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804 Hong Kong to Asia Cruise Reviews

I remember sailing into the Red Sea through gently undulating waters, the Arabian Sea stretched behind us like a sheet of hammered silver, the setting sun radiating its beams of light through the fluffy clouds. We were enjoying our ... Read More
I remember sailing into the Red Sea through gently undulating waters, the Arabian Sea stretched behind us like a sheet of hammered silver, the setting sun radiating its beams of light through the fluffy clouds. We were enjoying our delicious dinner on the outdoor terrace of Tapas, the ship's Spanish-inspired casual dining restaurant, as we watched the dappled surface of the water reflect the sun's rays that changed from golden to orange to crimson. This was a lovely sight that was repeated many times during our time aboard the Nautica. During our five weeks of cruising, we were blessed by unusually placid waters, the barely noticeable swaying of the ship reminding us that we are at sea during the day and gently rocking us to sleep at night. The days were generally sunny and hot, but the humidity moderate, more temperate than can usually be expected in this part of the world. We marveled at the sights we have seen in Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Thailand, Singapore, India, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and sailing through the Suez Canal. The shore excursions, though a bit pricey, were uniformly excellent. The ship, our "home-away-from-home", was comfortable and beautiful. It has modern amenities in the setting of an 18th century English manor house. This is one of three identical ships operated by Oceania. They are small by today's ship standards, carrying just 680 passengers, and that makes them more intimate and easy to settle into. This was our fourth time on these ships, and they are, by far, our favorites. The entertainment was very good, with singers, magicians, comedy acts, classical pianists, a string quartet, an eight-piece orchestra, lecturers, and various talents from the ship's company adding to the variety. The four restaurants are each beautiful with a wide variety of carefully prepared and beautifully presented food. Often it is a challenge to decide what to select, but the wait staff is always ready to provide assistance. Each restaurant has its own personality and charm; Tapas is the casual dining venue and is also the buffet for breakfast and lunch, Polo is the clubby steakhouse, Toscana is a Tuscan-inspired restaurant, and the beautiful Grand Dining Room serves a wide variety of continental cuisine under a painted domed ceiling. There is an open-seating policy which results in joining different companions for dinner; this leads to interesting discussions about travel experiences and many new friends are made. Of course, many tables for two are also available and we also enjoy that from time to time. Our cabin was cozy and comfortable, with a large verandah that overlooks the stern of the ship. We often sit on our chaise lounges and read during our days at sea, and watch the retreating shoreline as we depart from ports. It was also interesting to look for fish frolicking in our wake, to view passing ships, and to observe the islands we sometimes pass. We have had the same cabin, or the identical one next door, on all four of our voyages on Oceania, so we immediately feel at home. The best part of the cruise experience is contributed by the crew. From the staff in the dining rooms, to the cabin stewards, to the entertainers, the staff is outstanding. They are friendly and helpful, quick with a greeting and a smile, and are a delight to get to know. Over sixty countries are represented, some from places we visited, and we regularly gain more insight into the daily lives of people from the staff than we do from tour guides. We have shared in their excitement as they are able to see their families, and sometimes bring them aboard ship, when we visit their countries. We have gotten to know many of them quite well and will be sad to say goodbye to them, our new friends. Hopefully our paths will cross again. It is remarkable to be able to experience the amazing variety of geography, cultures, and people that God has blessed us to live with on this small, blue planet. We pray that this will give us a broader perspective as He puts new opportunities in our path. But it was good to get home and have a pizza! Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
Silver Shadow Taste of China and Japan May 2006 Itinerary: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shannon (Beijing), Pusan, Hiroshima, Kobe. (Kyoto), Tokyo Notes: The itinerary is an excellent way to see this part of the world without packing and ... Read More
Silver Shadow Taste of China and Japan May 2006 Itinerary: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shannon (Beijing), Pusan, Hiroshima, Kobe. (Kyoto), Tokyo Notes: The itinerary is an excellent way to see this part of the world without packing and unpacking. Shanghai: The voyage allowed for an overnight in Shanghai and two nights/2.5 days in Beijing. Since Shanghai is a port city there is no need to worry about landside accommodation in order to get the best of the city. Shanghai is a bustling metropolis with all the trendy shops that you may find in any city. Tianjin (Beijing): Tianjin is the port nearest to Beijing. Its about two hours by highway from Tianjin to Beijing. The ship spent two nights at Tianjin but that only equated to two and ½ days. It was necessary to spend one night in Beijing to see as much as you can, but to spend a second night is a waste, as youll need to get up early on the last day for the drive back to the ship. Beijing and its environs offered some great historical sites including the Great Wall. What had to be the most incongruous event in the trip was the visit to the Great Wall. To get to the top we didnt climb steps&we took a roller coaster! It was great fun!! (though very odd!) Departing Tianjin was a challenge. Chinese immigration required all passengers disembark and go to the cruise terminal to exit the country. This entire process delayed the ships departure by 3 hours and was unexpected by the ships company. On the flip side, arriving into China in Shanghai was a breeze. Pusan: This is South Koreas second largest city. nuf said. The Beomosa Buddhist Temple complex however was beautiful. Hiroshima: This is a city reborn. Beautiful in its simplicity; moving in its ways of honoring its past. The ships shuttle bus dropped us downtown and its an easy city to get around. Kobe (Kyoto): The ship spent about 18 hours at the port of Kobe allowing passengers the ability to make their own way or take a ships tour to Kyoto. The shuttle dropped us off at the JR (Japan Rail) station and the limited express train takes less than an hour. You can take the Bullet Train from the Shin-Kobe station if you want the thrill of the ride. If you do Kyoto on your own, make sure you hit the tour of the Imperial Palace. They offered once or twice a day in English and you need to have permission from the Imperial Household Agency, which is granted upon showing your passport, or other government issued ID. Tokyo: We disembarked at Tokyo and stayed one night at the Imperial Hotel. Tokyo was very nice and Im certain one day does not do it justice. Try Pachinko! Even if you dont understand whats going on, its great fun and you can win money! Embarkation: The boarding time for the ship was between 3:00PM and 5:00PM. In order to maximize our time in Hong Kong and at the Peninsula Hotel, we elected to board as close to 5PM as possible. Imagine our surprise when we boarded and the lifeboat drill was already underway! Embarkation was smooth other than the companionways filled with lifejacket bedecked passengers. The lifeboat drill was conducted indoors after we were first shown the muster stations. Disembarkation: As smooth as silk. The cabins had to be vacated by 8:30AM so we went to the Terrace Cafe to enjoy breakfast and relax until we were called to join the bus to the Imperial Hotel. Stewardess service: Invisible! And thats a good thing. Other than the pleasant embarkation day introductions we didnt see the stewardess (es) who made up the cabin each morning and evening. We didnt need anything that wasnt provided as a matter of course so we didnt need to call the stewardess team. The Restaurant Service: Excellent! All levels of service in the Restaurant from the assistant wait staff to the Maitre d met or exceeded our expectations and our past experiences on Silversea. My partner and I traveled with a case (12 bottles) of wine to be consumed during our voyage and we found that the head sommelier and his assistant were both extremely knowledgeable and yet had a thirst for knowledge for these wines that they had not experienced. We never felt rushed during the dinner service nor were we made to wait an extended period of time for the next course to come. One evening one of the folks we were dining with wasnt enjoying his main course. Even though the kitchen was virtually closed, the headwaiter went into the kitchen and returned with a rare piece of prime rib that was prepared to this guests liking&and he liked it! Food: Consistently very good to excellent. A real treat was two nights of Kobe beef. Since Japan currently has an embargo on all USA provided beef, the usual meat was sealed in a freezer and Kobe beef brought aboard. Kobe appeared on the menu the evening we were in that port. We then special ordered a different cut of Kobe the next evening. Both were delicious! Another true highlight in The Restaurant is the pasta. It is superbly prepared and worthy of being special ordered as either an appetizer or main course. A personal favorite was the Pasta Carbonara. Wine Dinner: On every cruise we bring a selection of wines from our cellar to be consumed aboard ship in concert with the food on board ship. A special treat for us is when we get the sommelier and the chef to create a menu that pairs well with some of the wines weve brought along. Heres a link to a report on the wine dinner and how well the chef and sommelier captured the spirit of the wines and found the perfect dishes to enhance them: http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=93698&highlight=Silversea. One minor disappointment was that they didnt print up the menu. On past cruises this was done without us requesting it. La Terrazza This was a true disappointment. We ate there once toward the beginning of the cruise and never darkened their doorway again! The service was lacking and the food completely uninspired. One main course that was offered was Branzino. When it arrived, the folks at the table who ordered it were surprised to see that it was not branzino at all but Chilean Sea Bass. Its poor form to put something on the menu and then do a bait and switch at tableside. The sommelier assigned to La Terrazza was very polite but lacked any skill and knowledge in his assigned tasks. La Champagne We did not eat in La Champagne and the general uptake on that restaurant was low during the cruise. Some nights they had no patrons at all. I think the concept of La Champagne is a good one but the execution may be lacking. The wines that were shown on the menus that would be included in the USD150.00 supplement were not of such extremely high quality as to warrant the cost vs. purchasing wines from the premium wine list or just enjoying the complimentary wines. Bar service Excellent! No matter where I went on the ship, be it The Bar, Panorama Lounge, or The Humidor, the service was outstanding. The team on the Silver Shadow quickly picked up on peoples preferences and anticipated requests in advance. Strong kudos go to the bar staff that uphold the lines dress code. One evening we lingered in The Bar after trivia. Our daywear (shorts) did not meet the dress code for the evening. We lingered so long in the Bar that it reopened at 6PM for the evening and when I went to get a drink the bartender politely reminded me of the dress code after 6PM. Some folks might take offense at this but I applauded it. There was no disdain in the bartenders voice, as a matter of fact just the opposite. He handled this beautifully. I hadnt realized that so much time had passed. I went to the stateroom, changed and came back and passed muster. The Humidor is a wonderful place to relax after dinner. The atmosphere there seems to foster more interesting conversations than you may find in other venues aboard ship. I dont smoke but always looked forward to a port wine or caipirinha in the Humidor. Pool Grille I dont know why, but I just love sitting poolside for lunch and this cruise was no exception. The weather was not always exactly pool weather but that didnt stop me. The pizzas they serve are outstanding. Ships tours: The only ship offered tour we took was in Pusan. We saw the Beomosa Temple and city highlights. We left the tour early and headed back to the ship on our own. There wasnt too much that I found of interest in Pusan other than the temple. We did privately arranged tours in Shanghai and Beijing, and made our own way around Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo. Generally speaking Ive found that privately arranged tours to be better and less costly than the ships tours. The one caveat is that, with a privately arranged tour, if you dont get back to the ship on time shell sail without you. Trivia: The ship offered a team trivia game on sea days. As much as I love trivia it seems to become a blood sport (the cruise directors term!) on ship. Im amazed that a group of players whose combined net worth probably rivals that of many nations can devolve into a screaming match all over a bookmark! It was interesting to watch but, for me not fun to partake in. This isnt peculiar to Silversea though. Reception Desk: The ladies that staffed the reception desk, while professional, did not seem to be as pleasant as the remainder of the crew on the ship. They were appropriate but dour. We asked them to arrange to send invitations to our Wine Dinner to the invitees but managed to send some of the invites to the wrong people. We breathed a sigh of relief when the erroneous invitees called the morning of the dinner to RSVP that they couldnt make it. I brought this error to the attention of the Reception Desk and there wasnt much in the way of an apology. Physical plant: The ship appeared to be very well maintained. I took the galley tour, which brought us below decks to the stores of the ship, and everything seemed very orderly. Stateroom: We had a verandah stateroom that was perfectly comfortable. The ship now has DVD players in the staterooms. Internet connection: We brought our own laptop as well as used the Internet portals in the computer center. The cost for 250 minutes was USD100.00 (0.40/minute). The library, computer center and Panorama are all wireless, which was convenient. Apparently some passengers had troubles in the computer center so much of the computer charges were refunded. Overall impression: This was our fourth Silversea cruise and, as always, we enjoyed it tremendously. The level of service was up to Silverseas usual high standards and the itinerary was fascinating. We look forward to sailing with Silversea again in December and in May of next year. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
After booking our cruise I checked the Cruise Critic Reviews on the Statendam. We have cruised three times on the Statendam as well as her sister ships. While these ships are not the flash of some of the new huge ships, they are ... Read More
After booking our cruise I checked the Cruise Critic Reviews on the Statendam. We have cruised three times on the Statendam as well as her sister ships. While these ships are not the flash of some of the new huge ships, they are comfortable and beautiful in many ways. The reviews from Australia were not all that good, so when I applied for my Shareholder Benefit from Holland America I mentioned that I hoped the reviews had been read and corrected. I purposely checked and found the complaints had been noted and changes had been made—the ice cream counter open until 5:00 pm rather than 2:00 pm etc. We flew into Hong Kong on a very long flight from San Francisco and arrived at 5:30 pm the day of sailing. Our embarkation was handled by many efficient young women, but only two laptops and not organization of the line until the milling about became a mess. I don't know what Hong Kong was thinking, but you walk through a maze of shopping floors for a million miles before getting to the ship. Our luggage got to the cabin at the same time as we did so that was very nice. The ship, while certainly not new was kept very clean. The cabin had the most comfortable "pillow top" king size mattress that I have ever had onboard a ship. There was a DVD player with the thin flat screen TV, very nice towels and "spa" shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc., were constantly replaced as used. A professional hair dryer was furnished to augment the lousy one in the bathroom—I wouldn't have had to bring my own. Thank goodness we were on Holland America with their roomy cabins in all categories. We had an upholstered loveseat and side chair with a coffee table that could be raised to table height. When you read on you will realize why the size of the cabin was so important. Our Captain was Frans Consen a really funny guy. His daily announcements and appearances at the Captain's Welcome Aboard party etc. were enjoyable. We experienced none of the problems complained about on earlier weeks on the Statendam. Even the toilets which have always been a problem on the Statendam performed well for us. The Cruise Director Susan Wood must not have slept for the entire two weeks as she was every where at all times with a great attitude. Her jokes were well accepted. The shows were very good although I will be happy when the current fad of dancing and singing like they are on a fast track is over. We had three lecturers on board. The best in my opinion was Dr. Jim Logan from NASA speaking on space. There were many war veterans on board and I am sure they enjoyed the lectures on WW II. The Port Lecturer did an excellent job of acquainting us with the ports before arrival. We like to go off on our own and visit cities much like we enjoy our home cities. The market places in our ports were what we wanted to see and the FREE shuttle busses into the center of each of the cities were great. Shore Excursions were pretty much a necessity in Beijing. We were in port for two days so scheduled Ming's Tomb and The Great Wall for the first day. The ship docked in Xingang which is over two hours from Beijing. The ride in and out on the bus each of the two days took over two hours each way so the tours were 11 ½ hours long. Each day we were served a Chinese lunch in huge dining rooms with large round tables. In spite of serving massive numbers of people they were done quite well. The second day we toured The Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. Tours move at the speed of the slowest person so these were leisurely. I think we could have seen all we wanted on a private tour in one day. I tried to schedule that but with not knowing just when the ship would be cleared the first morning and wanting to be sure not to miss the ship on the second evening we signed up for the tours $199 each for each day. There was an overnight tour that would have avoided the bus ride in and out once, but packing for a hotel for one night kind of defeats the purpose of a cruise where you unpack once and sleep in your own bed for the cruise. The overnight was $639 each. The Fish Market in Busan (Pusan) Korea was amazing. That and the International Market were within short blocks from the shuttle bus stop. Nagasaki offered an all day streetcar pass for $5 each and we road three lines from end to end on clean comfortable trolleys. We were able to get off and on when we saw something we wanted to see (the shopping mall was vast and beautiful) and observed the people on their ordinary day. The highlight of the trip in my estimation was the day cruising the inland passage of Japan. There were constant islands on either side, a great deal of boat traffic and three of the most impressive bridges one would ever want to see. The final bridge we passed under was the lighted longest suspension bridge in the world—two miles long. As we docked in Osaka there was the largest Ferris wheel in the world right next to the ship. Pictures taken from the top deck of the ship showed we weren't even ¼ the way up the side of the wheel. A "free" tour of Osaka was included in our ship provided transportation to the airport. It was a delightful tour and served to get us off the ship early. Our room steward was great and something happened that I think would be interesting to pass on. I developed the "Viral Gastroenteritis...Norwalk-Like Virus" our third night out. I experienced diarrhea and vomiting. We had been told to report it immediately which we did. A nurse came promptly and gave me Imodium for the diarrhea and Dramamine for the vomiting. They worked, but we had to be quarantined for 48 hours from the last occurrence. If we didn't stay in our cabin (yes, my husband also though he did not get sick) we would risk being put off the ship! Special crews with masks and gloves came twice a day to clean and disinfect our cabin. We were able to order anything to eat or drink at any time. The ship offered six pages of DVD's, playing cards and puzzles. The television had two current movie channels, two classic movie channels, Discovery Channel, CNN World News, and the usual channels on board. My husband and I played over fifty games of Gin Rummy. It is good we get along well and can amuse ourselves. For complying with the ships rules on quarantine we were compensated with $150 each per day (2 days for us) however, we missed the two days in Shanghai. I don't know how I got it. I am a very healthy person and wash my hands constantly. The ship had hand cleaning liquid all over the ship and you couldn't enter the dining room without using it. We ate nearly all meals in the dining room. The food was very good, the service efficient and smooth, and the presentation of the food was beautiful. The two days of room service food was well served and prompt. All of China, Korea and Japan surprised me with the architecture, cleanliness, beautiful flowers along the sidewalks, modern clean busses with seat belts, and friendly happy people. Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
As the magnificent Symphony of Light and Sound took center stage over Hong Kong harbor the Costa Allegra quietly set sail from the Ocean Terminal, headed for Vietnam. Just Robyn and I, a French and a German couple, 4 folks from the US of ... Read More
As the magnificent Symphony of Light and Sound took center stage over Hong Kong harbor the Costa Allegra quietly set sail from the Ocean Terminal, headed for Vietnam. Just Robyn and I, a French and a German couple, 4 folks from the US of A, 6 Italians, 7 ex-patriots and their 4 children home from school in the UK, and 900 Chinese companions. We had selected this 6 day cruise as an Easter getaway for a number of reasons; the dates were excellent, we had not previously visited Vietnam, veterans of 9 previous cruises we had not experienced Costa Crociere, Hong Kong was close enough to Perth WA to be considered an easy flight [local almost]. So we booked it. The ship itself started life in 1992 as a container vessel, which explains a lot about her unusual shape and superstructure however she is very comfortable, with a European minimalist dEcor and the use of some bold color schemes in her public areas. Whilst she is only rated 3 star, one suspects that this has more to do with her age and facilities [no balconies or rock climbing walls] than it does about the condition of the vessel. The itinerary took us first to DaNang however we opted to venture a little farther and pre-arranged a visit to HoiAn, the mecca of made to measure tailoring in this part of the world. By the time we sailed at 5pm I had a superb cashmere suit, Robyn had 2 fitted jackets [copied from a sample], various silk tops and pants, and all of which cost less then $500. In between fittings we sailed on a junk, dined at the local hotel, shopped in the markets and thoroughly enjoyed our HoiAn 'adventure'. Halong Bay [where the dragon descends to the sea] was our next stop comprising some 2000 islands of all shapes and sizes. Our arrival was classically 'eerie' because of the grey seas, the heavy mist and the absence of sound and as the ship traversed to anchorage large black rocks loomed out of the mist and slipped past, hidden once again. Thanks to local knowledge and ship's pilots we arrived safely. The days we spent at sea were pleasant, the sun battled to be seen but it wasn't too cold or windy to enjoy open decks and the Italian entertainment staff [plus translators] worked very hard to maximize participation in the dance classes, ping pong tournaments and deck games. It was whilst you were at sea however that you became aware of the differences that existed because the cruise was being marketed to the Chinese. There was no deck service of drinks, the shop carried limited goods - no clothing or books or lotions and potions, children accompanied their parents all day and night - the late night revue had to cover up, meal times were fairly chaotic, and it was incredible noisy when passengers assembled for any reason. Conversely, Mr Allan and Mrs Allan soon became known with the officers, the cruise and bar staff, and of course this delivered excellent service. The Chinese market is obviously different - it's like inviting 900 people to join a soccer match and not explaining how the game is played. Chinese passengers enjoyed their cruise because they spent time with their families not because they enjoyed the culture of 'cruising'. Those of us that went along for the cruise culture literally had no-one to share this with. Did we enjoy the cruise ? Yes we did, is there such a thing as a bad cruise ? Would we cruise with Costa again? Probably not in Asia, because [as unlikely as it sounds] the Italian Cruise experience simply wasn't Italian enough. It was great when it showed its face but that really wasn't often enough. Our next cruise ? Windstar Wind Surf, Barcelona to Barbados, November 07 and we are looking forward to it enormously. Ciao !! Read Less
Sail Date April 2007
Having just read a review about our 12 day cruise to Asia out of Hong Kong, I felt it necessary to tell our impressions of one of the best RCI Cruises we have ever taken. We are Diamond Members. The first thing we did even before booking, ... Read More
Having just read a review about our 12 day cruise to Asia out of Hong Kong, I felt it necessary to tell our impressions of one of the best RCI Cruises we have ever taken. We are Diamond Members. The first thing we did even before booking, was to read extensively on this part of the world and then specifically look at what RCI was offering. Embarkation in Hong Kong was no problem for us. We have always made it a habit to arrive early. A very nice RCI employee from Miami, personally put our luggage on the cart, we checked in and that was that! Dining was a pleasure. Our waiter from China had a great personality and was very efficient.Our tablemates from Australia were fun to chat with. We must admit that we were so tired at the end of the day that we did not attend the entertainment. The ship was satisfactory to our tastes. We had an inside cabin and the steward was great. We never had a complaint. Actually after many hours on tours, this was all we ever needed. Ship activities were available all day long, although we did not participate in many, due to the fact that we were gone on excursions, or just to tired to participate. We expected to be tired! We have no complaints about the service. When we ate at the Windjammer, the staff was extremely friendly, took off the dirty plates,asked us if we needed anything else and greeted us with enthusiasm. A previous review, had a lot of problems with shore excursions. We feel that background study is most important, in order to understand the distance from ports to cities. Actually, we never were bored as the scenery and 'people watching', was spectacular. That is just the way it is in third world countries, traffic, traffic, traffic! We felt that the tour guides were well informed, sure some tours were rushed and we would have liked to have had more time, but there always is a next time. I think everything was spelled out quite clearly about distances and times. We should also note that our destination speaker was excellent and he provided a great introduction to this part of the world. We also had little problems disembarking. Everything was clearly stated in the disembarkation materials, as to the shuttle, etc. Read everything, that solves a lot of problems. We can not wait for the next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
I have recently returned from the above cruise. I would concur with most of what the previous reviewer- gribouille- says. Like many others, we stayed in Hongkong before embarking the ship. We stayed at the Renaissance hotel in Kowloon and ... Read More
I have recently returned from the above cruise. I would concur with most of what the previous reviewer- gribouille- says. Like many others, we stayed in Hongkong before embarking the ship. We stayed at the Renaissance hotel in Kowloon and it was an excellent base. It was obvious that the staff at embarkation in the Marco Polo hotel were somewhat inexperienced and the queues were a bit shambolic. Leaving your luggage on a busy sidewalk was not reassuring! Walking through a shopping mall to meet the ship was a new experience and if you had walking difficulties, the distance was quite far. Our cabin was an inside and fine. The ship itself is generally ok, but we did notice some armchairs in the Champagne lounge which were very worn. On the promenade deck some of the flooring looked well past its sell- by -date. Shows we found were excellent which was a real bonus. After the first few days, the weather warmed up and it was very pleasant sitting outside when not on excursions. We had done a lot of research and were aware of the distance from port to city. However even we were surprised at the journey times -on destinations. Most people, travelling to the main cities, were on the coach for 3 hours or more before they reached their destination. Trips which were to be 10 hours were often 13 hours long. When we went to Hoi An we visited places not on the list, had a lunch included which we did not know about and a trip which was to take 5 1/2 hours lasted 8 hours. There were quite a few tenders which were 30 minutes long. At Vung Tau, we tendered at the last minute in a different position - better for Saigon, but leaving you an hour`s journey to Vung Tau in local taxis which were quite expensive as they could charge what they liked. Many of the shorter trips were disappointing as there was not much of interest to see. Some arrangements were quite disorganized or not well thought out. In Tra Nang, the shuttle dropped passengers at a hotel in the middle of nowhere- opposite an undeveloped beach. You then had to take a taxi into town or to a better bit of the beach. In Laem Chabang, RCI had put on shuttle buses to Pattaya. However there was misinformation about how often they returned. If the bus was early and filled up, off it went, leaving passengers waiting to get another one for an hour or more. Having spent most of their Thai money, they had no other means to get back. It was quite chaotic and totally unnecessary. Obviously RCI was cutting corners in the provision of buses. Pattaya itself is very built up, and very seedy at parts with lots of girly bars and many older European men with young girls. Some passengers found it a waste of time and returned to the ship quickly- if they could get on a bus! Visas for Cambodia were issued a day or so before we were there and needed a passport photo. On going to the photographers, staff clearly did not know about it. People were going on excursions the next day and were anxious about the visa. Finally we were advised that the photo on the copy of our passport which they gave us for filling in the visas would be ok. Sounds trite but a lot of dissatisfied passengers when they should have got their systems running better. Another problem was that Shore Excursions were open only for limited hours. Many passengers had not booked their excursions beforehand while others decided to cancel because of travel time to destinations. Consequently queues were very long and time consuming. Some information on the RCI tv information channel was wrong or misleading and led to people making the wrong decisions. Interestingly, there were a number of passengers who were Vietnam veterans and they were revisiting memories which were quite cathartic. Food on offer was more varied than usual as there was a large number of Asian passengers on board. The Windjammer had a good variety of dishes because of this. Set dining was reasonable. However we do prefer the anytime dining of Princess and it is a pity that RCI has not followed suit. Disembarkation was fairly quick, though there was alack of information about what was happening. We got on a bus which travelled for 20 minutes to pick up our luggage. Some people were worried about being on the wrong bus as no one knew what was happening! We spent 3 days in Singapore at the Furama hotel which was an excellent base and allowed early check in and a late check out as we were travelling on to Dubai. There we stayed at the Hilton Creek which again was an excellent choice and in a good location- early check in there too which is ideal when you disembark early. Overall we enjoyed the whole trip. Vietnam and Cambodia are not the best countries to cruise to because of the distances to the main cities from the ports. RCI did a reasonable job but there were too many teething problems and possibly staff were a bit inexperienced both with passengers and with the destinations on offer.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Overall: If you are thinking of taking a cruise to Vietnam and Asia I am sure the broad range of feedback on this site must be confusing. My wife and I thought for a long time about taking a trip to Southeast Asia and my wife was probably ... Read More
Overall: If you are thinking of taking a cruise to Vietnam and Asia I am sure the broad range of feedback on this site must be confusing. My wife and I thought for a long time about taking a trip to Southeast Asia and my wife was probably the most studious passenger in terms of planning our own excursions. People referred to her as "the woman with all the notes." I think some of the variation you are seeing in reviews is related to how adventurous people wanted to be. Southeast Asia is AMAZING and a wonderful place to visit. Do not expect well developed tourist entertainment. These are newly emerging cities, which are dirt cheap, exciting, friendly, and full of energy. The people in Vietnam were incredibly friendly. You will have no problems with communication. Many people speak English and if they don't they will find you someone who does. Just do some research before you go and do not rely on RCI to be your tour guides off the ship. There were also some lovely Asian passengers and if you hang out with them they'll take you to great places in the ports. Bring your own maps, tour books, and talk to other people who have been to Vietnam before you go. Organization: We found RCI to be utterly disorganized at almost every step of the way on this journey. In their defense, I spoke to a crew member on the last day who told me they just were not prepared for this journey and had not done their research, so they were learning as they went along. They had unusually high numbers of people signing up for their excursions, because people were afraid to travel on their own in this unknown part of the world. We called RCI several times before leaving the U.S. to inquire about visas and could not get any information, other than we were to take care of that ourselves since they couldn't determine that for every nation. We went to N.Y. city and paid a great deal of money for Visas on our own. Then when we arrived they offered Visas to the passengers at a reduced rate. They said we didn't need Visas for Cambodia, then the day before they quickly tried to issue Visas for 1,500 passengers. Unfortunately some people decided to skip the hassle and missed Cambodia. Cambodia was AMAZING, but the ship scared off many people with their faulty information that it was dirty, unsafe, etc. We also had major problems getting our passports from the ship to travel overnight. I think you will find the people who thought this was organized didn't try to do anything creative. RCI was not open to anything creative like staying overnight in Hanoi on your own. On the return from Bangkok a crew member was collecting passports in the line as we boarded the ship. Security had an alarm set on their computer for everyone who had a passport. Guess what? They were missing 10 passports after everyone got on board, which delayed sailing. Well why was the woman collecting passports in line and bypassing their check and balance system of having security collect the passports? Little things like that, had me concerned about the leadership staff in general. And if you politely asked for help, I found them to be quite rude, especially at the Purser's desk, which should be the epicenter of customer service. Suggestions: If you're going to do this trip get some travel books and learn about Southeast Asia. Do NOT rely on RCI to provide accurate information. I agree with other reviewers who commented about the confusion related to port locations, cab costs, etc. I'll tell you one quick story. We became friends with a family who were visiting relatives in Vietnam. The ship changed the port at the last minute and these people were never able to hook up with their family. That is a sin. All that distance. Why did RCI have to change ports at the last minute? And why couldn't we know? Food: We found the food fine. We liked the diversity of food selections. We ate with 3 Asian couples who fully appreciated the Asian menu available every night. Personally I liked it too. We were in Asia, why would I want to eat meat and potatoes? I can get that anytime at home. I also liked the Indian food and had that many days. Entertainment: Very variable at times. But on this cruise you should be spending a lot of time ashore and be coming back to the ship exhausted. You're there to see Southeast Asia. If you want to hang on the ship, it's a lot cheaper to cruise somewhere closer to home. Summary: Southeast Asia is amazing. Do go there. Just do your homework and you'll be fine. Do not expect this to be like other cruises where the cruise line takes care of everything. On this one RCI missed the boat, so to speak. You need to do your homework. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
We just come back from an exotic 12 nights Asian cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas. We are experienced cruisers and we mostly cruise on Celebrity. We were prepared to see a difference in the service but not to that point. Embarkation ... Read More
We just come back from an exotic 12 nights Asian cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas. We are experienced cruisers and we mostly cruise on Celebrity. We were prepared to see a difference in the service but not to that point. Embarkation : nightmare. In the busy HongKong I have to admit, there is no evident way to make a huge ship's embarkation run smoothly. We had to leave our luggage right next to the ship, and come back to the Marco Polo hotel to register . There was a lot of congestion and it took a great while before check-in. Once register we had to walk through a shopping mall and get to the port to embark. I will mostly comment about the ship itself as the destinations were what I expected, however, the ship stops way too far from the point of interests. Of course for the reasons we all know. However : Hanoi, Hue, Saigon, Bangkok were all from 1,5 hours to 3 hours drive from the ship. And this is one way!!! Most part of the day ashore were spent in a taxi or a bus rushing to the city or back to the ship. Of course once at the destination, you just want to stay longer but have to return to the ship, not to miss the last tender!!!! I think this is one of the first time RCCL is going to Asia and had to hire a new crew. Overall the crew were not properly trained or ready to work. Obviously, RCCL, cuts down on the crew size as there were no service on this ship. To the exception of our Cabin attendant. During our days at sea, while lounging besides the pool, there were absolutely nobody to offer us a drink!!! As usually, the staff is always walking around to offer a drink or clean up the tables etc... Well, believe it or not, NO RCCL Staff came up to us ( we were a group of 9 ) to either offer us a drink or to clean our table after lunch...good thing we are not drinkers!!! Smile was lacking on this ship. The staff were not as attentive as the other cruise line we have been on. Food : lack of taste, lack of presentation, however, there was an Asian menu always offered which I think, is a nice touch. Disembarkation: Singapore: When came the time to disembark and once off the ship, there was no place were we could recuperate our luggage. Strange. Without any indication or announcement, we were put on a bus and we would think to be transferred to the main building of this port....NO, we were transferred for at least 20 minutes into the city to be brought on to the REAL Singapore Passenger Terminal cruise port were we could found our luggage...that's where we realized that we were docked at the freight port.....when we arrived at the passenger terminal, it was nice to see the Costa Cruise ship docked right next to our luggage!!! I would definitely not cruise on RCCL again because of this cruise, and our friends who are all Platinum Royal Anchor member will not cruise RCCL either. We missed Celebrity a lot on this cruise....and I forgot to mentioned there was NO midnight buffet and NO chocolate buffet either on this 12 night cruises....!!! I see that the ship is rated 4 stars on this site...may I recommend to change it to 3, no more!!! Thank you. Ps.: please note that English is not my mother tongue, so I apologize in advance!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
The Rhapsody of the Seas is an old ship but has an old time elegance. As a cruiser that has gone over five trips with Princess, I found that this ship was better in everything except the Buffet, which serves the same old foods everyday. ... Read More
The Rhapsody of the Seas is an old ship but has an old time elegance. As a cruiser that has gone over five trips with Princess, I found that this ship was better in everything except the Buffet, which serves the same old foods everyday. The entertainment was a "B" as compare to Princess's "D" rating. You can option in to giving the mandatory tip. This system is much better, the service was much better and friendlier. This applied to the room steward and the waiters. The foods in the seating was also much better than Princess. So, I was very please overall with the cruise. Our cruise was the second trip of the route and I expected them to get the logistic problems solved. They give misleading information about visas. They told us that we need to get individual visa for Vietnam and Cambodia, but at the ship, they were able to get a ship visa for the whole ship. The head office and the cruise ship are not communicating with each other. Getting off the ship, whether to leave or to go on a tour is also a logistic nightmare. Getting your passport, inorder to stay overnight in Hanoi or Bangkok is a adventure. Regarding tours, we use non-ship tours in Vietnam and Thailand. We have always done this in Australia, New Zealand, Rome, China and Russia and always got great service. In Vietnam, DO NOT USE BUFFALO TOURS, as recommended by Frommer. They do not honor their own contracts and always ask for more monies that they original agree to. They also do not call to find out where the ship will dock, therefore they are always 2 hours late. I would recommend that in Vietnam, just arrange a tour with the people that are waiting. Get an written agreement as to the price and go from there. In my opinion there is nothing in Hanoi worth going for a 4 hours bus ride one-way. Stay in Ha Phong Bay instead. Saigon is better than Hanoi for shopping, especially designers silk outfits. But it is also a long bus ride and there are not much sights worth seeing. Thailand was very interesting, except for the traffic which is worse than New York City at rush hours. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Trip Review: Rhapsody of the Seas Vietnam (Hanoi and Hue) and Sanya Feb. 16, 2008 + Hong Kong Review Introduction This was my 54th cruise. The first day this cruise came out for sale in December of 2006 we grabbed it. We've been ... Read More
Trip Review: Rhapsody of the Seas Vietnam (Hanoi and Hue) and Sanya Feb. 16, 2008 + Hong Kong Review Introduction This was my 54th cruise. The first day this cruise came out for sale in December of 2006 we grabbed it. We've been planning an Asia cruise for years and this seemed like a great itinerary as well as giving us a chance to go back and have fun in Hong Kong again; it's been a few years since we last had that opportunity. Our original plan was to arrive into Hong Kong a couple of days early, take the cruise, and have a couple of days before we went home to visit either Macau or Shenzhen. Last fall, a friend of ours decided to come with us, and he later added his sister to his booking as well. They are both big Disney fans and convinced us to try out Hong Kong Disney instead of going to either of our other two options. To Hong Kong 13Feb08 AS 212 F PDX-SFO 737-900 N319AS Seat 2F Again our original plan changed slightly. At exactly 329 days before departure of each flight, I was able to obtain business class seats using miles. Our original routing was via LAX, but since our friends were flying from SFO, I was able to change our connecting point a couple of weeks prior to departure. Our new flight left at the 650AM, which meant we had to leave the house no later than 435AM. We got out right when we planned and had no traffic on the way to PDX. Shockingly we found a great parking spot in Economy Blue lot and I managed to get all of our bags onto the bus and we arrived at the counter and were checked in by about 515AM. Security was very quick this morning, and my wife was soon in line for her Starbucks fix before we headed off to Alaska's Board Room. We had a couple of munchies (and used the nicer bathrooms in the Board Room) and off to the gate where our flight was already boarding. We left right on time, and a snack was served which consisted of a muffin and 3 pieces of fruit. A quick hour and twenty minutes and we arrived to a beautiful day in San Francisco. Since our aircraft was continuing on to Puerto Vallarta, we arrived at the International Terminal which saved us a walk. 13Feb08 CX 879 J SFO-HKG 747-400 B-HOX Seat 11K We had our bags checked straight through to HKG, but we did have to go back out to the Cathay Pacific counter to meet our friends as well as to get our boarding passes and lounge invites. Our friends had purchased the lowest coach fare they could get, and after we had checked in, they asked how much it would cost to upgrade to business class with us. The answer was $1700 per person and to my surprise, out came the AMEX card, and now we were all in business class. We schmoozed for a while before going though security which again was very empty and then on to the British Airways Terraces Lounge which Cathay Pacific uses. My status on American Airlines allowed us into the first class part of the lounge. We didn't have a lot of time until we boarded, so I just had a drink, while my wife and friends had some snacks. The aircraft was boarded directly from the lounge, so we didn't have very far to go. We were downstairs on the 744 which I prefer and the seats were the previous business class type, 2-3-2 and not the new 1-1-1-1 configuration. I like the older seats, and since this was a day time flight, I wasn't planning on sleeping very much. The menu order was supposed to be Lunch/Snack/Dinner, but our ISM instead organized it as Lunch/Dinner/Snack. Menu choices were: Lunch: Starters: Seared ahi tuna and a seasonal salad with Asian vinaigrette. EntrEe choices: Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Sea Bass, Braised Chicken, or Wild Mushroom Risotto After: Cheese plate, fresh fruit, marble cheesecake, tea, coffee, and pralines Dinner: Starter: Fresh seasonal fruit EntrEe choices: Pan Roasted Chicken Breast, Stir-fried egg noodle with shredded pork, or Seafood congee After: Pear frangipane, tea, coffee, pralines Snack: Smoked chicken Panini Baked barbecued pork bun Wonton in noodle soup CX has a great AVOD system (audio visual on demand) in business class, and I watched three movies plus a couple of TV shows and still had time to read my book on this leg. We had beautiful views all the way to Hong Kong. Horrible head winds made for a more northerly flight route that went directly over the Anchorage airport, over Siberia, and then south off of the west coast of Japan, skirting Taiwan, and arriving into HKG 14 hours and 46 minutes after taking off from SFO. We had great service from CX across the Pacific. It took a bit for our bags to come out (CX did not intercept the bags and put a business priority tag on the bags like they usually do), but we took one of the hotel busses and got to our hotel around 9PM and collapsed soon after. Hong Kong Pre Cruise I used Marriott points for our stay at the Renaissance in Kowloon. It has a great location, and we woke up to an overcast day. As I mentioned, this was not our first visit to HKG, and we easily moved into our routine, which is grab a quick breakfast at the closest Delifrance, and then get on with our day. Today, Feb. 15 meant a ride on the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island, a ride on the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak, and lunch at one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, Cafe Deco. My wife will tell you that there was also some shopping involved here. Later in the afternoon we reversed our tracks and dropped the shopping bags back at the hotel. We tired out our friend's sister, but the three of us had dinner at Murphy's Pub on Nathan Road. The next morning both of our friends were still tired out and wanted to save their energy for the cruise; so we went back to Delifrance for our breakfast. We could see that the Rhapsody was at the pier. When we were done with breakfast, we made our way back to the hotel via Mody Road. Again, my wife will tell you that there was shopping involved on our walk back. Embarkation We left half of our bags with the bell desk since we would be returning to the Renaissance after the cruise, and we started out walking to the pier; our friends grabbed a taxi. Our documents stated that check-in took place at the Marco Polo Hotel. In front of the hotel, porters were readily available to grab our bags, and we were directed via an outside passageway to a ballroom at the rear of the hotel to the actual check-in desks. We arrived at about 1130AM and checked in at the Diamond/Platinum line and had just started the process when our friends started checking in next to us; we beat them by about five minutes. We were advised that boarding of the ship would start at 1PM, and once on we could not disembark. The ship was docked at Ocean Terminal which is a combination cruise pier and shopping mall. Since we had some time, we wandered around the mall, and decided to have lunch at the Quarterdeck Restaurant. We figured that we would have five days of cruise food, but we love to eat in Hong Kong, and it did turn out to be a good choice as you'll soon see. After lunch, we wandered some more and my wife will tell you that there was one shopping stop on the way to the ship. There were plenty of port employees showing the way to the ship. We joined the relatively short line to go through the doors, but once through doors we were directed the back of a humongous line that was parallel to the ship. While in line we went though a cruise card check, and then security. The line lead up the gangway to the ship and we entered on deck four. We were lead into the dining room, and passed through Hong Kong exit immigration. Time elapsed from when we joined the big line, until we passed immigration was a little more than an hour; it was 230PM when we were finally on board and on the ship. Our departure was delayed by 90 minutes as we had to wait for Vietnamese authorities to board the ship to process us for our Vietnam arrival. We ended up with an after sunset sail away to a spectacularly lit up Hong Kong harbor. Our Cabin A couple of days before we left the upgrade fairy paid us a visit, and upgraded both of our cabins to an Owner's Suite. We had cabin 8502 which as with all the top suites on Rhapsody was forward on deck 8. We had two large rooms, lots of storage space, and a bathroom (complete with bidet) that was bigger than some cabins that we have had on other ships. You could tell from the soft goods though that this is a 10 year old ship. The Ship The Rhapsody is almost 11 years old and she shows it in some places; while we were waiting in the long line to board I saw quite a few rusty spots that could have used some paint, and some dents that should come out in the next dry dock. The interior/deck space however is in good shape, especially the Solarium (covered pool) area with its Egyptian dEcor. The restaurant was in very good condition as well. You can tell that the Windjammer buffet restaurant was recently re-done. It was much easier to get around and less cluttered than some of the other Vision class ships. Service I had heard rumblings about the service on board before we ourselves boarded, but for the most part, we had no complaints. Our waiter Ronald was outstanding. He has been with RCI for 8 years, and you can tell. He did let it slip later in the cruise however that he was recently transferred to the Rhapsody because some newly hired staff weren't working out as planned. I do unfortunately have to mention one event which made quite a few cruisers upset. Upon boarding in HKG, all passengers had to relinquish their passports to RCI, so that Vietnam immigration authorities could have access to them while we were sailing to our first port. The night we left our second port in Vietnam, we were told to reclaim our passports at 930PM. We had second seating dinner, and so we went to the conference center on deck 6 to claim our passports after dinner. We joined the line, and it didn't move. No announcements, nothing was said while we were in line. Almost an hour passes and the time is getting late (plus we had to set our clocks an hour ahead as we were entering China), and you can hear the rumblings of a riot as the line is stretching all around deck 6. Eventually, close to 11PM, they let a few British citizens into the room, now making it two lines, one for Brits, and one for everybody else. Again, there were no announcements from anyone. Finally at about 1115PM they started letting people into the room. The entire time, we never saw a uniformed Royal Caribbean representative letting people know what was happening. When we got back to the cabin, my wife called the purser's desk who was blissfully unaware of the happenings a deck above. They said that the problem would be taken care of. When we entered Sanya, the Chinese authorities kept our passports and returned them en-masse to the ship. This time, there were plenty of announcements (in fact it seemed like we were being begged to pick up our passports) and plenty of uniformed personnel around. Service around the rest of the ship was fine. Ports of Call The reason we took this cruise was for the ports. We called on Hon Gai port which is where Ha Long Bay meets land and you can get to Hanoi, Chan May port which is the port for both Danang and Hue, and finally Sanya on Hainan Island. At the Captain's reception, he told us that we would be sailing through a channel to get us closer to land than the last couple of cruises. Previously it was a 30 minute tender ride, but he would get us close enough so the tender would only be a few minutes. It meant sailing through Ha Long Bay in the pre dawn hours. When I got up that morning, it was shortly after sun rise, and you could just start to make out the limestone monoliths. As the sun came up, the view got better and better, and it looked spectacular as the Rhapsody let go of her anchor. We did take the trip to Hanoi. I knew it would be a long day with lots of time on the road, but I still wanted to see the city. The trip into town was just about 3 hours with some interesting scenery on the way. There was one comfort stop about half way into the trip. My wife will tell you that there was some shopping at that comfort stop. When we finally got into town, the first place we went was to Ba Dinh Square and Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. We were not allowed inside the mausoleum because Uncle Ho only allows visitors until 11AM and we were there at 1130AM. We did however get to see the changing of the guard there. We then went to the Temple of Literature which was beautiful and from there we went to lunch. The Intercontinental Hotel in Hanoi was our lunch provider this day, and they put out a very nice repast. After our lunch break, it was time for old Hanoi; our options were walk or cyclo (think bicycle taxi). We decided on taking a cyclo, and that was a great option. We were zoomed in and around traffic as we got to see sights from street level. After the cyclo ride it was back to the bus for the long drive back to the port. We again had a comfort stop about half way through the ride, although this time there were no bargains to be had according to my wife. Back to the ship we went, again fighting the motorbikes and bicycles all the way back into Ha Long Bay. The next day we docked at Chan May port at 10AM, and immediately set out on our tour of Imperial Hue. We still had a bit of a drive, but nothing like the day before. One of the other passengers on the bus asked the guide what people in Vietnam thought of Americans. It was an interesting answer, "we forgive, but we do not forget." Our first stop was actually for lunch at the Century Riverside hotel. Again the food was very good, and varied, but not as good as the day before. This time there was a local musical group entertaining us during lunch. We were given an exceptionally long lunch time, so once we finished, we took a walk around Hue for about half an hour. My wife will tell you that there was much shopping involved. When we got back on the bus, we headed over to the tomb of Tu Duc who was famous for his 104 wives. The garden area around the tomb is gorgeous and very picturesque. Our next stop was the Citadel and the Imperial City. We saw quite a bit including the Forbidden Purple City. There was a good deal of the area that we could not see because it was bombed by the U.S. during the Tet Offensive. It was again time to board the bus and head back to the ship; this time making one stop for photos - rice patties on one side of the road and beautiful mountain scenery on the other. Our last port of call was Sanya, China on Hainan Island. This was Royal Caribbean's inaugural call in Sanya and the Rhapsody is largest ship to date to dock there, so there was plenty of pomp and circumstance for our arrival including a loud band, and media interviewing passengers as we disembarked. The port building is beautiful and clearing Chinese immigration was very quick. Our original excursion that we signed up for was Luhuitou Park and Yalong Bay. A couple of days before we left home, the excursion was cancelled for English speakers, and was only available for Chinese speaking passengers, We weren't thrilled by the rest of the options, but ended up on The Big Shopping Trip or as it is known in our household, The Big Bust. Our first stop was the Sanya Jungrun Pearl Cultural Center. We learned about Pearls and of course there were some available for purchase. My wife will tell you that the Pearls here were very nice and reasonably priced (the only place on this excursion that you will hear that). Next up was a government tea house where we had a tea ceremony, tea tasting, and of course the opportunity to purchase any tea that you wanted. That was not our favorite stop. Next up was a government silk shop where we bought some placemats, but figured they were probably over priced, but we did like them. Nothing else appealed to us there. A few passengers ganged up on the guide and told him to take them somewhere that they can buy bags. We drove around for a bit, and ended up at a store that was probably owned by a friend/relative of the guide, but instead of copy bags that people wanted, these were gray market bags, so prices were still high. No one on the bus purchased anything there. Our last stop was at the beach promenade where we were given some free time and were able to look at shops that were not government owned. We didn't have very long here so all we did was walk around the local mall where prices were just OK. One thing we did notice in that area was that there were a large number of signs in Cyrillic. Apparently the island (which granted is a resort island) attracts a large number of Russian visitors. While wandering around the local mall, my wife kept getting addressed in Russian. We were only in Sanya for half a day, so it was back to the ship after that. Food The food was typical Royal Caribbean fare with the addition of some Asian specialties. The Asian food was excellent, and the standard food was fine. The Windjammer buffet was always busy and the food there was decent. Spa When we walked in soon after boarding, I was ready to make an appointment for a massage, and as soon as we entered we were asked if we wanted to take a spa tour. We said OK, and you would have guessed that you were on a Caribbean cruise - we were shown everything including the teeth whitening demonstration. I did have one massage at the Spa on the first day out which was our only sea day. The massage was very nice, and there was no hard sell at all for their products. Entertainment We had such a busy five days; we did not attend even one show the entire week. There was some music around the ship that was nice, and we went to the casino twice for about a total of 20 minutes between the two visits. We came out over $300 USD ahead, so no complaints about the casino for us. Debarkation Shortly after leaving Sanya, our captain advised us that we would have some headwinds on our trip back to Hong Kong and it was possible that we would be a little late. He also said that disembarkation might take a while. True to his word, we docked about 30 minutes late at 930AM, but since it was a later arrival than most for a cruise ship, we were able to watch a very beautiful arrival into Hong Kong harbor. Remaining true to his word, disembarking did take a while. We had white tags and were invited to leave the ship in the first group, but again we had to go through Hong Kong immigration in the dining room of the ship. We had to take a walk around the pier to get to our bags, but once in the baggage claim area, the authorities were allowing taxis to pick up passengers instead of sending us back out to the street. So we hopped into one taxi and our friends into another, and within a few minutes we were back at the Renaissance Kowloon. Hong Kong Post Cruise The hotel was very good and let us check in early, even though it was only 11AM. Again I used Marriott points for our stay, and was very happy with our room. We were reunited with our bags that stayed in HKG, and we got our stuff together and out we went for the day. We wanted something light for lunch, so we made a stop at our favorite Delifrance before heading out. Our immediate goal was the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) MTR (subway) station, but we walked there via Mody road again, and again my wife will tell you that much shopping was involved on the way to the MTR. We took the MTR north to Yau Ma Tei, and walked to the Ladies Market where we spent a couple of hours. I can tell you that way too much shopping was done there, and we walked back to Mong Kok station and took the MTR back to TST. We collapsed at the hotel for a while and decided it was time for dinner. When we called our friends, they were already in their pajamas and about to call room service, so we headed out on our own. Our original thought was the San Francisco Steak House, but they keep moving (when I first started to go to HKG they were across from the Hyatt Regency which itself is gone these days, then they moved to one of the malls by the pier and then they moved again to a bank building in Kowloon), and I wasn't in the mood for tracking them down, so we ended up at Outback of all places. I will say that we had a very good dinner before heading back to the hotel. OK, I have to admit that after dinner, I did buy myself a new pair of shoes. The next day, Friday Feb. 22 was our last in HKG. And we did promise our friends that we would go to Hong Kong Disneyland with them, so after our usual Delifrance breakfast stop, it was back on the MTR to Disneyland. It was very painless to get to, and the last leg from the Sunny Bay station to the park in the special Disneyland train cars was very cool. Admission was $295 HKD (about $38 USD) and the park was not very busy on this day. The major difference between Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland/Disneyworld in the US is that the park in HKG has fewer rides, but more shows. I still managed to get on Space Mountain twice (no wait at all), and go on a few other rides as well as seeing a couple of attractions that are not in the US yet (the Festival of the Lion King show and Mickey's PhilharMagic) and of course what would be a day in Hong Kong Disney without quite a bit of shopping (for Hong Kong Disney items) involved. We actually really enjoyed ourselves at the park, more than we expected to. We headed back to the MTR after having our fill of Disney and our friends wanted to go back to the Ocean Terminal Mall to pick something up, so this time we took the MTR back to the Kowloon Airport Express Station and then took the free shuttle bus to the Marco Polo hotel. After making their purchases, our friends wanted to go back to the Quarterdeck Restaurant again, so after a very nice dinner, armed with bags, we jumped back into a taxi and was back at the hotel within a couple of minutes. From Hong Kong Here we parted ways with our friends. They were booked on the Cathay Pacific 210PM flight back home to San Francisco (and they did fly home in coach), but since we were using miles, we had to take what we could get, but what we got was pretty good. 23Feb08 JL 736 C HKG-NRT 747-400 JA8087 Seat 2A We took a taxi from the hotel and got to the airport at about 730AM. Japan Airlines had just opened up their check in, so there was no wait at all, and soon our four bags were checked all the way to Portland, and boarding passes were issued. There was only a short line at outbound immigration and we were through security in a very short time as well. We immediately headed for the Cathay Pacific first class lounge, and had a very good breakfast (their catering is done by the Peninsula Hotel) before taking the long walk to our gate. My wife had a hankering for strawberry gummi candy, so we made a stop at the Aji Ichiban store where a huge bag was purchased. Boarding started right on time for our flight, and we found our way to our business class seats in the nose of the 747. This was one of JL's older 747s with the regional interior. Take off was right on time and shortly the service started. Lunch: Starter: Crabmeat terrine, salad EntrEe choices: Tenderloin of Beef Steak, Guinness Pork Stew or Japanese Lunch featuring Braised Mackerel with the appropriate starters After: Cheese and crackers, pineapple crumble and coffee and tea. There was also an ice cream service after the dishes were taken away. Our in-flight service was very nice and soon it was time to land. My wife kept looking across the aisle because the passenger on that side looked very familiar, I finally told her who it was (Karl Rove - no political commentary here as much as I would like to) as we were getting ready to land. We arrived at Tokyo's Narita airport 3 hours and 16 minutes after leaving Hong Kong. We arrived at the terminal 2 satellite building and were off the plane quickly, and through the very professional and polite security recheck extremely fast, and we took the train over to the main building to go to JL's first class lounge. As soon as we entered we each signed up for one of the complimentary 15 minute massages, and went to wait our turn by having a bite in the lounge. I had been to this lounge once before, and remembered that the beef curry was to die for, and it was again. The time for our massages rolled around, so went downstairs to the business class lounge where our massages would take place. That was the fastest 15 minutes of my life, but I did feel quite a bit better when I came out; my wife also thought it was a great perk to have. We left the lounge and took the train back to the satellite terminal to await our flight. 23Feb08 JL 2 NRT-SFO 747-400 JA8076 Seat 20A I still like a window seat when I fly, and when I am on 747s, I prefer the main deck over the upper deck because the viewing is so much easier. However, when I changed our flight to connect via SFO instead of LAX, the only seats together were in the upper deck. I admit it is much quieter and feels like your own private jet, but I still like having the big window downstairs. Again we pushed back right on time, but we stopped our taxi to the runway as the runway closed temporarily due to a disabled aircraft (this seems to happen quite often at Narita). The runway re-opened fairly quickly, and we took off to the north, before making our turn east. Dinner and breakfast were served on this flight as well as a snack between meals if desired. Dinner: Starters: Terrine of Foie Gras, Tartar of Crabmeat and Scallop with mackerel, terrine of Pike Conger and Shrimp, and salad. EntrEe choices: Grilled Filet of Japanese Beef Steak, Meuniere of Grouper and Rockfish or Japanese dinner featuring a choice of Braised Beef Roll or Red Snapper and Greenland Halibut with the appropriate starters After: Chocolate Nuts with Custard Sauce, coffee and tea. Mid flight snack: JAL noodles - Ramen de Sky, Udon de Sky, or Soba de Sky. Sandwiches Breakfast: Western: Grapefruit, Apple Crepe with Blueberry Sauce, Scrambled Eggs and Sausage, Yogurt, coffee and tea Japanese: Gilled Fillet of Salmon, Japanese Poached Egg, Braised Spinach with Mushroom Radish Sauce, Grilled Fish Cake/Yuba Crepe Roll/Pickled Plum, Fresh Fruits, Green tea. JL's AVOD service is not as complete as Cathay Pacific's. There was a choice of about 6 moves (compared to 50 on Cathay), but I opted instead for about 4 hours of sleep after dinner. This flight had JL's shell flat seat which doesn't go entirely flat, but close enough so I can get a decent sleep. Before I knew it, the California coast appeared through my window. I knew before leaving Tokyo that it was supposed to rain (OK make that pour) at SFO later in the afternoon, but that the winds were already present. So I was not totally surprised when we landed opposite of normal on runway 10 at SFO, 8 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff. Again, fantastic service from the JL crew. There was a bit of a wait for US immigration as three flights came in at once (our friends' included, and they got through before we did), but once through, our baggage was already on the carousel, and we got through customs very quickly. Instead of dropping our bags at the transfer desk, I opted to just wheel them to Alaska Airlines. We never have good luck with baggage being interlined, and we had a cart for the bags, so off we went to terminal 1. The AS counter quickly checked in our bags, and it was off to security. The lines were short, but for some reason, I beeped going through the metal detector (WTMD). I walked back through the other way to try again and no alarm as I went back. OK, so I tried a second time, and alarmed again. The only metal that I have is my wedding ring and a belt with as little metal as possible, I call it my airport belt, and I never have an issue, anywhere. The TSA rep gives me a bit of a hard time and says to always take my belt off. I ask him why I didn't beep when I walked back through to line up; he didn't have an answer. Anyway, my wife wants a bit to eat now, so we stop at the Max's deli in the terminal so she could have a matzo ball soup. When she was done we headed to the AS Board Room for a few minutes before our flight was to depart. 23Feb 08 AS 345 F SFO-PDX MD80 N960AS Seat 2F I noticed that the plane was already at the gate when we were going to Max's, and I was sort of surprised that it was there so early. Our flight was scheduled for 1PM, with boarding at 1220PM, and at 1225PM the crew boards, only to walk off a couple of minutes later. I overhear the captain saying to the gate agent that he would not accept the aircraft, and the gate agent replied, that yesterday's captain of the same flight said the same thing to her. So the aircraft had been at SFO for at least 24 hours. Maintenance is called, and they post that more information will be available at 115PM. There is still no word by 125PM, so I very quietly ask the gate agent to protect us on the 445PM Horizon Air flight, just in case. A couple of minutes after I sit back down, they changed the more information time to 3PM. We head back into the Board Room and after about 2 minutes I over hear an announcement from our gate about bussing passengers to San Jose. The Board Room concierge calls the gate for us, and gets all the info, and tells me to recheck at the gate for rebooking. I go back out to the gate and of course the line is horrendous. Right as I am pulling out my cell phone to call reservations, a further announcement is made that the counter (outside of security) will also help rebook passengers, but we would also have to go out to baggage claim to reclaim our bags no matter what. I go back into the Board Room and get my wife and we head back out to the counter. Instead of being bussed to San Jose, since we were protected on the later Horizon Air flight, we were issued new boarding passes and instructed to reclaim our bags. Back downstairs to baggage claim we go, where things were very organized, and our bags were already waiting on the side of the carousel. I asked the luggage rep if she could just recheck them for us since we were one of the lucky ones not going to San Jose, but no, they couldn't do that, so we pick them up, take an elevator back upstairs, and recheck them at the counter. Now we have to back through security again. It's the same check point. Did I take my belt off this time? No. Did I alarm the WTMD? No. 23Feb 08 AS 2524 Y SFO-PDX CRJ-700 N613QX Seat 4A Since it's Saturday, the Board Room closes at 230PM, and of course it's now 235PM, so we wait at the gate as the weather gets worse and worse, and it starts to pour. Flights all over the place are starting to have 2+ hour delays. An Alaska flight coming in from Seattle diverts to Oakland. Alaska busses people that were on the outbound flight back to Seattle to Oakland to meet up with the airplane. Our aircraft? It arrives only 20 minutes late, and we board quickly. Due to the weather we have a nice tailwind and the captain announces a quick flying time, but with plenty of turbulence as we leave SFO. After we stop bouncing, the flight attendants come through with an express beverage service and before I know it, we are landing at PDX. We have only an hour and ten minutes flying time today with a very competent Horizon crew. Our bags are again on the carousel very quickly, the bus to the parking lot is waiting for us and closes its doors after we get on and we make it home to the joy of our three cats. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on this trip! Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Hong Kong - China Sea - Shanghai (triple cruise) 27.3. 2008 to 8.4.2008 We chose Royal Caribbean because of a very good experience about three years ago round the Med with our 3 children but it was a mistake to do the three back-to-back ... Read More
Hong Kong - China Sea - Shanghai (triple cruise) 27.3. 2008 to 8.4.2008 We chose Royal Caribbean because of a very good experience about three years ago round the Med with our 3 children but it was a mistake to do the three back-to-back cruises because of the lack of customer care during the cruises, emphasized the more because the second cruise was definitely geared to the Chinese - we all felt very unimportant and unwanted. The third leg we never got because of Chinese immigration - our travel agent asked for multiple entry visas but we were issued with a one entry one which we then thought (wrongly apparently) would be sufficient as the period it covered was that of the three cruises. Boarding at Hong Kong, even though we had completed the SetSail forms on the net (two thirds of the passengers had also done so) was extremely slow, queuing for well over an hour. We were told we could board from 1.00pm, all aboard by 3.30pm so there was complete chaos. Admittedly the purser staff on their desks were good and efficient but there just weren't enough of them. We arrived at 12.45pm prepared to wait until 1.00pm and so did virtually everyone else. Cruise Hong Kong back to Hong Kong There was no one to show us to the cabins, not made easier by absence of a layout map of the ship, and no welcome aboard. The cabin was fine - clean and tidy. The Edelweiss dining and the Windjammer restaurants seemed quite good particularly in view of everyone arriving at once. In the Edelweiss the staff seemed prepared to help my wife find food without garlic to which she is allergic becoming violently sick if getting any in her food (too late by the time one finds out). The waiters tried hard on her behalf and so did the dining room manager for 2 days! The service was very, very slow, possibly more due to the kitchen than the waiters. The cabin PA worked on and off meaning we had to open the cabin door to hear many of the announcements eg. re passports, tours, events. Breakfast the next morning in the Edelweiss was paralytically slow to full stop - sometimes the next part of the order (hot, i.e. eggs Benedict) was left sitting on the side for 10 minutes. Toast was soggy and cold. The breakfast menu never changed which limited one's choice considerably by the end of the cruise. The lunchtime Bistro menu was even more limited and we didn't expect to have to eat burger and chips every day as everything else was very spicy or loaded with garlic. There wasn't the usual small card map of the ship (which we've had on previous cruises) so considerable time was wasted finding where places were - a small point, but easily rectified. The main emphasis was on tipping - more announcements were made on this topic than any other and one of our friends who has a world-wide hairdressing and beauty business even offered to give a free seminar on customer relations to RCL. Of the available tours, we booked for three days (one day at sea so obviously nothing doing there) and two of these were very good in Viet Nam whilst in Sanya it was just an exercise to get us into the silk factory (very expensive) and tea shop - we went through the Li and Miao village at full speed in our guide's hope that we would spend more in these shops - not good; many people were complaining. Tour description didn't much match what we got in Sanya and to be told, with pride, that we could have an extra 20 minutes in the silk shop to continue purchasing things produced quite a bit of grumbling. Previously a member of the ship's staff used to accompany a tour, as well as the guide, but this was not done. There were supposed to be two tours of Hong Kong when we returned but both were cancelled due to "lack of demand" (any excursion staff worth their salt would have arranged for taxis, small vans etc as required); instead we had to leave the ship for three hours waiting to re-board. The immigration/emigration was fine thanks to the ship's prior arrangement and the blue cards. Cruise from Hong Kong to Shanghai There was one evening on board, then a day at sea followed by arrival at Shanghai at 1.00pm - we were told, eventually, that the ship wasn't allowed to even get to the ocean terminal and we had to berth an hour's drive away. The menu each night in the Edelweiss was a repeat of the previous cruise - one would expect the chef to have, say, a 12 day menu and the service was again incredibly slow although the ship was well underbooked (about 1000 to 1100 passengers) and the upper floor of the restaurant was totally closed. The main courses were divided into Asian and Western, the latter having 4 out of 6 spicy/garlic dishes so my wife had to have steak and baked potato again for the third time in 7 days. Her appetizers were limited to fruit. The show on the first night was a rehash of parts of three cabaret nights and the second night a repeat of the Broadway cast production whilst they had, they told us, a third show which we hadn't seen - poor organization. The cookery demonstration was awful and we've never been to one (covering about 20 cruises) so badly organized. Health and Safety would have had a fit - child leaning on table whilst chef setting fire to steak Diana, rest of the Chinese (maybe other similar nationalities) leaning on the table which meant that no one else could see. Most of the pursers were pretty useless, with poor command of English, which made trying to find out about the visa even more frustrating. Eventually we found one, Sandra Shreiber, who was very helpful with trying to reason with the Chinese officials, phoning our travel agent and giving us credit on the internet as we had a lot of arrangements to try and make with 12-18 hours to go and a time delay of plus 7 hours to England limiting our window for communication. Disembarkation was a disaster. We had colored labels to go off in some sort of order and presumably the baggage was similarly colored and collected in groups. We never found out as our coach didn't stop for us to get it! We were deposited after an hour at the dockside and told the luggage was 10-15 minutes behind the coaches - some of which had their luggage on them. Thinking about it, this must have been a lie, because until the last coach had left the berth they couldn't know which bags needed to put on lorries. We waited for about an hour and a half on the quayside. The Chinese people on the ship didn't believe in following the system and crowded round the gangway so it was an hour after we should have left that we did so - we realized, later, that this is how they behave but the pursers should have been able to control them. They didn't bother with lifeboat drill, refused to move chairs from the gangway in the theatre etc. but then, that's them, presumably! The whole thing was done on a wing and a prayer  we expected that you would have a rec crew organizing and sorting out all the problems well before the ship arrived - if there was one, it was pretty lousy. We lost the last cruise, suffered considerable stress due to uncertainty; the ship's staff apparently were unconcerned, their contract was to get us from A to B, dump us and then push off. We were told we could get off in Japan (the previous time the ship called there it wasn't allowed to dock) or Korea (for which we understand we would need another visa) and then make our own way home from there. This was not a viable option and with my wife in tears I had to decide that we would leave on the first call at Shanghai. We partly went with RC because that way we could feel safe under their cover but, with the one exception above, this was not the case. Very disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
Pre and Post Cruise Hotels - We stayed at the Stanford Hillview pre-cruise and BP International post-cruise. Both are close to the cruise terminal and cost ~$100/night. Of the two, BP International is the choice. It's modern, clean ... Read More
Pre and Post Cruise Hotels - We stayed at the Stanford Hillview pre-cruise and BP International post-cruise. Both are close to the cruise terminal and cost ~$100/night. Of the two, BP International is the choice. It's modern, clean and has great views. Visas - a major point of contention. I had been emailing RCCL for weeks asking if a visa was necessary for Sanya, China. The replies I received either avoided the question or pointed to information on their website. Well, the information is incorrect. Save yourself $260 (for a couple). No visa is needed for Americans in Sanya. RCCL provided Vietnamese visas for $30pp. Embarkation - Total Chaos - Check-in at the Marco Polo Hotel was a model of disorganization. We were sent to three different locations for check in, all incorrect. We were sent outside the building twice and sent in the wrong direction. Be prepared for long lines, more long lines and confusion. Ship - Rhapsody is a nice mid-size RCCL ship. It's clean and has fairly nice art work. Unfortunately there is no Concierge Club. Instead, they have installed a "High Rollers Room," obviously hoping to attract Asian gamblers. Strangely, the casino was virtually empty most days. Dining - The typical RCCL menu with additional asian dishes. Each night a delicious vegetarian curry dish was also available, which we shared as an extra order. Ports - Vietnam was great. We took ship tours around Halong Bay (the cave was fantastic) and "Hoi - An Ancient Merchant Town." If you thought there were shopping bargains in Hong Kong, wait til you see Vietnam! Be prepared for more chaos with the organization of the tours since virtually the entire ship is getting off. In Sanya, we toured a local cultural village before the obligatory and boring stops at silk and pearl factories. Debarkation - Once again a lack of communication. We docked at a pier about twenty minutes from the Cruise Ship Terminal and had to be shuttled to the Marco Polo. This was not announced, either before or on the day of debarkation. Over-All - By all means visit southeast asia and especially Vietnam, but be prepared for confusion, chaos and a lack of information. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its route was Hong Kong - Chan May (Hue) - Saigon (overnight) - Laem Chabang (Bangkok)(overnight) - Koh Samui - Singapore (overnight). Our travel to and from the cruise was independent; we spent several days in Hong Kong before the cruise, and we travelled further in the region after disembarking. Embarkation in Hong Kong: Boarding from the Marco Polo Hotel was painless. The bell boy just pulled our two suitcases from the hotel to the ship baggage area in Ocean Terminal. We were on board by 1230; our cabin would be available at 3. One piece of missing information for boarding for independent travellers is that you receive no instructions when and where to board. You also receive no contact instructions. My wife and I are well acquainted with Hong Kong, so we knew the ship would be at Ocean Terminal. We did not know the ship would be in port for two days; on its first day we just went to the ship security personnel at the gangplank and asked. They said that we could board any time after 12 noon the next day. Now, this information along with a contact phone number could easily have been added to the massive packet one receives from Crystal. Some statistics: The ship can carry 1,080 passengers; we are ca 900 on the leg Hong Kong - Singapore (remember this is a round the world cruise, Los Angeles - Southampton in 104 days). I don't know how many got off in HK, but ca 500 boarded; 380 got off in Singapore. There are only 167 Crystal first time passengers. Around 400 are doing the entire world cruise. The story is that around 125 book the world cruise every year (seems that Crystal alternates this cruise between its two ships). The staff of 650 is from 45 countries with no one nationality predominating. Our stewardess (not cabin boy) was from Croatia. Our head waiter was Austrian, senior from Turkey, and junior from India. Our cabin with verandah was smaller than Holland-America, but it still had lots of nooks and crannies for storage. Room under the bed for suitcases. Two sinks in the bathroom. The usual TV, safe, fridge, robes and slippers, and an impractical, too large, Crystal tote bag (however, useful for taking dirty clothes to the laundry). Fellow passengers: older and moneyed, and very international, although Americans were the majority. A guest list is published for each leg listing passenger and state or province (US or Canada), or country. I would categorize most of the men as either business or lawyers, with some medical persons. There were at least two retired generals. The passengers ranged from very pleasant and interesting to the very stupid and obnoxious, eg, Where is the capital of Viet Nam? Why do I have to use Baht in Thailand? On a large ship you don't necessarily have to be around the people you don't like. When you are only 900, the chances are better that you will meet them more than once. There were a few infants and children. While jewelry was not in short supply during the day, it really came out in the evenings. Formal nights also brought out elegant dresses and quite a variety of men's formal attire. The ship: As it's smaller, it was easier to negotiate. Decks 5 and 6 were the public areas. Decks 7 through 11 were cabins. Deck 7 was no verandahs, 8 and 9 were verandahs, and 10 and 11 were penthouses. There are no inside cabins. Deck 12 was the pool, Lido, and the like. There are only three shops - all upscale - on board: two jewelry and one clothing. The clothing shop has a couple shelves of sundries, and that is it. There is no liquor store; there are special order forms if you do want to buy liquor. Like other cruise lines, there is artwork on board for sale. No auctions; you see something you like, contact the sales person. Period. In fact, the best example of the sense of the Serenity is that there are no public announcements. No count down to bingo, no art auction, no t-shirt sale. The captain comes on once a day from the bridge, gives the ship's location, maybe a comment about the day's activity (his welcome party, for example), and a "thought for the day." And that is it. All you need to know is in the daily newsletter/activity page; if you have a question, go to the front desk or ask the concierge. Crystal Lines assumes the passenger is intelligent and literate; he does not need to be told what activities there are. The ship has a relaxed itinerary; it rarely moves at 18-20 knots. Sometimes it only does 12 knots. Dining: On this leg, dress was three formal, two informal, and the rest casual. Crystal Lines is no better than any other cruise line when it comes to handling your dinner request for table size and time; they will screw it up. We asked for a table for two, first sitting, and got no table, second sitting. We stood in line along with everyone else to talk to the maitre d' and got first sitting and a table for 8. Fortunately, our table mates were a most genial and friendly bunch, and we had a great time for the entire trip. The other three couples had also each asked for a table for two. With overnight tours and other dining choices, we were rarely the full complement at dinner. Two nights my wife and I were the only ones; I think at least four nights we were not present. The dining room dinners are excellent; just notch up whatever meals you know from your current cruise line. Service is, of course, what one expects. When you enter the dining room, the string quartet is playing, and the waiters are lined up to escort each lady to her table. Nice touch! Trouble is, most husbands don't know what to do when the waiter comes forward and offers his arm to the lady. The wine list is excellent and pricey (hey, this is Crystal), but you will have interesting choices. You definitely have to try a dinner at the Italian Prego restaurant and one at the Silk Road Chinese restaurant. No extra charge for the meal; just tip extra. Remember to make your reservations for these two restaurants on-line; do not wait until you board to make them. We did not try the sushi bar attached to the Chinese restaurant; it looked good, but we have enough sushi places at home. The Lido buffet compares roughly to that on any other line - the food is just better quality. And the service is better; a lady will have to fight to carry her own tray. And if a male looks even a bit wobbly or old, his tray will also be carried. An interesting touch that we at our dinner table all jumped on is the "Tastes" dining area at poolside. This is full-service dining with a menu almost the same as the dining room (limited because of the small kitchen). This is elegant casual dining every night with no time limits; and yes, there is a wine list and full bar. I think this became quite popular as people "discovered" it. There is also a respectable hamburger joint and ice cream stand at poolside. The Crystal touch: We celebrated my wife's birthday on board. I booked dinner in the Prego restaurant and requested some sort of chocolate dessert. My cruise agent said that Crystal acknowledged the request, but I should check with the Prego maitre d' after boarding. I did, and he said that they usually serve a chocolate cake for such an occasion. Fine. I also asked at the photo shop if a photographer could take some pictures. No problem. What happened at dinner was amazing: first there were a couple balloons at our table when we arrived. When it was time for dessert, the cake (with one candle) came simultaneously with the ship string quartet playing "Happy birthday." And the photographer was on hand for the whole show. Well done! Another touch was on our return to the ship from Bangkok. The timing was such that we could have missed lunch in Bangkok. We boarded the ship at 4PM. In our cabin were two large plates of sandwiches and other cold goodies with a sign, "welcome back from Bangkok." Activities on board are varied: lectures on a variety of subjects, music lessons, dance lessons, ikibana lessons, Spanish lessons (?), computer courses for college credit, etc, etc. The fitness center seemed to be active, the library, while small, was well stocked, the casino did not appear to be busy when we dropped in (possibly busier around midnight), and there were relatively current movies on in the theater. We only attended a couple shows, and they were quite good - a Broadway singer and a ventriloquist. We did not have the impression that there was a thundering herd heading for the theater after dinner as on other lines. The internet center seemed to be quite busy, probably because in part of all the people on board for the full 104 days. There are live cameras on board that broadcast on the internet. One fellow at our table coordinated with his son by cell phone when and where in the internet center he and his wife should stand so that the children could see them. Other people were also using the center to download photos from their cameras and send them on to friends and family. Shore excursions: We found, as with other lines, that it is better to book your shore excursions on-line long before you board. If you wait, you may not get what you want. For example, in Laem Chabang, Crystal offers an overnight in Bangkok at the famed Oriental Hotel. We booked and got the hotel. Others waited too long and while they got the trip to and from Bangkok, they had to overnight in other hotels, and not the Oriental. News is readily available. A small news compilation is delivered daily to your cabin. The cruise line version of the NY Times is available at the front desk. CNN and ESPN are on your cabin TV. A unique offer - at $6.50 a copy - is a daily copy of your complete hometown newspaper (minus ads). The selection of newspapers is amazingly large and international. The paper size is roughly tabloid size; the NY Times version was quite a thick package. Laundry: While there is the usual laundry service on board, there is also a free laundry room (four washers and dryers) on each deck. This facility is quite popular - at all hours - and some of the genteel civility onboard disappears once people enter the laundry room. Disembarkation: Given the location of Singapore, many flights leave at night. Thus, some people had to leave the ship at 3AM. Independent travellers were "invited" to leave by 10AM. The ship managed to make one final mess for us. When we boarded, the staff made the usual swipe of my credit card for the payment of the ship bill. Several days into the cruise I was notified to go to the front desk to make arrangements to settle my account. Many apologies, but apparently some of the card swiping at check-in did not get into the computer. They swiped my card again, had me sign a blank AMEXCO form, and all was done. At 8AM on debarkation day in Singapore, I was called by the audit staff to settle my account at the front office. I was not a happy camper, and the girl at the desk was scrambling to find my blank form, check my account in the computer, and in general try and figure out what happened. She finally did find my form and muttered something about my name having been misspelled in some entries. The account was settled, and we were on our way. It just showed that for all their highly touted efficiency and service, Crystal can - and does - screw up like any other line. Even with my grumbles, this was a fabulous cruise, and I would gladly sail with them again. Any questions, e-mail me at LTC519@satx.rr.com Fred Groth Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
I am very disappointed on the RCCL back to back cruise that sailed out from Hong Kong on 3/26/08 to Vietnam and China, and on 3/2/08 to Japan and Taiwan. RCCL was no help on the pre-cruise visa information. I tried to find out if a visa ... Read More
I am very disappointed on the RCCL back to back cruise that sailed out from Hong Kong on 3/26/08 to Vietnam and China, and on 3/2/08 to Japan and Taiwan. RCCL was no help on the pre-cruise visa information. I tried to find out if a visa is required to China and RCCL avoided the answer and just refer me to other web sites. As it RCCL was very disorganized at check in at Hong Kong, we were told the ship will be docked at Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong, and the ship was actually docked at a container port some 30 minutes away by shuttle bus. There were not enough people and signage at Ocean Terminal to let people know where to go for check-in especially where some of the people came through the terminal from the adjoining shopping center. All the RCCL workers were temperately workers and no one can give me a straight answer on when is the last shuttle bus to the port. I paid top dollars for a balcony and got a great view of the cargo containers after checked-in from a temperately tent on the dock. To my surprise that robes were not even provided. My dinner room waiter was excellent, however, the assistance waiter was on training and she was not the person who wants to do the job, I had to ask for everything such as cream for the coffee and refills on my ice tea. When hot tea was requested, no selected of tea bags was offered. The only good food was the prime rib on the first night, all others were bad, no lobster on the menu. Food in the Windjammer was terrible, most of the food was over cooked and dry, both juice machines were broken for the entire cruise. Fresh fruits ran out in no time. First port o call was Ha Long Bay, there is not much to do here except a night market which they open at day time for the cruise passengers. We did the boat cruise and visit the cave which was very enjoyable. The Hanoi excursion which takes you to another big city and look at a local market which you can do that at home. The cruise ports were very deceiving. Chan May port was a joke, this is in the middle of nowhere, the closest main road is 8 km away from the port. Da Nang and Hue is one hour away and two hours away respectively. Cruise compass indicated shuttle bus will be provided and there was none, only limited taxis were available. If you do not have a shore excursion, you are stranded. The final port of the first cruise was Sanya, again the ship information via the television indicated the complimentary shuttle bus became a $5 round trip shuttle bus. It's not the $5, it's the principle, if we were told there will be a $5 charge, we would have accepted that gladly. Since we are doing a back to back cruise, going in and out from Hong Kong port was a breeze for us. However, I heard that some of the passengers had to wait over three hours for check-in and this is the first time that their luggage beat them to their cabins. Our ship never made it to Naha, Okinawa due to "strong wind and high sea" which I did not believe that is the case as the sun was out and the sea was not even rough, and if the ship is dock inside the harbor which I assume that is the case, the sea would be a lot calmer. Nevertheless, the ship missed one third of the ports on this journey. The next two ports in Taiwan were decent as the Taiwanese government went out of their way to provided currency exchange, tourist information and even free shuttle bus right at the port. Entertainment and diner menu just repeated themselves for the back to back cruises, the juice machines at Windjammer were still broken. I have sailed with RCCL four previous times and this was my worse cruise experience with RCCL. I believe RCCL is cutting corners on food and service and I don't know if I will sail with RCCL again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
We arrived outside the Marco Polo hotel in Hong Kong in plenty of time. This was the muster point. There were about six staff there with RCCI t-shirts, but when we asked for instructions, we were interrupted by the 'supervisor', ... Read More
We arrived outside the Marco Polo hotel in Hong Kong in plenty of time. This was the muster point. There were about six staff there with RCCI t-shirts, but when we asked for instructions, we were interrupted by the 'supervisor', a young lady in her late 20's who rather impolitely told us to wait, and 'not to go into the hotel'. After a while we saw the supervisor give a briefing to staff and they were positioned with arrow signs pointing to the back of the hotel. Unfortunately, due to bad positioning, passengers were being sent all over the place. Lots of people remonstrating with the supervisor who was getting impatient with both passengers and her underlings. Anyway not a good start. Eventually we were herded onto coaches and bussed to the ship which was docked in a container port some 40 minutes away. Again, lots of lining up. We tried to join a shorter line, but were told that this was for passengers who had not checked in online. On the way through passport control, the rather over zealous Filipino security supervisor was separating people according to whether they looked Chinese or not. No one told him that it was in fact possible to be a Hong Kong resident and not be Chinese. Hence a lot of people were sent to the wrong line - and got rather upset with the racial profiling. Onboard, our table reservations had been mixed up. We were a party of 5 but were given a table for 2 - the head waiter sorted it out, but it meant getting in another line. Food in the main dining room was very bland. This suited the roughly 50% of passengers who were from the UK, but did not cater for the other half who were Asian. Very few Americans onboard. Even by UK standards though, the food was pretty awful - especially in the Windjammer. Service was OK - evidently the newly recruited Asian staff were not used to American tipping policy and did not feel they needed to make a connection with passengers. Indeed, I observed that most passengers had their tips deducted when they paid for the trip, so it probably felt to the staff that the company was paying their tips - not the passengers. The ports were pretty lousy. I felt I paid over the odds for a coach trip to the war memorial at Okinawa - it rained the whole day, and we didn't get as much as a soft drink from the local tour operator. Disembarkation was uneventful, though the color coding system was not followed by the majority of passengers. I blame the ship's staff for failing to properly make announcements. Likewise I tried to pay my tips on the last night - but was told it was too late by a completely indifferent purser. Overall, I would say there was a big lack of cultural awareness from both crew and passengers - but the blame must go to the ship's management for failing to fully brief itself and deal with unexpected behavior from people who simply did not know or understand American cruising conventions (and most of the staff fell into this category too!). The ship itself was OK - although a bit frayed at the edges. RCCI have plenty of room for improvement if they want to return to Asia next year. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
On Saturday the 29th March 2008 my family and I boarded the Costa Allegra at approximately 8pm, we completed the passport and administration process onboard ship and were escorted to our cabin (4122) by a crew member but unfortunately she ... Read More
On Saturday the 29th March 2008 my family and I boarded the Costa Allegra at approximately 8pm, we completed the passport and administration process onboard ship and were escorted to our cabin (4122) by a crew member but unfortunately she took us to the wrong cabin, was this a sign of things to come? - The lady crew member apologized explaining that she was new to the ship. We duly trundled our luggage and children accompanied with the staff member from the bow of the ship back to the stern. Our cabin which we had booked in July 2007 was on inspection not only dirty but had a strange dank odor. In the area above the window the air-conditioning vents had been blocked and padded out with a 3 foot length of green foam sponge this was absolutely filthy and blackened with dust and debris that had accumulated between the air-conditioning vents and the foam. The children's upper bunks had to have their duvets changed as they were dirty and marked. Towels were seemingly in short supply, our cabin initially only had two. We raised these issues with the maid and left the cabin to explore the ship. On returning some 2 hours later the cabin had been cleaned, duvets changed and additional towels supplied and the ominous 'green foam' had been removed. We decided to settle down for the night at approximately 12.10am. We now discover that the ladder to the right-hand bunk cannot and will not secure properly to the upper bunk, there simple wasn't enough space between the bunk and dressing table for it to do so. The opposite left-hand bunk was OK (See pictures 19-20 and video footage). My daughter therefore had no option but to gain ingress and exit from her bunk by climbing onto our double bed then the window sill, stepping across to her bunk. (See pictures 16-18 and video footage) Something that is surely dangerous and raises in my mind both health and safety implications and liabilities on yourselves. This was later raised with Anita Wolfgang the Front Desk Manager - her reply was that it was a small ship and they could do nothing about it because of the configuration of the cabin and its fixtures and fittings. The ship set sail later than scheduled at just after midnight on the 30th March, to myself and partners disbelief the whole cabin started to violently vibrate, items on the dressing table were moving around on their own and large particles of dust were falling from where previously the green foam had resided. A combination of the vibration and noise woke the children who started crying. We sat, watched and endured this for some 45 minutes; there were no signs of it abating so I went to reception to see what could be done. The lady on reception reassured me that this was quite normal and that things would settle down shortly. I returned to our cabin to find the children still crying and being comforted by my partner. We sat and waited the intensity of noise and vibration remained constant, dust and residue still falling from the air-conditioning vents. At approximately 01.15am I went back to reception and again spoke to the duty receptionist, I asked her to come and see for herself the issues we as a family were having with the cabin, she refused saying that she couldn't leave her station at this time of night and reluctantly she called one of her colleagues. He came back to the cabin with me he explained that there had been ongoing problems with the cabin in the past. On returning with him to reception I requested even at this early hour that the duty receptionist change our cabin as my family and I couldn't stay in these conditions any more, she flatly refused saying that the ship was full, but that they might be able to do something about it in the morning. Again I reiterated that the noise, vibration and dust left it unbearable for us to remain in there and asked her just to come and look for herself, she refused. I then asked to speak to her superior the Front Desk Manager (Anita Wolfgang) the duty receptionist refused to do this saying that it was late and Anita would be in bed asleep. This annoyed me some what, I being the paying guest who was in a dirty, dusty, vibrating, noisy cabin being told that she couldn't do anything and wouldn't contact her superior because she was tucked up in bed asleep. I asked her once more if she would either swap our cabin or contact and raise these issues with Anita Wolfgang, she said she wouldn't and there was nothing she could do as the ship was full to capacity. After trying my hardest and going through what I hoped would be the proper channels I was left with no choice but to take the following actions. I returned to our cabin at approximately 01.30am to find my children still crying and being heavily consoled, I removed two mattresses from the bed taking them down the corridor and into reception. I returned twice more to the cabin taking bedding and pillows. The reception area now becoming my intended sleeping accommodation for the night, I remained there in bed in front of reception for some 5-10 minutes. The duty receptionist by this time had miraculously found a replacement cabin from this full to capacity ship. I was shown to room 3070 at approximately 02.00am. Unfortunately the replacement room was an inside cabin and not an outside one as we had paid for. I refused the cabin and returned to my temporary double bed in reception at 02.10am. Again the duty receptionist tapped away on her computer, she even though it necessary to get Anita out of bed by this time, and by some strange and unbelievable team work I was 5 minutes later offered on deck 4 (our original deck) yet another spare cabin identical to our original one except for the vibration, noise and dust pollution. All our clothing and possessions were duly removed from cabin 4122 to cabin 4070 amidships. We finally settled down for the night in relative peace at 03.40am. I later discovered from talking to one to the engineering/maintenance staff (addressing another cabin) that it was common place for foam to be packed into some of the rear cabins to stop metal and wooden fittings from vibrating and helping to soften the engine noise coming into the room via the air-conditioning ducts. • Food Breakfasts onboard in the main restaurant were just a nightmare, waiters and assistant waiters just milling around, squabbling and falling out with each other. We used the restaurant 8 times in total for breakfasts finally giving up during our second week. There wasn't one occasion during this time that our breakfast order arrived as requested. We would get scrambled eggs instead of poached eggs, boiled eggs for the children that arrived hard boiled, no toast when asked for. Coffee and tea never arrived on the first time of asking, tables were not set correctly, cups, saucers and cutlery often missing, replacements being scavenged from other tables to make a full complement at the table you were seated at. On two occasions we had to reorder our breakfast as nothing arrived the first time around, the final straw for breakfasts came when we were left waiting 35 minutes for two simple cheese omelettes after ordering them twice on arrival they tasted and had the consistency of rubber flip flops. We asked the maitre d' on two separate occasions why the service was so poor, reluctantly he said that they had recently had an influx of new and inexperienced staff from China and the Philippines and it was regrettable that they were still being trained by existing staff, he rambled on saying that it was difficult for them to learn because of the language barriers and that they had to work long hours. I really didn't want to hear this I just wanted the service that I had paid for, not a political sympathy vote from a staff member. Our remaining breakfasts were taken in the self-service eating areas these were much better as you could pick and choose the food you wanted, Omelettes for example were cooked in front of you and were good, coffee and tea was on tap from the vending machines. • Lunch Yet more organized chaos, food arriving at your table that you hadn't ordered, it would be taken away before the correct dish eventually arrived cold. There were waiters trying to take plates away from you when you hadn't finished eating. Waiters leaning across you to collect plates and serve others whilst you were still eating the list go on. The language barrier was an incredible problem you would often have to repeat yourself several times pointing and gesticulating along the way in an attempt to make yourself understood. • Dinner Again all the same issues were there from breakfast and lunch - the only advantage being that over the course of the cruise you could build up some understanding with your designated table waiters. The basic table etiquette though was still missing, for example 4 persons were at our table, starters would be brought out whilst others were still eating their appetizers, main coursers delivered when others were still eating the starters, there was no balance. It became embarrassing when night after night we would have to ask our waiters to either wait to clear finished plates whilst others were still eating and only bring out the same courses together. Surely this is really basic table etiquette; service in a high street cafe would prove more efficient. Food quality and presentation varied tremendously out of the fourteen nights we ate dinner in the restaurant, there were only two occasions where food didn't either go back for replacement because of either being the wrong dish or under/overcooked. You could ask for your steak to be medium-rare and it would arrive well done, vegetables would often arrive crucified, broccoli and courgettes for example just a purEed pulp on your plate. This is not only the waiters fault for bring it to your table but the chefs fault for sending it out in the first place. The only safe bet at the dinner table was a side salad - but I suppose you can't really go wrong with something you don't have to cook. • Health & Safety Issues I work for a large American company as a Senior Health & Safety Manager. I have been trained and train others in responsible working practices, looking after 2450 company employees. Some of the examples of poor working practices were beyond belief, yet your onboard televised videos portray a fantastic H&S approach, it's only a pit they don't observe and take this attitude on the Allegra. Fire escape routes were blocked by locked 'fire doors' (see photo 1) Agreed they were opened once I raised the issue with a crew member but that is not the point - in the event of an emergency he wouldn't have been there to open them. There were trailing electrical cables from a multitude of appliances, vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, portable air-conditioning, units all tripping hazards waiting to happen. They were even cables trailing on external and internal stair wells. I must have raised these issues with the crew members using these appliances and cables 6-8 times, the standard answer was just simply sorry sir, and on every occasion the cable was kicked away into a corner without any further thought or consideration. Liquid spillages galore all over the ship but rarely did you see any signage alerting people to this, often there was just a pile of napkins left on the floor for internal spillages or beach towels for deck area spillages just soaking up the residue, a nice hazard in it's self. In the second cabin we had (4070) the internal tannoy system didn't work, it was only the vigilant action of the maid checking her cabins as part of the emergency drill that we were alerted of the evacuation procedure on day two. I ask myself if there is one cabin with a faulty tannoy how many more are there onboard ship? Defective poolside barstool 'stump' temporarily made safe with an upturned pop can. Painting and decorating of the ship whilst both at sea and in port was ongoing, there were numerous examples of areas not being cordoned off whilst the stripping back and repainting of these areas were being undertaken. I appreciate that maintenance work is necessary but these pedestrian walkways and seating areas should have surely been clearly signed and cordoned off for the wellbeing of all onboard. • Water color (orange) Cabin water was always orange in color, I would liken it to a pale tea color; it would change the color of clothes and towels used to dry yourself. We were told that it was this color because of the chlorination process used to kill harmful bacteria. • Conflicting information from staff members The number of times we would ask a staff member a question only to be told something different by someone else. For example every local port map we had been supplied the night before the following day's port of call was wrong. The maps clearly showed the supposed port of call and disembarkation, but in all but one destination we docked somewhere else - the maps were useless. On numerous occasions we would have to source a local map whilst ashore and get someone from the local port authority to identify where we were. The staff on board at the reception desk often did their best to try and find out where we were, often looking embarrassed and bemused as to where we were themselves, scatting around looking for different maps etc. It became a daily routine, the first thing you would do when docking into a port was to ask where we actually were in relation to the map supplied. In Brunei for example the ship never did get hold of a proper map, we sourced several locally, handing them out to disembarking passengers and pointing out to them where we actually were. • Expensive shore excursions Shore excursions were very expensive; the figures below are taken from the tour order form and represent 'median' prices from that list. For a family of 2 adults and 2 children it equates to: £1899.98 69% of the cruise only cost would have been spent on shore excursions if the 'median' cost had been taken for the excursions available. These were obscenely expensive for example tour 6111, Cu Chi Tunnels and Panoramic Tour of Ho Chi Minh City' ship price 214 Euros (£173.50) for two adults and two children. We arranged our own taxi from the port, the taxi driver who spoke good English drove us to the tunnels, hired a local guide to show us around them, brought us back to Ho Chi Minh City and gave us a guided tour of there all for $45.00 US dollars (£23.00) the tour lasted for 6 hours. Another example tour 6264 'Brunei On Your Own', ship price 109 Euros (£88.21) local taxi for 2 adults and two children $12 US dollars or (£6.00) the taxi driver even parking along side the tour bus to add insult to injury. • Cabin Flooding On Saturday 5th April we returned to our cabin 4070 from a full day in Singapore, whilst resting in our cabin the ship set sail for Vietnam. The Allegra was not far out of port when we became aware of it listing to the starboard side - she would seemingly straighten up again and then list again. On the second occasion our cabin was flooded with the contents of the bathroom, water ran from its sanitary fittings, the cabin was swamped from front to back. The flooding was so sever that it not only saturated most of the carpeted floor area and 3 of our suitcases which were stored under our double bed. It was obviously soiled waste water because the smell was intolerable. The ships engineers visited the cabin and deemed it uninhabitable, they said that all the furniture and carpets would have to be removed and the cabin sanitized before having new carpets fitted. At 11.20pm we were offered alternative accommodation, a twin bed roomed cabin (7014?), not particularly of much use when you are a family of 4. I rejected this on the grounds of complete incompatibility and health and safety grounds. I returned to the reception desk to be told yet again that this was the only cabin available on the ship - further standoffs resulted in me offering to take up sleeping arrangements in the reception area again. Subsequent telephone conversations were made to Anita Wolfgang and a vacant cabin to accommodate us all was eventually found. Our clothes and personal possessions were removed from cabin 4070 to 7002 and we finally put the children to bed at 02.40am. Further meetings with Anita Wolfgang and later with one of the engineering staff informed us that the initial listing and lurching of the ship whilst leaving port in Singapore was a result of it taking onboard fresh water supplies. There apparently had been a misbalance between the two fresh water tanks (one being fuller than the other) causing it to list to the starboard side. This resulted in some cabins 'sloshing' water from out of the drainage facilities. Anita said that this had happened in the past usually effecting deck three. I asked her further questions in particular how many cabins were affected this time - she was reluctant to say and wouldn't comment further. • Beverages Beverages so expensive the following are just examples of what we were expected to pay; a can of coke £2.34, a small 275ml bottle of beer £3.97, Gin & Tonic £5.85 and a Jack Daniels & coke £6.55 all extortionate prices, but if you wanted a drink Costa certainly had the monopoly. We have cruised as recently as February and October 2007, on different cruise lines both had similar pricing structures for drinks and beverages, a 500ml beer for example cost between £2.50-£2.75 and spirit with a mixer £2.75-£3.00. A simple bottle of water o the Allegra was £2.50 but you had to buy it even if only to clean your teeth as the tap water was bright orange! My family and I booked a cruise with Costa because we believed you could offer us a cruise of a lifetime, you certainly did that, but unfortunately not for the right reasons. My partner and I have cruised some 15 times between us, on numerous cruise lines, all over the world. I personally have travelled to over 70 countries worldwide and we can honestly say that this has been the worst holiday experience(s) we have ever had, a total nightmare from beginning to end. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
We travelled from Vancouver with Cathi & Bruce who also rated this cruise and certainly agree with most of their observations. Here are a few additional points: Val and I are close to 70 years of age and probably more sedate than Cathi ... Read More
We travelled from Vancouver with Cathi & Bruce who also rated this cruise and certainly agree with most of their observations. Here are a few additional points: Val and I are close to 70 years of age and probably more sedate than Cathi and partner; our chief interest is in the actual cruising experience rather than shore excursions or specific destinations although this itinerary took us to places we have never visited before and maybe won't see again. We are often quite happy sitting on an outside deck with a good book watching the sea go by. Flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong: uneven service on Cathay Pacific; the unscheduled diversion to Taipei made the long tiring flight even longer. Pre-Hotel: Also stayed at the Marco Polo Hong Kong for two nights, club floor room overlooking the cruise ship pier. Excellent service and fine room. Would heartily recommend. Hotel porter carried our luggage to the ship's check-in desk. Check-in process painless and quite speedy. Able to access our room with little delay and luggage delivered promptly. Cabin: adequate, picture window, beds very comfortable. Not a great deal of storage but sufficient even for a 35-day cruise (country club casual dress code helped), plenty of hangers, small bathroom with good shelving and cabinet space, very small shower stall - turn round and you open the shower curtain! Excellent cabin stewardess from Bulgaria. Our few 'standing orders' attended to promptly each day. Public Rooms: Very attractive ship with nice decor. Easy to find one's way around. Good library with two laptops; excellent service in computer lab; pleasant white glove afternoon tea service daily in Horizons with string quartet accompaniment; congenial Martinis Bar with outstanding pianist; Art Director actually added to, rather than detracted from, this cruise. Pool areas well maintained despite the usual 'reserving' of non-reservable seats. Dining rooms and Terrace cafe attractively decorated. Food: Outstanding, particularly in the Grand Dining Room and Tapas on the Terrace. No problem accessing the (free) specialty restaurants but food didn't surpass the regular food services. Excellent menus, generous portions, mostly cooked to order and attractively presented; reasonably priced and quite extensive wine list. Buffet breakfast and lunch service in the Terrace Cafe well above average. Service: Possibly this ship's greatest feature; a multinational group of staff who always had a smile and welcome (usually by name), irrespective of where one happened to be; impeccable service in all dining areas despite the open seating policy and randomness of table assignment; helpful in every way; nothing was too much trouble. Why dine ashore with food and service like this? The red carpet 'Welcome Home' from long shore excursions was a nice touch. Leslie Jon an outstanding Cruise Director with best Team Trivia afloat. A few minor complaints: Insufficient lounge chairs on deck 5 and same in poor state of repair. Reservation of deck chairs on this deck and in pool area could have been discouraged more forcefully. A DVD/CD player in the cabin would have been appreciated. Bar drinks/service charge rather exorbitant. Room service charge for bottles of liquor outrageous - fortunately, Oceania still allow a reasonable quantity of liquor to be brought on board. Summary: We are small ship enthusiasts and Oceania has certainly captured our attention - so much so we are already booked for 42 days on Regatta next year! Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
We have just returned from the 2008 Nautica voyage from Hong Kong to Athens. A little background, we are a semi-retired couple in our late 50's. We've done quite a bit of cruising with several different lines but this was our ... Read More
We have just returned from the 2008 Nautica voyage from Hong Kong to Athens. A little background, we are a semi-retired couple in our late 50's. We've done quite a bit of cruising with several different lines but this was our first Oceania cruise. We used the Oceania "free" air program with a deviation so we could spend a couple of days in Hong Kong. We booked our own hotel in Hong Kong and it was a winner. Pre-Hotel - we stayed at the Marco Polo Hong Kong and chose the continental club floor. The hotel is attached to the Harbour/Ocean centre which is where the Nautica docks in Hong Kong. Our room was very nice and the amenities offered on the club floor level are extensive. They include an American buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening cocktail hour (which besides all you can drink includes tasty tidbits that could make a meal!). The Ship - What can I say that hasn't been already said. The Nautica is a very well maintained ship. Our stateroom was a balcony at the rear of the ship. It was a little smaller than I expected but had adequate storage for all the things we took and what we acquired over 35 days. On a couple of occasions we did experience some vibrations from the propellers but it was not annoying. Before we went I was not a fan of the anytime dining concept but we were totally won over by the ease of this system. We utilized all four of the dinner restaurants - Grand, Polo, Toscana, and Tapas on the Terrace- and each has something to offer. We never had any trouble making reservations at Polo or Toscana and we never had to wait for a table in the Grand dining room. The food was, in my opinion, too fancy but we are not gourmet foodies. We were impressed by the variety and the presentation of the food. All of the wait staff were very friendly and we were sad to leave them in Athens. Entertainment - We knew before we left (thanks to Cruise Critic) that the entertainment on this smaller ship was not of the caliber of the larger ships so we were not expecting much. We did have Jack for the first part of our cruise and he was great!! His talks are much like he writes on the boards and, even my husband who never looks at CC, really enjoyed them. There were a couple of entertainers early on in the voyage that we found quite entertaining and hope they will be on other voyages. They were Geraldine Doyle and Rory & his wonder dog. I wish they had spread these two out as they were both in the first 2 weeks and then it was very "highbrow" entertainers in the last 3 weeks. Never went to see them so can't comment. We did enjoy the lectures done by Ronnie Sampson. He seems to be quite a character and his lectures showed it. Shore Excursions - We did some on our own and we did some with Oceania. We did do the Taj Mahal 3day/2night and the overnight in Luxor with Oceania. Both are pricey but they deliver value. The Taj Mahal trip was a WOW! One passenger I talked later said that a fellow passenger had talked him out of going because there wasn't anything to see besides the Taj. Oh how wrong can one be!! Yes, the Taj is the focal point of this trip but, IMHO, there is so much more. There is way more to the Taj Mahal than you see in the pictures, which surprised most of us, and the other tours to see the "Deserted City", the Agra Fort, and the mini-Taj were from out of left field!! The "private" plane and the "deluxe" meals are not quite up to par. It's not very private when there are 120 of you on the plane and like most low cost carriers there's not a lot of leg room. The meals were very ordinary airplane food and there was no choice. They would have been better sending box lunches from the ship. The hotel in Agra - the Taj View- was first class. We had a lovely room that faced the Taj Mahal. Too bad we didn't have any time to enjoy it. The meals provided at the hotel were disappointing but by this time we had gotten used to the superb meals served on the ship so maybe it's not a fair comparison. From the comment of other who went on this trip, I would like to make a suggestion. Cut the tour to 2 days/1 night and fly back to Mumbai with an early evening flight. This would allow people to have a day in Mumbai. As it was we got back to the ship just in time for it to sail. The other major excursion was to Luxor. This is a long trip (3 hours on the bus from port to Luxor) but was also well worth it! We toured both Karnak and Luxor Temples and went to see the sound & light show at Karnak on the first day. The hotel (we stayed at the Steinbrugger) was very nice. The meals provided here were slightly better than those in Agra but it's hard to compare them to the ship. On the second day, we went to the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatsheput temple, and Colullus of Memmon (spelling doesn't count!. Again we only got back to the ship just before it sailed but it was nice to have the band playing and senior staff to greet us as we came back on board. If you plan on doing this itinerary in the future, I would recommend looking into the Oceania private vans. For 6 or 8 people this is often a cost effective alternative to the mass market tours and you get to decide what you want to see. We, also, had managed to get a group together on our roll call and, one of our group, had arranged private tours in 3 ports. For the third biggie of this itin - Petra- we had a private tour for 12 of us that took us to Wadi Rum and Petra that ended up being 12 hours instead of the 15 hours of the ship's tour and was about 1/3 of the cost. Disembarkation - Surprisingly, this was quick and painless. We appreciated the ease with which Oceania accomplished this difficult ending. After 35 days we had made so many friends and it was not easy to leave this beautiful ship. We have done many cruises but never over 14 days before this one. Before we left we thought we would be more than ready to come home BUT not the case! We loved the Nautica. We saw more wonders of world in one cruise than I ever thought you could. If you only ever do one major cruise do this one!!! The itinerary is hard to match, the ship is wonderful, and, should you be as lucky as us, the people you meet will be friends for life! Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Sunday 23/5/08. SSVirgo Cruise/ First timers. Arrived at Ocean Terminal for check in for the cruise. Deposited luggage and were told to come back at 1.30. Had a walk around the shops in the terminal, then went outside and got our first ... Read More
Sunday 23/5/08. SSVirgo Cruise/ First timers. Arrived at Ocean Terminal for check in for the cruise. Deposited luggage and were told to come back at 1.30. Had a walk around the shops in the terminal, then went outside and got our first sight of the SSVirgo up close. Wow, what an impressive ship, we were getting really excited now, it was so big. Back to check in area and there were not too many people, thought this can't be right, but we were right in front of the balcony class section entrance and a few more people began lining up behind us. Hadn't been waiting too long when we were escorted to the customs section and everything happened so fast, rushed through to check in area and in a matter of minutes were walking through the door to be greeted and photographed by the greeting crew. We were up that gangplank so fast, it seemed unreal as there were no other people around, we had visions of everyone madly rushing to board the ship, but it was such a lovely experience. Into the lobby and greeted again with a welcome drink. Wow! we were speechless, quickly drank our drinks as we wanted to get moving and explore, felt like I imagined it would feel like stepping into the Big Brother house for the first time. We went straight up to the pool deck and ordered a drink, feeling they must not be open yet as no one else to be seen on deck except the crew. It was like we had the whole ship to ourselves that first half hour. Off to check out our balcony cabin, our luggage was already there, unbelievable!! How cool, we were so happy we got a balcony cabin, there is stacks of room and it is really cosy. We found out later that the bed was so comfy and I loved the feeling of getting rocked to sleep ever so slightly every night. Well by now we were getting peckish, the first place we found was the Bella Vista, a 5 star restaurant no doubt and we were in our shorts and thongs( shoes). As we were the only ones in there, they didn't seem to mind and we feasted on a 3 course late lunch. The food here is top notch and every meal we had was perfect, in proportion and to how it was cooked. The service is really good too. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff. Back to Taverna for a cocktail, then mosied on down to Bellini for another as we people watched the gathering that was growing in the lobby. We must have been about to sail as we had to do the safety drill then out on deck at our nominated stations. All good and well except many people inside still walking around and many didn't even go and get their lifejackets. Hmmm We decided the best vantage point would be the front of the ship to sail out of H/K, it was a pretty clear evening so we got to see a lot, stayed there for a couple of hours drinking Tiger beer, chatting to people. There's something magical about being on that ship. I guess as the Virgo is our first cruise ship, it will remain our favorite, funny that, how the first is always the best remembered. We spent a lot of time at Out of Africa karaoke bar and got to know the girls pretty well there. It got to the point we couldn't even walk through to the casino without my husband being handed the mike for a song or two. Hahaha, I even got to sing a few, must have had one too many cocktails, well that's my excuse! Monday the ship stopped at Sanya, As we had only one Chinese visa, the cruise people told us we should save it for Xiamen and if we wanted to go ashore at Sanya, we had to stay with the tour group. We were not too fussed so decided to stay aboard. Had foot reflexology for one hour in a leather recliner overlooking Sanya Bay… sheer heaven! Had a relaxing day just chilling out and booked for Halong Bay tour next day. Tuesday: Breakfast was at the Mediterranean Buffet, good choice but a bit of a dogfight, everyone is so scared of missing out, there is so much food, really it was an eyeopener, we were really appalled at the manners of one certain culture,, who by the end of our trip, we let know we disliked their behavior on many occasions. This was the only let down of the whole cruise, these rude, pushy people who love to stare and push their way around everywhere, but we didn't let it spoil our holiday. Halong Bay was really pretty, the organization however of the tour we went on left a lot to be desired. It basically took 6 hours to have a half our lunch at an hotel in Halong. We had heard so many people hated the Sanya tours, so we were hoping the Halong bay tour would be nice to see. We got 25 minutes shopping time at the markets, 40 minutes for lunch, the rest of the time was spent lining up waiting for buses, people who didn't come back on time and then we were nearly an hour late getting back on board. We know this leg of the cruise is relatively new so has some teething problems, but we would much rather have had our own time, we would have seen at least more than one street in 6 hours. Very disappointing. Everyone was pretty crabby by the time we got back to the ship, sick of waiting in the heat and getting pushed in front of by you know who's. Xiamen: After the fiasco of Halong Bay we and friends Jill and Steve decided to stay on board as we didn't want another wasted day, shame really, but your time is precious and there is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere you don't want to be… Needless to say, Chris and Mike did the trip on their own and had a ball, found great shopping and loved Xiamen. We were a bit disappointed we missed out but there's another reason to do the cruise again, right?? Quick rundown of things we did… Massage at the spa… fantastic. Husband tried the sauna and was going to have a sponge bath till he found out the water was ice cold. I had a hand and arm exfoliation and massage and the gym is really spacious and well equipped. The Taverna has good snack type meals, quite large and the pizzas are mmmm divine. The casino is really quite bigger than we thought it would be. We are still amazed how there is so much stuff onboard and she still floats hahaha, those horses in the lobby are huge. Credit card got a hammering at duty free onboard. We ate at the Raj Indian restaurant one evening and the food was very nice. Zen Japanese: We went to dinner with new friends, Chris and Mike from Sydney, had the Teppanyaki, with Gerry the chef cooking and entertaining us with his juggling skills with the utensils. One of the best meals we had onboard and highly recommended, just go easy on the Sake! Ice cream Parlour does fantastic banana splits. Internet in Library is soooo slow, don't bother, 29 minutes to send an email. Wait till you get off the ship, instead of wasting precious time there. Galaxy of the stars: Great for meeting people and having a quiet drink, lots of activities held here day and night. I won $1800 H/K at Bingo, and I had to dance for it, damn you Karen from the Philippines, lovely girl! Book signing with pastry chef Gerard Dubois. Got to chat with him at the Mediterranean buffet, lovely guy. And he eats at the buffet, good sign. Swimming pool and spa's: Didn't spend too much time in the sun this trip, but the spa and pool were great, always clean and never too crowded when we went in. Last night was spent at… you guessed it, Karaoke bar till 3 am with our new friends. But was worth it, just didn't want to leave. All in all, we had the most enjoyable time, met some lovely people, ate some wicked food, drank too much, as you do and we are hooked on cruising, 26 times to Phuket, thought we couldn't get any better, but cruising is such a different holiday. Can't wait for the next one. Sue & Colin Perth WA Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Day 1 - Sunday This was our 3rd cruise, 2nd with Star having done their 7N Straits of Malacca from KL on the Gemini last year. Also did a 7N Western Caribbean on the Carnival Glory last year. Boarded at Ocean terminal HK mid afternoon, ... Read More
Day 1 - Sunday This was our 3rd cruise, 2nd with Star having done their 7N Straits of Malacca from KL on the Gemini last year. Also did a 7N Western Caribbean on the Carnival Glory last year. Boarded at Ocean terminal HK mid afternoon, went pretty well, less queues than I remember last year on the Gemini, although we were plucked a couple of times out of the line and fast tracked - I have no idea why, but wasn't complaining. Passports are kept by Star as you board the ship. Very happy with our room, this was our first balcony and was lovely to have a view/chairs to ourselves. Plenty of storage space for the 2 of us. Beds were set up as single, so we asked the room stewart to put them together, which eventually happened later that night. Unfortunately he didn't use the proper cover that zips them together, so we had the nice gap in the middle to get stuck in occasionally! Others we met on the cruise mentioned theirs were put together with the cover/no gap so we asked again, got lots of nodding and yes's, but nothing changed. Not much of a drama, and beds were very comfy so that's the main thing. If you're in a balcony room, you actually get a 30min headstart (open at 4pm) on booking the restaurant you'd like for the Gala Dinner on Tuesday. This is not well announced, you need to read the fine print on the Star Navigator (daily news sheet). So we headed down at 4pm, put our name down for Noble House, the Chinese restaurant early sitting, and 5 minutes it was announced that Noble House was fully booked. On formal night you can book the 2 main restaurants (Bella Vista & Pavilion), or balcony class can also book 2 of the speciality restaurants that would usually involve an extra cost for no charge (Noble House - Chinese & Samurai - Japanese), hence our decision to go for Noble House. We had dinner that night in the Pavilion (Chinese), some of the dishes we really enjoyed (delicious duck and also scallop dish), but others were (as you'd expect) more traditional Chinese, but was fun to try for a night. The show that night was "Street Life" with various forms of dance performed, as well as acrobatic displays from China & Belarus. There was also a magician who was fairly lame, particularly his "robot magician" act, but show is definitely worth seeing for the acrobats. Later that night 4 synchronized swimmers from Belarus performed in the pool, and boy were they great. Like most people, we've usually rubbished synchronized swimming as a sport, but when you see the athleticism, strength and timing required, it was very impressive and entertaining to watch. Day 2 - Sanya, Hainan Island, China Had a lazy morning as we didn't dock until 1pm, and due back onboard at 8pm for a 9pm departure, so looking forward to 7 hours in port. We like to research the ports beforehand, and do our own thing ('free & easy' in Star terminology) rather than join the many buses of Star tours that shuffle through their crystal shops and other 'attractions'. So we headed down at 1pm to be given the joyous news that we had to wait until all the Star tours had departed before any 'free & easy' could leave. We ended up spending over 2 very "happy" hours watching trail after trail of Star excursion people leave the ship, while we didn't end up in Sanya until almost 3.30pm. So our lovely 7 hours became 4.5 hours.....not happy Jan! We had to go through Chinese immigration at the port, where they kept our passports. Bit disconcerting heading into China with no passport, but that's the process. On the 15 min walk to the taxi rank (cabs aren't allowed into the dock unless they have a ship passenger with them, so on the way back you can be taken right to the ship, but on the way out you have to walk - unless you do a Star tour of course). We'd met another Aussie couple onboard yesterday who were also keen to do their own thing. Armed with their lonely planet book we intended to hire a taxi to take us up the East Coast to Jalong Bay and then back to the Pearl Plaza (shopping centre in Sanya that the Star Tours plug) and to have us back at the ship by 7.30. We met up with a Star cruise employee on his day off, so he agreed to negotiate with the driver for us in Chinese. He covered it all with the driver, everything agreed to and fine, including the driver staying with us for 4 hours and dropping us back at 7.30pm for 300RMB. Only took 30mins to get to Jalong Bay, pretty spot, lots of resort hotels. Reminded me of Nusa Dua or Tanjung Benoa beach in Bali with heaps of water sports available - parasailing, banana boats etc. We didn't do any, but had a nice look around, some Chinese navy ships also there. We went to step onto the beach and were stopped very sternly. The beach is only free for those staying at the resorts, all others have to pay to touch the sand. We weren't that in need of sand in our feet, so stayed on the boardwalk, looked at a couple of market stalls there, bought an ice cream and then headed back with our driver to his taxi. As we'd only been gone less than an hour we suggested going up the coast a bit further, but after 10mins of discussion he wanted to take us back to Sanya, so we agreed as that was the original plan. On the way back we confirm we're going to Pearl Plaza, and he starts showing us photos of a shop that sells pearls (which is not Pearl Plaza), so we say no, we want Pearl Plaza and he starts saying he doesn't know it (despite happily agreeing with our ship interpreter in both Chinese and English that he does originally!). Eventually he says he does know it, so takes us to a street in Sanya, but it doesn't look like a shopping mall. We say 'is this pearl plaza' and he says 'yes', so we go to hop out......but he then starts with sign language and pointing at another taxi drivers picture he's pulled out of the glove box and begins to draw us a map in Chinese. Turns out he's saying his shift is ending, we should pay him the 300RMB now, and then follow this map in Chinese where we'll meet another driver when we're finished shopping.......oh boy. After another 15mins of wasted discussion, trying to say 'but you agreed to 4 hours Jalong Bay/Pearl Plaza/ship' for 300RMB (we even found someone else who spoke English who helped with translation), he wouldn't budge. We said he could wait here for us and started to walk around the shops there, but he just followed and kept at us. Eventually we gave in and paid him, it just wasn't worth the hassle anymore, but boy it left a bad taste in our mouths. We did however find out that Pearl Plaza (personally I was sick of the sound of the place by now, but after all this saga we felt like we'd better check it out!) was 800m down the road, so off we set. Had an entertaining walk before finally reaching the shopping centre. Of course, it turned out to be just your average shopping centre, bought a couple of trinkets, was most happy with a little cross stitch kit I picked up for 9RMB, red butterfly with Chinese lettering that will make a lovely Christmas ornament. We hopped in a taxi back to the ship, and figured that despite (or even because of!) it was still a more enjoyable experience for us than sitting in the bland Star tour bus. Ship looked lovely all lit up at night as we boarded, we had dinner in the Bella Vista but gave the show a miss, it was "Twice as Nice" a husband and wife singing duo, but we were ready for an early night before our 9am arrival into Halong Bay Vietnam. Day 3 - Halong Bay, Vietnam I had already pre-booked (& paid deposit via Western Union) a private 6 hr tour here with www.halongbay-vietnam.com. We arrived in port at 9am, had to be back on ship by 2pm, and given our free & easy experience yesterday I thought we would end up with a 3hr tour. As with yesterday, we took over 2 hours to get off the ship, and were tendered into dock. Our meeting point for the tour was the Heritage hotel, only a few minutes walk from the dock. I'd rung their mobile number while we were on the tender boat to ask if they would meet us at the dock so we could leave directly, but he wanted to meet at Heritage. So we got there, the hotel reception had our names and rang our tour guide - he wasn't even there waiting. He arrived about 10mins later, called us a taxi to take us to the boat….tick tick tick……more waiting as they call for the boat to be brought around, and organize for the food for our lunch to be brought around. It was probably about noon by the time we set sail, and we had to be back by 2.30pm to get the tender back to the Virgo, so 6hr private cruise now 2.5hrs. Once we set sail however, things started looking up. The boat was gorgeous, much nicer than the ones we saw the Star tours using, table was set beautifully. We discussed our new shortened itinerary, had to drop Heavenly Palace cave and just visit Surprising Cave and then have lunch while sailing round some of the other Halong Bay features - the dog, Man Island & fighting cocks. Enjoyed Surprising cave, lovely formations and then headed back on board for lunch, and boy was it fantastic. So much food, very well cooked, including crab (which the waitress cut up for us), prawns, a superb baby squid dish, a plate of thinly sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with delicious herbs and chilli sprinkled on (I've never wolfed down cucumbers with such gusto before), a fried chicken dish, succulent fish and probably some others I'd forgotten, it was a wonderful feast. The waitress then bought out some pearls for us to look at/buy…..I bought a small necklace/earrings for US$20, which I saw later was way overpriced….oh well. We wanted to dock straight back at the jetty the Star tender had brought us too, rather than this tours wharf to save time, but as we approached the Star people waved us away and said we were not allowed to stop there. It was right on 2.30pm so we thought we'd miss the boat, so we yelled out 'what time is the last tender' and they replied '3pm'…..phew! Our ship zipped back to their original wharf, out we hopped and then had to wait for a cab. Our waitress pulled up next to us in her little motorbike and asked if one of us would like to hop on, so I did, and had a fabulous ride back to the Star pier, the others came past me in the cab and we arrived at the same time. Almost 3pm by this time, but there were still huge queues of Star tour groups lining up for tender, so we got 15mins to do a quick look round the market stalls there before we joined the back of the queue to head back. I talked to someone on one of the Star tours, they'd only done the 1 cave too, Surprising Cave and then toured round the Bay, so even though we missed out on a lot of time, we seemed to have seen the same things, for less $ with a much nicer meal - although it was a bit of stress worrying that it was going to fit. There was another Star tour that did the water puppet show, then toured round the bay (no caves), this couple said the water puppets were really enjoyable. If you were staying in Halong Bay I would recommend this tour company, to do the whole 6hr private tour for the same price (US$55/person for 2, reducing to $40/person for 4 and less again for more), but they weren't that great at fitting in with the Star schedule. They really should have met us at the pier and taken us straight out, with no Heritage hotel detour. When the tender brought us back to the Virgo, there were a couple of tiny home made local boats right near the ship with families with children on who were begging from the Star passengers, was very sad. When we went back to our room and were on the balcony, those families were still down there, asking for people to throw them notes from their balconies. Some people near us put money in a bottle and threw it down and they got it, another guy folded a note up as a paper aeroplane and flew it down to them. They had to row quickly over to get it, but they got it before it sunk. That guy then made this intricate helicopter like thing out of a couple of notes, it went down (we were on level 10 of the ship), but it didn't go out as far as the plane and ended up being suck back into the ship on about level 2, so they missed out on that one. Tonight was Gala Dinner, so after what felt like a full day we went back to our cabins and had a snooze for an hour, then got dressed up. We didn't bother with the cocktail party, but loved our Noble House dinner. Several courses, the highlight of which was the first - thinly sliced Peking Duck wrapped in small thin crepes - delicious! Thankfully we were offered an alternative to the 2nd course (Shark fin soup), so my husband had corn & sweet crab meat soup, while I had a hot & sour chicken soup - both were delicious. Several other courses, all very enjoyable, was a lovely meal. We then headed to the show, "Sports Unlimited" and it was truly amazing. I haven't seen that many cruise shows (only our 3rd cruise), but I was speaking to a guy from HK who cruises several times a year, and he said it was the best one he'd ever seen. I don't want to give you too many details and spoil it, but there were acrobats, synchronized swimmers, dancers and so on - just DON'T MISS IT! Day 4 - Hong Kong At the Gala show last night they gave us some details on the makeup of passengers onboard which was interesting. There were 1800+ passengers onboard, many different nationalities, the largest groups included 188 Australians, 200+ Chinese, 200+ Hong Kong, 200+ South Korea, 200+ Malaysia, and several smaller groups. Quite a few passengers were only on the 3 day cruise, so left the ship when we docked back in HK. There were more who joined us in HK though, for just a 2 day cruise to Xiamen. After a lazy morning, we arrived into HK at 4pm. After our last 2 days we were thrilled that Star offered no tours here, so everyone was free and easy and could depart immediately, hence we were on land by 4.15pm. Our plan was to take the tram up Victoria Peak and see the views of HK. Had intended to do it on our first day in HK, but smog was so bad we didn't think we'd see much, so decided to leave it. Of course today the smog/cloud was even lower and thicker, with The Peak completely encased, so decided it was not to be yet again. That leaves us only with Friday afternoon to try it now, so hopefully we'll make it then. Opposite the Star Ferry terminal was a great internet cafe, fraction of the cost of the ship and light speed in comparison, so we logged on for an hour and were able to chat with the kids at home which was fun. We then headed to the Temple St night markets on the fabulous MTR with our Octopus cards, had a good shop and nice meal, although after we got off the ship on Friday we did the Ladies markets and thought these were much bigger and better than Temple St. We hopped back on the train and went to the waterfront to watch the "Symphony of Lights". Many of the waterfront buildings have huge light shows on them, and beams of light that flash from their roof top, synchronized to music, its quite entertaining. We walked back to the cruise ship, we had to be back on board at 8.30pm for a 9.30pm sailing, and as we came back they were packing everything up, turns out we were the last to re-board at 8.25pm, so we certainly made the most of our port time today. The show tonight was a musical written by Star Cruises "The Musicians of Bremen". It was entertaining due to the acrobatics and production (even had trampolining) but I really have no clue what the plot was, although the guy and girl did seem to get together in the end - it makes Gilbert & Sullivan look like literary genius'. We certainly laughed a lot though, there was some great music - everything from ABBA to the song from Happy Feet. We're heading to Xiamen China tomorrow and have bitten the bullet and booked a Star tour today, have to check them out and keen to make the most of the timing in our last port. Day 5 - Xiamen, China We booked on the first tour leaving the ship, and were on land by 1.15pm after docking at 1pm - much better start! There is a huge new ocean terminal there, incredibly spacious, but the customs officials sat at card tables to process our passports. We got our passports back in the morning on the ship, and actually kept them with us this time in China. We were then bussed to the ferry terminal in Xiamen to take the 10min trip across to Gulangyu Islet, a very quaint place also known as 'piano island' as it apparently has the highest concentration of pianos per capita in the world. There are 20,000 residents on the island and 5000 pianos. There are no cars on the island, lots of narrow streets, but lovely to walk around as you can just wander,without having to watch for traffic. The island has a Portugese/French influence, so lots of lovely architecture and features. Our group was "B1" so we followed Sandy our tour guide around with her long stick with a blue flag on the end. She was constantly saying "B1" in English & Chinese to keep us together, so it was echoing in our head all day. Our first 'stop' as a group was to watch a puppet show, even though it was all in Chinese the plot was more understandable than the 'Musicians of Bremen' on the ship the prior evening! Puppets were well done, quite entertaining and not too long. We then wandered some more, looking at historical buildings/displays and then headed to a lovely garden with bridges, rock features that led into their Piano museum. The building is designed to look like the keys on a piano, it's quite clever. As we arrived there was actually a pocket of blue sky, it was SOO spectacular to finally see the sky, not just the pea soup grey fog, the 6 Aussies/kiwi's in our group were all very excited, and snapped away. The piano museum was quite interesting, with all manner of pianos on display. We then had dinner in the restaurant of a hotel, and we could have quite happily skipped that part and explored more of the island on our own (the benefit of hindsight). There was a LOT of food, all served banquet style, we were on a table with our new friends from Melbourne, and then a family of 4 from Chennai India (who instantly bonded with my husband over their mutual love of cricket). Obviously the food was very local Chinese, given that most on the tour were Asian. The first dish was an undercooked chicken, complete with its head, and a plate of eel (again, with head).......so we ate very little of many of the meals. There was a nice noodle soup though, and they bought a plate of honey fried pork that was delicious, we devoured that. As we left I noticed the only dish we'd eaten (the pork) was the dish all the other tables with had left. We then had over an hour to shop, wandering through the streets, lots of pearl places and trinket selling. Bought a couple of things, not much then went back on the ferry/bus to the ship, where they took our passports back off us. The show was a repeat of the show from Gala night, and even though it was really good, we didn't really feel like watching it again. We ended up meeting friends for a drink (we're both trying to use up our drinks credits) in the Bellini bar. We're due to disembark back in Hong Kong tomorrow, crossing everything that we'll get a clear day to make the Peak. Day 6 - Hong Kong - final Sad to wake up for our last morning onboard, but sadder once we opened the curtains and saw yet more smog, with visibility of 200M. I'd pictured us sitting on the balcony often, but was really not so appealing when you seemed to be often in a cloud. It's worth repeating this - if you book a balcony cabin on the Virgo you automatically get a $HKD 2000 food/beverage credit per cabin. Some travel agents will tell you this, but not all, as we found out - and Star don't mention it when you check in. The credit can only be used for food or drinks, not internet, laundry or any other purchases - although it does apply to bottles of alcohol purchased at the ships bottleshop. We knew about it, and rang reception a few times to check on our tally. We had about $130 left by our last day - enough for a glass of wine each at lunch. We ended up sitting with another couple from Perth at lunch who were onboard to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. We asked them how they went with using up their $2000, and their response was "don't talk about it, we're so upset"......turns out their travel agent didn't tell them about the credit, and they'd been really frugal with the drinks and had only bought 1 each, so had $1900 left on the card, and they only found out when they went to settle their bill - giving them about 3 hours to use it up!! Oh I felt so bad for them, the lady doesn't drink, but hubby does. She said every morning she'd see the freshly squeezed juice at breakfast and think that would be nice, but too expensive so better not have one......it's just ridiculous that Star doesn't remind everyone as they get onboard. Our travel agent didn't know about it either, I'd read it online and had to get them to verify it. So anyway, this couple were determined to use it, so they ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail for her, a rum/coke for him and a bottle of wine for us on their tab!! We ended up having enough left over on our money to hit the ice cream parlour for a huge sundae each after lunch. I saw them again just before leaving and he was dragging his suitcase in 1 hand, and had another rum/coke in the other. I asked the lady if she'd got to get an ice-cream, as she was keen on the idea, but she said "no, we stopped by the bar and John was wanting to shout as many people as he could to use his $$ up!!" We were in the ice cream parlour as we sailed into Hong Kong harbor, hoeing into a chocolate/walnut sundae each (yum), and what should we see as we sail in but ……BLUE skies!!! OK, not the whole sky, but several large patches, which made us pretty excited (we broke out the camera again to record it). Got off the boat pretty quickly, dropped our bags at the hotel (the wonderful Salisbury YMCA, can't get a better location) and hopped to the Star Ferry to head for the Peak. Of course as we were on the ferry the blue sky patches started to shrink, but we were not to be deterred, hopped on the bus to the terminus and then the Peak Tram to head up. By the time we were on the observation deck I don't think there was any blue left, but we did get some nice shots before the clouds fully descended again. Really enjoyed the Peak, good shopping and Madam Tussaud's was fun too, had dinner at Café Deco (sublime) while watching the lights come on. Spent one more day in HK, walked the couple of blocks from our hotel to Kowloon Park in the morning, then did the Ngong Ping cable car to Giant Buddha on Lantau Island, before catching the bus to the airport and heading home. We certainly enjoyed the cruise, but also nice to be home and appreciate the gorgeous clear skies we have in Australia! 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Sail Date May 2008
Arrived in the midst of a raging thunderstorm in Hong Kong by Air France (flights booked through Costa). Flights were excellent, great food & service and suitcase made it both ways without going walkies en-route. Allegra is a ... Read More
Arrived in the midst of a raging thunderstorm in Hong Kong by Air France (flights booked through Costa). Flights were excellent, great food & service and suitcase made it both ways without going walkies en-route. Allegra is a stunning little ship. What she may miss by way of bells and whistles, she makes up for in bucketloads in character and understated sophistication. Her staff are second to none, nothing is too much to ask and being a small ship, you get to know each other very quickly and soon lose the 'passenger' feel and become more like a member of the family. I had a single inside cabin, very roomy, lots of storage and Dijong (steward) looked after things superbly. Only downer was that I did not check what was above me...the show stage...totally my fault, so didn't make a fuss. The food and service were very good. Lots of international cuisine choices...Chinese, Italian, English...and if you couldn't find anything out of the 12 available course choices, the staff were happy to oblige with an alternative within reason. Drinks were on par with other lines if you remember that the cruise itself was not expensive to begin with. £100/$200 a night with longhaul flights to one of the most beautiful and enchanting areas of the world is damn good value for money, so a little extra for a drink is no real hardship. I managed the entire cruise on 270 euro, which included the 4.50 a day auto-grat, a soft drinks card and ruby welcome package. I celebrated my birthday on the first week aboard, absolutely wonderful experience (thanks to my TA who organized a cake and bubbly). There were 3 gala/formal nights, everyone put themselves out and dressed up. Even on other nights around 75% dressed for dinner in elegant evening wear. There were several captain's cocktail parties throughout the fortnight, I was invited to 4 of them and it was truly a great experience. Captain Salvatore Donato, his officers & crew were excellent hosts, very cordial and extremely jovial & friendly with everyone. English hostess Rose, Aussie hostess Deborah, CostaClub manager Anna-Marie, front desk manager Sara, Chen in Murano Bar, Dijong - cabin steward are all worth mentioning as they all contributed to make my cruise exceptional. This was my first cruise with Costa Crociere and I have two more booked for 2009. I would recommend this cruise aboard Allegra without hesitation! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Background: Well, this is our second cruise. Our first cruise was in the Caribbean with Celebrity cruise which was fantastic. We booked this cruise through the internet and we did not receive any information other than the information ... Read More
Background: Well, this is our second cruise. Our first cruise was in the Caribbean with Celebrity cruise which was fantastic. We booked this cruise through the internet and we did not receive any information other than the information published in their web page. We learnt later from the Hong Kong Superstar cruise office that the last check-in was 4pm instead of the published 6pm. This could create a problem for other passengers who did not realize this vital information. There was definitely some confusion where we saw people were rushing to board the ship after 5pm. Later we were told that the crew was made up of people from China, Philippines and Indians. There were over 1,500 passengers where 30% are elderly and 20% are kids. There were 50% from Mainland China, 10% from Hong Kong, 15% from Japan & Korea, 10% from Australians, 5% from India & others. Day 1: We arrived early and took about 10 minutes to pass through immigration. Once we aboard the ship, we had to take a stupid picture with an ugly mascot. We like our room especially the 15" LCD TV but the pillow is too thin which gave us a stiff neck each morning. There was a muster drill but many people did not attend. We explored the ship which was quite big and nice. We had our 1st dinner at the Bella Vista (Western dining), the food was bad. I had the roast beef which was extremely overcooked while my wife had the salmon which was cold. Then we went to the Lido to watch our 1st ship show at the Lido which was a magic show with a lame magician proclaimed as the "robot magician" which was nothing like David Copperfield. Day 2: The weather was getting bad with occasional showers. We had our 1st breakfast at the Mediterranean Buffet which we found the food was terrible. The eggs and bacons were burned. The bacons that were not burned can not be eaten because it was so hard that even a knife can not cut it. The orange juice was not freshly squeezed, it was mostly water. The other hot food was also bad so the only thing we ate was the pastries and fruits. We were so disappointed that we decided to try the Pavilion (Chinese dining) for lunch. To our surprise, the food was much better. After lunch, we were looking forward to our 1pm excursion to Sanya. At around 1pm, there was an announcement that there was a storm and the Sanya port was closed. We do not understand why it took them so long to make this important announcement. It seems like a last minute decision. We were very disappointed because my wife was looking forward for the trip. So the ship continued our journey to Halong Bay. We played some card games and my wife booked a facial treatment which she said was pretty good. We had dinner at the Mediterranean buffet which was a no thrill. We watched our 2nd show, "The Musicians of Bremen" which we found the singer and dancers quite boring but we enjoyed the performance by the acrobats from China. Day 3: The weather was cloudy and we arrived at Halong Bay at 8am, we joined the shored excursion Halong Bay Cruise. There were about 20 people with us and we boarded the sightseeing boat at 9:30am and the local tour guide refused to leave the dock because there were 2 missing receipts. A 15min was wasted to find who did not bring their receipts. Finally, our sightseeing boat was forced to leave the dock because other sightseeing boats were waiting to dock to pick-up other passengers. The local guide finally found the 2 people who did not bring their receipt with them. They complained the receipt was in the cabin and no one announced that we have to bring it along with us. It was true that there was no announcement that we must bring the receipt with us. Luckily, it just happened that the receipt was attached to the little round sticker where we put on our shirt to indicate our group number. We found Halong Bay was very beautiful with so many low-lying islands. After 1hr, we finally arrived at the "Surprise Cave", the tour guide refused to take us up to the cave until those 2 people paid for the tour. The tour guide made a couple of phone calls which wasted us another 30 minutes and finally those 2 people gave in and paid the HK$520 tour fees. The cave was beautiful and remarkable with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites. Then the sightseeing boat took us to a nearby seafood stall to buy our own seafood lunch. The sightseeing boat will charge 15% of the seafood price to cook the seafood for us. We arrived back to the ship at around 2pm. The ship was now heading back to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, we had to pass through the storm and the ship was rocking back and forth making everyone sick. Everywhere, we saw people lying on the table (even the crew) and some people went to the washroom to throw up. The washroom was a disaster. Finally, everyone was so sick that they went back to their room to lie down. My wife did throw up at least once and finally I went to the reception to get some motion sickness pills. There was a long long-up at the reception. Our last show was called "Sports Unlimited", again the dancers were hopelessly bad but the acrobats from China and Belarus were great. It was Captain's dinner where everyone dressed up formally. We had our dinner at the Bella Vista. The food was again terrible. I had the beef Wellington which was overcooked while my wife had the fish which was too salty. Day 4: Finally we pass the storm and we had some sunshine. We just relax near the pool and done some reading. We arrived at Hong Kong at 4pm. The check-out process was slow and there was a long queue which took us 30min to disembark from the ship. The pick-up point for the luggage was very far away (10min from where we exit from the ship) and there were no staff guiding us. The Superstar Virgo is a lovely ship but the crew was not friendly (they rarely smile), lazy (very slow in doing their work), unorganized (always last minute announcement and long queue), and not professional (not providing accurate/essential information to the passengers). Also they should hire staff who can speak proper English where we found those who can speak English had very strong accent. The worst is the food. They should hire real chef. Maybe fire the whole kitchen? The funny thing is that we lost weight after the holiday. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra ... Read More
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra days in HKG at the new W Hotel and it is high tech in everyway. In fact we had some problem figuring out how to operate room amenities. The view was partial harbor view, since there are couple of luxury condos in front. The hotel with the best view is the Intercontinental bar none. One unique feature of this cruise was that Mariner made 1 1/2 day ports of call at major destinations. HKG, Hong Gai Vietnam, Hue, Saigon, BKK and overnight in Singapore where we disembarked. This allowed us to participate more in depth excursions. Cruise provided one complimentary 4 hours cruise of Halong Bay onboard typical Junk which was very relaxing and beautiful. I arranged my Vietnam tours with local agency and it worked out fine, plus 50% saving compared to what was offered by the cruiseline. Our tours were private with driver and an English speaking guides. Transaction involving fees for the tours went without a hitch. Deposit and balance paid on arrival. What was most important was that dockside meet was arranged in advance by obtaining permit from the government which is included in the price. This was part of their Asia Golden Circle Cruise for the total of 102 days, but you can cruise on various segments you found interesting. The crew was very attentive as usual, good room service menu and best of all it is all inclusive. There is absolutely nothing to pay, unless you purchase premium beverages or make other onboard purchases(photos,boutique). Cabin is spacious and all have balcony, no inside cabins, free do it yourself laundry facility with ironing board, automatic detergent injection system. Our cabin was close to 400SQ, walk-in closet, mini bar provisioned with mixes, soft drinks and beer. You can also request 2 bottles of liquor for your room per cabin and bottle of champaign during embarkation. Tray of fruits always replenished daily, nightly turn-down service. I also would like to mention that under your bed has enough space to store 4-5 various size empty bags which really helps out. The ship departed HKG at 11PM on the second day and I must say the departure from HKG at night is spectacular. Most beautiful second to none, maybe Sydney? Our first ports of call was Hong Gai which is the closest port to Hanoi, very interesting city, if you can master navigating massive traffic congestion. It is most difficult to cross those street with hundreds of scooters and aiming right at you. The secret, our guide showed us, is stepping off the curb(not many traffic lights)maintaining steady pace(not slowing down or speeding up) which gives drivers to anticipate your movement which prevents surprises and prevents hitting you. Trick is to do it, but its hard stepping off the curb into on coming traffic. But it works and we did fine with no injuries(I'm 69 and my wife 59). Hue was very interesting, you have a choice of visiting Citadels and Temples in Hue or head out to HoiAn UNESCO Heritage Site. We went to HoiAn combined with Marble Mountain and Da Nang. Good choice, we thought. Onboard you have a choice of dinning venues, Signature, CompassRose, La Veranda and Latitude. We were not disappointed with any of them with few exceptions. Latitude menu was OK, but not thrilled with it(Indian, then Thai), I think many felt that way. We loved CompassRose, food was consistently good with variety, Signature over-rated, La Veranda(always casual)always had interesting menu selection. In defense of Latitude, they are replacing it with a Steak House, when the ship enters dry-dock at the end of this cruise cycle. We took breakfasts and one dinner in our cabin and both were on time, good presentation and full table cloth service. We ordered dinner with wine selection and two bottles were delivered with dinner. Breakfast was buffet, but you could request items at your table without serving yourself, same for Lunch. There were several poolside dinning with extravagant offering of lobsters, premium meats and numerous other premium seafoods, Mexican menu and even pizza. Absolutely no complaint with their foods and quality. Todays restaurant prices would command $50 per plate easily for what they were offering. The entertainment was fine, very quaint venue with variety of entertainment, nothing outstanding , since I'm very critical. But it is what is expected of cruiseship entertainment. Variety shows, singer, solo pianist accompanied by Regent's own band, small trio and solo instrumentalists at lounges. Done in good taste. We had 3 formal nights which I'm not too thrilled about, but ship of this class, you can always expect it. I prefer all country casual type of dress code for every functions, but the I feel that type of passengers this class of ship caters to demands it which is part in parcel of traveling on luxury liners. We participated on 2 nights, but decided on La Veranda instead on the last one which was fine. The ship enforces dress code for the evening very close. HCMC was very orderly compared to Hanoi, ship provided free shuttle service to Rex Hotel(one of the finest in Saigon with history). Because of our size we were able to navigate up the Saigon River for 4 hours to be much closer to city center. Mega cruise-ships on the other hand had to dock nearly 3 hours away, because of much deeper draft. This prevented excursions of any meaning, especially if they were scheduled for one day call at Saigon. Thailand was just as chaotic, but very interesting place to visit. Called on Ko Samui and BKK, spent one night BKK, because the drive into BKK was 2 1/2 hours again. Finally two days at see and arrived in Singapore on Nov 1 and disembarked on the morning of Nov 2. We stayed in Singapore for additional 2 days. Very clean and organized city, we can all learn from them. But the laws they enforce on their citizens can not be imposed in this country, because of ACLU and other organization. However, there are no homeless on the streets, no beggars, trash or graffiti and crimes are virtually none. If you are going to do some shopping get them done in Vietnam or Thailand, because Singapore is expensive and they don't bargain as much. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Background We are in our 40's and this was our 5th cruise, but first with Costa. We live in Hong Kong and were seeking to escape Chinese New Year, however we failed in this endeavor as it followed us, along with what felt like half ... Read More
Background We are in our 40's and this was our 5th cruise, but first with Costa. We live in Hong Kong and were seeking to escape Chinese New Year, however we failed in this endeavor as it followed us, along with what felt like half the citizens of China, onto the boat....We did not have very high expectations based on previous reviews, but this was worse than we expected. However, the ports of call were terrific - pity about the rest. As we live in HK we had no flights nor hotels etc and cannot comment on this aspect. Embarkation Short queues but refused to allow us back into Hong Kong after embarkation. Apparently because there were "a lot of PRC residents coming on the cruise and they are not allowed back into HK". This was of course incredibly irritating because we arrived at the ship around 2pm for a 7pm sailing, expecting to be able to eat lunch, check out the cabin and then go back ashore for a spot of shopping and sightseeing. However this was not allowed - either shop (with all our hand luggage) before you board or not at all! Our cruise tickets did not even specify the address on them - which meant that we could not direct our taxi to the port and, given that there are over 20 ports/docks/marinas in Hong Kong were lucky even to get close (we had to walk the final km). Quite ridiculous. Languages This cruise took place over Chinese New Year. Unbeknown to us, it was marketed in the China market and was 98% Chinese passengers (out of 950 passengers, 7 were Australian, 2 were American and 6 were French. The rest were some variety of Chinese... Which meant that all the announcements were in Chinese, the food was set up to appeal to a Chinese audience, all the events/activities etc were all geared up for the Chinese. Although most of the crew was either Italian or a mix of Asian countries and spoke English, everything else was geared up for the Chinese. Cabins The cabins on this ship are quite simply, horrible. The ratio of inside cabins is very large and the size of these inside cabins is tiny. We had booked a "double". This turned out to have two single beds. Usually not a problem on such ships, however, due to the size of the room, there was not actually enough room to put the beds together and still have room for the bedside table. In order to get a double bed, they had to cut the wires to the bedside table and remove it entirely - thus depriving us of 50% of the surface space in the room. Still, there was no room to walk around the bed - although we had maybe 6 - 8 inches on either side of the bed, it was jammed up against a desk on one side and a fridge on the other, meaning that in order to get to the side of the bed one had to climb over the bed. Bathroom The bathroom in the cabin is small but functional. The shower dispensed hot water. There is no shampoo or conditioner or any other amenity however - except soap and toilet paper. There are no facecloths and the towels are not changed except if we specifically asked. Storage space The room (now) has one drawer and three narrow wardrobes - so while there is plenty of hanging space there is no space for any "drawer" type items. Information (or rather, misinformation) The ships information office is unfortunately mis-named. It serves no information whatsoever. For example, simple questions like "We heard an announcement for a briefing on life onboard at 7:30pm announced over the loud speaker but did not catch where it was being held, can you tell us please?" were met with disbelief. No, there was no such announcement. (huh?) No idea where it is being held. We also asked (because we had a suspicion about this) "Is it a public holiday in Vietnam today?". No idea. We asked the tour office this question too - they rang around and informed us that, no, it was not a public holiday today... WRONG! Food The restaurant is pleasant (made less so on our particular cruise by the 98% of Chinese passengers who have a different view of dining to westerners). The food was OK most of the time, however the choices were incredibly limited - one or two starters, one or two main courses, mostly all Chinese food for the Chinese passengers on board. The buffet upstairs is a scrum - very small, very crowed with very indifferent food. Both the buffet and the main restaurant appeared to serve exactly the same food, so there was no way to increase the (low level) of choice. The Pizza Restaurant charges an additional sum of USD2.50 per pizza, and we had a voucher for a free pizza, however when we tried to redeem it we discovered that the pizza restaurant was not open at lunchtime or during even mealtime - just for a few hours in the afternoon and late evening! Service in restaurant Good service in restaurant - waiters were very apologetic about the food and were usually quick and efficient. Service in cabin The cabin steward was OK - he did not change towels until asked but once we sorted out the procedures he was OK. Did not change the battery on the smoke detector (it was beeping) for about 24 hours after we pointed it out. But on balance, he was OK. Prices (otherwise known as "on board rip offs") Bus into town at Da Nang - $7 Pizza $2.50 Sunblock $21 Diet Coke $3.50 a can Gratuities The website clearly indicated that "Far East cruises on the Costa Allegra" would add a sum of USD6 per person per day for gratuities. It also indicated that this was able to be varied if required by going to the Service Desk. However, we were charged USD8 per person per day and when I went to the Service Desk to point out this inconsistency they said that "Hong Kong is not in the Far East" and that no changes could be made. After considerable argument with the young Chinese lad on the desk, I eventually got to speak to a senior (Italian) member of staff who facilitated a reduction in fees (which we then distributed directly to the staff who had served us, since these were the only staff on board who deserved the money!). Sports Facilities The Costa Allegra is a small ship and there are no sports facilities on board other than the very small and poorly equipped gym. There is not even shuffleboard on the deck which is a great shame. The hot-tubs did not have hot water in them! Entertainment Entertainment was generally good. There were some good singers in the bar and some good songs in the shows. The "Instant Fashion" show was particularly fascinating. There was also a "topless show" run late at night every night for an addition fee of USD22 - which we did not experience but given the number of children on the boat seemed like an odd form of entertainment! However, most of the activities during the day were inapplicable as they were run in Chinese. However, the Cruise Director Ciro did try very hard to ensure that the dozen or so non-Chinese speaking passengers got something to do - he arranged a tour of the bridge, for example, and Chinese lessons. Disembarkation Smooth but we did not use the luggage service. Ports (Da Nang and Halong Bay) Da Nang is not interesting - you need to go down to Hoi An for the good stuff which is 30km away. Very easy to get ripped off by local taxis etc on the dock but if you just walk outside the port area then normal rates can be achieved. Around USD20 each way to Hoi An is a fair rate. The tours were overpriced (but then you expect that) - it was pretty easy to hire a car plus driver for the day for around USD50-60 and see all the sights on the tour at your own pace. Hoi An was great - lovely old buildings, interesting craft workshops, cycle rickshaws and boat trips, bikes for rent, good cafes and shops etc. Easy to do on your own and plenty to keep busy. Halong Bay is terrific. However the town is nothing - a small touristy market and a couple of minor temples is all. The good stuff is all in the Bay - you need to get on a boat. We got a group of 6 together and hired a boat that could have sat about 30-40 people, so it was GREAT, worked out at USD25 each ( again cheaper than exactly the same tour, on a more crowded boat, offered by Costa). Toured around the lovely islands, stopped on a floating village to buy fish which the boat crew cooked for lunch! Really interesting. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
An amazing two week cruise with a truly memorable itinerary and an excellent ship with some exceptional crew members. Embarkation: The quickest and smoothest we've experienced. It took 15 minutes from arriving at the Quayside to ... Read More
An amazing two week cruise with a truly memorable itinerary and an excellent ship with some exceptional crew members. Embarkation: The quickest and smoothest we've experienced. It took 15 minutes from arriving at the Quayside to being in our cabin and our luggage arrived 10 minutes later. Cabin: We had opted for a Sky Suite. The room was a good size but storage space was a little limited. The balcony was nice but not good for sunbathing as it was partially covered. My husband claimed the beds weren't as comfortable as Celebrity - but I didn't notice! Butler Service: The Head Butler was very low profile - particularly on embarkation day - I think he wanted to avoid having to help with unpacking and any queries. He eventually appeared at 7pm and then was unable to get us any of the times that we wanted in the speciality restaurants. He had a very 'can't do attitude' which was disappointing. Room Service: We always eat breakfast in our room and only once was our order delivered correctly. It often came very late, with many items missing and on 3 occasions our eggs were practically raw. When I raised this with the Head Butler he just shrugged his shoulders and said I should speak to room service... On the flip side, the in-room dining menu was much improved and we particularly enjoyed the new Asian dishes that were available. Senior Staff/Officers: The senior crew members were outstanding and had great visibility and presence around the ship. Of particular note were: Heike the Hotel Director and the fantastic Captain Carl Smith who was charming and highly respected by his crew. Lastly I must mention Edwin,the Chief Housekeeper - through his kindness and exceptional levels of service he made our cruise all the more memorable and enjoyable. He is a huge asset to Azamara. Restaurants: We thoroughly enjoyed all of our experiences in the restaurants - particularly Aqualina and Prime C (we eventually managed to sort our bookings out!!) Excursions: We were surprisingly pleased with the ship's excursions and found them to be of a high level of quality. The absolute highlight was our trip to Angkor Wat - simply amazing and very efficiently organized by Azamara Irritations: The complete lack of any free sunbeds if you didn't get up to hog/reserve one at 7am. In the end we just gave up and I sacrificed my sun tan! Itinerary: Absolutely fantastic - we loved all of the ports of call. Highlights were: the sailaway from Hong Kong harbor, Hanoi, Halong Bay, the Grand Palace in Bangkok and of course Angkor Wat. The Ship: It took a few days to get used to being on a smaller ship than we are accustomed to but ultimately we loved it. We liked the decor and public rooms and appreciated the fact that with fewer passengers, there is less 'herding'. Entertainment: We hardly ever go to the shows so I can't really comment. We did however enjoy the port lectures given by Jonathan with assistance from his wife Tracey. The Captain's Club events and benefits (we are elite) were minimal but enjoyable. Disembarkation: Very smooth - no complaints. We liked the fact that we could stay in our cabin until we were called (rather than loitering in a lounge). Read Less
Sail Date January 2009

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