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8 Europe - British Isles & Western Holiday Cruise Reviews

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
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
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
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

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