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10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was our first experience, as sixty-somethings, of cruising and, overall, we were not disappointed. The Queen Elizabeth may lack the exterior grace of its earlier namesake (the 1938 version), but offers sumptuous, comfortable ... Read More
This was our first experience, as sixty-somethings, of cruising and, overall, we were not disappointed. The Queen Elizabeth may lack the exterior grace of its earlier namesake (the 1938 version), but offers sumptuous, comfortable surroundings and plenty of options for entertainment. We paid the 'Cunard Fare' for our cruise which gave us the option of free valet parking at Southampton. This was handled brilliantly. We arrived at the port, unloaded our luggage and then left the keys with the parking staff. Check-in was smooth and within 45 minutes of arrival were were in our cabin with all luggage waiting for us and our cabin steward on hand to advise us of all the necessary information on our cabin and facilities. We had a BE Category outside cabin on Deck 7 with balcony and were pleased with the location just behind and down one deck from the ship's bridge. Being near to bow of the ship the pitching was more noticeable but it was much quieter than cabins and entertainment areas near the stern where there was a little vibration (although not uncomfortably so). We ate on the early sitting in the Britannia restaurant Deck 3 area and meals were of a very high quality. Wines were, however, expensive for the quality offered. We elected to take the 'Captain's Choice', providing a bottle of what turned out to be rather mediocre wines each evening. This was $495, not terribly good value for money in our opinion, however, the experience of being served and topped up regularly by the sommelier partly compensated for this. Waiter service by Mohammad and Miguel was friendly and efficient, if a little rushed at times. I think we'd possibly take the later sitting in future. Cabin service by our steward James was excellent. It has to be said that, at times, the ship felt a little like a floating care home. That's not in any way a criticism, just an observation - we met some delightful people of all ages. Just something to bear in mind when booking a festive cruise. Our friend who used to work in the travel industry has told us since that Christmas cruises do tend to have a lot of elderly folk shipped off on cruises by relatives during the festive season! Overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I can't say this holiday has us now hooked on cruising, but a Baltic or Norwegian Fjord cruise is something we'd consider in the future and, if possible, on the QE which we liked very much. That's just our personal preference - we're more solitary beings and being on board with around 2,000 other people was not something we are used to. Having said that, it was good to talk to other folk and there are still plenty of places on the ship where some privacy can be found. I spent most mornings at sea in the Commodore Club on Deck 10 reading and sipping hot chocolate while my other half was at his water-colour art classes. Shore excursions were quite good, We did three (Madeira, La Palma and a trip from La Coruna to Santiago de Compostela). For two 6 foot + chaps the coaches were incredibly cramped and uncomfortable. At $50 plus per person they were pretty expensive and the tour guides were satisfactory but not brilliant. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
We have just returned from our Christmas Cruise on Queen Victoria to Madeira and the Canary Islands. We travelled to Southampton the day before and stayed at the Meon Valley Marriott Hotel. This included a nights stay and car parking for ... Read More
We have just returned from our Christmas Cruise on Queen Victoria to Madeira and the Canary Islands. We travelled to Southampton the day before and stayed at the Meon Valley Marriott Hotel. This included a nights stay and car parking for the duration of the cruise, transfer to and from the ship and the cost was £70 per person. A lovely Hotel and golf complex. The first day at sea was very rocky across the bay of biscay and 3 out of 4 of us were very unwell. We did get some bands and sea sickness pills from reception which thankfully helped. The ship is very elegant and especially so at Christmas. Food in the Britannia restaurant was good and we used it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Service on Cunard is very good and much better than a lot of other ships. The first 3 days were at sea until we arrived in Madeira. This is a lovely island that we had been to before and really enjoy. We did our own thing here and it was easy to get a taxi. Our driver charged $20 each and took the 4 of us to Monte Gardens which is well worth a visit (very hilly) we spent an hour and a half there and then the taxi took us to the ride in the basket down 2k of steep hilly roads.It was great and at the bottom we purchased a photo taken halfway down for just 10 euros. We were met again by our taxi and taken on a lovely ride to the other side of the island to a new viewing point where you stand on glass very high above the cliffs. Then on to a lovely fishing village where Winston Churchill stayed and did a lot of his paintings. We returned to the ship after about 5 hours. This was a great way to see a lot more of the island and far less expensive than the ships tours. Tenerife was the next port and we did do the ships tour to Loro Parque. Again we had been there before but enjoy it each time especially the penquins and sea life shows. La Palma is a very small island and here we did our own thing and just wandered around the town and sea front which are only a few minutes walk from the ship. Lanzarote was to be the next port of call however, according to the captain the wind was too strong to get us into port safely although 2 other ships had beaten us to it. So another day at sea. La Coruna in Spain was the last port of call. Here we did a ships tour to Santiago de Compostillo. About an hour in the coach to this very old Spanish City that is a pilgrimage site 3rd only to Jerusalem and Lourdes. Very rough again across that wretched bay but the bands and pills did there job! The entertainment on the ship was very good. The Singers and dancers in the theatre were brilliant and I would go as far as to say the best we have ever seen on a ship. The Opera Boys were wonderful and 3 girls from west end shows were great. There was always something to do during the days at sea and 2 of us did the Watercolour Art classes which although not very good at it I really enjoyed and went to five 2 hour classes. Patricia was a great teacher. The evenings in the Queens room were a little disappointing as they had an American singer who sang dreary jazz type songs and we found it boring but that was just our opinion. It is wonderful to have a full size dance floor on a ship. Don't dance but love to watch. Now for the gripes - The price of photos was the highest we've ever seen. $34.99 for formal evening photos and $24.99 for all the others. Didn't buy any. The most annoying thing of all was the lectures about Concorde had been really great and we had seen 3 of them. We were looking forward to the last one which should have been on the last sea day and was to be about the crash and the reasons behind taking it out of service. It wasn't shown! No explanation and despite several enquiries including to the entertainment manager who looked suprised when we asked (surely she is in charge) I told her it was like reading a book and finding the last chapter ripped out. Most annoying. It was a good "voyage" as Cunard prefer to call it but 7 days at sea out of 12 rather too many. We met some lovely people and enjoyed our Christmas break. Lastly, on arriving at Southampton we should have disembarked in groups according to your luggage label colour and ours was 9am. However, there was an announcement that there was a 20 minute delay and that was actually an hour with no explanation whatsoever. People were getting very twitchy with taxis booked etc and would have understood the situation had been explained. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Thomson Majesty – (Old Smokey) Sailed on the Majesty from 19th to 26th December - Canary Islands. We joined the ship in Tenerife but unfortunately several hundred other passengers arrived at the same time as flights all came in ... Read More
Thomson Majesty – (Old Smokey) Sailed on the Majesty from 19th to 26th December - Canary Islands. We joined the ship in Tenerife but unfortunately several hundred other passengers arrived at the same time as flights all came in together, so we had a long wait to be processed before embarking on the ship, complimentary refreshments were offered to those waiting in line. First impressions of the ship was not a wow, but it seemed clean although dated and in need of upgrade. We paid extra for an outside cabin on Deck 8 and it was the smallest cabin we have every been in, even the toilet and shower area was extremely small, with no bathroom cabinet or shelves for toiletries. Wardrobe space was sparse with no space for shoes. No fridge. The room however was clean and housekeeping could not be faulted, other than she folded our wet towels and placed them back on the shelf when we had left them hanging up to dry off. When we first started cruising with Thomson the safe deposit box in the cabin was free, however it now costs £15 per week. Self service buffet on Deck 10 was disappointing, little choice of food, salads pre plated in cereal bowls and “hot” food was usually luke warm. Breakfast was the best meal of the day with the egg station offering fresh omlettes, waffles and pancakes, however this was suspended during the week due to norovirus outbreak. We attended one gala, formal evening and were disappointed with the meal as it appeared to have been pre-plated and then reheated. Nothing really special about the meal other than passengers made the effort and dressed up. Waiters seemed to be rushing us through and we had to ask for coffee after waiting quite a while after our meal. Entertainment was typical Thomson, and I say that as someone who enjoys the entertainment on Thomson cruises, however the standard on the Majesty was not as good as we have experienced on Celebration or Spirit. The entertainment team on the Majesty were not as approachable and friendly as we have experienced on other Thomson ships. Sun loungers were marked with black soot from the ships funnels and this marked clothing if you did not notice or did not wipe the sun loungers before sitting on them. There always seemed to be really dark smoke spewing out of the funnels. The general ambience of the Majesty was poor and only saved by the fellow passengers who were friendly and always up for a chat. If this had been my first cruise I would have been very disappointed and would have been put off cruising. Would we sail on Thomson Majesty again, no, but we would sail with Thomson again on the Celebration or Spirit. We would also be open to trying The Dream at some time in the future. Thomson Cruises offer value for money, are British based in their clientelle, food choice and entertainment and they do not charge daily gratuities so we would recommend Thomson Cruises for those who do not want to share the ship with 3,000 other passengers and listen to announcements in 3 different languages before paying daily gratuties and 15% service charge on every drink you buy. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was ... Read More
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was satisfactory. Boarding was very swift (aided greatly bt membership of the "Oceans Gold" club). The ship looked in good condition as it had only come out of dry-dock two days earlier. We has accommodation on Deck 6 (main deck) which was fine. There was sufficient storage space and the air-condioning was effective. The picture window added to the overall aspect of the cabin. Overall it was in good condition. We were fortunate enough to have calm seas throughtout the whole cruise save on the final day when it was a little choppy. The weather was good which is not always the case in these climes in mid-Winter. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas and the "gingerbread town" was a triumph. We selected the Spey restaurant for dinner and the food and service was up to Fred. Olsen's usual standard. We took other meals in the various other restaurants and the standard of food was equally good. The Chinese and Asian speciality nights were particularly enjoyable. The staff and crew on board Fred. Olsen's ships are a key selling point and on this cruise it was no exception. We had port calls in Lisbon, Funchal, Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Arricife (Lanzarote) and Gibraltar. All had their good points but the boat trip in Lisbon and afternoon tea at the gorgeous Reid's Hotel in Madeira were perhaps the best. Christmas Eve was was celebrated with a cabaret show, carol singing and a Holy Communion service at midnight. Christmas Day was also well celebrated althought afternoon was a bit lacking in entertainment and a little flat. Dinner that night was traditional and excellent. New Year's Eve was most enjoyable with an excellent dinner (including haggis and a "wee dram") and a deck party. Although the fireworks in Gibraltar were ok they didn't compare with Madeira. Also it was rather chilly. I don't think this is the ideal port for a New Year call. Although this was a pretty good cruise I do have a few gripes, 1. The ship was just out of dry-dock but there was a great deal of maintenance and painting going on which was, at time intrusive. When the reception was asked why this was necessary we were told that the ship had to be in good condition for the upcoming "long cruise". This is quite unacceptable. 2. The "Balmoral" orchestra plays at every possible occasion eg cocktail parties, receptions and "shows". The volume is so hight that normal conversation is virtually impossible. Thsi is an on-going problem which FOCL really should investigate. 3. As the weather was pretty good it was a pity that the swimming pool on deck 7 was so often closed. 4. The lecture weren't very good with the exception of those concerning millionaires. I would describe most as "minority interest talks. They was certainly not up to the normal standard.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
we have recently returned from the christmas cruise to the canary`s apart from the rough weather which p&o have no control over the cruise went quite well mainly due to the efforts of the captain Neil Turnbull [who is up there as the ... Read More
we have recently returned from the christmas cruise to the canary`s apart from the rough weather which p&o have no control over the cruise went quite well mainly due to the efforts of the captain Neil Turnbull [who is up there as the best captain we have sailed with [16 with princess and 7 with P&O ] but our main complaint was with the food which was the worst we have had on any cruise!!! also my wife had trouble understanding the bar and waiting staff although we cannot fault them for service. The ship we think is showing signs of her age but needs some updating in some public areas our cabin inside on A deck was comfortable and clean especially the shower/ bathroom the entertainment was what we expect from the on board dancers, comedians very good also colin the Queens pastry chef gave very interesting accounts of his time working for the Queen all in all a pleasant cruise apart from the poor food especially the Christmas dinner Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
We anticipated this Cruise with some trepidation, it being our first cruise with P & O, having only cruised with Celebrity and RCI before and read some derogatory remarks on Cruise Critic. We were very pleasantly surprised. ... Read More
We anticipated this Cruise with some trepidation, it being our first cruise with P & O, having only cruised with Celebrity and RCI before and read some derogatory remarks on Cruise Critic. We were very pleasantly surprised. Embarkation was very smooth, even though there was a fair delay due to passengers being unable to board at one stage due to the weather! Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded and was far better than anything we had experienced before with many nice touches including champagne! Our Steward, Ajmal, was a real joy and anticipated our every need. We really could not fault the service on the ship despite previous remarks - perhaps we were just lucky! Even the extremely rough crossing did not mar our holiday - although we were surprised at the amount of movement and noise experienced. We dined in the Peninsular restaurant on 2nd sitting with a table for 8,two of our table mates were really nice guys, if it hadn't been for them we would have certainly asked to move, as the remaining 4 were stuffy, awkward & boring!We escaped as often as possible and tried alternative dining - Sindhu was fantastic and has totally spoilt us for our local Indian! The Italian was good but l7 was fully booked - our favourite for atmosphere was The Glass House. The shows were mixed, Headliners were good but new acts need to be introduced - Tom O'Conor was a waste of time. Always difficult to find a seat. The New Year's Eve fireworks in Madeira were amazing and made the cruise as we felt that there were far too many sea days and that another couple of ports could have easily been fitted in - 3 sea days was just too much. We found the drinks to be on the weak side and the Casino was a joke! All in all the pros outweighed the cons, we had no complaints and wouldn't hesitate to cruise with P & O again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
Boarded at Portsmouth in no time and luggage already at cabin.Cabins have been refurbed and it was sufficient for our needs and conveniently positioned near the spa.and lifts. Everyone on board seemed to contract the cabin cough, however, ... Read More
Boarded at Portsmouth in no time and luggage already at cabin.Cabins have been refurbed and it was sufficient for our needs and conveniently positioned near the spa.and lifts. Everyone on board seemed to contract the cabin cough, however, it was probably because we are not used to air conditioning. The crossing over was quite rough,but then it was fine for the rest of the time. Beds comfy, food very good indeed and waiters although they have more tables to deal with than on other cruises it went well and the steaks and fish were very nice. My husband contracted winter vomiting or norovirus on New Years day as well as bronchitis. Fred Olsen do NOT CHARGE for norovirus injections tablets etc but they DO charge for ordinary illness, eg bonchitis.The male nurse, in particular was very good indeed to my husband and we had to stay on board until everyone had left when we docked at Portsmouth. The ship was decorated and there were carol services and a Christmas service, which were well attended with the staff all on stage and the audience taking part. It was nice. There were the usual quoits shuffleboard, quizzes, bridge and various arty things as well as lectures if you wanted them. One thing that is needed for European sailing is heaters outside the lido bar on deck 7 (the only place smoking is allowed) it is freezing trying to smoke in a gale in evening dress. The automatic heaters they use in pub smoking places and Thomson cruises have them on Celebration would be nice and civilised. The entertainment was so, so. The dance crew need new costumes and the comedian and singer were ok, but the panto was absolutely awful, made you embarrasses to look at it, and the seating is bad in the theatre which is really a lounge not a theatre. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
We have returned from the New Year 2012/3 cruise to the Canaries on the Thompson Majesty. The Majesty is Thomsons newest ship and having been many times on the other ships we were interested to try it out and see if it is better than the ... Read More
We have returned from the New Year 2012/3 cruise to the Canaries on the Thompson Majesty. The Majesty is Thomsons newest ship and having been many times on the other ships we were interested to try it out and see if it is better than the older ships, so when we saw it was in Madeira for new years Eve we jumped at the chance. The Majesty despite being a 'newer' ship is still old and in need of updating and the numerous failed glazing units spoil the appearance and despite being purpose built the design is poor. There does not seem to be a heart or outstanding feature such as atrium or staircase. The ship vibrated really badly when at low speed - which was most of the time at sea - which you could feel and hear particularly in the Jubilee Lounge near the stage area and also in some cabins. Although not a last minute booking all the outside plus cabins on decks 3-4 had gone so we had to take the basic outside cabin which is very small, but not as bad as we feared, just no spare space and have to take it in turns to move around. The cabin only had room for a 50cm wide chest of drawers and a single wardrobe, which was just big enough to accommodate clothes for a 1 week cruise. Although it could be configured as a double this would mean pushing the 2 beds together against the wall and climbing over each other so we left it as twin. The standard size shower room was fine. The safe took up valuable space in the wardrobe and the charge for this is excessive. I think the Plus cabins would be a lot better if you don't want to be so cramped. Our cabin was quiet and we had no problems with air-con, water temperature or blocked/delayed action toilets which plague the other ships but don't know if we were just lucky this time. There are two main restaurants - the Seven Seas and the smaller Four Seasons, both had a buffet and waiter service at breakfast, lunch was waiter or buffet service in Seven Seas only, evening meal was waiter service only, the same menu in both. The standard of food was good, but was not exceptional, generally hot/luke warm (though unfortunately at the gala meals both the lobster and salmon were cold - should have sent them back), what you normally receive at 3 to 4 star hotel. You could upgrade to a steak for £10 or visit the speciality restaurant for £19 for a special meal, but we didn't try it. We used the Four Seasons for evening dinner on most evenings, going early to miss the busy time when guests often had to wait to get a table in both venues. Breakfasts had a good choice, especially if you like a full English. Lunch in 7 Seas was either served or take pot-luck on the buffet as not on menu, but always a good salad and hot meal. The service varied between barely adequate and good depending on table. Other venues for food were the 24 hour Cafe Royal Buffet which changed the menu daily dependant on time of day, with a lunchtime grill serving outside by the pool. The Piazza San Marco Pool Grill open from lunch through afternoon serving freshly made pizza, and burgers, sausages and salads. The main entertainment location is the Jubilee Lounge, not a theatre and no head room for the usual head-dresses and lifts in the dancing, so it is only suitable for cabaret acts and small group entertainments, so not the West End type entertainment which we like on the Thomson ships, though they did manage to stage a very good Moulin Rouge show. The stage is raised but there are a lot of support columns in the lounge to restrict a good view of the dance floor. The band which played before and after each show were quite good. Also UK comedian and a singer twice weekly, and professional dance couple, so there was plenty of entertainment. All the venues air conditioning seems to be set very cold especially here. The Royal Fireworks Lounge had a small stage for band or singers and a small dance floor, this was also used for bingo and the usual quiz and light entertainment shows such as Mr and Mrs etc which are always fun, and a band plays in the evening. There are other musicians performing around the ship. Plenty of bars and good service in the lounges. Drinks are not cheap - the prices steadily rise, but only about what you would expect to pay in a 4* hotel, and no 15% service + tip to pay makes them quite reasonable. The ship was still nicely decorated for Christmas, including some huge gingerbread houses made by the crew. New Years Eve docked in Funchal Madeira with numerous other cruise ships was really nice and never to be forgotten, pleasant for wandering around and the Christmas Markets still in full flow. The ships all played a specially prepared ships horn tune in the evening, but we couldn't make out a tune, maybe onshore away from the ships. The gala meal menu was good (though no Haggis for New Year!), hats and balloons for everyone. The Funchal New Years fireworks are rated amongst the finest in the world, and was about the best I have seen, the atmosphere on the ship was very good with explosions all around and a glass of bubbly provided, and mega part-poppers but despite the great efforts of the entertainments team round the pool the deck party after was a bit subdued with not enough room to dance and celebrate. Most of the Ports in the itinerary were a bit of a walk away but still handy to wander around. The weather was not too hot but dry and was fine for January. Overall: Good points - the Thomson formula that we like - maybe not the best but good atmosphere, good food, good entertainment, all Brits, good price - tips and service included etc. Bad points - the ship just seems to be missing something, no wow-factor - there is no 'heart' or outstanding feature such as atrium or staircase. Basic cabins are VERY small, and no balcony cabins Dining rooms too small for open sitting, indoor buffet area too small for cold or wet days. No room for a decent deck party or deck entertainment area, other ships have a stage and space to dance and to watch activities, no sunbeds round pools, and sunbathing area too small (which is always the case) and very cramped. No theatre, Jubilee lounge has no proper stage and is too small to stage the big shows, and still lots of pillars to restrict view. We enjoyed our New Year cruise and there is a good atmosphere on board, but overall I think the Thomson Majesty ship is the poorest of the Thomson fleet, we would go on her again, but only for a really special itinerary like this one and otherwise would choose to return to the other ships. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
We booked this cruise extremely last minute as the cruise we had originally booked on was cancelled a few days before we were due to sail!! Boudicca was sailing in and out of Portsmouth and within easy distance to our home, managed to get ... Read More
We booked this cruise extremely last minute as the cruise we had originally booked on was cancelled a few days before we were due to sail!! Boudicca was sailing in and out of Portsmouth and within easy distance to our home, managed to get a superior cabin (which glad we chose)and one of the stops was Madeira - for the fireworks (something that has been on our must-do list) Embarkation was easy, we did arrive a bit earlier than stated, but found did not have to queue to check-in, although did have to wait about an hour before we were called to embark. Once aboard we went directly to our cabin which was on the Lido deck, and first time ever, our luggage was there :-) We did expect that we would have found some sort of lunch available - even tho it was a bit late for that.A disappointment! But we went to the Secret Garden and had Tea with a roll etc. which we managed to survive till 8.30 (second sitting.) The ship we found was easy to get around, as we were on the Lido deck (7),reception, shops on 5, the Neptune lounge, dining rooms,swimming pool etc. being one below on 6, library, Internet and Lido lounge on 7, Observatory "lounge" which we used a lot on 9. The ship being a "mature" lady we found her similar to a welcoming comfortable friend, like an old English established hotel, with regular clientele - it has apparently been "upgraded" beginning of 2011, not quite sure what, apparently the gym was on deck 4 and now top of the ship!! New carpets, not sure about that, but reserve judgement. We did find her rather "tired" but that is our humble opinion. Our cabin was a very good size (200 sq ft)An extremely comfy mattress, the shower was over the bath, personally would have just preferred a shower cubicle! Our windows looked out to the Promenade, but did have a coating on the windows. The food, we feel, was the best we have had on any holiday - and we have travelled quite extensively. To have Beef of such a wonderful quality in the dining room!!! The was a very good choice for Vegetarians, fish eaters etc. The entertainment was pleasantly acceptable, a very good Jazz sextet, Classical guitarist, Male & female singer, comedian, together with various pianists trios, duos round the ship, together with 7 young dancers/singers who also doubled as "cruise helpers" round the ship. We enjoyed the ports the first being Casablanca and then 5 islands of the Canaries and finally Madeira. We found the port info given was not good enough, yes I know all cruise companies want to sell their tours, but today many more passengers, like to do their own thing. To offer shuttles at ports at £5 per head, when able bodied people can easily walk, is not on. Yes offer the shuttles for those who want them, but.... We only used the shuttle at Casablanca, but then needn't have!! Unfortunately the crossing of the Bay of Biscay upon our return I found a bit too uncomfy, and were grateful for the tablets I had taken - that can happen on any ship! The day before we were due to return, we were advised by the captain that we would be returning to Southampton and not Portsmouth, as the weather was not good and too windy etc. etc For us it was not a problem. All passengers were offered a free 5 min call or Internet access to change arrangements. Those passengers who had left their vehicles in Portsmouth were coached back complimentary. Most of the passengers we chatted to we found only travel Fred Olsen and are a mature age, but still knew how to enjoy themselves. Constructive criticism, no Tea Pots , we don't like Tea poured out of a "Thermos" Even tho we had an enjoyable and restful cruise, not sure we would sail with FO again, maybe just a bit too old fashioned for us. Would definitely recommend the ship for the "food" - great Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
This was our first experience with an American ship.We expected it to be large, but it didn't seem to be when we went to embark. We were forward, and the dining room was aft, so there was always quite a walk there and back,either ... Read More
This was our first experience with an American ship.We expected it to be large, but it didn't seem to be when we went to embark. We were forward, and the dining room was aft, so there was always quite a walk there and back,either along the corridor then up 2 decks, or going up then walking through the pool areas. We had no problems finding a table, and there was a varied choice in the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch.The downside was that there were no trays to carry the food to a table. We chose first sitting and were placed in Romeo and Juliet, on deck 3. On the whole we both said that P&O dinners were better.Independence served a set amount on the plate; if you wanted extra vegetables you have to ask for them.The dining room crew were really great, doing everything possible, and very friendly.There wasn't always much variety in the dishes offered.The evening shows weren't bad, though one "comedy" act was shades of Norman Wisdom/Tommy Cooper,but not really funny. Prices in the bars were very expensive, having 15% added as tips.Quite a lot of people talked about the way the options for tipping were continually advertised.Much was said about pre- paid tips, which took a set amount from each passenger.Vouchers were given to cabin steward and dining room waiters and head waiter at the last night. It was suggested that the amount those crew received was not the whole amount that had been quoted. Some staff said it was important that they were described as "excellent" in the questionnaires, otherwise they might not be taken on again for a future voyage.The whole subject of tipping was controversial. If it is expected, and deducted from the passengers' accounts, then it is not a discretionary amount given as a mark of appreciation for exemplary service; rather it could be construed as a subsidy to the crew's wages. There is a jogging/walking track on deck 12, though the distance of 3 laps making 1 kilometre and 5 laps making a mile doesn't equate.5 miles equals 8kms.Sometimes in the early mornings it was very windy, but the fitness centre has plenty of treadmills to use without a fee, so it was still possible to get some exercise. P&O give more information in their daily programme of events. We didn't find any list of channels for the cabin TV.You had to scroll down to find out what there was. The lifeboat drill wasn't really much use. Some P&O ships had the drill outside with lifebelts and you were shown how to put them on. On the Independence, you went to the designated station, but didn't have to take the lifebelt with you.If you want to look round the galley, you have to pay. There were some events in the Royal Promenade running the length of deck 5,and they were colourful.New Year's Eve was fun.However, with such a large crowd an emergency could have been chaotic.All entrances to public rooms have hand sanitisers. In the lifts the voice is English, but in the toilets, the reminder to wash your hands is American.Under 21s aren't allowed alcohol, and there is a 1.0am curfew for young people. We hope to use P&O again,but aren't too sure about Royal Caribbean, but that is just our opinion. We had done this destination some years ago, so we just explored the ports of Vigo, Lisbon and La Corunna. Lisbon on New year's Day and being a Sunday, nearly everywhere was closed.surprisingly the previous evening's revellry left the streets in a mess, rather like it often is at home.If using a shuttle at the ports expect to pay 10 dollars round trip.La Coruna Spain This was the final port. It was built on an isthmus, and is sheltered. We had a walk round some of the streets. One or two shops were open on a Sunday, but most were cafes and restaurants. There was quite a large marina, and there was a very large square with some imposing buildings. Read Less

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