to go up and down while having drinks with friends. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Virtually unknown in the UK, this French company has four ships with capacities of around 250 and a three-masted ship with 27 cabins which offer unique experiences and expeditions with a French Touch around the world. The ships are ... Read More
Virtually unknown in the UK, this French company has four ships with capacities of around 250 and a three-masted ship with 27 cabins which offer unique experiences and expeditions with a French Touch around the world. The ships are stunning in appearance and elegant and luxurious on board. They promise a French crew, attentive service, excellent cuisine, fine cheeses, artisan breads and pastries, and a selection of grands crus. The restaurant on deck 2 provides an elegant, sophisticated and refined cuisine in the finest French gastronomic tradition, or one can choose deck 6 restaurant for a more casual, relaxed atmosphere. It is quite difficult to find reviews of Ponant cruises, and this review of our experience on board L’Austral may be helpful to anyone considering a cruise with this line which aspires to a luxury rating. We chose an eight night cruise for the itinerary from Dublin visiting Douglas, Liverpool, Belfast and on to Ullapool, Stornoway, Skye, Mull and Iona. Advertised as a Gastronomic Cruise, we understood that there would be some gala dinners and cooking demonstrations presented by Michelin starred chefs together with the world’s best sommeliers pairing the food with fine wines and hosting tastings. We are by no means gourmets or wine connoisseurs and were fondly anticipating some French onion soup, boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin, and possibly crème brulees, crepes or souffles. Unfortunately for us, we had completely failed to appreciate what Ponant intended. On six of the eight evenings we were instructed to be seated at 8pm and during the next two and a half to three hours we were presented with culinary masterpieces created by the chefs. The first meal consisted of cold aniseed flavoured potato soup with a raw oyster, an extremely lightly cooked piece of foie gras, and some very pink lamb accompanied by a few grams of delicately diced vegetables. The chocolate dessert was deliciously calorific. Every other meal included very undercooked or raw fish, meat or eggs the presentation of which was painstakingly exquisite, but could only be appreciated by a more refined palate than ours. Between courses the world famous sommelier went into considerable detail regarding the origin and nature of the wines. We may have become more knowledgeable about what we were eating and drinking had the information not been given entirely in French with very little attempt to translate. We did however manage to understand the information provided in French at breakfast, warning about the possible hazards to health from eating raw or undercooked food. Despite having expected to be able to dine in the more casual dining area on deck six, or possibly take advantage of the free room service, these facilities were not available on gala evenings, neither were we permitted to select an alternative to any of the courses from the vegetarian options. During the cookery presentations, wine tasting, cheese conference, and champagne and whiskey tastings we were offered earpieces in order to listen to a very limited translation to English. Unfortunately the microphone of the French expert was so loud that we could not hear a word and gave up after two attempts. Perhaps we should blame ourselves for having failed to appreciate that there would be little attempt by Ponant to be more accommodating to us as foreigners. The situation in which we found ourselves and the stress caused by trying to communicate over dinner with six other guests who claimed not to speak English was considerable. Tables for two were not available. Our O level French was sadly inadequate and we were relieved to find that some of the other English speakers felt the same. Together with the other 17 English speakers that we managed to find we were in a minority of less than 8%, the remainder being French speaking. Perhaps Ponant could have arranged for us to have had an opportunity to meet at an early stage instead of leaving it to us to meet by accident. It would appear that Ponant is happy to take bookings from English speakers but after this are not particularly concerned for their comfort and needs. We booked the cruise via Ponant’s brochure (published in English) in June 2015 and arranged for hire cars in four ports. Quite by chance in March 2016 we noticed a different itinerary on their website-same ports, but different dates. After two emails to Ponant and their failure to respond, our t/a discovered that the itinerary had changed but that they had not been notified. Our car hire bookings were changed. Embarkation in Dublin was scheduled for 4pm to 5pm for a 6pm sailing. We therefore travelled the previous day as the flight arrival time would have been very close to 4pm. Actual sailing time turned out to be 9.30 pm. Do not believe everything they tell you. A very limited tender service was provided in the four tender ports- usually only one per hour each way. After a short 5 to 10 minute journey the tender would remain in position with the engine running until the next scheduled time slot. On the penultimate day we were instructed to attend an important meeting about disembarkation procedures at 6pm although we did not sail until 8pm. As we had pre-arranged car hire until 7pm we missed the meeting but did not receive any written instructions of the type normally provided until after 10pm on the last night of the cruise. There was no requirement to complete the usual health questionnaire and we never saw anyone use either of the two hand sanitisers outside the restaurants. Despite the language and gastronomic problems, we enjoyed many aspects of the cruise. The ship was immaculate and the crew were pleasant and efficient. There was an open bridge policy. The breakfasts and lunches were very good. The open bar offered a good selection. There was a quiz one day. I believe that the evening entertainment was good but by the time we left the dining room we were too exhausted to watch. The Scottish islands were beautiful, the sun shone, the locals were friendly and our hire cars enabled us to see much more than the ship’s excursions would have allowed. Although it may be unfair to downgrade our score due to our inability to appreciate the food we were offered, had we been able to dine a la carte we may have given an extra star. The inaccuracy of the pre cruise information has also impacted on our rating. We sincerely hope that this review of our experience will be helpful to anyone English speakers who may consider a cruise with Ponant. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016

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