46 Dover Luxury Cruise Reviews

This review is written from the perspective of long-time cruisers on “mainstream” lines who decided to try a “luxury” line cruise aboard Crystal Serenity. The question with which we’d always wrestled was, “Is it worth it?” ... Read More
This review is written from the perspective of long-time cruisers on “mainstream” lines who decided to try a “luxury” line cruise aboard Crystal Serenity. The question with which we’d always wrestled was, “Is it worth it?” While the answer obviously depends in large part on how much you can and want to pay. However, for those who can spend the money, the question is whether they should. We would say “definitely yes” on luxury lines – we’re less enthusiastic about Crystal. A pure dollar per dollar comparison doesn’t really work. If you compare the cheapest Crystal cabin (ocean view) with a similar cabin on a mainstream line, you’re better off financially on the mainstream line even with all of the Crystal all-inclusives. Ditto suite to suite. However, the cheapest Crystal vs. a suite on a mainstream line is more comparable. In the end, there are many reasons that a Crystal cruise is “worth” the extra cost – you have to decide if these things are important to you. Embarkation involved several steps/stops. At the first, we showed out cruise ticket and passport. That led to security. Then a stop for your picture. Then a final stop to get your cabin card. While we’re used to “one stop shopping” when all the above is done at the same time, the Crystal process was fairly quick. By the time we arrived at our cabin, our bags were already there! Cabins weren’t ready until 3:00 but they invited passengersto the main dining room for lunch (vs. the buffet restaurant on most cruise lines). There were plenty of tables, service was exemplary, food was tasty, and, when you’re given a glass of soda or wine without signing for anything, you start to realize what all-inclusive means. We splurged for a Penthouse suite. The cabin is nicely decorated, in great condition, and very modern. However, compared to mainstream lines, the cabin is small. There is a very small sitting room, a makeup area (nice for ladies but somewhat a waste of space), a walk-in closet, and a bath with Jacuzzi tub, separate shower and two sinks with marble aplenty. We found the size fine for two – if you have a third person, it would be crowded. The balcony had two chairs with ottomans. We never heard noise from above. They give you large sizes of bath amenities and the towels were superb! The PH butler was exceptional – he made our cruise. Pleasant, responsive – willing to do things we hadn’t even thought about. There was a mini-bar that was stocked with whatever we requested and exceptional hors d’hoeuvres were always available. MDR food was uniformly very good – better quality and more choices than MDR on mainstream lines but not quite as good as their specialty restaurants. There were plenty of delicious options every night and we never had a bad meal. Desserts were a tad disappointing. Our dinner at Silk Road was a highlight in terms of food and service. Prego was fine but no better than the best of the MDR. Service throughout was excellent – we’re fast eaters and we never waited for any course to be served. There was a quiet efficiency (speed, lack of “clatter” of dishes, lack of confusion) to the service that was very nice. Dinner was uniformly a pleasant experience. We didn't attend all of the shows, but those we did see were quite good. The production numbers were definitely a huge notch above most mainstream lines. There was always plenty of seating. The "secondary" entertainment (other venues) wasn't really to our tastes and the timing was skewed late, but that's simply a matter of personal preference. As mentioned above, a huge plus was not having to pull out our cruise card and sign for something every five minutes. There is a certain serenity (no pun intended) in being able to order a soda or cappuccino or glass of wine or ice cream or bottled water, etc. without pain. The first (and only) time I used my key card was making a gift shop purchase. Yes, you’re paying for it in the long run, but the “price” of the freedom and flexibility counts for a lot in our book. Another plus was the fact that Crystal wasn’t trying to take more of your money at every pass. No “inches of gold” or “T-shirt sales” or spa pitches or “bingo, bingo bingo,” or art auction or . . . If you like those things, you’ll be disappointed with Crystal but not having the constant pressure to buy, buy, buy was an unexpected joy. Along those lines was the lack of constant announcements. Crystal treats you like adults – they put the information you need in the daily bulletin and trust you to read it. Basically, the “noise level” is much lower, which for us at least led to a more enjoyable and relaxing vacation. However, not all was perfect, and there were several areas where Crystal did not live up to our expectations. The first was shore excursions. Of the five we took, the average grade would be a C+. On the plus side, the wine tasting with Dewey Markham in Bordeaux was simply outstanding and the Douro river cruise in Porto was very good thanks to an excellent guide. Among the other tours, one left 30 minutes late due to “traffic” (on a Saturday morning) even though none of the other buses was late. On the next tour, our first (unscheduled) stop was 30 minutes at the airport restrooms. The Crystal escort was always the last one on the bus and a stop for "coffee" was completely disorganized. Two passengers became so frustrated with the delays that they took a cab back to the ship. The Crystal escort was constantly the last person on the bus -- invariably arrived 10 minutes after all the passengers were aboard, without apology. Our final tour to fishing villages was mismanaged in terms of time (we spent more than an hour at a sardine factory) with a guide who was silent 75% of the tour. We discussed this with Crystal shore excursion personnel. Our concerns were met with versions of “we can’t control the guides” or “every guide does things differently.” Wrong. Crystal ultimately bears responsibility for its tours and especially its Crystal hosts. We were told someone would follow up with us – no one ever did. In the end, Crystal’s indifference was surprising and telling. The worst experience came near the end of the cruise. All passengers disembarking in Lisbon had to clear Portuguese customs on the ship. The event was an unmitigated disaster. Timing was 4-7 pm, meaning everyone with early dinner came around 4. Over 1000 people had to go through customs and there were only two officials. The event was held in a small room and the line outside was literally longer than half the length of the ship. The crowd soon overwhelmed the air conditioning making it unbearably hot. Passengers stood in line for 75 minutes. There were no chairs. No one brought water or food. We showed up at 4:15 and finished at 5:30; we missed the final sail-away and had to sprint in order to make dinner on time -- not exactly a relaxing last evening. We understand that certain aspects of customs are beyond the ship’s control. However, Crystal did absolutely nothing to ameliorate the situation, such as handing out numbers with assigned times, handing out water, moving the event to a larger venue, etc. There was no senior officer present and there was no apology to the passengers. Bottom line: we've "pre-cleared" customs before and this was the most mismanaged event on any cruise we’ve taken. On departure, we’d arranged a private car through the ship’s concierge. We arrived 15 minutes before our assigned time only to be told we were “late." The concierge showed up a short time later and assured us we were definitely not late. Not a great way to depart. In the end, there were many great things about Crystal. We loved the all-inclusive approach and the lack of constantly being hit up for activities and dollars. And for the most part, the crew was incredibly professional and personable -- their experience shows. If you can afford it, an “all-inclusive” line is a real pleasure and, in our view, definitely "worth it." But, too many things didn’t go well on this cruise and at times there seemed to be an attitude of “we don’t really care” that we found unsatisfying. While we will definitely try a luxury line again, it probably won’t be Crystal.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our fourth/fifth Crystal Cruise (this was a back to back cruise) sailing from and back to Dover, so no flying. Do wish that Crystal would sail south from the UK without flying. Embarkation at Dover was very smooth. Once onboard ... Read More
This was our fourth/fifth Crystal Cruise (this was a back to back cruise) sailing from and back to Dover, so no flying. Do wish that Crystal would sail south from the UK without flying. Embarkation at Dover was very smooth. Once onboard our picture was taken and we were issued with our cabin cards. We then went up to the Bistro, on of our favourite places, for champagne and a light lunch. Our stateroom was available early afternoon and it was just as expected, with everything one could want. We were familiar with the ship so knew our way around. It is very well maintained. I read some reviews saying since Crystal had gone all inclusive that service had deteriorated, well, we didn't experience any drop in service in any department. The service in the restaurant was superb as was the food, and the choice of wine was more than adequate. Prego was wonderful too. We never experienced a lowering of service anywhere. We were always greeted with a smile and welcome from all of the crew - officers included! There were two things which disappointed us. The first was the evening entertainment. We always look forward to, and go to, the shows. It is obvious to us (and many others) that Crystal is trying to attract a younger guest. We didn't enjoy any of the production shows as we didn't recognise hardly any of the songs - what happened to Cole, Million Dollar Musicals etc, all shows with numbers we are familiar with. Perhaps the content of the shows will be more suitable in ten years time when the younger guest Crystal is hoping for would have grown up with them. Also we don't like the show to be before dinner - who wants to go to bed on a full stomach! We were blessed with good weather for the entire cruise with just a little drizzle first thing in the morning on a couple of days. The shore excursions, although a bit pricey, were well organised. Disembarkation was very well organised and we were very sad to be leaving the ship. If it wasn't for the entertainment it would be 5+ all the way. Will we be booking another - you bet! Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
HI don’t take vacations Why? I never leave my home and it’s hard to get Paris to visit ME. So when I do take a vacation it’s a big deal. The big deal started seven months ago when I decided to take another cruise. Are you ready? DAY ... Read More
HI don’t take vacations Why? I never leave my home and it’s hard to get Paris to visit ME. So when I do take a vacation it’s a big deal. The big deal started seven months ago when I decided to take another cruise. Are you ready? DAY ONE: GUERNSEY We take a walking tour of Guernsey led by Mary Poppins. The nicest, sweetest lady you’d ever meet who is stunningly handsome at about 75. One of the members of he group is late, let’s call her Helen Gurley Brown. However, two members of the group a husband and wife… let’s call them Donald Trump and Ivana… are not happy. ''"We are on time, why do we have to wait?” The woman whose expression has not changed since she arrived on the ship pipes in, ''"I’m not waiting.” And she takes off. OH. The expression…it’s like she’s constantly smelling poo. I get through the day. Tomorrow is a day at sea. I wonder what it will hold. That night on the ship they play THE IMPOSSIBLE, the story of a family that goes on vacation and is hit by a Tsunami. THIS is the movie they play on the first night out… I go down to the lobby and a violin trio is playing… I SWEAR TO YOU… ''"Closer to God are Thee” the tune they played as the Titanic went down. As a comic I see the comedy in the situation as a passenger I want to run to my room and leave my life vest on…forever. DAY TWO: AT SEA. I’ve always wanted to see whales. I just didn’t think I’d see them in bathing suits. There should be a law… if the flap of skin on your back folds over and touches your hip, you cannot wear a thong. The men are no better. I saw one guy walking down the hallway. He was so wide he was knocking paintings off the walls on both sides as he made his way to his cabin. Oh and day two is the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The last time I was in Temple Eisenhower was in office but I thought it would be fun to be in France and celebrate the New Year in another country. The service is at five p.m…. I go down there at five. We have crossed a time line and clocks were set a hour ahead one hour. It was actually six p.m. and I missed the service. DAY THREE: BORDEAUX, FRANCE So next morning I’m up at six a.m. and I’m ready to go to services. I walk into the room and one lady is sitting with a shawl. On the pulpit is a priest with vestments, behind him is a huge cross with Jesus. She says, ''"Come in… join us.” I say, ''"I haven’t been in Temple in about 40 years but I don’t think this is a Rosh Hashanah service.” The woman laughs so loud the priest stops spraying the incense. Ok, so I come back in half an hour and there are the Jews… all ten of them. I have found them in this sea of WASP wonderland-ness. We get to talking and suddenly I realize I have found the rarest of rare… REPUBLICAN JEWS… a living oxymoron. It’s like it’s when I found out fish eat their young… I was horrified. The service lasts exactly 12 minutes. Why? The Rabbi has to take a tour of the Bordeaux countryside. This is the Jewish Holiday I have wished for my entire life. So we board our bus to the wine country. We have a French guide… a woman with a voice just short of grinding silverware down the garbage disposal. She spoke in such a thick accent no one could understand her and when we asked her to repeat whatever she said she got furious. ''"Vat is Wong wit you peoples” I thought I was going to have to stay after the tour in detention. Six of us started a support group for survivors of the tour which we are now calling the Death March on Bataan. That night we went to the theater for the entertainment. Sit down… you’re gonna love this. REBECCA AND DONNOVAN. Picture Arnold Schwartnegger singing like Mario Lanza while his wife hung from silk ropes. That’s what this act was. I actually sat through twenty minutes of it until my ears began to bleed and I fled from the theater like The Von Trapp Family. DAY FOUR: AT SEA They have provided us with many interesting things to do on this ship. Interesting if you live in assisted living and have a motorized wheelchair. One of my favorites activities is SCARF TYING. I kid you not… learn how to tie a scarf…followed by NAPKIN FOLDING. (Readers: this is not a joke.) These are actual classes. They also have courses you could use like how to shoot video on an ipad, how to play the piano, how to play bridge… each one of THOSE classes was anemically empty. But SCARF TYING was a slam-dunk. Standing room only! Then there was the lecture series… who do they have as a guest speaker…some show biz celebrity… some sports hero… a political figure? NO! Clint Van Zant… an FBI Serial Murderer Profiler. STANDING ROOM ONLY? They were seated on the floor. These Republicans like a good mass murder. I went to the lecture in which I learned one of the killers liked to shove stones up the vaginal cavity of his victims. (beat) FOR THIS I PAID FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS INCLUDING AIR FARE???? I was once on a Princess Cruise and their entertainment was a ''"Hairiest man on the ship” contest… a Persian woman won. Ok so tonight is formal night on the ship or as I call it, The Geriatric Prom. Tonight I will see things no man is supposed to see… moo moos and tuxedos… walkers and sequins… ladies wearing things only teenagers should wear… and all to stand in a buffet line and eat things pushed through a pastry tube. I truly do love this experience… it’s a comedy writer’s dream come true. One cruise on the Atlantic and I will be writing about it for the next six years. DAY FIVE: Lisbon, Portugal I’ve figured out what taking a cruise is all about… it’s a series of meals interrupted by Europe. My God, I have never eaten so much in my life. They are feeding us like we’re Foie Gras Geese. They just keep shoving food down our throats… my liver is the size of Connecticut. Any moment I expect the chef to cut it out and force-feed it back to me. Lisbon, Portugal. Well, I can die happy now. I’ve seen the tomb of Vasco D’Gama. This is the highlight of Lisbon, that and protecting your wallets from pickpockets. I have never seen anything like it in my life, you’re standing alone waiting for the shuttle… suddenly, out of no where, 500 Gypsies surround you trying to sell you shawls. So the entire trip your holding your wallet, your camera, your keys, your passport, your gold incisor… anything you’re afraid they could get their hands on. OH! It appears Lisbon is the thimble capital of the world. Everywhere you go they are hocking thimbles… and coasters. Thimbles and coasters…coasters and thimbles… big ones, black ones, cork ones, blue ones, coasters with Lisbon on them, thimbles with Vasco D’ Gama on them… granite thimbles.( I guess they were from the stone age) It appears the Europeans think that all we Americans do is sew and cook. There is one funny note in Lisbon. There appears to be a large contingent of Lesbians on the ship, packs of them dressed in tool belts and wearing Berkinstocks.. It would give me great joy to say over and over… We’re in Lisbon with the Lesbians…. Lisbon with the Lesbians… Lisbon with the Lesbians. Has a nice ring, no? I must say I was disappointed in Lisbon. It’s dirty. It’s crowded. It’s covered in graffiti. It’s New York City with thimbles. I was picturing this quaint little village like it says in the brochure… lovely multi colored homes like a Disney movie. Instead I got the parking lot of an architectural salvage yard. The whole city is a big BEFORE photo. It’s a D.I.Y. project waiting to happen. One interesting side note about tour guides. How do you get them to shut up? They get you on that bus and don’t stop talking until the ship is pulling away from the dock. They tell you dates and names and countries and kings and queens and all you want to know is, ''"Where is the toilet?” About twenty minutes into the tour her voice begins to sound like nails on a blackboard. Everything she says you take exception to. ''"Oh really… Portugal has wonderful weather… really?” You can’t wait to get off the bus and flee for your life but she’s behind you with a bull horn.” DON’T FORGET TO STOP IN THE TRINKET SHOP BEFORE YOU LEAVE.” DAY SIX: SEVILLE, SPAIN-WATCH YOUR VALUABLES!!!! By this day you have gotten to know your traveling companions and they seem to fall into three categories: a. People you want be friends with. b. People you want to be friends with but just can’t. c. People you want to kill with the bottle opener provided in your room. Under ''"a” comes people your own age, people with the same political views and anyone with all their original body parts. Under ''"b” comes anyone with equipment. This includes oxygen bottles, canes, walkers, electric wheel chairs and a leg made out from composite materials. Under ''"c” comes Republicans. There are also sub categories. People with language barriers like Russians and people who stick to themselves, like Asians. These are all nice people but when ''"Isn’t Lisbon a dumpy city. ” takes 20 minutes, flash cards and a signal flare, a lasting friendship is out of the question. On today’s trip I found two things. 1. Seville is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been in and 2. There are other Democrats on board. Today at lunch I sat with a lovely couple from Connecticut. Out of the blue she turns to me and says ''"Did you ever see a bigger bunch of in your life. Republicans…all of them” I heard angels sing. From that moment on the trip took on a new air. She told us of other Democrats on board. I suddenly knew what the French underground felt like during World War II. We had secret handshakes and secret meeting places. ''"We’re under the stairs in the main ball room” IT’S A WHOLE NEW TRIP!!!! DAY SEVEN: AT SEA Last night we were supposed to see The Rock of Gibraltar… we passed it at midnight so that’s one thing that won’t be crossed off my bucket list. DAY EIGHT: BARCEL…. Ohhhhhhhh who cares! I have seen more churches than the Pope. I am so touristed out I can’t begin to tell you. I’ve seen parks. I’ve seen monuments. I’ve seen the birthplace of people I never knew existed. This isn’t a vacation it’s credits for my Masters. The good news is I have finally found the fun people. All four of them. They are under 70, they are Democrats, they laugh… I’ve got four new friends. Worth the whole trip. DAY NINE; TO THE AIRPORT. My pick up is at ten… at ten thirty he still is not there. I have prepaid for this ride and suddenly the cruise ship who did everything but has thrown me to the wind. ''"Oh, you didn’t buy OUR transportation… pity.” So I grab a taxi to the airport with tip and with the money I have already paid to the other limo company this trip has cost me 16 thousand dollars. I could have flown around the world twice for what this cab ride has cost me. And here’s the bottom line. I DON’T CARE. I have had one of the best times I have ever had in my life. I came home with nothing. No key chains, no iPhones covers from Spain. No, snowballs with cathedrals in them. All I have is my memories… 486 photos and four new friends. Hey! Could have been a lot worse… and I didn’t even tell you about the Israeli on the plane home who kept pushing my seat forward because I was ''"Invading his space.” I wanted to club him with my thimble collection. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We have sailed on the Pride 5 times and find it still one of our favorite ships. It doesn't have a real balcony or much of a swimming pool, but the intimacy of a small ship and an outstanding staff more than make up for those ... Read More
We have sailed on the Pride 5 times and find it still one of our favorite ships. It doesn't have a real balcony or much of a swimming pool, but the intimacy of a small ship and an outstanding staff more than make up for those deficiencies. It has been redecorated since we last sailed on it and I like the new carpeting and furniture. EMBARKATION - Very smooth - we were escorted to our cabin and our cabin attendent came almost immediately and was lovely throughout the cruise. DINING - The food was excellent, if very slightly below it was last year. SERVICE - This is an area that no other cruise line matches. The staff quickly learns your name and preferences. SHORE EXCURSIONS - Excellent except for 2 in Bordeaux. When several people mentioned that these were not up to Seabourn standards, Seabourn refunded half the price. ENTERTAINMENT - Best we have had on a small ship. Great concert pianist, very amusing magician,an excellent jazz trio and the regular Seabourn entertainers. Only weak spot was the lecturer, which is usually a Seabourn strength. ITINERARY - Because of the small size of the ship, we were able to go up the Seine to Rouen and have an easy one hour train ride into Paris. WE were also able to go right into the heart of St. Malo. A lovely cruise in all ways. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This will likely be one of the most memorable cruises of all of those we've ever taken. I wish to thank everyone at Oceania from Frank Del Rio on down. You guys are wonderful. Ship: Of course, the Marina was virtually brand ... Read More
This will likely be one of the most memorable cruises of all of those we've ever taken. I wish to thank everyone at Oceania from Frank Del Rio on down. You guys are wonderful. Ship: Of course, the Marina was virtually brand new-and quite beautiful. Very spacious-even more so than the Oceania R-Ships. We sailed with less than 1,200 on a 65,000 gross ton ship, so venues were very uncrowded and there was never really a line or wait for anything—Except the tenders in tender ports-which was fairly frustrating at times as those of us on private tours were delayed leaving the ship while they got all of the shore excursions off first. The Grand Dining Room was very ample with tables always open. Each of the four main specialty restaurants was very nicely done. Unlike the R-Ships, the Marina finally has a real dedicated theater-style showroom. Some people may like the lounge seating of the R-ships to this, but, to seat enough people for a ship this size, this is the right way to do it. The walkways in front of each row of seats was sufficiently wide enough to allow people to pass without forcing anyone seated to stand and the viewing angles were pretty good from most seats. The only questionable part, IMHO, were the desk-type tables that pulled up out of the armrests-a little too tight for most of us overeating cruise passengers. Of course, I never saw many people using these. Cabin: We were in one of the "Oceania Suites"--#12006. What can I say? One of the best and best thought-out suites I have ever seen on a ship. I could live in this suite. Living/Dining Room, TV Room, Bedroom, more than ample walk-in closet, two bathrooms (Though every husband we met said the same thing—the wife pretty much took over the "big" bathroom and the husbands all ended up permanently relegated to the "guest" bathroom!). Private (one-person) Jacuzzi on the balcony with a big screen TV over the Jacuzzi! Very nice-sized bar came fully stocked with a bottle of Bacardi Rum, Grey Goose Vodka, Black Label Scotch, a red and a white wine and a bottle of Gin (which I quickly traded for a second bottle of scotch!). My only real issue with the suite was that there were so many light switches that it usually took me 20 minutes to figure out how to turn off all of the lights. My wife's issue was that there seemed to be constant whistling from the bedroom sliding glass door on windy nights. Of course, I slept right through it. Service: The dining room and specialty restaurant service was even better than I recall from past Oceania cruises, if that is possible. Grand Dining Room staff was excellent, very accommodating—never a problem. Specialty restaurants, of course, were a step above. Our "team" taking care of us in our suite—Butler Ravi and the Assistant Butler (whose name suddenly escapes me) were always available to fill all requests, and our Cabin Steward, Jahaira and her two assistants were just flat-out excellent.. Food: Food, of course, was the highlight of the cruise. And, this, of course, was the "Jacques Pepin cruise". Jacques was staying just down the hall from us and we were invited one night to La Reserve for dinner with Jacques and his wife and his Sous Chef, Jean-Claude and his wife and a few other passengers. Absolutely the most incredible dinner experience. Appetizers and champagne, followed by six incredible courses with a wine paired to each one: Scallop, Risotto, a Fish dish, Chateaubriand, Pear and Goat Cheese and a Chocolate Mousse topped gateau. Three and a half hours of sheer pleasure and great conversation. We also had eight specialty reservations, two in each of the main four, and we managed to squeeze in an extra at Toscana for our final night—a very special final dinner onboard with two couples with whom we had shared most of our private tours. I think of all of the specialty restaurants (aside from La Reserve), Toscana was my clear favorite. Starting with the choice of Olive Oils and Balsamic vinegars and through the meal, everything was outstanding. And the Veal Scaloppine Marsala my favorite dish on the ship. And, the Pennette San Gimignano as a "side dish" was incredible—I could have eaten that as a full meal and been very happy. Of course, the other specialty restaurants were each very good in their own right. Red Ginger was a big hit with everyone. Very well done. Get the Sushi as an appetizer. Entertainment: Food, of course, was the high point—and, as usual with Oceania, Entertainment was the most disappointing area—Although, it was actually a considerable improvement from our past Oceania cruises. With the dedicated stage and showroom, they now had a troupe of singers and dancers (four of each) putting on actual "production shows" with costume changes and some variety. Not quite up to the par of the production shows one sees on other cruise lines, but definitely a worthy bit of entertainment. We especially enjoyed Jennifer, from New Jersey-one of the young singers. They did the "Welcome" show and three other full productions plus participated in other activities around the ship. The spotlight performers were a mixed bag: Artur Banaskiewicz - Violinist: He did two shows before leaving mid-cruise. He was good at what it is he does, but two full shows of gypsy music on the violin is far too much for me. I think I found his manner of speaking and accent more entertaining than the music. Danny Buckler - Magician/Comedian: As a magician, his act was fairly pedestrian. Small time magic starting with the trite and obvious "Indian Rope Trick". But, as a comedian, this guy was clearly the most entertaining act on the ship. Great rapport with the crowd, quick delivery and reaction. Absolutely charming. Two shows. Agata Sava - Soprano. Two shows. We missed her first show as we were in La Reserve for a long evening, but, after seeing her second show, we were more than happy that we missed the first. Absolutely excruciating—a soprano who had trouble hitting the high notes. And a style reminiscent of the Bride of Frankenstein in a full body cast. No movement, little expression—and an accent and delivery that made it sound as if she did not speak English—at all. Sounded as if she'd memorized the lyrics by sound or phonetics. The worst. Bruce Parker "California Soul Man": Two shows (we missed the second). He was actually quite good—very energetic. Sort of the Anti-Agata Sava. Moved around the stage, involved the audience. Really worked it. If there was a problem, it was in the material and the audience. This was, quite simply, not an R&B/Motown crowd. And, among all of the available R&B/Motown material, he tended to pick some of the more obscure songs—not good to do with a crowd who isn't into that style of music and only knows the "big hits". Don Bryan - Ventriloquist: I've seen his act before—must have been on Nautica. Decent Ventriloquist, funny enough act with a couple of entertaining twists The nights in Le Verdon, Cadiz and Livorno, there was no real show. Ports: HONFLEUR - 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.: We didn't really have an interest in doing a long D-Day beaches tour here and we'd been to Rouen and Giverny on a recent cruise stop, so we decided to just walk around Honfleur, visited the Boudin Museum and returned to the ship in the afternoon. Picturesque little town. SAINT-MALO - 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.: Here we did a private tour with a party of eight to Mont St. Michel, Dinan and Saint Malo with Westcapades for 80€ pp. Our guide was Marc, the owner of the company. He did a very nice job of providing commentary on the way to Mont St. Michel in the morning. Having left the ship promptly upon arrival, we beat most of the crowds to this site. Very impressive old monastery. Then it was on to Medieval Dinan. Very nice little town, free time and lunch, then back over to St. Malo, where we parted ways with Marc and walked through the walled city, then tendered back to the ship. One key here with the early start was to report to the showroom ahead of the time the first of the ship's shore excursions was to depart—so we were able to get tender tickets for the first tender while the shorex participants were still amassing. http://www.westcapades.com/english.php PONT AVEN - 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.: It was raining a good portion of the day, so we just spent some time wandering around Concarneau. Very touristy little town-walled medieval city—a short walk from the tender pier. LA ROCHELLE - 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.: This is one of only two ports where we took a shore excursion—"Saintes & Cognac", a full day tour for $199 per person—not bad as shorexes go—we had a nice little visit to La Rochelle, then Saintes and then a tour of the Hennessey Cognac distillery with tastings. Only real negative was 38 people on the tour. BORDEAUX - 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. -Here we had a simply marvelous tour with Maryse of Bordeaux Excursions, party of 8 for 118.75€ per person. Maryse picked us up at the pier in Le Verdon and drove us to two wineries in the morning-- chateau LOUDENNE www.lafragette.com - Crû Bourgeois of Medoc - also called the "Pink Chateau" for its outstanding XVIIth Century architecture and château LYNCH-BAGES in Pauillac, listed in the 1855 Classification Medoc Wines www.lynchbages.com, then lunch at "brasserie" LE CAFE LAVINAL www.villagedebages.com After lunch, we continued through Saint-Julien and Margaux vineyards with stops for pictures by the renowned chateaux (Pichon, latour, margaux, etc...) Then on to Bordeaux for a walking tour through the city. Maryse is one of the best guides we've had. http://www.bordeaux-excursions.com/-English- BIARRITZ - 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. - Actually, the port is St. Jean de Luz. We had nothing planned here. We thought we might take a taxi to Bayonne or Biarritz, but we found the town of St. Jean so charming that we spent the day here instead. Took the little tourist train (5€ per person) for an orientation of the city, then just walked around on our own. BILBAO - 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.: Here we decided to do the city on our own. A free Oceania shuttle took us to the center of town from where we walked to the "Casco Viejo"—The Old City, then around the riverfront to the Guggenheim Museum. There are three very interesting and distinct bridges across the river near the Guggenheim. We crossed the river on the first, then took the elevator to the top of the second and came back across the river on the third, getting some incredible photos on this route. LA CORUNA - 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.: Here we hired a private tour for six of us with Brendan Lowe of Guided Galicia. Brendan is an expatriate Kiwi living in Vigo—very nice guy. We went, in the morning to the Pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela through the church, market and town, then on to Cambados for lunch, then to the town of Betanzos then back to La Coruña and a visit to the Tower of Hercules -Cost for the tour was 91.67€ per person. http://guidedgalicia.blogspot.com/p/cruise-tours.html OPORTO - 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: Here we were supposed to do our second shorex—"The Medieval City of Guimaraes" (half day, $119 pp), but the city was completely fogged in and they could not dock the ship—so, disappointingly, we missed this port altogether. CADIZ - 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.: We had a party of 10 here on a private tour to Seville with Cadiz and Beyond for 85€ per person. It was, by far, the hottest day of the cruise—46 Celsius/114 Fahrenheit. Our guide in Seville was excellent and the visit to the Cathedral and the Palace was quite interesting. No way we walk up the Giralda Tower in that heat though! Still, Seville is an enchanting city. http://www.cadizandbeyond.com/CruiseTourClubRollCall/tabid/167/Default.aspx/ CASABLANCA - 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.: Here we booked a private tour for six with travel exploration Morocco for a cost of $108 per person, payable in advance by credit card in US$. Our guide, Redouane, met us at the ship and took us to the Mosque, the Synagogue and an open air market and on a driving tour through the city. Both the Mosque and Synagogue were impressive, each in their own way, but most in our party were not thrilled with the market or the city itself—sort of filthy with crazy traffic. http://www.travel-exploration.com/page.cfm/About_Travel_Exploration BARCELONA - 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.: After several visits here, we know Barcelona so well that we did not see a need for a tour. This visit, we made it a point to visit a couple of sites we've neglected in last visits. We, basically, wandered through the Barri Gotic, visiting the Synagogue (Oldest in Europe and rediscovered only a few years ago) and the Cathedral, then a visit to El Corte Ingles and a stroll down Las Ramblas. MONTE CARLO - 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.: Here we did a private tour with a party of 8 visiting the towns of Grasse (and the Fragonard Perfume Factory), Gourdon and St. Paul de Vence. St. Paul is one of my favorite towns in France-incredibly picturesque. Cost was 65€ per person. privateshoretrips.com LIVORNO - 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.: This was our second shore excursion—"Pisa - Lucca - Puccini", approximately 10 hours for $179 per person. After an interesting visit to the home of the composer Puccini, we visited the beautiful walled city of Lucca and the wonderful Pisa with its Leaning Tower and other landmarks. Only 16 passengers on this tour and a very good guide, making it one of the better shore excursions. ROME - Here, we joined a group of eight for a tour of the main sights of Rome with Valerio Nacci of NCC. For only 50€ per person, he picked us up at the ship and took us to the Vatican, Trevi, Piazza Navona, Vittorio Emanuel, Pantheon and Coliseum, then dropped us off at our hotel and returned the others (who were doing back-to-backs) to the ship in Civitavecchia. Very much worth the price. http://www.nccportodicivitavecchia.it/en/index.asp http://it-it.facebook.com/people/Valerio-Nacci/100000180156934 Pre-Cruise: We flew into Heathrow several days before the cruise, rented a car and spent four nights in Canterbury, staying at the House of Agnes: http://www.houseofagnes.co.uk/ Excellent little bed and breakfast. It's a centuries-old B&B, but we had a very modern and newly built-out "stable room" for £80 per night. The place was very well run with an excellent breakfast. There was ample convenient on-site parking though the driveway was a little difficult to navigate. The location was right outside the main West Gate to the old walled city so everything was in close walking distance. Canterbury turned out to be an outstanding choice for a pre-cruise stay. Much nicer than the industrial Dover, yet within a half hour drive of the port. We took a charming river boat ride one morning, visited the Cathedral the next and took a drive out to the picturesque town of Sandwich the third. Other than that, we just relaxed, walked about the town, ate, shopped and enjoyed. Post-Cruise: We spent two nights in Rome post cruise at the Residenza Farnese: http://www.residenzafarneseroma.it/ A steal at 120€ per night. One of the absolute best locations in Rome. About a block from the Campo di Fiore and about three blocks from the Piazza Navona on a quiet side street. The Campo di Fiore is now one of my favorite piazzas in all of Rome. A vibrant piazza lined with several very reasonably priced restaurants with ample outdoor seating. We ate in two of them: Maranega: http://millerrome2011.blogspot.com/2011/04/new-addition-to-campo-de-fiori.html and Sloppy Sam's: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sloppy-Sams/101906753220836?v=info I had pasta in both and both were VERY good. It is hard to beat the outdoor tables on the Campo. My wife loved the Gelato at Blue Ice. They have not one, but two, locations within a block of each other on the road leaving the Campo in the direction of the Piazza Navona. All in all, this was an absolutely GREAT cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We had looked forward to this trip because we were waiting for Oceania to introduce a ship made to their own specs (not from the old Renaisance Line). We chose this particular cruise because of the Ports to be visited, although due to ... Read More
We had looked forward to this trip because we were waiting for Oceania to introduce a ship made to their own specs (not from the old Renaisance Line). We chose this particular cruise because of the Ports to be visited, although due to weather we missed two ports completely and were moved from Honfleur (a destination for some) to Le Havre. PLUSES This is a beautiful ship with a well-thought out layout. Specialty restaurants are free of charge and three of the four specialty restaurants are outstanding�we were not impressed with Jacques (although others were). Free cappucino and soft drinks. Open dining with no multiple seatings (first and second) or fixed tables. MINUSES Too many to name. But here are a few (not in any particular order): Limit of times to visit the specialty restaurants although we knew of many people in the same cabin category who were there more than their allotment. The food in the main dining room and the terrace no better than other cruise ships that charge much less. Several uncooperative and frankly surly staff members, particulary the restaurant reservations person. We met many staffers whose first response to a question was 'NO', not 'I will check into it'. The O tours were unreasonably priced. Our trips were 1/3 to � the price of O's offerings, including transfers from port to towns or airport. Showers are almost unusable�too small, hard-to-use controls, over-flows�we met nobody who didn't comment on this. Safe is so high in the room..anyone over 5'3 would be unable to see the contents. VERY poor value compared to other ships such as Celebrity (Aqua Class) which is almost half the price, or even Crystal which is better for the same price (or close). MANY U.S. People were extremely upset to discover that U.K. Residents paid at least ONE HALF what U.S. Residents paid plus they got $1,000 cruise credit (yes, they did not need airfare, but that does not account for the discrepency). There were some 'HIDDEN' pluses that we were not informed of..like asking for senior rates at ports for transfers, museum entries..getting cash back for cruise credits. We never did meet out stewardess, and had to point out that we had no soap left after 8 days..never have been on a ship before with this lack of interaction. Entertainment was not better than high school productions (and that comment probably insults a lot of high schools). Little concern that we missed two ports entirely and Honfleur was changed to Le Havre. No offer to contact our private tour companies for the changes or compensate for out missed opportunities. BOTTOM LINE: Oceania will not be seeing us again. There are too many other better options at sea. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This was our first Oceania cruise. We were treated like royalty from the moment we boarded. Our Penthouse 3 was as delightful as advertised. Only problem was "their" hairdryer didn't stay in the plug, but I had my own, so no ... Read More
This was our first Oceania cruise. We were treated like royalty from the moment we boarded. Our Penthouse 3 was as delightful as advertised. Only problem was "their" hairdryer didn't stay in the plug, but I had my own, so no problem. The bed was so heavenly, we are actively seeking where to buy one. The bathrooms are outstanding with actual storage for your "stuff." We were on Deck 10. Other reviewers have mentioned an issue with Deck 11 due to the overhang above it, and I agree. I would not book Deck 11 on Marina or the new Riveria. I had thought I wouldn't like having a butler - wrong! Bosco was terrific. He saw to it that we ate in the specialty dining venues as many times as we wanted. All were great, but I think we liked Toscano best. We took advantage of both "La Reserve" and "Privee." At $75 each, La Reserve is well worth it, both for the wines and the superb food. Privee, though pricey, is so over-the-top that a special occasion may warrant the $1000 for 8 that it costs. An additional 2 dinners were extra special for us: dinner with the captain one night, and with several of the performers another night. Without question, the personal attention of the crew was what made this cruise. The ship is gorgeous - tasteful but not ostentatious - but the attention to detail is what put it into the 6 star category for us. We opted for the ship's shore excursions, simply because we didn't know enough to make our own arrangements. Though pricey, we felt they were pretty good overall. Thanks to amazing weather, we were able to enjoy every excursion thoroughly. Kudos to the entertainment team. The 4 dancers were skilled, but also delightful performers and really fun to get to know off stage as well. The singers were all quite good, especially Heather and the operatic Chris. "Con Molto" was the best show, by far. We spent a week in England before the cruise and a couple of days after, highlighting cathedrals and the historic area around Sailsbury, Portsmouth and Canterbury. I used Tripadvisor to find all our boutique hotels and inns and was completely pleased. Renting a car is an experience. Driving on the left side is not an easy transition! I think we'll hire a driver next time :) We are in our mid-late 60's, and were fairly young for this cruise, or so it felt. Not many young people overall. Though we still work, most folks we met were retired. We did make some wonderful new friends - always a bonus. The "country club casual" dress code seems to have given way to a dressier look in the evenings for most women, and a high number of jackets for the men. Luggage arrived promptly and there was ample space to stow tons of clothes. We took advantage of the self-service laundry twice - very easy. Embarkation and disembarking was a snap. Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend Marina. Just wish Oceania would go the "all-inclusive" route. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our first cruise with Oceania and we were very impressed. In particular, the food was several notches above any previous cruise we have taken. All four alternate restaurants were fantastic. We also enjoyed La Reserve, which is not ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Oceania and we were very impressed. In particular, the food was several notches above any previous cruise we have taken. All four alternate restaurants were fantastic. We also enjoyed La Reserve, which is not to be missed ! The Terrace Cafe is beyond belief. It is set up like a wonderful restaurant and not as a cafeteria. The food is outstanding and one would not be wrong to eat every meal here. Fabulous choices each meal. The main dining room is OK, but the choices are somewhat limited with some weird concoctions. We only ate two of our dinners there, since all the other restaurants were so fabulous. No extra charges except for the special Wine and Food at "La Reserve" The PH3 cabin we had was great. Feels like a 5 star European hotel room. Wonderful marble bathrooms and beds that are beyond belief. I have a serious problem with beds as I get backaches every night. Even at home, I have not found a bed to solve this problem. Well, I slept like a baby all 12 nights and never had a backache. I would give anything to have brought that bed home with me ! Makes other cruise lines feel like you are sleeping on a cot. The entire ship feels more like a hotel than a ship. Quality everywhere. The crew was outstanding and so was the entertainment. Every show, either production or outside entertainers was first class. The thing that impresses right off the bat is that nobody is trying to sell you anything. No photos, ( never had our picture taken once ), no soda specials and water charges, no hawking of boutique wares in the corridors, etc. The lack of formal nights is wonderful. Country club casual is the attire, but you do see many woman dressed up and even some gentlement in tuxes, but if you just want to wear a shirt and slacks, no problem. Everyone complied with the dress code. Even the internet worked very well. Our embarkation and debarkation went very smoothly. Our cabin came with a Butler, who seemed to know exactly what we wanted and when we wanted it. He was everywhere, but was not obtrusive at all. Port tours were OK, but nothing different than any other cruise line. They all use the same outside vendors. The port tours are more expensive than some other cruise line charge, but they were very well organized. We did miss two ports due to weather, the sea swells being too much for the tenders to safely operate. However, Oceania cruises are very port intensive and missing these two actually were enjoyable to a degree to have some more cruising time. All in all, a very impressive and enjoyable cruise. While on board, we booked another cruise for April, 2012. Highly recommend doing this as you get an additional 5% discount for booking on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We booked this cruise primarily to relax and enjoy good food. We were not disappointed. The cabin was very comfortable; good bed; balcony. The bathroom was ok, but the shower was rather small. The tub takes much space and was unneccessary ... Read More
We booked this cruise primarily to relax and enjoy good food. We were not disappointed. The cabin was very comfortable; good bed; balcony. The bathroom was ok, but the shower was rather small. The tub takes much space and was unneccessary for us. The food in all restaurants (4 speciality restaurants, dining room, terrace cafe, wave grill) was excellent; the best we ever had on a cruise. While non-alcoholic beverages are free, alcohol is rather expensive. The staff was friendly and helpful. We did not book any shore excursions due to their high price level. Two ports were cancelled due to bad weather conditions. We recommend this ship to anyone who likes good food and a comfortable cabin. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Having read much about Oceania's newest ship, we decided to see for ourselves, and a cruise from dover, around the edges of the Bay of Biscay, seemed an ideal opportunity, visiting ports we knew well from land-based travel. ... Read More
Having read much about Oceania's newest ship, we decided to see for ourselves, and a cruise from dover, around the edges of the Bay of Biscay, seemed an ideal opportunity, visiting ports we knew well from land-based travel. Embarkation was swift and efficient, but rather disconcertingly we did not have to produce any ID until we were aboard the ship. We found our way to our cabin, wondering why there was no "welcome aboard" glass of fizz, and found ourselves in a delightful, elegant balcony cabin, with wonderfully comfortable bed, beautiful bed linen, comfy sofa and marble bathroom , complete with both showere and tub. Storage was not the best feature,as drawers were shallow, and wardrobe awkwardly placed alongside the bed. for a cruise line selling itself as 5* we were surprised to find no bottle of champagne on ice, basket of fruit or flowers, but the minibar wa stocked with soft drinks and bottled waters, which were replaced daily, and a plate of fruit was soon delivered, on request. The ship has wonderful decor,with a fabulous Laligue stairway, lalique vases and tables in bays off the main lobby, and delightful abstract sculptures in hallways and landings. The main dining room , large, well lit and airy, has an incredible central crystal chandelier, and touches of classy elegance abound throughout all loung areas. The large lounge areas had delightful sofas, comfortable chairs and love seats, softly lit by elegant crystal lamps Dining is a main event on Marina, with a choice of 7 dining venues which incur no extra charge, from the Grand Dining room, a grill and roomy Terrace cafe, serving huge choices of wonderful quality food, to 4 themed speciality restaurants, of which we liked the more atmospheric Asian -fusion Red Ginger the best. Each restaurant had its own chefs, and offered varied quality menus, and a reasonably efficient level of good service from teams of friendly waiters. If celebrating a special occasion, or as a treat, Marina offers wonderful tasting menus in La Reserve, a joint venture with Wine Spectator at a cost of $75, which we thought amazing, with dishes comparable to any Michelin restaurant in London. The one negative aspect to Marina is the low standard of entertainment, with shows delivered by an enthusiastic small team, doing their best with poor costumes and staging in a dull, low-ceiling-ed show lounge, which had absolutely no wow factor, no glitz, and was not very comfortable. the same entertainment team also organised the daily deck activities, tasks they did with good humour and good organisation. Alternative shows were offered by a poor comedian and a mediocre magician. Enrichment lectures, were often port lectures under another name, with, disappointingly, no well-known guest speakers, which we had hoped for on a ship of this calibre. A lovely library kept many passengers happy, with its club atmosphere, comfortable leather chairs, and huge choice of books, and it was a delight to find a busy coffee bar next door, offering lattes, cappuccino and juices. The nearby Internet centre was little used, due to the high cost Deck areas were lovely, with a decent size pool, two hot tubs, excellent sunbeds and curved rattan loungers, all laid with snowy towels. Atop the ship is a delightful, wide, forward facing Horizons lounge, with small dance floor, and ample seating, served by a busy bar, the place to which many passengers gravitated pre and post dinner, with live music provided for those wishing to dance. Also facing forward is an incredible, spacious spa, with many treatments on offer, gorgeous relaxing areas, including one outside, complete with hot tub, and well trained, discrete staff. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Everything about this trip was outstanding. From the moment we landed at Heathrow things started rolling smoothly. We were driven the The Millennium Mayfair Hotel in a chauffer driven limo. Our hotel was very comfortable & wonderfully ... Read More
Everything about this trip was outstanding. From the moment we landed at Heathrow things started rolling smoothly. We were driven the The Millennium Mayfair Hotel in a chauffer driven limo. Our hotel was very comfortable & wonderfully located. All pre-cruise arrangements were made by Oceania. They did a fine job!!! The Mariner is a beautiful ship. The cabins are well appointed, roomy in fact, with plenty of storage space. The bathroom is large, with a shower that could be larger & an unnecessary tub. The shampoo, lotions, etc. are of excellent quality & beautifully presented. All of the public areas on Marina are attractive & comfortable. The Library is quiet, comfortable & very well stocked. All of the dining venues are attractive. I think the the weakest link in the operation is The Main Dining Room. They seem to get overwhelmed. I must admit that when I complained, the matter was given immediate attention. I think that the staff really wants to excell. The Terrace Cafe was wonderful as were all of the speciality restaurants. We enjoyed the evening entertainment - both speciality acts & production shows. I think that the ship tours are very pricey. We got together with some CC folks on our thread & did 2 tours for less than half the price. Our ports of call were every interesting & not too crowded. The weather prevented us from going into 2 ports. The sea days were welcome & the staff adjusted very quickly to a totally new schedule. Well done!!!!! We met some very nice folks, had a lot of fun, won $ on the penny slots & look forward to cruising again with Oceania.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Oceania's new Marina is a fine addition to its small fleet. The enhancements are impressive; two new dining concepts, spacious bathtubs, an excellent performance space, bigger pool, wonderful artworks and a culinary school set it ... Read More
Oceania's new Marina is a fine addition to its small fleet. The enhancements are impressive; two new dining concepts, spacious bathtubs, an excellent performance space, bigger pool, wonderful artworks and a culinary school set it apart from its smaller siblings. But not everything has gone to plan.For example, the library area borrowed from the smaller ships has been split into a new reading area and coffee bar and neither work.But what Marina gains in the excellence of its facilities, it loses in hospitality and service excellence. It accommodates almost twice as many passengers as its other ships and this seemed to me to be the source of its problems. The pinch points that all cruise ships encounter as passengers congregate was never an issue on Insignia. It's a major problem on Marina. We never had to queue on Insignia. On Marina queuing was the norm for the Terrace Cafe breakfast, Grand Dining Room dinner and tendering.Transporting 650 passengers by tender or bus was largely hassle-free on Insignia but seemed a huge logistical issue on Marina. The tenders themselves are badly cramped and ill-designed. On Insignia there was a constant relay of tenders but on Marina the policy seemed to be to fill a tender to capacity and only then, send out another. Port side buses were the same. Passenger queues just to board the infrequent buses at the container ports sometimes took an hour. In time, Oceania may find itself squeezed. It is pretty dismissive of independent travellers in terms of convenience and meaningful information. And at the same time, punishing those wishing to book excursions with excessive pricing. An Oceania excursion around Guernsey costs $100. A local bus costs just £1.Oceania also seems to be playing a dangerous game in its literal descripton of destinations. Dover is described as London; Bordeaux is Le Verdon - 100 km away.Passengers become irritated on realising they are stranded a distance from their perceived port of call. Sometimes disembarking did not take place until 11am and naturally pre-booked excursions had priority. Therefore independent travellers sometimes did not get off the ship until an hour later, constricting time at the destination.In most instances the ports were not attractive harbours. They were featureless container/car ferry ports with little appeal. Perhaps the smaller Oceania ships can access more attractive ports more easily for either docking or fast tendering.The result of all these compounded frustrations seemed to generate a general exasperation amongst passengers, which in turn affected the crew who seemed lacking in confidence. Each was comfortable in their own narrow sphere of work, but could not respond to issues outside their responsibility.In the smaller Oceania ships there was a real sense of community, amongst both crew and passengers. On Marina this was not apparent and relationships that would naturally develop, were absent.Marina is therefore an unbalanced ship. It is much improved and more elegant than its smaller siblings but nothing like as satisfying. My advice would be to stick to those smaller vessels until Marina is able to redress its service delivery. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our 12th cruise and our third on HAL.The Eurodam is a crisp new ship and makes HALs Vista class ships look a little shopworn. We chose a Deluxe Veranda for this cruise because of the length and the amenities. Having free dry ... Read More
This was our 12th cruise and our third on HAL.The Eurodam is a crisp new ship and makes HALs Vista class ships look a little shopworn. We chose a Deluxe Veranda for this cruise because of the length and the amenities. Having free dry cleaning and laundry makes packing for two weeks a lot easier. Suite guests also get to have breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill in the morning which is a very pleasant,quiet way to start the day. What got my attention: It is nice to see HAL move into the 21st century and offer dining options. We were disappointed in the main dining room. The food was quite acceptable considering they are serving 2000+ of their closest friends every meal but the service was very spotty. As we opted for the open seating we had a different waiter and assistant every night. They all had different personalities and dispositions and I always had the feeling they were being overworked. Wine stewards were hard to come by and the wine list is somewhat limited unless you like wines from Washington state, We found the same to be true of our cabin stewards. They always greeted us by name and with friendly hellos but it became obvious by the second day they had way to many cabins to do even in the high rent district. We liked the bar staff. We found the cocktails to be well poured and fairly priced. Here's a tip: the $100 drink card for $90 is a heck of a deal if you enjoy drinks before dinner. The Ocean bar has two for one drinks from five to six every evening. Hi Richard!!! Room service was prompt and everything we ordered was always hot or cold as it was supposed to be. What little of the entertainment we saw in the showroom was okay at best but I don't think it's fair to expect a broadway production on a cruise ship. This was our first trip to Northern Europe and it was everything we had hoped it would be. The excursions were well organized and the buses were spotless. Except for St Petersberg!!! The bus was filthy. HAL needs to check out their providers more often. In closing I will say my wife and I have been cruising for 20 years and we have lowered our expectations over the years. It is apparent the the cruise lines (all of them) are containing costs by cutting staff. They may tell they haven't but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how things have changed in the last five years or so. Given all of that I still recommend HAL over all of the others. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
This was our third cruise on Oceania. We have cruised Istanbul to Athens and the Baltics. This cruise, Vikings/Castles/and Kings was full of interesting ports. We had two sea days to rest up. After boarding in Dover we went to lunch. ... Read More
This was our third cruise on Oceania. We have cruised Istanbul to Athens and the Baltics. This cruise, Vikings/Castles/and Kings was full of interesting ports. We had two sea days to rest up. After boarding in Dover we went to lunch. Pizza was served that was dry and hard. We were shocked. My comment was is the "bloom off the rose at O?". Thank goodness a few days later the pizza was up to snuff as far as being moist and tender. It still was not as good as on other lines we have sailed. Dining in the specialty restaurants was a mixed bag. We had rather tough and dry lobster served two time. Fillet Mignon in Polo was indeed a great steak. We enjoyed the staff and food in the Grand Dining Room. Our B1 cabin was limited to continental breakfast - no eggs or breakfast meats. When I asked about a full breakfast I was told this was an "amenity" reserved for the higher cabins and suites. Personally I do not feel that having paid a handsome sum for a B1 veranda that I should be denied eggs and bacon on my room service tray. O can save the tablecloth and flower in a vase for the higher priced cabins and serve me some protein in the morning. Entertainment was not up to snuff. The on board entertainers - band, male and female singers were adequate. We had a magician/mentalist who was IMHO boring. The comedian was pretty good. Prom Night, the final of the World Cup soccer game and the all crew review were pretty bad offerings. One can only guess that entertainment is where O has made cuts in order to sail in the black. We loved our B1 veranda cabin and had sailed in 6065, 6067 and 6069. We don't mind that these cabins are smaller then those on HAL. We don't mind that they have a small shower vs a tub/shower on HAL. The size and layout are fine with us. This cruise O provided free water and soft drinks. We used 2 or 3 cans of soda as mixers and really appreciated the unlimited supply of water. Crew as usual was exceptional. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Getting home from our Crystal Cruise, reminds you how much you learn to appreciate Crystal. We went on Kings and Caviar cruise 0214, to the Baltics. Highlights of the boat: Positives: 1. Room Service - First boat we've been on with ... Read More
Getting home from our Crystal Cruise, reminds you how much you learn to appreciate Crystal. We went on Kings and Caviar cruise 0214, to the Baltics. Highlights of the boat: Positives: 1. Room Service - First boat we've been on with a pretty extensive room service menu, available 24/7 and don't worry about using the breakfast menu on the door, they always delivered on time. 2. Lido Cafe - The food was always hot and service was always great. Already missing the thousand island dressing. 3. Cigar Lounge - The Connoisseur Club was just great. They had a decent selection,and a great staff with TV to watch world cup or news. Also had little snacks floating around at night. 4. Dining Room - Very good, could have used French service though. Food was excellent every night, never had a problem. 5. Internet Cafe - The internet was the most reasonable I have seen on any cruise. For $300 I basically had internet whenever I wanted it the entire cruise. Was kind of slow, especially before dinner and on sea days, but generally in port it was great. 6. The Little Touches - After an 18 hour trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow, and touring all day on a Crystal tour, they left food in the room with sandwiches and chips at 1am so we had something to snack on before going to sleep. Really a nice touch especially since I was literally running to order room service. 7. The Staff - they really will do anything to try and make you a happy guest. I wanted Mango Sorbet, they found Mango Sorbet ashore the next day. 8. Specialty Restaurants - Prego was pretty good, but I was not crazy about it. Silk Road was definitely a highlight, one complaint is that they did not have authentic Japanese Wagyu Beef, only fake American stuff. Yes you can tell the difference, and it is quite noticeable in fact. Most people have not had the real Wagyu beef. The service was great in both however. 9. Airport Transfers, and Crystal Air - It's free, and it's smooth, quick and easy. They load your luggage right on the bus for you. You just take it off when you get to the airport could not be easier. Highly recommended. 10. Movie Theater- Great, seats could have been a little more comfortable, but the popcorn was fresh and very good. Overall a pleasurable experience. 11. Age Policies - Expect exceptions if with parents, and very lenient. The most accommodating and flexible age policies I have seen on a boat. Not being 21 (20 yrs old), they still served me my favorite Kamikaze shots, and never saw anyone else having a problem on the boat, if under 18 a parental escort was needed into more adult places like the cigar lounge or night club at night, but in general most young adults under 18 really didn't have a problem anywhere but those two places. Obviously the casino was off limits until 21, probably a good thing for me since my wallet doesn't agree with casinos. A Positive and a Negative: 1. Entertainment - They brought on to the ship before we left St. Petersburg, Native St. Petersburg performers to put on a show. It was excellent. Also they brought on a famous London West End performer who was out of this world, as good as broadway. Emerging artists was amazing, with three kids, one doing opera, one doing broadway, and one playing the piano, all of which were truly great. However, the Comedian was just ok, and the magician was subpar at best. The Crystal Singers and Performers had one very good male lead vocalist, and one very bad (so bad we had to leave) female lead vocalist. Negatives: 1. Our room steward was just alright, she got sick halfway through, and therefore we didn't see her for like 3 days. 2. Louie Armstrong sail away song really got annoying after the 3rd or 4th day. Maybe you should just play it on the first day. 3. Not enough places to smoke cigars or pipes on open decks. Let smokers have a place where they can order food and smoke. Like on the back of Deck 11. 4. Allow cigar smoking in the state rooms or on the balconies, nobody likes someone to discriminate against them. 5. Crystal shops had very limited selection. Don't go onboard expecting to shop. 6. LUXE Nightclub was awful. They played current music once, and most of the time no one was there except for karaoke. The Luxe nightclub looks like it is setup for bottle service and dancing, but realistically no one ever goes there because of the music selection. Even with a younger crowd due to a summer cruise, it was still empty. I do not want to hear 70s music in the nightclub guys. Don't go on this boat expecting a good nightclub. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
This was actually the 2nd time on this particular ship -- previously when it was Renaissance in 2001. Love the size of ship with less than 700 passengers. Love that fact that you don't have the continuous overhead announcements and ... Read More
This was actually the 2nd time on this particular ship -- previously when it was Renaissance in 2001. Love the size of ship with less than 700 passengers. Love that fact that you don't have the continuous overhead announcements and picture taking. Very personalized service both in the cabins, dining room and through out. Due to the capacity, getting off and back on the ship was easy. This particular cruise was very busy as only 1 or 2 days at sea and the rest in various ports. I took the opportunity to fly to Moscow for the day from St. Petersburg which was very worthwhile. All the tours were very well organized and interesting. Yes, maybe a little more pricey but it was a vacation -- someone else took care of everything! The food was quite good and varied in the dining room and extraordinary in the specialty restaurants. Just sorry that access is limited by level of accommodations. I enjoyed this ship so much, will be going on it a 3rd time in February to Australia/New Zealand! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Normally I wouldn't take the maiden voyage of any cruise ship because they haven't worked out the kinks with the ship and staff yet. When I saw the destinations of the Sojourn's maiden voyage, I thought why not, it's ... Read More
Normally I wouldn't take the maiden voyage of any cruise ship because they haven't worked out the kinks with the ship and staff yet. When I saw the destinations of the Sojourn's maiden voyage, I thought why not, it's Seabourn. I was absolutely right. This voyage was awesome. Yes, there were a few minor issues with the ship - doors that whistled, bathroom rugs that tripped you - but overall it was up to Seabourn's usual high standards. The rooms were great with a just a few problems. The couch was too narrow and hard for afternoon naps. The comfortable veranda furniture was a tad too big for the small veranda but we didn't use it much because of the cold weather. The bathroom was wonderful - two sinks, bathtub and separate shower. The rug had no rubber backing and continually caused me to trip if I was wearing shoes. So twice a day after our room was serviced, we just picked it up and hung it over the bathtub. We only ate in three of the four dinning venues. The fourth required reservations and offered a menu beyond our Texas-trained pallets. We never had a disappointing meal. Both dinning and room service staff were fantastic. Our sail away was from Greenwich- right on the Thames - instead of the usual UK ports. What a night. We had a wonderful first dinner and then were treated to fireworks as we sailed down the Thames. As this was the maiden voyage, the President of Seabourn was aboard and always visible and approachable. We had two special Seabourn events - one in in Iceland and one in Amsterdam. They were very different experiences and perfect for this maiden voyage. We had one of our stops in Iceland cancelled due to poor weather but because this was Seabourn, by noon that day, they arranged a new stop at the Shetland Islands and it was a wonderful day. I can't say enough about the staff and crew. Though this ship holds 400 passengers rather than the 108 of their smaller ships, many of the wait staff knew my name. The captain was very visible and would stop to chat. The Sojourn is a beautiful ship but I would be happy sailing on a tug boat that had these wonderfully warm and professional people working it. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Picked up Crystal 0214 from Dover late June 2010.Embarkation procedures smooth but from there everything just got even better and better.Waited on sun deck and had lunch while rooms were being readied. This was cruise that about which ... Read More
Picked up Crystal 0214 from Dover late June 2010.Embarkation procedures smooth but from there everything just got even better and better.Waited on sun deck and had lunch while rooms were being readied. This was cruise that about which there simply was NOT a single deficiency. a.food - flawless,simple,clean,eye catching and always prepared exactly to individual likings.Special requests not a problem.After the first night,the Senior waiter took the trouble to ask as what we wanted that night so it could be prepared eg special meats or poultry. Table settings ie early sitting no problem. Every meal be it breakfast,lunch,afternoon tea`s (wow!) always a pleasure.Top quality foods always available at sedveral other places on board,long after formal times had finished b.cabins and accomodation.Highest standard and the staff knew thier jobs down to every detail.Nothing ever too much to try and help with.Everything works,supplies more than adequate,fresh fruit and beverages always in topped up. Bed reasonably comfortable,frankly,I found the sheets a bit too shiny. Reviewers often speak of cramped cabins but really they are more than what one needs. c.everything else,from daily news,announcements,programs,special events,embarkation and disembarkation procedures,itineraries for tours performed with ease,applomb and absolute precision. Already made another booking for next cruise.No wonder they get the top marks!Is there anyone else? Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We first sailed Silver Cloud in 1994, six months after she was commissioned. This was our first time back, and, regrettably, will likely be the last. Silversea continues to have an excellent product in many ways- the ship sizes and ... Read More
We first sailed Silver Cloud in 1994, six months after she was commissioned. This was our first time back, and, regrettably, will likely be the last. Silversea continues to have an excellent product in many ways- the ship sizes and layouts are terrific, the service is generally very good. However, over time the quality has declined, and the amenities pale compared to the competition. Comparing apples to apples- in 1994, 'all inclusive' meant air, an included night's 5 star hotel, insurance, a "Silversea Experience", shoreside transport in every port. There was also real Sevruga (not lumpfish) caviar on request anytime, and on the menu on formal nights. None of those perks exist today, yet the per diem is around $800 ppdo, as opposed to $450 then. Yes- prices go up, but the luxury inclusions should not drop out. The ship has aged well, though the 2009 renovations promised in the brochure have not materialized. In fact, what used to be the observation lounge became the fitness center, commanding what is unarguably the nicest viewing space aboard. Clearly, the Silver Wind upgrades have not been mirrored aboard the Cloud. Despite that, the soft furnishings were in good shape, and the stateroom we were in had been partially remodeled. Mattress, linens, sofa and chairs all new. TV and cabinetry old. The bathroom not as grand as it appeared 15 years ago, and does not compare with the Silver Shadow at all. The cuisine was uneven and generally uninspired, but creditable. The new theme to the Trattoria simply is a dumbing down of what used to be memorable international items. The Restaurant lacked culinary excitement, though we did not have any 'bad' evenings, as other posters have experienced. However, I did have a steak which was thin, overdone, and had been thawed in the microwave. The wines were ok, not memorable- and we were told to take advantage of the Pommery, as it was being phased out. I was particularly disappointed by the dearth of fresh fish, though we were in Scotland. (this was not new-in Bar Harbor in 1994, we were anchored literally in the middle of lobster pots, but were served frozen lobster from South Africa that night...) The onboard entertainment was actually pathetic. Gone are the harpists and string quartets, and even the quirky puppeteer, instead, bad, genuinely bad dancers and an underutilized male lead belting out 'Mama Mia' tunes and the like. The Beatles theme was fun-sort of, but only because they gave away paraphernalia and did interviews. The Faux Beatles show was painful, but got some people singing along and dancing. Not us... The Robert the Bruce descendant was a huge breath of fresh air- with lectures about Scottish history and port orientations. A whisky event really was a promotional piece for Johnny Walker, replete with commercial videos, but the tasting was good, and he left a bottle of JW Blue that we polished off quite happily. (BTW- one could purchase same onboard for $180 USD, much less than any duty free store ashore) My biggest complaint was about the itinerary. We stopped in Leith (Edinburgh) during the Festival, but arrived at midnight and left the following late evening, then spent 30 hours traveling 190 nautical miles (10 hours steaming) to our next port of Invergordon. We could easily have stayed until a tide change the following day, (I checked with the port authority) allowing more time to enjoy the myriad events in Edinburgh. The captain essentially said that head office was calling the shots. Similarly, we went back and forth near the Isle of White and over toward France for an extra day at sea, rather than hit another port. I had made arrangements for a rental car in Cork, and was completely misled by Silversea as to where we would dock- the result was an expensive taxi ride through rush hour to get to where we were to pick up the car. No acknowledgement, and certainly no apology for the misrepresentation. The clientele is more demanding, less quietly sophisticated- read, more yuppies. That, balanced by quite a few Brits., understandable given the itinerary. The latter felt oddly out of place, possibly because the crew just did not understand tea service, British style. The servers became so confused, they automatically added milk to all teas, including herb teas, plus lemon, which of course curdled everything. There were notables aboard, and I found our dinner companions to be generally well travelled and read, genuinely interested in the area, and fairly happy overall with the new Silversea. I think that is because most had not experienced what Silversea used to be. I hope that with the new Spirit, and competition from the new Seabourn ships, Silversea will smarten up. But I am not holding my breath. I will go back to Crystal and Sea Dream, and maybe try Hapag Lloyd, before I venture aboard Silver Cloud again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our second cruise on Oceania, both on the Regatta. The ship was as clean and before, and the staff maintained its excellent level of service and responsiveness. We flew into London Heathrow, were met quickly by the Oceania rep, ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Oceania, both on the Regatta. The ship was as clean and before, and the staff maintained its excellent level of service and responsiveness. We flew into London Heathrow, were met quickly by the Oceania rep, got on the shuttle within 15 minutes and were enroute to Dover. After a 90-minute drive (during which we caught up on our sleep), we were at the ship. It was already 4:30 pm, so we went directly aboard rather than walking through town. The check-in process went very smoothly (they now have a questionnaire asking if you have a cough, cold, etc., which probably does little good given that someone who has paid a boatload of cash to get there probably wouldn't confess in any case...). We were in our room in ten minutes, and our luggage arrived shortly thereafter. We booked a PH suite for the first time & our butler (Iljco) was great throughout. We wanted to make the trip special, and the PH was certainly worth the added cost due to the port-intense itinerary. We were able to order from the specialty restaurant menu when desired, and did so several times after returning from a long day's excursion. Nothing like a great dinner on our balcony without the hassle of leaving the room... On several nights, we ate at Tapas on the Terrace. We really enjoy a served buffet, and the variety of foods available. They had fresh pasta, fresh seafood dishes, etc., and their buffet (IMHO) exceeds that found on other luxury lines in every category. We usually ate breakfast in our room; we eat lightly, so it was toast and juice, then off for the day. We also ate at Waves for late lunch a few times. They have a serviceable salad bar, ice cream and shakes and will cook to order a hamburger, chicken burger or fish. Once again, better casual option than offered in other luxury lines IMHO. Entertainment was as expected; we only attended shows on three nights due to busy days. Good, not great, but enjoyable nonetheless. We did the trivia game most evenings just for fun (one area of suggested improvement is to make the points earned a little more valuable- in fact, they should give a hat and keychain to everyone for advertising value if nothing else). We did most shore excursions on our own (except for Gdansk, where we did a ship's tour to Stutthof and the Old City- good tour, fair price). We had a bad experience during our Amazon cruise previously with canceled ship tours, and didn't want to chance it this time. Even when traveling independently, the travel desk and local folks they brought aboard were pleasant, informative and willing to help. We used Red October for our tour in St Petersburg, and they did a fantastic job at a very fair price. One note of caution for independent travelers is the use of hop on-hop off buses and boats in the respective cities they visit. In the high season, it is not uncommon for those buses or boats to be absolutely full by the middle of the day, thus meaning you lose a lot of time waiting unless you plan ahead. Advice would be to book some sight ahead of time (especially the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, where you can avoid a wait of at least an hour by buying on line); use taxis to get around, and to form ad hoc groups on the ship or at the dock to save a little money. In Bruges, unless you are in great shape, don't try to walk to the train station to get to town. It is a 35-40 minutes walk on a difficult road. A taxi for eight to the center of Bruges is about $10 each, each way- a good value. Disembarkation was smooth; received the tags and time the evening prior, and all went as planned. We had the advantage of flying back from Stockholm perhaps the most civilized and organized airport I've visited. Loooong flight back home, but we're already planning our next cruise. We booked the Roman Revelations 14-day in Oct 2010 while aboard to take advantage of the discounts, and are confident next year's cruise will be on par with this one. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Our cruise began in Dover with the traditional sail-off song by Louis Armstrong, "It's a Wonderful World." Prior to sail-off we had settled in our cabin, been introduced to our cabin stewardess, been greeted by a flank of ... Read More
Our cruise began in Dover with the traditional sail-off song by Louis Armstrong, "It's a Wonderful World." Prior to sail-off we had settled in our cabin, been introduced to our cabin stewardess, been greeted by a flank of tuxedoed attendants (reminded me of the Titanic), done the requisite life-jacket drill, and toured the ship. The public areas of the ship are lovely and our cabin, while small (no verandah) had adequate storage space, a comfortable bed, flat screen television, and a shower/tub combination. We are middle-age, professors, well-travelled, and enjoy food. I have broken this review into parts to better focus on the experience of the cruise. Ship Amenities The public areas are easy to locate and navigate after very little time on board. We did not use the gambling area so cannot comment on this aspect of the ship experience. The library is large and contained files on each port. The computer center has enough computers for those that check email and must do work even on vacation. Be warned that the speed of the Internet is slow, cost to use the computers high ($50 for 2 hours), and the log-off procedures require 2 separate actions. The latter was an issue as I failed to log-off and someone else got the benefit of my 2 hours of time. Crystal should devise a better method to login to the computer that is consistent with how most people use a public computer. The bar areas had excellent service and each a different ambience. The Avenues Bar had a great pianist but the smoking in the area (very small so smoke filters all over) made it a place to avoid. We enjoyed dancing and smaller shows in the Starlite but did not venture into the disco Luxe. The bar area on level 5 by the Bistro had a great pianist and killer sunset views but again, smoking is allowed in this bar in a designated area which is next to those that do not smoke. We did not use the pool or spa but noted that the spa was in almost constant use. The Galaxy lounge performances were wonderful and professional, not the usual cheesy song and dance reviews that we were expecting. All the entertainment onboard was of high caliber with exception of the comedian (Marty Brill). The lecturers were informative and thought-provoking. Ship photographers were available to take photos (for sale later) and did a good job of capturing you at your best. Movies in the theater are close to first run and include a waiter with fresh-popped popcorn. The ship stores have an interesting selection of jewelry and clothing for purchase while sailing (closed during docking). Summary: Great entertainment, attentive bar service, and the public areas never feel crowded. Only down-note is the smoking. Food We go on a cruise for the food as well as the itinerary so the food was a major component in our decision to book a Crystal cruise. In general, all the food was significantly better than any cruise ship we have sailed. Breakfasts on the Lido deck were fresh and wonderful. The breakfast is served buffet style with fresh options available (such as eggs, omelets, waffles). Our trays were always carried by staff and our coffee refilled and plates cleared with attentive service. We ate lunch a few times at the Trident grill and found the hamburgers freshly made and the pizza very good. We did not eat lunch in the dining room. Our dining room experience was the least satisfying of our food experiences. While all the food was good, it was not exceptional. We did not ask for special preparations but will try that on our next cruise. Food was delivered promptly and wait staff was always attentive. The wine selections are fairly priced. I understand that wine can be brought onboard and a small corkage fee charged to open it and we will try this option next time. The dining room has 2 seatings and while we booked the late seating (due to lots of late-ending tours) we often ate at the early seating. It is possible to walk up to the maitre' d and ask to be seated at a different time. Our cruise was about half-full so there were many tables available for this request. The noise level in the dining room is loud and many families brought everyone (including crying babies) to the table. We tried Prego twice and while some items were great (try the mushroom soup) most of the food could have been better prepared. An example was the mashed potatoes with Kalamata olives—eating a purplish mash-up was just not appetizing. I ordered lamb medium rare and it was delivered medium well. I asked our head waiter how he thought it looked and he confirmed it was medium well. While another effort was underway the maitre d' came over and explained that the light from the window can make meat look over-cooked. (That has to be one of the funniest excuses I have ever heard). The second lamb effort was correctly cooked but tasted gamey and certainly was not a fresh piece of lamb. Waiters were attentive and the sommelier was willing to prepare us a special wine flight for our courses. We also ate at Silk Road and felt that this is the best restaurant and a top dining experience. We attempted to get reservations for the Vintage Room but were not successful (missed by 1 couple). The lunch buffet was great with a large variety of food using fresh ingredients. The grand buffet was not as great with large amounts of food with no particular flavor but it was a great photo opportunity. We did not try room service. The Bistro is great for a late breakfast or tea. I loved the magazine selection that included the Wine Spectator and Food and Wine. We did not do a formal tea as we were out touring. Summary: Way above average food and the specialty restaurants are worth a try. Cabin: Our cabin was small but functional. Two people do have to time their dressing activities or risk getting entangled. Our tub faucets stopped working on one of the formal nights and it took several calls to fix the problem. The bedspread looks a bit tired but the bed and pillows are very comfortable. Loved the old movies on the television but they should show movies themed to the area we were visiting (i.e., Dr. Zhivago for Russia). CNN was difficult to catch with satellite loss but Fox news came in great—we wondered if there was a political message there. Our cabin stewardess did a great job although a couple times my side of the bed was short-sheeted. When we arrived there were half full water bottles left in the cabin and refrigerator but they were promptly taken away and replaced. It was a relief not to have towel animals every night. We did hear noise from adjoining cabins the last night as folks were opening and closing drawers to pack. Summary: small cabin unless you pay for an expensive upgrade but adequate for sleeping. Tours: We used the ship tours for almost all of our touring. We were off the boat for 10 hours every day. By the end we were tired of buses. The ship tours are a great way to see a country in a general way. One tour ended early as the driver got lost and one stop had an unexpected water problem. We did bring this to the excursion director's attention but no compensation was made. All tours were exactly as described (except for the lost tour). Be aware that even though you see everything described, you will have no time to linger. Conversely, one tour included an excessive 2 hours at a glass shop designed for shopping. Our tour buses had expert guides, water, a bathroom, and were only partially full. The food at each stop while described as unique local restaurants was very poor. Our best tour was arranged with the excursion desk for the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. It was incredible the difference between a ship tour and with a private guide and driver. While expensive ( a full-day is $800+) it was memorable. I had not been to any of the countries we visited and enjoyed every stop. Summary: arrange your own tours using the excursion desk or on your own if you want to see a lot in small amount of time. Over-all Yes, we'd take the cruise again with Crystal. The forums refer to this as being "crystallized" and we are as we have booked another cruise (6 weeks later) and for one in the fall. While the cruise line and experience were not perfect, it is so much better than other lines we have experienced (Cunard, Seabourn, Sitmar). The line offers a good compromise between the small experience of the yachts and the large experience of the big ships. Fellow cruisers will be middle-age and well-traveled. There were kids onboard our summer cruise and for the most part were well-behaved (some screaming babies at dinner). Staff are attentive and everyone works hard to make sure your experience is great and of course, they want to be remembered with a gratuity. This cruise line works hard to deliver an exceptional experience and if you are interested in an upscale experience, this cruise line is for you. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009

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