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19 Europe - British Isles & Western Holiday Cruise Reviews

Just got off Cunards Queen Elizabeth with 5 Family members I have traveled with 5 different Cruise companies This was my first cruise with Cunard that I thought would be a bit highbrow for my taste . How wrong was I. The service was very ... Read More
Just got off Cunards Queen Elizabeth with 5 Family members I have traveled with 5 different Cruise companies This was my first cruise with Cunard that I thought would be a bit highbrow for my taste . How wrong was I. The service was very slow the quickest I got a drink order to our table was 20 mins the slowest just under hour and I am not making this up the food in the Brittania restaurant was good but no way near as good as other ships I have been on The entertainment was alright but no where near enough different varieties of music you will like it if you like listening to one man piano players they had several bars with piano players no Jazz or nightclub venues. I found most of the serving staff to be OK but no were near the standards of say Celebrity. Our trip was to go to Amsterdam and dock for 2 days we were told on first day at sea that we could not dock at Amsterdam because of high winds, no alternative port could be found so we sailed up & down The English Channel Because of some EU ruling we were told that vat would be added to all ship shops purchases and there would be no duty free sales I sailed with P& O last January to Amsterdam where there was no vat added and you could buy duty free on board? But worst of all this short cruise to the Amsterdam Christmas markets to do some last minute Christmas Shopping and buy our duty free drinks for Christmas did not happen Maybe I will try Cunard again when I reach 80 years of age but of the five cruise companies I have used Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, NCL, P&O and Cunard. Cunard would not get in my top 5 cruises and this nothing to do with our cruise not reaching its destination. Just on Poor service not enough to do generally not a well run ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
As you may have guessed this is not going to be a positive review... Cruise Q423 to Amsterdam for the Christmas Markets 2014 was meant to be a nice little pre-Christmas break to relax and unwind ready for the festive season. Obviously, ... Read More
As you may have guessed this is not going to be a positive review... Cruise Q423 to Amsterdam for the Christmas Markets 2014 was meant to be a nice little pre-Christmas break to relax and unwind ready for the festive season. Obviously, Cunard had other plans as they had enlisted - what can only be described as - a "B List" Captain and Team of Senior Staff. We had previously cruise on this ship 4 times before and found it to be absolutely wonderful. Hence, we were excited to spend a few days on the ship before Christmas. However, right from the start this cruise felt a little flat with staff very unmotivated and an absence of senior staff. Embarkation was good and the ship departed Southampton on time. In the early stages of the cruise there was no indication from the Captain that there would be any problems with the cruise. I had also checked the weather prior to leaving and knew that there would be some strong gusts in Amsterdam, but the Captain had indicated none of this. Later in the cruise the Captain mentioned strong winds in the Amsterdam area; again I was not overly concerned as only the previous year the ship failed to dock in Amsterdam because of high winds, but did dock at Rotterdam; the wind were not as bad as last year. The Captain then said that there was a 10% we may dock at Amsterdam and that we would sail all the way to the entrance and see what conditions were like. Eventually we were told we would not dock and alternatives would be considered. We then spend a considerably long time just sailing round with no updates. Finally we were told we would not dock anywhere because conditions were so poor. By now the mood of the ship had somewhat changed and this was very noticeable to both passengers and staff. To make matters worse the Captain then announced we would be arriving back in port a day early due to ‘essential works’. I think this pushed passengers over the edge as we then had lots of moaning and complaining. The atmosphere on the ship for the last two nights was pretty ugly. I am not really complaining that we did not go to Amsterdam as I appreciate that is a difficult port to get in and out of. However, its pretty poor to suggest that the entire west coast of Europe was inaccessible due to strong winds; especially when 12 month earlier the Queen Elizabeth had encountered far worse conditions and docked at Rotterdam. Not to mention the ship departed Southampton in Hurricane Force 12 winds Christmas 2013…if that was safe then Cunard have no excuse for not calling at any alternative port. I also understand that other cruise liners also docked at Amsterdam that night. I was also surprise that the ship had a strong diesel smell in the casino and pub; this was pretty disturbing as it appeared there was a problem with the ship. Why was this? Was it safe? Where Cunard cutting corners to save money? Cunard’s poor management and handling of the cruise meant many passengers just disembarked when the holiday was cut short by the Captain. It was not at all enjoyable having a meal in The Verandah Restaurant watching people lining up to get off on one side of the restaurant and Southampton dock on the other side. It was meant to be a pleasant night at sea sailing back from Amsterdam. The port cancellation was only one of several issues with this cruise. The majority of the staff and crew were either absent or not engaged in keeping passengers happy - well below the standards I have experienced with Cunard in the past. The Entertainments Director was a complete Misogynist asking young female colleagues how much they weighed on the TV feed. All in all, the cruise was rubbish. After the cruise, I did think of writing and complaining, but decided not to. However, Cunard contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I'd like to cruise with them again....they had a chance to win our custom back, but instead managed to make matters worse by saying "we are not giving any compensation" when I never complained or asked for this and was simply never going to cruise with them again. Only the arrogance of Cunard could make a customer service call escalate to the point of "rubbing salt into the wounds". Thankfully, we've found Celebrity so we won't bothering Cunard again...and we'd advise anyone not to bother with Cunard either! Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I have sailed on the Eclipse so I was a little apprehensive about the Constellaion .however I was pleasantly surprised. The crew were welcoming and helpful. The ship clean and well laid out. Our outside cabin met our needs and we had no ... Read More
I have sailed on the Eclipse so I was a little apprehensive about the Constellaion .however I was pleasantly surprised. The crew were welcoming and helpful. The ship clean and well laid out. Our outside cabin met our needs and we had no complaints. The ship had previously experienced noro virus outbreaks so no self service and no ice on the martini bar. The crew were well prepared with gel etc so we experienced no problems. We has a premium non-alcoholic package and this was an excellent choice. I thoroughly recommend this package. I have previously used the premium alcoholic package but I think the non-alcoholic package met our needs better. We did have some Martinis and had fun with the flight of martinis once or twice. We also tried Ocean Liners and this was a highlight of our cruise. We also went for the champagne afternoon tea and this was the first one on a cruise I have enjoyed. Even Cunard had been a disappointment. We spent a lot of time relaxing in the Cafe Baccio, enjoying the coffee. Staff again were excellent. We paid for access to the perfumed garden but I am not sure if I would do that again. The entertainment was hit or miss. I enjoyed the acts placed around the ship but did not enjoy Perry. However, Michaels club was packed out when he played, so we were not missed. Some acts in the theatre were good, others ok. All a matter of taste. Celebrity delivered the break we needed and we will definitely cruise with hem again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our ... Read More
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our first Fred Olsen cruise but our 30th ocean cruise...... can you tell we like cruising? My husband and I are in our mid 60s and I have some mobility problems. My husband and I are from the Midlands in the UK and we chose this cruise because it was very reasonably priced and fitted in with our holiday dates. Travel arrangements We travelled down by car from our home on the day before the cruise and stayed at the Premier Inn Central in Basingstoke which is roughly 30 miles from the dock in Southampton. I booked this hotel well in advance and got a room at a very reasonable rate (£36). The hotel is conveniently situated about 1mile from the town centre and within a leisure park with cinema and chain restaurants. Car Parking We pre-booked car parking with 'Cruise Parking' which is situated a 20 minute mini bus drive from the port area. The cost once again, was reasonable, especially compared to the port 'on site' car parks. The whole process was very straight forward. We drove into the site, handed over our keys and transferred our cases onto the mini bus trailer. From drop off to arriving at the port terminal took no more than 30 minutes. On arrival back in port we saw a representative from the company standing right outside the customs clearance area and he directed us to a waiting coach. Once again, it was approximately 30 minutes from getting out of customs to getting into our car. We will certainly use this company when cruising from Southampton. Boarding Unlike many other cruise lines, it is not worth arriving early at the terminus as the ship did not start boarding until just after 2.00p.m. We had been given 2.30p.m. as our embarkation time and we actually got on board at 2.45p.m. - Check-in was fairly quick -- about 20 minutes from arriving at the terminal (cases were whisked away) to completing the security checks and sitting down in the lounge. - There is a magazine stand just outside the departure lounge with many free travel and concept magazines. - There is plenty of seating inside the departure lounge together with toilet and snack facilities. - There was a stand advertising 'silver service afternoon tea' at £6.50pp. The same food is available without charge in the Palms Buffet. - Passengers are given a boarding number and groups of 20 are called to go through. This prevented a mad rush to get on board. - Once on board we were directed, not shown, to our cabin. Balmoral - the ship. My husband and I actually sailed on this ship in 2005 when it belonged to NCL and was Norwegian Crown. When it was sold to Fred Olsen the ship was stretched to add extra cabins and some new facilities. It was good to see that some of the original features still remained and we recognised the dining room, rear pool and buffet area. Balmoral is 43,500 tonnes with 1,300 passengers and 500 crew so a relatively small ship in comparison with many of today's liners. I felt it was geared towards the more mature passenger and had a definite British ambiance although there were a few guests from other countries on board and, as it was half term for many UK schools, there were over 50 children who appeared to be well catered for by the designated crew members. Muster Drill This took place immediately prior to sail away and the muster stations were all indoors. We took our life jackets, listened to the safety talk and then were asked to put on our life jackets. Dining options Palms Buffet - Food is not available 24 hours in the buffet. - The set times for breakfast 07.00 -- 09.30 Lunch 12.00 -- 14.30 Afternoon tea 15.30 -- 16.30 Dinner 18.30 -- 21.00 - IMHO the food was generally good with a fair variety of hot and cold dishes. - I did like the fact that the tables were set with a flower decoration, table mats, fabric serviettes, side plates and the correct amount of cutlery. Dining rooms - Evening Dining is traditional set times and tables -- early sitting is 6.15p.m. and late sitting is 8.30p.m. - Breakfast and Lunch servings are open seating in all 3 main dining rooms. Breakfast 08.00 -- 10.00 and Lunch 12.00 -- 14.00 - There are 3 dining rooms -- the largest, Ballindalloch Restaurant, is on deck 6 and the 2 smaller ones, Avon and Spey, are on deck 10. - There are several tables for 2 available. - I found the service to be efficient without being intrusive. - The menus were varied and always included a 'British traditional favourite'. - Food quality varied but I never had a bad meal. There are no speciality restaurants. Entertainment - There is no casino but there were a couple of Roulette and Black Jack tables available in the evening in one corner of the Lido Bar on deck 8. - The 'Morning Light Pub' was the main bar with comfortable seats and musical entertainment in the evenings. - There is a large Library with comfortable chairs, a good selection of books available to borrow, British news paper each lunch time and quizzes, crosswords and Sudoku challenges each day.- There is an internet room with computers but we didn't use it so I can't provide any information. - There were a few shops selling jewellery, clothes, cosmetics, alcohol, cigarettes and general items etc. - The Marquee lounge and the Observatory lounge on deck 11 provided quiet areas with good views. - The Neptune Lounge on deck 7 was the main show lounge and had sofas, swivel chairs and small tables. There was a fairly large dance floor which rose up to form a stage for the shows. My DH and I are keen ballroom dancers and we were in heaven.....there was ballroom and sequence dancing every evening and there were dance hosts (4 gentlemen and 1 lady) for people who needed a dance partner. - There were 3 production shows which I thought were among the best I have ever seen on a ship, a comedian who had most of the audience laughing (me included), a singing magician who, in my opinion, was poor and a terrific 'crew talent' show......definitely the best I have seen afloat. - There were 2 formal evenings where probably 70% of the passengers wore formal/semi-formal clothes plus a 'tropical' night and a 'rock and roll' night where approximately 30% of passenger dressed up. - There was a Captain's welcome and a Captain's farewell reception with free drinks and canapes. - There were quizzes, lectures, recitals, card competitions, craft classes, cookery demonstrations, dance lessons etc on sea days. Launderettes Wow!.......I know it is a bit strange to get excited about launderettes but, with creased clothes, modern airline baggage weight restrictions and longer cruises, I find the launderette particularly useful and the 2 on Balmoral are the best I have come across on cruise ships. - There are 2 launderettes -- 1 on deck 3 and 1 on deck 9. - They are both quite spacious rooms and fitted out in a similar pattern. - Each room has 8 front loading washing machines and 8 driers. - Deck 9 has 2 irons and deck 3 has 3 irons. - A wash costs £2 (tokens available from the reception desk) and that includes detergent which is automatically dispensed onto the clothes at the push of a button as the wash cycle starts. - Driers and irons are free. Remember to empty the water condenser at the top left corner of the drier to make drying more efficient. - If the washer door has been closed on an empty machine, there is a yellow tag to pull down on the left corner of the washing machine. - Opening hours are from 08.00 to 23.00 Cabin 5218A inside superior (deck 5 mid-ship) We were pleasantly surprised with the size, layout and comfort of the cabin. We knew when we booked this grade of cabin that the beds would be arranged in an 'L' shape so were quite happy with that. - I found the bed to be reasonably comfortable and the pillows were soft and fluffy which I like. - I found the duvet to be on the heavy side but my DH thought it was a perfect weight....everyone to their own! - I loved the fact that there was a kettle with coffee and tea sachets provided along with sugar, sweetener and milk cartons. It was lovely to have our early morning cuppa and I really don't know why the American cruise lines do not offer this facility on all their ships. - There was ample storage with plenty of drawers and hanging space in the wardrobes. - There was a bucket style chair and small glass table along with a large dressing table. - The safe was in the wardrobe and you input your own number. - The cabin had very good lighting which could be varied to make it darker or lighter. - There is a flat screen TV with BBC news, Sky news and sports channel, a film channel, bridge cam and interactive options -- pay films and access to your OB account. - There are plenty of plug sockets but they are US/European style. I brought an adapter and 4gang extension and this worked well. - I thought the bathroom was a reasonable size compared to our experiences with standard cabins on other cruise lines. - The best thing is the largish shower stall which had ½ glass wall/ ½ shower curtain so NO sticking curtain. The shower power was good and hot water was plentiful. - Toiletries were basic but reasonable quality -- liquid soap on the counter and liquid body wash in the shower. You could request things like shower caps, solid soap etc. - Towels and wash cloths were changed on request. Ports and ships tours. Our ports of call were -- La Rochelle, Getxo (for Bilbao), Aviles and La Coruna We had already visited all the ports except for Aviles. We decided to do 1 ship's tour and that was to Ile de Re just outside La Rochelle. We chose this one because a French friend holidays there regularly and we wanted to see the places he talked about. We also chose this one because it did not have 'compulsory walking' (Fred Olsen's description of their tours contains this information) and I have some mobility problems. - A set of port maps was left in each cabin during our 1st sea day. I thought this was a nice touch. - Ship's tours departed from the Neptune lounge. - All ports were industrial areas La Rochelle The dock is approximately 5 miles from the centre of La Rochelle and is a controlled area. - There was a free shuttle bus to the dock gates but there is nothing to see there and it is a very long walk from there into the town. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - FO ran a shuttle bus into the centre of La Rochelle for £10pp with unlimited transfers. These run from the car park outside the terminal building - The town is easily walkable with some pretty streets, an interesting small harbour area, outdoor cafes and many shops. Unfortunately, many things were closed or opened late as it was the end of the holiday season. - The Ile de Re tour was quite interesting. We saw the best of what was on offer including the Monastery ruins and some pretty fishing villages - La Flotte, Sainte-Marie-de-Re and Saint-Martin-de-Re were the most notable. There was 45 minutes free time in Saint-Martin-de-Re which was definitely not enough to explore the quaint streets and pretty harbour. Getxo and Bilbao Getxo is a thriving suburb of Bilbao and has its own charm. - Again it is an industrial port area so, although you could walk out of the port, it was a long way to the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - There were maps available in there. - FO ran unlimited return shuttle buses into the centre of Getxo for £5pp. The bus stopped 100 metres from the metro station where there are frequent trains into Bilbao. - There is a very nice beach just at the edge of the port. - There is a shopping complex just outside the port. - Getxo centre has cafes and shops. - There are some beautiful and imposing villas along the coast road. We had been to Bilbao twice before when I was more mobile and we had seen the main attractions already -- the Guggenheim Museum, the river front promenade and the Old Town -- so we decided not to do a ship's tour but to get the metro and then make our mind up what to do when we got into town. The metro was easy to use: - Ticket machines have an option to have information displayed in English. - It was €3.20pp return for the 20 minute journey. - We decided to get off at 'Abando' station which was nearest to the Old Town and was a short walk across the river. After coffees and a croissant at a pavement cafe (€3.50 which we thought was extremely good value) we caught the tram (€1.40pp single journey) along the river front to the Guggenheim Museum where we got off and sat in the sun in the park area for a while just enjoying the sunshine and people watching. - We caught the metro back from the San Marmes station We had a lovely few hours for a very reasonable price. Aviles Aviles was a revelation and turned out to be, by far, our favourite port. The old town area was very attractive with some most unusual cafes, little food shops and fabulous arcades. This is a relatively new destination and, I believe that Balmoral was the first cruise ship to use the port earlier in the year. There is a lot of building work going on to extend the dock area. - You cannot walk directly from the ship so there was a free shuttle bus to terminus at the edge of the old town. - The terminus is just a tent with a few chairs and tourist information. - It is quite a long walk from the drop off to the town as you have to cross the river and the railway line by bridge first. - There is a very helpful Tourist Information centre at the beginning of the street which takes you to the Town Hall square. - The streets which radiate from the square are all quaint and there are some beautiful buildings, speciality food shops and gardens. - The newer town is to the right of the old town and has a nice food market and a shopping Mall. - We had beautiful weather and enjoyed sitting out in a cafe and people watching. La Coruna Unfortunately, the weather changed as we got to La Coruna and it became cold and overcast with torrential rain showers. It was also November 1st which is a national holiday in Spain the vast majority of shops and many restaurants were closed. These 2 factors combined to make it a disappointing port for many passengers. Fortunately we had visited La Coruna before and remember it in better weather and as a bustling shopping centre. - The ship docks in walking distance of the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - 2 minutes from the terminal building is a huge shopping mall with cinema, restaurants and upper market shops. - There are lovely walks around the promontory and a beautiful beach at the other side of the peninsula which can be reached by walking about ½mile through the town centre. - The Old Town has a large Town Hall square with many cafes and restaurants. It's approximately 10 minutes walk from the ship. And finally We were so impressed with the Fred Olsen product as a value for money option that we have booked 2 more cruises with them. Balmoral was not the glitziest or most modern ship we have been on but she was one of the friendliest and had many things that we really enjoyed. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
I was in two minds whether or not to write a review about this cruise, however, I have seen quite a bit of negative comment that I believe to be unfair so i want to add my point of view. Let me say from the outset we embarked on December ... Read More
I was in two minds whether or not to write a review about this cruise, however, I have seen quite a bit of negative comment that I believe to be unfair so i want to add my point of view. Let me say from the outset we embarked on December 8th when the whole of the UK was being battered by very high winds and CMV and the crew of the Marc Polo have no control over that. They did flip the itinerary though visiting Antwerp as the first port and Amsterdam as the second so they did all they could to negate the effects of the weather. Embarkation was a breeze and the safety drill had the novelty of the passengers actually going from their muster station and lining up by their assigned lifeboat. We were then inspected by the Deputy Captain which was all a bit different than usual. The staff who were mainly Eastern European were friendly and helpful and were happy to chat with the passengers at quiet time. On the whole the food was very nice, well prepared and nicely served. An exception would be the breakfast in The Restaurant, it was still on a help yourself basis, and, unfortunately on the day we ate in there was only lukewarm. Marco Polo was probably the cleanest cruise ship we have ever been on and cleaning seemed to go on constantly. Entertainment was fair the three shows we saw in the show lounge whilst lacking the glitz of say the P&O show team were enjoyable and entertaining. There has been a suggestion that the whole ship smelled of diesel fuel, if it did then I certainly did not notice it. As for the two ports of call they were what they were two fairly major European Cities in winter, Amsterdam as ever was charming and quaint and Antwerp interesting. I just can't see what prompted such strong criticism of the ship and the cruise. We have cruised quite a bit and feel that what you pay for a cruise must be measured against a passengers expectations. This trip was a bargain and we had the added bonus of a free upgrade to one of the best two cabins on the ship. Overall we found the trip a pleasant winter break and whilst I would be wary of undertaking an Atlantic Voyage on Marco Polo we would certainly consider a Baltic, Fjords or around Britain trip on her. We would certainly Mini/Party Cruise on her. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We cruised from Southampton on the Celebrity Eclipse on the 14th October 2011. Very similar to the Equinox. Staff excellent from the Captain to the Cabin staff, ship usual Celebrity quality, well organised Embarkation and Arrival home, ... Read More
We cruised from Southampton on the Celebrity Eclipse on the 14th October 2011. Very similar to the Equinox. Staff excellent from the Captain to the Cabin staff, ship usual Celebrity quality, well organised Embarkation and Arrival home, Food in all areas was of the normal high quality.Weather very good for October, everyone happy? Yes BUT someone in Celebrity Head Office probably an Accountant (only looking at the bottom line), obviously had no idea about how the passengers would react to outrageous drink prices throughout the ship and being charged for visits to The Bridge, The Kitchen, The Engine Room and other on board activities. $4.50 for 1 litre of water. Wine in the Moonlight Sonata dining room at a 400% mark up on UK prices.We felt sorry for the Somelier who were very helpful and trying to please. We all expect to pay corkage in a restaurant or bar but where we find unreasonable prices we can obviously go elsewhere, this of course is not possible on board. Two years ago on the Equinox drink prices were not cheap but were much more reasonable. It was very noticeable that on the Eclipse in the theatre, restaurants and cafes many of the staff who normally sold drinks were walking around trying to sell drinks unsuccessfully. By the last four days the price of Trips to the Galley, the Bridge and the Engine Room were greatly reduced. This may sound like a whinge, but hopefully Celebrity will take this as a friendly report and all future cruisers will be aware of the situation. On the entertainment front, just a gentle hint. The majority of passengers on our cruise were 'mature' but a couple of the entertainers seemed to be unaware of this and their content was often extremely offensive and crude and was making fun of the very age group they were entertaining. On the last night approximately 15% of the audience walked out before the end of the show. The last night was particularly bad when the ventriloquist attempted comedy of a crude nature, much to the embarrassment of the some of the ladies in the audience. He should have stuck to what he is good at. Comments like 'wouldn't you like a bit of Yorkshire in you' are unacceptable unless you are in a working mans club not directed at an 80 year old lady. Dru we love you but please 'GET a GRIP' In spite of this we will sail with you again, if you will have us? !! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We decided to travel to Southampton by coach from Liverpool, glad we did as the traffic congestion on arrival in Southampton was horrendous and I think we may have panicked if we had been on our own in the car. Check in was easy although ... Read More
We decided to travel to Southampton by coach from Liverpool, glad we did as the traffic congestion on arrival in Southampton was horrendous and I think we may have panicked if we had been on our own in the car. Check in was easy although there was a delay of about 20 minutes at security which was not a problem to us. The ship was absolutely sensational, clean, bright and modern, our stateroom and attendant were excellent. We ate in the Moonlight Sonata on the late sitting (we'll go select dining next time)and because the quality of the food was so good decided not to pay the excessive supplement to eat in one of the speciality restaurants, even though people we spoke who had visited them gave a glowing report (but not worth the supplement) We thought the entertainment was first class as did most of the people we spoke to, the comedian from Wales was particularly good as was the ships dancers and musicians. A special mention for Dru the cruise director, he is so enthusiastic and obviously enjoys his job (buy a new joke book Dru). The bad bit!...The drinks are so very expensive, I have never seen so many tables in a restaurant without a bottle of wine at dinner, the sommeliers were almost redundant. All in all though, this was a great holiday on a fantastic ship with first class staff providing excellent service,and met some lovely people, well done Celebrity, see you soon... Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I am going to make two reviews for this cruise. One as an 'adult' couple travelling and the other one based on travelling with our children and grandchildren. Review 2 has already been published! Two years ago we took a 5 ... Read More
I am going to make two reviews for this cruise. One as an 'adult' couple travelling and the other one based on travelling with our children and grandchildren. Review 2 has already been published! Two years ago we took a 5 night Mediterranean cruise with RCI out of Malaga on the Navigator of the Seas. This time we did a 4 night short cruise to Portugal on Adventure of the Seas. I have to say how sorry I am to see the drop in standards and quality in such a short period. Embarkation was simple and well organised as last time and we were on board and having lunch in the Windjammer by 12.30. Ground staff at Mlaga port were very helpful. Disembarkation was equally good with my request for a later time being given with no problems at all. Cabins were ready by the time we had finished lunch so we went down to start unpacking. The suitcase hadn't arrived by quite late and despite asking several people and I eventually had to go and find it. I did this because everyone else in the party had theirs and I thought mine may have been left behind. Happily it hadn't. The cabin was fine and very clean and was well looked after during the cruise by our attendant. On arrival the balcony was all wet and the chairs and little table had not been dried so you couldn't sit out there whilst waiting for the cases. I didn't take shampoo, body lotions etc as last time these were supplied in the cabin - sadly no longer! The cabin steward was very nice and found some for me the next day. There would have been no problem to take my own had I known about it before. Also shame we only got 'towel animals' one night - I really liked that touch on the last cruise. The ship generally is in good condition and kept very clean. Lifts were always very busy so walked the stairs most of the time. As we were with the family we didn't get to see the shows but the ice show, which we all went to, was excellent (missed that on Navigator). Played in the casino one evening and broke even which was good. Spent some time in the lobby bar and danced a bit to Azucar Band which we enjoyed. Many of the areas on the ship are split into smoking on one side and no smoking on the other. This is something that some other reviewers may not be aware of. Whilst dancing on the no smoking area of the dance floor, two people with cigarettes in hand, came and started dancing. They were very quickly told by members of the band to move to the other section which was for smokers. I had no problems with cigarette smoke during the cruise (and I'm a very sensitive reformed non smoker!!) and it wasn't even too bad in the casino. The Spanish people on the cruise were very nice and certainly not rude or pushy. In fact the only time I was pushed a bit was in the Windjammer by a British lady. There was certainly no pushing or shoving in the lifts or anywhere else that I saw. Bearing in mind it was a Spanish bank holiday weekend and Halloween, the majority of people on the ship were probably Spanish. I loved the fact that dress codes were adhered to and on Formal night there was some very beautifully dressed people walking around and lots of people in amazing Halloween costumes (and I'm not just talking children here!!) For me the biggest disappointment was the food in the Main Dining Room. 2 years ago we came home raving about the food, how hot it always was, the quality, the choice, and the great service. Sadly the same could not be said on this cruise. The food was generally tepid, bland and choices were more limited. Some evenings we struggled to find something to order and ended up with the good old Sirloin steak standby. There was a beef dish each evening, which members of our table ordered on different evenings, which was basically the same dish with a different name. Very little fish options but must say the desserts were great. Did however miss the Baked Alaska on formal night dinner. Our waiter was actually a bit sad. He seemed to have problems with whatever we wanted to order if it had even the slightest deviation from the menu item. I actually decided in the end that maybe he just didn't understand English very well. Constantly reminding him of my daughter's seafood allergy seemed to confuse him. She also doesn't eat nuts -â€" which we told him -â€" and when the cheese cake arrived covered in nuts we asked him 'Are those nuts on top?' His reply was yes and then he just walked away!! No, 'Is there a problem, would you like something else or one without nuts!' On the plus side, Oscar his assistant, did everything possible to help us within his limited capacity. We had a 7 bottle wine package booked but it always took quite a while to get the previous night's unfinished bottle - once the waiter finally understood there should be some left or to get a new bottle to the table. Also there was only a buffet option in the Main Dining Room at lunch time which is a shame as I really believe you need a proper alternative to the Windjammer buffet which was always crazy busy. In the Windjammer the food was fairly standard buffet. Plenty of choice and nice desserts, but the floor staff were not very helpful and unless you wanted to buy drinks, didn't seemed very interested in anything you needed. On the disembarkation morning they had obviously run low on orange juice and actually served it watered down! Personally it would be better to have said 'sorry we've run out'. Last impressions, like first impressions are remembered. In general I would say that there were not too many happy and smiling crew members on this cruise. Although the staff at Guest Relations were always helpful and smiling, as was our cabin steward. Weather was lovely. General facilities and activities were plentiful with things to suite all ages and tastes. Appreciated the Crown and Anchor discount voucher book. We were docked overnight in Lisbon. The area where the ship docked was awful with no direction signs to the town centre. There was a RCI shuttle service into the centre which cost $6 each way, so if you were a family and wanted to go there both days...... There was a nicer docking area right near the main square (saw some other big ships there) and if RCI couldn't get docked there then the shuttle should either have been complimentary or at least 50% cheaper. It was also a long way away. We took a bus to the main square but decided to walk back and it took us 90 minutes! (just as well we like walking!). Our 3rd time back in Lisbon and have to say it's a very nice place visit. Gibraltar was better. Well signed for directions to town and just a 15 minute walk away. If this review sounds a bit negative it's because I believe if you're not honest the review serves no purpose. All in all, we had a really nice break away and I would not discount travelling on Adventure of the Seas again. Just that next time I would go with lower expectations. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to ... Read More
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to facilitate such matters).So,this meant no stop off at the French port of Hendaye,disappointment for some but i was okay with it specially as F.Olsen had reimbursed us £50pp of OBC,which took care of my bar bill! Pleasant weather most of the time, though a bit rough for some as we sailed through the Bay of Biscay,lots of sick bags available on this day plus we heard the doc's surgery was busy handing out sea sickness jabs (always take your own pills).After a couple of days sailing we eventually got to Lisbon,a wonderful vibrant city.Took the Big red bus tour here (15 euro pp) rather than a ships tour of the city (£40pp) and the bus stop is right outside the terminal gate,they did not advertise that in the brochure and only at the very end of the port talk (wonder why). However we did take a ships tour in Vigo,our next port of call. Seeing it was Sunday and all but the cafes were closed though the main attraction today was the Aircraft carrier, Spain's Juan Carlos was in town and the Spanish public were queuing for literally miles to get on it as it was open to them today. Our trip was okay though as usual way too overpriced for a view of the harbour and city from a high vantage point and a trip to Bayona were we saw some ancient castle/fortress which now houses a 4* hotel (with 5* prices for drinks,2.80 euros for a small coke!) Next up was La Coruna,did our own thing again, a free shuttle bus through the port to the port entrance was laid on,then we took a leisurely walk around the quaint old town,then into the shopping district where we stopped off for a coffee and watched the world go by.Next day was the port of Getxo for Bilbao,took a ships tour here,again our first stop was to a high vantage point to get a panoramic view of the city,this view was quite spectacular.A couple of stops in the city to a sacred church and then into the old town centre,again quaint, and very picturesque finishing off with a look only at the carbuncle of a building that is the Guggenheim museum. After each trip the weather was very good for a spot of R&R on deck 11 with its warm Pool and even warmer jacuzzis and if you did not fancy a 4 course lunch there was soup and sandwiches. We dined in the Spey restaurant were the food was excellent,service slow at times,as the waiters had a "lot on". Breakfast taken mainly in the Palms self service,they do a wonderful ham omelette,cooked fresh to your liking here. Entertainment, could not fault the visiting "pro" acts though the Balmoral singers and dancers were ordinary,probably the worse we've seen on a cruise but hey. The other entertainment staff were good,thought Juliet had a great voice in the wonderful crew show. All in all a very good cruise would recommend to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We booked a 3 night mini cruise, to celebrate a special birthday. 2 sisters ,one of whom is disabled and uses a mobility scooter, and myself.We had been looking forward to our cruise for some time. Embarkation was exceptional, never ... Read More
We booked a 3 night mini cruise, to celebrate a special birthday. 2 sisters ,one of whom is disabled and uses a mobility scooter, and myself.We had been looking forward to our cruise for some time. Embarkation was exceptional, never boarded so fast, cabin was lovely, we had been up-graded, so a wonderful start. Our cabin steward was lovely, very helpful. Things went down hill fast after this really. food was good in the buffet, but as a vegetarian i struggled in the main restaurant and ended up eating the same thing on 3 nights! We decided against a buffet breakfast and went to one of the main restaurants, with waiter service, or not?. we waited for over 20 mins for our order to be taken, 30 mins for our coffee, our (cold) food eventually arrived, after 50 mins, we complained, and ate in the buffet after. we were unable to dock at St Peters Port, i understand this is a common enough problem, but it seems that other cruise lines , dock else where? we had a sea day instead, with lots on offer, such as bingo, not to our taste.Such a shame on a 3 day trip. We checked our on ship accounts on the last day, my disabled sisters was wrong, we went to the customer service desk, and were told this would be put right, we checked again after our meal, it was still wrong, we returned to the desk ! this happened 4 times, and we also qued in the morning before leaving. It would appear that Princess ask most passengers to take off there own luggage, i had never come across this before, and the results were mayhem, we were unable to get in the lifts, and did not have the option of using the stairs with a disabled scooter. Luggage was strewn over the entire ship, everyone was grumpy, great end to a crap holiday, but worse was to happen. On attempting to leave the ship, chaos reigned, we qued, for ages, then at the exit we were stopped as my sisters account had been flagged, we felt like criminals, i have never been so embarrassed in my entire life, we were dragged to one side while a phone call was made, and we were then allowed to leave! Shambles! I have complained to Princess, i have been told 'they hope to learn from the errors made' Why has it taken me so long to write this? my sister has only just had the money taken, replaced in her account. I have crusied many times before and never had such an awful experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
had high expectations of this ship, but sadly we were dissapointed in the main. for us one of the cruise experience highlights is the food/wine in the evening & we were badly let down by so-called award-winnig chefs who ... Read More
had high expectations of this ship, but sadly we were dissapointed in the main. for us one of the cruise experience highlights is the food/wine in the evening & we were badly let down by so-called award-winnig chefs who couldn't win much for the 3 star food with proper wine list only provided on last night! Token Veg with main course & potatoes in addition to potatoes done differently to add. 5 a day not easy on the azura! In the main dry British food with no sauces hardly (i can get this at home) expected special food but just run of the mill staples with some meat & a few fish options - bread potatoes & ice cream - (that'll fill em up!) so off we went i night to try the " Italian" restaurant alternative.Like the rest of ship staff were Indian so had heard good report of this secret option Ital;ian food by Indian staff? Well Brushetta was basically Cheese on toast I asked for Spaghetti Pescatore but waiter did not understand this so when I said with seaffod it worked - the ish was creamy & very little seafood & not nice so asked for alternative - Napolita just Tomato sauce mmm a child may be happy with this?? but we expected more! Entertainment mainly 2 comedians taking rise out of front row audience was quite funny as long as it wasn't you in the hot seat! Young dancers theme nights very good The free shuttle buses to the destination ports were good Cabin Steward exceptional from Goa thing is he left when we did for a better offer? from Royal Carribean, a wise man! Cabin Toilet faulty flushing experience awaiting P & O response on this & hope they cure the fault for future passengers soon. Overall a 3 star experience the food being particularly poor spoilt it for us compared with Princess food this was not great/ Sam old films showing & timing of films inside not right for inclement weather hardly anything to do quizzes were low on the ground. more Entertainment direction & forethought needed. Get tips from the Cruse director/staff on Independence they were funny themselves AND kept you occupied! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We enjoy traveling with our children on holiday breaks as it is a special time given our dual profession family. All of us are music and history buffs, and we love the outdoors, hiking and biking or being on the water. Most of our ... Read More
We enjoy traveling with our children on holiday breaks as it is a special time given our dual profession family. All of us are music and history buffs, and we love the outdoors, hiking and biking or being on the water. Most of our holidays through the years have involved rented apartments, flats or houses in North America or Europe. Hotels are not usually to our liking. But Mom still has to shop and cook, at least some of the time! Restaurants are not easy for kids in Europe for every meal. European hotels are extremely expensive for more than two, and meal plans do not exist. After renovating our house and a busy working year, we booked this cruise fairly last minute. I asked for Holland America having sailed before in the early 90s, and wanting an authentic and smaller cruise feel. We had never seen England, Scotland or Northern Europe, having stayed previously in France, Italy. The Eurodam exceeded all my expectations. The areas we used, including our staterooms, were meticulously clean and kept in that condition throughout the cruise. The bathroom and provided amenities were wonderful. The beds were fresh and very firm, sheets were changed during the cruise, the cabin steward was excellent. We had already been in England and Holland for 10 days so we used the laundry service, exceptional, every T-shirt was ironed. The turnaround was less than 24 hours. (Compared to many hotels where we have stayed in Europe with NO laundry service, that is why we rent flats). Meals were excellent, in fact, outstanding. The Lido restaurant and Lido grill were especially wonderful with teens/preteens as everyone found something they liked for every meal and snack - including the requisite "healthy" servings of fruit and vegetables that the physician mom decrees are necessary. The formal restaurant on level 2 we visited together on formal nights and some nights just the two of us while the kids dined at the Lido. This because the meal is 3 or 4 courses and lasts a long time. This is how we like to eat and enjoy a superb meal but if you remain in Type A mode during a cruise be prepared - it is leisurely, you won't be served quickly and scooted out by servers clearing your table. The views to the ocean are unbelievable from the formal dining room windows as this is deck 2 near the sea. I particularly loved the lamb burgers at the Lido grill. The chefs/servers in the Lido restaurants (they cook right in front of you behind serving counters) were cheerful, very professional, and bent over backwards to give passengers whatever they needed/wanted. Four to six different "menu" areas throughout the Lido restaurant and all right from the grill/pot onto your plate. Truely, the food was exceptional. The views from the Lido restaurant (deck 9) were also amazing at every port (we visited 9 ports). The Lido pool/hot tub area was chic yet fun and never crowded; we went every day. We spent every evening and our whole days at sea in the Crow's Nest and Exploration Cafe at the top/front of the ship. We played chess and board games there, read books from the library (very fine), listened to the guitarist (very fine), and watched the scenery go by. Bar service and boutique coffee bar there. We all felt right at home. One of my favourite parts of a Holland America ship is the Promenade Deck. This retains all the flavour of a cruise ship of old with wooden railings and deck. It encircles the ship so you can actually walk and excercise outside, lovely on evenings with sunsets. Many ships have done away with this concept and are like floating hotels/casinos - the promenade deck is more our style. I used the spa and it was really lovely, great service. This ship has very little shopping, again I was not looking to shop on board. We spent every day all day outside at our ports of call, which were amazing beautiful cities where we could walk, shop and explore and often, hike on our own. We did prepare and research all our ports of call ahead of time; essentially we created our own itineraries and had the local bus/train/other maps and schedules ahead of time. We booked our own shore excursion at Invergorden through a local outdoor oriented touring company since all the exciting areas were inland and Scotland rental car agencies are not open on Sundays. If you have a family, we suggest doing this planning ahead as you will maximize enjoyment when in port. Ian, the ship's guide, gave fascinating commentaries as we entered and left port. Having read many commentaries, I would recommend folks read the information provided by the cruise line before you book, and certainly before you leave. We knew that alcoholic drinks were extra (there is a wine plan), all HAL ship excursions are extra, HAL adds $11 per person per day service gratuity (which you can actually modify at the end if you felt your service was not superb but ours was). But many things friends have told us were extra on their cruises were not extra on ours (extra snacks mid day for hungry teens such as pizza and ice cream, regular drinks such as iced tea and 5 varieties of juices), movies etc. We did not expect to have such fine musical entertainment as we are not "show people" - we very much enjoyed the daily string quartet and the guitar singer in the Crow's nest, and the jazz trio. Lastly, as noted in "Traveller" magazine and doctors travel journals, a cruise is in fact the most economical full service way to visit Europe with family. If you have not been over the pond before (we have been four times) it is crazy expensive and quite difficult to book if you are traveling around, and restaurants can be a big challenge. On a cruise, your room travels with you to many fascinating places, you can get back on the ship if the kids are tired, security is phenomenal, food is "North American" and kid friendly but varied including fine European dishes, you have a pool, everyone is happy and MOM GETS TO REST. (Dad did too). You can safely go out for formal dinner and leave young teens in the room or secure kid/teen places. Essentially, you get on, and forget rental cars, endless traveling and restaurant reservations - you simply float along and enjoy. Do it. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Just coming back from a "best of Britain" tour this is a review of a short 2-night cruise from Hamburg to Southampton. With little exceptions which nevertheless were noteworthy the QM2 delivered everything we expected. That its ... Read More
Just coming back from a "best of Britain" tour this is a review of a short 2-night cruise from Hamburg to Southampton. With little exceptions which nevertheless were noteworthy the QM2 delivered everything we expected. That its the most beautiful ship around is of cause something no one needs to repeat too much. Its just the truth.Before embarkation we got a note that we would be upgraded to a deck 6 balcony cabin, which came as a nice surprise. Embarkation was smooth, and while I was an hour early, and my girlfriend an hour late, everything went fast and without a problem. The stateroom was nice, well serviced, clean and sizable enough, though the enclosed balcony isn't too useful other than for the occasional 5 minutes to have a look at the sea. A free-of-charge Demi bottle of champagne was waiting. I had a late lunch in Kings court shortly after embarking. While the food was very good, the design and layout of Kings Court is clearly the worst public space on board, not much better looking than a shopping Mall´s eatery, and unfortunately the most centrally located one. Here Cunard must do something as its not at all of the standard of the otherwise grand public rooms. Leaving Hamburg was a great experience, pleasure boats following and thousands of people lining the shores as we passed the grand Elbchausee and beautiful Blankenese suburb on one side and the harbour and the Airbus factory with a number of new A380s on the other. Best was the hundred or so bedsheets being waved by guests and staff of the Jacob luxury hotel, including playing "Rule Britannia".Dinner at the stunning Britannia was a fine experience though the staff appeared a bit stressed and the glasses showed stains from the dishwasher - an absolute no go on a ship called "Queen Mary 2". Food was excellent though the wish for a Caesar salad (gosh, how exotic is that?) was turned down. Also the space near the windows on the upper level was somewhat limited, downstairs at breakfast it was better.Afterwards we went for champagne to the beautiful Commodore´s Club underneath the bridge. As the windows were sadly blinded so not to irritate the bridge we chose to sit down in the intimate boardroom next to it.One of the nicest places on board QM2 is the library and bookshop. We also enjoyed cocktails in the G32 with an excellent band playing. The tiered decks are wonderful and so much nicer than on a normal cruise block of flats. Walking on them at night with the fantastic red funnel above is quite a unique experience. The North Sea was flat as a Hyde Park and we felt no moving of the ship whatsoever during our two days aboard. The (German) lectures were nice, but to our disappointment the planetarium was closed. I found the time to chat with a former Formula 1 driver, as most of the ships company was of the friendly and entertaining side.A very nice place and something that is rare on cruise ships is the space above the bows with the spare propeller.One thing to criticize is the quality of the repainting of the ship in places. Its obviously done by people who haven't the highest standards of working ethics. Crudely over painted seals were especially seen on the enclosed walkway above the bridge, but also elsewhere in open places.We slept like babies despite slightly above expectation propulsion noise, the beds were very comfortable and we were really sad when we had to say goodbye to the Queen. If it would not have been for the US visa requirements we probably may have stayed aboard until New York and would have dropped the week of England holidays waiting for us (which turned out to be great too though).This "glorious ferry" short cruise was certainly not our last time on the QM2. We do hope that Cunard improves on the little shortfalls mentioned which do not do the QM2 right and are disturbing more than the same things would do on any ordinary ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
I travelled 11-19 Dec 2010 on Viking Legend's Christmas Market Cruise on the Danube. I wish I'd read previous reviews...particularly the one which spoke of the ship breaking down. We experienced the same. On the first day of ... Read More
I travelled 11-19 Dec 2010 on Viking Legend's Christmas Market Cruise on the Danube. I wish I'd read previous reviews...particularly the one which spoke of the ship breaking down. We experienced the same. On the first day of sailing the extraction pumps failed and flooded all the bathrooms, then within an hour, the power went out and the boat stopped. As we were doing the Vienna to Nuremburg "up river" cruise...we started floating back down the river. The rest of the "cruise" was bus trips...some 4 hours long to reach our ports. The service staff was very accommodating and I'm sure the company was out quite a bit of money (extra bus expenses, providing lunches in local restaurants rather than on board, an overnight in a Nuremburg hotel the final night), however, we were out the experience promised. The company offered a 30% discount on a future cruise (apparently worth approx. $550), if used within a year, as compensation for us. My travelling companions were on a once in lifetime trip...there will be no compensation for them. As for me, I may do another river cruise, but not within a year. I did not think the food was very good. Particularly the dinners. The service, again, though was very good. The rooms were adequate. The excursions were nice, though shortened. Apparently there are issues with the "green" engines. I would not risk this boat again! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My husband and I, with a great deal of luck and a little bit of juggling, managed to make it to Basel on December 21st to begin our Christmas Market Rhine River Cruise, which because of the timing did not include any German Markets. It ... Read More
My husband and I, with a great deal of luck and a little bit of juggling, managed to make it to Basel on December 21st to begin our Christmas Market Rhine River Cruise, which because of the timing did not include any German Markets. It wasn't a huge loss because we did shop at the Basel, Lucerne, and Strasbourg Christmas Markets and hit the "Mother of all Markets" on the Champs-Elysees when we arrived in Paris, for our Part II Vacation. What follows is our reflections on the river cruise part of our holiday and is an attempt to provide an honest and balanced account of our experience aboard the River Queen. THE GOOD The River Queen is a well appointed boat with very nice spaces, including a comfortable lounge with a cozy fireplace. Compared to cruise ships, it is very compact which means the distance from your cabin to the dining room can be all of 70 feet. The cabins are attractive and the floor to ceiling windows in ours were great for viewing the lovely scenery rolling by. The bed was really comfortable, the towels plush and the bathrobe generously cut. The food, for the most part, was good and on a few occasions very good. Lunches were more appealing than the dinners, which tended to be very drawn out affairs, reflective perhaps of a wait staff which was stretched too thinly. I would recommend the soups and the vegetarian entrees, including the stuffed crepe, the onion tart and the rosti. I especially appreciated the fact that the menus reflected the cuisine of the region. Tour guides for the included excursions were enthusiastic in sharing their knowledge of the various cities and the rich history behind each. You could partake of these guided tours or go off on your own. They did not seem to offer different tours for those passengers with mobility concerns. All of the included tours seemed to move at a fairly brisk pace. The extra cost excursions reflected good value for the price charged. They were really enjoyable, especially the trip to Lucerne and the tour of Marksburg Castle. We participated in all of the extra tours and we were glad we did. Onboard entertainment was surprisingly good. We were told not to expect much on a small boat but the performers, who we had the pleasure to experience, were marvellous. They ranged from a lovely woman who lectured about German Christmas traditions, an Edith Piaf type singer accompanied by an accordion player, a trio consisting of two violins and a guitar who performed folk music and classical music and finally, this wonderful woman who, accompanied by her husband on the keyboard, sang everything from country music to polkas to opera to swing - just fantastic. THE BAD The storage in the cabins left a lot to be desired. There was no long section in the wardrobe to hang dresses or suits and the shelves were awkwardly placed. I would strongly suggest that future passengers buy a few over the door hangers. It would alleviate some of the problems we encountered. When we called to confirm the docking location of the boat on the day of our departure, we were advised that the location had changed and we were given a different address by the Uniworld agent. We arrived at this spot along the river with a cab driver who was quite eager to unload us and our luggage on a deserted road with no boat in sight. We can laugh about it now. We gave him the original address in our cruise documents and the ship was there. Sixty francs later we were schlepping our luggage down a winding ramp and up to a boat that looked empty of passengers and crew. Not a soul was in sight, in the lobby or behind the reception counter. We pressed a button which opened the door to the ship, lugged our bags in and called out, "Hellllll-oooo-oooo!" A crew member did appear within a few seconds of our call and we marvelled at the difference between security onboard cruise ships and river boats. Anyone could have boarded the boat and stowed away in a number of places. It was all very strange and somewhat unsettling. One of the things that I found most disappointing on my River Queen cruise was the inconsistent service I encountered. Some of the crew were outstanding and seemed to really enjoy their jobs. Gabor, the bartender was a delight, always smiling and pleasant, greeting passengers by name and remembering their favourite drinks. Any request, and my requests are always politely made, would be met cheerfully. Sabina, our cabin attendant, was always cordial when we met and kept the cabin spotlessly clean. There was only one female member of the wait staff in the dining room and I can't recall her name, but she reflected this same level of professionalism and efficiency and was so good at her job. Unfortunately, this was not the case with all of the wait staff who managed to straddle that thin line between aloof and downright surly. One night, I decided to try an alternate dining option which included fish or chicken. When I asked the waiter how the chicken was prepared he looked at me with great impatience and said, "I don't know." Isn't that the job of a waiter, to know? Wouldn't the correct response be to say, " If you give me a moment I'll go and check with the chef to see how it is prepared." When you would ask questions, this league of waiters, and there were about half a dozen of them, would either nod or shake their heads as though uttering an answer would be a terrible waste of their energy. I was puzzled as to how the dining room manager could not see this and correct it. THE UGLY When we have cruised on ships in the past, we have had few occasions to deal with officers or management and on the odd occasion when we have had a concern it has been dealt with quickly and competently. I am very sorry to say that this was not the case on the River Queen. The first incident had to do with the hotel mangager. On the second day we had no hot water from our shower. We reported it and the officer at reception said she would look into it. The next day it was fine and we asked another passenger if they had the problem with hot water and the person said that he, too, was without hot water on the second day. A few days later, I was without hot water again. This time the hotel manager told me I didn't know how to operate the nozzle. I explained that this was not the case and I felt it might be a hot water shortage in certain cabins at peak hours. I left frustrated and when it happened the next day again, my husband insisted that the hotel manager come to room and see for himself. He arrived with the boat's engineer and they insisted it was still a problem with the faucet in the shower. When my husband turned on the faucet in the sink where there was no hot water either, they simply gave him this blank stare and shrugged. I fully expected a bottle of wine with a letter apologizing for the inconvenience, to be waiting for us in our cabin when returned from sight-seeing that day, but there was nothing. There was no follow-up to any of the three complaints of no hot water at any time, during the cruise. They never apologized for the inconvenience. The second incident had to do with the cruise director. During one excursion my voxbox, a device that transmits the voice of the tour guide to your earphones, was not working. Again, the cruise director, after trying an alternate set of earphones, just shrugged and told me to stay close to the guide so that I could hear. When I suggested that he should test the voxboxes before the bus leaves the area of the boat so that he could get replacements if they malfunctioned, he was pretty nonresponsive. Again, no apology. On another excursion, when he lost part of the group, I urged him to follow from the back and send someone ahead with the directions, he pretty much ignored me and my advice. He set a pace and never looked back to see if the passengers were with him. He just seemed unaware or indifferent. His job was to introduce the talent in the evenings and he did so. However, I don't ever remember him coming up to the front of the lounge after the performance was over to thank them and lead a round of applause. This was an individual who really lacked polish and style, as well as some basic organizational skills. THE VERDICT I enjoyed many aspects of this river cruise. I liked the itinerary and the intimacy of a ship of this small size. The passengers were friendly and there was a casual feel to the whole experience. You could dress up for dinner if you wanted to or you could wear a nice pair of pants and a sweater and you'd be good to go. However, the inconsistent service and the issues involving the cruise director and hotel manager left a bad taste in my mouth. My husband is not opposed to going on another Uniworld cruise and thinks that perhaps any of the negatives we encountered could very well be unique to the particular ship and the crew. I, on the other hand, think that there are so many other lines out there, why not try them. After this cruise, I would be hard pressed to recommend Uniworld to friends or family. River cruises I would recommend to anyone! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
First timers with Fred Olsen Line This was our 12th cruise and the first one with Fred Olsen on the Balmoral.We selected this cruise because we wanted to sail from Dover/Southampton and avoid the present problems associated with flying. ... Read More
First timers with Fred Olsen Line This was our 12th cruise and the first one with Fred Olsen on the Balmoral.We selected this cruise because we wanted to sail from Dover/Southampton and avoid the present problems associated with flying. The checking in procedure was brilliant, we were invited for lunch on the Balmoral prior to departure which was a lovely touch and were in our junior balcony suite with our luggage waiting by 2.30pm. The size (more cupboard and drawer space than any other ship ever),decor,cleanliness and layout of the cabin was very good and the bath tub with shower was an added bonus. The balcony also was larger than most of the ones on other ships. Our stewardess was very helpful on the few occasion's we asked for something and the fresh flowers and fruit placed in our cabin made us feel special. Although the in-service cabin menu had a limited selection, when we did order food it was delivered very quickly and was excellent. In cabin tea and coffee making facilities was another great service not often supplied by cruise liners Our request to change our evening dining to 2nd sitting and to have a table for 2 was done immediately. We dined in the Avon restaurant which had wall to ceiling windows which made the outlook breathtaking. The food was very good,the menu changed daily and there was sufficient variety to suit everyone.This high quality food was served in all three restaurants. Our waiters (Nestor and Roland) were from the Philippines and they gave excellent service, were courteous,efficient and sometimes very funny. The main reason we selected this cruise was the itinerary as there were many ports of call we had never visited especially the ones in Scotland. We booked our excursions prior to departure via the internet. All excursions started and finished on time and were good value for money. My husband and I are in our early 70's and are both in good health, it appeared that over half the passengers were aged over 60 years and a number had mobility problems. Fred Olsen crew were marvelous to those passengers who needed assistance on the excursions especially when the trips needed tenders to get off and on the Balmoral. No wonder many of the passengers are repeat cruisers. The evening entertainment was excellent and as well as the two formal evenings there was also a "western evening" where the crew put on a show and a "British evening" with a sing a long and lots of flag waving. There was no casino as such on board just one blackjack table and a roulette table but these did not appear to be very popular anyway. This is the only cruise line we have travelled with who have not automatically deducted gratuities from your on-board account but allow the passenger to decide the remuneration. This in fact resulted in us giving more to the ones who had given us a good service. Also all drinks were as cheap as chips!. What wonderful value for money Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
As background, my wife and I have just recently entered our early 60s, we've been married for 32 years, and we've cruised fourteen times since 1977. Our first ten cruises were on progressively "smaller" ocean-going ... Read More
As background, my wife and I have just recently entered our early 60s, we've been married for 32 years, and we've cruised fourteen times since 1977. Our first ten cruises were on progressively "smaller" ocean-going vessels, and the last four, (one in each of the past four years), have been Europe Uniworld river cruises. Although we really liked each of our ocean cruises, we've decided we really enjoy the Uniworld format/product the best. (Note: From what I've researched online and read on CC, I'm pretty sure most of the Europe river cruise companies that market to Americans are pretty similar. We've always decided upon our itinerary first, then availability/included amenities and excursions/pricing, with an extra nod to Uniworld because we know the product. In the final decision, we've chosen Uniworld each time). We booked our own air, on Air France, so we could pick our departure/return/routing. Both outbound and return flights were direct between Washington, DC Dulles and Paris CDG. Our outbound flight departed (as something different for us) at 10:00 PM, and arrived around 11:00 AM the next morning in Paris. (No wondering what to do at our Europe ship-departure destination like we've had upon arrival at 07:00 AM on prior cruises, with ship cabin availability not until mid-afternoon). Uniworld includes no-extra-charge transfers to/from the ship if you arrive and depart within a reasonable window on the same day of arrival/departure along with everyone else. As we've experienced before, one of the most frustrating parts of any cruise is the gathering-up of passengers from different arriving flights, walking to the transfer bus with luggage, and then waiting aboard a stuffy, non-running bus until enough passengers fill up the bus to make the drive to the ship. The bus delivered us to the ship in less than thirty minutes, with the ship moored on the Seine near the Citroen Quay, with the Eiffel Tower on our side of the river in plain view from the ship. River Baroness is very well maintained, and was quite up to our expectations compared with our prior Uniworld cruises. All of the public spaces were decked out in Christmas decorations, including individual Christmas stockings hung on every cabin door. There are two main/indoor passenger decks, accessible by either a fairly-steep straight staircase between the decks, or a second spiral staircase between Reception on the main deck and the dining room below. There is no elevator, but there was one of those motorized gliding stairs chairs between the two indoor decks, and another outdoors between the main deck and the upper Sun deck. It was so cold this week, not many people went up on the Sun deck to sit or even to stroll or exercise. There is a fairly large protected/covered area up on the Sun deck, immediately behind the wheel house. Passengers are only permitted to smoke on the Sun deck, so the covered area was rarely utilized by non-smokers because this was the area where the few cigar and cigarette smokers congregated. The ship had Internet access available on one PC in the area between Reception and the coffee bar, and wireless capabilities in the public rooms if you brought your own netbook. At the beginning of our week, the Internet access was described by staff as sporadic, so it was no-extra-charge for the week. I found it to work pretty well when the ship was stationary, but slow and/or unreliable underway. When we first walked into our cabin, (they're all identical on both passenger cabin decks of Baroness), it seemed very "compact" compared to our standard cabins we'd had previously on River Duchess and River Queen. Turns out it was an optical illusion. After unpacking our two behemoth checked soft side cases and carry-on cases, there was a place for everything. There are shelves on both sides of the bed, running from the floor to the ceiling. There's a small (at most three feet wide) closet for hanging garments with three drawers in the bottom, and a small cabin-key-lockable safe for valuables. Along with a large drawer at the foot of each side of the bed and a long shelf over the entire width of the bed, we were easily able to stow everything we brought. We were comfortable in no time. The bathroom was also "compact", especially the shower. Although the shower had terrific water pressure and nice amenities, (and I'm of "average" height/weight), every time I was in the 24" x 32" shower, I remembered the scene in the movie "Tommy Boy" when (huge) actor Chris Farley was trying to change clothes in a tiny airplane bathroom. We really had no problems getting used to our cabin at all. If there was one minus, though, it would be the slab hard foam mattresses on the hotel-style beds have not been upgraded to the same mattresses as we remembered from our other two Uniworld ships. (Note: We had supper with a couple who were seated at the Captain's table for the Captain's Welcome Aboard dinner, and they told us Baroness is headed to dry-dock in 2010 for a major facelift). We were not disappointed with any of the food in the main dining room, located on the lower level. Of course, this is always a subjective opinion, plus my wife and I aren't "foodies". By my observation, though, I never did notice anyone ordering the stand-by, always-available alternative chicken breast or steak if someone didn't want any of the menu's three main entrees at supper. To me, that's always a good sign. The generous buffet breakfasts, along with available specials-of-the-morning offerings brought by wait staff or made-to-order omelets, were excellent, and the lunch buffets had new, fresh offerings every day. The desserts were also very good. Supper portions were perfect. Between the portion sizes and daily walkabouts, my wife and I came home weighing-in just slightly less than when we left home. That's terrific. The wait staff was attentive, happy, friendly, obviously got along with each other, and were always eager to please. The included house wines with supper were nice. The ship's keyboard musician in the lounge was good, and he played until the last passenger left at night. There were local musicians also scheduled to come aboard some evenings, but when our itinerary was altered en route, (see below), the local musicians weren't able to transport themselves to meet the ship. Our week's Cruise Manager, Emmanuelle Bonneau, was absolutely splendid! We've enjoyed every one of our previous three Uniworld cruise managers, but my wife and I agreed Emmanuelle was the best. She is a perfect combination of cheerfulness, competence, helpfulness, and just a pleasing, amazing personality. All week long she had to work behind the scenes to reschedule excursions and work with local guides and bus companies to add or modify plans so we had a wonderful experience. She accomplished all of this without coming unglued and while keeping a smile on her face. Well done! Our first full day aboard (Monday) went as-planned, after the ship's departure from Paris towards Les Andelys on Sunday night. We enjoyed our morning tied up in the center of Les Andelys. It was sunny, but pretty cold and windy. (Note: Although the castle is quite a hike uphill, buses are provided for those who don't think they can make the climb. Do be advised, though, the hike back down the hill from the castle seemed very do-able. We witnessed a few passengers, who walked with canes all week, did take the bus up the hill, but made the return hike on their own, and they said they enjoyed it. You might consider that alternative if you choose to take the bus up the hill). Les Andelys was a small, sleepy village, with a nice church, but almost everything was closed as it apparently is every Monday. When we re-boarded the ship after our morning walkabout with local guides, the ship's staff gathered us all to discuss a change in itinerary. We were told the captain had learned about an imminent Seine River locks total work stoppage (aka "strike"). After weighing alternatives among the ship's senior navigation and activities staff and Uniworld headquarters, shipboard staff made a decision to not proceed up the Seine in the afternoon, going farther away from Paris to our next day's stop at Rouen. A determining factor seemed to be the Captain could not guarantee we would be able to make it back up the Seine to Paris, and through the last set of river locks before the work stoppage began. Although we were disappointed to miss Rouen and its cathedral and Christmas market, most of us agreed we wanted to be tied up in Paris for the original itinerary of four days at the end of our week, rather than being stranded somewhere between locks on the river and away from Paris. (The lock operators did indeed go on strike, so it turned out the "correct" decision to alter our original itinerary was the right one). On our way back towards Paris Monday afternoon, we stopped in a slightly larger village, Vernon. It, too, was mostly closed down because it was Monday, but it was a nice opportunity for walking about on a sunny cold afternoon, enjoying the town and its Christmas decorations. The next morning, (Tuesday), again sunny but very cold and breezy, we were tied up in the town of Conflans. It's non-official claim to fame is it's where the Seine river barges come to rest at the end of their usefulness as commercial vessels, and they become on-the-water residences. There was a newly-arranged ship's bus excursion offered to Auvers sur Oise for a two-hour walkabout, but my wife and I chose instead to enjoy our morning walking the streets of Conflans with the locals as they went about their daily shopping for their meat, vegetables, breads, and pastries. There was a small waterfront market, too, with fresh fruit and vegetables. The ship departed Conflans after lunch, and headed back towards Paris, where we tied up after supper. With the change in the week's itinerary, the on-board activities staff modified the sequence of the Paris days' excursions. We all happily accepted the Paris city tour by bus this morning, (Wednesday), with a walkabout stop at Luxembourg Garden and at Notre Dame cathedral with our local guides on another sunny but cold day. Then it was back on the bus to the ship for lunch, or as an alternative, you could stay in the city and make your way back to the ship on your own. After lunch, another set of buses dropped us off at the Arch de Triumph, and we left on our own to walk down the (luckily all downhill) length of the Champs Elysees at our own pace, and then through the Christmas markets, to Concorde Plaza, where we could meet the ship's shuttle buses back to the ship. On Thursday morning we awoke to see two-to-three inches of new-fallen snow everywhere! Although we enjoyed how Paris looked in its snow coat, a lot of those commuters into the city had a heck of a time riding their scooters. We were told Paris usually doesn't get snow this early in the season, and they certainly didn't look prepared for making the already-frozen roads any easier to get around. We boarded buses with our local guides for a non-original-itinerary trip through the Louvre. Happily, for whatever reason, the crowds at the Louvre were minimal, and it was nice to see some of the highlights in only a few hours with a terrific local guide. Of course, you can spend weeks and weeks going through the Louvre and still not see everything. After lunch, the ship provided shuttle buses into the city for a drop off at either the Trocadero Christmas market across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, or at the Opera House and its surrounding shopping district, with return shuttles from the Opera House back to the ship before an early supper. The only "optional" excursion this week, to "The Lido" show, was offered this evening. It seemed less than half of the ship's passengers chose to join this excursion, mostly because (even at its "reduced" last-minute price) it was the Euro equivalent of more than $210 per person, including the round-trip transportation and a half-bottle of champagne during the show. The next day, the feedback we heard from some who attended wasn't all positive. Several people complained they discovered the ship's price was way out of line compared to others (not from the ship) at their table at the Lido. They did enjoy the show, though. Friday morning, overcast and grey, was lazy, with a special "brunch" provided in the dining room. Our wonderful cruise manager, Emmanuelle, gave a "France today" presentation in the lounge. The day's plan was to have the ship provide shuttle buses to Concorde Plaza again, and later return shuttles back to the ship, but the first outbound bus wasn't able to get to the ship because of the slippery roads, and had to cancel. Rather than wait thirty minutes for the next bus to arrive, my wife and I decided to adventure out on our own, and we walked to the near-by RER station. We took the "C" train to the D'Orsay Museum just five stations away, towards the Eiffel Tower. This turned out to be a good decision, as we had no problems using the RER (with tickets purchased from the ship's front desk). This was an amazing museum, inhabiting a huge beautifully restored train station. It had an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and displays over five floors, although there were no in-service escalators or elevators in the whole museum, which meant lots of stairs. (No American ADA compliance in Paris?) Back on the ship, before supper we had the always-disappointing "disembarkation briefing" in the lounge, meaning our week was sliding towards its end point. After dark, we boarded buses with local guides for a beautiful Paris evening illuminations coach tour, with a jump-out stop at the top of the Trocadero (with very very cold temps and strong winds) to watch the Eiffel Tower twenty-minute light show. Then it was a scramble back onto a warm coach, and a continuing wonderful drive past more of the illuminated sights of Paris. A really nice evening, complemented with hot glud wine and snacks in the lounge when we got back to the ship. Saturday morning again dawned bright, sunny, and very cold. We were off on coaches with local guides on a thirty-minute drive to Versailles. Again, for whatever reason, either the time of the year or the snow and ice on the ground, the bus parking lot was almost empty. Minimal crowds, so we were able to enjoy our tour through the palace and grounds without crushing crowds of tourists. After the palace, we were provided tickets to the adjacent Royal Equestrian stables to watch a rehearsal and demonstration of dressage and quadrille, and then a walk through the stables before boarding the coaches back to the ship. The afternoon was on-your-own, but my wife and I decided to be lazy and stay on the ship, and also to begin to re-pack for our departure the next morning. We had the Captain's Farewell dinner this evening, and finally we said our good-byes to new friends we'd made during the week. Disembarkation onto buses early Sunday morning after a full buffet breakfast was uneventful, and the transfer back to CDG airport was congested but tolerable. The terminal was a complete and total zoo. Part of that might have been because of delays getting to the airport in the morning's Paris snow storm, or because of flights rescheduling from the major snow storm that had paralyzed most of the eastern seaboard in the US. There were no signs in the terminal in any language directing people to where they needed to be, and no airline representatives to be seen. There were thousands of travelers all looking as puzzled as we were, and the lines were outrageously long. We finally found the right line, and got through security and to our gate with time to spare. Once we boarded, almost an hour late, we sat at the gate awaiting several groups of delayed incoming-connection passengers and their luggage to get aboard our plane. Then our plane got in line for the de-icing stations while we watched the airport maintenance crews continue to scrape the runways. We were thankful to finally get airborne just short of three hours late, not realizing how lucky we actually were to be getting back to the US east coast at all after the previous day's debilitating heavy snows that had canceled more than 50% of the incoming and outgoing flights the day before. (If I haven't put you to sleep already with waaaaay too much detail),... In summary, we considered this cruise one of our favorites ever. No complaints. Will we cruise with Uniworld again? YES! Absolutely! I can't think of a reason why not. We liked this ship, the staff, the (modified) itinerary, our cabin, housekeeping staff, the other passengers, and the food. Were we disappointed we didn't get to see Rouen? You bet. But that happened because of something out of the control of Uniworld. Plus, now there's a good reason to go back to France to pick up the places we missed on this cruise. Bon voyage!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
As a regular cruiser with Fred. Olsen having taken several longer cruises eg sectors of the world cruise I decided to take a festive short cruise to escape the Winter weather in the UK. It was my third cruise on the "Balmoral" ... Read More
As a regular cruiser with Fred. Olsen having taken several longer cruises eg sectors of the world cruise I decided to take a festive short cruise to escape the Winter weather in the UK. It was my third cruise on the "Balmoral" and it still impresses me as a real ship compared with the floating blocks of flats which seems to be the model for modern cruise ships. The ship is well maintained although, being an old vessel, it occasionally has its problems. Getting to Dover to board the ship had its problems due to the closure of the Channel Tunnel and the consequent traffic problems on the motorway leading to the port. The ship was tastefully decorated for the Christmas season and the atmosphere was really festive. Christmas was very traditional with carol services, a visit from Santa Claus (mainly for the children on board !) and festive fare in the restaurants. New Year was equally enjoyable. On New Year's Eve there was a splendid banquet which included haggis and a "wee dram". After this meal there was an entertaining cabaret in the Neptune Lounge. Towards midnight the deck party really came to life with champagne flowing, lots of music and general enjoyment to welcome the year 2010. The ship's first port of call was scheduled to be Leixoes (Oporto) but due to rough seas the port was closed and the call cancelled. In succession we visited Funchal (Madeira), Santa Cruz (La Palma), Fuerteventura, Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Arrecife (Lanzarote) and Santa Cruz (Tenerife). We were blessed with fine weather, warm enough for the odd swim in the sea as well as in one of the ship's pools. In the early days of the cruise the seas were relatively smooth as we crossed the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. As we sailed down the coast of Portugal we were met with some rough Atlantic weather. The ship rode the waves pretty well. The cruise was enhanced by the performance of the crew and the staff. The Captain led the way with enthusiasm and he mixed well with the passengers. The Cruise Director worked hard and kept the entertainment going. The "domestic" staff, as usual, were great. They come from the Third World, mainly Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and India and with their courtesy, efficiency and smiling faces make it a pleasure to travel with them. The entertainers were good and I was particularly impressed by most of the performances of the Balmoral singers and dancers. The crew show (which I did not attend) was, apparently, as good as ever. On the downside, the ship had a serious outbreak of the gastro-bug (Norovirus) which struck down more than 200 people. From speaking to some of the sufferers they were treated by the medical staff with great professionalism. Overall I enjoyed the cruise and look forward to joining the "Black Watch" (and possibly the "Balmoral") in 2010. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I should first of all inform you all that as veteran cruisers on many other cruise lines my wife and I have never found the need to put pen to paper in order to complain until our experience on the Thomson Celebration. Our cabin ... Read More
I should first of all inform you all that as veteran cruisers on many other cruise lines my wife and I have never found the need to put pen to paper in order to complain until our experience on the Thomson Celebration. Our cabin number 817 was at water level on deck 1 or deck C. The two different names for each deck we found very confusing, but the problems on this deck are: when the ship is moving you cannot see anything other than frothy seawater over the porthole. also we experienced persistent loud banging of the wash against the outer shell of the ship when the ship was moving at 14 knots or more overnight. This resulted in five sleepless nights out of the seven of our cruise. This double bedded cabin was quite spacious but very-very dated. We did on the second night move the bed-head away from the outer wall in an attempt to reduce the noise levels of the ship crashing though the waves. On doing so we revealed indescribable dirt and filth, toe and fingernails, human hair of all descriptions along the wall and floor. Photos of the mess will be found on the cruise photo page of this site should the powers that be allow publication of them. The air conditioning in our cabin was stuck on cold, in the evenings it was like living in a fridge. On complaining the first attempt to repair this was to block the vent with two layers of foam. This of course resulted in us unable to breath when the cabin door was shut. On the third repair attempt, we had no access to our cabin for a whole day at sea whilst it was fixed properly. The saving grace of the cruise was the high standard of the evening theatre entertainment and the friendliness of the restaurant and house-keeping staff. We found the attitude of the senior staff when we had the audacity to complain very rude and complacent. Sorry Thomson my wife and I know that no-one is perfect but your very poor and dismissive response to our letter of complaint through Cruise.co.uk will result in our determination never to use you again and we will inform others of our bad experience. We are The Paxtons Isle of Wight. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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